Good Old Days

A Memory of Battersea

Most of my mother's family lived in Old Battersea, from cousins to auntie and uncle, to nan and grandad. There were cousins in a 4 poster bed, with their nan and mum. There were my auntie and uncle sleeping in the same room as their 2 children. There was the man of the house who could not walk up the stairs to the bed room to sleep any more so he had to take one of the rooms downstairs. 8 people, 3 genarations, in 2 bedrooms, no bathroom and an outside toilet that from the youngest child to the older all had to use, and it was freezing out there in the yard with a small wooden door for privacy and Izal toilet roll and you were lucky if the family could afford that - otherwise it was newspaper sheets, cut into squares, on a bit of string. It was all after the Second World War and there were not many houses, so everyone just huddled together, stuck together, and looked out for each other. The door was always open. Neighbours didn't steel from each other (there was nothing to nick). Another aunt and uncle lived over the road selling fruit and veg in their shop, with their 3 children.
When the council pulled down the houses in Dagnell Street, they stopped short of our family abodes. and we still had the back of St Saviour's church wall to play ball on. My grandad would always be sitting looking out the window at all the kids playing, we were all safe (no paedos would even think about it) and I never remember kids fighting. I do remember come for a walk with me or let's play, the smell of pubs. Smell of a pie and mash shop with white marble tables. Cold loos, cooking, women wearing overalls to protect their dresses, no tap hot water, not much food for any one. Obeying one's elders..respect for everyone. Kids didn't answer back, everyone was slim, no one expected gold and and ermine, they knew they weren't going to get it. No TV. Some people had a radio in the evenings when the kids were in bed, it was elders' time to talk to each other and rest before they themselfves had to take off their day cloths and freeze before they got into their nightwear, with eiderdowns on the top of blankets and cold cotton sheets. No washing machine. The woman of the house worked really hard. There was always washing on the line in the yard, trying to dry. No vacuum cleaners, they all had to sweep, dust, and wash everything every day, even their own door way. And all the women did it, so all the street was clean from door to door. Not much work for the men was available. They got a day's work here and there to feed their familys. Dagnell Street, Battersea was a dark, cold street in the night but we were safe in the bosom of our family, and the street woke up with a new dawning. Kids up and dressed, playing or going to school, women cleaning and calling to each other, and chatting. Some men working, all busy. Life was living again, yesterday's chalk on the pavement had been washed away, kids drawing hop scotch lines again. And there was always babyies or pregnancy, no contraception, only a condom. If anyone was ill, the family got them better, unless they couldn't and they had to see a doctor. Times were so different but the community of neighbours and families was united, and there was some love through all the good and bad times for everyone. The way people lived then is a far cry for us who are still living to tell the story. x

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