Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918

Source: Excerpt from interview with Mrs Hannah Myers, C707/401/1-2, Thompson, P. and Lummis, T., Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918, 1870-1973 [computer file]. 7th Edition. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], May 2009. SN: 2000,

Text: A: But this is how I used to work it, I used to say – you help me – and then I’ll take you out for the afternoon. But any – used to queue up for hours. But it wasn’t a continuous performance. There were certain houses. You see. Until –

Q: What kind of films would they have?

A: Oh – cowboy pictures, and – they used to have serials. And you know – we – he used – if he used to go on a Sunday – to the fair, pictures for a penny, and we used to see Pearl White, and she’d be hanging to the – to the roof of a train by her teeth. And another train’s coming through, we’re all cringing, and then it would come up on the sheet, next week – you see, you see the continuation next week. And we were all – tensed up you know. And – Harold Lloyd.

Q: What day of the week would that be?

A: Well it – any day you could go, for a penny. And over this fair for a penny … You know Mile End Station? At the back of Mile End station was known as the fairground. During the winter there was all sideshows, but – Mr Forest had this – first of all he used to go under a tent. They used to call it the flea pit. Used to be a ha’penny. But when he had it built it was a penny. See, and you used to go in, and you used to get a card. And – it was a lucky number. If you had a lucky number on it – you either won boots or a sack of coal – or – you know, some – articles of clothing. See, the – what this man used to buy for prizes. And it used to be chock-block full. And used to sit on forms. And although it was chock-block full they’d still say, come on, shift up there, shift up there, we were all huddled together and when we used to get these serial pictures you know – and the hair raising stuff that they used to do – we’d all cringe and cringe and cringe, and the kids – and – and people at the back used to say, look behind, look behind, he’s behind the door, he’s behind – of course it used to be silent pictures. Look behind the door. And then it used to come up, continuation next week. And we’d say – aaaah. Will you come next week, will you come next week? Yes, if we can save our farthings. We used to get a farthing a day – for spending …

… What about cinemas when you were at school? I didn’t go often, I did go once with my mother and father and I was terrified. It was the earthquake. The San Francisco Earthquake and I was glad to come out. I was terrified. I remember that.

Comment: Hannah Myers was born 1900 in London E3, seventeenth child of 18, parents Jewish. Her father was street trader selling fruit, then opened his own shop. She considered that they were middle class. She was interviewed on 28 July 1972, one of 444 people interviewed by Paul Thompson and his team as part of a study of the Edwardian era which resulted in Thompson’s book The Edwardians: The Remaking of British Society (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975).