Saturday, 19 April 2014

1950s-60s: the ladies of Temple Street

June Holloway has lived in Temple Street since the early 1950s. Here she looks back at some of the memorable characters who were her neighbours in those days

June Holloway in the 1980s
The thing that I most remember is the women. Back in the 1950s the street always used to full of older women, and when I looked into it later as I did a bit of local research, I discovered that quite a lot of the houses were owned by women and I realised, thinking about it afterwards, that these women fell into a number of groups.

There were the ones who had never had a husband because of the First World War, and those who'd had a husband who'd died in the War, and those who's husbands had just gone, for one reason or another. There seemed to be an enormous quantities of very strong women coping on their own, and even amongst those who had husbands, it was these women who seemed to be the ones who were assertive.

They were real characters, wonderful people – these are just a few…

Cissie Crook, for example, who died only about 10 years ago at 98 – she lived from 1932 at number 8 and was the wife of Soloman Crook, who was one of the tailors who had lived in the street. She was a very tiny lady, but nobody argued with her! Cissie had that way of talking to people which was bantering, but sounded very fierce until you got to know that she always had a sweet in her pocket for a small child.

In her later years she took a taxi down to the casino in the afternoons. She was almost completely deaf by that stage, and she used to say 'I can't do anything else these days - but I can go down there, I take £20 and then I lose it, but they're very nice to me, give me a little glass of something...'

Cissie Crook (centre) with Enid Gray and her daughters, Jane
Miss Coop lived at number 42. Did you ever see Giles cartoons? Well, she was just like Auntie Vera – Auntie Vera had a great long black coat down to the ground, a black felt hat and a perpetual drip on the end of her nose, and Miss Coop was a bit like that. She must have been in her 80s and she lived alone. She'd always come out in the morning with her shopping basket and go off to do her bits of shopping; she was like a little bird. When she died in her house they went in and they found piles and piles of wet newspapers, from all the damp coming up through the floorboards.
Auntie Vera
 At number 41 was Mrs Hughes, a Welsh lady, she was straight out of Dylan Thomas in her apron or overall with sleeves rolled up to reveal burly forearms. She would always be outside with her broom, because that's where the gossip was to be had, with anyone who walked past.

Besides, every proper housewife washed their doorstep before 10 each morning in those days. She once killed a rat with that broom.

Mrs Hughes had a faded ex-Indian army widow friend who lived nearby. They would always go out together. A lot of people around that time, in the 1950s, used to have a lodger, letting out one room here or there to help pay the bills.

Hyacinth Morton, at number 31, was the stepdaughter of Sir Ronald Storrs, who had been Governor of Jerusalem in the days of Laurence of Arabia, so she was brought up as the daughter of a very wealthy house, and she had the most amazing upper class accent.

Hyacinth had met everybody - she was a winner at a dinner party, coming out with things like "Yes, well I met King Farouk, he was dreadful man. When I was introduced to him he said, "Take this women away - I can't abide ugly women!" – and 'I remember George Bernard Shaw really well. I sat on his knee when I was 12." And she was at one of the Nuremberg Rallies and was on the platform 20 feet away from Hitler. 'He was so charismatic,' she said, 'I had to hold onto my hands so I didn't shout "Sieg Heil" as well!'

She was wonderful. I once met her on the street - this was by the time Peter and I were married, and she said 'Ah! Send the dear boy over this evening, will you - I've got a light bulb that needs changing. You'll come over and have a little gin with me whilst he's doing it.' I said 'Right, okay - about six?' and she said 'I'll get out my diary...'

Sir Ronald Storrs, Governor of Jerusalem
One rather strange lady had a penchant for scratching doors and cars with her keys. She was a simple soul, who'd had a horrible accident, been injured and received a sum in compensation. A taxi driver had become her "best friend", and used to take her to places – and systematically robbed her of the entire £20,000 she'd received, which was a lot of money at the time.

Mrs Shepherd, the ever-cheerful Irish lady at 27a, was married to a merchant seaman who came back home every two or three years. They had two children together and in 1958 their son was getting married, and wanted some money for the wedding, so he offered to paint the outside of our house – and that was the first time it was done. The price was £18, my mother was very happy with that – and so was he, it paid for the honeymoon.

Mrs Agomber was a very sad widow, she was a lodger in number 28, on the top floor. She'd lost her husband in the First World War, and must have been in her 80s when we arrived in the Street in 1953. We used to go and buy pink paraffin for her at Mence Smith, the ironmongers on the corner of Montpelier Road, where the Mad Hatter is now. She used it in her old oil heater that was her only source of heat. It must have been horrifically dangerous.

She became ill, and she was beside herself with fear; 'They'll take me to the workhouse, they'll take me to the workhouse – I'll die on the hill,' she said. This is the building that is now Brighton General Hospital at the top of Elm Grove, which in living memory did indeed used to be the Workhouse.

And sure enough, when she became ill, they took her there and she was terrified, and she died there.

Of course these are just a few – there were many others, great characters and good neighbours over the years, who have all been a part of what has made this street such a splendid and interesting place to live.

June and Peter

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to see the old photos of June and Peter and to read about her memories of Temple Street! Thank you :)
    Lou (no. 30)