'I remember putting soap inside my trouser creases ....'

Rod's recollection of clothing from the way they wore series.

By Lu Pearson

Photo:Rod as a child with his mother in Army blanket coat

Rod as a child with his mother in Army blanket coat

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Rod's Dad mends shoes

Rod's Dad mends shoes

From WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Rod in the Army, Belize 1976

Rod in the Army, Belize 1976

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:Rod's Wedding, Catterick Barracks 1977

Rod's Wedding, Catterick Barracks 1977

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Rod was born on North Street, Portslade and knows the area like the back of his hand. All his family were from Portslade apart from his dad who was from Yorkshire. When he came down to meet the in-laws, his father-in-law wouldn't let him in because he called him a 'foreigner'!

'I remember a white fur coat. I fell over, I was probably only 3 or 4 years old at the time. I got tar from the road on the coat - my mother wasn't very pleased.'

'My mum had curling tongs which she heated in the fire - you put newspaper on them to check if they were too hot, once a week she did it. My Mum had a coat made from army blankets, lots of women had the same'.


'I never had much money to get clothes, so they used to last about six years. I was bought my first suit at 14 just before I left school. I fell into a water tank with the new suit on! I scrambled out and went to near my house, I lay in Harry Reaves orchard until mum and dad went out, I could see the house from there, then I went home but didn't know how to clean it so I left it at the bottom of the wardrobe and it went all mildewy. They found out when my Auntie came to visit one Sunday and my Dad said put your suit on before she comes. My Dad didn't hit me though, but I was grounded. That was alright though, cos my old man did shift work, so I used to sneak out of the window. My Mum was soft so she never did anything'.

'My old man never splashed out on clothes for us, he was a bit tight. But he had all his clothes made for him: suits, coats, shoes. He used to mend our shoes with bicycle tyres. He used to inspect our shoes each night. We got the mickey taken out of us when we went on the swings cos people could see the bike tyres on the soles. The first time a girl asked me out, I was 12 years old and she asked me to meet her in Victoria Park in Portslade. I borrowed my Dad's overcoat to wear. It was miles to big for me, the sleeves went over my hands, and the bottom of it went down to my feet. I put soap on my hair and went down Lock's Hill, when it started raining. The soap came down me ears, all bubbly. I looked a right state. I didn't go and meet her in the end.'

'My Mum was an usherette at the Rothbury, so I used to get in free. There was an old bingo hall on Portland Road, it used to be a cinema called the 'Granada'. I had a date there once. I got the bus from the old village (Portslade) and went past her on the bus standing outside the cinema. She was wearing a red coat. I lost my bottle and stayed on the bus!'

Going AWOL...

'I was in the Army Cadets in Marmion Road, Hove. I was so proud of this bloody uniform. I wanted to wear it to school. I used to ask my Mum if I could go to the shops, so I could wear my uniform. We went on a fortnight's camp once in Kent. After a week I got homesick as they were so strict, so I went AWOL. They had put me on fatigues for doing something wrong, and then I was shouted at for giving too much jelly away on the dinner line. So I went to Dover station, got a ticket and went home. My Dad went mad! He phone up the Drill Hall in Hove and they contacted the camp. I didn't go back after that. Dad said they would all call me a sissy'.

One dress, two weddings..

'I remember when my wife and I got married. Wedding dresses were very expensive and we'd spent our money on all the other things for the wedding, so my wife borrowed the wedding dress that her sister had worn at her own wedding only a month previously. My wife wasn't very happy about it though, and always wished that she'd been able to have a dress of her own. 'I got married in blue, 'best blues'. On the morning of the wedding, I couldn't find my medals to go on my uniform. I had to borrow them off another soldier called 'granny', cos he was such an old woman. He used to knit and everything. He lent me his medals, but then I couldn't find my shirt, so I wore my regimental ceremonial dress, a blue uniform with red stripes down the side of the trousers - without the shirt! It was so hot in the reception and I couldn't take my jacket off because I didn't have a shirt on! I only wore my ceremonial colours three times in my life.' I sold my mess kit for £20 to another soldier'.

'The wife wore her sister's wedding dress. They looked like twins. She got married two months before we did, but my wife wanted her own dress. She said "don't get any ideas", but it took so long to sort everything out for the bridesmaids that she ended up having to wear her sister's dress. She still tells me off about it now! It was a cheap wedding though, we only paid for the bridesmaids dresses and the flowers, everything else was free as we used the Garrison church and hall and all the food was donated'.

A profitable talent

'I had been taught how to sew which was very useful in the army. We'd be given our uniforms and then would have to sew the buttons on ourselves. Some of the soldiers didn't know how to sew and I'd charge them 6d (pence) a button to sew the buttons on their uniform. I'd charge 10/- (shillings) for a coat, and we only earned £2 10/- a week. I remember putting soap inside my trouser creases (in the army) to hold them in place, but then one time in the hot sunshine it melted!'

'We only went out in our uniform for training, but it made it easy to get a lift. One day a Rolls Royce stopped to give me a lift. There were a couple in the back and they had a driver. They gave me a lift to Portslade, right to the door. They gave me 10/- which was a lot of money in 1956. Back then, you got a lot of respect if you were in uniform, but by 1970 attitudes had changed, I think due to the 'troubles' in Ireland'.

Hot, hot heat...

'Back in 1962 in Libya, it was very hot but we weren't allowed to wear shirt-sleeves, so we cut the collar and cuffs from our shirts and sewed them onto our jumpers to look as though we were wearing our shirts underneath. They were none too pleased when they saw what we'd done'.

A detailed reminiscence of Rod's worklife can be found here.

Special thanks to the illustrator Hannah Eaton and Trevor Povey who acted as the series Historian.

The reminiscence facilitators during these sessions were Imogen Christie and Nicola Benge.

This page was added by Lu Pearson on 06/06/2009.

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