Barbara Harvey (BH-95-215)

The Marina, Lowestoft (uploaded by Mike_Blakemore). Creative Commons (Attribution) License via

Barbara Harvey of Lowestoft, Suffolk became involved with Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain through her lifelong friend Peggy Kent. As an only child, Miss Harvey was born in Lowestoft in 1919; her father was a fish buyer, her mother a housewife. Her first job after leaving school at the age of fourteen was at the Premier Laundry in Lowestoft, where she met the women who were to become her lifelong friends: Peggy Kent, Hilda Catchpole, Gladys Kent, and Hilda Green. She was interviewed, along with all four of her fellow 'laundry girls', at Peggy Kent's home in Lowestoft on 18 October 1995; and again with three of the four--Peggy Kent, Gladys Kent, and Hilda Catchpole--on 13 November 1995.

In their lively and laughter-filled first interview, Miss Harvey and her friends--who now rarely see each other as a group--share memories of the good times they enjoyed in the thirties. Described in the interviewer’s field notes as “glamorous pensioners”, they reminisce about the fun they had and recall the complex web of social events they shared. They offer hilarious yarns about work at the laundry, getting ready to go to the pictures or the dance hall, trying out hairstyles, makeup, and fashions; looking your best (“And we did look lovely!”); imitating film stars and getting ideas from the films about what they were going to wear; going for a dip in the sea on the way home from an evening out. They update each other with anecdotes and news about their families, and vividly recall a wartime bombing raid on Lowestoft.

While most of the conversation in the friends' second interview again consists of shared reminiscences about their youthful exploits, their boyfriends, husbands and children, the women are induced to talk about stars and films when shown a film star annual from the 1930s. They swap opinions about favourite stars, most of whom are male; they remember how people copied actions, gestures, fashions, and hairstyles from films; and share amusing anecdotes about cinema visits with friends and family members.

Documents, Memorabilia and Related Links
East Anglia home page
Palm Court Orchestra, The Grand, Eastbourne ( site)
South Pier, Lowestoft ( site)
Health & Beauty Display At Wembley, 1939 (YouTube)
Donated Photographs

Book chapter drawing on Mrs Kent's interviews:
Kuhn, A. (2002) 'Growing Up with Cinema', in An Everyday Magic: Cinema and Cultural Memory, Chapter 5. London: I.B.Tauris/Bloomsbury.