Studs Terkel [background noise, laughter, and conversations throughout due to pub setting] We will, thank you. We went along with Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, who are at their pub right now, and I didn't realize that the Midlands of England is this close to London, only two and a half hours, and I was wondering, I'm seated here next to the good people of the community, who are drinking stout. May have a sip of that, ma'am?
Female Voice 1 Yes. [laughter]
Studs Terkel Just a sip. [laughter] I Like it. Lady, thank you very much for the sip.
Female Voice 1 It's nice, isn't it?
Studs Terkel I like it. What, what do you do, ma'am? I mean here. I mean at the moment you're enjoying yourself.
Female Voice 1 Yeah.
Studs Terkel But I mean as far as livelihood, or--
Female Voice 1 I just stay home look after meself.
Studs Terkel You stay look after yourself.
Female Voice 1 Yeah.
Studs Terkel Well, when you were very young girl.
Female Voice 1 Oh.
Studs Terkel What kind of work did you do, see? Farm work, was it?
Female Voice 1 Yes, partly, shop work. And that was that.
Studs Terkel Where would that have been?
Female Voice 1 Stratford-on-Avon I served in the shop.
Studs Terkel Oh you served in Stratford-on-Avon?
Female Voice 1 Yes, close to the theater.
Studs Terkel Have you been in the Midlands all your life?
Female Voice 1 Yeah.
Studs Terkel Here, Stratford-on-Avon.
Female Voice 1 Yeah. Born in Stratford-on-Avon.
Studs Terkel Born?
Female Voice 1 Yeah.
Studs Terkel Now this--
Female Voice 1 Now go to somebody else!
Studs Terkel Alright, now I'm talking now to the [laughter] gentleman across the bar. [shouting in background] [unintelligible] This is Bob -- Bob--
Male Voice 1 He's just retired, he's just retired.
Studs Terkel Bob. I understand you just retired, retired from what?
Bob Who told you that?
Studs Terkel Oh, I just heard a rumor to that effect.
Studs Terkel What, what what sort of work have you been doing all your life, Bob? What sort of work [cough] have you been doing?
Bob Oh, [unintelligible] [decent with?] agricultural one.
Studs Terkel Agricultural?
Studs Terkel Did you have a farm of your -- you have, did you have a farm of your own before you retired, or were you working for somebody else?
Bob I never had a farm, nobody [unintelligible] never had enough money to have a farm. [laughter]
Studs Terkel Bob, how long, how many years did you, you've been working on a farm? You just retired, how many years?
Bob I started when I was 13 and I was 70 last August, so you can tell.
Studs Terkel So your whole life. What sort of crops, what sort of products on the farm? [cash register] What's the main crop around here?
Bob Wow. When it comes to the crops you know we always had a crop but it wouldn't it always crawl on, it was [quick to thistles?]. [laughter]
Studs Terkel What is [quick to thistles?]?
Bob Well that's a bloody weed, that is. [laughter]
Studs Terkel Ah. So I assume, Bob, then you've seen rough times, have you seen pretty rough times in your life?
Bob Oh yeah. But we were brought up on a parish. A bob a week and a loaf.
Studs Terkel You're saying--
Bob My mother was a widow with 2 kids to keep [unintelligible] [table?].
Studs Terkel You were brought up on the parish, you say.
Studs Terkel What would that mean you, you--
Bob We share in the work and a loaf of bread a piece. What and the rest we had and me mother had to get. When they [thrashing?] all day for a shilling a day, wishing all day for a shilling. Won't get a bit of bread and cheese [unintelligible] [sold it to?]. [laughter]
Studs Terkel [shouting in background] Well Bob, you -- We'll come back to Bob. I see Bob, is that Bob with the pipe? Used to work, perhaps, there's nothing -- Harry, just a general feeling.
Female Voice 1 It's all over there, now.
Studs Terkel All right. This is Harry. Is this Harry?
Female Voice 1 That's Harry, yes.
Studs Terkel Harry. Sit next to Bob. Bob was talking about the old days just a little bit, I'll come back to him later. What's your life? What you do, Harry, for, for a living?
Harry Well anything, a bit of anything.
Studs Terkel A bit of anything?
Harry Yeah. Agriculture engineer, bit of brick layer, any bloody job you can tell me. [laughter] Oh! [What did he -- put in the, oh, when do record?].
Studs Terkel What sort of work you doing now?
Harry Well, I've [recalls?] for engineering, plumbing, bit of brick laying.
Studs Terkel You doing--
Studs Terkel Combinations.
Studs Terkel How long, how old were you when you started working?
Harry [laughter] No, you're not [making?] me a correct answer, do you? [laughter]
Studs Terkel No no no now I mean, when you started working.
Harry Well the first -- I'll tell you the first job we did, it was [milking spread mud?].
Studs Terkel It was milking, you say?
Female Voice 2 [spread mud?]
Harry When I was born.
Studs Terkel Oh! [laughter] We're getting a sort of, what you call, this is what you call a very gamey and earthy humor. Would you call this, [mother?], this is typical Midland's humor isn't it? Yeah. Harry, Harry, no I was asking how old you were when you began to work. You know, were you, you see--
Studs Terkel Bob here was 13, you were 14.
Harry Fourteen [yeller (yellow)?]
Studs Terkel So all your life then has been pretty hard work.
Studs Terkel Yeah. Well how do you feel about changes? Do you feel England today is different than when you were a small boy of 13 or 14?
Harry Well damn well I'm having a better life now than ever I did in my life before. I'm having more money to spend now than I did when I was single.
Studs Terkel Today you say you have more than you had before?
Studs Terkel It's a better life, then, you feel today.
Harry [Damned a bit?]
Studs Terkel Let's go on for a bout. Who else have we got? We'll come back. [shouting in background] I want to come back to. Who -- who's the -- Well come on let's not -- I don't think you ought to be shy. Is that Dick? Call Dick.
Female Voice 1 He is
Studs Terkel a farmer. Dick is a farmer.
Female Voice 1 Yeah.
Studs Terkel Dick, this is your life. Now, this is not your life. Now Dick doesn't feel like -- say what?
Male Voice 2 Mrs. George.
Studs Terkel Oh, this is--
Male Voice 2 Mrs. George.
Studs Terkel Mrs. George. Mrs. George, Renee. Mrs. George, your work. You're a housewife. Mrs. George?
Mrs. George Yes, I am.
Studs Terkel Your husband does what for a living?
Mrs. George Agricultural engineer.
Studs Terkel What does that mean, agricultural engineer?
Mrs. George Well it's agricultural work, but it's mostly to do with engines, you see. It's mechanical.
Studs Terkel I see, like [canning?] tractors, you mean?
Mrs. George Right, yes.
Mrs. George I see. How long, how long -- has he been doing this all his life?
Mrs. George Since he was about 18. Ever since I've been married anyway.
Studs Terkel Were you Mrs. George, Mrs. George.
Mrs. George Yes.
Studs Terkel Renee?
Mrs. George Yes.
Studs Terkel You yourself. What did you do when you were a small girl? What, or when you, before you married what sort of work did you do?
Mrs. George Service, domestic service, had 7 and 6 a week. That was when I was 14.
Studs Terkel Fourteen. I noticed that everybody at one time or another here has gone to work when he was 13 or 14. This is domestic service?
Mrs. George Yes.
Studs Terkel How do you feel about the changes in England today? When, since the time you were 14?
Mrs. George Well I'm better off now than I've ever been in my life.
Studs Terkel In what way?
Mrs. George Well I was one of a big family. Money was very scarce, and didn't many clothes and not much food. But now I have practically everything I want.
Studs Terkel You say you have practically everything you want. What would that be?
Mrs. George Well within reason. I'm able to have clothes and have a good time, I enjoy myself.
Studs Terkel Do you have children?
Mrs. George Yes.
Studs Terkel What about--
Mrs. George Three sons.
Studs Terkel Three sons. What are they doing?
Mrs. George One is a lorry driver. The other one is an electric -- an apprentice electrician, and an apprentice carpenter and joiner.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking when you were a small girl. When you were, started to work at 14, your family, what did your father, what did your parents do?
Mrs. George My father was the local blacksmith. And, well, that was that.
Studs Terkel What was, was life, was life--
Female Voice 3 [Call him crazy?]
Mrs. George Daddy went [rice?] and oh yes he did that was true enough, yes.
Studs Terkel What, was life very -- your memories of girlhood. What were they? Hard days?
Mrs. George They were. Yes, definitely they were. There was no running around the streets at night. You had to be in, even when at the time I was married, and I was 21 when I was married. I had to be in at 10 o'clock. If I wasn't in, Daddy was after me with the strap.
Studs Terkel Well how do you feel about the changes today with young people?
Mrs. George Well I think they're very lucky, I think they're living in a good age, I think they are. I didn't get what my boys get. When I was a child.
Female Voice 3 But you're happy now.
Mrs. George Oh yes, I am.
Studs Terkel Are you--
Mrs. George Me [muld?] boys had more pocket money than I had housekeeping money when I was first married.
Studs Terkel You feel then the children are freer today than they were.
Mrs. George Oh sure they are.
Studs Terkel Are you against that or for it?
Mrs. George No, I'm for it. I like to see them enjoy themselves. I wouldn't like to think that they had a hard life like I did.
Studs Terkel Yeah. Well this is, this is very fascinating. Let's gather 'round. I want to--
Female Voice 3 Tell how you're a barmaid now. They'll be interested in that.
Studs Terkel Oh, oh, is that what you're doing now, Renee? Are you a barmaid now?
Mrs. George Yes.
Studs Terkel Well tell about the work of a barmaid. Experiences.
Mrs. George [laughter] I couldn't tell them all, could I?
Studs Terkel Well the ones you feel--
Mrs. George Well I love it. I've been a barmaid at the College Arms for 5 and a half years and I love every minute of it.
Studs Terkel Why?
Mrs. George Well you meet all sorts and good ones, the bad ones, I have lots of fun and I wouldn't [dog bark] change my job for anything.
Studs Terkel Who are your favorite kind of customers? [dog bark] Your favorite kind of--
Female Voice 3 Anybody you know.
Mrs. George Well, yes, anyone. Taproom trade.
Studs Terkel The what trade? [dog bark]
Mrs. George The taproom.
Studs Terkel The tapper. The fellas over here right now.
Mrs. George Yes, that's right.
Studs Terkel You prefer the bar to the lounge.
Mrs. George Yes I do.
Studs Terkel Why?
Mrs. George Well, I've never served in the lounge a lot. I have once or twice, but they all know me and they, they say, come on Reen, let's have a pint. Have us some more rain, Reen, come on, what you messing at? And I love it.
Studs Terkel [laughter] That's wonderful. Let's gather 'round, Bob--
Bob No, that's enough on me already.
Female Voice 3 Come on, Frank, it's your
Frank turn now. No, no [unintelligible]
Studs Terkel Well, there's a young soldier there.
Female Voice 3
Studs Terkel Listen, your accent alone, come on. Bob, you know I would like to ask you a story, Bob. You seem to be the dean. You seem to be the dean, here. Memories. Do you have any memories when you were a small boy? What was England like when you were a very small boy? [dog bark] Around here in the Midlands. Have you been in the Midlands all your life?
Bob Oh yes. [dog bark]
Studs Terkel What was life like? Renee George was saying things are much better today than they were. Do you remember what life was like when you were a small boy? [dog bark]
Bob Yes I do. I know what, when I was a kid of 5 years old, I had to start school, and I had to walk from Abingdon to Quinton.
Female Voice 3 How many miles?
Bob That's a mile and a half. [unintelligible] 9 o'clock [unintelligible] bloody standing on your hands?. But today they have buses to fetch 'em.
Studs Terkel When you were 5 years old.
Studs Terkel You had to walk this distance. But then at 13 you had to go to work.
Studs Terkel At 13. What else do you remember about family life, or conditions [dog bark] around here, when you were a small boy?
Bob Not a funny question to answer.
Studs Terkel I know, [dog bark] I know. It's a silly question I'm asking. Let me see if I can word it differently. This -- you got certain memories that are happy or unhappy that stand out in your mind. Everybody remembers something, you know.
Bob Oh, well he talking of that. [We were up the kid grew up?] then a day's than they are today.
Studs Terkel Why?
Bob Well because if you [unintelligible] pretty well enjoyed [unintelligible]. They don't today. Nothing's good enough for them today. When I got up in the morning I work on the table for breakfast, work in bit a bread no hardly [more?] than a bit of bread and butter. But today when they get up, they ask you, what you goin' have for breakfast this morning? Do want an egg, or seven? That stuff's pretty true.
Studs Terkel Because they had so little they enjoyed the luxury more, when they had it?
Bob You did have a luxury, if you had a little cream, you only had the egg once a year, that was on a Good Friday.
Studs Terkel You only had the egg once a year.
Bob Once a year on a Good Friday. That was a treat, that was.
Studs Terkel So you remember that egg. That egg.
Studs Terkel [Clanging] Renee, you feel, you feel that it should, it's better today than it was. See, Bob seems to think kids were happier then. What do you feel about that? Do you agree with him?
Mrs. George Well, they may have been happier because they appreciated things more. I don't think they appreciate things today like they did then. But even so, I think it's better for them to be able to have the luxuries of life and have a little bit more money in their pockets.
Female Voice 3 Do you, Bob?
Bob Well you see, I didn't say they wasn't any, any happier today. I was telling about the conditions they lived in.
Mrs. George Yes, yes.
Bob I appreciated [you look 3 years ago?] better than they do today.
Mrs. George Oh, yes definitely they did.
Mrs. George Because I can remember when we had an egg and it was a luxury.
Mrs. George And whenever we had a chimney on fire and the old thatch over it, we had a tin of fruit. We did, because everybody was so frightened, when it was all over Daddy would say, right I think we'll have a tin of fruit for tea, and it was lovely. And on Sunday we were allowed one slice of bread and butter. One slice of bread and jam to put together and we had bread and butter and jam, but otherwise we had margarine, bread and margarine. [unintelligible]
Bob I've had many a tea when for a time we would use for tea with two thick pieces of bread and a thin piece of bread between 'em. [laughter]
Studs Terkel Hey, you know what I think? You know what -- do you know what has occurred to me? One thing has occurred to me. We're very close to Christmas and something just occurred to me. Memories. Everybody I know in the world has a certain childhood memory of Christmas. Now if we could start, if each one think, I would like to include everybody a certain memory you've had of Christmas. A certain day--
Bob Well I'll tell you we had a Christmas once, it was Boxing Day. And I'd been down to [yer hole?] for part of the day, [cough] and I was [unintelligible] join. And I'd been to bed and I got up. I thought was morning but it wasn't, it was the night before. I seen a bloke in the street, I said, what time is it, mate? And he said, 11 o'clock. I said, well what day is it then? Well he said it's Boxing Day. I'd been up then [mangled] had my breakfast then ready the next morning. [laughter]
Studs Terkel You, you felt Christmas without pain. What, what was your memory of Christmas? And you, do you have a certain memory of Christmas? You don't remember it at all? Well Renee I know you do.
Female Voice 1 No I don't think so--
Studs Terkel Renee I know you do.
Mrs. George Yes I can. Well when we were children [shouting in background] my father was toll-master in the local church and they rang the bells Christmas morning. And he used to take Mother a cup of tea in bed, and he'd go and ring the bells, it -- they'd come back, and I shall always remember hearing and smelling the sausages, which we very rarely had, frizzling in the pan and we knew it was Christmas, the bells ringing, there used to be snow outside. We don't seem to get the seasons now like we did then, you know. It always used to be snowy at Christmas and hot in the summer. We never seem to get seasons like that now. I don't know what -- yes, always snowy at Christmas. And I remembe r undoing my stocking and looking out of the window [cash register] and it was snowing. And in the afternoon I used to have a tea set for, in my stocking. And we used to get oranges and lemons and weigh the lemons and what, yes, and nuts, and it was lovely.
Studs Terkel You remember those?
Female Voice 1 Yes. They had--
Studs Terkel What were they like?
Female Voice 1 They were really nice days, weren't they Renee? Yes. Honestly, the stockings you see kiddies had years ago were really nice.
Studs Terkel What was in your stocking? When you were--
Female Voice 1 A few nuts at the bottom, one orange, wasn't it, the penny, [cough] the sugar mouse. And those little sugary things, you know, that you have at Christmas. We used to think, oh that was wonderful to have that, but today, they've got to have [in a cases full?] haven't they?
Studs Terkel Bob, will you tell about your Christmas?
Male Voice 1 I need to cut back in here.
Studs Terkel Oh, you do? Well wait [unintelligible]
Bob Now you think [unintelligible] a bloke like me not educated don't you?
Studs Terkel No.
Bob But I'll tell you this much, mate been going to the college ever since 1920. [The boy?] has been to college long enough to be educated then [no?] [laughter]
Female Voice 4 [extended pause in recording] I came out on Christmas Eve and my mother had tried to make it really wonderful with Father Christmas sort of standing there and a big cake, and she said would you like a piece of cake? And I walked 'round the table and said, oh no Mummy I can't have it now, because if I have it now I, I just won't have it afterwards. And it was so much to me to see a cake and then a fire and all the lot after being in hospital that, that is my only childish, really, memory of Christmas. All the other times are the same stockings, and Christmas presents and everything else. But that was the one time I'd been in hospital and I'd come out on Christmas Eve. And it was so wonderful to be home again. That was it.
Studs Terkel Mrs. Morris. Mrs. Morris you've been sitting here and I know your eyes have been aglow, you've been thinking.
Mrs. Morris [laughter] Well I haven't any memory actually of any specific Christmas for myself. But I, I once had a small school and we always had a Father Christmas, and the Father Christmas was one of the actors from the theater, and his little daughter was a pupil in the school. And when she came up to Father Christmas, not knowing of course it was Father Christmas, he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, what she wanted Father Christmas to bring her. And she said well I want a bicycle but my dad is so horrid that he won't buy me one. And of course her daddy was Father Christmas behind the mask. [laughter] That's all I can think of at the, at the moment.
Studs Terkel At the moment.
Mrs. Morris Yes.
Studs Terkel As we go along you may think of a memory of your own when you were very small, possibly. You know, Mrs. Edmunds is seated beside me here, one of the patrons of the pub of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence, and Mrs. Edmunds, yours is a wholly different dialect I think will be immediately understandable, comprehensible to our audience. Where, where -- I know you are from Ireland, but what region? Where, it wouldn't be in the region of Dublin itself would it?
Mrs. Edmunds Sure, buddy. [laughter]
Studs Terkel Oh, is it Dublin, really?
Mrs. Edmunds Sure, buddy.
Studs Terkel Mrs. Edmunds, we've been, we've been going around the table and from the bar to the lounge and people have been remembering childhood, one way or another, happy, unhappy. And, but the last question, the last round involves Christmas memories. What's one that comes to your mind, when you were a small girl?
Mrs. Edmunds [Irish Gaelic]
Studs Terkel Is that, that's Gaelic, huh? What does that mean? What's that mean in Gaelic?
Mrs. Edmunds I won't repeat it.
Studs Terkel No I mean, in -- what what what would that Gaelic phrase mean in English? Is that a, is that a Christmas phrase, is that a--
Mrs. Edmunds Happy Christmas.
Studs Terkel Oh that's happy Christmas. But is there a memory, when you are small in Dublin or around there?
Mrs. Edmunds Well there's a good many, yes.
Studs Terkel Is there one, you know, is there one that stands out in your mind?
Mrs. Edmunds Well there's quite a number, yes.
Studs Terkel Well think of one, tell us of one.
Mrs. Edmunds Living in Killarney, Listowel, just outside Killarney, Listowel. I am one of 14 in family. I've got 5 sisters in America, 1 brother, 4 brothers in London, and 1 at home. And I've also got 3 sisters in England.
Studs Terkel So they're scattered all over the world.
Mrs. Edmunds They -- all over the world. Yes. [cash register] And my mother is now 83.
Studs Terkel And as Mr. Morris says, hoping for the best.
Mrs. Edmunds Well, she's very fit, very well.
Male Voice 4 [unintelligible] 88.
Mrs. Edmunds Eighty-eight.
Mrs. Edmunds In spite of it all. [unintelligible]
Studs Terkel Were you yourself, when you were a small girl, what kind of -- well hope, ambition did you have? What did you want to be when you were a small girl? When you, when you grew up?
Mrs. Edmunds Well I wanted to be lots of things.
Studs Terkel Well what what more than others?
Mrs. Edmunds Well, I would have liked to have followed my father and been a schoolmaster [laughter] but that only lasted for a short time because he drank too much as an Irishman always does and he was expelled.
Studs Terkel Is this, you know, I hear this phrase about the Irish and drink. Is this just a legend or a myth?
Mrs. Edmunds No, no, I think they're perpetually drunk, the Irish people the whole of the time.
Studs Terkel Why wh-- well, well why is this so, [laughter] Mrs. Edmunds?
Mrs. Edmunds Why? Because the pubs are open all day. There's no strict closing times like there is here.
Studs Terkel Do think, is that the only reason? I was just wondering, is there something in the Irish spirit or soul, or the weather? What--
Male Voice 3 They live all on potatoes, of course.
Studs Terkel Oh, wait, I'm going to come to you-- [laughter]
Mrs. Edmunds Well, well you should know because you've got, you've got best part of them in America, haven't you? [laughter]
Studs Terkel Mr. Edmunds you just heard your wife talking a while ago about the Irish and drink. What's your theory? Why, why is this so?
Mr. Edmunds A ghastly little thing.
Studs Terkel Yeah that's it. That's a microphone. Don't worry about that. What's your theory about drinking? She said it's because the pubs are open and the law is not strict enough, you think this is the big reason?
Mr. Edmunds No, I think we're all bloody weak. We're all weak. So weak that we even talk to this, at this stupid machine. [laughter]
Studs Terkel No, no, no. That when, no when you say we're weak, I mean everybody every people, I think has, every people has its own kind of weakness. But I thought there may have been a reason whether it's climate, whether it's hard life, whether it's a history.
Mr. Edmunds I think we're all the same. Nobody drinks any more than they should do. Do you drink any more than you should do?
Studs Terkel I probably do, but--
Mr. Edmunds [unintelligible]
Studs Terkel [laughter] I probably do. So your theory is that there's no one people that is more of a--
Mr. Edmunds We're all weak--
Studs Terkel Yes.
Mr. Edmunds We're humans we've all got our human weaknesses and, life is short.
Studs Terkel Good. Mr. Edmunds, do you have a memory -- [whistling] I've been passing around this question. Your own memory. As a small boy of, of Christmases.
Mr. Edmunds I, the only memory that I -- well it's not a memory of Christmas. The only thing that I know about Christmas now is that it's extremely expensive.
Studs Terkel [laughter] That's true. Was it always so? It's so today we know. Was it always so?
Mr. Edmunds I can remember Father saying it was.
Studs Terkel Yeah. [laughter] But there is no incident or event of family or another, that you yourself as a small boy remember?
Mr. Edmunds [cough] No, I think it's a load of old bunkum. [laughter] And today to me it means a lot more work and expense.
Studs Terkel Well that's certainly a frank opinion expressed about it, and too rarely, I suppose, expressed that way.
Mr. Edmunds A lot of people make money out of it. It's good for trade.
Studs Terkel Anything else you want to say? Not about this, about anything. I like the way you talk very much, by the way. I like this refreshing point-of-view. [laughter] Just, just a minute. Yes? Anything else that you feel [unintelligible] Well, Great Britain. Your island is Great Britain. There's been a lot of changes taking place we're told here.
Mr. Edmunds There's changes taking place all over the world in very rapid succession. I can't think that, that that one can possibly sort of attempt, a person in my position. How can I quote on what's happening in the world?
Studs Terkel You have a right to, it's your right.
Mr. Edmunds What's my opinion?
Studs Terkel I don't know. That's why I was asking. What is you, everybody has an opinion. What is your opinion?
Mr. Edmunds Well I think I've come to the age and I realized my opinion is not worth anything. And I just look after myself.
Studs Terkel Well your opinion is worth to you, is worth something. I mean you have respect for your opinion.
Mr. Edmunds I've got a great respect for you, [Messer?] 'cause you are a clever man I can tell that. [laughter] [pause in recording]
Studs Terkel We're seated, at the moment, in the car of Ron, who has worked at the pub, who works at the pub. Oh, wait a minute. Ron, start again. Yeah. Hear we are. We're seated here with Ron. Ron has driven us back to the hotel. And Ron, you work at the pub, you were saying something about, you do 2 jobs, is that right?
Ron Yes, I do 2 jobs, yes. One which I am a manager of a provisions and grocery shop here in Stratford-on-Avon. And during the evenings I manage the pub during Mr. Lawrence's absence and also work behind the bar when he is away, evenings and weekends.
Studs Terkel So in America we call this moonlighting. What is it called--
Ron Exactly. In England here it's called skiving.
Studs Terkel Skiving.
Ron Skiving. Exactly, yes.
Studs Terkel When do you rest?
Ron Well, that depends on the trade, and the shop, the trade, and the pub, and the, the bit of time that I do get off which is mostly Sundays only.
Studs Terkel The, the the accent you speak. This is Midlands?
Ron Yes, this is Nottingham, the queen of the Midlands. Nottingham City, which is situated about 84 miles from London, and 56 miles from Stratford-on-Avon. The queen of the Midlands, where all your lace is made here in Nottingham, which is much as you know in America, classed as England's finest lace, is all made in Nottingham.
Studs Terkel And you come from Nottingham. I'm thinking about your life, yourself, your work before you came to Stratford-on-Avon, or upon-Avon, as the mayor would like to have us say, before you came here. What were you doing?
Ron Well before I came here I was managing a firm of provisions and grocer's only, down in the Warminster in Wiltshire, where I was transferred from Nottingham to Warminster, before my transfer to Stratford-on-Avon. Which took me to Devizes in Wiltshire, Warminster, and down to Bournemouth on relief work for the same firm.
Studs Terkel And before that?
Ron Before that I was in Nottingham City police. Fives years on the mechanise side, on the, what you call the squad cars, cue cars. We call it the 9-9-9 call.
Studs Terkel Mechanise, you say mechanise.
Ron Mechanise division, exactly.
Studs Terkel The work you're doing now. It's just continuous work isn't it?
Ron Exactly, exactly yes, continuous work. I am, I also do an amount of recordings for local people, old people, hospitals. And call it records show such as the "Twist of the Disc," or the "Family Favorites," or "Jukebox Jury," which probably in your country would be the same as the CBS recording show of -- I just can't think of one of your stars now in the meantime.
Studs Terkel Mitch Miller or --
Ron Mitch Miller, exactly, exactly yes. Exactly.
Studs Terkel The, the -- see you work 2 jobs--
Ron Two jobs, yes.
Studs Terkel You do this show, it's all seven days a week.
Ron All seven days a week, exactly, except Sunday afternoons.
Studs Terkel Is there a certain joy you find in the--?
Ron Oh I find a tremendous joy in it, a tremendous joy in giving, because it just gets you around, it keeps you moving and helps you to find different people, different walks of life, different talks of life also. And it is definitely the variety that makes life. To one extent.
Studs Terkel Do you get any rest or relaxation?
Ron No not a lot. Not a lot. I usually get to bed at about 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning and I'm up at 6 because I have to start work at 7 o'clock. So it's more or less an 18 hour day, 7 days a week.
Studs Terkel You enjoy it.
Ron Very much indeed, thank you.
Studs Terkel Ron. The -- you're saying about the community, tightly knit. What do you mean by that?
Ron Well the, the community here in Stratford-on-Avon is, as a whole, is one community of certain people that own certain buildings in certain places and have what we call in England here, their thumbs in the pie. They're in everything, and will allow nobody else to get in. This is a very closed community in Stratford-on-Avon, and if you're in, well, you're in with them all, way in. And you're a very lucky man or a very lucky lady or lucky party, or whatever it is. But if you're out, well, you're more or less what we call out in the cold, and you can't really get to know the people that you would like to know.
Studs Terkel Well, where are you in the scheme of things?
Ron Well I'm, I think I'm in. And through the generosity and courtesy of Mr. Lawrence of the College Arms who who've seen tonight. He has a very big say in Stratford, and I'm a very big follower of his and I go a lot around with him, which has helped tremendously--
Studs Terkel Think back, Nottingham itself when you were a boy. What, what what did your parents do?
Ron Well my parents parted when I was the age of 3, and my father was a lace manufacturer, and my mother was also in the lace trade. So I never, I haven't seen my father since I was 3 years of age. But I do believe that he is dead now. And my mother brought us up. I visited -- or I should say I went in Nottingham High School from the age of 14 to 16, then I joined [J. Sanders?] of London, which is one of the highest-class provision and food people here in England.
Studs Terkel How old were you when you started working?
Studs Terkel Sixteen.
Ron Yes, yes.
Studs Terkel And is, what did you want to be? Do you have an idea when you were very small?
Ron Well, I always wanted to be a policeman, which I did attain on my dismissal from the Royal Navy in 1950, after serving 12 years with the fleet. I did join the police force, but my wife was on the, what we call the 9-9-9 calls of the GPO telephonist and that's how I met her through a 9-9-9 call. But she was on duty, I was off duty, I was on duty, she was off duty, and it led to argument, so I resigned the force and came back to my former trade, which is the food trade.
Studs Terkel So, you find pretty much you're doing what you always dreamed of doing?
Ron Yes, yes, it's a trade that I've always been taught to do, and the trade that I [unintelligible] certain to stick to now because, the public has always got to eat.
Studs Terkel That's true. Is there something that you want to be, you're striving to be? What is your ambition?
Ron Well my ambition of course is to strive to get on to reach the ultimate goal, which is of course the district manager of the firm. I don't think I have any mission to get over that because they have enough worry as it is. But it is a goal which I would very much like to achieve, and as long as I plod there very slowly, I think I may make it in the end.
Studs Terkel The district manager of your firm.
Ron Exactly. Yes.
Studs Terkel Ron, perhaps one last question. Your feelings about England today, about -- you talked about the community, tight knit, we know what you want to be. We hear that it's changing, class barriers are breaking down. What do you think?
Ron No, I don't think class barriers are breaking down at all. I think the people of the old class who want the money of yesterday today have the money. And they're spending it quite freely, and that is the, what the public call, what the ordinary people does think that the [polit?] are changing but they're not changing. The ways of England, which is a very old country and has very old ways, and we're modernizing to come in line with, with all due respect the USA. And I think we're trying to keep up to the USA standard, which is probably, as a people look at it, changing the English ways. But I don't think it is really. It's just the class have had more money then the last -- since the war, and of course I think that has made the difference.
Studs Terkel But the class distinctions of higher, lower?
Ron Yes well they are emerging and probably on a spirit level, coming to level each other off. But at the same time, there's got to be that higher class, there's got to be the lords and the ladies of England because they built it and they made it and it's the backbone of the whole country. So they'll always be there. But the poor people who are richer now, are fit in the feet, stronger because of the extra money that they have.
Studs Terkel But even though the poor people, once poor, have more money, the line has got to remain, you think.
Ron Oh exactly. Exactly, the line will remain, it's got to do because that is, as was said earlier on this evening, the the backbone of the country.
Studs Terkel Ron, thank you very much.
Ron Thank you and thank you for the cooperation.