We conducted an interview with Elaine June Ayton for the first issue of Bygone Croydon magazine. Born in 1939, Elaine grew up in West Croydon and shares her memories of childhood and adolescence.
BC: Tell us about your family home.
Elaine: Mum had a big copper (an early washing machine) in the kitchen, so did Nan, but when we could afford it we would take all our clothes in an old pram down to the washhouse. Here was a giant copper and paddles where people would wash their clothes communally before going to the ironing room next door; this was near to the Gloucester Road pub. We called it the stir wash. Our house did not have a bathroom; so once a week we would all visit the Mitcham Road Baths, where you would pay about sixpence for a bath. It seemed very luxurious, and if you needed more hot water you would call out and they would top you up. I preferred this to the spider infested old tin bath in the kitchen, which was how we washed most days! There was no fridge, but there was no central heating so the house was cold enough to keep food. The toilet was located outside but we couldn’t afford toilet paper, so we would tear squares of newspaper and hang them over a line of string. This was just normal however; it was how everyone we knew lived. When dad died in 1947, we were means tested. In order for my mum to qualify for her widow’s allowance, anything of value in the house had to go. Mum’s piano that she taught on went, along with the gramophone and my great big wooden rocking horse. They left us a radio though. I remember my mum crying as a man went around the house with a book. He looked through everything to see what we had, drawers – the lot. I went back to the house recently and it looked so different, quite a sad sight! We took so much care of that house.
You can find the full interview in our upcoming magazine here: