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Millennium Memory Bank

Cottle, Albert, 1915 Sep. 27- (speaker, male; Retired Electrical Engineer)


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  • Title:
    Millennium Memory Bank
  • Contributor: Cottle, Albert, 1915 Sep. 27-; Vivian, Andy; BBC Radio Gloucestershire
  • Other Titles:
    Collection title: Millennium Memory Bank

  • Rights: BBC
  • Place Name: At Home
  • Description:
    After Track 33 the recording goes into Stereo. Sorry about that, I didn't notice until too late.

    Track 1. Albert William Cottle b 27 Sept 1911. 8th (actually 19th) Nov 1998

    Track 2. Early memories of house in Cheltenham. 27 Exmouth St, in Bath Road Cheltenham. Naunton Park School. Stayed in Exmouth Street until married at 22. How get to school. Walk. Tell me about your house. Exmouth Street. Disgusting place, makes today's slums look like Buck Palace. Shared toilets and washhouse with next door. Long garden, veg, plus pigsty. Very small house. Bugs. What kind of things. Wood bugs, lice. Nothing you could no about it. Everyone in same boat. Next door not so clean, but not their fault. No bathroom. Bowl in little kitchen at back, tiny. Coal cupboard in there too. Could you bath in the house. When I grew older went to public baths in Cheltenham. Younger, a tin bath in front of the fire, or when went swimming in public baths. Light or heat. Gas light. Heating by small coal fire in lounge. Nothing in bedroom, hot water bottles. Gas lighting in bedrooms. What rooms did you have. Small living/dining room. Scullery behind that, for preparing food. Upstairs two bedrooms. One reasonable size, which parents shared with girls. And tiny one for me. Had a partition between girls and parents. Girls share bed? Think they did. Daily routine. Got up around 7am. Bread and butter and jam and cup of tea. Walk to school. Dad working for grocers, Cumleighs. Walked home for lunch and then home for tea and play. Out in streets, tops, hoops, marbles, paper chase. That was our entertainment. Main meal at midday. Depended on what father doing. If doing country run, drive a horse and dray, had bread and dripping at lunch, and came home to beans on toast, sardines on toast. Sunday was roast meal day. E.g. Breast of Lamb, cheap. Or friend brought occasional rabbit. Mum made dumplings for rabbit stew. Had no fast food. Everything had to be cooked on gas stove. Meat in the week at all. Not very often. Sunday roast. Only time the family ever got together if worked on farms.

    Track 5. Vegetables. Dad grew some, potatoes, cabbage and sausages. So cheap. Tell me about mother's budgeting? Who did budgeting. Always pawn shop if stuck. Dad's suit went down on Monday and stayed until had something on. Used to earn threepence for taking ladies laundry which earned us a loaf of bread. Lived from day today, couldn't say next weekend have a leg of lamb. Girls do jobs. Younger than I, don't remember them don't work. Used to get helped by the church. Bring us food. People who owned the Carenza used to come across with fruit. Old gardener used to say do some scrogging, he was the other side of the estates. Helped by church and people who knew us. Welfare. Labour exchange. Dad got 17/6 a week. Episode in our life which stuck in my mind. Dad learned how to cut hair in the forces. Friend going to funeral asked Dad to cut his hair. Gave Dad 6d. Reported to labour exchange for taking 6d. Money stopped for 17 weeks. Basically starving. If church hadn't helped might have gone under. Sister of 12 month died of malnutrition. Used to go to workhouse for bread and margarine. Bread black, marge tasted like cart grease. Eventually, Liberal MP, Mr Lipson, fought this and got his money back. We had a banquet that week. Things picked up when I got working at 13 years and 10 months. At Co-op butchers in High Street. We started then to eat meat, was given breast of lamb or piece of beef. Started at 5am on Saturday morning. When went signed for to say that if didn't get post of manager at 176, then you left. Learned trade, cutting, serving and delivering. Friend of mine, he was a little bit older, and got the managers job. Come 16 I had to leave. 15/- a week. Then went to George mason's in Bath Road. Groceries forthcoming. Butter 6d a pound. Everything had to be weighed. Butter, cheese, raisins. Wrapped in brown paper tied up with string. Do deliveries, clean brasses, serve in shop, sort out bad food. Then fell ill and eventually and went to work for a bloke in Tivoli; car repairer and radio and electrical engineer. Learned a lot form him.

    Track 7. Tell me more about poverty in Cheltenham. Impact when first known. They came to the house. We understand that you're earning money. 6d a lot of money in those days. The hairdresser who reported us was charging 2/-. Everyday existence. Go down to the workhouse every day and pick our bread and margarine up. Got dried or tinned condensed milk. Nothing. Just relied on other people. Fruit from over road, odd rabbit. No money to buy anything. Dad couldn't go and earn anything. I earned odd copper. Mr Lipson helped us quite a bit. Most in same boat. Remember going hungry - bread and dripping all that's available. Could buy dripping in shop for 2d. Went a long way. Kept gravy from meat. Survival from one day to another. Vicar of Leckhampton very good to us. Just across road from our house. Wasn't charities in those days like now. Pawn and sell very much. Didn't have a lot to sell. Beds, tables, and chairs. Had a settee. How old at the time. 10-12. So 1927. Brother or sister died. Sister. Told Mum pneumonia. Remember doctor saying you got to feed this child. Mother giving her tinned milk. All extremely thin and poorly. Problems affording to have the doctor. Can't remember. Nurse used to come and a doctor. Extremely ill. Cried eyes out day she died. Must have been about 12. Can't remember how sisters survived. Remember the funeral. No.

    Track 10. Did that affect mother. She never used to say much about it. So many other problems. Other things beside, rent to be paid, 3/6 a week. Paid by Social Service (as would call them now). Day to day survival.

    Track 10. Were you assessed for Social Security. (Misunderstood question). Mr Lipton fought it. Accepted it was a gift in the end. Got money back.Never had a holiday till I was married, except for Sunday School outings. Brought up in salvation army. Nealands or Elliots used to get carts and hoses, cleaned up. Put benches on back, and tie them down, and off to leisure park in Bishops Cleeve. Swings, ropes, donkeys, motor bike. About 3.00 in afternoon. "Baptist church in" or Salvation army. In for tea, jelly and blancmange, cakes, and sandwiches. Back on cart and come home. Parents either walked form Salvation Army or if well off went on Train. Was our holidays. Every year, for 7-8 years. Big event. Coal people cleaned and put down paper so wouldn't get clothes dirty. Was where building new supermarket in Bishops Cleeve. Children wearing best clothes. Sunday clothes. Sunday was Sunday. Sunday school morning and afternoon. Also Harvests. Christmas was Christmas, had snow and carols. Didn't get much in those days. Aunt spoilt me. Got 2-3 presents, where others got one. Mum and Dad's wasn't worth much. Leaning out of window, watching Mr Corbett on the accordion with his mates, singing carols. Then they'd go to the pub to spend it. Had a big Sunday paper round, brought in 3- 4/- a Sunday. Allowed to do that, not bread winner. Rules of Social Services in those days, means testing. Means testing. If not working got the dole. If earned a penny had to be reported, had to be deducted. If they thought living in luxury, got things which didn't need would tell you to sell them. If didn't pay rent, furniture sold to get money back. Can't remember family allowances. Visit from someone telling you to sell things. Came to us one day, "Got a wind up gramophone". You don't need to listen to that, had to pawn it. Had bike, at 12-13. Took it to pawn on the bike saddle. Car came down and hit me. Caught gramophone. Bent wheel. Cost 2/- to repair. Had to take him t court - at least told police, who chased him around until I got it. Terrible. Why tell you to pawn gramophone. Got things in house which could bring in money. Chap saw had four chairs, only three people. Told them to sell a chair. Got jewellery, had to be sold. Not allowed anything you didn't need. Did they deduct from benefits. Don't know. If refused, benefit stopped. Yes; sell or pawn. Used to have 6 pawn shops in Cheltenham. Pilgrimage on Monday morning. At end of week get it out and back on Monday. Permanent loan. We not only ones in poor state. Corbetts with his accordion. Tell me about horse transport and father dray. Had to feed and look after horse. Take groceries around. I didn't get involved. All the coal and milk carts. All horse drawn in those days. Look after horse, keep clean, muck out stall. If ever Dad had a cold, someone would hang around in streets to take over Dad's job during the day. No sick pay. Don't think so. My wife used to work at Cavendish house as a maid. Used to live at the top, as many shop assistants did. Chambermaid, general maid. Then went to Rodney Hotel in Rodney Road. Never had sick pay. If wanted a holiday handed in notice. Probably away for a week. Promised to keep job open for that time. Got job back but no pay. Ivy's place in Cinderford, bike there and bike back. Miner father. Small cottage.

    Track 16. Tell me about being a delivery boy. Had own little fiddles. Always got your bones with the meat. Meat trimmed and bones put on the top. People says "don't want bones". Sold to ladies with dogs. First trimmed off the bits of meat, and sold bits to cat owners, and bones to dog owners. Nearly doubled wages some weeks.Enjoyed delivering. Noted for amount of stuff could carry. Had to put up with all sorts of weather. One lady had half pound of butter delivered to Shurdington once a week. Didn't pay for delivery. Remember had snow on Shurdington Road. Pedal broke. Had to walk. Returned soaked and frozen. Great job. Tell me about how coped without deep freeze. Cold room. Sealed door. Go up to ice factory, get a slab of ice, 3 ft by 2 ft. Kept room cold during the day. Never kept anything over weekend, except brine - beef and ox tongue kept in brine tub. Weren't allowed to keep anything else. Didn't open again till Tuesday. Monday morning was for cleaning. Might take left overs home. Covered for our orders, all made up on Friday night. Work till 10-11 on Friday night, start 5 on Saturday morning. Start delivering from 8.00am. Regular orders. Mostly. Might be lamb and veal alternative. Also beef pork, trotters, tripe. Some came into shop. How many ordered, how many came into shop. Delivered all day Saturday. Some had meat every day, if could afford it. Used to shift a lot. Had to go to abattoir to fetch it. Co-op. No vans - all done on bike or horse and cart. Would go and get a lamb and stick on the bike. Covered in Gauze. "Could you let me have some mutton cloths please", boil to get rid of grease. What were chitterlings. Intestines of an animal. Really nice. Cooked properly and were fresh. Turkeys hung out on front of shop. Bird probably running round a few hours beforehand. Used to pluck chickens and turkeys for Christmas all night. Dad's favourite meal breast of lamb. Every Saturday night's tea, was given by the manager. Couldn't be kept. My jobs, skin and roll the brisket beef. Any food scares. Can't remember any. Very clean in shop. Chopping block scrubbed with wire block, marble slabs, even in the window. Sometimes I had to collect the money as well. Lovely job. Getting people to pay up. Most paid when ordered in the shop. People order and you deliver later in the week. As easy as that. In grocers shop - fresh only. All bacon came in as a side of bacon. Manager slice some to put in the tray. Van came every other day. George Mason had own trucks. Get a new butter from shed in the back. People asked for a piece of a new butter. Why. Fad. Butter used to go rancid after a couple of days. Bacon salted a bit more, smoked bacon more popular.

    Track 20. People canny. People never offered bad stuff. In a warm shop it would begin to smell, so got slung out. Sold lots of cheese. Might skin two whole cheeses in one day. What were new foods coming it, tinned or dried. Dried beans and sultanas and currents, loose and dried. Not much that changed for a long time. When got married nothing changed. Was war which set trend for packaging. Faggots and Peas shops, gorgeous smell. Fish and chips too. New foods always suspect. Even now I am not a pasta man. Like lamb casseroles. Do use frozen veg. Cabbages go off. Burgers came in with Americans in war. Fish cakes. Tomatoes. when worked on the land with gardener, had flower garden. We used to line graves, for well off. Grew outdoor tomatoes, and lily white pinks. Veg garden for growing sprouts. When tomatoes around had to water and top out. When the lily white pinks out, used to nip all the buds except the top one. His two main things. Fresh, outdoor tomatoes. Special item. Yes. Very cheap. People wanted tomatoes for frying. More than Brussels sprouts. Never pick Brussels before had a frost on them. Cold job. Orchard for Russets and so on. All Fresh. Take outer leaf off cabbages, water the carrots etc. War that changed it. Had dehydrated meat during war. Pieces of cork until you cook it. Quite nice. Fish cheap. 1d, always cooked in dripping. Seasons for different games. One day everyone playing marbles, then hopscotch, then conkers. This was the season. School playground full of bits and pieces. Hopscotch, drawn on the pavement. Pattern to whole thing. Playground songs. No. Not much play. Everyone faced the teacher, who was well dressed. Teacher knew it all. 3 R's plus carpentry and Christianity. History and Geography. Had many a thump off the head with a can. Put to use in your trade. Learned a lot from chap in Tivoli. Become manager for radio shop. Repairing radios. We sold radios, Cosser. When sold a radio we had to look after it, fit new battery, go out and fit it. Average price of radio Đ10. We got 33% for keeping it in shop and selling it. Wholesaler got 25%. Televisions nowadays cost too much. Had to undertake to look after the set for the first year. Had to go out and deliver and fit batteries. Then accumulator business, taking out and bringing back new one for 6d.

    Track 25. Brand new technology in those days. Radios just coming into. Really nice stuff on the market. In Tivoli had an agency. Offered cheap radiogram at end of the year. Saw first television just before the war. If no war would have been more around earlier. In war, the technology went from nowhere to everywhere. I worked on coloured screens during the war. New products every year. Lloyds. Selling radios and musical instruments. Then took on lawn mowers. Wanted to be general store like Great Universal. I was repair and under-manager. When I left shop soon shut, because manager could do repairs. Importance of having a repair man. Nowadays wouldn't do it. Used to repair irons. Two plan system. 5/- and 7/6. Now buy a new one. Recently wanted new batteries for shaver. Cheaper to buy a new one than replace batteries, which I did. Move on to Smiths. Worked on radar during the war. Radar same principle as satellite. Got second blip to show was a British aircraft. If didn't assumed it was German. First one built by Cossers. Mark three had a coloured screen. Could tell distance and height of aircraft and size. Became operator and then a mechanic for it. Trained at colleges around country. Was a Waiting Man for going to Italy after the war. Opera Houses open again. Short resume of career - Got job at Smiths, there for 26 years. First of all pure research with transistors. We were making bits and pieces and connecting to mains to see what would do. Missile being built then, Smiths noted for autopilots. The job I did like, doing the prototype stuff, we weren't in factory, we were staff. Engineer would ask for special bracket or box. My job to design and make it in little workshop. Did that for three years. One offs, for prototype. Eventually tried out and then destroyed. Then went to airport fitting them in to aircraft. Then went back to Smiths, made redundant. One of managers found me job in office of CH4. Progress chaser. Picked up the bits and moved them around. Best ten years of life. Very stressful, nearly had a nervous breakdown. Pressure was so intense. Everything had to be black anodised, even smallest screw. Section leader kept on at me, and in the end I broke down and cried. Taking work home, and broke down and cried. Really enjoyed it. Took me gold watch and left.

    Track 30. Tell me about Cheltenham Six cinemas, Daffodil, Palace North Street, High Street, Asaldo, Coliseum, and Opera House. Shire and Lancing, Goff and Edwards, Bernie Wards Shop opposite Boots, all gone. Changed in so many things. Big garages in High Street, whacking big fur shop. Promenade had railings. Old GPO down there. Something where Imperial Gardens was. Saw first talky there, glasshouse. Big stage, rollerskating rink. Cinema. Aunt paid for me to see my first talkie, "Singing Fool" with Al Johnson. Excuse for taking it down, reflected light and gave enemy aircraft a help. Not real reason, wanted for development. Called the Winter Gardens. Remember the old Town Hall. Tell me about all the Baths in Cheltenham. As you know Cheltenham is a Spa. Original spring where Ladies College. Pumped to town hall.In Bath Road there was the general baths, to get yourselves a bath. Was a paraffin bath for rheumatism and gout. Called the Spa Baths if I remember rightly. By town hall was the Turkish Bath. Gentry popular with. One of the things you saw was the old colonels coming down the Bath road in dressing gown and slippers, bowler hats and umbrellas, to visit the baths. Can't remember when it closed. Very popular with gentry, and Turkish baths. And town hall "Waters". Certainly kept you "moving". Only drunk it once. Enough for me. lethal taste. Town of gentry, poverty contrast. You were either poor or one of the gentry. Many many years ago weren't allowed to walk in the prom unless you were gentry. Houses in Evesham Road owned Pittville Park, was their person garden. Later opened to public, when Pump Room built. Was enclosed by railings. Snobbish. Poor proud and pretty was the title of Cheltenham. Don't know if snobbish. Customers nice to me, always used back door of tradesman's entrance. Some put in place. Traders always tipped their caps and stood back if anyone around. Bit snobbish. Cheltenham not the only place like that. No middle class in those days. Upstairs and downstairs. Cook at the Rodney Hotel was on own level. Above those working as maids. Always someone a little bit higher, owner. Status thing. When I became undermanager of the radio shop, I felt I was someone. Then I joined the territorials, served a purpose. Lot of friends called up were killed in the war.

    Track 35. Tell me about novel entertainment. Friend invited me to work at the Opera House. Turned out it was a semi nude show. Girls basically topless. Very clever at work. Had to stay still. We stage hands could tell you more than audience. So clever with chiffon. Topless. Set up living pictures. Had to stay still, because becomes a lewd show once move. We couldn't see on the stage. Wrapped up as soon as came off. Started me on stage work. Got job of working at Gaumont, when did stage shows there. Now Odeon. Met Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, most of goon shows. Norman Wisdon, Pet Clarke, Anton Diffron, Frankie Howard. Can Can girls, Cyril Fletcher. Opera House now the Everyman. Yes. Remember when did have operas. Then part cinema. Gaumont had stage shows once a month. How popular was the semi nude show. Was a sell out. Something new. Andre and something else, used to put shows on. Part of a variety show. When was that. Early 50's Tell me about meeting and courting girls. Promenade was the place to meet girl and where all met. Boys used to walk one side, the girls on the other. Used to chat them up. I met wife when she worked at Cavendish House. 15 then. Lost touch. Married 1937, I was nearly 22. Feb 10th 1937. Working with market gardener then. Had garden flat in Montpellier villas. Could see the gardens quite well. Paid 8/- out of wage of 28/- a week. Lived quite well. Walking the prom, a monkey parade? Yes. Where met. Salvation Army used to parade down and play by the lamp. Used to be a lamp there. Used to come down on a Sunday. Sometimes a concert in the Gardens. A meeting place for everyone. Everything happened in the prom. Carnival lasted a week. Stalls in the prom. Wasn't the shops down there is now. Sell sweets and perfume. Cheltenham General Hospital Carnival Week. We used to dress up, won two or three prizes. Central point for meeting. Having met your girl, leave prom for privacy. Yes once courting. Got to pictures or to folks in Cinderford. Allowed only one half day a week, Wednesday and perhaps half day Sunday. If half days didn't match, might not see all week. Didn't see girlfriend every night. Didn't coincide. Saturday afternoon most people working. Most football leagues were Wednesday leagues. Time wasn't your own. In grocery worked until 8pm at night, only 16. Christmas eve till 11pm. Did well out of it, given biscuits and cakes when ill. Worked from 8 to 6pm. Tell me about football teams started. All local men. One match a week. People were Derby players. Friendly match to start with. Wednesday afternoon. Play football, off to the baths, have a bath, then off to pictures. Got first ball from local sports people. Then jerseys and boots. Eventually got new equipment. Nearly all Wed leagues. Robins might have been Saturday. Played on Naunton Park Rec. If playing away went on bikes. Couldn't get a tram to take you to football field. Were charabancs, but we couldn't afford them. Had a few pound in the bank. Few good players who eventually played for the Robins. 70 years ago. Buying things on tick. Wasn't a general thing, couldn't buy things on tick as such. Sports shop in Suffolk knew my Dad. Had to pay for them before got the ball, jerseys too. How make big purchases. Had to save for it. Could go to shop and buy on the never never, also providence cheques. Still going. Gave you a check and then you paid back so much per week with small interest. Couldn't go to shop. Bought bike for 2/- a week. Dragoon Cycle Company. Cost Đ4/10/-. Paid two shillings a week. Up front. No had the bike. And paid it. When at Norman Carters, 2/- a week for the average radio. Decca just bought out single knob radio. Chap bought it, my job to go around Whaddon and collect the money. Bloke could pay up, eventually got back the radio and he was fuming, wanted to check his horses. Came in one day. end of recording.

    Track 41 116:51

  • Notes:
    Recording: 1998-11-19;
    - Cottle, Albert, 1915 Sep. 27- (speaker, male; Retired Electrical Engineer);
    - Vivian, Andy (speaker; interviewer);
    - BBC Radio Gloucestershire (sound recordist)
    Recording Notes: Goes onto a second disc, just.
    Performance notes: Place of Birth: Cheltenham
    Interviewee notes: Place of Birth: Cheltenham
    Performance notes: Education: Other
    Interviewee notes: Education: Other
    Performance notes: Marital status: Widower
    Interviewee notes: Marital status: Widower
    Performance notes: Children: 2 daughters
    Interviewee notes: Children: 2 daughters
    Performance notes: Father's occupation: miner
    Interviewee notes: Father's occupation: miner
    Performance notes: Mother's occupation: housewife
    Interviewee notes: Mother's occupation: housewife
    Access restrictions: Interview given for genuine Oral History purposes only.

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