Peggy Kent (PK-95-215)

Photograph of Peggy Kent and her friends from the laundry, taken on Corton Beach, Lowestoft

In August 1995, Peggy Kent of Lowestoft, Suffolk contacted Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain in response to a call in the East Anglian press for volunteers to take part in the project, and became one of the twenty-one individuals, couples and groups living in the region who were interviewed later that year. One of four children, Mrs Kent was born in Lowestoft in 1920 and had lived in the town all her life: her father was a painter and decorator, her mother a housewife. Soon after leaving school at the age of fourteen, she went to work in the Premier Laundry in Lowestoft, where she met the women who were to become her lifelong friends: Hilda Catchpole, Gladys Kent, Barbara Harvey, and Hilda Green. Mrs Kent was interviewed, along with all four of her fellow 'laundry girls', at her home in Lowestoft on 18 October 1995; and again with three of the four--Hilda Catchpole, Gladys Kent, and Barbara Harvey--on 13 November 1995. In 2000, Mrs Kent donated a number of photographs of the group to the project.

In their lively and laughter-filled first interview, Mrs Kent 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
Scan of letter from Annette Kuhn (PK-95-215SL003) | Transcript
Scan of letter from Peggy Kent (PK-95-215PL003) | Transcript
Scan of follow-up letter from Annette Kuhn (PK-95-215SL004) | Transcript
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.