Words of wisdom from Arthur Woodgate to the young people of Rye (January 2011)
Although I’m rather old, I was once young and strong enough and faced the world with the same economic situation as you young people of today. Now, here I am at 98 years of age, sat here wondering how I can make you feel a bit better than you do, and as I can’t collect up all the currency and share it out amongst you, so I am now going to tell you how I saw life in the 1920s/30s by telling you how I got through that big depression, My father bound me as a legal apprentice in 1928, as Rye Builders were very busy, so I had a good training in the first part up to the 1930s. I finished my time as the great depression began to bite and got the sack. Looking around for a job, I didn’t see any so to the dole office and join the queue I went. In those days we had to sign on each morning at the dole office which was in Wish Street next to the “Pipemakers Arms”. At one time, whilst I was a member of the signing crowd, we stretched right round the square of Wish Street, Wish Ward and The Strand. One or Two tanks came with their guns showing and circled round us – that caused some disturbance and the war office said it was part of their practice and they were removed.
I didn’t believe the war office and still don’t, nor I think did anyone else. I didn’t stay long out of work and gradually money started to move about and dole queues started to get shorter. As money began to be spent by those who had it to spend the better off we got. It would be odd to say that great sums were being spent for preparations for war and we don’t want that to happen again but there are plenty of ways to spend We replaced the cinema that had been destroyed by war and we had plenty of repair work, but it was not all just replacements. We, I remember, built a new nurses home for the Hill House Hospital (previously Rye Work House).
Here is a story, I remember when the Hill House Project was being built. A young family man, who had spent some time on benefits, came walking up Rye Hill waving a newspaper and shouting we are having to pay £20,000 for a new princess, but they think my wife is only worth ten shilling a week. I can remember getting seventeen shillings and four pence a week as a single man (less than £1) [never did find out what the four pence was for!]. When a family was started, ten shillings (50p today) and five shilling for each child. I quite expected some more to join in behind our man with the paper and some sort of protest to start, but it didn’t happen. I hope this will provide some hope to you and realise that all economic slopes do have bottoms and however deep this one gets, it will, like the one in the 30s come to an end for we live in a “boom and bust” society. There will be slopes but most lots shallower and this sort of society Gordon Brown was trying to kill, but he didn’t. However, as it was forecast we are living longer – lets try to have happy lives and live close to the 100. In spite of all the draw backs, I’ve made it to 98 so far – so from one generation to another, I can only hope you will enjoy a happier life than we did in the thirties. So from the 20th century I wish you a happy 21st!
“Rye’s Own” January 2012
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