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-
I remember some of it (WW2). We had Mickey Mouse gas masks and we had those tin
hats. I know when the air-
We had 2 women live with us; one was the air-
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-
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-
I’ve been lucky health-
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-
(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-
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.