Growing-up With Southall From 1904 (Memories of R.J. Meads)


1915 – 1916 

                         Now after all the local shops’ list let us get back to school days. In Class 3 “Little” Miss Bush was a teacher in every sense of the word; very strict, with the ruler ever ready to strike, you had to learn. Arithmetic, composition, dictation had to be done with the threat that too many mistakes would mean staying behind after school to write them out 50 times each. I am sure that I learned more in her class than any other. But she had a good side, which showed itself when someone in class had dad or sombody in the family killed or wounded in the war; and there were sweets for those with a clean record for the week. 

                      The new North Road school was being built and was ready for us to move into in April 1916. I was at that time working as a paper boy for Prideaux’. This was a fairly high standard stationers in the Uxbridge Road. This ended in a very funny way. In those days we had to go to the Southall Station to collect the number of papers required. The day when the “Hampshire” was sunk, 6th June, 1916, the headlines were “Lord Kitchener Drowned. Official”. This I shouted as I came back to the shop, selling papers on the way and not leaving enough for the regular customers. I was sent back to get more, but none were available. I suppose my attitude did not help; thus the sack. But we were not allowed to be idle for long and I found myself house-boy to Mrs. Norman, 53 South Road, a job which I kept until leaving school ( starting at 2/- ( 10p ) per week, with 2/6 ( 12 ½p ) in 1918 – more later ). 

Health Of The Town 

                        During my growing up there was always talk of someone being taken away with “scarlet feaver”, “diphtheria”, “consumption”, ( T.B. ). T.B. patients were taken to Harefield Hospital, and the others to the feaver hospital, now the Mount Pleasant Hospital. The Council used to send a van to collect all infected clothing and bedding and after its being fumigated, return it. Our family did not escape these things and 4 cousins died of diphtheria, all under the age of 7, and an uncle and some very near relatives died of tuberculosis. Thank God that medical science has almost eradicated these diseases. People were so poor they could not afford doctors’s bills and funerals, there being no National Insurance until the middle of 1912. I can just remember a walking funeral of a child, the coffin being carried by two men. Also the undertakers using what was called a “shelaby” coach for a child funeral. This carried the coffin crosswise under the driver’s seat, with the mourners inside the coach. A great many people used to take out insurance policies at anything from 1 penny per week, for which the agent called. With one of my brothers every so often I had the job of delivering Dr Windle’s doctors’ bills all over the town.  When my brother Tom was 13 he started to have epileptic fits, but carried on at school and I used to be called from class to attend to him. My Mother, not satisfied with the London Hospital treatment he was receiving, was put in touch with a gentleman at Ealing and with his treatment he gradually got better and was free from fits just after his 14th birthday, 1915.