Ethnie Christmas’s account of growing-up in Tunstead.
Ethnie produced her Christening gown which is exceptionally well preserved for a gown over 100 years old. “My mother made it for the christening, but I was one of the last, so it’s a lot older than 90 years. We were all christened. Our mothers were very strict with us.
Here’s a story about the gown: My sister had a gown but she saw mine and she thought that was hers. So, rather than arguing over it I said ‘Take it’, and I give it to her straight away. Later on, she brought it back again and said, ‘I found mine’. I said ‘I knew that was mine because Mother give it to me.’”
When I was a child we lived in New Barn – we were one side and they [the Nichersons] lived on the other – in a bungalow which has gone years ago. All of us apart from Charlie and Jim, the oldest two, were born there. Here’s a story that I remember … well, you know what it’s like at night time, that’s always dark and the toilets were outside, and the bungalow was pretty long and I was up the far end, and I wanted to go to the loo ….and …. (you will have to ask Ethnie for the rest of the story!)
The bungalow was so high off the ground – about 2 feet – and we would go under and get the eggs cos there’s chickens running around … The toilets were always down the yard,. We never had a flush toilet – they were cinders, emptied out once in a while and buried in the garden somewhere – that’s why we had such good vegetables!
“I went to Tunstead school and the dress I’m wearing in the photo: my mother finished making that before I went to school that morning – I expect she knew that photos were being taken.
“When I was working at Sloley Hall, I started off as kitchen maid for so many years, but every so often the kitchen maid and house maid would change weeks, so I done both house work and kitchen work. I had to work from 7 in the morning to 10 at night, by the time we’d finished washing up things.”
She has a photo of her and Margaret sitting in the bath – “that’s what we did when the lady was away”.
Ethnie’s husband Niddy: “When Niddy was at school he was in a play: ‘Niddy – the story of a donkey’ and then he’s been Niddy ever since. This photo was taken in the field where the plane came down in the war. He worked on the same farm as me, Cyril Durrant was our boss. That’s where I met him. Even though we were at school together.
“I don’t remember him, because the girls were one side and the boys were on the other. The girls weren’t allowed to play with the boys, but it was mixed inside. Niddy just didn’t like school and just couldn’t spell – I had a letter from him once and even the word ‘if’ was spelt back to front! But he was a good worker once he left school.”