Graham Middleton remembers his mother’s struggles to maintain the family financially

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 7th October 2014 by Jenny Porter

Graham’s parents did not earn a lot of money when he was a child. In fact, during the majority of his childhood, the family was entirely dependent on his mother’s small salary. The little she made from her work at Littlewood’s and the Automatic sometimes wasn’t even enough to cover the rent. Graham takes us to the redeeming of Provident Cheques at Collier’s on London Road and through his mother’s juggling with the family income.

Interviewee: Graham Middleton

Interviewee Gender: Male

Date of Interview: 14th August 2014

Interview Transcript

What was amazing, was to see when it was demolished in the 60s – early 60s – amazing to see how small the area was and how many people actually lived in it. You know, I mean there seemed to be a lot of people, well there were a lot of people, obviously, living in those terraced houses. But when they were gone, what seemed a big distance, was nothing. I mean you see how many people were living in there. It’s a shame, really. Because, I don’t know how bad it was – I mean my mum never owned any houses, it was all rent which was paid to a landlord, I think for them it was a particular landlord: a Jewish man and he who would come round for the rent.
I remember being young when we moved to West Derby and my mum not having the rent to pay. So, when the rent-man came and we were in, we had to keep quiet while he knocked on the door. Because she was the only one that worked – my dad suffered from ill health, very seldom did he have a job and he was the type of man that when you looked at him wrong, would walk out on his job and worry about the consequences after wards – my mum was always the one that dressed us and paid for everything. We would have vouchers to go to Collier’s in London Road and the reason –we didn’t know – was that Collier’s was the only shop that took these vouchers, Provident Cheques they were. She really did work hard for our living and –my dad never knew this – but she always earned more than him. But, she would never tell him that to not hurt his dignity. But, God knows she never earned a lot. And I remember, not long, she worked at the Automatic, she worked at Littlewoods when she was very young, checking the football pools and some other stories I can tell you about that. Because people used to put all sorts of things in the envelopes, for good luck, and some of the things were revolting, you know, you almost needed a gas mask. And then she went to work at the Automatic, and then she went back to work there when it became Plessy. And she was one of the only people that could hand-wind a coil with wire that is as thin as your hair. And she could do that by hand. And most other people were using machines which were not as accurate, but she was doing that. And she never really earned a lot of money- but it was always more than my dad.
So we were told to keep quiet when the rent-man was there. She juggled, she’d maybe have to pay and then the next time twice, in the meantime she had an electric bill to pay, or this to pay. And right up until her death, we found out after she died that she was using pawnbrokers, always used pawnbrokers. And we would remember her telling us that she was borrowing £5, ah sorry, £1, off my grandfather (her Dad) and she would be giving it back and she would be asking to borrow again and again. In the end he said “I don’t know who’s Pound this is, yours or mine?”

Tagged under: the automatic, provident cheques, london road, collier's, littlewood's

Categorised under: Work & Industry, Shops & Shopping, Social Life

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