Watts, John (1 of 3). Food: From Source to Salespoint

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  • Subjects

    Manufacturers ; Retail trade and distribution ; Farming

  • Recording date

    2006-05-24, 2006-05-30, 2006-06-12

  • Recording locations

    interviewee's home, London

  • Interviewees

    Watts, John, 1930- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Michael, Cos (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: John Richard Watts [JW]; father a barrow boy, also John Richard Watts [JRW]. Parents divorced when JW aged 2; mentions occasionally meeting JRW. JW describes Islington birthplace; single room. Describes renting rooms in 1930s; now expensive Georgian Squares. JW born 7th August 1930. Mother, Ellen Pritchard [EP], one of 10 siblings; grandmother also Ellen Pritchard [ELP]. Maternal great grandmother from Ireland; JW first grandchild of ELP. Outlines step brother and sister; EP remarried when JW aged 7. Outlines cruelty of stepfather; hard childhood. Anecdote about JW’s bike. Describes stepfather, Harry Dye [HD]; anecdote about HD’s father. [8:09] Describes ELP; Islington swag seller. Describes selling boat race flags from tray excitement of race. Outlines ELP and grandfather buying goods from warehouse. Describes police behaviour; frequent fines. Anecdote about worker balloons; describes ELP’s various tricks. JW remarks about spending time learning street life. Mentions bus travel. Describes stock money; mentions HD occasionally selling. Outlines low quality stock. [16:46] Mentions EP’s father, William Pritchard [WP]. Anecdote about WP’s father; fish stall in Leather Lane. Anecdote about fruit stall. Describes ELP and WP’s alcoholic lifestyle; drunk throughout day. Outlines drunken rows. Mentions WP’s intelligence; beautiful handwriting. [20:43] Anecdote about JW taking barrow to Covent Garden Market [CGM]; spilled barrow. [22:30] Describes WP’s license to sell from barrow: awarded for WW1 service. Describes CGM porter’s badges. Describes WP completing crosswords. [26:50] Anecdote about chocolate warehouse fire. [27:42] JW describes death of ELP; mentions ELP being Piccadilly flower seller. Describes wake; singsong. JW aged 8; recalls ELP. [31:22] Mentions living in Chapel Street [CS]. Describes going to cinema; ELP drunk, falling asleep. Anecdote about bread pudding. [34:38] Explains costermonger; food seller. Describes costermonger’s aprons. [36:23] Describes market porters aprons; hiding fruit in poacher’s pocket. Compares porter’s aprons with brewer’s aprons. [39:45] Describes ELP’s flat at CS Market; describes Peabody dwellings. Describes courtyard; toilet and washhouse. Stresses poverty of dwellings; outlines furniture. Describes 5 people living there; shared beds. Anecdote about aunt, Paddy [PP] combing hair. Describes flooring, gas mantle, etc. Describes coal heating; sleeping under coats. Describes lighting mantle; extremely fragile. Outlines washing facilities; mentions visiting local bath house. Describes HD forcing JW to wash outside; describes effects of HD’s jealousy. [50:10] Describes EP’s background; many sisters. Queenie and Kitty still alive. Anecdote about PP stealing shoes from Woolworths. Anecdote about 12 year old PP playing dice with men. Describes PP now; comfortable retirement. 17 years between EP and PP. Describes EP’s brothers, Timmy and Joey; both died young, of TB. Anecdote about JW hiding in wardrobe with accordion. Outlines EP’s other siblings; mentions band leader, Harry Roy. [56:45] EP’s family from Clerkenwell; describes EP wearing brother’s shoes. Describes EP collecting scraps from Smithfield market. [58:00] Describes food thrown away from CGM; reasons why food is rejected. [59:24] Describes modern communications; controlling supply and demand. [1:00:30] Outlines improvements in storage facilities. [1:01:18] Describes EP’s Clerkenwell home; lived near Howard family, all costermongers. Anecdote about 10 brothers stealing pig’s head from Smithfield. Anecdote about barrel in WP’s Doughty Street garage; WP getting drunk. Describes WP’s death, falling into area. [1:07:17] JW describes wartime death of friend, Reggie English. [1:09:24] JW mentions period at Catholic school; harshness of nuns. Anecdote about nuns collecting dinner money; JW mentions playing organ. Describes poor teaching; emphasis on catechism. School, St Monica’s [SM], Shoreditch; mentions marrying at SM. Describes dislike of religion; anecdote about religious neighbours. Mentions daughter-in law from Malta. JW describes EP’s religious practises; describes Christmas Eve midnight Mass. Mentions EP christening her children. [1:16:43] Mentions EP’s education; mentions church near St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Mentions film star, Hugh Grant. EP left school at 13; outlines EP’s work as seamstress. Describes EP’s “Outdoor work” making handbag linings. Outlines EP’s probable hours. Describes EP’s good sense and truthfulness. Outlines EP’s young life; mentions family parties. Little else known. [1:23:40] Describes JRW being barrow boy; family from Holloway. JW describes discovering JRW was his father; mentions various meetings. Describes lack of feelings for JRW; mentions JRW’s subsequent sons. [1:27:42] JW describes becoming tough after hard upbringing; became independent. Describes working hard, being respected. [1:29:10] Describes JRW’s appearance; outlines last conversation between JW and JRW. JW outlines information about JRW from EP. Describes regarding HD as Dad; outlines EP’s relationship with HD. [1:32:03] Outlines HD’s WW2 service. HD became painter and decorator. Describes HD’s increasing mental problems; paranoia about paintbrushes being stolen. Describes HD changing attitude to JW on JW’s wedding day; improved relationship. [1:35:43] Describes HD’s grandfather, HJ Dye, successful builder. Owned entire London square, sold when business went bankrupt. Describes HD’s mother living in remaining house, letting out rooms. JW mentions living there until house bombed. [1:37:22] Describes evacuation to Cornwall; describes journey. Story about first night in hotel. Describes marvellous year in Port Gaverne, aged 12. JW rarely attended school; few memories of schools. [1:41:48] Describes living in Hackney, aged 8; mentions being bombed. Describes house alongside railway arches; train noise. Mentions being called Johnnie Dye; family called Dye. JW describes relationship with HD; mentions ignorance about EP’s relationship with JRW. Outlines discussing JRW with EP’s sisters. [1:47:40] Lists 3 houses bombed during Blitz; JW mentions 6 months attending Pitfield Street School, aged 8. Outlines lack of continuous education; attended schools in Northampton, London, Kettering, Cornwall, Wales, etc. Few clear memories; JW left school aged 13. Little interest in school; disliked sports. Mentions boxing. Recalls SM school, aged 12; time wasted on religion. Mentions children scavenging on bomb sites. [1:54:50] Describes attending youth club, aged 14; enjoyed snooker, boogie-woogie music, etc. Mentions meeting wife, Betty [BW], aged 14. JW explains being forced into boxing by priest. [1:56:45] Mentions SM buildings; anecdote about Guinness bottles in Priest’s house. Anecdote about priest saving children during Blitz. Describes SM Church and school building. [2:00:57] Describes SM school, 60-70 children. Outlines class sizes. Describes radiators; anecdote about school milk. Mentions Mrs Thatcher stopping school milk. Mentions time wasted; spiteful discipline of nuns. Describes priests enjoying caning children. Outlines nuns’ lives. [2:06:12] Story about CGM union trade branch secretary, Bernie Holland, introducing JW to book, “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist” written by Oliver [Robert] Tressell; describes central truth of book. JW describes becoming a socialist because of book; recalls recommending it to others. [2:11:06] JW describes step brother, Harry Dye [Hal], now painter and decorator. Describes Hal’s attitude to life and money; outlines Hal’s family. Describes sister, Catherine [Cathy]; generous nature. Mentions Cathy’s neurosis. Describes market humour of Cathy’s husband, George; effect of constant sarcasm on Cathy. Describes reasons for Cathy’s divorce. Outlines Cathy’s subsequent marriage and happiness. JW describes good sibling relationships; explains understanding HD’s jealousy. [2:19:55] JW outlines wartime recycling of clothing, furniture, etc. Anecdote EP’s friend visiting; gift to JW from friend’s rich boyfriend, Harry Chandler [HC]. Describes EP spending half crown; new clothes. Mentions HC’s ownership of Walthamstow Dog Track. [2:24:35] JW describes first earnings, aged 8. Describes odd jobs at furniture factory; mentions profitable tricks. Anecdote about buying tripe for local landlady. Mentions comic swapping scheme. [2:29:22] HW describes EP; looks, happy nature, dependability, importance to family. Mentions grief at EP’s death; mentions another family tragedy. Describes scar on EP’s face. Describes EP’s party trick. [2:32:51] JW describes ceasing school aged 13. Describes ambition to earn by any means. Describes HD’s ambition that JW became architect. Describes interview for college; JW’s rejection of 10 year training. JW outlines attitude to life during wartime.

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