Water Out Of Number Six Please
It was 1947, I arrived at Southampton Docks from my journey from Jamaica, on the ship ‘The Windrush’ I had not been in England long.
I had been sleeping rough in bombed houses, because no one would give me a room to rent and I was beginning to smell. I asked a friend where I could have a bath, ‘A bath’ said my friend Dudley, ‘I will take you to one, but you will have to wait because it is some distance away.’ After waiting for a short time, Dudley was ready and my friend and I accompanied him to a building; upon entering we saw there were men sitting on benches waiting their turn for a bath so we joined them in the queue to wait.
We were both given sixpence each and told to collect a bath towel and soap and when our turn came we would be called by number. Instead of washing when they woke up in the morning, as they can today, people had to queue up once or several times a week at the Public Baths.
On arrival at the Public Baths they had to have their bar of soap and towel, and after paying they were allotted a numbered cubicle. The baths were deep and long so you could lie in them; the attendant would turn the key and the water would come gushing out of the big tap and fill the deep bath. You were only allowed to stay in the bath for half an hour and when your time was up you had to call out to the attendant, ‘Water out of number six, please.’ The attendant would turn the key and the water would drain out. If you overstayed your time, the attendant would call out that your time was up, and you must get out of the bath.
They had separate sections for men and women, and while in there you would hear people calling out, ‘A bit more cold in number four please,’ or, ‘A bit more hot in number eight,’ or the attendant calling out ‘Number three, your time is up,’
This way of life felt strange to us. My thoughts returned to the lovely natural springs, rivers and waterfalls where we once bathed and swam to our hearts content and wondered why we had come to England in the first place. My world had been turned upside down, and there was no one and nowhere to turn to, I felt very lonely.
by Enrico A Stennett