Sunday, 18 November 2012

Fosse Rd

Fosse Rd North Park
The Phelan family came over to London in 1959 with 8 boys and 3 girls, including Bernadette. Mum and Dad and the children lived in Holloway for a while and then moved to Greenwich.

They lived in Greenwich for about 18/20 years in total but, sadly, Mrs. Phelan died just before Bernadette’s 6th birthday and her dad had to bring up the family. It must have been very hard for him with all the kids: the older ones helped out most, but all of them helped out when they could. It was very much make do when they first went to Greenwich.

Bernadette remembers having to share a house with an old lady, Mrs. Mathews, who scared the life out of the little ones. They all lived in 2 rooms and the dining room was turned into the second bedroom at night. She says “Mum and Dad slept in the front room: it was like the bloody Waltons but now looking back very good times, but very hard.” She remembers keeping chickens in the back yard: the kids used to hate going out to the toilet because there was an old chicken they used to call Granny and it would fly at them as they tried to go to the toilet. When the kids were trying to eat, the chickens would come in the window and try to eat from the plate as well. She says” I swear to God that is why we all eat so fast now.”

Bernadette left home at 15 and went to live with one of her sisters in London and met her husband John Elliott who was working down there at the time. That was back in 1972. She had only known him 2 months when they got engaged and then came to Leicester where his family lived-she was 17. They lived with his mum for a couple of the weeks then moved into a bedsit on Fosse Road North: but all her family were still in London. 
Fosse Rd North
Her first job in Leicester was with an agency. Then she had a job in a card shop on Belvoir St. She only worked there about 8 months because she was having her first child. Her first was born when she was 17, the next when she was 19 and her last when she was 23.

Belvoir St.
 She stayed at home with all her kids: there were no hand outs then so her husband, John, used to do taxi work at night and building work a few days a week to keep them going. He has been self employed in the building for over 40 years. They used to go to the Palais and the Adam and Eve for their nights out when they could afford them, which was few and far between. They used to shop at a small supermarket on Fosse Road and remember getting 2 weeks shopping for £9.00 at Xmas time. They got the shopping like that at the time because the shops used to shut for days on end (but they could get milk and bread from the corner shop if they ran out).

She remembers going to Wickstead Park once with the brother in law’s kids when she was 8 months pregnant: she went on the kids' ride with her nephew and they had to stop the ride to let her off because it made her so bad.  "Talk about lose all street cred! "

Stuart St.
After Fosse Road they moved to a flat on Stuart St off the Narborough Road: it was a shared bath room then and she thinks the rent was £3.00. This flat was in the next street to where John’s mum and dad used to live.

After that they got a council place in Braunstone Frith that was newly built and they thought they had won the lottery. It was a 3 bedroom house “all that room after the bed sit”. The bed sit had been furnished so they had nothing of their own. They bought the kids’ beds and got theirs from his mum. She remembers they only had one chair which they took turns to sit on while watching the TV. Then they bought a house on Liberty Road where they lived for 10 years. It was a 3 bed room semi but they did it up and made 4 bedrooms. While all the work was being done they lived in the garden: they had a caravan and 2 large tents to live, sleep and eat in. They had the 3 girls and a dog at the time. The garden was 150 foot long and the cooker was in the house so when it was dinner time it was a dash to the house and back with the dinners. She only had the cooker and an upturned box to get the meals ready but they had some fun while they were doing the house up. Her father-in-law took ill so they were going to Kettering hospital and back to see him.

One night they didn't get back until 1.30am and it was pouring down, they both had had enough of it all and just stood in the garden singing “Rain drops keep falling on my head” but they had a good laugh. They were there 10yrs and then bought another house to do up. They lived there for another 10 and then they moved to Glenfield where they have been for 7 years.

Bernadette only went back to work when all the kids were in full time school and worked at New Parks (which is now New College) in the kitchen. She worked for 1½ hours a day to start with but after about a year she got full time hours in Forest Lodge Primary School where she has been ever since, that’s 28 years .

She says “My first wage at Forest Lodge was £2.10 per hour until we got our pay rise a couple of years back. “My hourly rate was £6.40 an hour.I used to ring up management and tell them I did not want a pay rise cause every time they got a pay rise of say half a per cent we were always worse off ‘cause they used to cut our hours down. I once worked it out from starting until the pay rise I got the grand total of 24 pence per YEAR pay rise. I told the managers to keep it and leave us alone with our hours. I have my old hours in the office even now-what a joke!”
They have been married 39 years. “I don’t know where the time goes (could have got less for murder).“ They have 3 daughters and 5 grandkids. Her youngest is a child minder so they have lots of kids calling them Nan and Grandad which is funny at times because they are all nations. Some people do look when they are all shouting when they are going home.  Bernadette has worked for the council for 28 years now, all that time cooking school meals

Thanks to Colin Hyde for the photos. East Midlands Oral History Archive

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting article(as always) but there were "hand outs" in the early 1970!