Edith Kay née Curtis
Birthdays... well on the farm we'd be alright at Christmas, birthdays... Christmas I don't remember anything about Christmas. After leaving the farm, I don't remember any of the Christmases there. I just don't remember any. We may have had an allowance of dried fruit, to make a Christmas cake, something like that, but I don't remember that though, no. And then the Ministry of Food used to issue leaflets, to make different things with, you know, how to help you making your rations, your margarine go a bit further. W e used to have the leaflets coming out.
My brothers were all older than me, in fact my eldest brother was 21 years older than me, and he was the Borough Treasurer of Chorley, and so he was reserved. The other two brothers were engineers and they were working on War work, but my third brother was in the Army and he was in Africa quite a lot, and Italy. I can remember he sent me a telegram on my 21st birthday from somewhere abroad.
I belonged to a church and it happened to be on a Monday and we had a Monday group that went walking and so on. So we all went walking and then at night we came back to my mother's house and she somehow or other managed to get a cake together and I think we had pasties. There was quite a crowd of us there and it was very enjoyable, but not the great celebrations they have these days.
So, after I'd played in the Middle East, I came back here, and it was back at Drury Lane rehearsing another show, and for this show we went out and we entertained all the troops that were lining up on the south coast before going over on D Day. Millions and millions of troops - and I remember it was my 21st birthday and we were in like, a sealed camp. And I never received any post or any communication from the family because it was all strictly censored, anything that came into the camps, they were sealed off. So I didn't receive any birthday cards or presents from friends or family because we weren't allowed to communicate and say where we were exactly.
And we're on the Obdurate and it's Christmas Eve, and we sail out of Seidisfiord off Valfjord and we get clear of the land, and then the Captain speaks to you over the Tannoy, you know - the loud speaker like, and he'd say like ‘Well chaps, you're probably wondering...' Well, of course, we already knew where we were going, because they always did know, it wasn't a secret, he says ‘You're all wondering where we're going on this trip, well I can't think of a better way of spending Christmas, as taking a convoy to our great ally, Russia.' Now I thought about The Fleece and the Prince Bill, (laughs) you know what I mean, just to be humorous. So we sailed out in a terrible gale and whatnot...
Most of your Christmas presents and things like that, the annuals, they were from the year previous or even two years previous, and when you'd finished and read them, you took them back to Mr Dooley, who was the newsagent, and he used to give you a little bit, like half the cost back. You can bet by next Christmas they were out on sale again, if you kept them in good nick. So in 1943/44 you were reading annuals from 1938 and '39.
There were some Wild Bill Hickock, western type, and there were some connected to the comics, like, The Beano, and there were film annuals as well, stars of 1940 and that type of thing. But of course, when they were wrapped up they looked just as exciting as opening an expensive present nowadays. My Father always seemed to manage to get hold of a few sweets for Christmas, being in the Forces, I think they got better looked after than most of the civilians. And he used to manage to fetch some of them home, to supplement the Christmas part of it.
Edith Kay née Hayston
Well, I always got a sewing set off my Auntie. Always, I always knew what I were going to get, it was going to be a box with either embroidery or sewing and a new doll's head off my Mother (laughs) and a set of clothes, you know. Because the doll I had, had a rag body, and a pot head, and it always got broken during the year you know. She'd take it to the doll's hospital and it had a new head for Christmas, I'll always remember that.(laughs) And a book, books, if we could get a book. We used to get these second-hand ones like Bev was saying.
And we came to a house in Russell Street in Bolton, which is near Queen's Park, and Carter Patterson was supposed to deliver our furniture and goods, but due to the air raids they got held up until after Christmas. So my Mother just had ten shillings in her purse and she went out and she bought a few loaves of bread and some butter and a pot of jam, and loads and loads of Bolton Evening News copies. Not because we liked the paper, but it was a big one in those days and we'd no furniture and we'd nothing in the house, but by putting the paper on the floor and covering over us, we were able to lie down. And the funny thing is, that first night, we actually went up to bed, we all lay down on the floor, in the upstairs room - which seems strange, but it's just out of habit. And we had a wonderful experience when we were lying there fully dressed, except Mother made me take my shoes off ...but we were fully dressed and St Luke's choir came out under the window, singing carols as they used to go round. And they sang ‘While shepherds watch their flocks by night' and they sang it to the tune of ‘On Ilkley Moor baht ‘at' which I've never heard before or since. It was fantastic! And then on Christmas Day... It was heavy snow then, Christmas 1940, and my sister and I went for a walk round Westwood and Chorley New Road and we found a kitten. There were allotments there and a kitten came out of one of the allotments, little huts, and followed us home. We'd got in the house, and we were just playing with the kitten, and my Mother was putting a bit of butter, our precious butter, on it's paws, and there was a knock on the door, and it was Mrs Podmore. Some people might remember her from having a shop on Deansgate - ‘Podmore's Garden Supplies' and so forth. And she said ‘I can't see any smoke from your chimney, would you like a bucket of coal?' and my Father reluctantly agreed, and she said ‘Are you alright for anything else? Do you want anything else?' and my parents said ‘Oh, no, no, it's fine, we're ok, but we'd be pleased with the coal' and well my sister and I would have liked a change from the bread and butter and jam. But my parents were proud people, they were Victorians, if you think back, and it was their way not to be a borrower or a lender. But we had this fire in the lounge, which worried my Mother terribly as it was getting dark early, in case an Air Raid Warden should tell us about the glow, because we had no curtains. So the Bolton Evening News came in handy again to stick up on the windows, and that night, we lay on floor, in what was to be, the sitting room, before the embers of the fire. And that was my Christmas Day, you know. But it was good, because I was with my Father again and my family and we were a family again and there was no air raids - we didn't have to go down the shelter, and so it was a happy Christmas in a way.
Well, at first we did, and then we didn't really go in them. We used to go under the stairs. But a friend of mine, I must tell you this... Marjorie died last year, she was a very old friend and she lived in Manchester, and Manchester was very badly bombed. One Christmas is was dreadful what happened to it, and that particular Christmas, she'd gone to a friend's house and the sirens went, you know they had to go in the shelter, and she was left with the old man - the Granddad - to take to the shelter. Anyway she managed to get him down there and they were in all night, and when they came up the following morning, the whole row of terraced houses where they lived was flattened. The whole row. And the only thing standing, which she never got over, was a Christmas tree, with artificial... they were still on, the balls... They were still on the tree! And she said she never, ever, got over that, because the houses were flat and this tree was stood... the Christmas tree (laughs) But they had a rough time in Manchester, very bad. We could see it from Bolton. We could see the fires in Manchester, when it was on, the Blitz.