Interview with Freda Dakin

Title

Interview with Freda Dakin

Description

Born in Salford, just outside of Manchester, Freda was a teenager during the Second World War. She recalls a large amount of information regarding civilian life during this interview, including her family's culture, school life, meal requirements and how she reacted to the war being declared. She also recounts her experiences of near-misses during bombing, and her understanding of the Anderson shelters. Despite being a family of seven, she believed she had a good diet during the war, because of her father being a milkman and thus getting the family bonus food. She claims that during the war she was not afraid of the bombs, having quite a fatalistic attitude, she also enjoyed the freedom it brought and how it was like an adventure. She claims she could differentiate between American, British and German aircraft through the sounds of their engines, but also believes that the sirens were always sounded after the plane had arrived.

Creator

Date

2017-09-18

Temporal Coverage

Coverage

Language

Type

Format

01:11:22 audio recording

Conforms To

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

ADikinF170918, PDakinF1701

Transcription

CH: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Cathie Hewitt. The interviewee is Freda Dakin. Also present is Rosita [Meladay]. We are at Mrs Dakin’s home at [Buzz] Washingborough and the date is the 18th of September 2017. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, Freda.
FD: You’re welcome.
CH: You could start by telling me something about your childhood, where you were about and about your parent’s please.
FD: Well, as you know my name’s Freda Dakin nee Freda Palin. P A L I N. I was one of five girls. I was the fourth of the family. Unfortunately, I’ve lost all my sisters. My Edna was the first one to go. She was only fifty four but she died. And then there was, Francis was my eldest and then Helen who was just twenty months older than me and then she died and I lost my baby sister last Christmas. So, I’m the only one remaining. I was born in Salford which was next door to Manchester and my father was a milkman and in those days they had a milk cart. They didn’t have any cover and he used to go out in all sorts of weather. It was hail, rain or snow. And he was a wonderful father. He wasn’t, how can I explain it? He wasn’t a [pause] he didn’t have the teaching he should have had. He could have been a clever man I think. But he was, as I say always out in all sorts of weather and he always kept a roof over our heads. We always had a good table, a good fire but he was a little bit strict and he never swore. Never swore. But he was strict. And I can remember when we used to be going out and he used to say, ‘You come back to this house, lady, as you went out.’ And I said to my eldest sister, ‘What does he mean?’ She said, ‘You come back a virgin.’ [laughs] And yes, he was very strict you know. We had, and we had to be in at 11 o’clock at night. No matter if we were in our teens, even if we were courting, ‘No lady would be out at this time of the night. No decent lady.’ But as I say he was a good man and I had a good mother. My mother was Irish. She was from Belfast and, but as I say I’ve we had our arguments as sisters usually do. I was evacuated to Accrington, Accrington Stanley and the couple there had no children. They wanted to adopt me and my mother said no. ‘No, I don’t care how many children I’ve got you’re not having her.’ I don’t know why because I was the mug of the family. But yes, I had a good childhood really. Mum and dad were pretty strict but when I think about it it was good. It was a good thing. In those days it was, you know. And as I say then, well during the war when the war started as I say I was evacuated just before the war started. I was evacuated in August and then the war started on September the 3rd as you know. I was evacuated with a friend of mine, Evelyn and I remember it was a Sunday, September the 3rd and Margaret and Norman that had taken us in and said, ‘Now, be very quiet. This is Chamberlain coming on the radio.’ We sat there you see. ‘Now, war has been declared.’ And Evelyn and I looked at each other and Margaret said, ‘Oh dear,’ she said, ‘That means we can’t keep you, dear.’ So, we said, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘I’m having a baby.’ Well, in those days when you were eleven year or twelve year old and you used to, we were grinning and nudging each other. ‘She’s having a baby. What’s that?’ So that’s when they found us this couple around the corner at Hyndburn Road, Accrington. Auntie Annie and Uncle Jack. They had no children. So I went to them and Evelyn went next door to the Barnes family and I had a wonderful life. As I say they wanted to adopt me. And I wouldn’t have minded really because I would have had everything [laughs] and then I just went back after the Christmas. My mum wanted me back. She said, ‘I can’t do without her.’ And as I said I went to Grecian Street School and there was quite a lot of Jewish girls there and quite a few from Austria. But they wouldn’t talk and they’ve been smuggled out you know just before the war. They knew it was coming. They were very nice. I’ve got photographs of them. They were very nice people as I say. And then I just started work. Well, you did start work at fourteen in those days. And then of course when the air raid came the site, the bombs were dropping before the sirens came because we said, ‘Oh my God what’s that?’ And then the sirens. So, how they got through the network I do not know. It was horrendous. Mum, ‘Freda, upstairs. Get the blankets and the cushions.’ And I got to the top of the stairs, coming down with the blankets and the cushions fortunately it saved me because a bomb dropped quite near us and it threw me down the stairs and with the blankets and that it saved me. And my dad too. We had what was called an Anderson shelter. They had the Anderson shelter which everybody thought was wonderful because you had a back garden you could do that. There was the Morrison shelter. Now, those were, if you had a back yard or a big dining room they put it in the dining room and you used it as a table and then at night you got under it. That was the Morrison one. And then there was those that had little houses. We had some little houses. They were two up two down and there was no room for either a Morrison shelter or an Anderson shelter so they built a little shelter at the bottom of each street. There might only be a good, a little dozen houses in this streets and then when the sirens went the neighbours all came out and went in these shelters. And of course then with the all clear they all went home. And there was one time and it was near St Andrew’s School and the all clear went and they all come out. They were just coming out and a bomb hit it and it was a flying bomb. They had the Doodlebugs but these were a flying bomb what they did, on parachutes and the planes went out so the all clear went. But these bombs were still dropping and it hit this shelter. They were all killed. It was very sad. Well, as I say we were lucky. We had this shelter and the Blitz as I say it threw me down the stairs which I’m lucky. I’m still lucky. I don’t know why I’ve reached ninety because I was the oddball from the family. I’ve told you before haven’t I? And my dad, bless him he’d made a bucket as a helmet [laughs] and he used to take us down to this shelter one at a time with a piece of metal over our heads from the kitchen down to the bottom of the garden. Make sure we were in the shelter. And then one at a time we went down and he, bless him and of course we all had to sit there and wait. Well, one of my sisters Edna, bless her she’d been to a friends for tea as they called it and of course she was coming home on the bus and the driver got out. Well, we were right near the race course, Manchester Race Course and he stopped there and he said, ‘Right. Not going any further. Can’t go any further. Everybody out. We’re going to the shelter.’ And Edna said, ‘Well, I’m not. I’m going home.’ And he tried to grab her. He said, ‘You’re not in this.’ And she ran for about a mile and of course the back entry and we were all sat there and my mum said, ‘Listen.’ And it was Edna shouting, ‘Dad. Dad.’ And she said, ‘That’s Edna.’ And he got the back gate open and managed to get her in and she collapsed and we thought she’d died. My mum, she said, ‘She’s gone, Jim.’ It’s very sad. She [unclear] she said, ‘Oh, thank God. She’s breathing.’ And she, she ran all the way. She said, the wardens kept saying, trying to grab her. The air raid wardens. Anyway, fortunately she lived. And the next day oh it was horrendous. And my mum I don’t know why but in those days well you couldn’t get toys the same you see and she had a doll and it was broken and she sent it to the Doll’s Hospital in Manchester Piccadilly. And she said, ‘If you want that doll for Christmas you’d better go.’ It was the next day after the air raid [laughs] and we went into Manchester, that was my younger sister and I went. And I can see it now. The rubble in Piccadilly. And it was red more Stretford way and I thought Mr and Mrs Bibby said, ‘Why has your mother sent you out in this?’ Everybody had come for a look and it was still glowing in the, in the distance, and the smoke and the rubble. We were picking our way out and [laughs] the Doll’s Hospital was closed. I couldn’t get it [laughs] I went home but as I say there was a lot worse off than us. A lot worse off. Of course, we had a cellar as well so that we were lucky that way. But me I’m a happy go lucky person really because I used to be out when the sirens were going and my dad used to say to me, ‘I’m going in.’ We called it the Monkey Run. It was the main street. The main road. And we were after the boys you see. And we said, ‘Nah. There’s nothing dropping yet. When they start to drop then we’ll go home.’ But as I say I can see that now I was nearly down the stairs. I remember it. The cushions and falling down the stairs. In a way we can laugh at it now but it was horrendous. But there again hearing the bombs dropping before the sirens were going because we didn’t know what hit us. We never got a window broken. Yeah. And the bombs were dropping right near us and not one of our windows in the house had broken. And I remember once [laughs] the sirens went. There again, we make, ‘Have you got this?’ or ‘Have you got that?’ You know. Of course, when you imagine five girls and a man and woman, you know, yes we’ve got this, got that. My dad taking us down one at a time and we got on the shelter. We said, ‘Oh, it’s quiet.’ My dad opened what little bit of a door we had. No. No. And then he heard the air raid wardens walking down the back yard and he said, me dad shouts, ‘Anything doing yet, mate?’ They says, ‘Where are you?’ He says, ‘We’re in the air raid shelter.’ He said, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘The all clear went soon after.’ He said. It was over [laughs] We were there two hours. And another time we had this little case with all the policies and what have you and my sister came and her boyfriend was at the side of her and she says, ‘What are you doing down there, Jim?’ He said, ‘Well, what are you doing down there?’ She was sat on the case. So we had some good laughs, you know. And so there again my dad used to say, ‘I’ll go and get a drink.’ We’d say, ‘Well, be careful out there.’ A piece of metal over his head going up the back yard. The back garden. But as I say I can laugh at some things but when we realise how serious it was and I can still feel going down those stairs. I really can. But as I say I’m still here to tell the tale and I’m a lot luckier than a lot of people. A lot luckier. As I say now I’m the only one out of my sisters that’s living and I can tell a tale can’t I, Zita?
RM: Oh, you can tell a tale. Yeah.
FD: But as I say it’s different these days. I suppose nowadays they would just put one bomb on and everybody would go. It’s so different because as I say we could have our laughs and what, you know but there again, ‘You pinched my cushion.’ [laughs] Can you imagine? My dad with six girls. But he was so good with us. I can see him now. ‘Next one.’ [laughs] Going down the back garden, as I say. We were lucky being a family of seven that with our rations we could get a joint of meat at the weekends. You see if you were on your own you’d only get a chop. But if you had all these coupons you could get a roast. So, in a way being a big family helped. That you could get bigger rations and you could share out more. But as I say I remember Gladys, bless her and she was on her own and she said, ‘Oh, I am annoyed.’ We said, ‘Why? What’s the matter?’ Just been in to the Co-op and it was my ration day, she said, ‘For my piece of cheese and she weighed it on the, on the scales and she cut some off.’ She cut, it would be about a quarter of a pound or something, ‘And what she cut off she put in her mouth and eat it and —’ she said, ‘I could have made a sandwich of that.’ [laughs] I said, ‘Oh Gladys, what a shame.’ So it you know we had laughter but can you imagine anybody doing that? I mean if it had been me I’d have said, ‘Oh, go on love. It’s a bit over but it’s for you.’ But she said, I can see it now so as I say being a bigger family we were better off. We could get bigger pieces of this and bigger [pause] and my dad being a milkman he served a lot of Jews in Manchester. The big warehouses. And they used to help him out. And as I say and he used to go to this shop himself, ‘A bit extra for you today Jimmy.’ And he’d say, ‘Thanks very much.’ And as I say we did very well for rations. We never went without a good meal. I felt sorry for those that were on their own, bless them. You know, because they got no extra and as I say I’m a very lucky lady and I thank God that he was there for me and all those who went before me. But I don’t whether I could live through it now. I doubt it. But there again at my age who wants me? [laughs] I’ve got, I’m lucky that I’ve got very good friends and helpers. As I’ve said, I’ve told you before I’m a really lucky lady. I really am. And what health I’ve got for my age I do alright. It’s some memories I can laugh at because my friend and I go down the Monkey Run for the lads even though the bombs were dropping. I’d say, ‘We’d better go in now, hadn’t we?’ And I remember the sirens went and I said to my friend , Grace, ‘Are we going home?’ So, she said, ‘Is there any — ’ ‘No. They’ve not dropped them yet.’ So I went home and my mum as soon as she heard the sirens she was out first down the back garden and I thought, oh, I’ve not heard anything. And we used to have a little Kelly lamp in the kitchen. My dad went out to get some coal and he left the door open a bit and I’m like this with my coat shielding it. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘You never know, that could be, that could be a German up there going over.’ ‘Oh, don’t be silly. The sirens would have gone.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘They went half an hour ago.’ I was on the Monkey Run you see. My mother [unclear] ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ I said, ‘Well, I thought you’d all hear it.’ They were chattering that much that they didn’t hear the sirens. But they didn’t worry me. If I have to go I have to go which that was my attitude and I’m still here to tell the tale aren’t I? And I thank you very much for you coming.
CH: How old were you when the war started?
FD: Sorry?
CH: How old were you when the war started?
FD: I’ve got to think. Twelve.
CH: So you were still at school.
FD: Oh yes.
CH: So what would have been a typical day for you during the war?
FD: What would be what love?
CH: A typical day for you as a school child in the war. When you got up in the morning and go to school.
FD: Yes. Well, when I was evacuated their school they used to go in the mornings and our school would go in the afternoons. And the week after we’d go in the mornings and they’d go in the afternoons. And those, and then when we were at school we would either go to the museum. The teacher would take us to a museum and I remember —
[doorbell — recording paused]
CH: Ok. Freda, we’ll restart again.
FD: Right love. Well, as I say we used to go either to museum or churches and they went to the police station once and I always remember it was a Wednesday. And so I can always say I’ve been locked up because I was in a, I went in a, which the cells were different in those days and he said that’s where, so if we have to sleep in there we had to sleep in there and he locked the door. So, I can honestly say I’ve been locked up [laughs] And then I remember this sergeant and we used to have the gas masks and they were in cardboard boxes and we used to put a piece of string and carry it around your shoulder or you could buy cases for them. Leather cases or cotton cases. Make them posh. And there was this, he said, ‘Now then, something new’s come out. It’s a special powder to take finger prints.’ So, I always remember that’s when this powder came out. It was 1939. No. Yes, it was. 1939. And he said, ‘You see this?’ And it was a plain piece of cardboard and he put this stuff on and you could, you leant in to it. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘That’s your fingerprints.’ So, I said, ‘So if I pinch that you’d find me out?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ ‘And if I could pinch this?’ And it was a gas mask case but it was like in a crocodile skin. He said, ‘No. We can’t do that yet, love.’ He says, ‘It’s only got to be plain stuff where your fingerprints are. But — ’ he said, ‘We’re working on it.’ So, I know 1939 that’s when that powder came out for fingerprints. And it’s little things like that I remember. And as I say, I was in the church choir for Christmas as an angel [laughs] Nearest thing I’ll ever get to it I think, Zita.
RM: Yeah. I think it is.
FD: But Auntie Annie and Uncle Jack were fantastic with me. As I say they wanted to adopt me because they had no children and then Auntie Annie died and then Uncle Jack died and he left me a little bit of money in his will. So I bought, with part of it I bought a ring and when I look at it I think of them and I’ve got a little photograph of them. And they treated me, oh it was fantastic. Of course, being in, during, before the war we all used cups and saucers, you know. But when I went to Auntie Annie and Uncle Jack’s it was a mug. And the first time she gave me a mug I said, ‘Where’s the saucer?’ [laughs] She said, ‘You don’t have saucers. Only on a Sunday.’ So, yeah she was, oh they did, they treated me rotten and on Friday we used to go to the market. ‘What do you fancy for your tea, lass?’ It was always lass, you see and so she said, ‘Do you like this?’ ‘Do you like that?’ I said, ‘Oh, I like those prawns.’ And she used to make her own ham, her own balm cakes. Warm balm cakes and they was for prawns for me. Oh, it was lovely as I say. And an outdoor toilet. No. No. As I say with a piece of wood with a hole in it and oh God I used to [pause] and I dropped the torch down it once. I said, ‘Uncle Jack. I’ve dropped the torch down.’ [laughs] ‘Eeh lass. What are we going to do with you?’ And Auntie Annie taught me how to darn properly because we used to have to wear long black stockings for the school, you see. Your uniform. And I had a hole and I didn’t bother. I just more or less [laughs]. I was getting my coat on and he said, ‘Ay lass, you’ve got a lump on your leg. What is it? Hey, Annie come and have a look at this. The lass has got a lump on her leg.’ And I said, ‘It’s not. It’s my darn.’ He said, ‘Your what?’ I said, ‘I darned it.’ He said, ‘Oh Annie, show her how to darn.’ And from there I used to weave. She taught me how to weave. Yeah. So, as I say I fell in lucky in a way. Because the couple we had at first, they put us in these houses, because she was having this baby you see. But [unclear] having a baby. I never found out what she had anyway. And he, Norman worked for her father and he was a chauffeur and so on Sundays he could take us out and we used to go out for a drive. Before we found that she had a baby.
RM: So, were you not frightened, Freda?
FD: Sorry?
RM: Were you not frightened?
FD: Me? No.
RM: At that age?
FD: No.
RM: When you were going to school and things.
FD: Nothing would frighten me now, Zita
RM: I know you don’t get frightened about many things but that as a child you weren’t.
FD: No. No.
RM: You and your friends
FD: No. No. It never frightened me. Because as I say you used to walk on the Monkey Run and they’d say, ‘The sirens have gone.’ ‘Oh well, if they drop a bomb we’ll go in.’
RM: And they say children don’t feel fear don’t they as much?
FD: Well, no. I never felt it, you know. Most likely would have done had I, if I’d been out in the Blitz.
RM: Yeah.
FD: But I wasn’t. I was inside you see. But as I say the bombs were dropping before the air raid sirens had finished.
RM: But you saw a lot of the damage that had been done.
FD: Oh yes.
RM: So did that not frighten you?
FD: No.
RM: Once you realised what these bombs could do?
FD: No.
RM: No.
FD: No. No, I’m just in, I don’t know. If I went tomorrow it’s God’s will. I go to church, you see. But no. I think what has to be has to be and like I had four sisters. Edna, bless her the one that we thought she’d, she was only fifty four when she died and a bigger Christian you couldn’t wish to meet. But somebody said, ‘Well, God’s taken her to spend her spirit down to somebody else.’ No, it doesn’t. No. When I saw all the smoke and the redness and I thought it was a shock in a way.
RM: More of a shock than anything.
FD: Yes. It’s horrible. I mean you could, as I say it was still smouldering.
RM: Yeah.
FD: When I was walking in the Deansgate, in Piccadilly. And of course I was being more nosy than anything.
RM: Curiosity more than anything.
FD: It was. I was thinking what had happened. It wasn’t as though I was thinking oh that’s [unclear] You see, you know me. Take it or leave it. But no I can see it now and Mr and Mrs Bibby and I can, and as I say stood in Piccadilly and I thought oh God and the fires are still burning. So it was horrendous really because it was not just a couple of bombs. It was bomb after bomb after bomb. And what it was, where we lived we lived by the River Irwell and it was the Broughton Foundry. It was where they made the ammunitions and my sister worked there. Edna. Instead of going in the Forces she was called up, see. Francis had a baby. So I think they were after that. Broughton Copper Works it was called and that’s where the munitions, some of the munitions were being made. Ammunitions. And the river, they used to always go for a river because that’s where they knew where they were making them and that’s where they were trying to drop them. They were getting them in Manchester itself you see. And the night before the Blitz Bernard my husband where he worked had the Christmas dinner at Victoria Hotel on the corner and that went completely. Fortunately, it was the night before. Had they been there because it started at 6 o’clock at night they would have been all killed.
CH: It was just before Christmas.
FD: Yes.
CH: Yeah.
FD: Yes. It was just before Christmas. And by the way I’ve got a book. I don’t know if you’d like it or not it’s on the Blitz.
CH: We’ll just pause for a moment there.
[recording paused]
CH: Ok. Thank you, Freda.
FD: I was happy go lucky. Nothing worried me. And my mum said, ‘You can’t go out in this. What if the sirens go?’ I said, ‘Well, if they go they go don’t they?’ You see, and she, ‘Don’t be so cheeky.’ Oh, I could give cheek like that you see. And I said, ‘Alright. I’ll come in when the sirens go.’ But then of course I tell lies. I’d say, ‘Well, I didn’t hear them go.’ And Grace my friend she was the same. She said, ‘What are we going home for?’ She says. ‘To sit with them?’ You see. No. I was such a, it wasn’t, nothing worries me now because what has to be has to be and I thought, I said, ‘Well, if we get some we’ll go in if the bomb drops.’ And that’s us you see. We went out every night and occasionally there was a couple of lads worked and they were supposed to be looking after their so called Works and they’d say, ‘Go on. We’ve got a shelter.’ But nothing bad happened believe you me. We used to just go. We used to have a laugh and a joke but in those days there was nothing like that with sex or anything. And then we used to say, mum would say, ‘Where have you been sheltering?’ I’d say, ‘Well, we went in the shop doorway.’ And as I say we told lies. But we didn’t, we were in this shelter with the lads. But do you blame me? I mean to me I might have only had a couple of days left. I thought I might as well have a bit of fun while life lasts.
RM: Was there no cinemas or anywhere to go for a drink or —
FD: Oh, yes.
RM: Anything like that Freda?
FD: You could have. There were cinemas going but in those days you see they closed at a certain time. There was no evening. Nothing like today.
RM: No evening matinees or anything.
FD: Oh ,yeah. Yeah. But I mean money was tight as well.
RM: Yeah. Yeah.
FD: I mean, I know it was only a couple of pence to go in or fourpence, the old fourpence but if you’ve spends when I was working. When I started work I think my wages was eight shillings or nine shillings a week and my mam, and then my mother gave me my tram fare out of it and my spends was a shilling. Five pence a week. And that I had to, well my mum kept, as you called kept me. She looked after you until you were twenty one and when I was twenty one I gave her just so much for keeping me so the rest was mine. So I used to get about a shilling. Two and six. Twelve and a half pence. And that was my spends for a week. And I had to buy different things with all make up and stuff but she kept me in dresses and clothes.
CH: How old were you when you started work?
FD: Fourteen.
CH: Could you tell me something about that?
FD: About work? Well, I worked for a place called John Noble’s which was one of these clubs. You know, the what do you call them. Like —
RM: Like a catalogue type.
FD: Catalogue. And it was horrendous. I used to, I was just the one who had to go to each department with the orders and it used to be every half hour I was up and down the stairs and the flights of stairs. They wanted one department then I’d come back. They’d say, ‘Here’s another one.’ And I’d go up and down the stairs. It was about eight shillings a week I got. Mum paid for my bus fare err tram fares. A shilling a week. Five pence a week was my spends. So then when I finished there I didn’t like that because it was two tram cars. And I went to work at Abel Heywood’s, and I got I think it was a bit more. I got about ten shillings a week on that and I stayed there for about four or five years. I disobeyed the rules because you weren’t supposed to go on holidays without permission and one girl was going off on holidays with her parents so I thought well if she can go so can I. So I took a week off work and got the sack.
RM: So did the, did the war not affect your job, Freda? Did you have to come home during the day or —
FD: No. No. Oh no. I had to go work.
RM: The trams never stopped or anything like that.
FD: No. But so you —
RM: You could always get to work.
FD: Well, we were so close to Manchester we could walk in to —
RM: You were walking distance.
FD: Yes. But, no and then of course I got the sack from that. And then I got to work with the electrical place. It was quite nice but I didn’t like that. But I worked at Abel Heywood’s for quite a while which I liked. It was newspapers and stuff. I liked that very much and I had nice friends there but as I say there was Hilda. Hilda [Beavis] she, she was a thief and a liar because I left. They gave me, they used to come around, it was an old fashioned firm. They used to come around with your wages in a little tin on a tray and you’d say, ‘That’s mine.’ Freda Palin you see. Take your spends out. Your wages out. Look at it. ‘That’s right.’ Put your tin back again. They didn’t give you a wage packet. And I remember leaving, it was three pounds something in the, in my drawer because I used to be a typist, and I got home. Mum said, ‘Where’s my — ’, ‘Oh, I’ve left it at work.’ So my friend and I were going out. The dance clubs were still open, you know. If the sirens went you had to go.
RM: You met quite a few Forces men though didn’t you at the dances? You told me.
FD: You what, darling?
RM: You met quite a few of the Forces men at the dances you told me.
FD: Oh, I did. Yes. I met Ron. Yes. We used to go to the YWCA. It was, there was the YMCA men only. YWCA ladies only. But when the war was on you could go in either. Both of them. And of course we volunteered to help on the counters to serve tea and that so I met quite a lot of Forces. Ron Crawford, Crawford Biscuits, he was one of the heirs for that. Yes. My dad when we used to go out we had to clean. I had to clean the floor before I went out. We’d take it in turns and my dad said, ‘Don’t forget the corners,’ because we had no fitted carpets in those days. And I said, ‘I’ve got a date at 8 o’clock.’ He said, ‘If he thinks anything of you he’ll wait for you won’t he?’ And of course when I got there the girls would say, ‘Ron’s getting upset,’ they said. And I’d say, ‘My dad made me clean the floor.’ And they says, ‘Oh, he was worried over you.’ I said, anyway he went. I wrote to him for a while and that was it. The one I really loved was, he was called Robert. Oh, he was lovely. Robert [Souter] Swinton. So, I met quite a few men there and I used to wait on the counter and serve. So, in a way I had a happy life.
RM: Is it like they show on the television then Freda? In the films that you see with the Forces people and and you ladies all dancing and having a good time?
FD: Oh yeah.
RM: It was just very much like that.
FD: Yes. Yeah. And I went out with an American as well. Oh, my friend Grace she was a daredevil really. Like me. And two Americans came up to us and they said, ‘Will you come? Would you like to join us? We’re going up for a meal.’ So, we said, ‘No, thank you.’ So they said, ‘We’re harmless. Honestly.’ They said, ‘We booked this café for the Americans.’ He said, ‘We provided the food but we can’t go in unless we have a lady friend with us.’ And it was next to the Odeon Theatre. I can see it now. And we looked and said ok. And they said, ‘You’ll definitely be safe with us.’ So we went in and of course in those days they had ham and everything you could imagine. A piece of ham and tinned fruit. Oh, it was fantastic. We were looking at these cakes and they did because I remember getting to the door and they said such a squadron or something. So, she said, ‘Have you got partners?’ And they said, ‘Yes,’ and we had to show our faces. They said, ‘Well, you can come in.’ So we had, oh it was fantastic. When I got home, when I was telling my mum so I said , ‘And they had peaches.’ She said, ‘Where had they get those from?’ I said, ‘They’re out of a tin. What do you think?’ She said, ‘Don’t be so cheeky.’ Yeah, so I, oh I’ve met all sorts and everybody. To me I had a wonderful time. I wasn’t frightened. I enjoyed. Grace, my friend though she used to go a bit too far and I said, ‘No. No. That’s, that’s too much for me.’ She was too much of a daredevil really but and of course my dad. I don’t know whether I said to you, ‘You go out of this house the same way as you come in. A virgin.’ Oh, I daren’t. I daren’t. But yes. I I think about it my first work as I say John Nobles. I think they’ve gone now though. Two tram cars. Then Abel Heywood’s which I liked very much. And then there was this electrical place. And then I went to [unclear] which I liked that very much. It was one of these big typings, typings out and they had these whacking big machines. But I was there for about nine years. No. It wasn’t to be nine years. No. I was there the longest anyway because I got married from there and then I had Robert. But in those days they wouldn’t take you back after you’d had a baby. It’s not like now they’ll keep your job open for so long you see but I didn’t mind. I had my son. And, and then we lived with my mum and dad for a couple of years. Then we got a rented house. When, I think about it an old man had it, this house and he used to live and eat and sleep in one room and my sister when she was looking at it, she said, ‘Fancy having a black ceiling.’ I said, ‘That’s soot.’ [laughs] The gas man [unclear] out to here when he walked in. We spent about three hundred pound doing it up and she said, ‘You stupid fool.’ I said, ‘Why?’ It’s around the corner room from my mum’s.’ Rented. She said, ‘Yes, but you could have put that down as a deposit for a brand new house.’ Which you could have done in those days because I mean the house I bought in Stockport wasn’t quite two thousand. And I mean, that would have helped us through but I never bothered but, and then had my son there and then we moved to Stockport.
CH: If I could just go back to the war. What were you doing for celebrations on VE day?
FD: Not a lot really. No. Was it Francis had the television? No. No. I didn’t do a lot really. You went in to Manchester but they were all kissing and cuddling. I couldn’t be doing with that. No. No. I didn’t. I can’t remember much about that. It was just a quiet day for me.
RM: It sounds like a daft questions Freda but what happened to all the gas masks? Did you have to hand them all in? All the gas masks.
FD: I think we did. I think we did. Yeah.
RM: You had to hand them all in.
FD: We all had a special box for them.
RM: And the you see it on the television. With all these boxes and everybody had to carry them everywhere.
FD: Oh, they did.
RM: And all this but and such like as these programmes on the telly. The Antiques Roadshow and such like and they all get you know this is a gas mask from so and so but what happened to all the stuff? They couldn’t hand it all in.
FD: Must have done. Must have done because we didn’t have any left. We didn’t have.
RM: And you carried it to work and everywhere.
FD: Oh yeah. You had to carry them to work. Oh yeah. They were in a cardboard box with a piece of string on.
RM: Yeah. I’ve seen them but, yeah.
FD: And then you could buy these lovely covers.
RM: Did you ever have to use yours?
FD: No.
RM: No.
FD: No.
RM: No.
FD: No. Never had to use it [unclear] but there again by the time you got them out of the box and that you could have been gassed.
RM: Yeah. Yeah.
FD: If they’d have dropped the gas bombs.
RM: Yeah.
FD: But I don’t, I can’t remember any, anything where they were dropped. I don’t think they dropped —
RM: No.
FD: Much in England.
RM: Well, they show you sometimes where people have them on. You see it. But I just wondered if you’d ever had to use it.
FD: I don’t think they wanted to kill. It was more the munitions they were going after because of this Broughton Copper Works that were making them and as I say it was nearly all the rivers they were going for. They knew there was factories down by the river. And there was other places as well you see. So we were right near the River Irwell and as I say they could have[pause] and that’s where we, the windows did rattle. I’m not saying that. But why we never got one window broken. Some did. But I don’t know what it was but it was and we used to just sit there. And my dad, one at a time down in the [pause] Edna, how she got through it I don’t know at all because she worked at the Broughton Copper Works as well. You see with Francis with being married because they didn’t take them into the Forces or anything then because I said, of course in a way I was dying to be eighteen to go in the forces. I said, ‘Oh, I’m going in the forces when I’m, when I’m eighteen,’ I said, ‘I’ll go in the Air Force.’ My cousin said, ‘No. You’re not.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘You know if you go in the Forces you’re there just for the officer’s ground sheet.’ I says, ‘No.’ He says, ‘You are,’ he says, ‘You’re there for the officer’s ground sheet, you youngsters.’ That’s what he said. So I never went but then again it was over and done with by the time I was —
RM: My [unclear] never said that.
FD: Oh, well maybe she was [laughs] My friend. She was in the Forces.
RM: She was Scottish. She was in the WAAF wasn’t she?
FD: And she was in the WAAF and she met, that’s where she met Jack. Her husband and of course I said to her once. She said, ‘No.’ But there again there were a lot going in. I don’t know. So, my mum said, ‘She’s not going in. She’s not going in.’ But I wanted to go in actually. I think I’d have enjoyed it better. I don’t know. But then I became very plump. I was thirteen stone at one time wasn’t I? You saw my plump. No, but I’ve lost a lot of weight. But anyway I can’t say it was horrible because I enjoyed it with my friend, you know. As I say, on the Monkey Run we used to have fun.
RM: I suppose your age. I suppose you found it exciting in a way.
FD: Well, I did because my parents were a little bit strict you see. And as I say my dad and mum were strict and to be out on my own and I felt, oh they won’t come out looking for me. Not in this. So, I was obviously a dare devil. And my friend especially, she was, oh and it was during the war they had the tram cars running and we’d been in the YWCA and we’d met, well this one met my friend she said, ‘I’m going to the railway station with him.’ They were, they were based at Heaton Park all the RAF men, and they all had little white flashes on their caps. You knew they were aircrew. So, she said, ‘I’m going. His train’s at ten to eleven.’ She said, ‘Wait on the bridge for me,’ she said, ‘I’ll make sure he’s on that train.’ And our tram car was at 11 o’clock. I’m stood there and this man sidles up to me. ‘How about it, darling?’ So, I said, ‘Clear off.’ And he’s sidling up and he says, ‘Go on, darling. It won’t take long.’ And I didn’t know, as true as I’m sat here I didn’t know what he was meaning. And he says, ‘I’ll pay you more tonight then your boss does in a week.’ And I thought what the hell does he mean? What can I do? I hadn’t the foggiest idea and he kept on and when my friend came you see the tram came. I said, ‘Don’t leave me on my one again,’ I said, he was this [pause] ‘Surely you know what he wanted don’t you?’ I said, ‘No. What did he want?’ And she told me. I went berserk. ‘Don’t leave me again.’ He must have thought I was a prostitute [laughs] I got the shock of my life when I found out what he wanted.
RM: Was he an Air Force man? Was he in —
FD: No. He was just an ordinary civvy.
RM: Oh, he weren’t a Forces man.
FD: You see Grace had gone to see her friend, her boyfriend off at the airport err at the railway station and I’m stood there just queuing up with all the others and he’s sidling up to me and pushing my shoulder. And I was, ‘Leave me alone. Leave me alone.’ I didn’t know. I didn’t know what prostitutes were. And she was a daredevil because there was Lewis’s Arcade and the prostitutes used to wait in there and they all had their certain spot you see and going through the Arcade with Grace she said, ‘Oh aye, she’s got one.’ I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘Look. A fella has just picked her up. I’m going to follow them.’ I said, ‘You’re not.’ She said, ‘I did. I went and followed them down this back entry,’ she said, ‘It wasn’t very nice.’[laughs] I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ She was very broad. She did things I would never dream of. No. No. And I said, ‘Oh Grace.’ She said, ‘Well,’ she said, ‘It’s their own fault.’ And no one, Lewis’s Arcade as I say was open and we went, Bernard went through there once and there was these prostitutes and he was meeting me at the Palace Theatre and he said, ‘Oh, I’ve just been offered a nice job.’ I said, ‘What?’ he said this prostitute come and with the gloves under his chin, ‘Hello sweetheart. I’ll make you very comfortable for tonight.’ He said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a wife waiting for me. She can do that.’ I said, ‘You cheeky monkey.’
CH: How did you meet your husband?
FD: Sorry?
CH: How did you meet your husband?
FD: Through my brother in law. My eldest sister. Jim. They worked there. Jim and Bernard worked together and my brother in law came home, he said, ‘Bernard’s been asking about you.’ I said, ‘Who’s Bernard?’ He said, ‘ [unclear] So I said, ‘I don’t know Bernard.’ And a couple of times, ‘Bernard’s been asking about you.’ I said, ‘I don’t know Bernard.’ And he said, anyway they had a very old fashioned workplace. It was an optical place and you had to go up these creaking stairs, just like Dickens. And a little window. You had to knock on it and it was slid away. And I had to go and give a message to my brother in law and I knocked on this window and he said, ‘Yes?’ I said, ‘Can I speak to Mr Bateson, please.’ And when he’d gone Jim says, ‘That’s Bernard.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I didn’t know. I never met him before.’ He said, ‘You have.’ ‘I haven’t actually.’ So they invited me to a church dance. We had a church dance, and he was a very quiet man, wasn’t he?
RM: He really was. Yeah.
FD: Very quiet. He was daft as a brush. He was useless, hopeless and helpless. He couldn’t knock a nail in straight and he couldn’t boil an egg. It’s true. Honestly, he couldn’t as I say, but he was a very good husband. He thought the world of me didn’t he?
RM: Yeah.
FD: He did. He just worshipped me. And I remember when we were living with mum and dad and we went, were going to church it was only around the corner and he said, ‘I don’t feel so —’ [pause] I said, ‘oh, don’t bother coming, sweetie.’ I said, ‘I’ve left you a couple of eggs there.’ When I come home he said, ‘You didn’t tell me how to cook them.’ [laughs] I said, ‘You stupid fella. I said, ‘I cooked them before you came down.’ He was. He was useless but as I say a very good husband. He would never, he would never have a chequebook because he said it’s too easy and it had to be paid with cash every time. He said, ‘If you have a chequebook it’s too easy, Freda.’ So we were never in debt. We always had good food on the table. A roof over our heads. We used to have little holidays, big holidays when Robert left home. So, and then he was, he was eighty four when he died. He had a very bad heart. I remember him at the table when there was just the two of us he says, ‘Ooh, what have you put in that dinner?’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Indigestion.’ I said, ‘My cooking’s not that bad. You’ve had it for how many years?’ And, and then when we were, of course I used to do all the decorating and he was sat on the stairs and he said, ‘Oh. Indigestion.’ And then I was at work [laughs] he never knew how to say words because I was, I used to work in a Post Office and they said, Bernard. And he said, ‘They’re keeping me in, love.’ I said, ‘Why? Where are you? At the police station?’ He said, ‘No. At the hospital.’ he said, ‘I’ve had another.’ He said, ‘I’ve had three heart attacks.’ And he had about twelve altogether. He had a pacemaker and that. He died. It’s twelve years this year.
CH: Did you court for very long when you first got together?
FD: Yes. Well, we, I got, we got engaged when I was twenty one and I got married at twenty three and I had Robert when I was twenty eight. I was married five years before I had Robert. Unfortunately, my son took his own life.
CH: I’m sorry.
FD: But as I say we got through. And I’ve got very good friends. I’m very fortunate with that. I’ve got a lot of friends haven’t I? This is, this is my helper. She’s cheeky. Very very cheeky. Could knock her head off sometimes.
RM: Just look, this lady’s taping you so be careful.
FD: Oh, sorry [laughs] Well, it’s the truth. She wanted the truth. She’s getting it. I mean you’ve turned up for me today haven’t you sweetheart.
RM: Of course I have.
[recording paused]
FD: No. There was none dropped right outside in the church or anything. It was more the vibrations we got because we could hear them rattling. And there was a little bit in the middle of Salford and Manchester which [unclear] used to go up around over the bridge into Manchester. It was the same. You could walk it. So it was nearly all there that got it because they were after this, the Broughton Copper Works. So, as I say we just got the rattling of it and the vibrations. We’d say, ‘God, that was a near one wasn’t it? That was a miss.’ But no. And as I say with being in that shelter they were the safest of the lot. The Anderson shelter, Morrison shelter and then the little shelters outside. It was that, it was to me actually when they say little shelter it was I don’t know why, I can’t understand it because they were only like a little brick shelter. They weren’t dug into the ground. They were just like a little house where a lot of people could go. So you might as well have stayed in your own house. I mean that was at least two floors high. I mean, so unfortunately this flying bomb, whatever it was called dropped on to the shelter itself that wiped them all out. But I know people say you were lucky with the Anderson. Some had put them in themselves and did it themselves they got flooded out with water. We were lucky, the corporation came and did mine. Ours. Because my dad couldn’t do it. So they did it and it was the way it was faced. It was a blessing really. I can see it now but it started to smell musty and we used to put carpets down and oh God that smelled.
RM: It must have been very cold and dark.
FD: Well, when there’s a few of you, Zita there’s, you’re all, when you’re all breathing it’s not too bad.
RM: Not too cold.
FD: But if there’s only two of you.
RM: It would be cold.
FD: You know. But we used to take travelling rugs with us and cushions. We never, we didn’t leave those in the shelter. We took those out with us. But the bit of carpet, we were always changing that. And newspapers used to be in as well. They used to, you’d wrap those. It was amazing how you could keep warm. But my dad bless him he used to go up and say, ‘I’ll go and get a drink.’ ‘Be careful dad. Do be careful.’ You know. ‘Oh dad, don’t go. Don’t go.’ But yes he used to go and make us drinks. And did I tell you when my mum was petrified. She was, bless her. And as I say air raid sirens had gone and I came in and they were all there. I thought, oh my God she’s braving it. And she was chatting away to them all and the little Kelly lamp I was trying to shield. ‘Oh, the sirens would have gone,’ they said, ‘If there was anything,’ because a plane was going over and I’m shielding this little Kelly lamp and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘The sirens went half an hour ago.’ ‘Oh, why didn’t you tell us,’ they said. They were gabbing that much they couldn’t hear them.
RM: Would you have during, during the day or during the night?
FD: Oh, the evenings.
RM: Evening.
FD: It was in the evenings when it started going and that’s what we couldn’t understand about the Blitz because the bombs had dropped before the siren had finished so they must have got through somehow. I don’t know how they did it.
RM: Did you see the planes? Did you ever see them?
FD: Oh no. You could hear them.
RM: You could hear them but you couldn’t actually see them.
FD: Because to us the German planes they had a beat in them [humming] Ours seemed to [humming] ours seemed to be a smoother hum or drum than the Americans err the Germans. They seemed to have a bit of a pause [humming] We’d say, ‘That’s a German.’ The next thing we knew a bomb had gone off. So how they got through, those bombs had come down after they’d gone I don’t know but I know they said they put them on, there was a Doodlebug and these other bugs they put a little parachute on them. Well, little, it must have been a whacking big parachute but they must have been slowed down because when I think, I thought well, how do they do it? Because when you see an airman jump out of a plane they come down, seem to come down a lot faster before the plane can go in. I thought, well I know they come down a bit slower in the end so there must have had special reasons. They must have made a special bomb to come down that bit slower. And the, and the parachutes must have, I know they must have helped them. But I mean as I say the all clear has gone. You think you’re alright. The next thing there’s a big thud. It must have been horrendous. But there again it hits you wouldn’t know anything would you?
RM: Did you lose any friends?
FD: No. No. Not that way. Oh yes. Yes. There was somebody down, down Earl Street but they were away at the time. But none, no. None.
RM: None of your —
FD: Not directly.
RM: Friends.
FD: No. We didn’t see they’d gone during, the only thing is I would say not friends but we just knew them. The locals.
RM: Yeah.
FD: That this bomb had dropped on the outside on the shelter. To me as I say it was just like a brick shelter. Well, you’d be better in your own home. It’s unfortunate unless it was strengthened but there again of course if you’d got a two floor building that top building, the top floor would save you from the other one but this was right on it. It’s just a pity that they were all coming, well they’re, even if they’re inside they would have. Another two or three minutes they’d have been in their own home. But it was just unfortunate. But how I can explain it? I do worry sometimes Zita but I was a happy go lucky. What happened happened to me. I’m one of these now. If it happens it happens. It’s, you know it’s not as though you can control it. What’s got to be has got to be. I’m a fatalist. But as I was saying I was happy go lucky then. And of course when you were a teenager in those day it was all boys, boys, boys. I didn’t mind but my mum used to worry as much, well worry me more and think, oh God, she’s at it again. She couldn’t do anything. She used to say, oh you know, and hush, hush. I’d say, ‘What are you hushing for?’ But yeah, it’s I think I could go through it again in a way but there again I don’t know. Of course these days it would be a lot worse. I mean one bomb would kill the lot of us, wouldn’t it?
CH: You were talking about your mum and you were saying that you never went hungry. What sort of food did your mum prepare considering it was rationed?
FD: Well, that’s it. With being a big family she could get a joint of meat.
RM: But what else did you get during the week. I mean —
FD: Well, we had —
RM: I mean meals during the week.
FD: That’s what I was saying. With dad being this milkman he was lucky. He used to serve this shop. What was it called? Anyway, it’ll come to me. And they used to, ‘Alright, Jimmy,’ and they used to put a bit of extra butter in for him. But there again if you think if you were on your own you’d most likely get a pack of butter it would last you about a fortnight. But if we, there were seven of you got a lot more for a week. You’d get more for a week and my mother used to say, ‘If you have butter you don’t have jam and if you have jam you don’t have butter.’ And my sister used to say, ‘I’ll tell you what mum. Butter that side, jam that side and then put them together.’ [laughs] That’s how we lived. And of course I didn’t like, ‘Oh, she doesn’t like that. Can I have you share.’ ‘Can I have your share.’
RM: So what would you, came home, say if you’d been at school twelve thirteen year old what would, what meal would you come home to in the week?
FD: A proper meal.
RM: What would you have for your breakfast say? Your lunch or tea.
FD: Well, well then we didn’t bother with breakfast. Used to have a piece of toast or bread and jam. Even then. Even now I don’t. But then for dinner my mum would make a little dinner. For tea anyway for us all because as I was saying we were lucky and also I think Mr Parkes liked my dad because he used to wink when he was wrapping something up you see.
RM: What about vegetables? I mean we hear that you couldn’t get vegetables and things.
FD: Oh no. Well, a lot of people used to grow their own.
RM: They did? Even in Manchester?
FD: Yes. Oh, yeah.
RM: Yeah.
FD: They had their own little back. I mean we could have done. My dad started something in the back garden but he never finished it. Oh, an apple tree. But he tried to grow an apple tree and then Edna, bless her she said, ‘It wants pruning.’ He said, ‘It does not.’ And he always, his chest used to always come out and he’d say, ‘I’ve told you girls it does not. Nature takes its own course.’ We’d say, ‘Right, dad.’ And Edna winked at us once. A couple of weeks later she got some crabapples and tied them on. She said, ‘Watch it, girls.’ We were all there. I can see it now. ‘Dad. Dad you’re right. Nature’s taken its own course.’ And he went out and he said and his hand went on his hips, ‘I told you girls nature takes its own course. Now, look at that for instance.’ And we said, ‘Wait for it.’ And we were all ready. And he went up and he said, ‘Oh hallup,’ because oh hallup. They’re crabapples. And they were hung with cotton [laughs] We flew out the back garden. He said, ‘I’ll give it you girls.’ But he took it all in good fun afterwards. He was such a gentle man. He was. But he was very strict as I say. As I say he made me clean the floor before I went out and you had to have your manners. Oh yes. I remember once saying to him at the table, ‘Can you let me have the salt?’ He said, ‘Pardon?’ I said, ‘I want the salt.’ He said, ‘Pardon?’ I said, ‘I want the salt.’ ‘Pardon?’ And he put, he says, ‘I can’t hear you. What are you saying?’ I said, ‘Can I have the salt, please?’ He said, ‘Now, I can hear you.’ And I felt like that. He made us have our manners and you had to say thank you, goodbye, goodnight, God bless and take us up. Oh, and being a terraced house and the open fire, had a little fireplace upstairs in the house in the bedroom. Used to take a shovel full of red hot coal up the stairs. It was a good job it didn’t fall off and it’s winter and we all had a bath and he used to go down with the nit comb ever week. Oh, he used to make sure we were all cleaned. ‘Are you ready?’ And we were stood in line. Winter. A spoonful of hot water, whisky and sugar. A spoonful each. We used to all go upstairs. Kneel at the bottom of the it was a giant bedstead. It was a king size and we all dashed for the middle of this bed because our feet were near the fire. Hands together. Keep your eyes closed. ‘Now then. Are you ready? Our father — ’ And we all had to say the prayers and I always remember saying, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.’ And I always remember when I was saying that when it says if I die before I wake does it mean I’m going to die tonight. And he said, ‘Right. Bed.’ And then we all used to have our bed. He was, he was a good father. Strict but very good to us. Very good.
CB: I imagine he’d have to be strict having five girls.
FD: Yes. Yes. Well, actually he there was six girls but the first one was still born. It was, they got married in 1918 and my father had double pneumonia in 1919. And of course in those days neighbours went and helped you and it wasn’t Fredas and Marys and Jeans it was Mrs so and so, Miss Jones, Mrs Middleton you see, all came and helped. And my father was dying of double pneumonia and the doctor was there and he said, ‘I’m afraid he’s died.’ And he said, ‘I’ll go up to the surgery to get the certificate.’ And of course my mother was eight months pregnant and the neighbour’s there and he’d just got to the corner of the street and then the neighbour went around. He said, ‘He’s breathing.’ So he came back and he was breathing and he said, ‘I’ve just been to heaven and it’s absolutely beautiful. Let me go.’ And they said, ‘Well, think about your new baby coming.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘Heaven’s absolutely gorgeous. Don’t be frightened, girls,’ he used to say to us. And then the next day he said, ‘How’s our baby?’ And his father was dying of cancer in the parlour and that was cancer of the bowel. My mum had to see to that. She was four foot eleven and a tea leaf. She was only small. She had my father dying. Well, he died. He always swore he died. And then she was eight months pregnant and the day after he said, ‘How’s our daughter Fanny?’ They said, ‘Oh, the baby’s not born yet.’ So, he said, ‘Yes, it is. She’s got golden curls like you Fanny.’ She had gorgeous hair. ‘It’s got all curls around its head.’ So he said, ‘Oh, she’s beautiful.’ ‘No.’ He says, ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘She’s in my father’s arms.’ And they thought it’s an illusion. The next day she fell from the top of the stairs to the bottom. The baby was born with golden curls around its head. My grandad died and she was buried in my grandad’s arms. That’s what my father saw.
CH: Wow.
FD: And he used to say, ‘Don’t be frightened of dying. It’s wonderful.’ And he used to say that. ‘Don’t be frighted girls. It’s wonderful.’ Yeah. And of course he managed to come around then. Francis was born the year after and then Edna and then Helen. Well, she was christened Nelly actually but she was a bit of a toff. She liked to be called Helen [laughs] That’s true. And then there was me and then there was Margaret. And I lost Margaret last Christmas. But I had a good life in one way. I was the odd sheep. The black sheep of the family. The odd one out. Why I do not know. I’ve told you before haven’t I? And Margaret, Margaret hardly, you know says I can’t understand it. And when my sister died at Christmas I said, ‘I’m still the odd one out.’ She said, ‘How do you make that out?’ I said, ‘They’re all up there laughing at me. I’m the last one.’ But yeah. I don’t know. I’ve enjoyed life. I don’t worry much do I?
RM: No. No.
FD: No. I couldn’t care less sometimes. I’m here today and I mean I just got over a bit of an illness haven’t I? And my grandson, have I got a grandson?
RM: Sore point that is.
FD: My son has married twice. He had a lovely girl at first and she didn’t want any children. They got divorced. Then he met this one. He’d only known her a few months but she was [pause] that’s right she was a widow and she had three children. No. Yes, three children.
RM: Do you want to —
FD: I’ll have one in a minute. And he married Wendy after a few months and she promised she’d have a child to him which she did, called Joe. And I’m never very keen on her really. I couldn’t take to her so well. My first daughter in law she was fantastic and she’d say, ‘Come on mum, we’re going shopping.’ This one, ‘Now, how would you like this? Of course I lost my son a few years ago and the first Christmas I was on my own here my granddaughter had gone to live back in Bedfordshire and invited me for Christmas. So, my daughter in law said, ‘Well how would Alex invite you for Christmas? How will you get to Stevenage? We could pick you up from there.’ I had a friend next door. Her and her husband took me to Stevenage and they’d pick me up. Well, they were going to pick me up coming back. Ok. So I met them at Stevenage. Eileen and Robert left and she said, ‘By the way,’ she said, ‘Living at Alex’s for Christmas she’ll want paying for keeping you, you know.’ Yes. True. ‘And she’ll want some petrol money if she runs you around.’ Well, you know I’m generous with money, aren’t I? I said, ‘Fair enough.’ I get there to the house. She’s got three brothers. Joe, her three brothers and one of the brothers had his girlfriend. Wendy was there with her boyfriend and I thought I wonder if they’re going to pay her. And it was a funny house. In the lounge here then you went into the hall then you went into the kitchen. And sometimes they used to seem to simmer away and I’d be sitting there on my own. Never came and said, ‘Do you want anything to eat, grandma?’ Kiss my ass or anything. It’s true. I was sat there. I didn’t enjoy it. By the time it finished I’d paid about three hundred quid for a Christmas and I don’t have to be told to pay. I give it anyway. And I don’t, I’m not keen on my daughter in law. When Joe was born we went to see him. Bernard was here then of course and we went to the maternity place and they had a little shop there and they sold bonnets and stuff and I bought him a little helmet. He came home in a girl’s bonnet with frills around it. Whether it was to teach me to as much as say don’t bother I don’t know but I bought them things and never saw them again. But he came a few weeks ago. Just he. He did. And we thoroughly enjoyed it. It was just Joe and I and we went out for a meal. And when he was going I saw him to his car because as I say he lived in Bedfordshire, about half past three. I came in here, sat here and nodded off. When I woke up I couldn’t walk. The pain. I was in agony. Absolute agony and I was walking with my head down like that. And anyway one thing or another I had the doctor. You were here weren’t you at the time?
RM: You looked like a proper old lady didn’t you?
FD: You what, darling?
RM: You looked like a proper old lady didn’t you?
FD: Yes, I did and I didn’t like it did I? And the doctor came. She said, well at least, they thought the spine had broken but then they gave me this, that and another. Another doctor came. In the end we went for an x-ray and they said, ‘It’s not what we thought.’ They thought it might have been the big C, you see. Anyway, it’s not. It’s my spine’s disintegrating. But she said if you want to make sure you can have this, that and the other. I said, ‘No. If I’ve got it I’m going out.’ I said, ‘I’m not doing anything.’ So, that was it. And the day, that was on a Wednesday. On the Thursday my orchid came from Joe and I wanted to phone up and thank him. I phoned my daughter in law for Joe’s number and I told them I’d got a bad back. Well, my grandson is a masseur and he says, ‘It sounds like sciatica,’ blah blah blah. I’ve not heard a word from him since. He’s not kissed my ass or anything like that. My daughter in law came on the phone about six weeks, ‘How are you?’ I told her. ‘Oh, a bad back.’ She knew I had got it because she’s a nurse. and she was saying, ‘Oh, I’ll try to arrange for us all to come together so we can have a day out and I’ll get them all together.’ A fortnight after she phones up on a Friday. She says, ‘We’ll be coming tomorrow.’ I said, ‘I’m going out.’ She hadn’t phoned up to say, ‘I’m still trying to get them.’ Or anything. ‘Oh. I told you.’ ‘Oh yeah.’ So I’ve not heard from her since and that’s what you call in laws. To tell you the truth I don’t know. I don’t. When Bernard died, ‘Don’t expect me to be executor and Robert. Don’t expect me to do anything. I’m not doing it.’ That’s how a daughter in law treats you. And yet I can’t understand it when, because she knew when Robert was here I used to give them a big lump sum for Christmas, for all the family. I’d say, ‘You know what they want. You buy them whatever they want.’ And the last Christmas Robert was here he came because I was at, they lived in Devon then and I gave them the money. He said, ‘You gave us too much, grandma,’ He said, ‘I don’t want all this.’ So they gave me some back. And yet when the year after when she said, ‘You have to pay or your food,’ I thought that was an insult because she knew how much I used to give them.
RM: Are you still taping? Oh.
FD: And so I’m not keen on, I’m not keen on my [pause] and my granddaughter had George the little boy before she was married and then she had Matilda. Oh, she didn’t have Matilda until she got married and they decided to get married in Italy because it’s too dear to get married in England. So if I wanted to go they’ve hired this villa. It’s got eight bedrooms. Four double and four singles or something. Anyway, and it would cost me and by the time I’d finished working it out the plane would be going from Stevenage. I’d have to get to Stevenage. They were there for a week. It was going to cost me over a thousand pounds and would they give me a passport at my age or a medical? So I said, ‘No. I can’t go.’ I saw the photographs. And they came when I was ninety last December. I will admit they all came and took me to Mill Lodge. Gave me a lovely dinner. Give me a lovely dinner and my great granddaughter, ‘Great grandma, we’ve got you a cake but shush.’ I thought that was lovely. Matilda. And we came back here and oh yes and what annoyed me as well there was, I still call him young Robert. I gave them all a card, a Christmas card with money in it. All the same. Treat them all the same and I said, ‘That’s for your Christmas.’ And young Robert, he’s about six foot odd stood there and when they all went he’d left his Christmas card. And I thought oh, I was sending Christmas cards off anyway so I put it together and sent it off to Wendy because I thought Robert would get it. And when they came to wish me a Merry Christmas, thank you for the money blah blah blah Robert said, ‘Oh, thanks for sending the money. I thought it was only a card.’
CH: I’ll, what I’ll do is I’ll stop it there but I just want to say thank you very very much for telling me your story. It’s been a delight to meet you.
FD: Thank you very much.
CH: Thank you so much. Thank you.

Collection

Citation

Cathie Hewitt, “Interview with Freda Dakin,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 24, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10766.

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