Joe Prince

A Thames-side Childhood

By Gina Da Cunha

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Joe Prince' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Joe Prince' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Joe Prince' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Joe Prince' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Joe Prince is originally from Richmond, on the River Thames in south west London, and has only spent the last nine years in Crawley, to be with his third wife who is from the town.

A close connection with Old Father Thames

'We lived at 55 Alexandra Road at Kew. It was a cul de sac with 120 houses and I lived there with mum and dad and my brothers and sisters. Granddad looked like a tugboat captain, which is what he was. All my family were connected with the Thames in some way. We lived in the scullery, no electricity; there was a big range, a big copper in the corner, an outside toilet. Gas lighting downstairs and we had candles to take up to our rooms, and a 'gizunder' for under the bed.'

Donkey damage

'We weren't poor but we were scruffy little urchins! Although my dad had a good job, we still used to go on the church days out and I won a race once and the prize was a pair of shoes. I felt bad, like an impostor as I wasn't a poor kid. I had a big donkey with wheels to play on and I made it a nose bag. When I was called in to dinner, I used to put it in the hall, and put the nose bag on it. Some bullies took the nose bag and ripped it, and I cried and cried.'

The kitchen table becomes a makeshift air-raid shelter

'We never used our front room, as most people didn't. Not until when we were older when my brother knocked through to the front room. My mum died when she was 98. Strangers were invited to front room, nicely furnished. Kitchen was very plain. It was a terraced house. There was a big range, all cooking was done there. We had to light it even in the summer, when it was too warm. There was a HMV radio near my dad's chair. We weren't allowed to touch it! There was a Welsh dresser, it was huge. We had to cut the top off so that my mum could reach it.' 'There was a big table. It was really old and made of solid wood. I and my dad used to sleep under it during WWII as it was so strong, when the girls used to go into the shelter in the garden. We always sat down for meals. The crockery was kept on the shelves and the eggs were kept on the shelf in a big basket.'

The excitement was electric

'There were Windsor style wooden chairs with slatted backs. The only armchair for my dad. We had gas lighting. I was 11 or 12 when they brought electricity to our street. You were given a free cooker if you signed up straight away. A lot of the old girls wouldn't have the new-fangled thing. About 1933 this was. We used to get in trouble for turning the light switches on and off. It was so exciting to have it.  There was old lino on the kitchen floor which was scrubbed. We used to help on wash day, with turning the mangle. The walls were painted halfway up dark brown, to the dado rail of wood, then other dark, always dark colours, I don't know why. They were done in a distemper which was a powder mix. It always came off on your coat.'

This page was added by Gina Da Cunha on 14/03/2008.

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