Pearl Jackson - How we used to live

My name is Pearl Jackson, nee Hotchin, and I was born up Bourne Road, Colsterworth, at Wood Houses, one of fifteen children. The Wood Houses were situated in what is now the picnic area of Twyford Woods. My father used to catch rabbits to help feed his family and he also used to take them to people in the village.My dad was a forester, for the Forestry Commission, for thirty-six years. He would catch the rabbits and the deer and the pheasants, and that is what we lived on. We couldn`t afford a butcher, but we were well fed, all the same. Dad, Harold James, came from Redmile and Mum, Annie Kathleen, was from Calverton. His job brought him this way to work in Twyford Woods.

There used to be a gypsy come and stay in the woods named Hazel Randell who travelled around in a proper horse-drawn caravan. We used to play with her in the woods. During the war, an aerodrome was constructed near where we lived and they named it North Witham Aerodrome, although North Witham was on the other side of the A1. When the Americans were at the aerodrome my mum did the washing for them and in return they would pay her in food.

They used to give her big tins of pineapple jam, black treacle and chewing gum and candy. They would often come to the house. There were hundreds of tents on their site. They were in the field just past the Transport cafe and opposite the fruit farm.. They lived in these tents; they did not build more permanent living quarters because they were not there that long. Then they all went off in the gliders to wherever. It was quite exciting seeing all the planes come in. We did not understand what it was all about; it was like a game to us. I used to go round the wood with my dad and I saw the sentries standing on guard. When we left there, they gave mum the lino for her kitchen floor, and it was jolly good lino too. I used to polish it with mansion polish. The big dinner table we had up Bourne Road came from out of their office. We had a good time with the Yanks. They were very good to the village. I remember Frank Robinson, who was a newsagent in Colsterworth, had an old tin bath and the Americans filled it with candy and sweets and chewing gum. He took it into the church and placed it on the altar steps and all the children went and had some things out of it. But can I get anyone to remember that? Yet to me it is as vivid as though it was yesterday. One of the Americans was a Bruce Robinson. He wore those horn-rimmed glasses like the Yanks wore. I still remember him, I can see him now.

I started school at four years old and we used to have to walk down to the village. We used to take our sandwiches wrapped in newspaper and a jacket potato in our pockets to keep our hands warm and then eat it for our dinner. I had nine sisters and six brothers. I think my mother ran short of names towards the end. I was the fifth youngest. We were like two families because there were the older ones who had left home and then there were the younger ones were still around. My oldest sister is eighty-three and my youngest brother is fifty-seven, so there was a big age difference. I think that Colsterworth School was wonderful. There was Miss Lowe and Miss Waller who were very good. Miss Ball and Mrs Harrison also taught. Mrs Harrison used to make us knit on those horrible steel knitting needles and I said that I couldn`t do it. Mrs Harrison could snap rather. My brother went to Colsterworth School and apparently then she was known as Mrs Snappy Harrison! When he moved up the school he thought he was getting away from her, but unfortunately she moved up as well! She was a good teacher but she was a bit Victorian. I had Miss Ball and then Miss Lowe when she took over the infants class and later I was in Miss Waller`s class. We had some wonderful times there on the top lawn and the bottom lawn. We had the allotments and we went on some lovely nature walks. They don`t do enough of that today. We had a teacher from America, Mr Tompkin, who exchanged with Mr Harrison for a year. This was just after the war. He was very nice. He took a lot of films and took them back with him to show in America, and Mr Harrison took a lot of photos of the school in America and brought them back here. Mr Godby, who was in the Navy in the war, also taught us. He was very dashing. They used to say that Miss Waller liked him!

I was in the choir, well our about filled the choir stalls. I went to church four times every Sunday, Holy Communion, Matins, Sunday School and Evensong. We all took a penny collection. Canon Barraclough was there then. Mum cleaned the church every Friday for a great number of years. I sometimes went with her. I think she was paid 25 per year. That is what she bought our Christmas presents with. Dad used to cut the grass around the church and in the grave-yard down School Lane. Again I think he got 25 per year. It was very hard work in those days, just shears and a scythe and a good bonfire. I loved to go down and help him. He also used to light the fires on a Saturday night ready for the services on a Sunday. That was very hard work too. We used to help him get the coke in and chop the sticks. Over the years our family has served St John`s church very well, having eight members from the family in the choir at the same time. I passed my 11-plus to go to the Central School and I travelled into Grantham on the bus. It was the first time I had been into Grantham when I went to the Central School. My mother couldn`t afford to take us before. We couldn`t even come up to Woolsthorpe; it was almost a crime to come up here. We were two separate villages you see. We weren`t allowed to leave our own village. Our parents were so strict. We could only play in our own garden or in the field behind the house where the boys played football and cricket. That`s why I like sport so much that`s just about all I did.

By now we had moved from Wood Houses to Bourne Road where the Youth Club was. It was on the side of the road in a field which is now the corner at the junction of Bourne Road and Colster Way. We had a big long prefabricated bungalow because we had to be rehoused during the war as we were too near to North Witham aerodrome. The Air Ministry built us the bungalow. We had a great time playing in the field behind the bungalow. Bedtime was half-past five. We all had our jobs to do. Mine was to clean the lino on the kitchen floor before I went to school in a morning. This would be at six years old. We each had our own chair and every night before we went to bed, we would put our clothes ready for the morning with our shoes neatly on the floor under the chair and our dinner money on top. This was when school dinners came in. We were very organised we had to be with such a big family. At meal times we had to sit up straight, no hands on the table and no elbows either and you didn`t leave until you had cleaned your plate. We had the big table which the Americans from the aerodrome had given us and we all sat round it in order. The plates would be lined up ready , the food would be served out and the plates passed round. We sat on two long forms each side of the table which was as big as a snooker table.

I used to go with Mr Baggeley who took over Pasture Farm to take the milk round. We would take the milk to the Americans and then I would go up to the farm and do all sorts of work I would do the gleaning and pick the mustard out of the corn for which I was paid 2 shillings and sixpence a week. I would be about eight years of age. We have worked all our lives. I don`t regret it, I still love work. Mrs Kath Blankley ran the cafe at the Gem garage on the A1. If they had a busload booked in for a meal, my mum used to go and help out. All the sandwiches had their crusts cut off for the visitors and Kath would give my Mum the bag of crusts for the pigs. But of course we were the pigs. We had them buttered for our tea. We used to wait for Mum coming back with these crusts. Gosh, they were good! We always kept a pig for our own meat which got hung up on the ceiling. Jack Scott from Bridge End used to come and kill the pig. We`d cure hams and make pork pies and haslets. The bladder would be a football to play with. Nothing was wasted. People would give dad the tiny potatoes they didn`t want for the pigs and he used to put them in the copper in the shed and boil them, but again we ate them. Then we used to clean out the copper ready for Mum to do the washing in on Monday morning.

People don`t know they`re born now. Sometimes we couldn`t go out until one of us came back in because we hadn`t got the shoes. If there was a hole in the bottom of our shoes we would cut out a shape in cardboard and put it in. If the shoes got too small we would cut the toes out. Now how many pairs of shoes does everybody have? It is unbelievable. Mrs Else Love, who was Mrs Ablewhite later, used to buy my Mum`s clothing coupons from her because she loved clothes and we got her sweet coupons. So every Saturday night we had a pound (in weight) of sweets between us but it didn`t go far! We never ever went shopping. We had nothing to go with. We just got the groceries from Mr Les Skillington, at the top of School Lane. He used to bring them on a Saturday night. Harry Wilson worked at the bakery and every Saturday night he would deliver twelve loaves which would last us to Monday. My Mum used to say `You can have one fancy cake each`. The iced cakes were always referred to as `fancy cakes`. My Mum used to bake a lot. The Ministry put in a black-lead grate to begin with, but later they put us an Aga in which was lovely. We were lucky. Mum was for everlasting baking and cooking. She made piles of pancakes!

Nowadays if another child comes into your yard or your house, you give them a biscuit or an ice-cream, but not then. We didn`t have anything to give. There were no sleep-overs or anything like that. We couldn`t anyway, there would be no room for them to sleep. We slept four to the bed as it was, two at the top and two at the bottom. We would put the rug off the floor on the bed at night to keep us warm, and then put it back on the floor in the morning. All our rugs were peg rugs made by my Dad from old clothes. It was often my job to cut the little strips and he would fold each one in half and push the fold through a clean piece of sacking using a clothes peg. You could make a good thick warm rug this way.

After school I went to work at Lipton`s on Grantham High Street. I had learnt typing and shorthand, Pitman`s, at school and wanted to work in an office. I hated working at Lipton`s. The townsfolk were so different and the shop was so enclosed. Then Mr Smalley who was the newsagent in the village asked me to go and help him. He didn`t have a proper shop but used his garage. He lived on the Stamford Road opposite Doctor Stafford. We used to go and fetch the papers about five o`clock in the morning from Peter Eaton in Welby Street in Grantham. We started deliveries at Little Ponton and on to Great Ponton and Ponton Heath. Then round to the Red Cottages at Skillington where Mr Smalley dropped me. I walked through to Stoke carrying the papers and on to Easton and Mr Smalley used to meet me at Jenkinson`s farm. I did this round in all weathers, whatever. Home for lunch and then we delivered in Colsterworth and Woolsthorpe. There weren`t many houses in Woolsthorpe then. Stainby, Buckminster and Sewstern were next, followed by Gunby, North Witham, the A1 and then home. There were Mr Smalley and me and the van. It was a huge round and I was paid 1 10 shillings a week. My mother had the pound and I got the ten shillings. I thought it was wonderful. This only counted as a half-day job and so when we had finished the deliveries, I went up to the Gem Cafe on the A1 to work for Mrs Mellors who had bought the cafe from Mrs Blankley. So I filled in the rest of the day bringing in more money to help the family.

We had a great childhood really, I wouldn`t swap it. I would like to have been a teacher or a nurse but it wasn`t to be was it? I would love to have gone on a bit further in my education or training but there you are. After that I got married at eighteen in 1957, fifty years next year. I met Bill at South Witham when I trod on his foot when he asked me to dance, poor fellow. I had never met him before. He came from a big family as well; he has thirteen brothers and sisters. It is a job to keep up with them all on both sides! We were married at Colsterworth Church by Canon Barraclough. I wore a long white dress with a big bouquet and I had four bridesmaids, my sister Wendy and my sister Kathleen in turquoise and my niece Donatia in lemon and Bill`s niece Susan in royal blue. Bill`s brother was the best man. We got married on the seventh day, in the seventh month in the year fifty-seven. The reception was held in the old village hall. We had a barrel of beer from Rutland Beers in Oakham for anyone to help themselves to, and Mrs Howlett and Beryl Melady helped us with the food. Les Taylor made the wedding cake. He worked at Branston`s Bakery on the High Street.

Bill did his National Service before we were married and then we settled down in Corby Glen. I had Sally there in 1959. Bill worked at British Steel for twenty years. When that finished he went to the Ford Motor Company but he could not settle after British Steel closed. Then he went to Humbar McVeigh down Honeypot Lane followed by a lorry place at Melton Mowbray. A job came up at the chip factory, Salversons, driving lorries and maintenance and he settled there and did twenty years. He is retired now although he still goes beating for the guns on various shoots, some at South Witham. The men go off in the trucks just like years ago. That is one thing that hasn`t changed although I think it will.

The next thing was that I was asked to go to the Post Office to be the post lady but it was too early in the morning for the children. Then Gordon Modd came up to see me to ask if I would do the milk round. I thought `Gosh! How am I going to do all this?` He lived at Mount Pleasant on Back Lane and the dairy was the little building next door. I picked up the milk at the dairy. It came from Woolsthorpe-by Belvoir dairies each morning. I had a little mini-van at first and then they sold that and bought me a Morris van. The milkt was bottled and put into big crates which I had to lift onto the van. I did Woolsthorpe and the chip factory ( Salverson`s), Stoke and Easton and along the A1 coming home. After six years the Co-op took over the milk round. I was offered the job but the Co-op truck was so high I would never have managed to lift the crates. I loved the milk round because I love out-door work and the freedom that went with it. After being in a big family where you fell over each other all the time, it was lovely to be by yourself a bit.

We came to this house in Woolsthorpe and we have been here forty-five years. I was very glad to move here. We lived on Station Road in Corby Glen and I didn`t like it at all. Bill took the car to work and I was by myself. When you come from a big family it is difficult to expand out of that family. I couldn`t get to know people very well nor could I pop down to see my Mum. When we came back here I could go down to see her four times a day. I would take the children to school down School Lane and then go and see Mum. Then I fetched them for their dinner and took them back for the afternoon and then picked them up at the end of the school day. I had three daughters, Sally who was born at Corby Glen, Della and Michelle. Sally has three children and Michelle has two. So I have five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Sophie. I go to school every day to pick her up until her mother comes for her at five-fifteen.

Looking back, I think I have been lucky. I thank my Mum and Dad for everything. We were brought up to have good manners and respect for people. I`d hate to be like they are today with no respect for anyone. The way they speak to their parents is dreadful. We weren`t allowed to speak out of turn. It didn`t do us any harm. None of our family got any paper qualifications but they all got good jobs and worked their way up. My brothers and sisters have always earned the trust of other people and have gone on to responsible positions.