Our Century

Dolly-maid Days

Dorothy Gilbert,
West Bromwich,
born 1926

Dorothy Gilbert

"We lived in Chapel Street, West Bromwich, in back-to-back houses.

"On wash days, I used to help my mother to light the fire underneath the boiler and as she washed the clothes I would put them through the mangle.

"The big things like sheets and blankets we would put in the maiding tub and use the dolly-maid to thump them up and down in the water.

"When I was nine, my father had to go into hospital and have both his legs amputated.

"While he was in there I was taken ill with measles and my little sister lay down beside me and she caught them.

"It was in the winter and the snow was high and she went outside in it and it caught hold, and she died aged four.

"I had a friend who lived by the canal. We used to have rides on the horse-drawn barges through the canal locks. Then came the war.

"I remember one night my friends' mom and dad were bringing me back home after playing.

"The bombs were dropping, we had to walk close to the wall.

"When we got to the air-raid shelter, my parents were there with my brothers and sisters.

"The shelter down the road from ours was hit. I don't think I have ever been so scared in my life as I was that night.

"We had a very hard upbringing and had to be in for 10pm right up until I was 21 years old, when I got married.

They were very hard and poor times but I am glad I was born in those times. We had the best years.