Jill Little

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Interviewee:  Jill Little

Interviewer:  Liz Bloom

Date: June 8th 2010

My name is Jill Little and I’m 72 years old and have lived in Fleetville the majority of my life and I’m now living in Sandfield Road.  The only time I spent away from Fleetville was in Marshalswick when I was married.  The early years of my life have definitely been in Fleetville because my father came from Islington in London to live in St Albans opposite the Rats Castle and he and my uncle and most of the family, well the children, went to Fleetville School.  He (my father)was born in 1903 and he started (at) Fleetville when he was 5 years old in 1908 but I haven’t found the actual date that he came from Islington to St Albans.  But my auntie, who was born in 1910 was obviously born in Fleetville in that house.  Then they moved to Sandfield Road, funnily enough, where I’m living now…but of course a lot’s happened between then and now.

Dad spent a lot of time in the army.  He did 9 years regular before he married mum in 1936….and took over the shop, 67 Hatfield Road, from 1932 to 1938 and then they moved to 81 when I was 5 months old.  That was paint and wallpaper, wood and paraffin for paraffin heaters and things like that, and he was there until 1978 and that’s the year he died.  Well, he didn’t actually stay there, he moved out a few years (earlier) because my brother David took over.

I also went to Fleetville School when I was 5 years old and Mr East was the headmaster.  I can remember a Mrs Wallace was the top teacher; I can’t remember the other teachers.  I can remember sitting on one of the steps of the little hut doing my knitting during break time and that.  Of course, I used to like sport, but I didn’t pass for the grammar school even though I came second in the class the last year I was there.  I went to Beaumont.

When I was at home with mum and dad, we used to do ever such a lot together.  We’d go on walks, nature walks mainly to Marshalswick Woods and places (for) flowers and things like that, because mum used to know all the flowers and the trees; we’d walk for miles.  We’d bring armfuls of bluebells which is not allowed nowadays.  That was great fun.  That was more or less before I started (at) Beaumont School.

My uncle Lou, he went to Fleetville as well as dad.  I don’t remember my granddad very much; I don’t think I was very old when he died.  Uncle Lou and he had a farm in Little Hadham and they both died not long after; moving a tractor.

Mum used to teach me how to do the books of the shop.  I couldn’t have been much more than about 10 or 11.  Of course we used to do a lot of sewing and knitting and reading.  We did quite a lot together.  We were a fairly close-knit family.  I had 3 brothers in all; Vic, my oldest brother, a year and 7 months older than me; I had a brother (who was) born when I was 8 and a half and died when I was 12 and a half with measles and encephalitis; and then along came my other brother, David, who now lives in Banbury – I don’t see a lot of him.  Oh yes, I’ve got no complaints about my home life; a really happy life until I became a rebellious teenager, like all teenagers!

I remember some of it (WW2).  We had Mickey Mouse gas masks and we had those tin hats.  I know when the air-raid siren went, we were both in the chicken run and when that went off, my brother flew down the garden to under the stairs where we used to have to go, and left me locked in the chicken run, shouting my head off during the air-raid.  My mum came and got me out.

We had 2 women live with us; one was the air-raid warden, you know for the air-raid shelter in the park.  I don’t know where Chris came from but I have a feeling that the other one, Peggy Arden, an evacuee, came to stay with us.  I don’t really know where Chris came from; she could have come from London.  I just remember she was the warden over at the park.  She married Len Hooker who had the glass shop on the corner of Albion Road.  But Peggy Arden, after the war, we never ever heard from her again.  Mum tried to find her but couldn’t get anywhere.

I know when I was about 3, I sold my tricycle for 3d!  Next door to us was the Liberal Club and they had a field out the back.  We used to climb over the wall and play in the field and there was the back of the houses of Clarence Road (and I used to play with) the children and I swapped my bike over there for 3d.  My mum went storming over there to get it back!

We used to have chickens and we had rabbits.  At one time we had over 100 rabbits because we had like stables at the back of the shop and we also had a pig.  He (dad) bred rabbits; some of them we ate during the war obviously…and some of the neighbours, you know.  We used to show the rabbits; there used to be an exhibition or what have you, in St Paul’s church.  I had a white rabbit with pink eyes; I know I won something but I can’t remember whether it was second prize or third prize – I think the second prize I got.  Afterwards it had a skin disease so he didn’t last very long.  We had a dog and a cat; Peter (the dog), now he came from Southwold where my dad was stationed during the war.  He was a very intelligent dog, I think he was a police dog but they were going to put him down and dad let us have it – a lovely white dog.  We had a cat called Tiger; actually we had the cat first. They used to love one another actually; the cat used to lick the dog’s head.

At Beaumont School I was in the netball team every year and the hockey team the last but one year; because we only had a teacher for that one year for hockey.  We used to play rounders during dinner time and all that sort of thing.  (At Beaumont) the girls were upstairs and the boys were downstairs.

(After leaving school) For 5 months, I worked at Peaks which was (making) coats, opposite Clarence Park and then we read an advert for Campfield Press as a cost clerk.  I was in the despatch (at Peaks) waiting for a position in the office but nothing came along and so when we saw this I went down there to work.  I worked as a cost clerk; into cost accounts; into being the accountant.  I worked altogether 35 and a half years there; there was a break in which I got married and had Paul and then I went back.  I ended up being the last person to leave.  They had the large machines downstairs which were used for printing War Cry, Young Soldier and Musician and they had a Litho.  The actual change was linotype, mono-keyboard casters into Daytech keyboard, you know, going more….I don’t really know the Daytech; that was more the up and coming…that was going back a few years now…I think that was ’95 it folded up; no before that…’92.  Well, of course it was run by the Salvation Army; I didn’t have to be (in the S A).  I was over the accounts; we went computerised.  I was over the sales ledger, the bought ledger and I did right up to trial balance.  That was really my job, taking everybody else’s figures.  What do they call it now – spreadsheet?  When I left they were just going into spreadsheets but of course the place folded up and that was because it was going to cost so much money to have it all rewired that they didn’t think they could afford it.  I had six years to go and I was made redundant like all the rest.  I was the last person to leave so I was really lucky; I saw all the auction of all the machines and everything like that.  Mind you, there was an accountant who was above me but he was the accountant of the whole of the Salvation Army so he just took my figures at the end of the month to put in with his own.  It really was something to be there.  Of course, War Cry, Young Soldier and Musician used to go out at the back and onto the railway line that runs behind the Campfield Press and goes to the Abbey (Flyer Station).  There was like a little platform.  Going out of the Campfield Press there was a lift taking them up to the platform level to put them onto the carriages and then they were taken off to the Abbey to be distributed.

I was redundant for about 5 months altogether and then the (chief) accountant said would I like a job in mail order which was built on the end of Campfield Press which was never pulled down.  So I went there and I worked in the dispatch because I didn’t really want the responsibility of being in the accounts just for 6 years so I did the invoices and took the money out of the Switch machine, swipe machine or whatever you call it.  But then there was the opportunity that the office was going to go up to headquarters in London and I took voluntary redundancy because my job wasn’t going up to London.  I decided that I would take voluntary redundancy because if you didn’t want to go up there you could be made redundant, so I took it because I only had a year to go before I retired.  Once I retired, that was it; lady of leisure.  I did enjoy working and to be quite honest I was a bit worried about leaving and knowing what to do with myself but I’ve always been very hobby-minded and I went for playing the guitar and painting and that sort of thing.  

I’ve been lucky health-wise, I must admit.  I’ve never really had much wrong with me all my life.  Of course, both dentist and doctors were in Fleetville and we didn’t have far to go.  Mr Hopper was the first person I went to when I was about 15 when I left school – the school dentist – of course that was free.  (At school) they used to come round and test us and then we would go up to Bricket Road because the National Health dentist was in Bricket Road so we’d go up there and I had a tooth taken out which I shouldn’t have done, so I had 2 teeth taken out then.  That was before I left school which wasn’t very nice.  Dr Lamont was very sarcastic - but I like people like that – he told you what he thought and you knew where you were.  Dr Hoadley was a very charming man, I think he was a lady’s man.  Dr Lamont was, I think, the main one; he lived in Clarence Road and, of course, the surgery was there in Hatfield Road.  Just the 2 of them and then I think quite a while later, there was Dr Jamieson and then there was a woman doctor….but that was later.  The dentist, Mr Hopper was quite an oldish man with grey hair and glasses, and then it was Mr Stanton.  

My little brother had measles when he was 4 years old and he was unconscious early in the morning, about half past 6 and mum called a doctor, mentioning no names, and he never came out until the evening at 6 o’clock.  He was unconscious all day.  They took him to hospital and he had encephalitis.  In those days they couldn’t do an awful lot.  They reckon that if he’d lived he could have been a cabbage, anyway.  He died a couple of days or so later.  I was twelve and a half then and of course he was like my live baby, you know, my live doll.  I used to bath him and I used to take him for walks on my own from when he was a few months old.  I was eight and a half when he was born and I’d take him over to the park.  I’d walk him with my friend Eileen Kiff who lived at the sweet shop, number 51.  I was eight and a half; as I say, in those days, there wasn’t anything to worry about.

Usually mum and dad were there (at the shop) by 9 o’clock.  It was definitely open by 9 o’clock and (closed at) 6 o’clock.  He’d close between 1 ad 2 and we’d have dinner because I would come home from school.  Thursday afternoon would be early closing and of course, no Sundays (opening).  From when I was 14, coming on 15, I used to work in the shop every Saturday.  I was allowed off – because I played netball after I left school – I was allowed off if there was a match on.  (In the shop) I just used to serve; take the money.  Mum taught me how to do accounts but we did them once a month, that’s all.  (In Maths)  I used to be nearly always top nearly all the way through both schools.  I can’t remember much about Maths at Fleetville but I know I was top or second at Beaumont.  There was a girl there, Gloria Batson...well we were just as good as one another.  We did a bit of geometry but we didn’t go in for algebra; it was just add, subtract, multiply and mental arithmetic.  Yes, anything with 3 lots of figures I can add up from left to right, so I’ve got my answer written down before anyone else!  But my son’s the whizz kid.  (He went to school at) Beaumont and he is the general manager at GEC over at Hatfield to do with medical computers; their heart machine, all that sort of thing – general manger.  He went from Fleetville to Beaumont School too.  They said he could go to university but he wanted to come out because it was a bit of a slump then, I think, with getting a job.  He thought if he got a job he would have more experience before those coming out of university because they really are, in my opinion….. universities are layabouts’ places.  I don’t think they can be any brainier coming from university any more than what Paul did by going out.  So he worked his way up.  He had an apprenticeship at Hocking NDT which was next to The Camp pub.  Then he packed up his job and went abroad for several months and his job was there for him when he came back, so he continued his apprenticeship.  Then he went on to work where he does now.  He also played for the St Albans 1st team in Clarence Park cricket team for many years as wicket keeper

I eat what I like.  I don’t believe in…I don’t live to eat, I eat to live.  I don’t mind what I eat.  I’m a reasonably healthy eater.  Maybe it was the war, I don’t know…but I do like biscuits!  I know we had ration books and all that sort of thing during the war. When I went to Beaumont I used to stay to school dinners because it was that bit further.  A lot of it was mashed potatoes and we used to have runner beans and broad beans; very much like what I cook myself nowadays really. I’m a very plain cook.  The broad beans used to be quite hard; we used to flick them across the room with our spoon.  I got caught once and had to sit up on the stage with Miss Ellis.  Puddings….spotted dick…perhaps that’s why I’ve got cholesterol now!

Mum used to make a lot of our clothes.  She even made my school dress which was nice because you didn’t have the same fashion as what everybody else did.  I’m one of those who really likes to be different; I don’t believe in following all the sheep.  I used to make all Paul’s clothes too – romper suits and that sort of thing and I used to do a lot of knitting.  I was self-taught really; mum used to do a bit.  But later on I had a sister-in-law, Pat, who is a tailor; she used to even make coats.  She made her own wedding dress.  Sheila and Christine, her daughters; I think she made both their dresses and bridesmaid dresses.  So I’ve always had her, from when they got married, to go to.

(At school)we used to do cookery; I don’t remember doing art.  We had music; choirs and all that sort of thing.  To me, going to school was like going to a social life to a certain extent.  I did (keep in touch with friends) but funnily enough it was only a few years ago that I lost touch.  I used to be very friendly with Gloria who was with me as far as Maths was concerned.  We also like sport.  Earlier than that I used to go round with Ann Hutchinson but I think once we all got married it seems as though….no really I haven’t kept any friends really.  My social life revolved round St Paul’s church because I did ballet, tap and ‘acro’ (acrobatics) at St Paul’s when I was, what, 8.  My brother’s a brilliant acrobat.  He used to do that at school, actually, because he went to Watford Technical College and they did that sort of thing there; he could do multiple summersaults. I was christened at St Pauls and I was married there.  I was in a show there which was played at Harpenden when I was 11; in fact they reckon that that’s why I didn’t pass for the grammar school because I was too keen on doing that!  I was a Babe in Babes in the Wood.  I’ve still got my programme and the photos of it.  I did ballet, tap and acro up until I was 13, that’s all.  And of course, I joined the youth club there; we used to go and play table tennis and all that sort of thing in that little hall at the back.

The family were all tennis players and belonged to tennis clubs and (played in) the park.  I belonged to St Michael’s for just a small term but we were more in the park with the Enthusiasts.  (St Michael’s ) played other clubs and everything and I didn’t want to be in the team; I’m an erratic player.  I could be brilliant one day and absolute rubbish the next.  In Clarence Park, the Enthusiasts was one of the clubs; I played with the Enthusiasts.  Of course, we always had the last two weeks in June off because of Wimbledon and it was a slack week in the shop.  We never went to Wimbledon but we would go on holiday to Margate mainly or Eastbourne and we’d go to a boarding house which had a radio or television!  (We went by) train; dad didn’t have a car until very late.  He had his Bluebird when he was single.  I’ve got a photo of him in a Bluebird – it was cool, yes.  Well, we called it a Bluebird, I don’t know whether it was a true Bluebird but dad used to call it a Bluebird.  That would be before he got married.  Once he bought the shop they couldn’t afford a car and if you went anywhere you went on the train.  We went to places that were quite easy to get to like Margate.  Of course, at Eastbourne there were 2 ladies who lived in the Hatfield Road, between Albion Road and the Crown; these 2 ladies that lived there………they were friends of mum and they went to Eastbourne to live.  Of course, after that, we’d have our holiday down there, you see.  That shop didn’t really take much in; hardly enough to live on.  You’ve got to wait for people to come to you.  People seem to think that if you’ve got a shop, you’re well off but you’re not; you’re far from being well off.  I mean, it’s taught us all really.  All of us are very thrifty.  None of us are very well off but we certainly know how to look after our money.

The first celebration (I can remember) was when it was the coronation really, in 1953.  Dad bought a mini television for the occasion and we’d sit around and watch all that.  We had street celebrations; one at Cavendish Road and one in Sandfield Road.  The Cavendish Road one was absolutely brilliant (in 1977 for the Queen’s 25th jubilee)…..We had a great long table down the middle of the road and everybody had a seat round, you know, and it really was something, that celebration.  We had music going and balloons; it really was an occasion.  I think everybody who walked past wanted to join in.  It was a whole day, from morning ‘til night.  It was quite dark when it finished.  I don’t think the tables were ever taken down but we…danced all the way round.  It was fabulous, yes.  

(In the past) we were much more friendly, much more friendly.  We really knew quite a lot of people – a lot of shops.  They were all really good to one another.  I mean, if I went into another shop in Fleetville, one or two of the shops would give you a discount, you know, because you lived in Fleetville, because you also owned a shop.  We would do the same for them – things like that.  It was really happy.  And for some unknown reason, it was spotless, absolutely spotless in the old days.  You would see people out the front sweeping the shop front; you never see that now.  They really were a nice lot – clean.  It really got filthy a little while back.  There was an old fellow; he used to pick up all the rubbish around here.  It’s not so very long ago that he went; he lived in St Paul’s place and he used to pick up the rubbish.  It’s sliding back now because he’s gone.  In fact he was a wonderful man because he came and walked my dog when I broke my fingers.  A lot of people avoided him, I mean he was clean and everything but he used to wear old clothes.  He was just an ordinary man….I think he was navy.  He was in one of the forces and….I don’t think he married.  He just used to pick up all the rubbish around Fleetville.  We used to call him Albert.  I still send him a Christmas card; he lives down in …….Folkestone.

My grandchildren live in Leighton Buzzard.  My grand-daughter is now 14; Megan.  My grandson is 12; Jake.  Jake plays rugby and cricket in summer and my grand daughter rides a horse; she also plays netball.  I was in the netball team at Beaumont so….she plays netball.  She’s very tall.

I go to them for Christmas normally but this year they’re going to Australia.  I have been on 2 holidays with them when the children were small.  Apart from that I usually see them probably for my birthday in February.  We did go out for a celebration when Jake passed his 12 plus.  He’s rather a genius in Maths actually; he’s being taught in an advanced class so it’s going down (the generations).  Of course, my son, he had 13 O levels; 2 As….I’ve got a list somewhere; he’s got quite a lot.