And Oh Man that kiss. When they kissed I felt hot.
I used to come to the market to get my beetroot every Saturday. They had all the stalls here. Woolworths was down there. They had all the fruit and vegetables and everything along here. Every little shop. Because I mean you used to get the cottons on the stall, you could get everything. The guys used to boil the beetroot at the back. It was brilliant. I used to meet all my friends. It was amazing actually – there was only one other black person. Dorothy. We used to arrange to meet every Saturday. When I moved into Chichester Road we were the first, the only black family. When another black family moved in I ran and I said “Daddy, Daddy, there’s another family”. Coming down Edmonton Green you never saw anybody who was foreign. You’d stand in the queue and they’d call out “Come on Sunshine!”. Then I went up to Enfield Grammar School and there was one Indian girl there and myself. At sports time, when we had to take a shower there was a whole crowd of girls, and I said “I got the same thing ya know”. I could write a book about what I experienced.
At the Grammar School when it was lunchtime I couldn’t believe it when there was no table cloth and the cutlery was just put on the side. I was shocked when I saw it. In Jamaica the children at lunchtime they put on a tablecloth. I couldn’t work out what was going on here. I said to my Dad “I cannot cope with this!” In Jamaica there was no communication between the rich and the poor. One side was living like Hollywood, with maids and gardeners, and the other side were really living in shanty towns. There was no mixing. So the rich haven’t got a clue, they haven’t got a clue. So I said to my Dad “I cannot understand it”.
There were about 700 kids in the school here and there was myself and one Indian girl and she was the daughter of a doctor – just the two of us in the whole of that school.
This building here [Edmonton Green Shopping Centre] was used to have the banqueting rooms and the big cinema was here, the Odeon was here. And the banqueting room was at the end of the cinema so there weren’t any shops here. I came here every Saturday. My Dad used to give me five shillings to come and go to the cinema and I came here to see “Splendor in the Grass” with Natalie Wood. You’re meeting your boyfriend, your first boyfriend – all that business! I was 16 and, yes I remember I saw Natalie Wood. She was so gorgeous really, Natalie Wood. How could I forget it, it was my first date. He actually came in to ask my Dad if he could take me to the cinema, he would never take me out first, he had to ask my Dad. He was scared to come home and ask my Dad but I said: “well I ain’t going out with him til he ask my Dad”. And I’ll never forget it actually, “Splendor in the Grass”, it was so lovely. And Oh Man that kiss. When they kissed I felt hot! And the banqueting rooms were here and when you got married you hired them out. If anyone got married they’d hire it. It was lovely. When they pulled it down…oh my God – this one was so elegant. The other ones were not even distant cousins. That one was posh. And I say posh, I love posh.
The Post Office was over there and I saved my very first £2 in that Post office. My father said: “you’ve got to open a savings account”. So he gave me £2 and I went in there and I filled out a form. I got a blue book and I was so proud. And when it got to £70, I felt so rich.
Woolworths was next to the jewellery shop there and every Saturday I went into Woolworths and I bought a ring for 2s 6d. Every Saturday my Dad gave me pocket money. He said: “why you keep buying these cheap rings?”. Because by the time I washed up the dishes the colour had washed off and I needed another one! He got so mad. Woolworths had these rings. A big tray of them in different colours. A purple one this week, then a red one the next week. I miss Woolworths. Honestly, it was a lot of fun.
It has changed so much here. You had everything here. Fabrics…beautiful fabric shops. What drove them out really was the rates, because when they changed it and got rid of the market all the people I knew in the market came back into this new part. They actually knew me by name and they all left probably within a year or so. They all left because the rates were so high. They said it drove them out. And it’s all new faces now, nobody from the original market.
Some of my friends used to work, from school, putting out the potatoes. They used to get paid £2 pound of a Saturday to come and do it. And it all went really when this place was built in the 70s. It’s not the same. That personal touch isn’t there. They don’t know you and say hi, how are you.
I was a teacher nearly all my life. I came from Jamaica and I went on to Thames Uni and did my Teachers’ Certificate. I won’t tell you how old I was when I came from Jamaica. I went to Enfield Grammar School. The education department had to make sure I had the right educational background. I had to do a test and everything. I said to the teacher: “you know I’ve done all this already in the Caribbean. I’ve already done it”. I had teachers there from Switzerland, from Canada – we had international teachers. I had one teacher from Barbados and one from Jamaica, all my other teachers were international. We had a music teacher, she was from England. We used to laugh when she started to sing at the piano. We had to do things like penmanship and deportment on a Friday afternoon. Really and truly, they used to show us how to set the table. We went to a private school. My father paid £80 a term for me to go to private school and get educated. So, Mrs Bishop, she was English, a very fat lady. She gave us piano lessons and she taught us penmanship and deportment every Friday afternoon. There was limousine parked in the school grounds and she would teach us how to sit and get out. We’d always have tea and learn how to set the table, and then she would play the piano and we’d walk round with the books on our head. It was fun for the girls.You learnt how to be young ladies, you learnt how to dress and what wine to put with what.
When I came here I did finishing school at the back of Fleet Street. So when I started teaching I didn’t just teach them their subjects, I taught them life as well, social skills. And recently they asked me to come back and I said: “no, no, no I’m an old lady now. I’m retired, I’m done”. But thousands of students have been through these hands. I’ve had a journey.
Yvonne, Edmonton Green Library – Monday Quilting Group