Iran to Coventry

Betty Ennis was born in Iran in 1928. At the end of the Second World War her mother and father decided to move the family back to England. In the following excerpt Betty recalls her first impressions of Liverpool and then the hostel in Coventry, where the family were rehoused:

Length of audio: 4 mins 19 secs.

Betty: We travelled, stopping in different places and people, meeting different people in Cyprus and Greece and Italy. People coming and going and all that. And then we came to England. We came to Liverpool. When we came to Liverpool of course the Captain said to my dad ‘put a white handkerchief on your arm then they know who you are’. And they said … announcing Mr Cross, they wanted … that was my dad’s name, Robert Joseph Cross. Anyhow I said to my dad ‘how do everybody knows you?’ [laugh] Anyhow when we got there the car was waiting for us and we got in the car and we went to the beautiful house in Liverpool. We stopped there. For three days we were in Liverpool. Hot water in bed and running hot water, bath and everything. Everything was beautiful, really lovely. Breakfast ready on the table when you go down and have your breakfast. And then after three days we were in Liverpool they said to my dad err ‘Sorry you have to go. You’re supposed to go …’ we were supposed to go to London because my dad want to go to London because that was his home. ‘We haven’t found … can’t find accommodation in London but we find a place in Coventry called Baginton Fields Hostel. If you stay there for ten days then after ten days we try to find accommodation for London, then you go to London’. My dad says ‘fair enough’. Anyhow we got the train from Liverpool, we came to Coventry Station. There was a lady standing, waiting for us in a Station wagon. ‘Mr Cross?’ I said, ‘That’s my dad’, I said, ‘where we go everybody knows you’. [laughs] Anyhow we got in the Station wagon and we came to Baginton Fields Hostel. And that is where the shock hit us. We walked in, great big room … oh the lady came and met us, she had a grey suit on, cigarettes hanging out of her mouth and a bunch of keys, it was like a prison warden, bunch of keys in her hand. ‘Oh hello Mr Cross, how are you?’ and meeting us all and that. Then took us into the dining room, great big room with all folded wooden chairs, you know. I looked around, and I said to my dad, ‘you always said …’ he used to have a joke with us ‘when I take you to England I’m going to put you in a workhouse’. I said [laughs] ‘did you bring us to the workhouse?’ Couldn’t believe it when I saw the state of the big room and all the folded wooden chairs and tables. And my dad said to me, he said ‘Betty now you’re in here you’ve got to serve yourself. Serving is finished now, you’ve got to serve yourself’. And there was a canteen and the hatch opened and great big brown teapot came out [laughs] and they said ‘you’ve got to serve yourself’. And we went up there, we got a tray and got a soup, then we have our dinner and a pudding. And then they marched us to the block. And as we were going to the block, was through the main door we went in, we turned left. There was a toilet on the left and the bathroom’s on the right and smell of Jeyes Fluid, I never ever, ever smelled the Jeyes Fluid in my life. Oh it stunk. And [sighs] I looked at my sister and said [laughing] ‘where are we going [laughs]. Anyhow we walked through the Hostel and, and they showed us our rooms with concrete floor, a little tiny carpet, or mat, what it was, beside the bed. Patchwork quilt over the bed and long thin wardrobe, blue wardrobe, and one chest of drawer.

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