Mother told me she was not a true Brummie, she was a farmer's daughter and was certainly used to hard work. She had a strict routine when it came to housework and Monday was the worst day of all, washing day. I would be on my way to school just after 8.30am and she would be getting ready sorting the washing into various piles as I left.
You needed quite a number of items when you did the washing Persil, scrubbing soap, Dolly Blue, Robin starch and a couple of clean clothes lines. Sheets and pillow slips were boiled in the copper, taken out with the copper stick and put into the dolly tub, pummelled up and down with a wooden peg and put through the Acme wringer, rinsed several times in the sink, (final rinse had the dolly blue added) wrung out and put through the wringer again.
Next came the starch, which came in a packet and looked a bit like cornflour. A tablespoon or so was put in a bowl and a little cold water added, and mixed into a smooth paste. Boiling water was added slowly stirring all the time until it turned very slightly blue and thickened. Collars and cuffs, tablecloths, dressing table mats and pillow- cases etc. were then dipped into the starch and were hung out to dry.
The clothes-lines stretched from the back wall halfway down the garden, across the lawn and back again. More hot water was added to the tub, stains were rubbed or scrubbed hard with the soap, put into the tub and the whole procedure started again apart from wool jumpers and stockings, they were washed in Lux flakes.
Next came the washing down of the kitchen tiles and the floor and then the bathroom and toilet and when I returned from school she had just finished. She never had a washing machine because she said they wore the clothes out but later on she did have a spin drier and a copper dolly with small holes in it like a colander. She still had the wringer that folded down and had a tabletop covering it.
I remember that on one occasion my brother was left in the kitchen sitting on his potty while she hung out the washing and was having a little natter to Mrs. Norris next door. When she returned to the kitchen my brother had opened a tin of black Cherry Blossom boot polish, lifted up his vest and brushed the polish all over him. He was taken outside, put in a zinc bath on the lawn and scrubbed.
My father was a commercial traveller selling wallpaper and paint; he worked for J. H. Yardley in town. We never knew what time he would come home in the evening for his dinner so very often his dinner was put on a plate over a saucepan of hot water with the saucepan lid over the top.
He would be eating his dinner and the phone would ring (Woodgate 2363) "Is that Mr. Rose?" "I've run out of paper, I need one more roll, can you bring me one out tonight?" Dad would then have to take one roll of paper to Stourbridge, Kidderminster or wherever. Mother hated the phone and had it taken out during the war.
My Dad was always decorating; he usually started on a Friday night after my mother had cleaned the house from top to bottom ready for the weekend. Carpets and floorboards were taken up and furniture removed, I had to crawl underneath and pull cables through from one room to another and look for missing screws that Dad had dropped.
One of his projects was to paint the hall, landing and stairs. A coat of cream paint was put on first then several layers of coloured paints-were stippled on with a rubber brush, little peaks of paint like whipped egg whites was the final look with a border at the top done with a comb.
I remember the Warley Odeon cinema walls were all done in the same way. It looked very good but after the war- the language was a bit blue when it all had to come off. When the war started Dad put electric candle-lights in the hall and on the landing and when they were switched on they could be very bright, fairly bright or dim so that we could open the front door in the blackout. We had a gas meter in a cupboard in the hall which we fed with shillings and this was emptied by the gas man every few weeks and sometimes we were given money back.
I was very popular at Woodhouse Road School about December time when the new wallpaper pattern books came out; I was given the old ones, which were extremely heavy. My friend and I would carry them to school but first of all we chose our papers and my other friends also had their choice before they were given to the teacher. We made calendars and match box holders. Pieces of cardboard were covered in the chosen paper and a picture added. A small date calendar stuck under the picture cost a penny. We were all very proud of our efforts and gave them as presents to our Mom's and Dad's.
When my father returned to us after the war, things didn't change; he went back to Yardley's. Sunday mornings found him in the garage with the car in bits, wheels off, indicators taken apart, steering wheel on the floor etc. I never knew why.
Mother would cook the Sunday dinner, I usually shelled the peas and Dad would be told his dinner was on the table as we nearly always went to my grandparents who lived near Cannock, some 20 miles, away at 2pm. We would all be washed and dressed waiting for my Dad to put the car back into working order.
One very bad winter we were travelling back home in the evening and we became stranded in the deep snow. A lorry driver stopped to help and eventually he took us to his home, complete strangers, and put us up for the night. I cannot remember how we got home but I was told that I must not mention this to grandma as she would be worried.
A few years later my Dad fixed up a second hand television set up for my grandparents. Grandad never took his eyes off the set, he was transfixed, his favourite programme was "The London Palladium".
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