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Interview with Frank Crawshaw

BROADCAST: Mar. 3, 1970 | DURATION: 00:56:27

Synopsis

Discussing the British Depression with Frank Crawshaw at the Empress Theater, members of the West Ham old people's home, and Tommy Titmus of Clerkenwall Green while Studs was in England.

Transcript

Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.

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Studs Terkel We should point out that you'll hear the voice of the director now and then, because this is, was recorded, taped for television. Your hear is, "Take one" or "Take two," you hear those voices every now and then of Jolyon Wimhurst. First this conversation with Frank Crawshaw and memories.

Jolyon Wimhurst Twelve, take one.

Studs Terkel Where we're seated is a celebrated place and once was a place of celebration too, the Empress. Variety hall years ago, then it became a movie house and now it's a bingo hall. Seated next to me as Frank Crawshaw, a veteran performer in just about all fields of theater. Mr. Crawshaw, as we're talking now about performers in Britain, we think of rough periods, hard lots, gypsy life, but mostly the Depression itself. The British Depression, when did it -- when did you feel it hit the performer.

Frank Crawshaw Well, I think it really made its presence felt in the first place about, to the end of 1929 and in the '30s. You see, at that time, the performer, the actor, they felt the effects of the Depression far more than anybody else, because not only was there the Depression which came of course in the Wall Street collapse and was worldwide. It was also at the same time that the talkies came in. Something entirely new, actually people on a screen talking. And it's impossible to convey to people today who don't remember those times what an affect it had, I mean in a short time tactically the entire touring system built down. The provincial halls, they were, and the theaters wired for sound, and they gutted some of the theatres and put in new seats, something they never did in the in the theatres, and the theatres still went on with their tatty seating and tatty [bitched all?] the seats at the back and things like that, and it was it was like a sledgehammer hitting somebody, people were absolutely [bemused?]. I mean, the thing changed from absolute prosperity which it was in the '20s

Studs Terkel Oh, was it?

Frank Crawshaw Oh, it was, I mean every town had at least of any size at least one theatre and one music hall, some more than that. And in the stage of those days you'd have quite a number of pages of the tour list. Things on

Studs Terkel So the actor the, whether it be the variety performer or the dramatic actor had all -- a pretty, a tour pretty well set. [One ten?] in provinces too, as well as large cities.

Frank Crawshaw Well, in those days I was there for about seven years in the '20s, I was, well, not quite all in the '20s, but I was an established leading man in repertory and on tour and I never need to have a day out of work unless I wanted to have a holiday, you just went from one job to another. And in those days as a leading man I'd get anything from 12 pounds a week up to about 16 or 18, according to who you were working for. You could be on tour starring in a tour out of a West End success, probably get about 20 or 25, and then maybe go into pantomime. You know, as [ebb announcer?], which I usually played, it's more than that. And if you paid a pound for what we call the combined chat, which was a combined [home?], you were getting a palace. You could live, and you could live like a lord on two pounds

Studs Terkel The prices naturally prices were far

Frank Crawshaw And there's all this beautiful situation where you thoroughly enjoyed what you were doing, you loved the theater, and it was a sort of heaven, and then this clash.

Studs Terkel Now, when did you first sense this change? Do you recall personally? any -- no, no one particular moment. Do you recall when you began to sense something was going awry?

Frank Crawshaw Well in, from 1929 to 1931 I was leading man of the Blackpool rep. And there was a sort of a security there that the outside world didn't really come into. It must have been felt by many, many actors much earlier than I felt it myself. But when the season finished in 1931, I went to Ireland to stay with an Irish judge, a friend of mine, and I did a tour. I didn't call it one-man theatre in those days, a tour of you know, one-man shows around Ireland. Then I came back, and then I went to London. I've never seen such a sudden transition in my life. The place was full of actors. They were every morning and every afternoon, they were going around the agents. There were plenty of agents, general agents, upstairs and downstairs, upstairs and

Studs Terkel Almost as though they were queuing up in front of the agent's offices.

Frank Crawshaw Yes! Going in and out, and they'd do it twice a day, and you could come into London in those days from anywhere in London for, on the streetcars for a tuppence. Any distance. And they'd meet in the Shandoss or the Salisbury, the actors' pubs there, and have a Theppany Mild or something like that, and they might have a sandwich in their pocket and then they'd go on, and this hopeless procession day after day, and I knew actors at that time who'd been getting 50 pounds a week and 60 pounds a week regularly, and they were queuing for jobs at five pounds a week.

Studs Terkel This was happening then, and I suppose something happened to the man himself, didn't it? The actor after all does have a front, front of gaiety of life, and I suppose it's a little different for the performer, isn't it? That is, or was the front no longer maintained?

Frank Crawshaw Well, they still kept up that sort of dignity, particularly actors as opposed to variety artists. Always in the profession there was a legit, and the, there was called the others illegitimate something, and then the variety artist was more of a happy-go-lucky fellow, whereas the average actor was generally on his dignity, and to see them standing in knots in [Jetting?] Cross Road. Frayed, you know. The cuffs. They'd be neatly cut, and there wasn't -- you didn't see any pink-edged collars in those days. I would say that used to be an old gag, the pink-edged collars. You know, a young actor coming into the business and saying, "Where can you buy pink-edged collars?" Because the actor would use his collar that he'd use on the stage, and of course the makeup had touched it.

Studs Terkel Oh,

Frank Crawshaw But you didn't see any pink-edged collars in Chadding Cross Road, they'd all gone.

Studs Terkel Yeah. So there was a front maintained, the frayed cuffs hidden or cut off, sort of, in contrast say to ordinary working people, there it was, that was a situation, the actor still had to maintain that front, didn't

Frank Crawshaw he? Oh,

Studs Terkel I suppose something happened to himself, to the man inside, didn't it? at that time? Do you recall

Frank Crawshaw There's a good, a good story told about that time that, an actor went into the Vicks-- an old actor, he went into the Vickstead library and looked at the stage, and it said, "Wanted: A character actor for tour. Apply at an address in Putney," and so he said, "Well, I'll go to Putney. Oh, it's a nice day, I think I'll walk." Well, he had to, he hadn't got the fare anyway. So he went up Acre Lane and he went down the dip and up the dip and eventually got to the address in Putney and knocked at the door, he said, "I've come in answer to your advert in the stage," and they said, "Well, we're very sorry. I have to tell you that the position is now filled." "Oh, well, well, oh well, that is the way of life," and he set out walking back. By this time it was late, getting about midnight and it was pouring down, his boots were letting in water, down the rise and up the rise, his boots squelching away, and he's just passing the old times furnishing company, when out of the door the voice came, "Hello, Saucy."

Studs Terkel Saucy itself is almost metaphorical to saucy, I suppose is the way vaudevillians, variety people were to performers. I'm thinking about yourself now, that time so you -- you had many -- not too many avenues open to you. You were still performing and you were a man of -- you always have been a man of social conscience, hadn't

Frank Crawshaw Yes, yes, I have, and the -- I remember when I was about three sitting on the knees of [Geer Harvey?] in my father's house, and my father was always a great speaker and worker for better conditions, things like that. And I don't -- I was because I was a son of my father, I suppose I was [tinged?] that way, but it wasn't until after the war really that -- during the war I came back from France, I had been

Studs Terkel This is World War One

Frank Crawshaw World War One, yes. And I was an expert on bayonet fighting, and after I came out of hospital I was sent to Woking, Woking Abbey, and well, [the duke had thrown out the estates, you see, so for trading?], and well then I went back to France. Well, after the war I'd been down to a church at Mansfield in those days I was doing it a lot, I used to be in churches, nonconformist churches, that'd have me in place of the service and I'd do Joseph and his coat of many colors, or Tennyson's "In a Garden", or something like that, passing the [third flow-by?], and I had a day to spare and I thought I'll go and have a look at the old place. And I came to a barbed-wire fence and climbed over, and I'm walking through the home woods and then a fellow in velveteens appeared, a keeper with a couple of dogs, he says, "Where you all going?" "Oh," I said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have climbed the fence, but I was here training during the war, and I thought I'd like to have a look at the old place," he says, "You all get off." I said, "Look, I was here during the war and I'm having a --" He says, "You all get off." Says, "You all get off or I'll set dogs on you," and I looked down, these are -- so I got off quick, and then when I got up I started thinking, "Well, during the war when these, this fellow and all his estates and his livelihood and himself were in danger, he was quite ready to say, "Come on, boys, come on my place, play at mechanical rabbits, do what you like," but now he's safe again, "You all get off," and I think that had -- that started something in me that never stopped.

Studs Terkel So that was a moment of revelation to you. It happened to you, that incident even though your father had a friend

Jolyon Wimhurst Thirteen, take one.

Studs Terkel Frank Crawshaw remembering the Depression. When -- in your case, too, you were always a man of social conscience, weren't you?

Frank Crawshaw Yes, I think so. Well, I'm sure so. It goes back a long time, there's a family influence in this, because I remember I think I was about you sitting on the knees of Guyer Hardy in my father's house. And I suppose I was that way inclined, because my father was that way inclined, I was always a great socialist and a great speaker and a great worker for better conditions. But it didn't really strike me until after the war. During the war I had been wounded and come back from France, and

Studs Terkel World War One.

Frank Crawshaw World War One, and I was an expert in bayonet fighting, and I was sent to Woburne Abbey, which was a training ground and belonged to the Duke of -- I forget his name now. Anyway. And I was there and eventually I went to France again, and then after the war in 1919 I was giving a recital in a church. In those days I used to do quite a bit of that: "Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors", "In a Gar--" Tennyson's "In a Garden", and things like that in place of the service, and I had a day to spare and I thought I'll go and have a look at the old place, and so I came to a barbed-wire fence and climbed over it. It said "No Trespass" of course. I'm walking through the home woods and suddenly came across a keeper in velveteens and a couple of dogs, and he said, "Where's you all going?" I said, "Well, I used to be on, I was on here training during the war and I thought I'd like to have a look at the old place," and they said, "You all get off." But I said, "Look, I was on here during the war and I'm, you know having a --" He says, "You all get off or I'll set dogs on you!" So I looked down, and these two dogs looked [fierce?], so I didn't waste any time, I got off, and [so after that got off?]. Then I started thinking, I thought, "Oh. Now, during the war this fellow and his estates and himself and everything was in danger. So fine, throw open the ground, Come on, lads. Let's play mechanical rabbits and die for me," and then as soon as he was safe, the wall was over, it was "You all get off, I'll set the dogs on you, and I think that said my train of thought, and ever since then I've been very much that way inclined.

Studs Terkel So that moment of revelation, of the difference perhaps between haves and have-nots occurred which of course led to you being a curious man, adventurous man, an actor/performer, thoughtful. This adventure of yours as a tramp. This is -- again during the Depression, the hard days

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes, yes.

Studs Terkel What did you do?

Frank Crawshaw Well, there's a story behind that. You see, after I had been down to London, and I was never a man for going up and down stairs and agents' offices, I just couldn't do it. So I saw how things were, so I went back to Blackpool, where I was well-known as a leading man there for two years, and I started an academy, academy of speech [craft?], which mainly people who'd got on in life and wanted to get up and be able to say a few words. And it's quite a thriving thing. Then I formed the Blackpool Arts Theatre. I had about four pros and the rest were amateurs who paid to play. And we used Feldman's, we used the [Opera House? upper house?] of the Grand during the winter in the theatres, and I'd -- the Blackpool and filed folk moots, debating society and Blackpool [and filed?] verse speaking choir based on the art of the ancient Greeks, the chorus and everything like that, and I also had my eyes on Parliament, and I have a great believer in book learning, in book reading, but I think personal experience is the finest thing in the world. So I was going to make the study of the reformation of the [poor?] on my particular study. And so I decided to set off and live amongst them, and this was in 1933 when the Depression was really at it. And I put on old rags and, well not too old. I didn't overdo the part, let my beard go and put a half-crown in my pocket just to get me away from the immediate vicinity, and then I got through as they got through, and that was the whole idea of the exercise.

Studs Terkel As they got through, meaning men, single men, or men on the go who were known as tramps.

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes.

Studs Terkel Of which there were a great number?

Frank Crawshaw Yes. Oh, it's thousands of them. And I -- this half, when this half-crown was finished, if I hadn't any money, I slept outside. If I could raise six pence, I slept out in a doss house or Salvation Army rest, and very often lived with the - what we called the professors, the professional tramps, it's a different class of society in that world just the same as anywhere else, and

Studs Terkel A caste system there, too.

Frank Crawshaw Oh, absolutely. Oh yes, the successful beggar, he is king of the shooting match. And I went through and the things I saw at that time were just past belief. The malnu-- nutrition, the rickets, the hopeless men, who were not -- I wouldn't call them tramps, though out of works. Men of integrity. Men who have been broken, tramping from one spike to another. Well, a spike was the casual ward, and in the casual ward, you went in at night. If you had any coppers you hid them in a hole in a wall or something like that, because it'd be taken from, and then you'd be asked three questions. "Where did you come from?" "Where were you going to?" and "What was your religion?" And then your clothes were taken away from you, your -- you went into a bath, and the tramp major, who was in charge and had the powers of a constable within the, within the spike.

Studs Terkel It was like a prison then in a way.

Frank Crawshaw In a way, yes. And then you were given a nightshirt. If you got in on the money, you'd get a clean one, if you got in towards the end of the week and not quite so lucky, and of course they used to have the army way of going on then. If you were a tall man, you got a little bum-freezer, if you were a short fellow, you'd get a nightgown that trailed well behind you, you see, and you'd go into this place. And I remember my first night I did this, went in, there was a silence, and since, soon as the door was shut, there were about 20 men in there. Then the conversation started, and the smoking went on. And now, it's something I could never understand, because all those fellows had been through the same thing as I had, that all their clothes taken away, they'd gone naked into this bath, and then they're being given their nightshirt, how they'd got pipe and tobaccos and cigarettes and matches in, that's something I could never understand. Then next morning you were awakened at six o'clock, and up and you had a breakfast prescribed by the state, which was half a pound of bread, margarine, and a cup of cocoa, which you'd had the night before.

Studs Terkel You say breakfast prescribed by the state.

Frank Crawshaw Yes, well, laid down by the regulations, and then you went to work, and the young men would saw wood, the older men would chop wood. And the still older men would make the bundles of firewood. Then 12 o'clock it was lunch, which was bully beef, a couple of potatoes in their jackets, and as the law prescribed, a second vegetable, one small [raw?] onion. Then at, in the afternoon you'd go on working again, you finish at four, you'd come in, you'd have half a pound of bread, margarine, and a cup of cocoa, and then you'd be at six o'clock you'd be locked up for that night. The most inhuman system I've ever known in my life, and these fellows weren't fellows who were cadging on society, these fellows were literally -- they'd left home. They wouldn't be a burden on their people. And they were going from town to town, hopeless, [down?] today, tramping in search of work which they never

Studs Terkel This is the point, isn't it? We use the word "tramp" as a generic phrase. The fact is the great many left homes in desperation. Is it not?

Frank Crawshaw Absolutely,

Studs Terkel Seeking jobs. They may have been family men.

Frank Crawshaw Oh yes

Studs Terkel They may have been father who in -- in sense of -- perhaps in shame, too, left home.

Frank Crawshaw Yes.

Studs Terkel Seeking other work.

Frank Crawshaw I you see, a lot of the youngsters left because under the means test of those days, everybody was counted in the house. Anybody earning any money, it was all went into a pool and they worked it out as to how much relief they would get. Well, the youngsters while they were at home, they couldn't get any relief, you see. I'm speaking of kids of 15 and 16 and 17. So they went on the road.

Studs Terkel So this is what the means test does, it does something to the dignity of the person.

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes. And when they went on the road, then they became what I call cultured, not born, petty criminals because naturally if you've got nothing in your pocket, you're going to get something from somewhere. I mean, you're living in the world, you were right to live, you were right to eat, you were right to sleep. You were right to a little fun and games, and

Studs Terkel What happened to Jean Valjean, didn't it?

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes. Oh, the bishop's silver candlesticks, yes. And this -- I think it was the most -- it was the worst thing that I ever experienced, and I eventually did this about seven times because when I gave up my idea of going into Parliament, by that time I'd realized what a wonderful training ground it was for an actor, how you could observe human nature in the war where a spade was called the bloody shovel, and no sooner the word than the blow, no inhibitions, and

Studs Terkel No sooner the word than the blow?

Frank Crawshaw Yes.

Studs Terkel Yeah, you mean desperation, men would claw at one another.

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes. Yes. [voices

Studs Terkel Frank Crawshaw, one-time prosperous performer played the role in real life of the tramp. Did something happen to you as far as society? You were the same man, you see, Frank Crawshaw, but now you wear tattered clothes, were something of a -- unshaven face?

Frank Crawshaw Well, I wasn't. And this is one of the attractions of that sort of life. You see, life is made up of contrasts. You can't appreciate pleasure unless you've known the other dark side. You can't appreciate health unless you've known sickness. You can't appreciate comfortable surroundings unless you've known adversity. And you see, you've got the [transition?] both ways. When you were set off, you threw off all your inhibitions, you entered another world. Nobody took any notice of you, if you went to spit in the street, you could spit in the street. Nobody would take the slightest bit of notice. You develop the instincts of an animal for survival. The same instincts that we had in the first war, survival for life, and your problems were entirely different. And then of course you got the transition when you came back, and you put on a decent suit of clothes, you slept in a decent bed, and you had your food, and you remembered what you had seen, the poor devils you'd mixed with, and then you realize that life wasn't perhaps so bad after all. You know, there's one thing about this sort of life, it -- talking about instinct of survival, how it sharpens men's brains, and the gags they get up to [for facing the wind?]. I remember once that I was in Manchester and I had about five pence, not enough to sleep inside, and it'd been a wet night, and I'd slept out in a doorway wrapped up in newspapers, which is something you'll quickly learn for warmth. It's amazing how warm newspapers next to your skin will make you. And I went into a Salvation Army [vest?] for a cup of tea, and here I would like to say this particular thing about the Salvation Army. I took the opportunity in my travels of testing all the charities, and the Salvation Army came out absolutely tops. And I never miss an opportunity of stressing that what a wonderful organization they are, how they help the down and out, and they do not push religion down his throat all the time. The first thing is, as General Booth said, it's no good giving a tract to a man with an empty belly. And that's the way they work. Anyway, I went into this Salvation Army [vest?], and the fellow sitting near me, and at that time I was knocking around as an Irish out of work dock laborer, see I was never spotted being an actor, whenever time I knocked down, I was playing a part, and I said, "Do you know any good gags?" He says, "What's your line?" I said, "Oh, I [sell to matches and the laces?], but I lost me stock." "Oh," he said, "I know a good" -- he said, "It's a good [news out?], [unintelligible story]. So I did that, I made out a card, "Will you kindly give me half a crown for these boots in order to buy food." I went to by the post-office and I stood holding them up, and somebody gave me tuppence, and then a fellow came, he looked at the boots, he looked at me, took half a crown of his pocket and gave it to me and took the boots! And of course in that life your boots are the most important thing in your world. When you, if you're sleeping in a doss house, you very often put them under your pillow, because they're your means of locomotion. Anyway, there I was, it started to rain. I'd half a crown and I had no boots, and there's a big fat copper been watching me over there holding his belly rumbled, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. So I suddenly remembered having once after the first war being in the shoe trade that how when some people buy a pair of shoes, they leave their old ones. So I went around to quite a few shoe stores and eventually got quite a nice pair of boots. But while I'm going around, the fellas say, "A, look at that poor fella, he's got no boots," and they came up, and they gave me tuppences

Studs Terkel and Now you raise a point here, Mr. Crawshaw, this is a -- when we speak of poor against poor, homeless man to survive clawing the other homeless man, did you find at times the spirit of camaraderie or someone helping someone in these dire circumstances?

Frank Crawshaw I think my conclusions are that one of the finest things in the entire world is the kindness of the poor to the poor. One person in adversity will do his utmost. By and large, you get your lows and your villains, but by and large, one person in adversity will do anything to help somebody else in adversity. If he's got a crust, he'll share it. If he's got a billycan of tea and the other fellow hasn't, he'll share it. The -- where the clawing would come into, where it could come in, is say there was a job suddenly come -- one job for 80 men, well, they'd fight and scratch and all the -- to get that one job. And sometimes men with nothing to do sitting around and just for mere relaxation, somebody might start a scrap.

Studs Terkel It's a question of survival or the question of emptiness of life at that moment. The poor helping poor. And what contrast this is to the Duke's keeper.

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes.

Studs Terkel You spoke of clothes, you know. Here you were as this disheveled, this homeless man, whether or the situations during the Depression. You were saying something before we went on about it was not unusual to see white tie and tails on a tram.

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes. Not so much on the tram, but in the '30s I mean, you could put on white tie and tails and this little [cat?], you could get on the Tube or walk about in London and nobody would take the slightest bit of notice, because it was so, so common. I mean now, if you did that, if you went anywhere outside a car or a taxi they'd just stare

Studs Terkel But if you were that, then they would think that you may be a socialite or upper crust. Were you able to do that and crash any parties? Of any sort?

Frank Crawshaw Well, no, not crash parties, but I did a bit of writing in those days, and I used to [luck?] this, and I used to get -- I was in the casino several times, which was a sort of nightclub, and I used to get to some marvelous places and have free meals and cigars and brandy and all the rest of it and look like a million dollars. I remember once I took an out-of-work actress, a very beautiful girl, to the casino and was shown to this table, and we had all the works. I even asked if she'd like some chocolate liqueurs, and chocolate liqueurs at the same time I was having half a bottle of brandy, and then she couldn't understand it, because when we got outside I didn't call a taxi to take her home, I couldn't, but I left her at the Tube, and she must be wondering to this day, "Now, that fellow, he took me out," she didn't know it was on the [never?], he took me out, he bought me a wonderful meal and this, and then he left me to go

Studs Terkel How about the meal, how about the check, the bill?

Frank Crawshaw Oh, I signed that.

Studs Terkel You SAT -- you SIGNED THAT!

Frank Crawshaw I signed it, you see, I'd authority, from the publicity agents who ran the place, I thought it's, sign it and I signed it, which looked big in itself.

Studs Terkel Well, you gave the headwaiter your autograph, or what it amounts to, you see. To the headwaiter, then, clothes did make the man.

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Studs Terkel This is -- so there was -- in surviving there was a sort of humor of adversity at times. So that, that too, wasn't there?

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes. The humor -- you see, and another thing that affected me personally and a nightmare to get through this sort of thing, I mean the tramp stuff that I'd experienced such conditions in the first war out in France in the trenches and I was only a young boy, and I'd missed death by inches so many times that ever since then I've been filled with the delight of being alive. The mere fact of being alive. Therefore when I was knocking around in this world, the conditions were nothing like so bad as when we're in the trenches in France, and there of course the old campaigners' ability to make a bed out of anything and get comfort out of anything. So to me it wasn't a trial as it was to lots of these young fellows who'd left comfortable homes for the first time and one of the most popular works of the depression was love on the dole and you played the blade leading me in that which was one of a I am not going to say it was one of the finest pieces of writing but it was one of the finest expositions of conditions as they were then it was really authentic and he had a great impact.

Studs Terkel I'm

Frank Crawshaw Oh, yes, I played Larry Meith in that, which was one of the -- I am not going to say it was one of the finest pieces of writing, but it was one of the finest expositions of conditions as they were then. It was really authentic, and he had a great impact, and oh, I didn't stay with it a long time, because I got a chance which to an actor was a great delight. I went to the Abbey Theater, Dublin to produce, probably one of the only Englishmen who'd done that for the Irish National Theatre. But the time I was with it, I loved it, it was a delight to play, and I still remember the impact.

Studs Terkel Mr. Crawshaw, when do you think the Depression ended for Britain?

Frank Crawshaw Well, I should think the Depression ended with the threat of war. You see, when Hitler came to power he wasn't taken seriously at first, and then when it became quite clear that something was going to blow up somewhere some time, and then we started re-arming and the armaments factories opened and then people got jobs making armaments. I think that's when the Depression started to ease off, you know, until it came to the war. [voices

Studs Terkel And so our tape ran out. And that's a conversation with Frank Crawshaw, a retired music hall performer/ actor in London at the Empress Theatre, with the empty house. We were seated there with the TV crew and remarkable the parallel between the experiences of course of English people and American people and I imagine all people during a moment of economic holocaust of the Depression, and in a moment after we hear from Marty Robinson, we'll find ourselves in an old people's home on -- in a in a poor section of London. After we hear from Marty. [pause in recording] I couldn't help but think, Marty, of the commercial, and the exotic foods you mentioning and the theme of this program. Thus we have adversity and a chance for life too. Here we pick up the conversation. Again you'll hear the annou-- the stage. The floor manager and the "Take one, take two." This is in London last autumn.

Jolyon Wimhurst Take one.

Studs Terkel Now we're seated here at a home for elderly people in the Westham section of London. This is the district most hard hit during those very, very rough days of the great British Depression, with four gallant survivors and their friends are here at the bingo tables. I was thinking, Mr. Field. Jim Field, Ted Blurton, Mrs. McLean and Mrs. Mansfield. Mrs. Mansfield is the youngster here, she -- 69, is that right? And Mrs. McLean?

Mrs. McLean Eighty-two.

Studs Terkel You're 82. And Mr. Blurton?

Ted Blurton Seventy-seven.

Studs Terkel Seventy-seven, and Jim Field.

Jim Field Seventy-nine.

Studs Terkel Seventy-nine, I'm thinking about, well Jim, we've been talking with Mr. Field. The Depression. When were you first aware of it?

Jim Field Well, I was first aware of it after I got discharged out the army, in 1914. [Could always time serving?] I got, came here after -- February -- November.

Studs Terkel Nineteen fourteen.

Jim Field No, 1919.

Studs Terkel In

Jim Field In 1918 I came out. In November.

Studs Terkel What

Jim Field I was out of work on and off for four years. Couldn't get a job. My wife was -- try to get work. There was no food about. And we used to go in what they call a bun house.

Studs Terkel What's a bun house?

Jim Field What they call now "assistance." We used to go to the [air?] then, we'd used to, perhaps we'd be there eight o'clock in the morning, might be there 10 or 11 o'clock at night. All we got was tickets. We never got no money. And we'd used to go to, take a pillow case to the shops, we used to get bread, meat, vegetables, and take it

Studs Terkel You'd wait hours

Jim Field We lived, we lived, we waited out for these tickets.

Studs Terkel For the tickets.

Jim Field The tickets were for you, before never no money ever

Studs Terkel You remember the bun house, Mrs. McLean?

Mrs. McLean Yes, I do. Work house.

Studs Terkel You remember, how long would you have to wait in line sometimes?

Mrs. McLean Well, so long it's a long time before you got anything, then you've got two loaves hard as a bullet, and a bit of tea and sugar and that and you had to get on with that and a pillowcase.

Studs Terkel And a pillowcase. What happened when you'd get stale bread, what you had

Mrs. McLean -- Well, you had to eat it or toast it or soak

Jim Field it. What

Mrs. McLean Well,

Studs Terkel What about the children, though. Would you warm up the stale bread, is

Mrs. McLean Well, we had to fit it out with what I could. Bit o' rice or what I could, what could I, could afford.

Studs Terkel How long would those lines extend? They'd wait for hours to get the

Jim Field Oh, yes. 'Cause you never know, once you, when you, you had to go to this place, well within [Seventh?] Lane, what they call the relieving officer, his name was [Walden?], he's the chief relieving officer, and sometimes if you went before the committee, they used to pull you to pieces.

Studs Terkel What would they do?

Jim Field And I, I, they used to come round and visit your home. This is authentic, this is no, this is no, madam. This woman'll bear me up, I'm telling you. Oh, I had a canary, and I had to sell it. [Unintelligible]

Studs Terkel Let me get this. Mr. Field, you had a canary, but the social worker made you sell it.

Jim Field Oh, I had to get -- I had to raf-- I didn't sell it, I raffled to get more money for it.

Studs Terkel Wait, because the canary ate too much?

Jim Field It ate too much food I suppose, I couldn't afford to keep

Studs Terkel So you had to sell the canary,

Jim Field Yeah.

Studs Terkel It was a luxury. Do you remember

Mrs. McLean I don't -- sold no canaries, but never had none, but when you come round you had anything decent, you've got to sell it to get food for your

Jim Field They told you

Group to [Speaking

Mrs. McLean Sell it or pawn it. I do know. Sell it or pawn it to the

Studs Terkel Oh, I suppose then the pawnbrokers were pretty busy.

Jim Field Well, one thing, you never saw it again, did you? Know them three

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Jim Field Well you know what that means, don't you? Two to one you won't get them back.

Studs Terkel So whether there was -- Monday the big day, was Monday

Mrs. McLean Monday was a big day when you rolled out the [unintelligible]. Got a [mat?] set if you could.

Studs Terkel Why was Monday the big day for waiting

Group [Speaking at once].

Studs Terkel But suppose you were on relief in those days, and you had a gramophone.

Mrs. McLean You had to sell that.

Studs Terkel No music.

Mrs. McLean No, no.

Studs Terkel That was a luxury.

Mrs. McLean Oh, it was a luxury.

Studs Terkel What were the feelings, how did you feel at that when

Mrs. McLean Had to put up with it, ain't you?

Studs Terkel Put up with

Group it. [Speaking

Mrs. McLean They couldn't do nothing about it.

Jim Field As I said before, it caused dissension being amongst the working class, and the working class was at each other's throats. That was the whole idea, was to get the working class at loggerheads with one another. There was a method in it.

Studs Terkel Poor fighting poor.

Jim Field Yeah, poor -- [unintelligible] no argument about it.

Studs Terkel Well, what happened then? Weren't there demonstrations?

Jim Field Well, of course there was demonstrations. There was demonstrations.

Ted Blurton That's right.

Jim Field They used to [unintelligible] borough council. They used to send the men down to Belmont, down in Surrey on the farm. A shilling. A shilling a week pocket money they used to give. And it's true.

Studs Terkel Mr. Blurton, do you remember the demonstrations?

Ted Blurton That's right, I remember all what these people are talking about. They used to send us out the park to sweep the leaves up, or go over there the children's home cleaning. Labour camps they were, so I'll called them. See? And then before the war, well, children used to go to school with their

Studs Terkel Didn't

Ted Blurton

Mrs. McLean We should point out that you'll hear the voice of the director now and then, because this is, was recorded, taped for television. Your hear is, "Take one" or "Take two," you hear those voices every now and then of Jolyon Wimhurst. First this conversation with Frank Crawshaw and memories. Twelve, take one. Where we're seated is a celebrated place and once was a place of celebration too, the Empress. Variety hall years ago, then it became a movie house and now it's a bingo hall. Seated next to me as Frank Crawshaw, a veteran performer in just about all fields of theater. Mr. Crawshaw, as we're talking now about performers in Britain, we think of rough periods, hard lots, gypsy life, but mostly the Depression itself. The British Depression, when did it -- when did you feel it hit the performer. Well, I think it really made its presence felt in the first place about, to the end of 1929 and in the '30s. You see, at that time, the performer, the actor, they felt the effects of the Depression far more than anybody else, because not only was there the Depression which came of course in the Wall Street collapse and was worldwide. It was also at the same time that the talkies came in. Something entirely new, actually people on a screen talking. And it's impossible to convey to people today who don't remember those times what an affect it had, I mean in a short time tactically the entire touring system built down. The provincial halls, they were, and the theaters wired for sound, and they gutted some of the theatres and put in new seats, something they never did in the in the theatres, and the theatres still went on with their tatty seating and tatty [bitched all?] the seats at the back and things like that, and it was it was like a sledgehammer hitting somebody, people were absolutely [bemused?]. I mean, the thing changed from absolute prosperity which it was in the '20s -- Oh, was it? Oh, it was, I mean every town had at least of any size at least one theatre and one music hall, some more than that. And in the stage of those days you'd have quite a number of pages of the tour list. Things on tour. So the actor the, whether it be the variety performer or the dramatic actor had all -- a pretty, a tour pretty well set. [One ten?] in provinces too, as well as large cities. Well, in those days I was there for about seven years in the '20s, I was, well, not quite all in the '20s, but I was an established leading man in repertory and on tour and I never need to have a day out of work unless I wanted to have a holiday, you just went from one job to another. And in those days as a leading man I'd get anything from 12 pounds a week up to about 16 or 18, according to who you were working for. You could be on tour starring in a tour out of a West End success, probably get about 20 or 25, and then maybe go into pantomime. You know, as [ebb announcer?], which I usually played, it's more than that. And if you paid a pound for what we call the combined chat, which was a combined [home?], you were getting a palace. You could live, and you could live like a lord on two pounds a The prices naturally prices were far -- And there's all this beautiful situation where you thoroughly enjoyed what you were doing, you loved the theater, and it was a sort of heaven, and then this clash. Now, when did you first sense this change? Do you recall personally? any -- no, no one particular moment. Do you recall when you began to sense something was going awry? Well in, from 1929 to 1931 I was leading man of the Blackpool rep. And there was a sort of a security there that the outside world didn't really come into. It must have been felt by many, many actors much earlier than I felt it myself. But when the season finished in 1931, I went to Ireland to stay with an Irish judge, a friend of mine, and I did a tour. I didn't call it one-man theatre in those days, a tour of you know, one-man shows around Ireland. Then I came back, and then I went to London. I've never seen such a sudden transition in my life. The place was full of actors. They were every morning and every afternoon, they were going around the agents. There were plenty of agents, general agents, upstairs and downstairs, upstairs and downstairs. Almost as though they were queuing up in front of the agent's offices. Yes! Going in and out, and they'd do it twice a day, and you could come into London in those days from anywhere in London for, on the streetcars for a tuppence. Any distance. And they'd meet in the Shandoss or the Salisbury, the actors' pubs there, and have a Theppany Mild or something like that, and they might have a sandwich in their pocket and then they'd go on, and this hopeless procession day after day, and I knew actors at that time who'd been getting 50 pounds a week and 60 pounds a week regularly, and they were queuing for jobs at five pounds a week. This was happening then, and I suppose something happened to the man himself, didn't it? The actor after all does have a front, front of gaiety of life, and I suppose it's a little different for the performer, isn't it? That is, or was the front no longer maintained? Well, they still kept up that sort of dignity, particularly actors as opposed to variety artists. Always in the profession there was a legit, and the, there was called the others illegitimate something, and then the variety artist was more of a happy-go-lucky fellow, whereas the average actor was generally on his dignity, and to see them standing in knots in [Jetting?] Cross Road. Frayed, you know. The cuffs. They'd be neatly cut, and there wasn't -- you didn't see any pink-edged collars in those days. I would say that used to be an old gag, the pink-edged collars. You know, a young actor coming into the business and saying, "Where can you buy pink-edged collars?" Because the actor would use his collar that he'd use on the stage, and of course the makeup had touched it. Oh, But you didn't see any pink-edged collars in Chadding Cross Road, they'd all gone. Yeah. So there was a front maintained, the frayed cuffs hidden or cut off, sort of, in contrast say to ordinary working people, there it was, that was a situation, the actor still had to maintain that front, didn't he? Oh, I suppose something happened to himself, to the man inside, didn't it? at that time? Do you recall a There's a good, a good story told about that time that, an actor went into the Vicks-- an old actor, he went into the Vickstead library and looked at the stage, and it said, "Wanted: A character actor for tour. Apply at an address in Putney," and so he said, "Well, I'll go to Putney. Oh, it's a nice day, I think I'll walk." Well, he had to, he hadn't got the fare anyway. So he went up Acre Lane and he went down the dip and up the dip and eventually got to the address in Putney and knocked at the door, he said, "I've come in answer to your advert in the stage," and they said, "Well, we're very sorry. I have to tell you that the position is now filled." "Oh, well, well, oh well, that is the way of life," and he set out walking back. By this time it was late, getting about midnight and it was pouring down, his boots were letting in water, down the rise and up the rise, his boots squelching away, and he's just passing the old times furnishing company, when out of the door the voice came, "Hello, Saucy." Saucy itself is almost metaphorical to saucy, I suppose is the way vaudevillians, variety people were to performers. I'm thinking about yourself now, that time so you -- you had many -- not too many avenues open to you. You were still performing and you were a man of -- you always have been a man of social conscience, hadn't you, Yes, yes, I have, and the -- I remember when I was about three sitting on the knees of [Geer Harvey?] in my father's house, and my father was always a great speaker and worker for better conditions, things like that. And I don't -- I was because I was a son of my father, I suppose I was [tinged?] that way, but it wasn't until after the war really that -- during the war I came back from France, I had been This is World War One we're World War One, yes. And I was an expert on bayonet fighting, and after I came out of hospital I was sent to Woking, Woking Abbey, and well, [the duke had thrown out the estates, you see, so for trading?], and well then I went back to France. Well, after the war I'd been down to a church at Mansfield in those days I was doing it a lot, I used to be in churches, nonconformist churches, that'd have me in place of the service and I'd do Joseph and his coat of many colors, or Tennyson's "In a Garden", or something like that, passing the [third flow-by?], and I had a day to spare and I thought I'll go and have a look at the old place. And I came to a barbed-wire fence and climbed over, and I'm walking through the home woods and then a fellow in velveteens appeared, a keeper with a couple of dogs, he says, "Where you all going?" "Oh," I said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have climbed the fence, but I was here training during the war, and I thought I'd like to have a look at the old place," he says, "You all get off." I said, "Look, I was here during the war and I'm having a --" He says, "You all get off." Says, "You all get off or I'll set dogs on you," and I looked down, these are -- so I got off quick, and then when I got up I started thinking, "Well, during the war when these, this fellow and all his estates and his livelihood and himself were in danger, he was quite ready to say, "Come on, boys, come on my place, play at mechanical rabbits, do what you like," but now he's safe again, "You all get off," and I think that had -- that started something in me that never stopped. So that was a moment of revelation to you. It happened to you, that incident even though your father had a friend -- Thirteen, take one. Frank Crawshaw remembering the Depression. When -- in your case, too, you were always a man of social conscience, weren't you? Yes, I think so. Well, I'm sure so. It goes back a long time, there's a family influence in this, because I remember I think I was about you sitting on the knees of Guyer Hardy in my father's house. And I suppose I was that way inclined, because my father was that way inclined, I was always a great socialist and a great speaker and a great worker for better conditions. But it didn't really strike me until after the war. During the war I had been wounded and come back from France, and -- World War One. World War One, and I was an expert in bayonet fighting, and I was sent to Woburne Abbey, which was a training ground and belonged to the Duke of -- I forget his name now. Anyway. And I was there and eventually I went to France again, and then after the war in 1919 I was giving a recital in a church. In those days I used to do quite a bit of that: "Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors", "In a Gar--" Tennyson's "In a Garden", and things like that in place of the service, and I had a day to spare and I thought I'll go and have a look at the old place, and so I came to a barbed-wire fence and climbed over it. It said "No Trespass" of course. I'm walking through the home woods and suddenly came across a keeper in velveteens and a couple of dogs, and he said, "Where's you all going?" I said, "Well, I used to be on, I was on here training during the war and I thought I'd like to have a look at the old place," and they said, "You all get off." But I said, "Look, I was on here during the war and I'm, you know having a --" He says, "You all get off or I'll set dogs on you!" So I looked down, and these two dogs looked [fierce?], so I didn't waste any time, I got off, and [so after that got off?]. Then I started thinking, I thought, "Oh. Now, during the war this fellow and his estates and himself and everything was in danger. So fine, throw open the ground, Come on, lads. Let's play mechanical rabbits and die for me," and then as soon as he was safe, the wall was over, it was "You all get off, I'll set the dogs on you, and I think that said my train of thought, and ever since then I've been very much that way inclined. So that moment of revelation, of the difference perhaps between haves and have-nots occurred which of course led to you being a curious man, adventurous man, an actor/performer, thoughtful. This adventure of yours as a tramp. This is -- again during the Depression, the hard days of Oh, yes, yes. What did you do? Well, there's a story behind that. You see, after I had been down to London, and I was never a man for going up and down stairs and agents' offices, I just couldn't do it. So I saw how things were, so I went back to Blackpool, where I was well-known as a leading man there for two years, and I started an academy, academy of speech [craft?], which mainly people who'd got on in life and wanted to get up and be able to say a few words. And it's quite a thriving thing. Then I formed the Blackpool Arts Theatre. I had about four pros and the rest were amateurs who paid to play. And we used Feldman's, we used the [Opera House? upper house?] of the Grand during the winter in the theatres, and I'd -- the Blackpool and filed folk moots, debating society and Blackpool [and filed?] verse speaking choir based on the art of the ancient Greeks, the chorus and everything like that, and I also had my eyes on Parliament, and I have a great believer in book learning, in book reading, but I think personal experience is the finest thing in the world. So I was going to make the study of the reformation of the [poor?] on my particular study. And so I decided to set off and live amongst them, and this was in 1933 when the Depression was really at it. And I put on old rags and, well not too old. I didn't overdo the part, let my beard go and put a half-crown in my pocket just to get me away from the immediate vicinity, and then I got through as they got through, and that was the whole idea of the exercise. As they got through, meaning men, single men, or men on the go who were known as tramps. Oh, yes. Of which there were a great number? Yes. Oh, it's thousands of them. And I -- this half, when this half-crown was finished, if I hadn't any money, I slept outside. If I could raise six pence, I slept out in a doss house or Salvation Army rest, and very often lived with the - what we called the professors, the professional tramps, it's a different class of society in that world just the same as anywhere else, and -- A caste system there, too. Oh, absolutely. Oh yes, the successful beggar, he is king of the shooting match. And I went through and the things I saw at that time were just past belief. The malnu-- nutrition, the rickets, the hopeless men, who were not -- I wouldn't call them tramps, though out of works. Men of integrity. Men who have been broken, tramping from one spike to another. Well, a spike was the casual ward, and in the casual ward, you went in at night. If you had any coppers you hid them in a hole in a wall or something like that, because it'd be taken from, and then you'd be asked three questions. "Where did you come from?" "Where were you going to?" and "What was your religion?" And then your clothes were taken away from you, your -- you went into a bath, and the tramp major, who was in charge and had the powers of a constable within the, within the spike. It was like a prison then in a way. In a way, yes. And then you were given a nightshirt. If you got in on the money, you'd get a clean one, if you got in towards the end of the week and not quite so lucky, and of course they used to have the army way of going on then. If you were a tall man, you got a little bum-freezer, if you were a short fellow, you'd get a nightgown that trailed well behind you, you see, and you'd go into this place. And I remember my first night I did this, went in, there was a silence, and since, soon as the door was shut, there were about 20 men in there. Then the conversation started, and the smoking went on. And now, it's something I could never understand, because all those fellows had been through the same thing as I had, that all their clothes taken away, they'd gone naked into this bath, and then they're being given their nightshirt, how they'd got pipe and tobaccos and cigarettes and matches in, that's something I could never understand. Then next morning you were awakened at six o'clock, and up and you had a breakfast prescribed by the state, which was half a pound of bread, margarine, and a cup of cocoa, which you'd had the night before. You say breakfast prescribed by the state. Yes, well, laid down by the regulations, and then you went to work, and the young men would saw wood, the older men would chop wood. And the still older men would make the bundles of firewood. Then 12 o'clock it was lunch, which was bully beef, a couple of potatoes in their jackets, and as the law prescribed, a second vegetable, one small [raw?] onion. Then at, in the afternoon you'd go on working again, you finish at four, you'd come in, you'd have half a pound of bread, margarine, and a cup of cocoa, and then you'd be at six o'clock you'd be locked up for that night. The most inhuman system I've ever known in my life, and these fellows weren't fellows who were cadging on society, these fellows were literally -- they'd left home. They wouldn't be a burden on their people. And they were going from town to town, hopeless, [down?] today, tramping in search of work which they never found. This is the point, isn't it? We use the word "tramp" as a generic phrase. The fact is the great many left homes in desperation. Is it not? Absolutely, Seeking jobs. They may have been family men. Oh yes -- They may have been father who in -- in sense of -- perhaps in shame, too, left home. Yes. Seeking other work. I you see, a lot of the youngsters left because under the means test of those days, everybody was counted in the house. Anybody earning any money, it was all went into a pool and they worked it out as to how much relief they would get. Well, the youngsters while they were at home, they couldn't get any relief, you see. I'm speaking of kids of 15 and 16 and 17. So they went on the road. So this is what the means test does, it does something to the dignity of the person. Oh, yes. And when they went on the road, then they became what I call cultured, not born, petty criminals because naturally if you've got nothing in your pocket, you're going to get something from somewhere. I mean, you're living in the world, you were right to live, you were right to eat, you were right to sleep. You were right to a little fun and games, and -- What happened to Jean Valjean, didn't it? Oh, yes. Oh, the bishop's silver candlesticks, yes. And this -- I think it was the most -- it was the worst thing that I ever experienced, and I eventually did this about seven times because when I gave up my idea of going into Parliament, by that time I'd realized what a wonderful training ground it was for an actor, how you could observe human nature in the war where a spade was called the bloody shovel, and no sooner the word than the blow, no inhibitions, and -- No sooner the word than the blow? Yes. Yeah, you mean desperation, men would claw at one another. Oh, yes. Yes. [voices Frank Crawshaw, one-time prosperous performer played the role in real life of the tramp. Did something happen to you as far as society? You were the same man, you see, Frank Crawshaw, but now you wear tattered clothes, were something of a -- unshaven face? Well, I wasn't. And this is one of the attractions of that sort of life. You see, life is made up of contrasts. You can't appreciate pleasure unless you've known the other dark side. You can't appreciate health unless you've known sickness. You can't appreciate comfortable surroundings unless you've known adversity. And you see, you've got the [transition?] both ways. When you were set off, you threw off all your inhibitions, you entered another world. Nobody took any notice of you, if you went to spit in the street, you could spit in the street. Nobody would take the slightest bit of notice. You develop the instincts of an animal for survival. The same instincts that we had in the first war, survival for life, and your problems were entirely different. And then of course you got the transition when you came back, and you put on a decent suit of clothes, you slept in a decent bed, and you had your food, and you remembered what you had seen, the poor devils you'd mixed with, and then you realize that life wasn't perhaps so bad after all. You know, there's one thing about this sort of life, it -- talking about instinct of survival, how it sharpens men's brains, and the gags they get up to [for facing the wind?]. I remember once that I was in Manchester and I had about five pence, not enough to sleep inside, and it'd been a wet night, and I'd slept out in a doorway wrapped up in newspapers, which is something you'll quickly learn for warmth. It's amazing how warm newspapers next to your skin will make you. And I went into a Salvation Army [vest?] for a cup of tea, and here I would like to say this particular thing about the Salvation Army. I took the opportunity in my travels of testing all the charities, and the Salvation Army came out absolutely tops. And I never miss an opportunity of stressing that what a wonderful organization they are, how they help the down and out, and they do not push religion down his throat all the time. The first thing is, as General Booth said, it's no good giving a tract to a man with an empty belly. And that's the way they work. Anyway, I went into this Salvation Army [vest?], and the fellow sitting near me, and at that time I was knocking around as an Irish out of work dock laborer, see I was never spotted being an actor, whenever time I knocked down, I was playing a part, and I said, "Do you know any good gags?" He says, "What's your line?" I said, "Oh, I [sell to matches and the laces?], but I lost me stock." "Oh," he said, "I know a good" -- he said, "It's a good [news out?], [unintelligible story]. So I did that, I made out a card, "Will you kindly give me half a crown for these boots in order to buy food." I went to by the post-office and I stood holding them up, and somebody gave me tuppence, and then a fellow came, he looked at the boots, he looked at me, took half a crown of his pocket and gave it to me and took the boots! And of course in that life your boots are the most important thing in your world. When you, if you're sleeping in a doss house, you very often put them under your pillow, because they're your means of locomotion. Anyway, there I was, it started to rain. I'd half a crown and I had no boots, and there's a big fat copper been watching me over there holding his belly rumbled, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. So I suddenly remembered having once after the first war being in the shoe trade that how when some people buy a pair of shoes, they leave their old ones. So I went around to quite a few shoe stores and eventually got quite a nice pair of boots. But while I'm going around, the fellas say, "A, look at that poor fella, he's got no boots," and they came up, and they gave me tuppences and Now you raise a point here, Mr. Crawshaw, this is a -- when we speak of poor against poor, homeless man to survive clawing the other homeless man, did you find at times the spirit of camaraderie or someone helping someone in these dire circumstances? I think my conclusions are that one of the finest things in the entire world is the kindness of the poor to the poor. One person in adversity will do his utmost. By and large, you get your lows and your villains, but by and large, one person in adversity will do anything to help somebody else in adversity. If he's got a crust, he'll share it. If he's got a billycan of tea and the other fellow hasn't, he'll share it. The -- where the clawing would come into, where it could come in, is say there was a job suddenly come -- one job for 80 men, well, they'd fight and scratch and all the -- to get that one job. And sometimes men with nothing to do sitting around and just for mere relaxation, somebody might start a scrap. It's a question of survival or the question of emptiness of life at that moment. The poor helping poor. And what contrast this is to the Duke's keeper. Oh, yes. You spoke of clothes, you know. Here you were as this disheveled, this homeless man, whether or the situations during the Depression. You were saying something before we went on about it was not unusual to see white tie and tails on a tram. Oh, yes. Not so much on the tram, but in the '30s I mean, you could put on white tie and tails and this little [cat?], you could get on the Tube or walk about in London and nobody would take the slightest bit of notice, because it was so, so common. I mean now, if you did that, if you went anywhere outside a car or a taxi they'd just stare at But if you were that, then they would think that you may be a socialite or upper crust. Were you able to do that and crash any parties? Of any sort? Well, no, not crash parties, but I did a bit of writing in those days, and I used to [luck?] this, and I used to get -- I was in the casino several times, which was a sort of nightclub, and I used to get to some marvelous places and have free meals and cigars and brandy and all the rest of it and look like a million dollars. I remember once I took an out-of-work actress, a very beautiful girl, to the casino and was shown to this table, and we had all the works. I even asked if she'd like some chocolate liqueurs, and chocolate liqueurs at the same time I was having half a bottle of brandy, and then she couldn't understand it, because when we got outside I didn't call a taxi to take her home, I couldn't, but I left her at the Tube, and she must be wondering to this day, "Now, that fellow, he took me out," she didn't know it was on the [never?], he took me out, he bought me a wonderful meal and this, and then he left me to go home How about the meal, how about the check, the bill? Oh, I signed that. You SAT -- you SIGNED THAT! I signed it, you see, I'd authority, from the publicity agents who ran the place, I thought it's, sign it and I signed it, which looked big in itself. Well, you gave the headwaiter your autograph, or what it amounts to, you see. To the headwaiter, then, clothes did make the man. Oh, yes. Absolutely. This is -- so there was -- in surviving there was a sort of humor of adversity at times. So that, that too, wasn't there? Oh, yes. The humor -- you see, and another thing that affected me personally and a nightmare to get through this sort of thing, I mean the tramp stuff that I'd experienced such conditions in the first war out in France in the trenches and I was only a young boy, and I'd missed death by inches so many times that ever since then I've been filled with the delight of being alive. The mere fact of being alive. Therefore when I was knocking around in this world, the conditions were nothing like so bad as when we're in the trenches in France, and there of course the old campaigners' ability to make a bed out of anything and get comfort out of anything. So to me it wasn't a trial as it was to lots of these young fellows who'd left comfortable homes for the first time and one of the most popular works of the depression was love on the dole and you played the blade leading me in that which was one of a I am not going to say it was one of the finest pieces of writing but it was one of the finest expositions of conditions as they were then it was really authentic and he had a great impact. I'm Oh, yes, I played Larry Meith in that, which was one of the -- I am not going to say it was one of the finest pieces of writing, but it was one of the finest expositions of conditions as they were then. It was really authentic, and he had a great impact, and oh, I didn't stay with it a long time, because I got a chance which to an actor was a great delight. I went to the Abbey Theater, Dublin to produce, probably one of the only Englishmen who'd done that for the Irish National Theatre. But the time I was with it, I loved it, it was a delight to play, and I still remember the impact. Mr. Crawshaw, when do you think the Depression ended for Britain? Well, I should think the Depression ended with the threat of war. You see, when Hitler came to power he wasn't taken seriously at first, and then when it became quite clear that something was going to blow up somewhere some time, and then we started re-arming and the armaments factories opened and then people got jobs making armaments. I think that's when the Depression started to ease off, you know, until it came to the war. [voices And so our tape ran out. And that's a conversation with Frank Crawshaw, a retired music hall performer/ actor in London at the Empress Theatre, with the empty house. We were seated there with the TV crew and remarkable the parallel between the experiences of course of English people and American people and I imagine all people during a moment of economic holocaust of the Depression, and in a moment after we hear from Marty Robinson, we'll find ourselves in an old people's home on -- in a in a poor section of London. After we hear from Marty. [pause in recording] I couldn't help but think, Marty, of the commercial, and the exotic foods you mentioning and the theme of this program. Thus we have adversity and a chance for life too. Here we pick up the conversation. Again you'll hear the annou-- the stage. The floor manager and the "Take one, take two." This is in London last autumn. Take one. Now we're seated here at a home for elderly people in the Westham section of London. This is the district most hard hit during those very, very rough days of the great British Depression, with four gallant survivors and their friends are here at the bingo tables. I was thinking, Mr. Field. Jim Field, Ted Blurton, Mrs. McLean and Mrs. Mansfield. Mrs. Mansfield is the youngster here, she -- 69, is that right? And Mrs. McLean? Eighty-two. You're 82. And Mr. Blurton? Seventy-seven. Seventy-seven, and Jim Field. Seventy-nine. Seventy-nine, I'm thinking about, well Jim, we've been talking with Mr. Field. The Depression. When were you first aware of it? Well, I was first aware of it after I got discharged out the army, in 1914. [Could always time serving?] I got, came here after -- February -- November. Nineteen fourteen. No, 1919. In In 1918 I came out. In November. What I was out of work on and off for four years. Couldn't get a job. My wife was -- try to get work. There was no food about. And we used to go in what they call a bun house. What's a bun house? What they call now "assistance." We used to go to the [air?] then, we'd used to, perhaps we'd be there eight o'clock in the morning, might be there 10 or 11 o'clock at night. All we got was tickets. We never got no money. And we'd used to go to, take a pillow case to the shops, we used to get bread, meat, vegetables, and take it home. You'd wait hours -- We lived, we lived, we waited out for these tickets. For the tickets. The tickets were for you, before never no money ever [thought?]. You remember the bun house, Mrs. McLean? Yes, I do. Work house. You remember, how long would you have to wait in line sometimes? Well, so long it's a long time before you got anything, then you've got two loaves hard as a bullet, and a bit of tea and sugar and that and you had to get on with that and a pillowcase. And a pillowcase. What happened when you'd get stale bread, what you had -- Well, you had to eat it or toast it or soak it. What Well, What about the children, though. Would you warm up the stale bread, is that Well, we had to fit it out with what I could. Bit o' rice or what I could, what could I, could afford. How long would those lines extend? They'd wait for hours to get the ticket, Oh, yes. 'Cause you never know, once you, when you, you had to go to this place, well within [Seventh?] Lane, what they call the relieving officer, his name was [Walden?], he's the chief relieving officer, and sometimes if you went before the committee, they used to pull you to pieces. What would they do? And I, I, they used to come round and visit your home. This is authentic, this is no, this is no, madam. This woman'll bear me up, I'm telling you. Oh, I had a canary, and I had to sell it. [Unintelligible] Let me get this. Mr. Field, you had a canary, but the social worker made you sell it. Oh, I had to get -- I had to raf-- I didn't sell it, I raffled to get more money for it. Wait, because the canary ate too much? It ate too much food I suppose, I couldn't afford to keep it. So you had to sell the canary, Yeah. It was a luxury. Do you remember --? I don't -- sold no canaries, but never had none, but when you come round you had anything decent, you've got to sell it to get food for your children. They told you to [Speaking Sell it or pawn it. I do know. Sell it or pawn it to the pawnbrokers. Oh, I suppose then the pawnbrokers were pretty busy. Well, one thing, you never saw it again, did you? Know them three balls? Yeah. Well you know what that means, don't you? Two to one you won't get them back. So whether there was -- Monday the big day, was Monday --? Monday was a big day when you rolled out the [unintelligible]. Got a [mat?] set if you could. Why was Monday the big day for waiting -- [Speaking at once]. But suppose you were on relief in those days, and you had a gramophone. You had to sell that. No music. No, no. That was a luxury. Oh, it was a luxury. What were the feelings, how did you feel at that when Had to put up with it, ain't you? Put up with it. [Speaking They couldn't do nothing about it. As I said before, it caused dissension being amongst the working class, and the working class was at each other's throats. That was the whole idea, was to get the working class at loggerheads with one another. There was a method in it. Poor fighting poor. Yeah, poor -- [unintelligible] no argument about it. Well, what happened then? Weren't there demonstrations? Well, of course there was demonstrations. There was demonstrations. That's right. They used to [unintelligible] borough council. They used to send the men down to Belmont, down in Surrey on the farm. A shilling. A shilling a week pocket money they used to give. And it's true. Mr. Blurton, do you remember the demonstrations? That's right, I remember all what these people are talking about. They used to send us out the park to sweep the leaves up, or go over there the children's home cleaning. Labour camps they were, so I'll called them. See? And then before the war, well, children used to go to school with their boots Didn't No, [Unintelligible]. Did

Studs Terkel You're talking before the World War One. So then Depression is most of your life you're talking

Ted Blurton Before the '14 war.

Mrs. McLean Before the '14 war.

Mrs. Mansfield We've all been born about 30 or 40 years too young and too quick.

Group [Speaking at once].

Jim Field Well, wait a minute. Let's get this in perspective. When you hear people say, when you hear people say about the good old days, there was no such thing as the good old days.

Group [Speaking

Jim Field There was no such thing, that's all [hooey?].

Group [Speaking

Mrs. McLean One time we had nothing to eat, they've got the soup kitchen. Get a bite and a soup and a bit of bread. Oh, no.

Group [Speaking at

Mrs. Mansfield Is what we did have years ago. Feeling's not there.

Studs Terkel What's that, Mrs. Mansfield?

Mrs. Mansfield The feeling's not there. Like years ago we was poor, but we was more sociable or more together. You'd do jobs for people and you wouldn't want paying for it, and all that business, you know we were so poor, we knew it. Scrub tables, scrub the floors, scrub the chairs.

Studs Terkel You mean there was a feeling of comradeship coming through

Mrs. Mansfield Yes, yes. More although we was

Studs Terkel More than there is today?

Mrs. Mansfield We'd go in one another's houses and all that and not all this nickin' and that, you know, thieving what there is today. We had nothing to thieve.

Group [Speaking at once].

Mrs. Mansfield They'd even tell you to pawn your wedding

Studs Terkel You mean you didn't have Elizabeth Taylor's Hope Diamond?

Mrs. McLean Oh, no.

Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel We should point out that you'll hear the voice of the director now and then, because this is, was recorded, taped for television. Your hear is, "Take one" or "Take two," you hear those voices every now and then of Jolyon Wimhurst. First this conversation with Frank Crawshaw and memories. Twelve, take one. Where we're seated is a celebrated place and once was a place of celebration too, the Empress. Variety hall years ago, then it became a movie house and now it's a bingo hall. Seated next to me as Frank Crawshaw, a veteran performer in just about all fields of theater. Mr. Crawshaw, as we're talking now about performers in Britain, we think of rough periods, hard lots, gypsy life, but mostly the Depression itself. The British Depression, when did it -- when did you feel it hit the performer. Well, I think it really made its presence felt in the first place about, to the end of 1929 and in the '30s. You see, at that time, the performer, the actor, they felt the effects of the Depression far more than anybody else, because not only was there the Depression which came of course in the Wall Street collapse and was worldwide. It was also at the same time that the talkies came in. Something entirely new, actually people on a screen talking. And it's impossible to convey to people today who don't remember those times what an affect it had, I mean in a short time tactically the entire touring system built down. The provincial halls, they were, and the theaters wired for sound, and they gutted some of the theatres and put in new seats, something they never did in the in the theatres, and the theatres still went on with their tatty seating and tatty [bitched all?] the seats at the back and things like that, and it was it was like a sledgehammer hitting somebody, people were absolutely [bemused?]. I mean, the thing changed from absolute prosperity which it was in the '20s -- Oh, was it? Oh, it was, I mean every town had at least of any size at least one theatre and one music hall, some more than that. And in the stage of those days you'd have quite a number of pages of the tour list. Things on tour. So the actor the, whether it be the variety performer or the dramatic actor had all -- a pretty, a tour pretty well set. [One ten?] in provinces too, as well as large cities. Well, in those days I was there for about seven years in the '20s, I was, well, not quite all in the '20s, but I was an established leading man in repertory and on tour and I never need to have a day out of work unless I wanted to have a holiday, you just went from one job to another. And in those days as a leading man I'd get anything from 12 pounds a week up to about 16 or 18, according to who you were working for. You could be on tour starring in a tour out of a West End success, probably get about 20 or 25, and then maybe go into pantomime. You know, as [ebb announcer?], which I usually played, it's more than that. And if you paid a pound for what we call the combined chat, which was a combined [home?], you were getting a palace. You could live, and you could live like a lord on two pounds a The prices naturally prices were far -- And there's all this beautiful situation where you thoroughly enjoyed what you were doing, you loved the theater, and it was a sort of heaven, and then this clash. Now, when did you first sense this change? Do you recall personally? any -- no, no one particular moment. Do you recall when you began to sense something was going awry? Well in, from 1929 to 1931 I was leading man of the Blackpool rep. And there was a sort of a security there that the outside world didn't really come into. It must have been felt by many, many actors much earlier than I felt it myself. But when the season finished in 1931, I went to Ireland to stay with an Irish judge, a friend of mine, and I did a tour. I didn't call it one-man theatre in those days, a tour of you know, one-man shows around Ireland. Then I came back, and then I went to London. I've never seen such a sudden transition in my life. The place was full of actors. They were every morning and every afternoon, they were going around the agents. There were plenty of agents, general agents, upstairs and downstairs, upstairs and downstairs. Almost as though they were queuing up in front of the agent's offices. Yes! Going in and out, and they'd do it twice a day, and you could come into London in those days from anywhere in London for, on the streetcars for a tuppence. Any distance. And they'd meet in the Shandoss or the Salisbury, the actors' pubs there, and have a Theppany Mild or something like that, and they might have a sandwich in their pocket and then they'd go on, and this hopeless procession day after day, and I knew actors at that time who'd been getting 50 pounds a week and 60 pounds a week regularly, and they were queuing for jobs at five pounds a week. This was happening then, and I suppose something happened to the man himself, didn't it? The actor after all does have a front, front of gaiety of life, and I suppose it's a little different for the performer, isn't it? That is, or was the front no longer maintained? Well, they still kept up that sort of dignity, particularly actors as opposed to variety artists. Always in the profession there was a legit, and the, there was called the others illegitimate something, and then the variety artist was more of a happy-go-lucky fellow, whereas the average actor was generally on his dignity, and to see them standing in knots in [Jetting?] Cross Road. Frayed, you know. The cuffs. They'd be neatly cut, and there wasn't -- you didn't see any pink-edged collars in those days. I would say that used to be an old gag, the pink-edged collars. You know, a young actor coming into the business and saying, "Where can you buy pink-edged collars?" Because the actor would use his collar that he'd use on the stage, and of course the makeup had touched it. Oh, But you didn't see any pink-edged collars in Chadding Cross Road, they'd all gone. Yeah. So there was a front maintained, the frayed cuffs hidden or cut off, sort of, in contrast say to ordinary working people, there it was, that was a situation, the actor still had to maintain that front, didn't he? Oh, I suppose something happened to himself, to the man inside, didn't it? at that time? Do you recall a There's a good, a good story told about that time that, an actor went into the Vicks-- an old actor, he went into the Vickstead library and looked at the stage, and it said, "Wanted: A character actor for tour. Apply at an address in Putney," and so he said, "Well, I'll go to Putney. Oh, it's a nice day, I think I'll walk." Well, he had to, he hadn't got the fare anyway. So he went up Acre Lane and he went down the dip and up the dip and eventually got to the address in Putney and knocked at the door, he said, "I've come in answer to your advert in the stage," and they said, "Well, we're very sorry. I have to tell you that the position is now filled." "Oh, well, well, oh well, that is the way of life," and he set out walking back. By this time it was late, getting about midnight and it was pouring down, his boots were letting in water, down the rise and up the rise, his boots squelching away, and he's just passing the old times furnishing company, when out of the door the voice came, "Hello, Saucy." Saucy itself is almost metaphorical to saucy, I suppose is the way vaudevillians, variety people were to performers. I'm thinking about yourself now, that time so you -- you had many -- not too many avenues open to you. You were still performing and you were a man of -- you always have been a man of social conscience, hadn't you, Yes, yes, I have, and the -- I remember when I was about three sitting on the knees of [Geer Harvey?] in my father's house, and my father was always a great speaker and worker for better conditions, things like that. And I don't -- I was because I was a son of my father, I suppose I was [tinged?] that way, but it wasn't until after the war really that -- during the war I came back from France, I had been This is World War One we're World War One, yes. And I was an expert on bayonet fighting, and after I came out of hospital I was sent to Woking, Woking Abbey, and well, [the duke had thrown out the estates, you see, so for trading?], and well then I went back to France. Well, after the war I'd been down to a church at Mansfield in those days I was doing it a lot, I used to be in churches, nonconformist churches, that'd have me in place of the service and I'd do Joseph and his coat of many colors, or Tennyson's "In a Garden", or something like that, passing the [third flow-by?], and I had a day to spare and I thought I'll go and have a look at the old place. And I came to a barbed-wire fence and climbed over, and I'm walking through the home woods and then a fellow in velveteens appeared, a keeper with a couple of dogs, he says, "Where you all going?" "Oh," I said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have climbed the fence, but I was here training during the war, and I thought I'd like to have a look at the old place," he says, "You all get off." I said, "Look, I was here during the war and I'm having a --" He says, "You all get off." Says, "You all get off or I'll set dogs on you," and I looked down, these are -- so I got off quick, and then when I got up I started thinking, "Well, during the war when these, this fellow and all his estates and his livelihood and himself were in danger, he was quite ready to say, "Come on, boys, come on my place, play at mechanical rabbits, do what you like," but now he's safe again, "You all get off," and I think that had -- that started something in me that never stopped. So that was a moment of revelation to you. It happened to you, that incident even though your father had a friend -- Thirteen, take one. Frank Crawshaw remembering the Depression. When -- in your case, too, you were always a man of social conscience, weren't you? Yes, I think so. Well, I'm sure so. It goes back a long time, there's a family influence in this, because I remember I think I was about you sitting on the knees of Guyer Hardy in my father's house. And I suppose I was that way inclined, because my father was that way inclined, I was always a great socialist and a great speaker and a great worker for better conditions. But it didn't really strike me until after the war. During the war I had been wounded and come back from France, and -- World War One. World War One, and I was an expert in bayonet fighting, and I was sent to Woburne Abbey, which was a training ground and belonged to the Duke of -- I forget his name now. Anyway. And I was there and eventually I went to France again, and then after the war in 1919 I was giving a recital in a church. In those days I used to do quite a bit of that: "Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors", "In a Gar--" Tennyson's "In a Garden", and things like that in place of the service, and I had a day to spare and I thought I'll go and have a look at the old place, and so I came to a barbed-wire fence and climbed over it. It said "No Trespass" of course. I'm walking through the home woods and suddenly came across a keeper in velveteens and a couple of dogs, and he said, "Where's you all going?" I said, "Well, I used to be on, I was on here training during the war and I thought I'd like to have a look at the old place," and they said, "You all get off." But I said, "Look, I was on here during the war and I'm, you know having a --" He says, "You all get off or I'll set dogs on you!" So I looked down, and these two dogs looked [fierce?], so I didn't waste any time, I got off, and [so after that got off?]. Then I started thinking, I thought, "Oh. Now, during the war this fellow and his estates and himself and everything was in danger. So fine, throw open the ground, Come on, lads. Let's play mechanical rabbits and die for me," and then as soon as he was safe, the wall was over, it was "You all get off, I'll set the dogs on you, and I think that said my train of thought, and ever since then I've been very much that way inclined. So that moment of revelation, of the difference perhaps between haves and have-nots occurred which of course led to you being a curious man, adventurous man, an actor/performer, thoughtful. This adventure of yours as a tramp. This is -- again during the Depression, the hard days of Oh, yes, yes. What did you do? Well, there's a story behind that. You see, after I had been down to London, and I was never a man for going up and down stairs and agents' offices, I just couldn't do it. So I saw how things were, so I went back to Blackpool, where I was well-known as a leading man there for two years, and I started an academy, academy of speech [craft?], which mainly people who'd got on in life and wanted to get up and be able to say a few words. And it's quite a thriving thing. Then I formed the Blackpool Arts Theatre. I had about four pros and the rest were amateurs who paid to play. And we used Feldman's, we used the [Opera House? upper house?] of the Grand during the winter in the theatres, and I'd -- the Blackpool and filed folk moots, debating society and Blackpool [and filed?] verse speaking choir based on the art of the ancient Greeks, the chorus and everything like that, and I also had my eyes on Parliament, and I have a great believer in book learning, in book reading, but I think personal experience is the finest thing in the world. So I was going to make the study of the reformation of the [poor?] on my particular study. And so I decided to set off and live amongst them, and this was in 1933 when the Depression was really at it. And I put on old rags and, well not too old. I didn't overdo the part, let my beard go and put a half-crown in my pocket just to get me away from the immediate vicinity, and then I got through as they got through, and that was the whole idea of the exercise. As they got through, meaning men, single men, or men on the go who were known as tramps. Oh, yes. Of which there were a great number? Yes. Oh, it's thousands of them. And I -- this half, when this half-crown was finished, if I hadn't any money, I slept outside. If I could raise six pence, I slept out in a doss house or Salvation Army rest, and very often lived with the - what we called the professors, the professional tramps, it's a different class of society in that world just the same as anywhere else, and -- A caste system there, too. Oh, absolutely. Oh yes, the successful beggar, he is king of the shooting match. And I went through and the things I saw at that time were just past belief. The malnu-- nutrition, the rickets, the hopeless men, who were not -- I wouldn't call them tramps, though out of works. Men of integrity. Men who have been broken, tramping from one spike to another. Well, a spike was the casual ward, and in the casual ward, you went in at night. If you had any coppers you hid them in a hole in a wall or something like that, because it'd be taken from, and then you'd be asked three questions. "Where did you come from?" "Where were you going to?" and "What was your religion?" And then your clothes were taken away from you, your -- you went into a bath, and the tramp major, who was in charge and had the powers of a constable within the, within the spike. It was like a prison then in a way. In a way, yes. And then you were given a nightshirt. If you got in on the money, you'd get a clean one, if you got in towards the end of the week and not quite so lucky, and of course they used to have the army way of going on then. If you were a tall man, you got a little bum-freezer, if you were a short fellow, you'd get a nightgown that trailed well behind you, you see, and you'd go into this place. And I remember my first night I did this, went in, there was a silence, and since, soon as the door was shut, there were about 20 men in there. Then the conversation started, and the smoking went on. And now, it's something I could never understand, because all those fellows had been through the same thing as I had, that all their clothes taken away, they'd gone naked into this bath, and then they're being given their nightshirt, how they'd got pipe and tobaccos and cigarettes and matches in, that's something I could never understand. Then next morning you were awakened at six o'clock, and up and you had a breakfast prescribed by the state, which was half a pound of bread, margarine, and a cup of cocoa, which you'd had the night before. You say breakfast prescribed by the state. Yes, well, laid down by the regulations, and then you went to work, and the young men would saw wood, the older men would chop wood. And the still older men would make the bundles of firewood. Then 12 o'clock it was lunch, which was bully beef, a couple of potatoes in their jackets, and as the law prescribed, a second vegetable, one small [raw?] onion. Then at, in the afternoon you'd go on working again, you finish at four, you'd come in, you'd have half a pound of bread, margarine, and a cup of cocoa, and then you'd be at six o'clock you'd be locked up for that night. The most inhuman system I've ever known in my life, and these fellows weren't fellows who were cadging on society, these fellows were literally -- they'd left home. They wouldn't be a burden on their people. And they were going from town to town, hopeless, [down?] today, tramping in search of work which they never found. This is the point, isn't it? We use the word "tramp" as a generic phrase. The fact is the great many left homes in desperation. Is it not? Absolutely, Seeking jobs. They may have been family men. Oh yes -- They may have been father who in -- in sense of -- perhaps in shame, too, left home. Yes. Seeking other work. I you see, a lot of the youngsters left because under the means test of those days, everybody was counted in the house. Anybody earning any money, it was all went into a pool and they worked it out as to how much relief they would get. Well, the youngsters while they were at home, they couldn't get any relief, you see. I'm speaking of kids of 15 and 16 and 17. So they went on the road. So this is what the means test does, it does something to the dignity of the person. Oh, yes. And when they went on the road, then they became what I call cultured, not born, petty criminals because naturally if you've got nothing in your pocket, you're going to get something from somewhere. I mean, you're living in the world, you were right to live, you were right to eat, you were right to sleep. You were right to a little fun and games, and -- What happened to Jean Valjean, didn't it? Oh, yes. Oh, the bishop's silver candlesticks, yes. And this -- I think it was the most -- it was the worst thing that I ever experienced, and I eventually did this about seven times because when I gave up my idea of going into Parliament, by that time I'd realized what a wonderful training ground it was for an actor, how you could observe human nature in the war where a spade was called the bloody shovel, and no sooner the word than the blow, no inhibitions, and -- No sooner the word than the blow? Yes. Yeah, you mean desperation, men would claw at one another. Oh, yes. Yes. [voices Frank Crawshaw, one-time prosperous performer played the role in real life of the tramp. Did something happen to you as far as society? You were the same man, you see, Frank Crawshaw, but now you wear tattered clothes, were something of a -- unshaven face? Well, I wasn't. And this is one of the attractions of that sort of life. You see, life is made up of contrasts. You can't appreciate pleasure unless you've known the other dark side. You can't appreciate health unless you've known sickness. You can't appreciate comfortable surroundings unless you've known adversity. And you see, you've got the [transition?] both ways. When you were set off, you threw off all your inhibitions, you entered another world. Nobody took any notice of you, if you went to spit in the street, you could spit in the street. Nobody would take the slightest bit of notice. You develop the instincts of an animal for survival. The same instincts that we had in the first war, survival for life, and your problems were entirely different. And then of course you got the transition when you came back, and you put on a decent suit of clothes, you slept in a decent bed, and you had your food, and you remembered what you had seen, the poor devils you'd mixed with, and then you realize that life wasn't perhaps so bad after all. You know, there's one thing about this sort of life, it -- talking about instinct of survival, how it sharpens men's brains, and the gags they get up to [for facing the wind?]. I remember once that I was in Manchester and I had about five pence, not enough to sleep inside, and it'd been a wet night, and I'd slept out in a doorway wrapped up in newspapers, which is something you'll quickly learn for warmth. It's amazing how warm newspapers next to your skin will make you. And I went into a Salvation Army [vest?] for a cup of tea, and here I would like to say this particular thing about the Salvation Army. I took the opportunity in my travels of testing all the charities, and the Salvation Army came out absolutely tops. And I never miss an opportunity of stressing that what a wonderful organization they are, how they help the down and out, and they do not push religion down his throat all the time. The first thing is, as General Booth said, it's no good giving a tract to a man with an empty belly. And that's the way they work. Anyway, I went into this Salvation Army [vest?], and the fellow sitting near me, and at that time I was knocking around as an Irish out of work dock laborer, see I was never spotted being an actor, whenever time I knocked down, I was playing a part, and I said, "Do you know any good gags?" He says, "What's your line?" I said, "Oh, I [sell to matches and the laces?], but I lost me stock." "Oh," he said, "I know a good" -- he said, "It's a good [news out?], [unintelligible story]. So I did that, I made out a card, "Will you kindly give me half a crown for these boots in order to buy food." I went to by the post-office and I stood holding them up, and somebody gave me tuppence, and then a fellow came, he looked at the boots, he looked at me, took half a crown of his pocket and gave it to me and took the boots! And of course in that life your boots are the most important thing in your world. When you, if you're sleeping in a doss house, you very often put them under your pillow, because they're your means of locomotion. Anyway, there I was, it started to rain. I'd half a crown and I had no boots, and there's a big fat copper been watching me over there holding his belly rumbled, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. So I suddenly remembered having once after the first war being in the shoe trade that how when some people buy a pair of shoes, they leave their old ones. So I went around to quite a few shoe stores and eventually got quite a nice pair of boots. But while I'm going around, the fellas say, "A, look at that poor fella, he's got no boots," and they came up, and they gave me tuppences and Now you raise a point here, Mr. Crawshaw, this is a -- when we speak of poor against poor, homeless man to survive clawing the other homeless man, did you find at times the spirit of camaraderie or someone helping someone in these dire circumstances? I think my conclusions are that one of the finest things in the entire world is the kindness of the poor to the poor. One person in adversity will do his utmost. By and large, you get your lows and your villains, but by and large, one person in adversity will do anything to help somebody else in adversity. If he's got a crust, he'll share it. If he's got a billycan of tea and the other fellow hasn't, he'll share it. The -- where the clawing would come into, where it could come in, is say there was a job suddenly come -- one job for 80 men, well, they'd fight and scratch and all the -- to get that one job. And sometimes men with nothing to do sitting around and just for mere relaxation, somebody might start a scrap. It's a question of survival or the question of emptiness of life at that moment. The poor helping poor. And what contrast this is to the Duke's keeper. Oh, yes. You spoke of clothes, you know. Here you were as this disheveled, this homeless man, whether or the situations during the Depression. You were saying something before we went on about it was not unusual to see white tie and tails on a tram. Oh, yes. Not so much on the tram, but in the '30s I mean, you could put on white tie and tails and this little [cat?], you could get on the Tube or walk about in London and nobody would take the slightest bit of notice, because it was so, so common. I mean now, if you did that, if you went anywhere outside a car or a taxi they'd just stare at But if you were that, then they would think that you may be a socialite or upper crust. Were you able to do that and crash any parties? Of any sort? Well, no, not crash parties, but I did a bit of writing in those days, and I used to [luck?] this, and I used to get -- I was in the casino several times, which was a sort of nightclub, and I used to get to some marvelous places and have free meals and cigars and brandy and all the rest of it and look like a million dollars. I remember once I took an out-of-work actress, a very beautiful girl, to the casino and was shown to this table, and we had all the works. I even asked if she'd like some chocolate liqueurs, and chocolate liqueurs at the same time I was having half a bottle of brandy, and then she couldn't understand it, because when we got outside I didn't call a taxi to take her home, I couldn't, but I left her at the Tube, and she must be wondering to this day, "Now, that fellow, he took me out," she didn't know it was on the [never?], he took me out, he bought me a wonderful meal and this, and then he left me to go home How about the meal, how about the check, the bill? Oh, I signed that. You SAT -- you SIGNED THAT! I signed it, you see, I'd authority, from the publicity agents who ran the place, I thought it's, sign it and I signed it, which looked big in itself. Well, you gave the headwaiter your autograph, or what it amounts to, you see. To the headwaiter, then, clothes did make the man. Oh, yes. Absolutely. This is -- so there was -- in surviving there was a sort of humor of adversity at times. So that, that too, wasn't there? Oh, yes. The humor -- you see, and another thing that affected me personally and a nightmare to get through this sort of thing, I mean the tramp stuff that I'd experienced such conditions in the first war out in France in the trenches and I was only a young boy, and I'd missed death by inches so many times that ever since then I've been filled with the delight of being alive. The mere fact of being alive. Therefore when I was knocking around in this world, the conditions were nothing like so bad as when we're in the trenches in France, and there of course the old campaigners' ability to make a bed out of anything and get comfort out of anything. So to me it wasn't a trial as it was to lots of these young fellows who'd left comfortable homes for the first time and one of the most popular works of the depression was love on the dole and you played the blade leading me in that which was one of a I am not going to say it was one of the finest pieces of writing but it was one of the finest expositions of conditions as they were then it was really authentic and he had a great impact. I'm Oh, yes, I played Larry Meith in that, which was one of the -- I am not going to say it was one of the finest pieces of writing, but it was one of the finest expositions of conditions as they were then. It was really authentic, and he had a great impact, and oh, I didn't stay with it a long time, because I got a chance which to an actor was a great delight. I went to the Abbey Theater, Dublin to produce, probably one of the only Englishmen who'd done that for the Irish National Theatre. But the time I was with it, I loved it, it was a delight to play, and I still remember the impact. Mr. Crawshaw, when do you think the Depression ended for Britain? Well, I should think the Depression ended with the threat of war. You see, when Hitler came to power he wasn't taken seriously at first, and then when it became quite clear that something was going to blow up somewhere some time, and then we started re-arming and the armaments factories opened and then people got jobs making armaments. I think that's when the Depression started to ease off, you know, until it came to the war. [voices And so our tape ran out. And that's a conversation with Frank Crawshaw, a retired music hall performer/ actor in London at the Empress Theatre, with the empty house. We were seated there with the TV crew and remarkable the parallel between the experiences of course of English people and American people and I imagine all people during a moment of economic holocaust of the Depression, and in a moment after we hear from Marty Robinson, we'll find ourselves in an old people's home on -- in a in a poor section of London. After we hear from Marty. [pause in recording] I couldn't help but think, Marty, of the commercial, and the exotic foods you mentioning and the theme of this program. Thus we have adversity and a chance for life too. Here we pick up the conversation. Again you'll hear the annou-- the stage. The floor manager and the "Take one, take two." This is in London last autumn. Take one. Now we're seated here at a home for elderly people in the Westham section of London. This is the district most hard hit during those very, very rough days of the great British Depression, with four gallant survivors and their friends are here at the bingo tables. I was thinking, Mr. Field. Jim Field, Ted Blurton, Mrs. McLean and Mrs. Mansfield. Mrs. Mansfield is the youngster here, she -- 69, is that right? And Mrs. McLean? Eighty-two. You're 82. And Mr. Blurton? Seventy-seven. Seventy-seven, and Jim Field. Seventy-nine. Seventy-nine, I'm thinking about, well Jim, we've been talking with Mr. Field. The Depression. When were you first aware of it? Well, I was first aware of it after I got discharged out the army, in 1914. [Could always time serving?] I got, came here after -- February -- November. Nineteen fourteen. No, 1919. In In