Dolly Broadbridge

Youngest of ten

By Peter J Stoker

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dolly Broadbridge' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dolly Broadbridge' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dolly Broadbridge' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dolly Broadbridge' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dolly Broadbridge' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dolly Broadbridge' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Dolly (Doris) was born in Peckham in London. She is 79.

Youngest of ten

I was born in 1928, the last of ten children; six girls, four boys. There was a five-year gap between the sisters and the brothers: it was like two families. My Mum worked cleaning doorsteps and taking in washing at night. My Dad worked on the railways, checking for cracks on the wheels (he was a wheeltapper). My eldest sibling was much older and one died of meningitis age 11 months.

Sarsaparilla and a sing-song

There were parties all the time, as it was always someone's birthday, wedding, engagements etc, because we had such a large family. We lived on Holbeck Road in Peckham, and my grandmother lived in Peckham too. I used to go to Peckham Park Road School. My sister used to chase me up the Old Kent Road to try and get me in to bed, and I used to be whizzing about on my roller skates. Dad used to wash our hair and bath us, mend our shoes and cut our hair. We used to go to East Lane on Sundays to get leather to mend our shoes, and we got to drink sarsaparilla on Sundays too. There was always someone who could play the piano, my brother could. You'd gather round that.... for a sing-a-long.

Skates on and sweet shame!

I had skates with ball bearing wheels; I used them a lot and also used to make scooters with those wheels or pram wheels, using rope to steer. We used to be in the habit of holding on behind lorries and cars, in order to hitch a quick lift on skates or on a bike. My sister and I once used the milk money for school to win the top prize of sweets in the machine with sweet balls, but that wasn't the end of it, we were accused in front of the whole school of thieving the milk money and spending it frivolously on sweets. Shamed!'

Serious illness and school days

I started school age four. I went to the Peckham Park Road School Infants and Juniors. I missed about a year, because I got double pneumonia, St Vitus Dance (Hodgkinson's disease) and rheumatic fever. They strapped me down for about six months. Then I was evacuated to Wisborough and went to a school in Pulborough. We had to go to a local community hut, as there wasn't the space for us elsewhere. There were lots of schools and different classes, all being taught at the same time. There would be one group doing music, one doing English, one doing maths. This was when I was 11, in about 1939. I was evacuated age 11 to Wisborough and then to Pulborough for about a year during the war, along with my sister. The man that we were billeted with was a bit too 'touchy feely', so my parents came and got us, we then all moved to near Basingstoke for my Dad's job, which was as a carter (a horse man) on a farm.

End of school and in to service

So, we moved to Ewhurst and used to get a bus or walk to King's Clear Senior School. My memories are of walking to school from Ewhurst, and taking about six little ones with me, teaching them to do their ABC's on the way to school, whilst the tanks rolled by. I had a ruler from the teacher in the small of my elbow once for getting my maths muddled up. I left there age 14, and went into service to the house of Lady Alexandra Rogers, who was the wife of an MP. I was a third maid in the big house, Ewhurst House for Lady Alexandra but it was a lot of work because the second house maid used to skive off to see her boyfriend. And so then I went to work in a textiles factory, on a conveyor belt.

Marriage and the move to Crawley

I married in 1953 and my husband worked for Mountjoy's, a small butcher. He was offered a new town transfer and we looked at different options, but chose Crawley, as it was near the sea for the kids. I worked at Youngman's factory for some time, but had three children and worked around them. I was then a home help for 25 years. I was 26 when we came to Crawley in 1954. I thought I would be a telephonist here as that had been my previous job, but the training was six weeks staying at a residential centre in Dorking, so I went to Youngmans instead for a couple of years. I worked in the plating shop at Youngman's from 1954. There were about 50 of us working in this department at least. Every once in a while we would clock in or out for someone on the quiet, so the gaffer didn't notice, but you couldn't do it too often. I then got pregnant and went to work in a sweet factory during the time I was five to eight months pregnant.

Hard, hard work but at least a car for the kids

There was no maternity benefit then, so when my son was a year old, I stayed at home in the day and worked at night as a cleaner, and later as a care assistant for Social Services for about 25 years. This helped to keep our car on the road for the children, which was a 1936 Ford, and that meant we could take them on holiday. All the seats were cracked with age and we used to cover them with blankets.

New Town lifted post-war gloom

I have lived in the same street since 1954, and the same house since 1959, in Raven Lane. The living room has changed a lot in that time though! There were no carpets originally; we had 'Marley' tiles.There was a small TV which had a huge case; the TV casing is now used in the school for puppet shows. It was the second house we lived in. You can see the school fields from the back window. There was magnolia paint on the walls. Our kids have had a decent life in Crawley. When we moved here from the city, London was such a dark, dismal place; it was like moving to fairy land. Everything was so new here... apart from the mud that is.. There was mud everywhere!

This page was added by Gina Da Cunha on 26/02/2008.

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