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From an interview with Rae Drage on 5th December 2008. Transcribed by Jacky Lawrence
Christine Carter
Photograph of Christine at South End School 1936. Back row 2nd from left.
Christine at South End School 1936

I was very young so I can’t remember much about the Co-op school tea parade. Only that we used to go to the office in Windmill Road to get all the posters and the advertisement things there. You used to have to dress up in these banners and things that they gave you to represent something that the Co-op sold. I remember I went as a tea and I had a poster down here and another one at the back joined at the shoulders advertising Co-op tea. We used to go round the streets as a parade and a band and all that and then we used to finish at the Co-op hall for tea drinking day. I don’t really remember much else because I could only have been about four. I don’t know whether I’ve got this picture that the Telegraph took, I think it was this picture that recalled it for me.

Then, of course, there was Sunday School Parades, we used to have them with the Banners. I’ve often wondered what happened to those beautiful banners, the men used to carry them and they used to be tassels and the men carried the tassels. I used to go to the Mission, I went there right from primary up until I was married. We used to parade round the streets behind these lovely banners, then we used to go to the chapel to have a cup of tea, a cake and a sandwich. Then we all went up to the Mission field up Irchester Road, which is now Melloway Drive. There were tennis courts up there and we used to have races and a proper sports sort of day. There used to be a cabin with Miss Porter, used to take us sweets and chocolates and things. She used to open that up and that’s where we used to change for the tennis and that used to be a really, really, nice day.

So, that was two parades, besides the annual parade that we used to have with the Carnival Queens. I never did get to be a Carnival Queen, I never entered so I wouldn’t. No, that wasn’t my scene really. But my little girl, I was always dressing her up and she was always going in parades. I remember dressing her up as a cracker once and we got down to Spencer Park, where they met, and found she couldn’t walk in this cracker. So we had to pull her out of the parade, but she went into all sorts, she loved being dressed up.          

Photograph of South End School
South End School
I started off at Alfred Street School in the primary, then I went to South End. If you lived one side of Wellingborough Road you went to South End, if you lived this side of the road you went to Alfred Street. I had to go from Alfred Street to South End so I had to walk up to South End four times a day, up there and back for my lunch and so that was good exercise. When I first went Mr. Sherwood was headmaster, then he left and went to Newton Road and we had a Mr. Ash. There was a Mr. Summerman in the top class and Miss Scott, Pole Scott, as we called her. Miss Sugars, the other Miss Sugars, one sister was in the Girls Training Corp she taught at Higham, this Miss Sugars was at South End. We had a man as well, I think it was Mr. Clark, I’m not quite sure. I didn’t pass my 11+, or it wasn’t an 11+ then it was just an examination. I didn’t get to High School so they sent me to Intermediate in the Hayway which was fine. I had quite a good time there and I do a talk sometimes on ‘Always a Uniform’. I start off by when I went to have my first uniform when I went to Intermediate and we had those pork pie hats and navy blue knickers with, you know elastic bottoms, and all furry stuff inside. Oh dear, yes.

In Glassbrook Road the shops gradually faded out, but at one time there was a sweet shop, an electrical shop and a general shop, which was my mums. There was a shop that sold underwear and vests and knickers and corsets and things like that. Next door to that was a florist, over the road was a greengrocers and another sweet shop.

This would be before or just after the war, I can’t think really. My mum started her shop in about 1930, my dad died in 1932, and up to then we’d had people living in the front room as they did then, you let out your front room. But then they got one of the first council houses that was built on the Tennyson Road so mum decided she would start this shop. She worked all hours God sent, from 7 o’clock in the morning until 9 o’clock at night to make a living of some sort for us. I never remember my dad working, apart from the fact that in the summe, if it was very hot, we made ice cream. You didn’t have ice cream unless it was in the summer and the sun was shining. We made the ice cream in our kitchen and then my dad had a truck made and he used to go round the streets pushing this truck. It had got King’s ices on it and everybody used to say it was the best ice cream in Rushden. That’s the only time I ever known my dad work or do anything physical. I can remember sitting and turning the handle for yonks. There used to be a butchers opposite Jimmy Robinson’s, just below Wills. Well, they used to come and deliver the ice with a horse and cart. A big block of ice and they used to dump it in the back yard and and of course my father wasn’t strong enough so the man next door used to come and chop it up for us. We had to put the ice in the barrel and then keep turning the handle and keep filling it up while the ice cream was being made. My daughter, she’s in the catering business now, and she often says to me. ‘Oh, I wish we’d have got grandma’s recipe for her ice cream.’

At the beginning of the war, when I left school, I went to the Co-op in Windmill Road to register everybody for food rationing. I did all that until that was finished and then I got a job at Bignells, in the office. I had 10/6 a week, my mum had ten bob and I had the sixpence. That was in Station Road and the manager there was a Mr. Osborne whose wife kept a fruit and vegetable shop in Church Street opposite the Salvation Army, which was then the Congregational Chapel. Then Bignells took over the billiard hall, which is now in Duck Street, and they turned that into offices which they called Imperial House. I went from Station Road over there to work on a switchboard and the reception and we had some quite good times. We used to have dances on a Saturday night for the parcels fund and we used Arnie’s band, they used to play for us. We had a variety concert that Oswald Lawrence organised for the parcels’ fund and I remember I sang ‘Don’t sit under the apple tree with anybody else but me’. It was there that I got the sack and Mr. Beal gave me a minute’s notice. Anyway I didn’t go, I waited until the directors came home because they always used to go to the Feathers. There was a gentlemens’ bar at the Feathers and I think there were more business done in the Feathers bar than there was actually in the office. They wanted to know what I was doing on the job and I told them I’d been sacked. So anyway, they took my cards and money back to Mr. Beal and said. ‘She’s not sacked.’
Photograph of Imperial House, Duck Street
Imperial House

Anyway Tuesdays to Thursdays Mr. Bignell used to come from London and I had to go before Mr. Bignell and he said to me. ‘Now Mr. Beal will forgive and forget if you apologise to him.’ And I remember saying. ‘I won’t apologise to him because I’ve done nothing to be sorry for, I didn’t do anything wrong.’ Anyway he said. ‘Good for you.’ I came out and everything was forgotten. Then I went into the ATS but when I come out my job had already been taken, so I had to go up to Crabb Street factory then which was the old Cunningtons factory.

Picture of GTC 1942
Girls' Training Corp 1942
2nd Row - 10th from L Margaret (Peggy) Lawrence - 9th from L Kathleen Sugars
8th from L Mrs May Harris - 7th from L Commandant Mrs Carat
6th from L Mary Tilley - Middle Row - 7th from L Christine King (Carter)
I joined the cubs as assistant cub-mistress, that was the 6th Scout Troop belonging to the Mission. I think that would be about 1941 or ’42, I was about 15 and then the Girls’ Training Corps started up in Rushden. So I left the scouts and joined the Girls’ Training Corp and we were quite a good company. We used to learn how to do map reading and drill, we did drill and drill and drill which was all in good stead. We joined with the ATC as well doing morse code and all different things and gymnastics and that. We used to go out sometimes to the other schools and have a weekend in a school somewhere. I remember we went to one of the schools in Kettering once. It was a very military sort of thing, we had to be on the mark and salute for the officers and whatnot and Mrs Carat was the Commandant, as she was called. I think her husband was the manager at the Lloyds Bank at the time and I remember a Miss Sugars who lived in Queen Street and I think she was a teacher at a Higham School, she was an officer. Mary Tilley, she took over as Commandant when Mrs Carat gave up she was the baker’s daughter from Wellingborough Road, top of Station Road. Then there was May Harris, who was May Chamberlain before she was married, she’s now in her nineties and she was an officer. Margaret Lawrence whose husband was the headmaster at Alfred Street School, Peggy as we called her, Peggy Lawrence she was an officer as well.

We met at the Hayway school which is now the primary school, which was intermediate then, once a week. Yes and sometimes weekends as well, we went out for the weekend camping and that sort of thing. From there I joined the ATS in 1944 until 1946 and came out in July in 1946, I was married in the October when I was 21. The first Tuesday I was on my honeymoon was the first night that the Rushden Operatic was formed so I didn’t get to the first meeting but I was there at the second meeting. I was the first one to have an audition to get into the operatic and I don’t think they do that now but I had to do an audition. I’m still a member in 2008, an honorary member now and I’ve got my medals that they issue.

The Operatic went to Irthlingborough for 'Love for Lydia' and we were all day there walking backwards and forwards and whatnot. Anyway I finished up, with Bert Catlin, we walked across and when it came on the television we were there and we’d gone and it was all over. I think for that day I was paid about seventy odd pounds and I’d never had so much money in my life.

I was a bit fed up with working part-time, my children were both at school but I decided I would give up work and my husband said. ‘Oh, well what you earn I’ll give you that each week and save all the hassle.’ Which we did, and so I was thinking of something to do in my spare time then and I thought, well I’ll go and see Darby & Joan people and see if I can go and help there. On the way I met Mrs Mackness, who was the Commandant of the Girls’ Brigade and she said. ‘Oh, I’ve been hoping to see you,’ she said. ‘I’d like to propose you for President of the Girls’ Brigade, Nene Valley Girls’ Brigade.’ I said. ‘Well, I’ve never been in Girls’ Brigade.’ So, she said. ‘Neither’s my husband but he’s been the President for eight years.’ So, with a twist of the arm, I was made President and only, I think it was 12/18 months later, Mabel Mackness died suddenly with an asthma attack. I was with her on one night and the next morning at 10 o’clock the phone went, I was told that she’d died. So that left us without a Commandant who was the one over all the Nene Valley area. So I did the Presidency, a lot of Mabel’s work and then Mrs. Barker from Earl’s Barton, who was the Commissioner for the County, came to see me and persuaded me to do my exams to take Mabel’s place as a Commandant. You had to do it on the principals of the Girls’ Brigade and then I had to take a religious one because the Girls’ Brigade is a very religious organisation. I passed and became the Commandant of the Nene Valley District Girls’ Brigade and then I had to retire when I was 65 but I’m still a vice president and I still take an interest in it.    

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