Interview with Betty Hedges


Interview with Betty Hedges


Betty Hedges grew up in South London in the final years before the war and she recalls a happy childhood. She describes a close family and community life where the children played unworried in the streets and she talks about the games they played and the highlights of their time such as the visit of the roundabout. She talks about the humour of the people around her even when the bombing started. She records the fear as the bombing of London began and she lost neighbours and friends. She recalls how visits to the cinema or dance halls was fraught with worry because of the air raids. After leaving school at fourteen she worked at the Peak Freen’s Biscuit factory but as part of the war effort she went to work on the top floor of Harrods which had been requisition by the government and where she sewed sailors uniforms. She also worked as a messenger with the Civil Defence and her father was a warden.




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00:45:15 audio recording

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AHedgesEC170427, PHedgesEC1701


CH: My name is Cathie Hewitt and I’m interviewing Betty Hedges for the International Bomber Command Centre Archive. We’re at [deleted] in Heighington. It’s the 27th of April 2017 and also here at the interview is volunteer Suzanne Bellhouse. Ok, Betty, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. If you could tell us something about your childhood please and where you were living and a little bit about your family and your parents.
BH: Well, I was very lucky. I had very good parents which I was lucky for. We weren’t rich. We, we only lived in a terrace house but we were a happy family. We had no money but the fact remains is that we had everything including kindness. Our food was given to us regular. I was one of the lucky ones. I had a brother. Three brothers and a sister. So we were a good happy family. In those days we had a happy childhood. We had no, no toys but we were happy. We, we made our own toys. The boys made carts out of pram wheels. The girls had strings around the letterboxes. We played marbles in the road because in those days there was nothing on the roads but horses. Everything was done by horses. The coal was brought on their shoulder in to the house and was delivered under the stairs. I think that the majority of childhood in those days were very very good. No one was miserable. The neighbours was very good. They helped one another. My mother used to deliver the babies because we couldn’t afford midwives in those days. And then, of course this went on for some time and then of course I joined the Brownies. And my mother was very lucky. She made me a lovely Brownie uniform that I could wear. And time went on. I joined the Guides which was very good. But then of course things went on and then in 1936 that’s when war started to be imminent and things got a little bit scary. People thought nothing was going to happen. But then in 1938 the children were evacuated. Mothers was crying on the station saying good bye to their children. Children were crying to leave their mothers. All this went on and then nobody thought anything else was going to happen. The air raid shelters was built in to the garden. We all had an air raid shelter. It was very damp and cold but it was at least a shelter. We had to have a gas mask which we used to carry on our shoulders. Everywhere we went we had to have our gas masks. It was either a small one, a medium one or a large one which used to be quite funny at the time but it was a serious time as well. Still nothing happened and things went on as normal and life went on as normal. Women went to work. Things was normal. And then suddenly the raids started. At first it was very light. We had a few bombs here and a few bombs there and it was only light. But then gradually it got worse and people got really scared. Neighbours started to move away. We lost quite a few of our neighbours, which was sad. Where they are today we don’t, we really don’t know. But then the raids started to get worse. People got scary. Children were frightened. Searchlights was in the sky everywhere. Bombs used to be falling. Guns used to be going off. It was a dreadful time. And then one particular night of course which I would say was one of the worst. There was a thousand bombers come over. Our air raid shelters were useless really because we had one in the garden and one fell on top of it. Unfortunately, it caught it alight. We had to [dismantle?] and get out quickly and went to the shelter in the factory opposite where we continued to go night after night. My father used to wake up at night and say to my mum, ‘Well girl, you’ve got to get up. They’re coming over again.’ The drone started and it got worse and worse and worse. At that time I think people started to worry. Boys were called up at eighteen and the women had to do all the work so they drove the buses, the trams, went into munitions factories. The railings that we had around our door had to be taken away to be fired for munitions so that all our railings in the front had gone. That was a sad thing. Our little terraced houses, unfortunately most of them remained but a lot of them had to go. It was a humoured time as well. The neighbours had a good sense of humour. I can recall a day when we came out of the shelter and this lady, a neighbour of ours, who was quite elderly, she put her hands up her hips and said, ‘My God. My house has gone but the bloody milk is still on the step.’ The humour, everybody laughed. They looked around and half the houses were gone so a lot of the elderly people got up canteens and started to dish out milk and bread because nobody had nowhere to go. It was a time when everybody joined together and I think that was a lovely thing because everybody tried to help one another. A lot of people went in the munition’s factories. Everybody did their bit. Elderly people held canteens for the soldiers. The humour, the singing, we all made the most of it. I don’t think Hitler done very good as regards our morale because I think that we all joined too much together. It was a sad time. We lost a few neighbours, friends, which was not a very good time. I think, after the war things started to be a little better but I don’t think you could honestly say that it was a good time. It wasn’t. To see children being buried. Friends being buried. It was sad. I can’t really say any more than this because I feel that it’s sad. But I don’t think it must be forgotten. I think people should know this because everybody that was in London or the cities that were bombed, to me, they were all heroes. The firemen, the wardens, the women who took on the men’s jobs. The elderly people did their bit. I can’t say no more.
CH: Whereabouts were you living Betty?
BH: Southeast London. Southeast London. But I can remember, I can remember at first, at first it was the incendiary bombs. And then of course we had the doodlebugs. The doodlebugs was awful. You saw them come over and you looked into the sky and you prayed that it wouldn’t stop. That it would go over. But then suddenly it would stop and then it would drop. And that’s when you had to pray because you had to pray that it wasn’t coming near you. My, my uncle was sitting at the window that day and he refused to leave the house when a doodlebug came down and he got killed. That was the doodlebugs. And then after the doodlebugs we had the V2 bombs which were massive. And one Saturday afternoon at Woolworth’s in Lewisham a V2 bomb came down and killed everybody in Woolworths. That’s something I think that should always be remembered too. The dreadful loss on that day. But still the humour was there and we all made the most of it. I went to work at fourteen. We had to go to work at fourteen then. That was the date we started work. I worked at Peek Freans and many times I came out of Peek Freans, the planes were very, very low. And this particular day they were very low and we used to have to dive down to avoid the machine gun fire that used to come with it. The Spitfires, the Hurricanes, on the day of the Battle of Britain was the most — well I wouldn’t call it wonderful, but it certainly saved our lives. We watched Germans come down. We watched Spitfires come down. They were dogfighting. It was awful. I think I saw once, well I didn’t actually see it myself but my brother saw one of the Spitfire pilots come down in a parachute and one of the Germans shot him as he was coming down. I never knew, I would have liked to have known who he was but unfortunately, we didn’t because there was so many of them. It makes you realise, I think, during my lifetime and I guess I’ve had three generations I would say. The first, I think, was my childhood where everything was so nice and life and normal. Happy. We used to have the front door open all the time because the babies used to be in the prams at the front. No one used to rob us because we never had anything to rob. We had no toys through the year but at Christmas that was wonderful. I used to get a penny, an apple, an orange and a little tea and a new hat and coat. I used to walk up and down the road on that day showing off because I had a new hat and coat. It was lovely. We used to play around the lamppost. Put the string around the lamppost and play. Marbles in the street. There was no traffic. We used to run around the blocks because you couldn’t get run over. It was only the horses that you used to be aware of. We used to have a roundabout come down our roads. A roundabout. And they used to shout out, ‘Ha’penny or a jam jar,’ and we used to run in and ask our mum if they’d got a jam jar and we used to go out, give them a jam jar and we used to have a ride on this roundabout from one end of the road to the other. It was wonderful. And then of course you had the ice cream man on a bicycle who used to come along. Policemen used to walk along and give you a clip around the ear if you was doing anything you shouldn’t do. I’ve had many a clip around the ear. They were quite sincere about that. They used to take you by your neck and take you to your mother and you used to get another clout from your mother because you’d done it, also. But that was the way things were at that time. Marbles in the street. So that was one sort of era I would say of my life. And then of course, the second era was the war. Going through the war. Losing your friends, losing your neighbours. Neighbours moved away. You’d lose track of them all who you’d been brought up with. And then after the war, what then? You have mobiles. Things today. I don’t know what faxes are. I haven’t got a clue. All these modern things they’ve got today, never heard of them. We never saw a black man when we were children. There was no such things as a black man when I was a child. You never saw one. The only black man we saw was the Gollywog on the jam jars. So that was another era. So, I think in my lifetime I’ve lived through three eras. So, I’m one of the lucky ones. A lot of people didn’t make it so I am one of the lucky ones and I’m lucky today that I’m here to talk about it.
CH: So, Betty can I take you back to when you were a teenager. You said you were fourteen when you worked at Peek Freans.
BH: Peek Freans. Yes.
CH: Can you then tell me a little bit about your life as a teenager? You know, what you were doing. You did mention lots of boyfriends.
BH: Well, well, of course at that time you didn’t know whether you were going to live or die. It was the sort of time when you’ve got to enjoy yourself because you didn’t know if you was going to be there the next day. So, we used to make the most of our life. So, they used to hold dances in between all these raids and things and we used to go to the dances where there used to be the Americans. The Americans used to be at the, the white Americans one night and then it used to be the dark Americans another night because they would not mix. So, they never used to have the same nights out together. My friend and I, we didn’t go with the Americans because they used to give the girls stockings. We couldn’t get stockings in those days. We used to have to paint the back of our leg. Up a stripe, up the back of our leg to make it look as if it was a stocking.
CH: What did you use?
BH: Yeah. And then the Americans used to get stockings so the girls used to like to go with them to get the stockings.
CH: What did you paint on your leg?
BH: We used to paint like a line all up the back of our leg.
CH: What did you use?
BH: Well it was a kind of a, a pen. Like a thick pen and it used to, it wasn’t a pen it was a sort of a thing that it could just do a big line up the back of your legs. Well, we all did that during the war to look like stockings, you know. Of course, it never took the place of stockings but that’s what we used to do. And, of course, my friend and I we used to dress the same. In those days, if you had a good friend, you used to dress the same. In fact, there was three of us that used to dress the same, but unfortunately, I haven’t got a photo of the other one but that’s what we used to do in those days which was quite nice really. And the dances used to be quite frequent, And then of course in the middle of the dances sometimes you used to get an air raid and of course everybody had to go out and you got this all the time. I think it was frightening to go to the Gloria, the pictures because when the air raids used to come, in the middle of it you had to either have the opportunity of either staying in the cinema or coming, coming out. It was a choice that you had to make. So, it was something. You got killed if you stayed in, and or you got killed — I know a friend of mine, her and her cousin, I think it was her and her cousin came out the cinema and they walked across the road and as they walked across the road the V2 bomb came down and killed the cousin, all the cousins together. If they’d have stayed in the cinema they would have been alright. But it was a chance that you had to take at that time, you know. It’s the same as when we used to go dancing and things like that. It was the same sort of choice. You either stayed in the dance hall or you came out. It was something. So you didn’t know whether you were going to be alive one day so we made the most. We had lovely bands that we used to dance to. We used to jitterbug and we had a lot of fun because the boys, I mean we had lots of boys. We were all flirts at the time I suppose. So, we made the most of our teenage years and I think it was, it was lovely. And then of course after the war, of course when the war ended, I met my husband on Clapham Common and I lost track of all my, all my boyfriends after that. And it sort of worked out like that and I got married in 1946. And then I had four children and I look back now and I think well I suppose I’ve been lucky to have survived it all and I’m here today to talk about it.
CH: You mentioned that you worked for the Civil Defence.
BH: Yes.
CH: Could you tell us a little about that?
BH: Yes, I was a messenger. Yeah, I used to have to get my, it was awful because you used to go to bed of a night time and my dad used to say, ‘Oh they’re coming over again,’ you know. ‘You’ve got to get out,’ you know. And I used to have to get out of bed, put my tin hat on and my gas mask and I used to get a shilling for the use of my bike because I used to have to bike to the post and they used to pay me a shilling. It was a lot of money then for the use of my bike. And I used to be a messenger and I did that for a while and then there was me and my friend and Derek, who got killed. We joined that and done what we could there. I think everybody did something. There, there wasn’t any age, whatever age you were you did something. People could drive the buses or the trams, or munitions factory or making aeroplane parts. I, I worked at Harrods in London making white shorts for the sailors. And that’s when I was going with my husband. He used to come up and well, before we got married, I was courting him then and he used to come to Harrods and wait for me up there. And I made sailor’s shorts because I’ve always been a machinist and used to make the sailor’s shorts at Harrods at the time because they made Harrods, the top of Harrods a workshop when the war came, for people to make the, you know the sailor’s things and that then. Some factories did the army overcoats. So, everybody did something. The elderly people were very good. All the elderly people. They run these canteens and things, you know. And I think everybody did something. You know, it was a complete community spirit with everybody, you know. Which you don’t get today so much, you know. I don’t think you get that. You don’t get that today that we got through the wartime. It was something that made us all be together. We were all in the same situation if you know what I mean, you know. All in the same situation so everybody did something and that brought us all together, you know.
CH: You said you were a messenger. What did that actually entail? What did you have to do?
BH: Well, when, when the when the raids was on a lot of the wardens had to go out to dig people up. They needed people to do that. And you was there as a messenger to take any messages or anything that came in. Or you had to go or not and things like that. You were just a, a sort of, there to take messages. If they wanted the wardens to go you were there to tell them that they’d got to go out and do this or they’ve got to do that. Or a bomb’s dropped there and they need men to, and the wardens to walk around when the sirens went to make sure everybody was in the shelters and things like that, you know. It was all like a community help with the war effort. You know, that sort of thing. You know.
CH: You mentioned you had your siblings and your father. Did they play a role? Were they in the forces or —
BH: Oh yes. Yes. They all, they all, they all did. My father was a warden. When the sirens used to go out, he used to have a tin hat and he used to make sure everybody was in the, got in the shelter alright. And they used to wait outside. They used to be outside if anything happened. They did. My mum, my mum was there to deliver babies if any babies was born or things like that. And she helped to, she made them all sing in the shelter. Made the children, she used to get the children all together and make them all sing. And while the bombs were dropping and things it was frightening for the children so of course my mum used to make sure that they were, didn’t, couldn’t hear anything. Well, you could but it sort of drowned the sound. And made them sing and make them laugh. She used to make them laugh and all that sort of thing. So, you know, it was, I look back sometimes, you know, and, and I can still hear the drones of those planes. I can still see those bugs going along. Those doodlebugs and all that kind — you never, it’s something you never get out of you mind. It’s something that you can’t, you can’t ever get out your mind. I’ve tried to talk to my grandchildren sometimes but they don’t really know what I’m talking about, you know. So, you can’t really talk to them about it, you know. And as I say my husband, he went right through Casino and right through the desert campaign and that. So, I think if you’d all been here today, you would have all been doing something. I don’t know what it would have been but you would have all done something, if you know what I mean. Right from the age, you know, onwards everybody did something and the spirit, the humour was wonderful although it was so sad, you know. I can’t say no more, really can I?
BH: We used to get a [gauntlet?] if we bought anything in the shop we used to get it a bit cheaper because we were like, like sort of, not staff as regards because Harrod’s is posh isn’t it? But yeah, because during the war they opened it all up as a workroom and we all made these, machines.
SB: So, in the work room at the top — was that run by the government then? Did they run that?
BH: Oh yeah.
SB: Yeah.
BH: The government took it over.
SB: Yeah. And it was all sailors uniforms that you did.
BH: Sailors shorts you made then.
SB: Shorts.
BH: Yeah. Sailors shorts. Of course there were factories making all the different things and that, you know. All that sort of thing. Yeah. And I’m still here.
SB: Well, I have to say Betty I felt —
[recording paused]
BH: We had the bombs. Then we had the doodlebugs. Then we had the V2 which were the biggest of the lot. It was a terrible time, you know. Really. Wasn’t it? Can you imagine standing there and we used to seem them.
CH: Watching them.
BH: Coming along and you prayed that it wasn’t going to drop and then you knew it was going to drop on to somebody, you know. Awful isn’t it, really? Isn’t it? Nobody. Nobody, you can’t really, I can’t really explain it.
SB: No.
BH: It’s something I can’t really explain really.
SB: Did you used to see the British bombers? The Lancasters going out?
BH: Oh yeah.
SB: Over.
BH: They used to come very low at some point. When they first started they were very low. They came very low. Very frightening. But the Battle of Britain itself. The Spitfires. Those Spitfires, they were wonderful. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. They really were. But then again the Germans was coming down just the same. In fact, there was more of them coming down than there was the Spitfires and yet we lost twenty seven thousand didn’t we? Of the Spitfires. But you imagine how many Germans that came down. But you soon found it was awful. Awful. But I can’t, I can’t really tell you any more really. I’m not very good at it, I’m afraid. I thought those papers would probably help you more than I could tell you really.
[recording paused]
Sculleries. We never called them kitchens in them days. We called them sculleries and she had like a concrete whatsit and she used to have to put a fire under it to do the washing. And then we had a big wringer in the yard. We didn’t call it a garden then. We called it a yard. And my mum used to do the old, I used to help my mum do the old wringer, you know. The old clothes, you know, on there. And the coalman used to come. Nothing today. The coal man used to carry the coal on their shoulders. Bring them in doors and put it under the stairs because we used to keep the coal under the stairs there and the dustman used to carry the dustbins on their shoulders. You wouldn’t get that today would you? You know, and I mean, you know, when you think of it today isn’t it, it’s strange really. But the old roundabout used to love the, the kids used to go mad for the old roundabout. They used to go, ‘Jam jar or ha’penny. ’ And we used to rush indoors, ‘Mum have you got a jam jar?’ You know, come out with the old jam jar, get on the old roundabout. You used to go around and around and around. Just the one end of the street to the other end of the street. The old roundabout. And we used to have singers come around dancing in the street. Used to sit on the curb, sit on the curb, all the kids used to sit on the curb and then they used to come around dancing in the middle of the road and all that. That sort of thing. And when we were kids, yeah, we had a lot of things like that, you know. Skipping. We used to do a lot of skipping. We had a wall opposite us and we used to go up the wall. You know, like kids do. Up the wall. The old string around the old lamppost. The old copper used to come along. If you were doing something you shouldn’t do you got a clip around the ear and then he used to take you to your home and your mum used to give you another one [laughs] yeah.
SB: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
BH: I had three brothers and a sister. My sister was the eldest and I had three brothers after that.
SB: Did they serve in the war?
BH: Well my Arthur was deaf. Deaf.
SB: Right.
BH: He couldn’t get into the war. But Joe was a sailor. My Joe was a sailor. He was in, in I have a photo of him playing, he used to play the banjo and I’ve got a lovely photo of him playing the banjo on ship actually. And Charlie. Charlie was in, when he was doing the, like with the what’s its name he was in the war. He wasn’t in all that long but he was in the army.
CH: So, they were both away from home for a long time.
BH: Yeah. Yeah. Yes, so they was away. But they all survived. They survived it but of course they’ve all died now, you know. Gone now. But I think to myself why am I still here? I know something. I’m still here. I still do my old exercises every morning. I get up and, you know give it up. And I love to sing. Sometimes I sing at the top of my voice when I’m all on my own here. But I stand up and I make sure I do all my exercises. I go like this. I’m going like that and they says to me, ‘Whatever are you doing mum?’ I say, ‘Well I’m doing my exercises. I’m getting myself fit.’ [laughs] Well, you’ve got to have a sense of humour haven’t you?
CH: Can I take you back to the war? I’m very interested in the sort of food that you had. Can you remember the sort of meals?
BH: Well, we were rationed. Obviously, we were rationed then. We only had one egg per person a week. You only had one egg per person a week. And sugar. You used to get, I think, I can’t remember now because my mum used to do it. She used to get an ounce or two ounces of sugar a week and all that sort of thing. And then because when I got married the rationing was still on and I wanted a cake for my wedding and neighbours all gave their little bit of sugar and their egg and that to make sure that I had a, I had a bit of a wedding cake. It wasn’t much of one but it was a cake, you know. For when I got married. And that’s how it used to be. People, you know, were good like that? To do things like that, you know.
CH: So, what sort of meals could you have with your rationing?
BH: Oh, the milk. Well, the milk. We used to, when I was at school, when I was at school we always had milk every day. Every day we had a milk and I used to be the milk monitor and we used to have to stamp. It used to be in a bottle like that and it had like a cardboard top with a, like a thing to push to make up and I used to have to push the hole and put the straw in. And I was the milk monitor what, the milk monitor what they used to call it then. And we all had a bottle of milk every day. That’s something we used to have when I was a kid. Every single day we had milk then. The food rationing lasted after the war actually. It was still on after the war. So, it did go on for quite some time before it got, the food got back to normal again, you know. That sort of thing. So, the parents had a bit of a hard time cooking and things like that, you know. My mum used to do a lot of rabbits. We used to get rabbits in them days. Or rabbit stew. We always had rabbit stew, you know, that sort of thing. My mum used to have, because we have an open fire like a grate, you know. A grate. You only had a small kitchen and funny enough we had a front room but we were only allowed to use it on a Sunday. No one was allowed to use it ‘til Sunday. ‘Cause my dad, all my family used to play the piano. All of us used to play the piano. And my dad had the piano in the front parlour. In the parlour. And no one was allowed to go into the parlour. Only on a Sunday. Or if you was courting you was allowed to go in there and that. And my dad used to play the piano and my two uncles used to come in and they used to play and have a sing. Always on a Sunday. And so that, but as I say going back to the kitchen my mum had this cooking on, always cooking and the kettle was always boiling. You always had a kettle boiling. All the time on the stove, you know. So, it used to be very cosy in the kitchen although it was very small. I mean it wasn’t like today where you have a nice space, you know. It was only a small kitchen. But it, it was ours and I suppose, I mean nobody owned their own house or anything like that. They were all rented houses. And when the [laughs] when the rent man used to come on the Monday and I can always remember on the Monday one of the neighbours used to shout out, ‘The rent man’s coming,’ and everybody shut their door. And everybody shut their door. They used to shout, ‘the rent man’s coming,’ and everybody used to shut their door. It was ever so funny. Funny really. Yeah. They didn’t want to pay the rent. So, there was ever so funny really you know. But we used to have the pram, the babies out the front. Out the front, right out the front so people used to come along, chat to them and all that sort of thing. I mean nobody, you was never worried about anybody hurting them or anything like that. And you was never robbed. I mean the front door was always open. People was always standing at the door, talking and all that sort of thing. You knew you was never going to be robbed. You used to have a string through the letterbox so that when the door was shut you could just pull the string and go in like, you know. That sort of thing. I mean, you never got robbed so, it was a better time as regards life really. You wasn’t worried about muggings or, or anything like that, you know. Nobody had the money to rob. You had no nothing to get. To rob. So, you know, you never saw or heard of anything like that. I mean, you never heard of cocaine. You didn’t know what that was. I mean it’s something you never heard of. You know, you never heard of anything like that. Drugs or things like that. It was just something you never heard of, you know.
CH: You mentioned your mum would cook rabbits in the kitchen.
BH: Oh yeah, rabbit stew.
CH: What other, what other type of food did you eat?
BH: Well, we used to, we used to have the butcher. The butcher, and you used to get a little bit of meat a week. When the rationing was on you just had a little bit for each. A little bit of meat. But my mum, my mum used to do an awful lot of vegetables.
CH: Right.
BH: We used to eat more vegetables than anything, you know. But my mum was quite good really. She, she used to make do with a lot of things. She used to like, she used to make a lot of bread and butter puddings and things like that. She used to save up her bits and make a nice little bread and butter pudding and little dumplings and things like that she used to put in with the rabbits. She was very good, my mum was with regards the cooking, you know. We never went hungry or anything like that, you know. And as I say, I joined the Brownies. I loved the Brownies. I went in the Brownies and I went in the Guides. And then I was just going to go in the Rangers when the war came along. I never got to that. But —
CH: What was it like working in the, you said in Peek Freans, the biscuits? Can you tell us a bit about working there?
BH: Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t mind. Me and my cousin. We both worked at Peek Freans. She worked down the stairs in the chocolate part where they did all the chocolate bits. Very sickly though. It was sickly down there. But I worked on the Bourbon. You know, the Bourbon biscuits. We used to sit there on like a long, a long bench and then the girl at the front she used to put that like that on the front like that and then it used to go along like that and each one of us, we used to sit either side.
CH: Yeah.
BH: And when they were on the mixed biscuits, I used to put my Bourbon in and then it went along and the other one used to put the other one in and then when it got to halfway the girl used to push it like that and weigh it. And then she used to push it on and then it went on a bit further and then they used to wrap it and do it and when it got to the end it was already packed and done like that. Yeah. It was interesting but we was fourteen when we started work then. That was the age you started work. Fourteen.
CH: Did you get a lot of samples of Bourbons biscuits?
BH: Something like that. I mean you never got a bit of chocolate. Oh no. It was horrible to work down there. It was sickly. Very sickly down there. And we went Speedway. We used to go, oh, we loved Speedway. We used to go New Cross Speedway. I could tell you, I could tell you the names of all the riders now. I can tell you all the riders. The name of all the riders. Yeah. Lionel Van Praag was one of them. Leslie Gregson was another one. I’ve got a good memory really. I can remember all the riders. We used to wear the old orange and black scarves and that, you know. We was all, mums and dads, we all used to go. All go to Speedway at New Cross. So our life was happy. You know what I mean. I mean you hear a lot of things, you know but as regards myself I can’t really say that I was every unhappy as a child. My dad, my brother, he got a clout a few times. He let, he used to let the fire thing off at the end of the road. He used to break the glass and the firemen, the firemen would come down. He got a few wallops here and there, you know. Kids used to get up to a few tricks, you know, like that, you know, sort of things, you know and that, you know but yeah, that was life, you know. And then, of course, it all changed when the war come. People changed. Neighbours went away. Neighbours got bombed. It broke. It was another era. You know, your life style had gone. You know. It had gone, you know. You went through all the war. All that. And then of course when the war finished you had children. I had children. Brought my children up and all that sort of thing. And then, and then of course, all this thing came out with your mobile phones and all this whatever it is. I don’t understand half of it anyway. I don’t know one from the other. I don’t know what they talk about when they talk about. In fact, it gets on my nerves because when I sit here of a night time all they do is keep sitting there with the thing in front of them. Keep going like this and that drives me up the wall. You can’t have any conversation. I look at them both. There’s one of them on the bloody, on the thing playing a thing on hers and the other one sitting up there banging on the type thing on the other. And you think to yourself where’s conversation gone? You can’t, you know and the kids when the kids come around, you know. I’ve got nineteen great grandchildren. When they come around here all they’re doing is the same thing. They’re on the blooming playing games. I don’t even know what they’re doing. They’re playing games on the things, you know. I think to myself where’s conversation gone, you know? And that great big telly. It’s so bloody big up there it makes my neck ache.
CH: Another question I’d just like to ask you. Just going back to the war. Do you remember much about the celebrations at the end of the war?
BH: Oh yeah.
CH: The war.
BH: We all had celebrations. Oh yeah. We all had celebrations after the war. Oh yeah. We used to have a street, all the street used to put on everything and all the kids used to sit around it and all dress up in, you know, red, white and blue. Oh yes it was celebrations all over, you know. Every county had their celebrations and things, you know. Which you can imagine, you know. Oh yeah. Did that. It was a shame really because you lost track of all your friends, your neighbours and things like that after the war because they all moved away. People moved away when the war, the bombing started. Everybody sort of moved away and that sort of thing. So, you lost contact with your friends. Like that one went to America. She went to Atlanta. Somewhere or other. So, you sort of, you know, you lost contact with everybody, you know. I often wonder where they all are now or if they’re still alive or anything. You know. But Flo, as I say we’d been friends since we were eighteen and she only died a couple of years ago and I don’t half miss her. I really do miss her. But, and as I say, my daughter she wanted to get a house in Heighington and she couldn’t get one in Heighington and so I said to her, ‘Well, why don’t you buy this and, buy this,’ and I says, ‘And at least I won’t have to worry about the, you know the decorating. I can’t keep it going now. I can’t climb and all that now and do things. So, they said they’d do that. So that’s why they’re buying this. It’s going through now, at the moment. When I went to my solicitor’s [unclear] I went the solicitor about me, about my will.
CH: Well, thank you very very much Betty for letting us hear your memories and it’s been a real pleasure to meet you. Thank you.



Cathie Hewitt, “Interview with Betty Hedges ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 1, 2024,

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