Allen was taught at an early age that he couldn’t be too attached to material things, he describes that going to a pawnshop was ‘a regular thing, Oh yes.[…]your suit or your little bits of clothes would go in the pawnshop and on Saturdays you’d get them out for you to wear on Sunday and on Monday morning they went straight back in the pawnshop. So they were never in the house all over the weekend, all through the week.’ It’s seems safe to assume that they rented the nicer clothes in order to go to church every Sunday. Allen states that he is ‘Roman Catholic[…] we used to go to Mass in the Morning and Sunday school in the afternoon’.
There seems to be two ideological juxtapositions when looking at the significant rise of the Sunday schools paradigm during the early 1900’s. The first being that ‘they where the chief instrument for humanizing the poor, and for two generations they were the chief means of giving secular instruction to the new working class’. (1) So the idea of class control is to give a higher sense of purpose through their leisure, something that was emphasized through cultural practices such as ‘Drinking in pubs, playing in brass bands, singing in choral societies, betting ‘on the dogs’, pigeon fancying, all were instances of popular cultural practices that could be understood as being inscribed with class meanings’ (2)
Perhaps more frivolous and less meaningful pass-times such as sport and drinking held much less levity and respectability that the chosen pursuit of a Sunday School: ‘the sole organs of a community that transcended the fierce antagonism of misconceived class interests’ (1). Therefore, by Allen and many children like him, partaking in such a respectable practice shows a different outlook into self-improvement and leisure, additionally elevating the household name and the community surrounding it.
It’s interesting to point out a generational divide in respectability between the children of Liverpool and Allen’s father (adulthood). Who comes in direct contrast to this point in the class interest, as Allen describes him as ‘a man who used to drink a lot. He smelt of beer’- therefore this inherent contradiction between the father’s discrepancies and substance abuse almost provide a stark dichotomy in the working-class psyche. Overturning the nobility of Allen and his mother with the indistinct pursuit of escapism and hedonism which is another allegory in the working-class memoir.
The growth in popularity of the ‘public-house’ proves to emphasise the hardships people faced during the era. “Drinking was seen as something men did. In The Classic Slum, describing life in turn of the century Salford, Robert Roberts commented that ‘men who did not frequent public houses or drink at home were usually sneered at by other males, but not by other women, as “tight-fisted”, “hen-pecked” or “not proper men at all”” (nationalarchives.org)
Perhaps there’s evidence that this inherent pursuit of escapism and substance abuse is not only part-and-parcel of the working-class experience, but a necessity in the cultural psyche to be indoctrinated into the community.
Memoir: Hammond, Allen, Programme number:P404/4. Transmission; 26 August 1963. Granada Television. Typescript, 15 foolscap sheets, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, available at http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/10895
1- Snell, K. (1999). The Sunday-School Movement in England and Wales: Child Labour, Denominational Control and Working-Class Culture. Past & Present, (164), 122-168. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/651277
2-Andy Croll, ‘Popular Leisure and Sport’ in Chris Williams (ed) A Companion to Nineteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), pp. 396-411. (p. 402)