A Childhood in the tenements

A Childhood in the tenements
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A Childhood in the tenements

By Shirley

Shirley's story is her memories of a childhood growing up in the Glasgow tenements.

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A Childhood in the tenements

By Shirley

What was it like to live in the Glasgow tenements, which have the reputation of being slums?

Well, not all tenements were slums. I lived with my grandparents from the age of 18 months old till I married twenty years later.

Our flat was in a god working class area, where everyone took pride in both their flats and the entrances and stairs.

The entrance was known as ‘The Close’ and our ‘Close’ was special as it had shiny green tiles on the walls.

The stairs were scrubbed every week by tenants ‘taking turns,’ and woe betide anyone who missed their turn.

There were three flats on each floor and ours was known as ‘a room and kitchen.’ We were very luck to have an inside bathroom and toilet, and electric light, whereas some flats in other areas had to share a toilet on the stair with two other families, and some were lit by gas mantles.

I shared ‘the room’ with my two aunts, so every night we had to pull down the bed settee, then every morning had to close it up again, so that the room could be used as a sitting room.

My grandparents slept in ‘the kitchen,’ which was the main living area. Their bed was in a recess. There was a black range with the coal fire, a gas oven and 2 gas rings. All the cooking was done here. There was a sink and a food cupboard, known as the ‘press.’

Our only form of entertainment was the wireless on top of the chest of drawers. We listened to ‘The Man in Black’ and ‘Dick Barton Special Agent,’ but my favourite was Radio Luxembourg.

The oddest item in the kitchen was a large chest which was the “coal bunker,’ which was filled when the coal man climbed 2 flights of stairs with heavy coal bags on his back and tried to close the bunker lid quickly to limit the dust!

Above all this on the ceiling was the ’Pulley’ to dry the washing.

Friday evening was housework night. We all had jobs to do. My Grandpa took down all the brass ornaments and got to work with the Brasso.

When all was spic and span it was treat time and we each had tea and our favourite cake.

There was great community spirit in the street. I remember at five years old being carried to an ambulance with diphtheria, and a large crowd had gathered around the ambulance too see which of the bairns was going to hospital.

I was never aware of a sense of overcrowding or of being disadvantaged. No one tried to outdo their neighbours. We were all in the same boat - or should I say ‘up the same close.’

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Project Details

Healthwise Celebrates 15 Years

An all women group dedicated to improve wellbeing celebrate their fifteenth birthday to record their stories and experiences.

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