Website of the Laceby History Group

Down Memory Lane by Elsie M Janney

Going down Old Chapel Lane on a hot summer's day in the twenties, you would see most of the housewives sitting outside their houses on their steps, as each house came right up to the road and each had a step which had to be done with bathbrick. They would be knitting, chatting, or just passing the time until they had to go in, to get tea ready for their husbands and families. The children would be playing in the lane, some of them without shoes and socks on, but all seemed happy, no one seemed in a hurry, everyone had time for their neighbours. If one was ill, someone would pop in with soup or something, and one woman who was a bit of a comic would be dancing a jig in the street and making the others laugh. I remember one woman who had bought some fish and hadn't taken it in. Her infant was eating it and I remarked about it. She just laughed and said:- "Never mind, it wiII save me cooking it."

All these houses were in a row, then nearer the bottom of the lane, facing Dr. Felton's garden lived my Granny in a semi-detached house. She was the village nurse under Dr. Ward, Dr. MacAdorey's uncle. I often had pneumonia, and Mother would send me to stay to get built up again after an attack. Granny used to visit her patients at night or early evening and I went with her. I was told I must be seen and not heard unless spoken to.

We called to see a Mrs. Watson who lived at the end house. We went down a long dark passage or so it seemed to me and at the end of it entered a room like Aladdin's cave, every space on the wall was filled with pictures or knic~nacks, a set of drawers held beautiful things in domes such as stuffed birds, flowers or animals. So I was occupied watching them all while Granny talked to her patient.

Then we called on a Mrs. Sargeant who according to Granny, when I asked questions, had chalk in her veins instead of blood.

We went down what is now Phillips Lane to call on a Mrs. Bullivant who had twin boys. We took two brown eggs and silver sixpences for the babies, as it was considered lucky.

When a mother had a baby, Granny was the midwife and would take over the household and live with them a fortnight, because the mother was kept in bed. She was very strict. and ran their houses and inmates as if they were her own.

I remember we were at one house and a neighbour called to borrow a scrubbing brush, and Granny said to the woman:- "Haven't you ever thought of buying one yourself?", for she never borrowed herself.

In another household we went to the woman was very untidy and had foster children. She was very generous and kind-hearted and her house smelt lovely - of freshly washed babies and powder - but she had a habit of using all her pots out of the pantry before she washed up. Granny would go in and wash them all up for her, scolding all the time, but it was just the same next time we went, and she really was a lovely person. She hadn't any children of her own, and if a girl couldn't pay anything for her baby's keep, well she didn't bother and kept them free.

Further down Phillips Lane at the bottom in Appletree Cottage was our next visit. At the side of the house sat an old man in a chair. He had a white coat on and to me his face was as white as his coat, and I thought he was a statue for he never moved, and as Granny had gone in to the house I touched him to see if he was stone. Suddenly his hand came down with a jerk, and all through the garden there was a jingling of tin lids, bells,. and anything that made a noise, for in his hand he held some binder band. I followed it and it threaded all through the large garden of raspberries and fruits, peas etc. to scare the birds. Inside the house it smelt of raspberries cooking. The floor was red brick covered by a rag-snip rug near the fireplace, other parts of the floor by sacks which had been opened and sewn. A large white topped wooden table in the middle held jam jars and the old lady, called Mrs. Hall, was stirring a cauldron of jam on the open fire.

When we left there we went home and I curled up in a large basket chair which was lined with red plush. I asked Granny if I might nurse one of her many china dogs she had on her mahogany drawers, but she said:- "No, you just look. You can have them when I've done with them and not before", so she gave me an orange. I ate it and while she fell asleep in the chair after reading the paper, I cooked the peeling off the orange on the bars of the fire, which in those days was halfway up the grate, a tidy betty in front of any cinders which might fall and a steel fender. I turned the peeling to cook the other side and then I decided to pop a toffee on to cook. It was all right until I took it off and it stuck to my fingers, burning them. I suppose I made a noise for Granny awoke and saw me. As fast as I pulled it off it stuck to my other fingers, so she took some bread, soaked it in cold water, laid it in a large handkerchief and wrapped my hands up. It was better than just cold water as today, for the bread kept wet a long time. Anyhow I had no blisters afterwards.

And so to bed. I had to use a little ladder to climb into bed because she had three feather beds, then a goose down one on top. It was lovely and soft. I lay reading all the texts around the bedroom until I fell asleep with the one :- "As thy day so shall thy strength be", lingering on into my dreams.