Local history: 'By Friday, the money had run out'

August 11 2020
Local history: 'By Friday, the money had run out'

This month we begin our serialisation of Memories of a Bristol Boyhood by Knowle resident John Fletcher. His evocative stories cover the pre and post war years and are sure to strike a chord with many of our readers. John's book was originally written for his great-niece who lives in Australia and sales of the book have raised money for Children's Hospice South West. We begin in the early 1930s when John was born - and things initially did not go well!

“You must have been one of the ugliest babies ever”. Hardly the words you would expect from a fond mother, but I expect she was not far wrong. 
For when I was born on 3rd September 1932 there was a strong possibility that I might not survive and my baptism was quickly arranged only 15 days later.
John Fletcher Baptism
Among other imperfections, I was born with a large purple birth mark under my chin which was about the size of a duck’s egg. This required medical treatment at the Bristol Royal Infirmary where my mother took me each week for many months. Each week a section about the size of a small finger nail was burnt out with acid. One week too much acid was applied and the resulting scar is still visible under my chin over 80 years later.
 Health Certificate
My parents came from very different backgrounds. My father’s family was small as he had only one brother. The family were very much Bristolians and they lived at 2 Middle Terrace, Castle Green, Bristol 1. 
Middle terrace
This address was within the walls of the Medieval Bristol Castle in the centre of the city. 
Both my father (Frederick Alexander Henry Fletcher) and his father are shown on certificates as being ‘Wood Turners’ which I presume meant that they worked in a carpenters shop making furniture or similar items. 
My mother (Edith Windsor) was one of seven children, although one boy died in infancy. They lived in a small village called Finmere which is situated near where the county boundaries of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire meet. 
My mother was the youngest of the surviving six children, five girls and one boy, and they grew up in a very rural setting. 
My grandfather (William Theodore Windsor) was a farm labourer.
Our house in Kingshill Road was quite modern by the standard at that time but compared to today’s standards was very basic. 
We did have electric lights but did not have any power circuit. We also had a radio set, in those days called a wireless. 
It was quite an antique, took up half the sideboard and had a great big trumpet projecting from the top, reminiscent of the HMV record label which shows a dog listening to ‘His Masters Voice’. Power was supplied by a large battery accumulator which needed recharging from time to time. This required the battery to be taken to a local garage and the recharge took 24 hours. 
The battery was so heavy it could not be lifted by a child so a pushchair or pram was borrowed to help with the transportation. Cooking was done by gas, as was the clothes washing, which was boiled in a big zinc cauldron with a gas ring beneath it. 
The washing was picked out with wooden tongs into a tin bath to be fed into the wringer, which was worked by turning a handle which activated two wooden rollers, the pressure being adjusted by tightening large screws, depending on the thickness of the material passed through. The surplus water ran back into the tin bath and the clothes, blankets or whatever were ready to be hung on the clothes line in the garden to dry. Mondays were wash days; the kitchen was filled with steam. The mangle was a very heavy piece of equipment and folded down to make a kitchen table where we ate most of our meals. 
On Tuesdays the washing of the previous day was ironed and this took place on the mangle table covered with a cloth. The iron was a heavy metal slab with a handle and usually used in pairs, one being heated on the gas cooker ring whilst the other was in use. 
The irons were exchanged as the first one lost its heat while the second was being heated. The house had a large garden and Mother, having been raised in the country, was quite adept in growing vegetables for the table.
Although at times it must have been almost impossible to make ends meet financially, I can never remember being without food. We probably existed on the cheaper cuts of meat supplemented by home grown vegetables. 
By today’s standards we ate quite an unhealthy diet with a lot of suet puddings, dripping toast and other fatty foods to fill up on. Usually by Friday, money had all but run out and we often had chip-shop chips, without fish, because of the cost, but we could ask for some‘scrumps’ – the batter that had fallen to the bottom of the fryer.
These wonderful recollections and stories are sure to jog the memories of many of our readers and we would love to hear similar tales and see photos from the period. Please email to news@southbristolvoice.co.uk or post to South Bristol Voice, 111 Broadfield Rd Knowle Bristol B42UX. All items will be safely returned