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From an interview with Rae Drage on 8th January, 2013. Transcribed by Jacky Lawrence.
Stella Reynolds

I was born 19th October, 1919 in Dayton Street. So my mother and father had rooms there because they couldn’t get a house and I lived there for a few months. And then I moved to Glassbrook Road and when I was a bit older we moved to Newton Road and I went to Newton Road school. And when I was about ten I was in my father-in-law’s (W J Reynolds) class and everybody said I was his pet because I could write a lot. And we were once asked to write the story of a book we’d read and my father had been given a copy of ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. And because I read everything at home I read that and the next morning I was called up and go to the headmaster’s study. And he said. “Well it’s a very nice essay but don’t you think you could have, you should be reading earlier books.” He said. “Have you read ‘The Water Babies’?” “Years ago,” I said. And anyway that I was most surprised when he turned out to be my father-in-law. Teachers at Newton Road when I was at Newton Road, there was Mr. Dodge, Mr. Allen, Miss Osmond, Miss Watson, can’t think of any more.

When I was ten, that would be 1929, I went to Wellingborough School, which was a bit early, and I left when I was fifteen. I got a scholarship. When I went to Wellingborough my parents weren’t very well off at all and they used to give me 5d every day for the bus fare. And after a few days one of my friends said. “Why don’t you come with us on the train it’s only 3d.” So I did and I had 2d every day for a Mars bar. But I had that long walk down Midland Road to the station and my parents thought I got off at the school gates.

I remember every year all the schools had a display up on the Rushden football ground. And it all ended up with everybody doing drill, all the schools in Rushden. And everybody had to have a white hankie tied on their sash, and to get it off. All got away but at the end I’d tied mine too tight and I couldn’t get it off. People in fits of laughing and I were nearly crying, just couldn’t get it off .

Sunday School? No I didn’t go to Sunday School. Not when I was older anyway, I went when I was very young. At the Park Road, Wesleyan.

When my brother was born his left foot was turned outwards and he could walk OK on it. But when he was about seven he went to Manfield Hospital to have it turned, and he had to have a splint on it. He could walk but.......

My mother, Sarah, was one of eleven, when mother left school she was 14. I don’t know what year it was, she saw an advert in the paper, one of the big houses near Bedford, Wrest Park. And they wanted a still room maid and she’d got no idea what a still room was but she knew she was a very quiet, still, person so she applied for the job and got it and she was there for years.

The war changed things, a lot of big houses shut down and when the Welshmen came, that’s when you know she met my father. He was blown up at Gallipolli, survived, went to Alexandria to recover and then when he came back married my mother.

Every year Rushden used to have a hospital parade day and my father and our next door neighbour went down to watch it. And every year it was held in Spencer Park and they walked down together and they were selling raffle tickets at the door. Father went one side, Mr. Jay the other and he won the raffle prize, a car, and he couldn’t drive and didn’t like it. Oh, my father was disappointed.

Austin 7, so after a time he’d bought a little Austin 7 and first trip went over the hills to Wales they did, Austin 7. Four people and a dog went in the Austin 7 and a great big wireless. Got us in, all this wireless that he’d made for his sister, and of course our knees. When we got to Wales he garaged the car in a friend’s, he used works’ garage and people used to come and look at it because they’d never seen a wireless.

I looked after mother for a time, she got rheumatism, then I went to work in the Tecnic office. After the Tecnic, I left the Tecnic when Diana was born 1948.

I met my husband before the war and I was out selling the Lifeboat flags. And he asked me to put his on his shirt and unfortunately I stuck it into him. And next time I met him he asked me if I’d go out with him so I did and after that. Ken Reynolds, yes, went in the Air Force soon as the war broke out and went off to Canada, did his pilot’s training, ended up a bomber pilot. He buzzed the village, Wymington.

Steela & Ken
Stella and Ken's wedding
Stella outside the cottage, in Church Lane, decorated for the
Queen's Silver Jubilee 1977.

When I married I came to live here in Wymington, to the cottage. This is were my husband was born, this house, and this is where Mr. Reynolds the headmaster, Newton Road School lived here.

Yes, because there was a spare cottage and all the children were brought up here.

There was a bomb dropped just past the bridge in Wymington Road, a great crater. They were after getting the railway line. Oh, yes, another one dropped in Rushden and the man dropped a line of bombs across Rushden and he killed a lot of children in Alfred Street School. And my cousin Alan, he was only a baby at the time, and so that’s what made him backwards. And funny because he couldn’t talk for ages after the bombs, he was only a baby. Yes, glass came in and hit his head, you know it was one of those tragic things.

Spent my time just cooking, jam, pickles, wine, I made wine out of everything I could think of, and I had about 30 of those big stone jars, still got a few. After I got four children I went to teaching, I forget now, about 1970.

And I love cats and I ended up having 17 cats at once, one cat now.

with their children
Stella, Ken and the children

We had our bread delivered by a horse and cart, a very high little high cart. Mr. Harris, he had lovely bread and we had fish brought round. Coal, and coal you had to just accept what you got: you could either have a bag of little ones or one enormous one that you had to break up yourself.

Yes, and I can remember the Co-op shops opened in Hove Road and I can remember them. Rushden swimming baths opened 1929.

To get into Rushden we had a Morris Twelve and we used to go to get the groceries from the Co-op, but we had to have ration books still didn’t we? There were a new Co-op grocers, Hove Road and you had to go and register with one grocer for everything you wanted and we registered with the, a little corner shop grocer near where we lived.

You had to register with this grocer and he cancelled the little bits in your ration book and that was why people were so eager to get refugees from the towns because they all had a ration book. Rationing ended 1947 and they said they were better fed in Germany than we were.

I had a bicycle but there was also a bus service running from Podington through to Rushden, the workers bus, so you could always get to Rushden that way. But people used to give each other lifts in the village.

I went to Bedford College for 3 years and then taught at South End. Yes, when we finished our training at Bedford we were invited to a meeting in Rushden for all the head teachers to try and get a teacher. And I was talking to the Irchester head for ages and I thought this is it, lovely job, then I suddenly realised, well how am I going to get there and back so I had to say good bye to her. And Pat Catlin, Mrs. Catlin, she came over, didn’t bother with an interview she just said. “Do you want the job?” So I said. “Yes.” Stayed there [South End School] until I retired. I didn’t know Pat but she picked me out because I knew her husband Bert, we’d been babies together.

Mother’s family, the Holliday family, on that side. There was the Joneses were the Welsh ones. David Jones came from Wales to train. The other side of the family, the Holliday family, we’ve had a few notable people develop from there. Laura, which was my mother's sister, her two sons did very well. One became an Ambassador in New Zealand and travelled the world being an Ambassador, his name was Derek Morris. And the other one, Jack Morris, went to Jersey to audit the Co-op books just the week before the Germans arrived. And he couldn’t get back home so he stayed on in Jersey, married a Jersey girl. Developed the Co-op there so much that he was awarded a special award for that. He also became a Constable of the island which was one of the highest positions and we visited him in Jersey, you know 20 or 30 years ago, used to get saluted every time we went round. Yes, he was very well regarded, a son of Rushden. He ended up Chief Magistrate of the Island, got certificates. Jack was one of three brothers. But they were all very close so my grandmother brought him up at her house, and everybody called him Jack. And he was very well known, so like from quite relatively humble beginnings they went on to do some marvellous things elsewhere.

Yes, so they went far away, others stayed nearby you know working in factories and so on. It was a long time ago.

1929 wedding
Holliday family - Elsie's wedding 1929

Back L-R: Sarah, Edgar, Ena, Will, Elsie, George, Laura, Doris
Front L-R: Hilda, Gran Holliday, Gramp Holliday, Emily, Ella

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