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Mr and Mrs Howes. (February and March 1996)

Mr and Mrs Howes of Mulberry Close talk to Coreen Turner about their lives. They are 91 and 90 respectively (interviewed in 1996)

Mr Howes: I was born on the estate at Wallington Hall, where my father was the Head Gardener to Mr Luddington. I lived there until I was over 30 and married. My father was willing to put me as an apprentice, but I was a bit headstrong, and as all my mates were going for farm work, I went too. My brother was apprenticed as a mechanic; it was five years at five shillings a week, whereas on the farm you got a little bit more. You were better off in the end if you'd been apprenticed, but I wanted to be with my mates!

I went to school at Runcton Holme; I it was two miles, but in the summer we went over the fields which was a bit shorter. If it was a wet day, Mrs Luddington would let my father take the pony and trap to take us to school. We've also been to school in a brougham.

Mrs Howes: I was born in Downham Market. The school there was not bad at all, and I reached the highest class. When I left I was at home for a long time with my mother, but when she died I went to live in Yorkshire with an aunt. Eventually I went to work for an architect in London, close to another aunt. I met my husband in the streets of Downham Market when we were about sixteen, going to and from the old picture house in School Lane. We kept in touch all the time I was away in Yorkshire and London, by corresponding, and we didn't get married till I was 29 and he was 30.

Mr Howes: I could go up to London Liverpool Street for 5 shillings return on the excursion train to see her. The architect and his wife were very good to me and I'd have tea there and be given sandwiches for the return journey. It was in Dulwich Village, and we'd be able to walk on the common and in the park of the College.

Mrs Howes: It was a very nice area, very select, and my aunt lived nearby in Peckham. I loved going to the Music Hall at Camberwell Palace, and I saw all the great performers there - Gertie Catana, Florrie Ford and Randall Sutton, to name a few. I remember him singing Burlington Bertie and On Mother Kelly's Doorstep. We sat up in the gallery for 6d. The audience used to join in; I'm not sure if I did! After the show we'd go to a Lyons Comer House.

Mr Howes: When we eventually got married, the architect and his wife gave us some lovely things for our home. He used to do town planning, and went to Holland; he gave us a beaten copper ship which had been presented to him and it is still hanging in our hall. We also had a beautiful velvet chair which was a recliner, but that I'm afraid has worn out and gone.

We had to save to get married and that was why we were courting such a long time! We've still managed to be married for 64 years! I probably ought to have saved faster, but I liked cigarettes and having a drink. When we had saved 100, that is 50 each, we got married in Downham Market church.

Mrs Howes: We had three children, Derek, who is in Australia, and David and Barbara who live in Feltwell. We're very lucky to have them so close. Barbara was born in an air raid, being the youngest. When you had a baby you got Dr Johnson who took over from Dr Wales in Downham Market; he used to ride a gray horse and wear a top hat!

Mr Howes: When we married I was still at Wallington Hall as Head Horseman. For ploughing and drilling I'd drive three horses abreast and I'd drive to Kings Lynn with three horses in line to take the pigs to market, and on the return journey I'd bring back cattle cake. It was more interesting to work for a man who owned the land than for a tenant farmer - there was such a lot of jobs, like working in the woods, and you got extra journey money for doing journeys. When we lived at South Runcton I biked to work. I had to be there very early to get the horses ready for work. The foreman couldn't read or write but he was a dab hand at measuring and money. When he went to the pictures, which were silent, of course, is son would read the titles out loud for him, until he got to a word he couldn't read, and then he'd fill in with any word he could think of!

Mrs Howes: Housework was different when I was first married. Our first cottage had a wash house outside with the copper in it, which was much better than the places we had when the copper and the oven were all in a small kitchen; on wash day, which was Monday, of course, it was terrible with the fire and the ashes and the washing and cooking. Depending on the weather I'd probably iron on the Tuesday; we had two flat irons which you heated up by the fire and used one after the other. They had shields on them so the fire didn't black the clothes. Wednesday was bedrooms day and Friday bake day. It still is.

Mr Howes: Most of our shopping was done at the van which came to the door with Mr Gunn from Stowbridge. I always thought you couldn't get much lower than a farm labourer, but these men with their vans used to be able to make a living out of them! I biked to Downham sometimes to shop, and Mother would walk from Crimplesham to Downham and back with the shopping. At Runcton there was a little boy and girl who liked to fetch us bread rolls. They were 7 for 6d from her but only 6 for 6d from him! I sold two pigs for 15 and bought a really grand pram, which did for all the children. It was so posh that little girls would dress up in their best clothes and ask to take the baby for a walk. David loved to sit in it and was happy for hours banging on a tin tray. He's a bit of a drummer still.

Mrs Howes: We had to draw all the water from the well - it was really lovely, sweet water. The loo was 30 yards down the garden and at Runcton there was a pig sty next to it.

Mr Howes: I never did much tractor work. When I gave up the horses I preferred to work with cattle and I became Head Cowman at Crimplesham. We worked very long hours, seven days a week. We milked by hand and the milk had to be in Downham at 7 am. I missed the horses; I really loved ploughing, you could whistle and sing as you worked. I don't think there's anything more wonderful than seeing a foal, or a calf or a piglet born - they stand up straight away, perhaps fall once, then up again and straight to their food. It takes human beings much longer.

Mrs Howes: When we came to Feltwell to work for Mr Ted Porter we had a house with a bathroom and proper kitchen for the first time. It was like Buckingham Palace to us. I could build a very good hot fire and Dr Burgess would sit in a chair in front of it and say he could sleep better there than in bed. We had a nice window looking over the meadows.

Mr Howes: Mr Porter wanted a stockman and set out to come and see us, but the old car broke down at Stoke Ferry so he wrote and asked us to come to him. We went to Ely and then to Lakenheath on the train. I really enjoyed my work in Feltwell, and I used to take the animals to the Norfolk Show and the Lynn Fat Stock Show, and we took several prizes. I've done some hard work in my time: when we were threshing we'd carry 18 stone of corn on our backs, and 19 stone if it were beans. They said you weren't a man until you'd done that.

Mrs Howes: We've had our ups and downs, but we've had good friends to help us through, and the children. We've been on holiday in England and Scotland, but we've never been abroad, not even to see our son in Australia.

Mr Howes: You could never get Mother on an aeroplane.

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