Kitty Gentile

Kitty Gentile's sons, David and Peter, in the garden, Brookhowse Road, Bellingham, 1945

Growing up

"In Deptford, there was one thing about those days you used to notice, which you don't notice now, was that the streets were full of children, children played in the streets, never any problem, and of course most of the traffic was horsedrawn then. You didn't have a lot of cars going through.

It was full of children. I always played cricket with the boys, cricket and football, I was a Tomboy, and everybody in the street knew Kit Levine, tomboy.

Yes we'd get into trouble, but only when we broke windows! Well, when it did happen, believe me, we paid every penny! Everybody gave their pocket money, penny or tuppence or whatever it was, and that window was repaired. But it didn't stop them being shouted at! But the people was used to us playing in the street. Sometimes they'd come out and stand at their door, arms akimbo watching us."

Family life


Three generations of the Gentile family, Brookhowse Road, Bellingham, 1969

"I went up to the town hall to put in for a house, and they said there was one on Bellingham. But they said part of the house still had the furniture in, well it had all been put in one bedroom, the smallest room, and they said you can have the rest of the house, with a reduction of five shillings. Five shillings! Well the rent was only about 13 or 14 shillings doesn't bear thinking about now.

It was Brookhowse Road, it was quite nice inside, well looked after. Of course, there was no central heating, but it had coal fires. It was a three bed-roomed house, large garden, front and back. It had a kitchen and a big room, the sitting room, kitchen, sitting room and toilet. Upstairs bathroom, bathroom and toilet separate and three bedrooms, small, fair size and large bedroom.

It was a vast improvement, it was absolutely unbelievable! Toilet inside, my own bathroom. Well we used to think we were living in heaven in those days!."

Daily Life

"There was a butchers shop right at the end of Deptford High Street, near the New Cross road there. They had quite a good display of butchery. But every Saturday night, if we went down there at 8.00 they would be selling it off, 'cause there was no big fridges, no refrigeration. They would sell off all their joints that they'd got left, practically for nothing.

My mother used to go down there and buy a joint for sixpence. It would only be sort of what they used to call a flank of meat because all the best end of the meat would be sold off. You'd get a flank. You know what streaky bacon looks like; well a flank of beef looks like that - strips of beef and fat. And it would ride and come up like that when you cooked it.

Hygiene wasn't talked about. Never thought a thing about it hygiene! I mean shops would spill out across the path, especially all the shops in the side turnings they would have their boxes of biscuits out on display, all open. I mean there were flies then, just as much as nowadays, in fact you don't see nearly as many flies today as you did then you'd get these big blue bottles flying around.

I remember the rashers of bacon, it only happened during really hot weather you know, but we used to see these rashers of bacon, and quite fat maggots walking in the fat! And it'd would be a case of just brushing them off, and that was it. I don't know if people would buy it, I just saw it there, and the shopkeeper would sort of brush it off. There wasn't any pretence about it, it was quite open. Well I can't remember any inspectors going round the shops."

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