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Personal Memories

Memories from the 1950s Bella Towers


My father worked on the railway, working shifts, and my mother at the dairy. We used to go round to a neighbours for breakfast before my father came back from his night shift. My grandfather used to work in Ironstone, driving an engine, and my mother had brought up her younger brothers and sisters from age 9, when her mother died in childbirth. She was helped by an older sister who had left home, and who used to make suits for the younger ones out of old coats.


We lived in Hose at first and then later in a newly built council house in Harby. I went to school in Hose and later to the Sarson Girls School in Melton. I don’t remember a lot about my early days at school except that my teacher and I thoroughly disliked each other. I also remember the crates of milk being put to warm by the stove and how horrible it tasted!


We had three sets of clothes, Sunday clothes, school clothes and play clothes, and the Sunday clothes always came off as soon as we were back from Chapel. We used to have a new dress for the Sunday School Anniversary and white canvas sandals which had to be whitened and put outside to dry. We had one pair of winter shoes plus Wellington boots. In winter we wore liberty bodices and Winceyette petticoats with drawstring necks and thick navy blue school knickers. We changed our clothes once a week on Sunday, and Saturday night was bath night in a tin bath in front of the fire, with everybody following on in the same bath water. Afterwards for a weekly treat we had a bag of Smiths crisps with salt in a blue paper.


Wash day was Monday and dinner was always cold meat and fried potatoes left over from Sunday, followed by egg custard. Water for the bath and washing was boiled in the copper, outside in the wash house, and after washing the water was used to scrub the path. I remember my mother-in- law saying that the mother of a very poor family used to come and fetch her washing water in buckets to do her own washing because she couldn’t afford to heat water or buy soap. Collars and cuffs used to be scrubbed, using a big bar of yellow soap. Our first washing machine was a Hoover with a hand ringer.


We children shared a bedroom. There was “lino” on the floor, not carpets, and we had feather mattresses which were turned and shaken weekly. The bedrooms were cleaned weekly and we liked cleaning the floor with a soft mop and shaking it out of the bedroom window. We had a ‘Tilly Lamp’ in our room at night. The “best room” was only used on special occasions. Spring cleaning was an annual event and the winter curtains were changed for summer ones.


We used to travel mainly by train (steamtrains) and as my father worked on the railway we used to go on day trips to Skegness or Mablethorpe. We also visited relations in Grantham. The visit took all day as most of the time was taken up travelling by bus, train and foot. Then there was the Sunday School outing, usually to the seaside and I remember going to pantomimes at Leicester and once to a pantomime on ice at Nottingham. I also remember the Coronation Sports at Hose, followed by a Celebration Tea.


Indoors we played Snakes and Ladders and we played a lot with our dolls house, and dolls. I remember the first soft dolls and dolls with “pot” head made out of a sort of clay, which went bubbly if it got wet. Some had stick-on hair which became very matted and couldn’t be washed or combed. Butterbee vinyl dolls with …knotted? hair were a great improvement. I also had a “Princess Anne” doll which I have kept. My grandfather was secretary of the local “Oddfellows” and had an “office” in the shed in the garden. As a treat we were allowed to stamp with his ink stamp on the pad, but only if he was there. Outside we played “paper chase” and we used to be we used to go off up the fields fishing for a whole day and when we were older used to cycle to Gunthorpe and swim in the Trent which couldn’t have been very safe or hygienic. We had a wireless, and later a 12 inch TV in a wooden case which was always covered by a cloth when not in use. I enjoyed reading and used to read the “Girl” comic. My mother read “Woman’s Weekly” which then had a blue and pink cover and there was the “Illustrated” magazine on Sunday.


Few people had cars and a ride in a car was a great treat. My uncle had a two seater with leather seats and a little blind for the window. The first local bus service was started by Mr Coy.

These were local tradesmen, those who came regularly like the baker, and Mr Pick who brought soap and paraffin - you took your can out to be filled up - and occasional visits from Gypsies who sold lace and clothes pegs and a black man who used to sell ties, socks etc from a suitcase. It was very unusual to see a black person in those days and people used to be frightened of him and close their doors when they saw him coming, but he still persisted with his round. A lot of people paid regularly into a club (Castledine?? of Bingham) to buy something ????? sheets, blankets and towels. I remember my mother telling me about ration books and coupons and also that she had two evacuee children from London during the war. The first, a boy, was infested with fleas and didn’t know how to hold a knife and fork, and the second, a girl, now lives in Newark and still visits my mother occasionally.



The doctor used to visit the village twice a week and those requiring a visit had to write their names on a slate in the porch of the “Nags Head” and the doctor would then call unless as occasionally happened the list was washed off by the rain. If someone died the coffin used to be kept, open, in the house until the funeral. The coffins were made in the village and my father used sometimes to act as a bearer. We were afraid to touch him when he came home!

No history can be recorded without the personal statements of those here in the village.

Here villagers recall memories of Harby. You can view the originals by clicking on the Pdf's

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