Why a single black mother dreaded Christmas in 1977
The lives of working class black families were a terra incognita for most white British three decades ago. So it was unusual for the Christmas issue of a popular teen mag called Fab208 in 1977 to lead with a single parent family who were dreading the not very festive season.
“I don’t know how I’ve avoided committing suicide,” Mrs Jones told the magazine ahead of glossier pages on the Bay City Rollers, Starksy and Hutch and the Osmonds. With her four sons and three daughters, they were crammed in to a cold flat in Wapping with a kitchen gutted by a cooker fire.
Sharon, aged 14, never invited friends from school back home nor went out with them. “At school I hear them talking about the places they’ve been to and I feel like the odd one out.”
With so little room inside, Mrs Jones hung up the laundry on the terrace by the front door but clothes kept getting stolen. Sharon had received a pair of jeans for her birthday, worn them once but after a single wash, they had been spirited away.
Yolanda, aged 17, noticed that the thieves went through the laundry looking for the best outfits and left the rest. As an older teen, she was fed up of the lack of privacy having to share a bedroom with her two sisters.
“You can’t go anywhere in the house and be on your own. It’s the small things like that which get on your nerves.”
Mrs Jones had fallen in to £200 of rent arrears though she said this was a protest against the GLC, their council landlord, failing to repair the badly charred kitchen. But being behind on payments meant that the GLC was refusing to re-house the family until they came good on the debt.
With both sides at loggerheads, Mrs Jones pointed out she had never been on social security and worked to keep her family. “I’m not a sponger. I wouldn’t like the idea of someone else supporting my children.”