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


The end of the War and Repercussions. 

                        When I started work at the Maypole in August 1918 there were a lot of women employed doing very heavy jobs. The woman foreman had a very good reputation, keeping production going and at the same time making sure of work being done in happy surroundings. A great many of these women were the wives of men employees who had been called into the Army and if and when bad news came great sympathy was shown by all. It was a happy atmosphere to work in and the children used to come into the canteen at lunchtime so that mums could make sure they had food. In the town itself food was still very short and now air-raid warnings more frequent. There was no law enforcing blackout, and no air-raid shelters. One Saturday evening I had been with my brother to the “Grand” Cinema Hanwell, and just as we came out about 10.30 the air-raid alarm sounded. A searchlight mounted on a  tram went into action, and gradually made its way along to Shepherds Bush. We had to walk all the way home and guns could be heard in the distance. 

                         Three months went by, and the news of the War indicated that we had the Germans on the run at last. And then it all happened. I can never forget the scenes that followed when at 11 o’clock on the 11th November, 1918 news came through that an armistice had been signed? All work stopped. Cheering and singing some made their way into the Hospital but were asked to leave as unfortunately, a local wounded man was very ill; he did in fact die that evening. The celebrations continued well into the night. 

                         But the repercussions soon began to show. Within weeks the Hayes Arsenal shut down, and of course all other factories making munitions had to discharge workers so that they could re-organise and get back to normal production. A lot of these workers had not forseen that this was bound to happen. They were quite happy earning a good wage making weapons to kill, and had made no provision for the end. 


                         During the winter of 1918-19 the King’s Hall, with the Rev. Broadbelt, did a wonderful job of bringing some very good talent to the town. On Saturday evenings there would be brass band concerts, or visits from famous singers, at the cost of a very moderate entrance fee. Also on Saturday afternoons were picture shows for children. Although the War was over it was not a very enjoyable Christmas time. There was a lot of unemployment. Men being discharged from the Army ( some had been prisoners of was for quite a long while ) often found their homes broken up and their wives gone off with someone else. The local press reported several such cases. The Australians began to move out and in March 1919 Beaconsfield Road School was opened as a school. The Maypole Institute returned to normal and provided employees with a wonderful fully-licensed club, for which they paid 6d a month. As the men returned the women gradually left; and the company found jobs for several employees who had lost limbs or had other disabilities due to the War. All types of sport were encouraged and at the rear of the factory was a football field and cricket ground. There was also a fairly large orchard ( where now stands the Quaker Oats factory ) in which the firm granted plots to any employee who applied for one. This I did and my plot had four large apple trees and two pear trees. I had this for two years keeping it clean and cultivated; but then the land was sold. Because I had kept my piece clean, I was granted a plot at the south side of the factory, almost adjoining the Church Path. This also had apple trees, and 1 plum and 1 damson. In the autumn of 1923 I had so many apples I was selling them for 2/- ( 10p ) half a bushel picked. I had this plot for three years. 

                         Land that had been cultivated for wartime allotments in the Park, etc., was cleared and re-grassed and Dad lost the first of his plots. Both my elder brothers became unemployed, but not for long, as they found work in the building trade. At the end of October 1919 my grandfather died ( aged 72 ) and he left me 5 golden sovereigns in a purse. These I had until 1932 when, due to being unemployed and married with 3 boys, I sold them for 38/- ( 190p ) each. At the time of writing this ( 1978 ) their value would be about £26 each.