Daisy Noakes (b.1908): Habits, Belief and Recreation

‘John and Arthur living at home had time for hobbies and recreation, where the girls had no opportunity’ (p.31)

Growing up surrounded by a large family, Daisy had many activities and chores that kept her occupied until she was sent into service. Part one of her memoir consists of frequent cleaning rituals to be following or being mishchevious with her siblings . These activities come to a halt once she enters the world of service, ‘My off-duty time was Tuesday 2.30pm to 9.30pm and one afternoon a fortnight for the same hours.’ (p.48) Daisy reminisces on early memories of her childhood holding the responsibility of owning pets such as chickens and rabbits. ‘To get food for them we would go over to North Brighton Golf Course and beyond… we did not treat them as pets-they were for food.’ (p.17) Daisy and her siblings must carry out such duties for their well-being, something they were taught since birth. During the First World War, Daisy was frequently sent to the shops with the families ration books, ‘They were oblong in shape and had a sort of faint paisley pattern on the pages.’ (p.27) Daisy enjoys recounting her days out during her holidays from school with her siblings, equipped with tea and sandwiches for the day. ‘By the time we had reached Preston Park we had drunk all the tea.’ (p.30) She often recalls spending her time taking scenic routes to Church on a Sunday. ‘Lewes station was still in use in my young days. We would choose the long way round, just for the novelty of going down the steps.’ (p.35) Additionally, Daisies parents keep their relationship alive by going out on a Wednesday evening. ‘Either it was the Duke of York’s cinema in Preston circus, or the Church Army Hut which was in St Peter’s Gardens.’ (p.33) Although Daisy suffered many hardships in terms of work, her parents were her support system. 

In terms of gender, Daisy and her brother’s leisure activities are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Daisies activities often contribute to the running of her household whereas her brothers living at home had more time for leisure and recreation. She writes extensively about John and Arthur’s hobbies, whether it be winning trophies for cross- country running or playing instruments, specifically the concertina and mandolin. ‘Sonny liked football and fishing… George did cycle racing and he and John were very interested in collecting stamps.’ (p.31) Her brother’s pastimes increased so much so that ‘needing a table, mum agreed they could build a shed along the top of the garden’ (p.31). In contrast to this, Daisy finds her own entertainment from naturally occurring objects such as the ‘railings’ on the top side of the road she resides on. She often used these railings ‘for somersaults and emulating tight rope walkers by walking on top of the rail.’ (p.32) Despite these gender differences, Daisy seems content surrounded by the hustle of her life. Daisy seemed to adore the outdoors during her childhood, often playing out in the streets and in parks. ‘There was Preston Park, which was nearest, there was Blaker’s Park, Queen’s Park also had a large clock and a lake’ (p.37). She further expresses her love for music and sound, ‘Military Bands would come to play there while people sat in a circle on deck chairs…there was music everywhere’. (p.37).  

Along with this, she enjoyed skipping in the street with neighbourhood children using a rope that reached the width of the road. However, she notes ‘if you were a bit “posh” and had a “scooter” you were the most popular child in the street.’ (p.38) Living in a seaside town, Daisy also got the opportunity to explore the seafront and its numerous attractions regularly such as bands, concert parties and talent contests that were held on Sunday afternoons between the Palace Pier and Black Rock

Although Daisy does not mention many cultural aspects through her memoir, she embraces her busy childhood as it is soon snatched away from her: ‘Mum helped me carry my trunk to the tram andhelped me put it on the bus to Ovingdean.’ (p.48). Despite this huge lifestyle change, Daisy adapts to her trade.  Selina Todd notes, ‘It is argued that entering employment marked the beginning of a social, cultural, and economic transition from girlhood to womanhood. The relationship between gender, life cycle, and social class in inter-war England is reassessed’ (119). She recognises the colossal movement from home life to the working world- something that Daisy experiences in full force. She further notices how ‘Women’s employment patterns demonstrate that the sociological division drawn between manual occupations, considered working-class, and non-manual occupations, categorized as middle-class, is rather crude.’ This is reflective of the ignorance that ran in Daisies society, placing her in the working-class bracket.

Bibliography

Noakes, Daisy, (1975) ‘The Town Beehive, a young girl’s lot Brighton 1910-1934’, Brighton, QueenSpark Books.

Todd, Selina 2004, Poverty and aspiration: young women’s entry into employment, Twentieth Century British History, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 119–142.

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