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More Stories - The Way We Were

Shortly after Hilda Graham sent me the following piece, I viewed the Public Television special, "1940's House".  It was a re-creation of the life of a middle-class family in a suburban "semi" in Braemar Gardens in England during WWII, complete with period furnishings, a victory garden and a family that volunteered to relive that time as closely as possible.  The website has an activity workbook, a tour of the household and more.  I highly recommend watching this program and visiting the site.

Those who think we have enough to worry about with the Al Queda terrorism, the decline in prosperity, increasing pollution, crime and overcrowding, and believe we should concentrate on the present or just turn off the news, are mistaken.  Although I've had an anxiety disorder my entire life, seen plenty of terrorism, rioting, crime and war, incidents both tragic and frightening, and through them all I mostly just roll with the punches.  They slide away like water off a duck's back.  Why?  I attribute much to my extensive reading of history, authentic historical novels and biographies of people in past centuries when I was young.  "As it is, it always will be...."   I hope not, but in developed countries today we are so much better off now in so many ways than those in, for example, 1200 or 1500 AD....  Or even just a hundred years ago.  Better yet, by educating oneself and one's children as to history and other times and places, we can hope to make a better future and learn by past experience.  

But there were good times and great memories too. From our frequent contributor to poetry and stories, Hilda Graham:

"These are some of my earliest memories from my childhood.  As you know I am from England and these memories go back to when I was about 3 years old.  Hope  this will be of interest to you.  I appreciate you posting the poems etc. you have posted for me.  I enjoy reading your comments and stories.  Sincerely,  Hilda"

Remember When?

Lancashire, England late 1920's and early 1930's.  I remember when the depression hit us.  I was very young but still have vivid memories of those years.  I was born in Darwen, Lancashire at # 2 Bury Fold Lane where we lived at the foot of the moors. 

Darwen was a cotton town that had several weaving mills where most of the population worked as weavers.  This was the main industry of Lancashire and Yorkshire was where the woolen fabrics were produced.  We had lots of cobble stone streets and I always remember as our neighbors went to work early in the morning.  We could tell by the sound of the clogs hitting the cobble stones who was walking by as each person seemed to have a distinctive gait.  I remember many mornings hearing my father say to my mother "Come on luv, we're going to be late.  I just heard Tom and Mary going by - it is almost 6 AM".  My mother and father worked in the same mill leaving my brother who is 18 months older than I supposedly asleep.  About 7:30 AM our parents came home and prepared breakfast and got us off to school; they were allowed 45 minutes to do this.  Most of the people worked in the mills and had to get their children off to school also.

I was three years old when I started school, as were many others.  It was sort of a community thing as most husbands and wives both had to work, no such thing as nurseries or day care back then.

What I really want to do is play a game of remember for those of you - I'm sure not too many - because this is a long time ago.

Lets start with clogs.  If you ever wore a pair you would not forget, they had wooden soles with metal shods, looked sort of like a horse shoe (only for the human foot) all around the sole toe to heel, and heavy leather uppers.  We never wore them out, just out grew them.  Just thinking about them makes my feet hurt.  I wasn't very big and the clogs were almost as heavy as I was - <GRIN>.   I remember the boys running and striking them on the flagstones, which created a spark, each boy trying to make the most sparks.

I remember pea soup, seems like that was one of our main dishes back then (oh how I hated it and still do).  I loved Lancashire hot pot if we were lucky enough to get the meat along with the vegetables to make it.  How many remember pobbies - broken bread with warm milk and sugar poured over it, chip butties, hope this is spelled correctly, sugar and butter butties or Lyles golden syrup and lets not forget the treacle.  I ate many of these delicacies.  I loved rice pudding and Yorkshire pudding and also black pudding until my cousin told me what was in the black pudding.  That did it for me.  They still make black pudding.

I remember when I was about 6 years of age; an older neighbor of ours Mrs. Clegg would send me to the pub with a stoneware jug to get 2 pints of stout.  When I took it to her she would stick the poker in the fire and then put the hot poker into the spout, saying she was anemic and needed iron for her blood, ha.  I remember that she was a good cook, as was my father who was famous in our neighborhood for baking windberry pies and barm cakes.  I can almost smell those barm cakes coming out of the oven.  We would split them open and cover them with fresh country butter; oh my mouth is watering.  My father would send some to Mrs. Clegg and she in return would send me home with freshly baked currant cake; their baking time was after church on Sunday. Oh, what great memories.

I remember that my mother would leave a list at Brooks Store on Bolton Road, which was not far from our home.  One day I remember her sending me to get some spare ribs she had ordered from Mr. Brooks.  I did not realize how funny it sounded as there were several customers in the store and I walked up to Mr. Brooks and said "Do you have my mother's spare ribs".  I wondered at the time why everyone laughed.

I remember when my father needed money from the bank; he always had a little saved.  He would write a note stating how much he wanted to withdraw, that note was as good as any cheque as I always got the money.  My father would deduct the amount from his savings book, which he kept in a kitchen drawer.

After school I used to walk to the mill and go in to wait for my parents.  My father took care of 6 looms and my mother 4 looms.  All the workers called me Little Joe because I looked so much like my father ( he wasn't so bad looking).  I remember something they called shuttles, which were dangerous, and the workers had to be careful walking between them not to get hit.  I was so small that I walked right under them.  As I entered the mill everyone knew me and they let my parents, who worked towards the back of the mill, know I was coming.  They used (something) called weavers' talk because it was so noisy in the mill - they used some kind of a sign language.

I remember the last few days just before the mills closed coming out to the street, and other workers from closed mills were gathered; they were throwing stones and trying to intimidate the workers who were still working.  Something else which made a big impression on me were the mounted police and their big horses trying to quell the riot.

Oh, there is so much more to remember, climbing Darwen Tower, playing on the moors, walks in the woods, going to the pictures on Friday night - it cost a penny, eating hot potatoes from the street vendor, and then my father carrying me home on his shoulders.

Now I have written more than I intended, but thank God I can still remember, and I hope some of you who may read this will think back and remember those days long, long ago.  They weren't so bad were they?

Copyright Hilda Graham, February 18, 2002


  • Our family has a couple of these, saved by Aunt Amelia from the 1800's.  They are somewhat different, the wooden sole being raised on the shod about three inches off the ground, and the leather uppers are a set of straps.  These were buckled on over one's best leather shoes when walking on wet or dirty streets to avoid stepping in mud, horse manure or "night soil" emptied from chamber pots into the street from upper story windows, thereby ruining one's shoes.  In other words, the forerunners of galoshes or rubbers. 

  • From Worldwide Recipes:
    "Hodgepodge - a clumsy mixture of ingredients. That's what the Oxford English Dictionary says. It says that this word is a variant on hotchpotch, which is "a dish made of a mixture of various meats, vegetables, etc., stewed together". So today's "Dutch Treat" recipe has a linguistic history. In England the dish is called hot pot, the most famous of which is the Lancashire hot pot, containing mutton, sheep's kidneys, and oyster when available. The French and Belgians have a dish they call hochepot and usually contains pig's ears and feet. And the Dutch have their hutspot.  If I recall correctly from my last trip to Holland, this dish is pronounced more-or-less like "hotchpotch", making it the only word in the Dutch language which foreigners can pronounce without accidentally spitting on the person they are talking to."


  • A slice of buttered bread amply sprinkled with sugar and folded in two.

  • Molasses

  • A frequent associate of heath is the Bilberry's blaeberry, or windberry, whose little blue fruit most of us know, or at least knew when we were children.  From  http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/mwf1908/text.htm

  • From a forum at THE LANKY GUESTBOOK.  "Hi dave saw the message from roger.  He wanted to know how to make oven bottoms i emailed him but it would not go though.  In Bolton they are called flour cakes in Manchester they are called barm cakes.  In Georgetown where i live they are called [baps] well i have a recipe if roger or any one would like to bake them.

    4 cups flour 1 tea sp salt 1 tea sp sugar 1 package dry yeast 1 quarter cup lard (the soft secret perhaps).  (writer fails to say how much or what kind of liquid).

    Set the yeast working with the sugar and half the liquid warmed to tepid. sift flour and salt. rub into the lard. When the yeast is frothy add it to the flour with the remaining liquid. mix to a soft dough; cover and leave to rise for one hour. punch down, knead lightly; divide into small pieces 2 by 3 inches. Leave for about 20 minutes brush with water dust with flour and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes makes about one dozen."

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