Una's Memoirs - 1920s - 3
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The fish shop had no bathroom, so at least once a week we had to go to the local bathhouse which was half a mile away. Here they had showers and slipper baths. We would arrive at this large, steamy, hot and noisy Victorian building to take our turn. We would be called, taken to an empty bathroom where the floor was cold and wet, and like the washhouse there were slatted wooden duckboards to stand on. There was one hook on the wall for your coat and hat, and one wooden chair to place your clothes on. We took our own towels, but for one penny we could hire a towel and soap. The taps had removable brass keys which the attendant would turn on to get hot water, when we had just enough hot water we turned off the tap then slid the key under the door to be collected. The cost was one shilling for adults and six pence for a child.

During the time we lived in Wilford Road holidays were very difficult to arrange. I can't remember Edna, Eva, or my father having a break away. This was, I guess, because someone always had to keep the customers supplied. My mother and I were able to have two weeks holiday every summer, during the school holiday, because my maternal grandmother and my three aunts Ella, Doris and Eva always arranged for at least a dozen members of my mother's family to occupy a boarding house at Mablethorpe on the Lincolnshire coast. My mother's family all lived around the Nottingham area so we would meet up at the Nottingham railway station, and there were enough of us to need two compartments on the train. When we arrived at Mablethorpe we would load our luggage onto a large handcart which would be pulled by the local boys to our destination. Grandma was unable to walk far so we had a donkey or pony cart for her, and it was also used for any children who didn't want to walk. But, being just less than a mile, most of us were glad of the walk after sitting for such a long time.

While this was going on my Aunt Eva would dash off to the beach hut office and hire a hut, near the 'pullover', for the two weeks. The hut was raised high enough off the sand so that if the tide came in really high the hut would still be dry inside. The back of the hut was usually protected from the wind by the sand dunes. Inside the hut were six sets of mugs, cups and saucers, large and small plates, bowls and cutlery. We were also supplied with a washing-up bowl, kettle, saucepan and methylated spirit stove. If you were lucky you also had a cold water tap, but if not there was a large enamel bucket to fetch water from a standpipe. We brought our own soap, dishcloths, hand towels, and supplies like sugar and tea. The space inside the hut was quite good, and furnished with a small fold up table and four folding chairs. On the balcony there was room for three or four deckchairs. There were at least five steps from the hut down to the sand, where we often sat. The beach was very good for sand castles, and shell hunting was fun, so too of course was donkey riding.

Here, I must tell you that the 'pullover' I mentioned earlier was a concrete paved way over the sea defences to enable the lifeboat to be dragged from its boathouse onto the beach and into the sea. The boathouse was on one side of the pullover and further on was a Pierrot show. On the other side of the pullover was a small funfair with roundabouts and a big wheel from which we enjoyed views over the flat landscape. The Pierrot show had two shows a day with comics, singers, actors, jugglers and dancers. During fine weather they would often perform on the beach. The singers were accompanied by music from a fold up organ powered by foot bellows.

Gran Peach (Jane Patrick), Eileen Justice, myself and my Mum walking up the Mablethorpe 'pullover' (c1929). Myself and Eileen on the Mablethorpe beach with paper parasols.
Gran Peach (Jane Patrick), Eileen Justice, myself and my Mum walking up the Mablethorpe 'pullover' (c1929).
Myself and Eileen on the Mablethorpe beach with paper parasols.

Some days a man from the fishmongers would come onto the beach with heavily laden baskets containing large packs of shrimps, winkles, cockles, crabs and jellied eels. These he would serve up with a shake of salt, pepper and vinegar into wax paper cones. They were eaten with a wooden fork or spoon, which he supplied, and I remember the delicious taste of these snacks.

Another vendor had a large wooden box strapped over his shoulder containing freshly made ice cream, which had a 'custardy' taste. Inside the wooden box were two metal containers, one of strawberry and one of vanilla ice cream. From these he would scoop out and put the ice cream into a cone or between two thin wafers. Of course if the wind was blowing hard there was often gritty sand with the ice cream!

On the beach the fashion for women was beach pyjamas which were considered to be very daring. Bathing costumes were of course all one-piece and sunglasses were worn quite a lot too. To give a little shade for the head, girls and women carried paper parasols of various sizes and patterns. When we were playing in the water or on the beach we would wear rubber 'paddlers' to prevent our feet getting scratched on stones or shells. These paddlers could also be put to another good use by holding sea water to wash sand off our feet before we put on our socks and shoes.

In the same way that the whole family got together for summer holidays they arranged to celebrate Christmas with a visit to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. We always went for the wooden bench seats at the top of the theatre in the area which was called 'The Gods'. Each autumn we went there to see the Boots Operatic Society's current production. We all got tickets from Mum's sisters because they worked in the packing department of Boots in Beeston.

Of course life was not all fun and games. At school I had left the infants class and was spending more time on writing, reading and doing 'sums'. I still remember my 'times table' which we learned by rote. I was fairly happy in my studies, but apart from drawing and maths I was not exactly brilliant!

Our school had a mid-morning break, with time to drink 'school milk' for which we took a few pennies each week. The milk was in a one third of a pint glass bottle which had a cardboard cap with a push in centre to make a hole for the straw. In those days the drinking straws really were short lengths of straw from a farmer's field. A few more pennies bought a large bottle of Scott's Emulsion for us to take home. This tonic was to improve our health, and I am sure it helped because a lot of children in the 1920s were poorly fed.

I don't remember if, by the end of the 1920s, I thought seriously about the future but for me there would be many changes ahead in the 1930s.

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