Memories of the 1930s

Me at eighteen months old with my Mum and Dad
From the private collection of John Starley
With my Mum and my trike outside 35 Bennett Road
From the private collection of John Starley

Born in 1933

I was born on the 22nd of June 1933 in the Sussex Maternity Hospital. At this time my Mum and Dad were living in 35 Bennett Rd, Kemp Town. My earliest memory is of being pushed in my pram across a corrugated paved area near the shop which was at the ‘top end’ of our road. At my age now, my memory of our family home is rather vague, but photographs taken by my dad have helped me to recollect it a little better.

Our improvised ‘bomb shelter’

On entering the front door there was a narrow hallway, on the left hand side was a staircase leading up to the upper floor which contained two bedrooms. The window of the rear bedroom overlooked the small back garden. Downstairs under the staircase was the ‘coal hole’ cupboard. The coal-man had to hump the sacks of coal through the front door, and empty them into this cupboard. When war was imminent, this cupboard was cleaned out and made into a ‘bomb shelter’. We had blankets and cushions and it was just big enough for the three of us to squeeze in there.

A visit from the chimney sweep

A few steps further along the passage on the right was a door into the sitting room; it had a lino floor with rugs scattered here and there and an open fireplace. When we had our chimney swept, all sorts of dust sheets had to cover the furniture, whilst the sweep assembled the numerous cane rods together with the stiff circular brush at the top. This contraption was thrust up the chimney gradually; eventually I would go outside to see the brush showing out of the chimney pot. If chimneys were not swept  they would often catch fire, resulting in a dramatic expulsion of black smoke into the street.

A cast iron monster cooker

I do remember the gas lights and recall watching my dad replacing the burnt out mantles from time to time. These were small flimsy soft little bags, which, when filled with the gas and lit, puffed up magically into about a golf ball size of rigid glowing light. The kitchen was nearby; I can recall the gas cooker which was a monster made of black cast iron.

Helping Mum with the laundry

Close by the kitchen was the laundry; this had a stone floor, a boiler and a mangle which was another cast iron monster. I remember I used to help my mum with the laundry by turning the handle on the mangle. Of course there was no bathroom; baths were taken in a galvanized tin bath filled with kettles of boiling water. There was a rather simple wooden back door which led out to the garden. To the left was the toilet with its wooden seat and high level chain pull cistern, cast iron of course. There was a nail in the wall on which to hang the ‘toilet paper’; in fact this was newspaper, torn into suitable squares.

Comments about this page

  • How fascinating to read what John has written about 35 Bennett Road. I lived at that address from 1944 until I got married in 1964. But always visited and stayed with my wife and kids as my mum lived at the same house until she passed away in 1985, that was the last time I was in the house. I have been back to look at the outside but as is, things are never the same, only memories survive. As I was reading the article, I was going through every room in my minds eye, it was just as John described it, every cupboard and place the same. We also had a big cooker which was mottled blue, and I remember us standing around this cooker in the winter of 1947 just to keep warm. There was always ice on the inside of the windows in cold weather. The corrugated paved area by the shop was there when I was a kid and was a non slip part of the pavement which was on a bit of a slope outside the corner shop owned by Mrs. Smith who always had a big parrot in a cage outside the shop when it was sunny. This is almost tear jerking to me as Bennett Road featured in a part of my young life that was so free and easy, sometimes a bit austere but all the same a childhood that is not here today at all. We had the countryside and the sea not five minutes away for us kids which we enjoyed immensly. When my boys were little in the 70s they were playing in the garden one day digging around when they found a lead soldier from my childhood, still with the paint on. This soldier is in front of me now on my desk as I write this article, so nostalgic. My thanks to John for a wonderful piece of history. Mike Peirson.

    By Mick Peirson (26/05/2013)
  • Hi. My aunty and uncle lived at 37 …Marge and Ern.

    By Julie (26/05/2013)
  • Hi Julie…of course I remember Marge and Ern, and Robert. When I was a kid Ern worked for the Co-op as a driver, if I remember rightly. On a sad note Ern passed away relatively early in life, 60 years old I believe which was sad for the family. They were quiet neighbours as I remember but it seems that there was some kind of conflict between my parents and Marge and Ernie, which was a mystery to me as a kid. I remember that you wrote sometime ago that Marge lived to a good long age. Is Rob still around, haven’t heard about him for a while. Best wishes, Mike Peirson.

    By Mick Peirson (31/05/2013)

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