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The Day Before Yesterday: 26 – Things Are Looking Up

...The first signs of the saying, “keeping up with the Jones's” started to appear as a young couple we knew got married and their first purchase was a radiogram, the latest thing you could own at the time. They sat on packing cases for quite a while as they couldn't afford anything else. But most were more careful with their money, knowing what it was like to be without...

Gladys Schofield remembers the start of a more affluent age.

I often had to take my youngest baby sister in her pram for a walk. The school holidays seemed to be a time for this. The only snag to this was I didn't get paid for walking my own little sister, but if I took someone else's, I could earn a penny or two in gratitude from other mothers.

I must have been a little horror as I often chose to get paid for my efforts. We all seemed keen to get some sort of paid work. It wasn't often children got spending money. The boys got most of the part-time work, taking paper rounds and helping shop keepers. Some were real little drudges for the few pence they got.

Things seemed to be looking up a bit. I got a new coat for best. It was quite smart, a reddy-brown material and brown velvet collar. Mum got it in the sales.

I felt quite smart as I walked up the road in it one weekend. Any pride soon toppled as I came across a girl in my class. She wasn't one I was friendly with. She was one who changed friends quickly when her circumstances changed.

She had made friends with a nice girl, Margery, and she was the only one I knew who should have boasted because she always had been lucky in that she was an only child and didn't want for anything, but you could see she was well brought up. She went to our school and was friendly to all.

The first girl said, "My mother has bought me a coat like that but mine is only for school.”

I replied that mine was only for weekends as Mum thought it too good to use for school. At my reply she tried to bring her friend in by saying they were in the sale and only cost five shillings, but all Margery said was, "I think you look very nice in it anyway.”

This was just the way some handled getting better off. Things started improving for a lot of folk in the thirties, some a little slower than others. But work got more plentiful, and the standard of living was just getting good before the Second World War came.

My sister Dorothy's world seemed to open up after she started to earn a pay packet every week. The workers paid Mum so much for their keep. I used to watch my sister ironing her delicate lacy underclothes. That seemed to be within everyone's means at that time and I used to wonder if I would ever get such garments.

She was much more outgoing than me, more daring in her dress and followed all the latest fashion. I felt that Mum seemed to control me more, but seven years is a lot of time and I was shyer than my sister.

New small toys appeared and everyone had to have one. I got my first yo-yo at about twelve years of age, and mouth organs - everyone had to try one. They were popular for years. Even us girls got quite good at getting a tune out of them.

Dance bands came onto the radio, and we started picking up the latest tunes. I loved to listen to these. Jack Payne was my favourite, with Henry Hall the next. We knew all the latest tunes off by heart. I must have been starting to grow up after all.

The first signs of the saying, “keeping up with the Jones's” started to appear as a young couple we knew got married and their first purchase was a radiogram, the latest thing you could own at the time. They sat on packing cases for quite a while as they couldn't afford anything else. But most were more careful with their money, knowing what it was like to be without.

I had now reached my last year in the seniors and seemed to have digested all this school could teach me. Another teacher had changed her name at last from Miss to Mrs and had left the infants class shorthanded.

In needing help with her charges, Miss Hare had done the only thing possible in this situation and, knowing my experience with our large family, came to the senior classroom door saying, "Please Miss Metcalfe, could you spare Gladys to help me for a while,” and off I would go. This seemed to happen on a regular basis and soon it seemed to be my job until I left school.

I can still picture Miss Hare, another rounded lady in her fifties, her hair tied back in a bun, beaming from ear to ear at her charges, playing the piano while they accompanied her in a song she was teaching them, the rows of small children swaying to and fro as they sang. It was a happy way to end my school days, and all too soon my fourteenth birthday was here and I had to say goodbye.

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