A TomBoy’s Life in a Derbyshire Country Village in 1950 age 11

Contributed by Marian Walsh for the “Childhood in Coleorton” project October 2019

My parents had received the sad news of the death of my uncle aged nineteen. So it was a very sad Christmas of 1949 with no celebrations.

So we slid into 1950 without our usual merriment; my birthday passed by unknown due to the frugality of the war years. So I was surprised when I arrived home from school to see this big box in the front passage and I did not know what it was, and Mom not home from looking after Auntie Nora. But on the table was some cards so I opened them and for the first time I had birthday cards. When Mom got home she started to prepare dinner and never mentioned the box, and me as usual wanted to know what it was, so she said "Open it up", so I did and looked at Mom in total amazement.

I saw that it contained a maroon dolls pram with all the accessories. To say I was speechless would be an understatement. Mom said "well what do you say? Is that not the loveliest pram you have ever seen?" When what I wanted to say was "Why could I not have a trolley like the lads have?" But Mom was going into details about she had been paying so much a week at a shop in the next village, so I said "Yes, it's very nice."

Then Mom dropped the bombshell saying "You can take it round the village with Joan and Jean and start to act like other girls." So for the time being I was not allowed to go out with the Gang.

Come the weekend there was a knock on the door. I jumped up ready to see Ken and the Gang, but I was confronted with Joan and Jean and both with prams. Mom said "She won’t be long" and swung me round and said "You have no dolls so you will have to take Ted in your pram." I had a ribbon put in my hair and shoved out the door with my pram containing Ted with one eye and a button for the other.

We started to walk up the lane towards the Cross Keys pub with Joan and Jean stating that I needed a doll in such a lovely pram, when I saw some boys from school who were in a rival gang. They spotted me and started laughing and calling us sissy. That did it for me. I went over and gave him a good sock which ended up with a fight. Someone came out of their house and broke it up. When I turned round Joan and Jean had gone so I headed home pushing my pram.

But all hell let loose when my Mom saw me. My dress was dirty, my ribbon was hanging onto my bedraggled hair, my knees and elbows were scuffed. And after trying to explain I was packed off to bed not to appear till the next day.

Mom did not give up and at every opportunity would dress me up and parade me round the village. On a few occasions we would see Ken and my pals. But they knew better than to say anything. Most of Mom’s friends said she was fighting a losing battle.

It all came to a head when I was out on my own with the pram and I heard the Gang with their trolleys piled up with house bricks from an old knocked-down coal house building a barrier like a castle wall. That was all I needed to make me join in, so out went Ted and all the acc's and in went bricks. Everything was going great until all the conversation ceased and I looked up to see Mom coming to fetch me.

I chucked all the bricks out and grabbed Ted and the acc's, but she had seen me. She waited till I got home before she gave me one hell of a lecture, her final words "You win – but you will not have a trolley" And I never did. The pram was confined to the spare room never to be pushed by me again.

Marian Walsh
october 2019

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