Another incident from Strood. One day Mum was pushing baby Dave in his big, old fashioned pram down a steep hill with a fairly busy road at the bottom. Suddenly she lurched backwards as the pram handles separated from the pram which, minus its handles but plus its baby, began to roll fairly quickly down the hill. Les and myself ran after it and Les reached it first and stopped it. Perhaps it was fortunate that we were there otherwise Dave might have been severely injured or even killed. I canít remember what happened to the pram. It was probably the cheapest secondhand one they could get and I donít suppose they could have afforded to replace it.
Iíve been trying to work out a timeline. I seem to think we were at Strood quite a long time but it canít have been all that long. Certain things happened in certain places.
I think the financial bust must have been latish 1928 because I went to the squireís Christmas party for the village children in 1928. Dad wrote from Upstreet in June 1929 and I think we must have moved to the new house at Hersden about August. We were definitely living there on November 27, 1929 when Dave was born. We had some freak weather and I was stung by a wasp on Boxing Day and that, also, must have been 1929. I think we must have moved to Chatham early in 1930. I had six weeks in the attic there waiting to catch chicken pox and then catching it. Iíve been thinking about why we moved to Strood. It was probably not only cheaper rent but we may have owed money to the doctor and needed to move away. That means moving to Strood during 1930 with Dad out of work and on the dole. I can remember him making a sort of fire in the backyard when we either didnít have pennies for the gas meter or we had had the gas cut off. It was probably Christmas 1931 when he was at Australia. The pageant wouldnít have been in the winter so that was probably the summer of 1932 with Dad getting a job in Chatham fairly soon after. He started his swotting while we were in Strood. This is where the dates donít work out very well. I can remember that I used to have a school report from North Finchley dated 1932 when I was 9 and Iím pretty sure we arrived in Nottingham on April 1, 1933. We canít have stayed very long in either of the two houses we moved to in Chatham before he got the job in London. I know I lived in 15 different houses whilst growing up but it was all a bit tight. Maybe he did his trip to Australia late in 1930? That might work out better. But I always thought it was about the time, or just before the time, that the Harbour Bridge opened and that was 1932. I give up. Who cares? I lived there regardless of the actual dates.
We usually made moves as cheaply as possible and on this occasion we arrived at an empty house the day before the moving men did. We were able to buy a bundle of firewood at a shop but this didnít last very long and the outdoor coal shed had been cleaned out. Lying on the bare floor was very cold and, of course, we didnít have any blankets or heavy overcoats. Late at night Dad took us to a little hotel a short distance away.
At that time, the rule may have been relaxed later, a Relieving Officer was supposed to live in the district for which he was responsible. Dad had some of the worst slums in the city. We managed to find a slightly better road at the edge of his district but it was pretty rough.
The kids at school were from the slums. In addition to administering poor relief he was also responsible for dealing with the mentally ill. This was before there were satisfactory drug treatments and the only way to deal with lunatics was thought to be compulsory incarceration in locked lunatic asylums. Dad was pretty good at talking even violent men into coming with him including men who had needed six policemen to subdue them previously. He needed a woman assistant to lock up female patients and Mum went with him and made a little money that way. When Les was older he was the second person for male patients. Locking up lunatics was normal at that time and the more humane ideas, and open wards didnít come for another 20 years. Which reminds me of a song I learned early on in the army. There were a number of songs which appeared to have been handed down orally. Some smart Alecs in Tin Pan Alley took a number of them during the war changed the words a little, published them under their own names and collected royalties, money from the sale of sheet music etc.
I was working outside an asylum/I had the job of breaking stones/One of the men looked out at me and said ďGood morning, Mr Jones./How much a week do you get for doing that?Ē/ĒThirty bob,Ē I sighed/He looked at me and scratched his head and this is what he cried:/ĒCome inside you silly bugger, come inside/I really thought you had more sense/Working for a living, take my tip/Act bloody silly and become a lunatic./You get your meals regular/Two new suits beside/Thirty bob a week? No kids to keep/Come inside you silly bugger come inside.Ē next