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I am at the time of writing this 89 years old. I was born during the first World War in February 1916 Bootle my parents were James and Maud Finch. I was the seventh child out of eventually a family of nine.

My father was a tanner in the Litherland Tannery. He died from anthrax contracted from the skins when my youngest brother was only 6 weeks old. I don't remember much about the early years of my life but I do know that we were a poor family from that moment on. It was a shock to my mother with nine of us to care for. Money was means tested and she only received 10 shillings a week and could not subsidise this in any way when she tried by having an allotment so that we had some fresh food, she was penalised and taken to a tribunal the local priest was on the tribunal panel and he knew that she was only trying to feed her family and it was not for profit. The charges were dropped but the allotment had to go.

My mother was born in Ford Sefton and my cousin Audrey used to say that she could throw a bale of hay better than any man.

We didn't have toys like the children of today we used to go the clay pits armed with a bottle of water and if you were lucky, a penny worth of lemonade powder. We played shop all day using bits of wood and making the things to sell from the clay in our world of make believe.

Christmas was a bad time in our house. Christmas dinner consisted of a hot pot left in the back jigger outside your yard door by the police fund. We used to get tickets for the charity parties and there were always fights over who deserved to go, we all did really but you only got 2 tickets. One year we were left out completely imagine no xmas dinner.

As kids we tried to do our bit to help. We used to go with a battered old pram and stand in queues for hours for a small bag of coke from the gas works. If you didn't have an old pram the neighbours would lend you one, everyone helped everyone in those days. My elder sister used to chop wood and sell it round the doors to make a penny or two. These were hard years but happy ones and its hard to explain why.

Aunty Margaret did a lot for Bootle, she had a place in Marsh lane and ran the Bootle May Day celebrations. Once I was chosen to be lilac in lilacs in may. I was all dressed in lilac and rode on the float, I thought I looked lovely and felt like a Princess.

Clothes and shoes were a big problem and were often passed round the family suitably altered to fit, in some schools you would not be allowed in if you didn't have shoes so the toes would be stuffed with paper to make them fit. As the family grew older things became a little easier, my brothers went into the Merchant Navy and to work in Reids Tin Works and my mother was able to put £5 down on a house in Spencer Place. She was now working as a cleaner in the schools and I used to help her by putting the chairs on the tables and emptying the baskets.

We had a neighbourhood policeman, we called him Gigger Mike and we respected him, he kept us in our place as did the teachers in my school Orrell Road. We had a school board and woe betide you if you played truant. Mrs Nixon was our mistress and she ruled with an iron fist you knew that you would be in for the cane if you were late. I was a bright child and passed the eleven plus but of course I couldnt go to college how could we afford the uniform.

When I was 14 I went into service and went to work for Lord and Lady Neston. The hours were long, you wore a uniform and it was taken for granted that you would work extra when they entertained but at least I could send money home to help out. I met my late husband on a visit to my Aunt in 1939 we married and had a son in 1940.

War was on the cards by this time and we all had to do our bit, and I went to work in Littlewoods helping to build the barrage balloons. At night those women with young children like myself were loaded onto flat back lorries and taken out to Lydiate or Ormskirk to spend the night in the open watching the bombs light up the sky and wondering what carnage you would find when you returned home in the morning. Sometimes it was left too late and you had to scurry to the air raid shelter in the yard.

I decided to change my job and went to work in the Royal Ordinance Factory examining the rifle parts. I did this for 5 nights a week and I can remember it as if it was yesterday. You felt important and did the job well, knowing a soldiers life depended on it. Sadly I lost my younger brother who was in the Merchant Navy, he was only 17 years of age.

When I look back Bootle has always known how to celebrate with Church Parades, May Days, Orangemans days street parties to celebrate one thing or another, communities coming together to enjoy themselves providing lasting memories, and parties into the next day sometimes longer. The good old days we never had the money some people seem to have today but we were happy.

The children played in the street with balls, swinging round the lamp, off ground tick, allalley o'hop scotch , top and whip, cherry wags, skipping these to name a few. Now my great grandchildren have computers, Play Station games, boys e.t.c. toys that are for solitary enjoyment, its no wonder they don't know how to play together, they don't have to.

I feel that the thing that has been the most important is the advancement in technology bringing all the labour saving devices we have today, leaving us more freetime to enjoy life but taking some of the old family values with it.

Jane Sumner
(memories of bootle)

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