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The Day Before Yesterday: 16 - Put A Penny In It

Gladys Schofield recalls Whitsuntide parades, and a Waffen Fuffen band.

Whitsuntide was another chance to parade with the band. This celebration was held halfway through May. All the local Sunday School children walked through the streets, dressed in their Sunday best. Usually new clothes were bought or made at this time of year.

Sometimes more than one brass band headed and joined in this parade. There was always a funny one called 'The Waffen Fuffen Band'. Its members were all dressed in fancy dress and played all sorts of weird instruments, designed to make everyone laugh. One of these members stood inside an imitation ostrich nearly as large as the real thing, his legs being the legs of the ostrich. As soon as he began strutting his stuff, the band would play a familiar tune. It went 'Chick, chick, chicken, lay a little egg for me'. At that moment the ostrich would part with a very large egg about the size of a rugby ball. How the kiddies would laugh. They carried on doing their antics in and out of the moving rows of children until they reached their destination, where tea was served to them all and games were to be won and prizes awarded.

It was getting close to Whitsuntide one year. Two little girls in the next block of houses always got their dresses made by a dressmaker at a local shop. "Our dresses are pale green this year. We have just been for a fitting," one little girl was saying to me outside our back door where I was playing. She carried on saying "What colour is your new dress going to be?"

But I hadn't seen the sewing machine working overtime this year, and it was Whitsuntide at the weekend. "I don't know," I said. "Aren't you going to have new clothes this year?" was the next question.

At this moment Mum appeared at the door and called me in, and the children went home. Mum must have heard the conversation because on Friday night after we had had tea she said, "Get ready Love, we are going to town."

She bought me a lovely white crepe dress, a white Panama hat and a pair of the latest panties that were all the rage that year. They looked rather like the infants' knickers of today with frills running right around, and around the legs too. Didn't I look pretty in the walk that weekend. I don't know what went unpaid that time, but I know my mum was as proud as I was as she watched us walk by.

The two picture houses within walking distance of our house were always full on Saturday afternoons when they ran a matinee. Mum was glad at this time to part with tuppence and have peace and quiet for an afternoon. How we looked forward to this treat! They ran a serial which always finished at a very exciting part. It would reach the climax and then say, "Don't forget to see next week's thrilling instalment."

So back we came week after week. We could buy sweets in the foyer as we entered.Sometimes the rustling of sweet papers drowned the sound, and now and again it would break down for a minute or two as talkies had not been showing long and were still in a primitive stage. If this happened the children would shout, "Put a penny in it."

A few years earlier when my big brothers went to the pictures it only cost a penny. A man with a stutter was employed to keep the children in order, as there was always a lot of noise coming from the first few rows of seats. My brothers were amused one day when this man had to control the rowdies. He shouted, "Tut up and tit down and be twyat, or I'll put you out, and you won't get yer penny back nyder."

Buses had started running up our road at last. Everyone stood out as the first one steadily ambled its way to a bus stop opposite the middle cart road. It was very noisy with a deep low body that seemed to hang over the wheels, almost sweeping the ground as it went past, not a bit like the sleek models of today. But we were very excited and thought they were great.

The fare to a shopping centre, about one and a half miles, was tuppence adults, half price children but anyone paying half price had to stand if the buses were full. This enabled us to get around much easier with not far to walk with parcels.

John and Ted seemed to play together all the time now. They were always the last to come in for a meal and travelled all over the place. We had two small square stools at each side of the fireplace attached to a fender in front of the fire. The stools were upholstered and made a warm, comfortable seat for us children.

One Saturday afternoon they were out as usual but were soon back. They had only been away one hour and sat like bookends, one each side of the fire. They never said a word, which was strange for them. Then Ted gave a little shiver and Mum saw him and reached out to touch his clothes. He was wet through, and John was not much better. "Whatever have you been doing?" Mum demanded and out came the story.

They had been playing around a mill dam. No one saw them because the mill was closed on the Saturday afternoon. Seeing if they could find anything of interest in the water, Ted had overbalanced and fallen in. John and another friend pushed a branch to him and managed to get close so they could pull him out. They knew they had to not go near this dam as one or two adults had finished their lives there.

Mum was more relieved than angry and again soon had them bathed and into a warm bed.

The opening of the bus routes was good for us in another way. It gave my mother a chance to see one of her sisters who had remained in the country and married and settled in a cottage in Shaftholme, Doncaster, near the main railway lines that ran from London to Scotland. Mum decided to take me with her.

The journey was long and bumpy, the petrol smell seemed to affect me after a while and gave me a sickly feeling. The journey took about two hours. We travelled in and out of all the little villages, putting down and picking up passengers all the time. I was glad when the journey was over. We had a good way to walk when we finally reached our destination.

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