Hard times shared

The cohesive happiness of the Moulsecoomb area has already been touched upon by others elsewhere on this site,but I’ll mention just a bit more. Too poor to describe, everyone could relate their own times of difficulty and stress. However, with everyone knowing everyone, times were shared in many various ways.

Making your own entertainment
Children would devise their own entertainment. Yearly, a Tab A Go function would occur, with all the kids operating on a commercial basis, using cigarette cards (tabs) as cash. All sorts of card games could be played, and Alleys (marbles) could be bought or exchanged. Bikes could be hired for a day or half day, skipping competitions were held and always there’d be the long skipping rope with many of the children all skipping together. It took quite hefty kids to turn that rope.

The Spicer family
My family the Spicers lived at 34 Newick Road. John Spicer known as Jack was married to Liz from the Trott family. They had six children, Elizabeth (Bet), John (Johnny), Ronald (Ron – thats me), Henry Alfred (Alfie), Stanley (Stan) and Sylvia (Sylv) who especially saw quite a number of stressful times. Both Johnny and Stan died at the age ten. In Johnny’s case it was valvular malfunction of the heart, nowadays corrected, and Stan died of meningitis.

Outward signs of respectability
Despite the ever present worry of ensuring sufficient to eat as well as enough proper clothing, just like most in the area, we maintained that outward appearance of respectability. Recalling a newly arrived family just up the road, I found a ready made school friend to call upon. On one visit quite some time after their arrival when they had settled down, I was invited into the house. To my surprise I found that they still had bare floorboards.  When it came to  teatime, just like us, there was barely anything on the table. This was quite a revelation to me because it showed that my family were not alone in our poor existence level.

Problems of unemployment
I can well remember the very poor conditions. Dad Jack was a rope scaffolder working in the building trade. If only he’d also trained as a bricklayer or carpenter his work could have been continuous. When the scaffolding was temporarily completed he would be stood off – many times he was out of work. Yet amazingly, he’d obviously read up on many matters because he knew so much about different subjects, one of which was mechanics. The local dust cart broke down one day and he was home, out of work when one of the dustmen called on us for his help. He saw to the engine and off it went.

A rabbit for a shilling
My Dad encouraged my interest in wireless, as it was then known. I got a paper round at the age of ten and without the local school knowing, with the little cash got together bits and pieces to make my first crystal set. Dad was also very good at net making and rabbit catching. During the war, rabbit catching both legal and illegal was the game. Meat was rationed and little could be afforded anyway. Many people were eager to buy a rabbit for just over a shilling – and that was real money!

Comments about this page

  • Ron, I would be interested to know whether your interest in radio resulted in you eventually becoming a radio “ham”?

    By John Wall (03/07/2008)
  • Hi John. Matters didn’t get that far. Radio Hams were mainly a product of the much more wealthy type of person so far as I was concerned in those days. I was living almost on buttons! Small valve sets was as far as I got, buying resistors, condensers and coils etc from odds and sods shops in the Sidney Street area. A bit too long ago for me to stretch the mind precisely on it. Also, one or two girls came into the picture … I became a VHF operators licence holder in very much later years, which was a necessity for me as a sailing yacht skipper. MAPY 7 – but I relinquished it some years ago. I built my first yacht in the corner of a cornfield at Wannock, just outside Eastbourne which took me three years. The car boot was my mobile workshop. Too few tools, and mostly hand carved teak interior. All very much worth it, showing a very handsome profit after five years sailing it and leading to a much bigger one I completed which we kept for a long time then still eventually sold at a tremendous profit. We were lucky to have sailed in times of experience and deep interest rather than of today’s times when too much reliance is placed on electronic location. I still have my sextant and a few other odds and ends. However, I digress and apologise!

    By Ron Spicer (04/07/2008)
  • Sadly, the two boys shown are, on the left Johnny and on the right, Stanley who both died when they reached the age of ten years. Centre front is sister Bet, holding the dog called Chum. He was a Christmas present to her which provided a family pleasure for many years and which proved a very useful asset with rabbit hunting, especially during the WWII years when meat was scarce and obtained only with a ration card.

    By Ron Spicer (05/01/2009)
  • The watch and chain combination hanging from the waistcoat buttonhole was typical of many men in those times. It saw the interior of the local pawn shop on a countless number of occasions. When not being worn, which was often, Dad Jack hung it from a hook at the side of the fireplace in what was known as the kitchen, nowadays known as the lounge! Jack’s lingering death, which I’ve commented on elsewhere herein, amounting to 17 years of agonising deterioration, finally put an end to his life and mum, Liz, lived on for another 13 years, eventually succumbing to bowel cancer. I witnessed the softening of character in Jack over his remaining years and secretly wished he had been more gentle and caring in the earlier days. Mum Liz certainly deserved a whole lot better. But that seems to be the life of so many in those between war days; and were probably much worse before those times.

    By Ron Spicer (14/10/2009)
  • So far as I can remember, this photograph was taken by a neighbour (well off enough for such a thing) then subsequently sent as a Christmas card. The windows in the house were the old sash type with a heavy iron weight on a pulley each side of the frame within a channel. I still have one of the weights at my present home after using it for years for depth measuring whilst sailing … There never could be a more drafty window, the usual coal or log fire, burning in the depth of winter, would create mottling of the leg fronts through excessive radiated heat, whilst the window would leak cold drafts wafting towards the fire, allowing the most uncomfortable attempt at maintaining warmth. No wonder winter illness was common for the times.

    By Ron Spicer (20/10/2009)
  • Bet was always nearby when we were quite young. Her chaperone duties were constant, day in, day out. Excursions to the seaside were accomplished with her safely in command. The only places where she would not necessarily be present were on the Downs surrounding the area. It was probably the same with other families, with the eldest being appointed caretaker of the children. Having said that, continual roaming of the countryside by all the children of the district was common.

    By Ron Spicer (20/10/2009)
  • My name is Roger Dobson and I used to live at 85 Newick Road and moved to the Crescent in South Moulsecoomb. Having just found this great website I just had to write a few comments. Ref a section in MBH a Ron Spicer mentioned the air raid shelters in the playground of the junior school with a certain Miss Joan Bell. Well as it happens Joan Bell is my mum and is still living at the Crescent. Fond memories from my mum. Do you remember the Hammonds and Fords? I hope I get some replies as I have lots of memories of Newick Road, Moulsecoomb School (all) and local football and cricket clubs and long lost school friends. Many thanks

    By Roger Dobson (20/01/2013)
  • Hi Roger. Have a peep into the Growing Up In The 1930s page where you’ll see I answered a comment from your sister, Joan.

    By Ron Spicer (20/02/2014)
  • Hi Roger Dobson
    I believe you lived a couple of doors down from me. I used to hang out with your sister, she was a bit older than me, we used to play ‘shops’ outside your back door. Was it a Tracey?
    Your Dad was always out in his garage/shed. Don’t think I ever saw your Mum.
    Lisa number 24 The Crescent (born 1962)

    By Lisa (05/05/2020)

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