Oral History

Annie Snow

Annie Snow's life and tales who was born in 1885.

Interviewers: Mr. H. A. Beavin (HB), Mr. D. J. Wood (DW)

Interviewed: Mrs. Annie Snow (AS)

Date of Interview: 22nd July 1984

Born: 29th January 1885

DW. Where did you live with your parents, when you were young?

AS. Oh everywhere, you could walk out one house and into another every week. We lived next door to the 'Old Blue Bell'; it's where the car park is now in Lower Bond Street. I was married from there in 1906, that were The Holy Trinity where Mr. Willet is now. That was my church, it was lovely. But of course it was the old Trinity Hall, did you know that? It's down now. The Leisure Centre's there, that was our church. I was brought up there; I went to the day school at the side of it. You know, all our lives were spent in church 'do's'. There was nowhere else to go: I was married in the old church in 1906; the new church was dedicated in 1910. Anyway, as I was saying, our lives were spent at church. You had Band of Hope on Monday nights; Bible Class on Tuesday nights; Church values to go on Wednesday night; Thursday night, you had a social in the upper room. I mean, Fridays was bath night and about the only night you was away. The church on Sunday, you was there all day. Sunday School in the early morning, then out of there into church, 'cause it was next door then. We spent all our lives at church and loved it.

DW. What was your father's job?

AS. He was a shoe-maker, a new shoe-maker and repairer. We lived where the Trustees (Savings) Bank is now. We'd got a new shoe shop there in Lower Bond Street. We'd lived everywhere, just below 'The Holly Bush' opposite the Police Station; you could walk out of one place into another. We'd got a big family, my mother kept, you know, trying to improve a bit. I was the oldest of eleven. There's one brother left now, eighty.

DW. You went to school where?

AS. Trinity Day School at three.

DW. You learned what? The three Rs?

AS. I was going for a teacher, I was always teaching, you know, different kiddies that I plays with. I said I should be a teacher. Well I was going to, until they told me I'd got to go six months for nothing. You know, a pupil teacher. I says I'm not going, my mother wants some money, so I went to work. I was the eldest of eleven, you see.

HB. Your mother wanted the money?

AS. Yes, and I went to work as half timer. After I came home with my iron (she had to wear an iron on her leg) I had a fortnight at home, then I started back to school. Well, the first day I went to school, they took the names of us that wanted to go in for the special exam. If you passed you could go to work half time. If you failed you still kept at school until you were thirteen in them days, you see. Well anyway, on the Monday morning as I started back, Mr. Forman (I can remember his name now) the headmaster came round, he said 'I am taking names of those who want to go in for the special, that want to go to work' so when he got to me he says, 'you won't want yours down, will you? You've not been to school for twelve months'. So I says, 'Yes I do' so I had it put down and I passed and I went to work. I was half-timer at eleven. There's not many old half-timers left in Hinckley now. I went to work sewing buttons on men's shirts and pants, three on for a dozen, that was thirty-six for three farthings (four farthings to make one old penny). You could only stop at our day school for so long, then you had to go up to St. Mary's Well then we had to go through the market and my mother used to give us a farthing each to go to school with, four of us at that time. We used to have a packet of sweets, boiled sweets for a farthing. I went there till I got nine then we went to live up the other end of the town. I went to the old council school, that's where the half time school were up there. So, anyway I must tell you about church, when I went there I was a Sunday school teacher at eighteen. You've heard of the Reverend Charles Davis ain't you?

HB Yes

AS. I've got one of my daughters named after his daughter Gladys, after Gladys Davis. He was marvellous to me, you know he looked after me, he come to me when I was eighteen, he said he wanted me to be a Sunday school teacher. They were short-handed he said, 'I don't believe in having them so young,' but he knew I could cope.

DW. How much money do you think your father earned when you were young? AS. Well, ladies' soling and heeling, one and six. Men's were two and six, children's from nine pence to a shilling. He was a marvellous shoe maker and he made by first surgical boot, which these were made from, when I got about eighteen, the specialist who did the operation drew a pattern of a boot that I could wear instead of' the iron. You know 'cause when you start talking to boys, that's when I didn't want my iron.

DW. How many children did you have?

AS. Well, I did have six, but I lost the first one, she had meningitis - I went to work with her. So I said I would never put another out to be minded 'cause she was quite alright when she went out in the morning, she come home with this temperature, well, she had a convulsion in the night, so I lost that one. I've got five now, three daughters and two sons, do you know any of them at Trinity?

DW: No I'm afraid I don't.

AS. Oh, 'cause there's some of them still go. Ever since my son went in the Scouts at nine, I helped out the Scouts, run jumble sales, everything to get money for them. I had a written letter from Lord Rowallan, chief Scout. well, I give it to the new headquarters at Kirkby Mallory now, that's where that hangs. I can tell you what he put on it:

'Dear Mrs. Snow, How splendid it is to hear of your magnificent work for scouting, and the courage you displayed even though being bombed from your home, and still carrying on. It was not only the money you raised, but the way which you carry on keeping in touch with scouts in the forces, which will be of inestimable value to scouting in the years to come. For this and all you have done, I sincerely thank you. Rowallan -chief Scout.'

AS. I've got one from Lord Summers who were Chief Scout before him, thanking me and giving me a 'Thanks Badge'. I've worked, although I've had this polio all my life. I used to go and take an old pram to collect jumble to get money for the scouts. You know, to get them equipment and everything. Up to when I come here, I was still doing it, you know, getting money for them. I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

HB. I understand from talking earlier that you had to go to Birmingham to see a surgeon when you were a very young girl. I wonder if you could ` tell us something about that?

AS. They took me up the doctor's in Hinckley they couldn't do anything for it. I was took to Leicester Infirmary, I was in there for a while. I got no improvement so I came back to Hinckley and then just carried on. I used to skip up to 110. They used to say I would break my leg because it was ever so thin; this leg were. I was always skipping, well anyway, someone told me mother when I was nine, about a physician in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. His sole life was polio, if any-one could do anything for you he would. 'well', she says 'why don't you take her to see him?' well, me mother went round and collected pennies off my aunts and uncles, in a cocoa tin. I can remember it to this day, for us bus and train fare and the old union bus to take us down to the station. well, when we went there was a long line of people. He'd retired then, but he couldn't leave it alone. He used to give so much time for interviews, once a fortnight, then these that he was interested in, he operated on, well, my mother kept looking very sadly 'cause there was such a long line. Anyway in the finish we got three to the door and a notice was put up - he could see no more that day, he was going, well, my mother just sat and broke down, so a man come to her, all dressed in a white smock. He wanted to know the trouble so she told him, 'well', he says 'you can come again.' she says I can't do it.' well anyway, he felt sorry, so he says 'Just sit down and don't move, so he went out, when he come back he says 'I've got the doctor to write this letter for you, you can go up to the private house where Doctor Gordon lives. I have known him to see odd ones in the case like yours. He told us how to get there on the bus, when we knocked the door a footman came to the door, my mother handed him the letter; so he says 'just stop there', so he went and come back after a while and said he would see me. well, when we went in, oh! he was great, long white beard and he told me to take my shoe off. He had me walking along a lovely carpet and then he says 'I would like to operate on this child; it should have been done years ago. I don't know what can happen now, but if I'd had her from the start it would have been a complete cure. I'll send for her as soon as possible.' It was ten months before I got in. I went and had this operation then come home with an iron. He said he would like to see me again when I got about thirteen or fourteen, well, we went and saw him and he said his only regret was that he hadn't seen me when it first happened. Anyway it's carried me all through my life. I'd been alright until I'd had this silly accident. You'd be surprised how many people have their legs go when they get older. There's only two I think in this place, (Orchard House, Market Bosworth) two of the residents who have not got a walking aid.

HB. They make it a lot easier, don't they?

AS. Oh! These are marvellous, well, Hinckley and District cripples Guild gave me this (pointing to walking frame) after I'd had my accident. They come down with it 'cause I used to help them as well. I've helped everybody.

HB. Could you tell us anything that you remember about the first or second world wars?

AS. Oh yes, well, we were bombed in Merevale Avenue, a lad was killed against us. We all had to go out you see to different places. I went to my daughter's till it was patched up again, but it was never the same, of course both sons were in the second world war then. Harry, the one that was a scout, he was in Trinidad and the other one was in France. I can remember now after we got back in to our own house they gave me an indoor shelter and the scouts come and put it up for me, because I done so much for them you see.

HB. Was it called a Morrison shelter inside a big steel sheet, wire all-round the side?

AS. Yes, and me and my youngest daughter slept under that until the end of the war.

DW. Were you inside the house when the bomb went off?

AS. We were all in bed.

DW. Were you hurt?

AS. Not one of us had a scratch, but had it been another night, we should have been up. They used to come up to me, my son and my daughter. I used to get them a cup of tea. we should have been killed if we'd been up. somehow I don't know how it were, but there was eleven killed against us, I was took to hospital. Yes, we've had some good times and some bad times, we were away about twelve months from the house, then we went back.

HB. Can you remember any attempts to get people to join the army? I know they had big meetings in the market place, didn't they?

AS. Oh yes, yes they gave them a sovereign when my husband joined up.

DW. A sovereign

AS. Yes, gave him a sovereign to join up, that was the first world war. He was out of work so he went and then he was discharged from the army when he was in France because he had eye trouble. He died in August as he would have been fifty in November, so I out-lived him by fifty years.

DW. Almost another lifetime.

AS. Yes, yes, I got good children and they all come to see me. I shouldn't have come here if I hadn't had this accident. My eyes started going the doctor said. If I didn't keep away from boiling kettles and that sort of thing, I should be scalded, so the social Services come to see me and I landed here; but no where's like your own home, is it?

DW. What about the cost of living now and when you were a girl?

AS. Oh yes, the price it makes my hair stand up right. when my girl come the other week and said what they'd paid for white herrings! Now I'm going to tell you when I went to work half-time: the first week I earned two shillings (ten new pence). There was only four days because they reckon on Thursday night, when I gave it my mother, the tears came into her eyes, it was a fortune to her, she says, 'oh my dear, before you take your things off, go down to the co-op.' We lived up Bond Street then you know, where the co-op is there.

DW. Yes.

AS. It's not used now.

DW. Yes, I know where you mean, corner of Well Lane and Bond Street.

AS. I'd only just got to come down a little way to there. when I got back and give my mother the things, her eyes shone. There was a bag full of groceries for one and eleven. Then she sent me down to the fish-monger's and general store just below, she says 'go and fetch a penny bloater; a wax candle; and a box of matches with that penny. I shall have your father home for his tea.' He worked at that factory across the road.

HB. I've heard some people talk about young girls seaming stockings at school in the afternoon, do you remember that?

AS. Seam stockings? No, but I remember my grandfather was an old seamer at Burbage. He had a machine at home and my mother had to help when she was little - heard about her helping at home but not at school.

HB. Think it must have been before you went to school.

AS. When you got about five you had to leave the Holy Trinity Day school, and go up to St. Mary's, when I come to be a half-timer I had to go up to the council school.

HB. That would be Albert Road wouldn't it?

AS. Yes, but my mother said when I told her I'd had my name put down, 'oh, you are a silly girl, you haven't been to school all winter'. I said 'that don't matter'. I went in and I passed. My cousin went in with me, she'd been to school all winter, she didn't pass so she had to carry on at school until she was thirteen. I was cut out to be a teacher they told me but I just wouldn't go. I said 'my mother wants some money'. Oh, when I was in Birmingham Hospital, after I had the operation, I'd been in about a fortnight, there was a young doctor with three irons slung around his neck. So he says 'I want to try one of these on you to see which'll fit'. He tried one, he says 'that's too big'. He tried another; he says 'that's not quite right'. He tried the other one on; he says 'that's just your fit'. He strapped it up, he says 'that will be five pounds', I says 'take it off, take if off'. I started to cry. I says 'my mother can't pay five pounds', so he says 'why not?' I says 'she only has my dad's money, take it off!' So he says 'don't get alarmed, how much does he earn, do you know?' 'He earns twenty-six shillings a week, he gives my mother a sovereign and he keeps six shillings back'. 'oh' he says, 'he's a lucky man if he can keep six shillings back out of twenty-six'. I says 'he doesn't spend it, he buys all the leather and mends our shoes out of that'. So he says 'don't get alarmed, could you tell me where your father works?', so I says 'yes, he works in a shoe factory in Upper Bond Street'. I told him the name, you know, they phoned over and found out what I'd told him was dead right. So he comes the next morning with this iron with him and he says 'would you like to go home tomorrow?' I says 'oh, yes, I would'. So he says 'well, you can go home and you can take this'. I says 'I don't want it', he says 'now wait a minute, you've not got to pay for it'. I had it free you see, anyone that could pay, they'd got to do.

HB. How old would you have been then, nine or ten?

AS. Ten, yes ten, nine when I first went to see Dr. Gordon, well, anyway, it carried me through and I wore it until I was eighteen. Then I said I weren't going to wear it any longer. You didn't have the fiddling prescriptions like you have today. You had long ones, they'd got yer father and yer mother's name on the top. Your father's, what he did at work and yer mother was housewife - got everything on. Then he drew the pattern of this shoe, he told my mother to get so much cork. That she had to send somebody to 'Wands' at Leicester for. He put this cork in to make it light and yet I could have a thick sole. I gradually got it put inside my shoe. Got a support inside this shoe now.

HB. Do you remember changes like electric lights coming into Hinckley?

AS. When my kids were little I had to have work at home 'cause after I'd lost my first I wouldn't go out to put another out. I used to sit on the table underneath the gas mantle mending, you needn't wonder at your eyes going. They were black, men's half hose and women's stockings, just to earn a few shillings a week. I never got over it when we had electric light put in.

HB. Electricity came to Hinckley about 1911 just a little bit before the first world war wasn't it?

AS. That's when I had my first little girl she'd have been seventy-three on the twenty-fourth of May - Empire Day. I lost her at sixteen months and she never cost me a'penny, she was a marvelous kiddy. The doctor says 'she had meningitis; her brain was far too active'. Well my son, he'll be here this afternoon, they take it turns. I know when they are all coming so they don't clash. well, he was seventy on the thirteenth of February, the next one she was born during the war. Oh, my eldest son was born the year the war started - 1914, my other son Harry he was born the year it ended - 1918. Eda, she is sixty-eight, she was born when her dad had just been sent from Egypt to France.

DW. There's not very many people that can say they had a daughter or son that's seventy odd!.

DW. Can you remember when the first motor car came to Hinckley?

AS. What! I'm glad you mentioned that, I can remember when there was nothing on the roads. when the first two-penny farthing bikes come, you know what I mean?

DW. Yes, bikes with one big wheel and one very small one.

AS. All the kiddies were following them. I can remember when farmers' carts started coming with cabbages, when you hear the price they are paying today, oh dear, and rabbits and all different things. The circuses used to come round and the processions used to be better than the real thing. They used to be grand processions; we used to look forward to that I'll tell you. I can also remember, which perhaps I hadn't ought to tell you, when we were kiddies the local board used to come round every week to empty our buckets. You'd see them coming in the night.

HB. They used to be called the nine o'clock men, didn't they?

DW. The nine o'clock horses.

AS. They used to come in the night when everybody was in bed. You could her them it was terrible, and you hadn't got toilets then, you know. You used to have just the seat with a hole in, and a bucket. That used to stand a week, it was terrible some of the things, you know.

HB. The water in Hinckley was a problem wasn't it? Hinckley was very late getting a good water supply -can you remember did you have a pump or did you have taps?

AS. We had pumps; we didn't have a tap then. We used to go down into Green's Yard when we lived in Manor Street. That was when I was a youngster, used to go down and fetch the water from there, fill your kettle. You know, we used to have milder summers and terrible winters, we used to have three months without rain - we used to pray for rain in our church. I can remember every Sunday praying for rain, well we got a shortage of water and water carts used to start coming round then: you used to pay a farthing a bucket for it. My mother used to say 'don't spill a drop', well I can see her now when we got back with that water, she'd get a mug and put a mug full in the bowl, we all 'ad to bring a flannel and wash us in that, I can remember, I thought it was awful.

HB. There used to be queues didn't there, at the pumps to try and get water when it was short.

AS. Yes, oh yes.

HB. You talked about the bad weather, can you remember any particular bad winter when there was very deep snow?

AS. Oh terrible winters, the snow was piled up, they just used to make room for you to get through on to the road. It used to stay there ages and I've heard my dad say he had td go through six foot of snow to fetch my granny. I know when I had my second daughter they had to carry her through the snow, it was sixty-eight years ago. I don't remember any more really bad winters like that.

HB. Yes that's right, 1916, you've just mentioned it. That was a very bad winter.

AS. Yes, I tell you, dad was just coming home from Egypt.

HB. Quite a change coming from Egypt to all that snow in Hinckley.

DW. Tell us about some of the games you used to play when you were a young girl.

AS. Oh gracious, I think I was all skipping.

HB. With your leg some of the games must have been more difficult, things like playing with a hoop and so on?

AS. Oh we used to play buttons no end. You used to sit on the kerb make a little hole in the gutter and then play buttons. The lads used to play marbles and we used to have hoops - go right from the top of Bond Street to the bottom with these hoops. we used to have lovely games and they used to cost nothing.

HB. Buttons! How do you play buttons?

AS. Well, you made a hole and you used to pitch'em and see how many you can get in the hole. well them that come round you'd get your finger and go like this and get them in.

DW. Flick them in, like tiddley-winks?

AS. Yes it's marvellous the simple games we had.

DW. To finish with, what do you think you owe your long life to?

AS. An active mind and keeping busy.

Transcript by: Jean & David Wood.