Memories of life at the Royal Albert in the first half of the last century touch upon meal times in De Vitre Hall. This was the central dining room off the main corridor in the Main Building.
Very likely talking about the 1930s and 1940s, Frank Cochrane and Harry Oldham recall the food they ate and how people behaved during mealtimes.
This extract is part of a larger conversation about mealtimes. It is after, “They used to throw food at one another” and is followed by, “Even if you wanted to see your friend, you couldn’t.”
SC: What was the food like in those days?
Frank: Oh terrible.
SC: Can you tell what kind of food you used to eat at meals?… What did you used to eat for dinner?
Frank: We used to get blackclock soup!
SC: What’s blackclock soup?
Frank: Didn’t we Harry?
Harry: That’s right blackclocks in soup.
Frank: In soup –
Frank: – floating on top.
NI: What are blackclocks?
SC: You mean real beetles in the soup?
SC: Seriously Frank or are you pulling… ?
Frank: We never touched it!
NI: That used to happen… ?
Frank: Oh yes! I always remember the doctor comin’ round and – he came round and he said, ‘What’s the matter, you’re not eating your … soup?’ And they all turned round and said, ‘There’s a lot of blackclocks in.’ And so he turned round and said, ‘Don’t tell them all they’ll all want a taste.’ (Laughs)
SC: So apart from soup with beetles in it, what else did you get?… Was there anything you liked?
Harry: Nothing was no better than any other… It all seemed to be alright.
SC: What about Sundays? Was the food any different on Sundays than the rest of the week?
Harry: No –
Harry: – We still used to get same stuff. Still used to get same –
Frank: Just the same…The only difference we’d get Yorkshire Pudding… Every Sunday. And they used to call it telegraph wires. Stretch it! (Laughs)
Harry: Old Albert Connor were best wasn’t he? Rice pudding. (Laughs)
Harry: …Threw a plate of rice pudding up against wall. He was put to Welch Home for punishment for about five or six month for it.
SC: What happened to him?
Harry: Dish of rice pudding. He threw it up against wall.
SC: And so what was the punishment?…
Harry: He got put to Welch Home for about five or six month…
NI: you were saying that people used to throw food (at each other) What happened to those people who threw food?
Frank: Oh they’d get in trouble.
Harry: Aye, he just threw it up against wall, thought no more about it. (Laughs)
NI: What, what would happen to them?
Frank: They’d get a clout.
NI: They’d get a clout. Did anything else happen to them?
Frank: Yes. Be put on scrubbing or – for a few weeks.
NI: Was that scrubbing the front steps?
Frank: All round the main corridors and places, on your hands and knees. No machines like they is now.
(SC = Sue Cowgill; NI = Nigel Ingham)