Barbara Banks
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Barbara Banks and friends at the Boy Meets Girl Club, Woolwich Town Hall, 1953

Growing up

"I was born in Deptford in 1934. I was one of eight, mind you at the time, my mum and my dad had been married before. So on my father's side there were four children, three boys and one girl, and on my mother's side at the time she had my sister and her brother Bill. Then as I say, through time they had me and my sister Josephine.

So three families in one, in a house in Deptford that wasn't very big, and at the time there was a family down below, and upstairs they had to bring up 8 of us in about 3 rooms. So it was hard times then."

Family life

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Wedding of Barbara Banks, (nee Wooley) and Ben Banks, Christchurch, Woowich, 1954. Photograph handtinted by Barbara Banks


"I had my dress made. I had heard about Paul's Warehouse in Petticoat Lane so I went up there with my mother, we went into a big warehouse and there were all rolls of material.

It was ten or fifteen yards in my dress. I got it all up in Paul's Warehouse even the head-dress, that had all stones on it. This lady in Charlton made the dress and four bridesmaids' and the little one. The horseshoes were given, it was just a symbol, they gave them on the day, the horseshoes and the rolling pin, I think it was a symbol of good luck.

I done a lot of overtime, I did a lot of Saturdays where I worked at the Engineering then, and yes, I had to save up hard! I had help from my Mum and Dad, they were very good. My Dad bought the cake; it was three tiers I think it was.

I painted these wedding photographs. My Dad bought the tints from the market, he was the sort who'd have a go at anything, and I said I'll have a go dad. They were little bottles in a box, like ink and you put a bit on a saucer and you could make it as deep or faint as you wanted and you put water in it."

Daily Life

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The Wooley family at a party celebrating Sam's engagement, Lewisham, 1946


"Either in the morning or late at night we used to pin-curl our hair around your finger and lay it flat to your head, and to go to work you'd put a turban on to hide them all up.

You'd take them all out of a night and brush them all up. But to do that, you would dilute hot water and sugar, then brush it on your hair and pin it, so it would be stiff see, like a lacquer today. In the summer it was a bit sticky, and bees or wasps would come round. You'd go potty then! It would last a couple of days, most of the girls did it.

Or perms, they had them Marcelle Wave perms then, but I couldn't afford it. You used to go in clubs if you was at work. You'd pay I think half a crown a week everyone, and when it was your turn you'd pick a number out of the hat. Say you was number five, then you'd get the perm that week.

And stockings as well, because they were very expensive at the time and you used to do that with them as well, and when it was your turn you'd have the tights or the stockings. And that's when we used to have the line up the back, and to ladder them when you'd just got them! Oh it would be murder, 'cause you'd have to wait for your time to come round on your turn. There'd be about twenty of us or so, because they were so expensive, or you couldn't get them. When you heard that a shop had got the nylons in, there'd be a mad rush up there, and you'd queue for hours to get a pair of tights.

I used to go to Woolworth's to get cosmetics. I used to go in there. I used to get "Betty Lou" lipstick, and that was a pale pink, and then there was "Fornana" that was a perfume, and there was another one, everyone got it, it was in a little a blue bottle I can't remember the name, and then there was "Californian Poppy". Now that I can always remember when I was evacuated, and my mum would visit, I always used to smell it on her.

Lipstick you'd rub it on your hands and rub it on your cheeks, 'cause there was no blusher or nothing like that or you'd pink your cheeks."

Free time

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Barbara Banks and friends at the Boy Meets Girl Club, Woolwich Town Hall, 1953


"It was dancing to live music, it was Alphonso's club, I think we used to pay about a shilling to go in.

Always Mondays about seven o'clock we'd all meet up there, and we'd go in there, and the fella who used to run it was Alphonso and he'd have his two blokes in there and the band.

The boys would be in a group down the bottom end and us girls would be up here you know, and you might be dancing all night with your friends. And the last dance, well! It was a big, big rush wasn't it, 'cause all the fellas wanted to take you home, so you had the last dance. Crafty! Otherwise we'd all run out before they ran over, but they'd always want to take you home, they didn't want to spend much on you."

"Every year we used to go on these charabancs or outings, whether to Southend or Margate.
We'd save every year, and I think Rose had the book, and we used to pay her every week, a shilling or one and six, and that would pay for our seat on the coach, and if we had any more, keep paying, and that was our spending money.

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Barbara Banks on a works 'Beano' from Enoch's Tool Company to Southend, 1956


"Usually down to Southend or Margate, and we'd take food with us, and the men would have crates of beer, to put in the back of the coach. And half way down we'd stop, open it up, up comes the boot, and all had the beer going and the sandwiches and all things like that, and then we'd all climb on again.

A couple of pubs on the way down, I think it was The Tar Pot and The Gun. And they'd all be drinking in there, and there'd be someone playing the piano accordion or the piano, and we'd have enough there, and then on the coach straight down to Southend, and then have the same coming back.

Once at Southend we'd go in the Kursaal, that was where they have all the roundabouts and the dodgems, or you'd go into the pub next door, I think it was called The Foresters and have a good drink. Come out of the pub, and look round for something to eat. Then go for a meal, or fish and chips. Walk along the front with your hats, get "kiss me quick" hats, dive to get some rock to take home for children. Last minute, creep on the cobbles, have a paddle and come back.

We'd have a good knees-up in The Tar Pot or The Gun on the way back, 'cause we was well sozzled then. I'm sure some people on other coaches got left behind where they've got so drunk, or they'd lay them out on the beach, but not the ones I've been on. If you were single, you'd always end up with some fella! Oh yeah that happened! We'd have great times and the following week when we got back to work, we'd start paying for the next year!"

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