Five Bobs worth of Pattie, Peas and Chips please
We went to interview Bob Carver in his main shop in the centre of Hull. We asked him tell us something about his family and how come he’d ended up on the fair and so famous:
Well my grandfather and his brothers started it years and years ago just after the turn of the century. He was on the fair with his brother, my grandfather, and eventually his brothers went off and did other things because they were fish merchants as well and my grandfather was more or less left with the stall and we carried on up to the present day.
What was your grandfather’s name:
And your father:
So there are three Bobs:
My son’s called Bob and my grandson’s called Bob too.
Five Bobs then:
Five bob – yes!
How did you come to take over the stall:
We were on the ground in the early days and we were moved onto the street itself after the second world war and we’re still there today. My grandfather was poorly in the end, he got multiple sclerosis and he was in a wheelchair. So when my dad was a young chap of about fourteen or fifteen, he’d left school and he started helping him. My grandfather died just before the second world war and my father obviously had to do his six years service. Then when he came out he took over the business properly. When he died I carried it on. And here we are today.
What’s the first time you went on the fair then:
About 1956.
Where was your shop at the time:
We had a stall in Hull market, we had a fish and chip stall there. Like I said, before the war we used to be on the ground with a big sit down tent with about twenty waitresses. It wasn’t seats it was more like tables and trestles with white table cloths. It all had to be moved at the end of the fair so we had something easy to set up and take down. In the early days we used to do fish on the fair but when we moved onto the roadway we didn’t do the fish because we only had four coke fires which we still have today. And we just can’t do it – it’s not viable we can’t produce it fast enough for the people. So since the war we’ve always done patty, peas and chips.
How did you get that spot you’ve got on the edge of Walton Street and the fairground:
My father started up again after the war. Because we’d been on there before when my dad came out of the army he said ‘Look I’ve been away for six years I’d like the place back on the fair’, so they walked up and down the street and the man from the council says ‘Get your stall ready for next year and that’s where you are going to go!’. And that’s the position we’re in today we’ve been there since 1947. He said that it was the best pitch and the councillor was right to be honest. Everybody wants it, if ever we finished with it everybody wants first refusal. And I say if my son and my grandson keep going I won’t be selling it. My son’s in the business with me. I don’t know about my grandson yet he’s a bit too young to ask. At seven years old he’s a bit young to make his mind up yet. It’s up to him he won’t be pushed into it, there’s a business there if he wants to do it. It’s entirely up to him the same as it was with me and my son.
What’s your stall like:
We used to use one my father made in 1946 and we had that up to late 1970s and then we got a friend of ours who was a joiner who made the one we’ve got today.
And how many of you work there now:
There’s about ten of us. Ten on the night time working.
And how many people come through do you reckon:
Hundred’s of thousands to be honest. I’ve never done a head count I don’t think I could keep up with it. It would be a bit awkward stood there with a calculator!
So how many patties do you make then:
We go through about fifty boxes a day. And there’s four dozen in a box.
Has the fair been an important part of the business:
Yes, it’s something to look forward to every year.
Do you shut up shop here:
No we keep this one going as well and the one in Chapel street as well. I run between this one and the fair and my son does the other one – then when we finish around afternoon tea time each year we all go down to the fair and work there for the night.
So when do you start getting ready for the fair, do you have to make special preparations to make the quantity of patties:
No, we make them every day at the Weststock Avenue factory, on the old St Andrew’s Dock back on Hessle Road, and we make them fresh every day. That’s where we keep the stall.
When do you set it up:
We go on the Wednesday midnight and finish Thursday night it takes us twelve to fourteen hours to set it up. We’ll start getting ready round about the beginning of September. Everything is cleaned ,washed down and painted and all the fryers seen to. We light the pans with firewood then we put the coke on. It takes about half an hour to three quarters of an hour to get going in the morning, but we do that every day of course. We light the fires about half ten. About quarter to twelve I open ready for the school kids if they want anything. On the Saturdays its ten o’clock.
What about your relationship with the showmen then:
I’ve a good relationship with all of them. They all come round to see me every year and come and have the food and I go round and see them. From the old days I remember Marshall Waddington, Joe Ling, the Gallaghers. We see each other every year but that’s the only time we do see each other is once a year. I do know quite a few of them and I’ve seen their fathers die and their sons take it over and seen their sons take it over. You know, when you’ve been there forty four years!
As a boy did you go to the fair:
No I’ve never been round it I’ve never had time, I’ve had to work. Forty odd years and never been round the fair. No. I never had time I had to work since I was ten years old with my father on the fair and that was it. I used to come straight from school at night and straight to work.
What stories do you want to tell about the fair:
I remember once we were putting our stall up one night about three o’clock in the morning. My dad was on the roof and had these big what you call clout nails and he was knocking in the metal corrugated roof. It was quite high up and he was hitting these nails into the roof to hold it down when the wind came. He dropped the hammer and one of the lads was standing underneath him and the hammer hit him straight on the head and knocked him out. So I said we’d better get an ambulance, he says the phone boxes don’t work they’ve been vandalised. So we had to lay him in the corner and pat him and get some cold water and bring him round again.
Did he carry on working:
He carried on. Yes, he was a good lad! Another time my uncle used to have a Bedford van with sliding doors. We were taking some stuff up to the fair and he was driving and he was a hungry and we stopped off at a little chicken and chip place on the way towards the fair. We had a couple of chicken legs in our hand that we were eating. It was when the police were on point duty at the bottom of Lees Walk. A policeman put his hand up to stop us and we went straight round and put our hand out where his hand was and stuck a chicken leg in it! We said ‘there you are friend let us through’. So the copper ended up with a chicken leg in his hand!
Thank you Bob for the interview. We'll no doubt see you at Hull Fair again this year and we'll look forward to our five bobs worth of pattie, peas and chips.