Care for the elderly in Northumberland.
I sat down with Charlotte Straker resident Margaret Young, to ask her about her life and children. She sits in her neat room, in a comfortable chair and prepares to tell me about her teaching career and living in the centre of Newcastle in the 1950s and 60s.
She has a picture of her wedding day on her dresser. In the photo she is wearing a beautiful 1950s style nipped in dress with a wide flaring skirt, and a neat hat. Her husband looks very smart in a double-breasted suit.
“When I was married, I moved to Newcastle upon Tyne with my husband Jack. That dress was pale blue, as we couldn’t get white material, due to rationing”, she tells me, pointing to the picture, “you had to have so many coupons, and they were difficult to get hold of. And I made that hat from some fabric and net that was left over.”
She continues, “During the war, Jack worked in the shipyards in Sunderland, so after retraining, he moved to Hexham to start work as woodwork teacher, and I started as a teacher at the new school in Longbenton”.
Margaret taught juniors and seniors at Longbenton for 12 months, and then left to have her first child Anthony.
“I had six children in total, one after the other and at one point, had six children under seven years old!” she tells me with a laugh. “I didn’t have a lot of help as my family was still in Wolverhampton, although Jack’s sisters used to come when they could, to give me a hand. I remember sitting them all in the big, wide pram we used to have. I put two babies at the top end, two at the bottom end, and two more walking. They were all on “baby reins” up to three years old because as toddlers as it was impossible to keep an eye on them all. It was hard work, but we had lots of fun. I remember bouncing the pram as I walked along the street, making all the children laugh. My husband thought I was mad!”
She was very proud when two of her children, Anthony and Vanda, won scholarships to the RGS and Central High School in Newcastle.
Margaret says, “We didn’t have a lot of money, and I remember being terribly worried about affording the uniforms for these private schools. Luckily, there were second hand shops that I could buy clothes at a discount. It was hard to make ends meet. We couldn’t afford for the children to go on any school trips, so instead, we used to holiday in the Lake District. We had an old Bedford van with slatted seats. I made cushions for the seats, and took sleeping bags, and piled in all the camping gear. We pulled two wooden boats behind the van and I wanted to hang all the saucepans from their gunwales for a bit of space! We went to the Lake District like that with the children crammed in the back. It was our second home, and everyone loved it.”
After the children were a little older, Margaret went back to work as a teacher at Cruddas Park School in Scotswood, Newcastle and she taught there for another 18 years.
“It was a lovely school”, she remembers. “It was a deprived area, but the parents, for the most part, were good people. No one had much money, but we knew all the families and I got to know their circumstances. The children were wonderful, and I loved every one of them. I remember my husband visiting the school, and he told me that every child he met was polite and well-behaved.”
Margaret tells me about some of her classes, “I remember teaching one group of seven-year-olds and I was trying to persuade them to join my choir. Well, they wouldn’t. They told me that singing was sissy. So, the next day I brought in a record of a Welsh male voice choir. I told them that they were all miners. ‘And were miners sissy?’ After that they all wanted to sing. I changed their mind!”
She used some traditional teaching methods. “I used to teach times-tables and spellings by rote and make them stand up to practice them. And we did mental arithmetic out loud in class. The children loved it. I never had any trouble with discipline. They were honestly very good-natured children.”
After Margaret and Jack retired from teaching, they moved away from Denton Burn to a house in Prudhoe. “My husband Jack was well known in Hexham and as he was a woodwork teacher at Queen Elizabeth School he used to be called Jackie Plank! Everyone knew him. After retiring, we used to enjoy just being in the house, doing the garden and going on trips.”
After her husband died Margaret moved into Charlotte Straker House. She has 13 grand-children and 5 great-grandchildren.
“I’m proud of all my children. They are all in professional careers and have families. Although I tell them I could have done with someone useful, like a brickie or a tiler!” she says with a twinkle.
When it was time to choose a care home, her children visited lots of different homes in the North East. “Charlotte Straker was the nicest. Just the carers and the nurses and the general feel of the place” she says, “I love it here. I like the staff, and the chat and I love the food.”
Margaret’s children (Anthony, John, Paul, Vanda, Yvonne and Ingrid), grand-children and great-grand-children visit regularly, and she goes on most of the outings organised by our Activities Coordinator, Karen. A couple of weeks ago, her daughters took her to see the ballet in Newcastle.
“I do enjoy it here. I feel well looked after, and I love chatting with my friends” she tells me.
I tell Margaret that I need to show her this interview before it’s published.
“I’ll check it carefully with my teacher’s red pen,” she tells me laughing, “you might get a big tick and a star at the end!”