Today's post is the final section of my friend Josi's piece on some childhood memories. Enjoy!
Yesterday, when I was young....
We were the “Happy Hoppers”. We went on "Holiday" to Kent every August to pick hops. There were cheap tickets on the railways and we had old fashioned prams to put stuff in because they held a lot and were easy to push. We went every year and were there when war was declared. We didn't go back to Walworth until we were forced to.
Mrs. Tolhurst owned the farm at Paddock Wood where my Dad was a Polepuller. He had to cut the bines that held the hops up until they were ready to pick.
The picking made all your fingers black and sticky and all your food tasted weird because there was nowhere to wash your hands. We knew some lovely people there. They must have been the only real friends my Mum and Dad had because my family was always 'moonlight-flitting'. But every summer there would be the Porter and Collins families from Cable St, East London.
After half a century I would still recognise any of those people.
The four of us slept in a hut about 12' by 12' square. If it rained during the day, we lived in it too. There was one big bed with straw in the mattress. We two kids slept at the foot. Oil lamps, all smoky. Outdoor cooking. Four privies for about two hundred people. So much for hygiene. There wasn't a washbasin with a tap for about two miles. And toilet paper did not exist as we know it.
The Red Cross had a little Hoppers Hospital where first aid was freely given. My Dad was eating a slice of cake one day and rested it on the edge of the bin, (plates were for cissies!) When he bit into the cake he had bitten a wasp in half. The working bit stayed in his tongue. He almost choked and had to hold on tight to a pillion for a motor bike ride to the little cottage hospital at Five Oak Green to get the sting out. That stopped his swearing for a bit.
My Mum was given a grey coat by the lady she cleaned for. She said it was November coloured so she had it dyed maroon. She looked lovely in it, Regal even. She went to Tonbridge for the day and got caught in a downpour. All the red dye ran down her legs and into her shoes. She was helpless with laughing about it but my sister thought she was crying and got hysterical.