Home Oral history interview - Maxine Sorrell

Oral history interview - Maxine Sorrell


Audio file

Production date


Object number


Physical Description

Audio recording of an oral history interview with Maxine Sorrell, who was born in Dalston 1938, and lived in Hackney all her life.

Born in Ridley Road, she moved to East Ham House in Hackney Downs when WW2 broke out. Evacuated to Welwyn Garden City and then returned to Shacklewell School. Memories of Jewish community and then Caribbean migration. Stories of weekly visits to pawn shop in Hoxton, dance sessions.

Associated Person

Sorrell, Maxine (Subject of)


Digital file (.wav)
Digital file (.mp3)

On display?



Interview summary:
Disc 1 [00:00:15] Introduction and first year living in Ridley Road. [00:00:39] Outbreak of war family moves to 5th floor flat in Hackney downs.
Disc 1 [00:00:55] Wartime experiences: Bombing, ‘siren suits’ of rough wool – wetting herself with fright, Good story of friendship forged in air raids. Fathesr in fire-service. Good story of saving sister when bomb fell on Hackney Downs – seeing crater next day. Good story of exploring Sigdon Road bombsite – found poetry book “My mum told me it was stealing”
Disc 1 [00:06:27] Childhood neighborhood: Describes her flats/estate (East Ham House). Lots of children. Lists street-games they played - good explanation of ‘Knock Down Ginger’. Also play centre. School at Shacklewell Lane.
Disc 1 [00:08:03] Evacuation to Welwyn Garden City with mum and sister. Started school there. [00:08:39] Return to Hackney – war still on: Good story of joining Shacklewell School, children attend either morning or afternoon. 1d for milk. [00:10:10] Toys and games: wooden top with ‘whip’, hop-scotch, conkers, gobs and monsters, ‘three balls up the wall’…
Disc 1 [00:11:34] Good descriptions of local transport and traffic: Trolleybuses - father a trolley-bus driver after fire service. Lots of bikes. Good story of cars then, very few, and no colours – only black.
Disc 1 [00:12:20] Good explanation of picture houses along High Street - names and locations [00:13:06] Good story of Saturday Morning Club, 6d kids’ cinema – 9am-12:30.
Disc 1 [00:15:22] (Cooke’s) pie and mash shop: Good story of free bus rides to the pie and mash shop on dad’s trolleybus, after kids’ cinema. “Course you’d have a whole bus load of kids, all going along singing, all getting off. Just at Ridley Road bus stop it was” 9d for pie, 3d for mash with green liquor.
Disc 1 [00:16:50] Doodlebug summer in Hackney. At school taught to shelter in classrooms with bricked in windows – sitting on floor with coats over heads. Good story, sheltering in Jewish neighbour’s house on top landing (5th floor) as V1 falls “She’s the last one in her own flat, and she slammed the door and put the lock on. And she says ‘stay out there ya bastards!”
Disc 1 [00:20:40] Strong Jewish presence all over area: friends, neighbours, school mates – separate services.
Disc 1 [00:21:35] Good story about West Indian migration: No childhood memories of Black children. Only saw Black children in movies like Tarzan “And we thought they were painted”. [00:22:09] Good story of seeing her first Black person, a Black American soldier – “We was all frightened to touch him in case the paint came off”. [00:23:55] Seeing more Black servicemen. Race tension over Black men dancing with White women - “It was the same as like later on in life when the immigration took place, people had rooms to let but they were frightened to let them. Well why? It don’t make sense”.
Disc 1 [00:25:09] Ridley Road market: Good description stalls from war years and through post-war changes. Good story of Jewish trade - eg 2 ladies who plucked kosher chickens, delicatessen. [00:28:31] Good story of getting cheap remainder Xmas trees and chickens – “we only saw chicken at Christmas time… then it was like a luxury”. [00:29:12] Good story of preparing for Xmas: buying luxury item each week – like a piece of fruit – to store in a box till Xmas day.
Disc 1 [00:29:41] Good story of celebrating ‘Fireworks night’ (Guy Fawkes Night): Saving for fireworks. Now in ground floor flat. Father’s silent film shows for local kids. Mum’s bread-pudding, toffee apples and cocoa.
Lighting communal bonfire and fireworks, catching telephone wires alight, fire engine coming to put out fire, setting it alight again after they’d gone. Staying up late. Baked potatoes in bonfire – half cooked “You were telling everybody how lovely it was, but it was horrible really”.
Disc 1 [00:33:17] Good story of local bombsites: Blitzed houses for playgrounds. [00:34:15] Good story of local prefabs: seeing inside through schoolmates’ invitations to sleep over. Good description: straight and new, cooker, dining room, cooker, fridge, bath… “They had a garden as well, my mum could a done with one of them”.
Disc 1 [00:36:03] Good story of life lived in Hackney amid comings and goings of neighbours: Losing friends. People moving out to new towns. [00:36:25] Good story of starting her own family: Marriage, first child born German hospital, others born Hackney hospital – “I’m like the lone ranger now, everyone else has gone to Essex”.
Disc 1 [00:37:15] Good story of living in Ridley Road, earliest memory, as chubby baby in pram – “Mum put up a notice: ‘Very kind of you but please don’t feed the baby’…”
Disc 1 [00:40:54] Good stories of importance of weekly visit to pawn shops: Monday night putting best suit in to get a few bob, Friday getting it out again. Granny used pawnshop in Hoxton next to soup kitchen “She’d put it in there and wouldn’t go back… probably didn’t have the money”. And pawned uncle’s gold watch ever week when he was away at sea.
Disc 1 [00:45:49] Good story of Mum and dad making use of hand-me-down clothes. Father mending shoes “We had to stay in that night… cos we only had one pair each”
Disc 1 [00:47:46] Good stories of teenage: Dance sessions with friends. Shackwell School evening club – drama, cricket, dancing to records, cold drink or tea. Wednesday evening band at Victoria Park. Thursday evening band at Clissold Park. Monday’s dancing in basement of Johnson’s oil shop in narrow way. Tuesday’s dancing at Barry’s above tailor’s in narrow way. Friday night off. Saturday dance at Town Hall – to live band.
Disc 1 [00:52:31] Leaving school: Didn’t want to leave. Good story of work experiences. Office jobs in accountancy - explains various employers over the course of marriage and children: Simpson’s in Stoke Newington, Pryor’s builders’ merchants in Dalston, home-working for builders’ merchants in Shacklewell Lane… [00:57:04] Good story of getting depressed as stay-at-home mum in Stoke Newington: found lovely child-minder so she could work, felt jealous.
[00:58:30] Good story of working for Tally Man (sold household items door-to-door, collected payment of 6d a week etc): People hid from Tally Man (and rent man). “Mum says she’s not in”… 1976 MS diagnosed and she took early retirement at age of 38.
Disc 1 [01:04:32] Pubs: Until recently used to visit different pubs to support entertainer friends. Good story of favorite, her local Duke of York: Nearly every night. Lots of stars - entertainers, singers, footballers, live bands, karaoke… till 3am. “But I wasn’t a boozer. And I didn’t have to walk straight because I had the wheel chair”…
Disc 1 [01:07:11] Good story of Immigrants: Gradually saw different things down Ridley Road – eg yam. Myths – eating cats. [01:10:02] Good story of immigrants bringing changes in clothes to buy – mixture that different countries have put into fashion. Describes fashions immigrants wore – noticed hats especially.
Disc 1 [01:12:51] Race relations: Good story of making first Black friend as adult – Janet, her neighbour’s first experience of Chickenpox. [01:16:24] Good honest explanation of immigrants begrudged – eg given housing. “I think they began to begrudge the Indians more than anything”.
Disc 1 [01:20:21] Good story of courting days: Sixpenny ‘All-on stall’ in Ridley Road (split sausage sandwich with everything on it – ‘all on’) Accepted lots of dates to the pictures on the same night, choosing film wanted to see and boy most likely to buy chestnuts or treat at ‘all-on-stall’, and standing the rest up - doing the same each week. [01:23:20] Good story of meeting husband: local boy, local (social) club in school… Divorced after 15 years marriage... “You got to get a bit of wealth on your finger darling”
Copy Material Location: WAV copies held at Hackney Museum:
1 copy stored on a portable hard drive
1 copy stored on a DVD-R (Gold Archive Standard)

Missing image