See first page for introduction.
My Family, Grandparents, Childhood, School Days, The Teenage Years, Getting Married, Emigrating,
Food, Houses, Household Practices, Clothing, Cotton Mills, Buildings, Shops, Ashton Market,
Hurst Cross, Transport, Entertainment, Wartime, Weather, Daisy Nook, Special Times of the Year,
People, Various Other Memories, Expressions & Sayings.
I can't remember where I was when war was declared ,I was just around six and a half. I hated having to get up in the middle of the night when the air raids were on. There was a siren on the Cake-a-Pie flour mill on Queens Road and it was the eeriest noise I have ever heard. You could here it for miles around. My mother used to get my youngest brother and me out of bed, and put us in the pantry. There was a cement slab like a shelf in there that she used to put her baking dishes on and we both sat under there. She would sit on a chair beside us in there. We could hear the german planes coming over, then you would hear a whistle which was a bomb dropping. It whistled till it hit. I think they called them 'doodle bugs'. Hartshead Pike was a land mark for the german bombers. They knew exactly where they were by it, and that's when they started to drop the bombs, which landed in Manchester. It was said, the bombs that dropped on Ashton and Oldham was really just stray ones.
Every other house in the corporation houses had shelters built, they were like corrugated steel. The two houses had to share at one shelter. Some people made them home from home, put carpets down and had the old oil lamps. My older brothers and sisters never got up, nor did my dad. They said, "If we have to die, why not in our own bed?"
I certainly remember having to get out of bed when the siren went on the Cake-a-Pie flour mill when the raids were on, and going to school with my gas mask over my shoulder. I hated having to wear that stupid thing when we had air raid drill. I felt I couldn't get my breath and would sweat like a pig. My brother was just about one year old and had what they called a Mickey Mouse gas mask. It was red and blue and shaped like Mickeys face. I suppose it was to get kids to wear them if needed. I think they got them up to being five years old. Mine were black.
The prisoners of war used to be taken a walk up Lees Road now and again, but heavily guarded. It was Whittaker's Mill the prisoners of war were kept, later Whitbread s brewery. I think its all gone now.
And yes, it was exciting, especially when the german planes came over during the day. Our planes would be up there straight away, a battle of all battles. I was up at Hurst Cross one day, about 8 years I would have been, when they came over. I was terrified. Everyone came out of their houses and the shops to watch. All I did was cry, I was so frightened. A man took my hand and took me home. Talk about the dam busters, it wasn't in it.
It's lovely to see some of you younger end who don't remember the war appreciating what the forces did at that time. My brother Tommy parachuted into Normandy on D Day. He never really spoke of what went on and still doesn't, but he remembers a little café run by a young couple and their two daughters, who carried on making drinks for them and bringing them outside for the soldiers. However, he took his wife Margaret over there about eight years ago, and went to look for the café. It was still there, only a lot bigger, with tables and umbrellas out front for tourists and locals. They went inside and a lady went to get their order and Tommy asked her if she remembered the two young girls from during the war. She said in her broken English, "Yes, I'm one of them, and my sister is in the kitchen. She's the cook." He couldn't believe it, and she couldn't either. She threw her arms around him and gave him the biggest hug and said "thank you". And afterwards went outside and had her photo taken with him. I have the photo here. Also one he had took at Pegasus Bridge, which has writing on a plaque telling of D Day. Tommy has his red beret on and his blazer with his parachute badge on it. My other brother Bill was landed by boat at Dunkirk beach. What a hell of a time for them to go through. Not forgetting how their parents worried. My brothers are 85 and 83 now. There aren't many of them left.
Here's a little ditty the forces used to sing during the war. "Ma, I miss your apple pie, Ma, I miss your stew. Ma, they're treating me alright, but they can't cook like you. Oh Ma, I miss your apple pie, and by the way I miss you too!" I remember quite a lot of those songs, though some were buried deep in my sub conscious, but as soon as I saw them I remembered. I remember Eddie Calvert playing Oh Mein Papa on his golden trumpet. I used to get goose pimples when he played. He came to the the Theatre Royal one time, Eddie. He was fantastic. I wonder if he's still alive?
There were an air raid shelter by the side of the Royal Oak, just as you turned into Lees Road. There was one at the end of our houses on Lees Road and there was one next to the New Inn on Mossley Road, at the back of the toilet block, Princess St. They were brick and had thick cement tops with steel going through. We also had the underground ones in every other garden. Two families shared them. They were like a hole in the ground and corrugated sheet metal above ground. Something the same shape as an igloo. Nice and cosy they were too, steps going down into them. Lots of folk put carpets down, and kept torches and candles, filled flasks with tea and coffee. Home away from home!
Our parents must have been absolutely desperate during the war. I don't know how our mothers managed to put three meals a day on the table. And back then everyone had large families. A family of six would have been classed a small one. And besides catering for us at home, they had the worry of their sons fighting in the war. I would hate having to have been a mother back then. If I remember rightly, my mother got around eight shillings a week paid to her for my two brothers who were away fighting. She sometimes didn't know where my brothers were, all adding to the worry. I remember she hadn't heard from one of my brothers for quite some time. He ended up on the beach at Dunkirk. Just after, she got a letter and she just sat and cried. I thought my brother had died or something, but she was crying with relief. His mate next door to us never came home. He was just 23 years old. He's buried in Sicily. This lad's mother was never the same again. She was on her way to Buckingham Palace to receive his medals and had a breakdown. I think the mothers and wives fought as hard as their sons and husbands, don't you? Each and every one of them deserved a medal as well... I remember when I was about nine years old, one of the brothers, Tommy, was stationed in Iceland. He came home on leave and brought me a little purse made from a polar bear. It was shaped like a bell, furry on one side, skin on the other. I was asking him recently if he remembered it, he said, "I most certainly do, and remember the young girl who served me. Her name was Anna. A beautiful girl she was too." Trust him! He's 86 now so his memory is still doing OK.
I remember one day during the war, I went to the shop for bread. I got four loaves. Well, we had a big family. Anyhow, the shopkeeper gave me some food to give to the ducks on my way home. So off to the pond I went, threw the food to the ducks, but threw one of the loaves in as well. All the ducks came swimming to it "quack, quack, quack," all squabbling to get to it first. I said, "Oh no!" and waded in the water to get it out. It wasn't in a second. My shoes were squelching all the way home. When I got home my mother said, "How's this loaf got wet?" I said, "I dropped it in a puddle." She got a knife and cut down each side then sliced it and buttered it. Those slices of bread were no bigger than a penny stamp. (Waste not, want not!) When the family got in for tea, they said, "What's happened to the bread?" I thought I hadn't better tell them it had been in the duck pond. I did feel a bit guilty, though, watching them eat it. Well, a bit...
It must have been absolutely devastating for families to get a telegram from the War Office to say their loved ones had been killed in action, and then nothing more. No body, no funeral, no last good byes. Our house would have been the last place you would have wanted to be on Remembrance Day. My mother used to break her heart listening to the service on the wireless from London, and always told us she was donkey stoning the front when Uncle Tommy's young daughter ran up the street to tell her her dad had been killed. But have we learnt anything from it? All these killings... no, its still going on.
No one gets it Easy Joe in a war. Think of how many men were killed. It's about families left behind, no matter which country you come from. These men were sent to war, whether they liked it or not. My next door neighbour had a son killed age 23. I will never forget what it did to his family. It was terrible to see his mother. I was eleven years old at that time but remember it like it was yesterday. My mother had a brother killed in the first world war. I used to see her cry every Remembrance Day right up until she herself died. My dad was a prisoner of war, taken in France by the Germans. Copped shrapnel in his knee, which were still there when he died. Countries can be put together again, dead men can't.
It seems from hearing my mother speaking of World War 1, that the Ashton blokes all went off together from Charlestown railway all the wives and children there to see them off. I know this for a fact because my cousin, who recently passed away age 96, was there seeing her father off. She was just a nipper but remembers my mother singing a song, 'There's a long long trail awinding', on the station platform. My cousin said it went so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. She said everyone was in tears. I saw a photo a while back on here but can't remember which site. I will try and find it and let you know. It shows the men leaving Charlestown. Charlestown was a little hamlet in the middle of the main shopping area of Ashton. We never found out what my dad went through in the prison camp. He never spoke of it, either.
I was twelve when the war ended and I think it was my mother I was most happy for, because she had worried so much about my two older brothers in the war. I remember all the neighbours on Lees Road were out on the front, some laughing, some in tears. They were so overwhelmed, I suppose. Of the twelve houses, most had sons in the army and hadn't heard from them because they were overseas fighting. It had been a hard five years for all of them, queuing everywhere for a bit of food. They only had to see a queue and would ask straight away what it was they were selling and then get in it.
Salmon was a real luxury. If the grocer got tins of salmon in, it would never be enough to serve all their customers, so what they did was have a kind of raffle. They would put slips paper folded up in a bowl. Some had salmon written on, some were blanks, so you were lucky if you picked the right one, and if you did, the mothers would add bread crumbs to it to make it go further. Tins of spam you could get and that mainly was sliced and fried to go with your eggs, if you were lucky enough to have got eggs, because bacon was hard to come by.
Cigarettes were very hard to come by. Some resorted to smoking pasha cigarettes and the stink from them were terrible. I think they were made overseas. No, I for one wouldn't want my grandchildren to go though a war, but everyone pulled together. That's how they got through it.
There was always black market, 'under the counter' they called it, round Hurst. If you had money you were okay, but most hadn't. If you smoked, one ciggie would last you ages. Keep putting it out then lighting it up later. You never see that now, do you? You either smoke it through or throw it. I used to watch people holding on to a dimp in between their thumb and finger, and really enjoying the couple of puffs they got out of it. I suppose the lads in the forces got a good ration and so they should.
Lots of people go abroad to see the graves of their loved ones who were killed during the war. It was very sad being buried away from home. It's not like that now, is it? The bodies are sent home for a private burial, which is far better. At least relatives can get some kind of closure. It must have been terrible to receive a telegram in those days to say, "Sorry to have to inform you, Corporal Whoever was killed in action, end of story..." I'm sure wives, mothers, fathers and girlfriends lay awake every night wondering. Is he really dead? Could they have made a mistake? It must have been so hard to take in. I know one lady who never locked her door at night going to bed. She always thought her husband would walk in at any time, and that was years after. This was in the early sixties, so her husband had been dead for 20 years.
When the war was declared over, a big V sign was put on Hartshead Pike. Do any of you remember it? It was lit up at night and went in and out, three times in quick succession, then the fourth one stayed on a couple of seconds, like dot dot dot dash. I was twelve at that time and me and my friends would stand on Lees Road watching it and chant "VIC - TO - RY - VEEEE". People went up there from miles away to get a close up of it. It looked fantastic and everyone was so happy the war being over. Street parties, the lot.
So when it ended, everyone was elated, the big V sign was put on Hartshead Pike and lit up at night. Flags strung across streets, and parties. But it was a while before everything was back to normal. I remember one day someone told me they were selling ice cream at Andrews shop in Oak Fold, and my mother gave me the money to take my young brother to get a cornet. We had to queue up forever, it seemed. Mrs Andrews had to keep making a fresh lot. Ration books was another thing. We had coupons for everything. Sweets were rationed, each coupon was in quarters because you were only allowed a quarter of sweets a week. It also covered one block of chocolate. Clothing coupons, a lot of the poor folk sold theirs to moneyed people because they hadn't money to buy new clothes themselves, because their husbands and sons were at war. And, if anyone was being married, their friends and family would give them their clothing coupons to buy a wedding outfit.
It were ages before the council got to demolish the air raid shelters. The courting couples had a ball in them. No, not me, I was only 12 when the war ended! I bet a few kids were conceived in them air raid shelters. Mind you, doing your courting on Lees Road in winter were hellish. It was like being a fly on Kojak's head, no hiding place. Blizzards blowing straight from Hartshead Pike!
I loved the snow. It used to be freezing with them fireplaces - only the front of you were warm. I would go home, knock on the door, and my mum would come to open it. Open it, did I say? She would open about six inches wide and you had to struggle to get through it and all the time she was saying "Hurry up, you are letting the cold in!" I remember some of the women had permanent mottles on their legs from sitting too close to the fire. I thought they looked so ugly. When you went in the bath, (yes, you Aussies, if you are reading this, we poms did have a bath!) you were too scared to get out. It was so lovely and comfortable lying there just watching the shadow of the snowflakes, gently falling, through the bathroom window...
Standing on Lees Road waiting for a bus was agony. There wasn't a bus shelter - nothing to stop the blizzards though at times I thought waiting in the bus shelters at Hurst Cross and Oakfold was draughtier than standing out in it. But it was beautiful, I thought and still do. I bet I wouldn't be able to walk on icy roads now.
The snow around Ashton Market didn't stick - too many shoppers. It was too busy there, but as a kid growing up in Hurst there wasn't much traffic. Not many people had cars then. The buses from Ashton didn't go all the way round either. The Hurst bus went as far as Hurst Cross, the Smallshaw bus went as far as Oakfold Avenue. It was much later that the Hurst and Smallshaw circular buses started, so Lees Road all the way from Hurst Cross to Oldham was hardly touched. It was really deep, the snow. Our houses fell back off the main road. They had lawns in front. There were just twelve houses then and the council built steps coming down from the road. In winter, the drifts of snow covered the steps. You had to keep feeling where they were!
I remember the bus depot put a special bus on for people who worked down in Whitelands Road at the mills, and many a morning when I started work, I would be trying to get up the these steps to get the bus. The driver used to sit in his cab laughing at us. There were four of us. We had some good laughs, though. My sister was telling me, last time I was there, she worked at a bingo hall in Oldham, cleaning at mornings. She said the snow was so bad the bus stopped. It couldn't go any further. So, having a sick husband to get home, to she decided to walk. Another man, a chemist, decided to walk with her. They began by walking through the fields and here and there off Lees Road there's little country lanes. They must have come to the end of a field but the drifts were so high they didn't realise and the pair of them fell down into a lane. They were very lucky, as the snow shifters were up there and saw them, and pulled them out. They could have both lost their lives.
Wasn't it awful when the snow built up under your clogs? We called them 'cloggy boggies'. You could always tell when someone had arrived home - you could hear them knocking the snow off their clogs on the wall of the house. Talk about rock and roll! I loved winter though in the UK. I still miss Xmas there, especially the snow. I love to get down to a good old Xmas dinner. They can keep their BBQs and running buffets.
Any of you oldies remember the winter warmers? A tin can, we used to put holes in the top then stuff cotton wool inside, light the cotton wool and it would smoulder. Great for keeping your hands warm!
Hands up them who are going to Daisy Nook this year. I wonder if that fellow with the bucket is still on. He had a bucket tilted and you had to get a wooden ball in it. I'm sure that ball had a spring in it.
When I went there I walked it from Lees Road. and all the way back. Me and my friends would be so tired coming back, it took us all our time to get up the hill onto Newmarket Road. What a trek! By the time we got to the Broadoak Hotel we were ready for falling asleep. We started off with bus fare, a penny each way, but thought it better to spend the tuppence at the fair.
I loved Daisy Nook - always sure to bump into people you knew. Loved the Wakes Fair as well. Even though it nearly always rained, it didn't put us off going did it. The Waltzer, the Noah's Ark, the Caterpillar. Do you remember the stalls where you rolled a penny down a wooden kind of wedge, and hoped it landed on a square with money in it. I always remember the stall holder having dirty hands from scorping the pennies up. They were good days where no matter where you went you were always safe.
I think last time I was at Daisy Nook was 1954, me and my husband to be, and it was teeming in rain. I had high heels on and my shoes were just squelching. My stockings were all muddy and I was a mess. The bottoms of his trousers were the same. It was all grass. I wonder did they ever pave that place? I used to send him off every Easter Friday though, with Karen and Alan. I enjoyed that few hours while they were out. It's 50 years ago now. I have been looking for something to celebrate, so why not that? I will consider a few whisky and dry or gin and orange and maybe even dance on the table. That's if I can get up there these days.
Special Times of the Year
My dad used to tell us that if we went round Daisy Nook at midnight Christmas Eve we might be lucky and see Owd Ab. "Only the Buckleys," he said, "and that's the only time he appears." So one Christmas Eve, my two then teenage brothers along with some more lads from Charlestown decided to go. Once they got near the cottage, one of the lads let out a yell and said he had seen something, so they all turned to run. But one of my brothers tripped up over one of the lad's feet, fell and fractured his arm. So much for Owd Ab.... However, it didn't frighten them to death. They are both going strong. Bill is 87 and Tommy 85. Bill walks to Hurst Cross every day to put a bet on and does all his own shopping. Tommy walks from Smallshaw to the Woodman in Waterloo for a pint and a bet every lunch time, come hail rain or shine!
The carols at Christmas always get to me. I only have to hear Silent Night and the lump that comes into my throat nearly chokes me. And when I hear Away in a Manger, it takes me right back to infant school. It must have been the first carol I ever learnt. What do you do at Christmas? I could spend it alone here just locked in with the air conditioner. It's not like good old England. If I could afford it, I would go back there every Christmas. I'm probably what they call a 'whinging pom' here at that time!
What we have to put up with for the sake of one day a year. I ordered a set of five ceramic dishes for putting nuts and things in. They are a present for a friend and are shaped in letter form to spell out PARTY. The lady who sells them brought them round yesterday. I didn't check them while she was there as I had ordered a few things. After she had left I checked them, and they had sent two Ts but no P. So now I have to wait for her to ring the place she gets them from for another set. Well, how can I give these to my friend when they spell TARTY? She would never speak to me again! Why does everything happen to me?
When you sit and think about it, we all still have a few ways from our old country that we still do. For instance, having Christmas in July because the weather is cool, like it was back in the UK at Xmas. Cooking a Christmas dinner on Christmas Day rather than doing what the Aussies do, go and put the BBQ on, throw a few snags on, or have a running buffet. The Aussies must think we are mad to slave over a stove in the heat, so there you are. Christmas isn't Christmas without my cooked meal. Though, I must say, now I live alone, I go to my sons. Karen and family come down as well and goes too. Alan's wife is Aussie so does a running buffet, but this year I'm not going. I'm going to cook my turkey or whatever I decide on, on Christmas Eve and enjoy it. I know I will sweat cobs, but I don't care!
Christmas is a time where we can pause and reflect on the year that has been. It is also time for us to look ahead to the future and outline our dreams and goals for the year ahead. Above all it is a time to spend with our loved ones, something we don't get to do enough of in this hectic day and age!
I don't really have any New Year's Eve rituals, but my mother was adamant about the house being spotless, all the washing done, otherwise it would be untidy all the new year. She always cooked a potato pie, in a big earthenware dish, for supper. All the married sisters, brothers and spouses called in after being out for the night for a plateful. That was so your bellies would not be empty in the new year. My brother Tommy, the darkest in the family, would turn up at about ten minutes to midnight, no matter where he had been or how much drink he had had. We never saw him, but just knew he would be there, and at the stroke of twelve by the Cake-a-Pie clock he would knock on the door, and he would let the new year in. He would get a half crown off everyone there. No wonder he always turned up! I wouldn't have minded that job myself.
They didn't keep Halloween up in England when I was a kid, otherwise I would have remembered. My friends and I would have been on the front row for that, as we were with collecting for Bonfire Night and Christmas carolling. Anything for nothing, we would not have missed! When we came here to live in the western suburbs, twenty three years ago, some kids came knocking on our door. My husband answered and they said, "Trick or treat?" He hadn't a clue what they were on about and said, "We don't want any." Later that night we got bad eggs thrown at our door!
We used to go round collecting money for Guy Fawkes Night, and say
"Please to remember
The fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot..."
The houses in Oak Grove was back to back gardens with our houses and it was a free for all every night, stealing each others wood we collected weeks and weeks before from the clough. It was hard graft lugging the logs home, then the neighbours got without any old furniture they had, and we would be out next morning, eyes all red from the fire, and try and blow some life into the embers. When you think about it, your back would be freezing, standing facing the fires!
We used to get our bunty wood from the clough, too, and old tyres from Plants Garage on Lees Road. We had to guard it with our lives. The kids from Connery Crescent, Broadoak Road and Oak Grove used to try and swipe it. We had one of the biggest bunties going.
Hope you good people in Ashton have your bunty wood all stacked up, and your fireworks at the ready, your spuds all ready to roast! When I think of the spuds we roasted on the bunty, they came out looking like charcoal, but we still ate them... wish I was there with you all!
It seems a pity all these old traditions have died out, doesn't it? We would prepare weeks before for our bunty, drag logs out of the clough, get old tyres from the petrol station, get old wooden skips from the local mill. If any of the neighbours gave us an old chair, it was always last to go on the bunty because one or the other of us would be sitting on it.
Whitsun / Whit Walks / Whit Friday
Same with Whitsuntide. Our parents would prepare weeks before getting us all geared out in new clothes so we could go round and show them to everyone. Still, the kids today... it's their time, not ours. If they are happy to play their video games, that's all that matters, I suppose. I think though, they are missing out on getting out and about with their mates and in all having a good time.
I have seen how my grandson gets hyped up with some of these games, where we were very relaxed in what we did. The thing is now, though, that according to what I have read on here, every bit of spare ground has been built on. Just before we came here, my husband and I had a walk up Lees Road. The new estate had been built then, right from there over to Pegs Lantern on Alt Road. The other side hadn't been touched apart from St Damians School.
We walked right up past the Red House and I took a photo looking towards Hartshead Pike. It looks so innocent, but the great times me and my mates had up there is unbelievable. We would call at the farms for a drink. If the farmer's wife was in a good mood, she would give us milk, if not we got water. There was so much to do up there. Hey, and what about about when we started courting? Whoo hoo! No, only joking, really I am!
I remember the May Queen. I never went in to why we did that, but now I think it must have had something to do with the Whit Walks and the church May Queens. But just a thought... five of us girls who lived on Lees Road were all born 1932 to early 1933, and all year round we were like, all for one and one for all, until May Queen time, when we would have a falling out who was to be queen. It all boiled down anyway to who could come up with a white frock and a bit of curtain to act as a veil. The parents got involved as well.
Up the flue would go their fingers to blacken the lads' faces and make a moustache. All the girls would be tripping over their frocks all the way round. Lipstick up to their noses. It makes me wonder. Do kids miss out now, or am I old fashioned? I used to make Karen up like a dog's dinner when it was her time. I enjoyed it all and it cost nothing.
Whitsuntide tradition stopped as well, didn't it? When all the kids had new clothes and went out showing them to collect money, it was a very serious time, that. It could tear families apart. If you failed to show up at one of your aunties or whoever, they would be onto your parents straight away. "Why didn't our Johnny come and show me his new clothes?" I had his coppers waiting for him on the dresser. it caused a real dust up. Not that I ever missed anybody. I had blisters on my heels every year from walking too far with my new shoes on. You always get the spoilers, though, and after the war all the factories were in full swing and everyone had a job to go to. So it was to them like 'we've arrived, we've got money!' In other words, as Catherine Cookson would say in her books, they were 'bloody nowts'. Some of the women would say. "I buy my kids clothes when they need them, and I'm not having them going round begging." But it wasn't begging. It was something we all looked forward to, and which probably they did as kids.
I loved the Whit Walks. Always stood on Stamford St to watch them, but in my teen years I loved a sleep in on the weekend. But could I get one at Whitsuntide? No way! The band leading the Hurst Nook scholars always woke me up. I used to get real mad at them. The bugles used to echo all round Hurst. 'You won't go to heaven when you die, Mary Ann', that's what we sang as youngsters to one of the tunes they played, and that's the one woke me up. Pigs. Eeh, the names I called that church. It's a toss up whether I will go to heaven!
Do any of you in Ashton know if Albert Warren is still going? He always led Charlestown Sunday School in the Whit Walks. I think he would be in his nineties now. His brothers all went to Charlestown too. Tommy, Frank, Ernie, Joe, Harry. All were in the boys brigade as well. A real family affair. Their parents were neighbours of ours on Lees Road. They had twelve boys in all, one girl who died at about eighteen months old.
I used to walk with Charlestown Sunday School Whit Sundays. I never went to the Sunday School, as we lived in Hurst, but wanted to walk, so Albert used to tell my mother to push me in. I enjoyed getting the coppers and of course the bun at the end, but not the blistered heels from my new shoes!
I remember too, when I used to go and watch the walks. I used to go right down the end of Stamford Street, where the crowds had thinned out slightly. I would hate to think it would stop all together. It was something everyone looked forward to. Albert Warren leading Charlestown, Frank Warren leading the boys brigade as drum major, Canon Johnson leading Christ Church. Just about everyone in Ashton turned out. I would still like to see all the kids dressed in new clothes Whit Sunday. It was such an exciting time for all of us as youngsters, going round collecting coppers. Times are changing for sure. Our next door neighbour, who was elderly, only ever went down there when the scholars walked. She had four married sons and would meet them down there. She always came back as drunk as a skunk, her hat on one side. There were steps in the middle leading down to our houses on Lees Road and we lived right facing them. Every year my mother used to watch for her coming home and send one of us out to help her down and see her into her house. Help her into bed sometimes... I always smile when I think of her!
Things ain't what they used to be. I think at one time almost everyone in Ashton got up early to go and watch the scholars walk. It started first with a service on Ashton Market, and was a day to behold. Men stood outside the pubs on Stamford St, drink in hand. Everyone enjoyed the day. If I'm not mistaken, the shops were all closed apart from the odd corner shop. The Church of England used to walk Friday and the Catholics Sunday, then later they merged and all walked the same day. Alec Talco did a roaring trade with his cornets and wafers. Some of the shop keepers on Stamford St went into work specially to go upstairs in their stock room to stand with their heads out the window to get a good view because the street were so packed. They were like sardines down there. Canon Johnson would lead Christ Church. He could hardly walk one step at a time without someone ran out to give him money. I bet he made quite a few quid, he was so well liked. Albert Warren leading Charlestown, his brother Frank the drum major of the boys brigade, his brothers Tommy and Joe carrying the banner, the Children of Mary with St Christopher's all wearing their white dresses with a blue cloak over the top. The little 7 yr old may queen and her retinue, and after the walks, the raspberry buns and lemonade. I would love to see it all get back to what it used to be.
I remember the raspberry buns used to kind of make my tongue tingle. I think they must have put too much bicarbonate of soda in them, but at the time I didn't know that, only after I started cooking. Isn't it amazing though what you remember? Whit Sunday used to be great when we all put on our new clothes, dressed up to the nines in your little coat and bonnet or your short trouser suit with a fairisle pullover and a new cap. Then off we would plod collecting money for them, first the neighbours, then the aunts and uncles. I used to get blisters on my heels from the new shoes. My white socks would be stuck to my heels with blood. I walked that far and was lucky to collect a couple of bob, they mostly give us a penny but the relations give us a threepenny bit. Everyone had coppers on the sideboard by the front door waiting for the kids, and would say, "Eeh, you do look nice. Tell your mother you do look nice." Embarrassing or what? But still I wouldn't have missed those days. What you do for a bit of bread and butter, eh? My dad used to tickle us. There was a lad lived near us and his mam never bought him new clothes. My dad used to say, she buys him a new cap and stands him int' winder.
The Black Knight
We were never too old to enjoy the Black Knight pageant. I wonder, do they still have the Ball at the Town Hall beforehand, to choose a Pageant Queen? I remember one girl that used to go down to the schools on Queens Road, same time as me, being chosen one year to be queen. Her name was Joyce Bruffell. She would have been about seventeen at that time, so it would have been round about 1949/50. So you see, we did have some talent in Hurst back then...
Almost every shop in Ashton closed for Ashton Wakes holidays. The fair was on the market ground. All stalls closed. If you wanted something urgently you got the bus to Stalybridge or Oldham. We all had different Wakes holidays. Oldham was in June, Stalybridge was in July, and Ashton in August, then Oldham had another week in September. It could still be the same for all I know. It was still like that when we left Ashton in 1971. The good thing about it was, as teenagers, if we were going to Blackpool for the week we would go the second week. The first week we would go and get a week's work at the Premier Mill in Stalybridge to get extra spending money. With that and our two weeks' holiday pay spends we were well away. As the queen would say, one wonders where one got ones energy from! I bet you can't do that now anywhere. The bad thing later on, when I was wed, my husband worked in Hollinwood so we never got holidays together. Oh well, you can't win em all....
Don't forget in the 30s when the fair was set up on the market ground every August. They used to set aside a day during the two weeks of the fair to take the people who lived in the workhouse to see the fair, and have a go on all the rides.
Oldham Wakes was June, Stalybridge Wakes was July, I think, and Ashton Wakes was August. We got two weeks off work. Hey, two weeks holiday pay, all in one go! All the shops closed, but you could go to Oldham or Stalybridge if you were stuck for anything.
I remember the black peas at Stalybridge Wakes. They used to put a kind of a tent up you could sit in, didn't they? We used to be sat there with a bowl of black peas, loads of vinegar on, dodging the rain coming through the tent. Oh, happy days.
I remember going one day to Blackpool, my husband and I. We went with a couple who had a young baby, and the man's sister came with us. When we got near the coach station to come home, we were a bit early so went in a pub close by for a drink and left the young girl with the baby and our bags. When we come out, after about ten mins, the girl said a man had grabbed one of the bags and run off with it. I bet he got a shock when he opened it. It contained the baby's dirty nappies!
The fair used to be on the market when I was a youngster. My favourite ride was the Caterpillar. It dipped up and down and on one of the dips you could hear the noise of the engine and it would blow your skirts up! The Waltzer was another good ride, and the two massive boats. They were always kept on longer than the rest of the fair, so it was great. We could go on them every weekend. Then there was Noah's Ark, and all the side shows, the stalls you could roll pennies down a little wooden chute onto squares that had money signs on them. Wasn't often you got it straight into them though. The guy used to walk round with a long scoop that grabbed the pennies. He always had a handful of pennies for them that won. I remember his hands used to be black from handling the money. Then the stall that you threw darts to get a goldfish, and the machines like the one armed bandits. They were good. I was a real gambler at that time! I remember my mother would give me money to get meat from Frank Brine's butchers. Just ten bob for a Sunday roast and my tuppence bus fare. I could never resist putting my bus fare home into one of the machines that had film stars' names, then I had to walk all the way to Hurst. I did have luck only one time. I got Hedy Lamarr and it paid out twelve pennies. I felt I was the richest kid on earth!
I have thought often of why it was named Ashton Wakes and thought maybe it meant the town awakes because it's holiday time. Time to wake up. Time to get your bags packed and off on holiday. Time to take your kids to the fair. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong again!
One of my older brothers married a girl from off Platt Ave in 1940, and she had a sister same age as me so it was inevitable we would become friends. She would come to our house on Lees Road and I would go to their house and one of her friends lived next door. We all played together. Two more girls as well from Platt Ave, Maud Wolstenholme and Dora Bolton. Once we all left school we lost touch. Then in the late 50s my friend came to work at the Wellington Mill. We were both married then and she had one boy. She had only been there about three days and this particular morning she came to ask me to go for a ciggie in the toilets with her. I was busy at the time so she said, "I will help you." She hadn't been helping a couple of minutes when she got her fingers fast between the rollers. Talk about panic. I was running up and down trying to find a man to help. They eventually got her free but she had to go to hospital. She hadn't any skin on her fingers at all. She came in the week after to see me and was still going to the hospital to have her dressing changed. She never came back after, and I didn't see her again until around 1969. I went to live on Hartshead Ave and was taking my son to the Broadoak School for the first time and bumped into her. Her little girl was starting there the same day. She had a baby in a pram as well. I couldn't help noticing how much her little girl looked like her, she was the spitting image. I saw her regular then and in 1971 I came to Australia. Later a friend of mine wrote to say she had passed away, I was really sad to hear it. She was so young. A very pleasant girl always ready for a good laugh. A real grinner she was.
There used to be an old man lived in Smallshaw. I used to love hearing him when he went in the confectioners he would always ask for two mate and tater pies, it really tickled me. Something else that tickles me even today when I think of my life long friend Brenda, sadly passed away now. I was working part time and a man came to my door asking if I would run a catalogue. So I decided to. So every time any of my mates came I would give it to them to have a look through. One day Brenda arrived. I said here look through that while I go and make us a cuppa when I came back she had the page open on bras, and you know how everything is listed in alphabet style, and she said, "I'll have that F IN WHITE." I said to her, "You will have what I F IN ORDER YOU and be satisfied." We grinned all afternoon about that and I never let her forget it. I told my sisters about it and every time they saw Brenda they would say, "have you bought any F IN WHITE bras lately?" She would say, "I'll murder that Lily when I see her."
I knew the Sunderlands. They lived near Hurst Cross, by the side of the Roxy. I remember Louie. She was kind of house keeper for Mr and Mrs Mortimer the chemists, always on the go she was. I knew Joe best, though I did know Elsie. I think there was one named Joyce as well, wasn't there? They were all older than me but but not too much. I believe one of the lads died recently. I know Joe has been dead since early eighties.
I think Joe had one boy and three girls. I knew the eldest girl, Kathleen. Actually, after Joe died, his wife Phyllis married my brother Bill. He was a widower. Sadly Phyllis died a few years ago. My brother is 85 now and lives alone, but I will ask him where Joe's children are. I know Kathleen left Ashton with her younger sister, and the other girl lived on Greenwood Ave Smallshaw. I have been in Australia since 1971, but last time I was there I saw Bill and Phyllis and the daughter was still on Greenwood Ave up to then, that was 1989.
I remember Nurse Sidebottom and her husband Lawrence. They at one time lived in Oakfold Ave then moved onto Hurst Hall drive near Palace Road. I also knew Honorine Hughes and her sister. They went to St Mary's School, and lived on Rowley St near Northcotes. The dad Frank worked at the Cedar Mill in the card room. I saw a pic of Honorine on the Ashton website. She was the spitting image of her mum. I had no idea she had died. How many children did Deans have? I knew Frances and a boy a bit younger than her. Frances would be my age, the lad probably in his sixties. They must have had more. I remember their mum too, stood about five foot, a nice quiet lady she was too.
Would that be Mary Cavanagh's brother that married Valerie Plant? I feel sure she had a brother Eric. I knew Valerie. She was the youngest of the Plants, Ronnie the eldest, June in between. Ronnie used to go to the Premiere dance hall. He and his then girlfriend were quite good dancers. Last time I was in touch with June, we were working at the Roxy bingo club. She was a cleaner there and lived in the street right opposite, Old Lees St, I think it was called. She's a real nice person. She was in the same class as me at Christ Church school. Very inoffensive. I was amazed she wed Jimmy. We all were.
I knew a Bert McGarry who lived facing the Roxy Cinema Hurst. I think his full name was Herbert. He worked on the building sites. Not sure if he was a brick layer. My dad used to speak of an Ambrose but I don't know if he was Bert's father. Bert was a couple of years older than me so would be middle 70s now and attended St Mary's School. There was also another McGarry family lived on Connery Crescent, Hurst. The mother was called Maud, and had a son Fred also a daughter. Can't remember her name, but know she wed a man named Tetlow. I knew all her four sons.
A George Brearley used to keep the Hare and Hounds, Hurst Cross. They had a son George as well. A tall slim lad he was.
My niece Rita Dean went to St James in the 40s, passed her 11 plus there and went on to grammar. Rita was born in 1934 so would have gone to St James in 1939 until she was around 11 in 1945 and, although she was my niece, there was only 18 months between us. I remember the food parcels during the war, we used to get cocoa and sugar mixed weighing about a pound, in a brown paper bag. I loved dipping my wet finger in it all the way home.
Joe Hollingworth the barber on Kings Road, Hurst Cross, had a peg leg. His leg wasn't missing it was doubled in two, so that his knee rested on the peg leg. My dad always took my young brother to Joe's, and one day decided to take him to Ashton for his haircut. While they were waiting, my brother said to my dad, "Look dad he's has two legs!" He must have thought all barbers had a peg leg. But then if the one on Whiteacre Road had a peg leg too it's no wonder.
I remember the barbers shop on Whiteacre Road, it was just a bit further down from the black school which was on Queens Road. It stood right on the corner of the first block of houses but I don't know what the name was, but definitely, Joe Hollingworth's shop was on Kings Road, going from Hurst Cross towards St Johns church, right in the middle of the shops on the right hand side. I think Joe had two sons, Frank the youngest went to the same school as me but was in a higher class and then he went to work with his dad and later took over. Joe had the shop in the thirties when we went to live up there in 1936 and it was still going when I left Ashton in 1971.
[Buckley family:] I didn't know Owd Ab was born in Wood St. It's just across the road from where I was born in Canning St, Charlestown. I still don't know if we were related to him. My dad always said we were. From what I've been told, Forester Buckley was my great uncle. His brother Frank was my grandfather.
My dad's brother, Nelson, lived on Rock St all his married life, brought about six kids up there in a two up and downer. My dad said they used to call Rock St, Rabbit Row, as there were so many kids lived on it. I wonder if the saying, keep em pregnant and bare foot and they will never leave you originated from there? Well something like that. I hear Asda have a store there now and Rock St is no more. [Note: Asda has now relocated to Cavendish Street. A small part of Rock Street remains.]
I worked with a woman for thirteen years at the Wellington Mill. She told me her her father was one of the Buckleys that owned the sweet factory. Her name before being married were Connie Buckley. Her married name Scholes. Connie was born around 1910 and had a sister Joan who lived in Nottingham after being married. She also had a brother Jack who I'm sure had a son named Reg. I don't think Jack lived in Ashton either after being married. I met her siblings at Connie and Arthur's daughter Jacqueline's wedding in 1963 as my 3 yr old daughter was a little bridesmaid for her. And Joan's little boy Digby was a page boy. The mother Mrs Buckley was also alive then. I think her husband's name was John, but not 100%. I'm going back a long way here. He wasn't around at that time. She was a widow.
What I loved about the Catholics, they always kept in touch with each other after leaving school, whereas with us, as soon as we left school that was it. We could pass in the street and not acknowledge each other.
[Catherine Hall:] I lived on Lees Road. number 53 right facing the church. I knew Halls that lived at number 59 but they hadn't a daughter by the name of Catherine. There were five daughters. Frances, Doreen, Stella, Margaret and Kathleen, and all went to St Mary's School. I left Lees Road after being married in 1956 so perhaps Catherine went to live there after. I do know there's a Hall lives there now in the house I lived in. They have lived there a long time but the father died and the mother remarried and Hall is her name now.
I had a friend lived on Broadoak Road, number 232. she died a while ago but wrote to me all the time I have been in Aussie. She went to St Mary's School and attended St Christopher's church. She used to call the numbers at bingo there. Her name was Eileen Hopwood before being wed then Pinder. Her husband, son and his family still live at number 232. Also I had a sister lived at 95 Union St. She lived there until the houses were demolished. Her name was Annie Dean. She died back in 1988. She had two daughters, Hilda and Rita, and later brought her granddaughter up, Jacqueline.
I knew Sheila Doran well. John's mum (Kilbride). A nice quiet reserved girl she was too. I knew all the family. Her dad used to drink with my dad in the Old Nook pub. Sadly Sheila passed away. She would have been around my age now, 73. I went to watch the burial of John at Hurst cemetery. It was cordoned off, no one could get near the grave apart from the mourners. It was a sad day but in other ways a good day, because at last they had the body of John to bury, could put him to rest and visit whenever they wanted. I think the worst thing about this is never finding the body and not being able to put closure to it. John Kilbride would have been 57 years old now . Such young lives wasted. I think it helped put Sheila his mum in her grave. She was such a nice, inoffensive woman.
Banana Bill walked by our house on Lees Road every day. You could tell the time by him, he would walk Hurst Cross way about nine and come back around four. It was so sad for all of us who knew him, as he was such an inoffensive guy, never bothered with anyone, just went about his business. No one ever knew where he went. He was so healthy looking too. Probably from living out in the clough. Ruddy complexion, why anyone would want to kill him is anyone's guess. There used to be an old woman came round Lees Road selling fruit she'd picked up off the market. She pushed it in an old pram, we used to call her the banana woman. Wouldn't it have been funny if the pair of them had got together? We could have called them Bananas in Pyjamas.
I knew a little boy by the name of Tony Bottomley many years ago. He lived with his grandparents on the corner of Connery Crescent and Lees Road, Eddie and Rose Bottomley. I had just been wed and lived with my parents. We didn't have children of our own and my husband and I almost adopted him. He was never out of our house. He was about three years old, had a mass of curly hair and was so cute. His mum lived in London but later came back and gave birth to another baby boy. Tony would be in his early fifties now. I don't know what happened with his mum because we got our own house and moved.
Tony Bottomley was quite sturdy as a child. I loved him, so did my dad and my husband. He got knocked over with someone on a bike I think, and fractured his leg. He used to come in our house and say, watch how fast I can run, and off he would go all around the table. His leg in plaster, he was just a tot then and so lovely. I could have eaten him on a butty.
[John Gummersall:] I knew his mum and dad, I knew all the Gummersalls from growing up, but his mum Brenda Grayson worked with me at the Wellington Mill. She was a doffer, a very good looking young girl she was too, very attractive. She and her sister Barbara married brothers. Brenda died very young from the flu. I saw her daughter Maria while I was last there and thought how much like her mum she was. I have wondered if Terry ever remarried.
I remember as a teenager, all the girls used to drool over David Smith, but with me being brought up near him, I never give a thought to whether he was handsome or ugly. He was just David to me and that was that. I knew Jean Bailey, his wife. She lived on Smallshaw Lane in the back to front houses near Alan Dinsdale. Jean's sister Vera came to our going away party and was wearing a lovely chain with a drop on the end. I admired it so she took it off and gave it to me. Vera lived a bit further down than Shirley Smith on Nook Lane. I heard she died a few years ago.
I knew Annie Wedge, a poor soul she was too. She would be out in winter without stockings, her coat almost down to her ankles. A bit of a beard she had too. I always remember looking at the hair on her chin. It was grey like her hair. I'm sure she had a boy who was same age as me. Course it could have been a grandson because she looked to be getting on to have a boy that age but then when you are a youngster, everyone's parents looks ancient. I remember what he looked like.
I was at Tameside Hospital until the end of 1970. We came out here Feb 1971. There were two patients I remember well, one was Emily Hafford. She had been in there years, had slipped in her kitchen, fractured her leg and it didn't heal so she couldn't walk. The other was called Lily. She had been in years as well and couldn't walk. We had to separate them because they used to fight. They both used to knit, not with wool but with type of nylon strips in a ball. They made beach bags and that sort of thing, and argued all the time about who did it best, so Lily was put in the side ward. I think the only thing the auxiliaries didn't do there was give out medicine and believe me some could have. Injections as well, had they been let. A lot of the trainee nurses depended on them. Mind you, Emily and Lily also knew the ropes. The pair of them would have made good nurses!
If you new anyone who made things up as they went along, they were known as "penny liars". You could tell them a mile off. I worked with a girl who couldn't tell the truth by accident. You could always tell because she always looked over your head when she was telling them. At first I used to look up thinking there was something on the wall behind me, but once I got used to her I knew. I never could and still can't abide liars.
I remember going to a house near the bottom end of Cranbourne Road with my friend Audrey, from Hartshead Ave. We visited Mary and John Alcock. Audrey and John are brother and sister. I knew Mary McDonough, from my friends who went to St Mary's School from being young. Also her sisters Annie and Ethel. Audrey sent me word when Mary passed away. Also the Leahs from Connery Crescent. Ellis was assistant overlooker at the Waterside Mill and his brother Harry assistant overlooker at the Wellington Mill. As a teenager me and my friend Jean used to go to a club on Mill Lane and I first met Audrey and John there, oh so many years ago.
I knew a family Gorman lived on Coronation Road, Smallshaw, Ashton under Lyne. I'm not sure of the man's name but feel it could have been Dan. They had a son and daughter, the mother was Emily. Also there was a hairdresser in Ashton, Nellie Gorman. Mary, the daughter of Emily, would be around 76 now. She and my sister married brothers. I think the son's name was Harry. I was going to check the births marriages and deaths on Tameside to see if I could find the marriage of Emily, but I'm using my daughter's computer and can't find them, so I will get her to look it up when she gets home, and try and find the name of Mr Gorman. Emily died while I was on holiday in the UK back in 1989. I went to watch her funeral. Her husband had already passed away.
I remember Rose Wallwork who had a hat shop in the market. she lived on Rosehill Road. When I worked at the Roxy bingo hall, Rose used to love playing on the card table after the bingo session, and often invited us to her home for drinks after we had finished work. There was every drink you could imagine. She was a good tipper too when she won on the cards!
There was a Silcock family lived on Timperley Road, they had a couple of sons much older than me. I used to go to their house as a youngster. He used to mend shoes, didn't charge as much as the shoe menders.
In the pic of the Oldham Road Taunton Road junction, I think I can see the top of Christ Church. Brings back memories of when I went to the school there. We always had to go to church on special days like harvest festival, and ascension day, before school. In those days Canon Johnson was just a vicar. A great man he was, too.
I don't think Canon Johnson could have been assigned to a worse place than Christ Church with them lot in Charlestown. There was always someone knocking on his door with a bill they couldn't pay. He never let them down. Always gave the the money.
He would ride a bike round Charlestown and, if any kids were out on the street that should have been in school, he would stop and ask them why. Some would say, "I have no shoes to go in." He would then go to the kids house and give the mother money to go and buy some.
Up to us leaving Ashton in 1971, people were still knocking on his door... and he was still giving. If there's such a place as heaven, and I believe that it so, then he's certainly there. Let's hope none of them from Charlestown are anywhere near him! [lol]
Yes, he was a grand man. I used to wonder where he was born as he didn't have the Lancashire accent. It's a pity there are no pics of him on here, but he did look a bit scary dressed all in black and his bushy eyebrows. But once you got to know him he was anything but. You only had to watch the Whit Walks to see how popular he was. He must have collected pounds on his way round. Him and George Mottram, who was caretaker for the church and school.
I knew a man called Abraham, he was always know as Nab. I had to ask what his name really was because I couldn't think for the life of me what nab was shortened for. When you think of Ellen, if you spell it backwards its Nelle, so maybe that's where Nellie came from. I don't think so though.
My dad told me that when he went to register me there was a young guy and an old guy there. He went to the young guy and was asked what was the name being given. My dad said. "Lily." The young guy said, "Just plain Lily?" The old guy jumped in and said, "Didn't you hear what the gentleman said? He said Lily, not just plain Lily." I often wished that young guy had said to my dad, "Why not Lilian?" It's much nicer, but still... 'Lily' is back. I never liked it. My friend was called Maud, so between us we hadn't much going for us, [grin] but we got through. My husband always called me Lil. My dad always called my mother Lil as well, but as she would have said, "Call me what you want as long as you don't call me... late for dinner!"
One of my best friends who lived two doors from me growing up went by the name Maud. Sometimes we would wander off and occasionally come across a group of kids older who would stop us. Just being a bit mean, because we were younger than them, and just before they 'bashed us up' they would ask, "What's yer names?" and we would say, "Maud and Lily." I used to cringe even at that young age about our names. I asked my mum, "Can I be called Lilian?" She said. "No, your name's Lily and that's that." Her name was Lily too. And I could never figure out why parents in those days named their kids after relatives.
Mind you now, the names some folk call their kids, I suppose Maud and Lily wasn't too bad. Nine out of the ten of us were named after parents, aunts and uncles. The first born was named Annie, and I wondered as I got older why she wasn't named after someone. I have come up with the reason but not sure if I'm right. Her name was Annie and I'm wondering if it was after the stage show (Orphan Annie). I'm not sure though what year that came out. My sister was born 1910. It could have been just called 'Annie' but as a young scallywag, my mum would say to me, "You look like Orphan Annie!" Especially if I had been out all day in the clough or out blackberry picking. In my class at school there were Jeans, Junes, Gillians, Judiths, Marians, Sylvias, Barbaras... oh boy, and along came Maud and Lily. Still its better than along came Polly. [ 'Jack' replied: "Little Orphan Annie" first appeared as a full page comic strip in August 1924 and was created by a gentleman called Harold Gray....Gray's character was loosely based off of James Whitcomb Riley's eponymous character from his 1885 poem "Little Orphan Annie".]
Ashton folks always are and always was friendly, never let anything get them down, always ready for a giggle. I don't think the rain bothers them, they are used to it. I know it never bothered me. I would be off out with my umbrella, chiffon scarf round my newly set hair. Blimey, if you let rain stop you, you would never go out! I remember when I used to walk round Ashton Market and the rain from the canvass over the Old Stalls would drip all down your face. The stall holder would shove a pole up and get rid of the it all. It was like a flood. You had to move quickly or be drenched!
Ashton's always been about the people who live there more than the buildings. You wont find a better lot anywhere, though, like anywhere else now, its being spoiled by muggers and the like, which is very sad. I will always be proud of where I came from and all the people who were my friends there. I will always be proud of all the mill workers and coal miners.
Various Other Memories
I'm not sure whether the toilets are still there. It was near where you got the Dukinfield bus, wasn't it? [St Michael's Square] There used to be a toilet block by the side of the Town Hall. I remember as a kid, that woman that worked there giving change was a bugger. You could be dying to go and not have any money, but she would never say, "Oh come on then, I will open a toilet door." Real meany she was!
Don't we feel posh when we talk about all these clocks we own? all different times. My mother had one clock, an alarm clock with a massive bell on top. It came downstairs with her every morning and went up with her every night, that and a night light stood in a saucer of water. They were similar to the scented ones you can float in the bath these days. Tell you what, there were a right to do if the clock stopped. It was one of the worst thing that could happen. Money had to be scraped together and quick to replace it. It was the only means we had of telling the time. We would keep having to run to the door to see what time it was on the Cake-a-pie clock, till it went dark, that was!
I remember the first time I used a phone. It was on Lees Road facing the New Nook pub, but the pub wasn't there then. My mam asked me to go and phone Percy Bowker the coalman to tell him we had no coal. I said to her, "I don't know know how to use the phone." She said, "Well now's the time to learn, get gone!" I was all confused. I still get confused at the ATM, but that's me. Any road up, as Polly says... I got through and shouted "Hello!" I'm sure all the neighbours heard that hello. You would have thought old Percy was in the Sahara Desert. But no one answered so I thought I had done it wrong and said, "Oh, blimey!" Well the next thing Percy came on, and gave me an whole sermon about saying 'blimey'. "What would you do if someone did blind you, eh?" It put me off phones for quite some time that. "Oh, I didn't mean it like that Mr Bowker. I'm sorry." But he went on and on... About the ATM, I was using it one day, very close to Xmas it was and I wanted 60 dollars, and six hundred came out instead. I thought the machine was wrong, and thought, "Oh, me luck's changed!" But no, it wasn't the machine, it was me as usual. So I had to put the money in a safe place at home and do Christmas shopping with it.
I think Stalybridge and Dukinfield had the same accent as Ashton, but thought from working with people from Mossley and Oldham that their accents were just slightly different. For instance, 'terrylene' and 'stairs'. The Mossley and Oldham people pronounced them 'turrylene' and 'stuirs'... but I think the old Ashton accent is changing a lot now. The younger end are speaking much different. Perhaps too many American shows there. I was chatting with my niece and she said. "dunno" instead of "I don't know", and quite a few other words. So I think we can say goodbye to the old Ashton accent. The wording in letters as well is changing. I can't understand some of the letters I get from the younger ones now. I have been here 35 years now and people still ask if I'm on holiday here. So no, my accent hasn't changed one iota. I still say "aye" instead of "yes". Not all the time. but say someone is telling me something and I suddenly realise what they are on about, I have a habit of saying.... "Oh aye, I know what you mean." Now, perhaps that's where.... "are you Scottish?" comes in. A while ago I had relatives visiting and we got onto Charles and Di, and how they both had their way of bringing up their kids. And I said, "Diana teks um all o'er show." Needless to say, there were some laughing over that. Talking of Scots, earlier this week, Billy Connolly was interviewed by a man named Andrew Denton, on his programme. Enough rope... and Billy was away there with his F word... I cringed every time he said it. Don't know how he gets away with it. I'm broad minded but I think that it's going too far.
Did you ever watch the Chicken Run film? I loved that, the accent was great, sounded just like me. I still haven't changed. There's nothing worse I don't think than listening to English people trying to put the Aussie accent on and I know a few. It doesn't come out Aussie at all. It's different for kids. They pick it up straight away. I was in a shop with Karen and the sales lady asked if I was on holiday here. She couldn't believe how long I had been here and hadn't altered my accent. It can be hard with my children's friends. They don't understand me, so Karen and Alan interpret what I'm saying. I feel like a bloody foreigner at times. Well I am, come to think of it!
From photos I have received of Ashton, I think its fair to say the council have done a good job. We can't stand still, we have to move on. I was a kid back in the 30s. I don't expect the little two up and downers to still be there. As for Stamford St, it started going downhill in the late 60s, but you could get things much cheaper than on there. Inside and outside the markets, Leigh and Arderns, for instance, their curtains were very expensive. You could get them much cheaper inside the market. I admit it pulls at the heartstring seeing it all going or gone but it's for the best.
Coal Pit Hills
I suppose the coalpit hills near Turner Lane have vanished, as well they ran from the back of the Hop Pole hotel over to near the Old Ball. I believe an estate called Lords Field was built around that area. There were pens at one side of the hills all along. I used to cut through there from Christ Church school. I also remember there was a doubling mill on Minto St, some called it the Minto Doubling Company, others called it Duncan Doubling Company. I wonder what it is now. It was just a small mill on the left hand side going from the Hop Pole.
They were great times... Daisy Nook at Easter, the Whit Walks in June, Ashton Wakes in August, the Black Knight pageant, Bonfire Night, and wonderful Christmases in December, the local dance halls every weekend. Who could have asked for more? And best of all, no drugs, no knives, no guns, a few scraps Saturday night, and that was about it. You could intervene without being stabbed yourself. We never heard of teenagers with anorexia. Never heard of teenagers committing suicide. Makes you wonder what's happened to the whole world, doesn't it? If you ask me, it's gone crazy. You hardly ever heard of murders, did you? The first as I can remember as a youngster was a man kicked to death in the air raid shelter by the Royal Oak at Hurst Cross. The next was a little girl in Stalybridge by the name of Pearl Cowman. A guy called Taylor, if my memory serves me right, did that. He worked in the cotton mill. Then Banana Bill and, of course, the murder in the Prince of Wales. We couldn't wait to get the Reporter every week to read how the trials were going. Every part of it was written down. Today it takes up to two years for some cases to come up because there's so many of them. A life is worth nothing today, and the people get off so easy. Diminished responsibility...on drugs... didn't know what they were doing... Thank goodness there's more sane people in the world than insane!
There was no such thing as using a married woman's first name. It always had to be 'Mrs', and the husband 'Mr'. I remember at fourteen, we were sat having lunch or dinner as we called it one day in the mill and one of the women suggested getting a trip up to Blackpool. Me and my mate Maud were all excited and I said, "are we allowed to come?" She said, "Yes, I don't see why no,t but you wont be allowed to have a drink, so you would be best to go off on your own." So I said, "Oh good, we will go and look for a couple of nice lads!" This woman slapped me across the face and said, "I will give you lads at your age, wait till I see your mother!" And that was that, Sally Clarke, she was called. I daren't tell my mother or she would have slapped the other side of my face for being too forward. And that's how it was for us pre-boomers. My mother always said, "You worry for your sons but pray for your daughters." She did okay. None of us ever got into any trouble. We knew better!
The Club Man
They always called anyone who came to the door "club man". Insurance men, debt collectors... A lot of mothers used to get a loan from the Universal Stores, especially around Whitsuntide, so they could fit out their kids with new clothes. This stood on the corner of Katherine St, right facing where the kiddies round abouts were on the market ground. They could spend the money anywhere they wanted. They would send a man round to collect every week, and up until the 30s I don't think there were any National Health, so people had to pay weekly insurance. So that was another club man. Back then if you were going out you would leave the books and money on top of each other, in a line under the runner on the dresser and the club men would go in, pick up the money, write it in the book and close the door after them. No chance of that these days, is there? Also back then, the council used to give four free weeks from paying rent. I think it was Easter, Whitsuntide, Ashton Wakes Week and Christmas. Seems people were not as greedy in those days. It was a godsend to our parents.
I was very pregnant at the time JFK died. I had Alan a month after. He will be 43 this Christmas. It was one of those times everyone remembers exactly what they were doing. It was the same with the Munich air crash. I was working in the mill at the time of the air crash, walking round my spinning frames when one of the girls came running up the alley to me all flustered and told me of the crash. everyone gathered in the toilets to have a cigarette, we were all in shock. I never saw so many grown men break down and cry as what happened that day.
I remember Saturday mornings when the rent man and insurance collectors came round, people would leave the money for him under the dresser cover with the book and go out leaving the door unlocked. He would go in book it down take his money and close the door behind him. You can't do that now. A lot of people here [Australia] have bars on all their windows, its like living in prison. I wouldn't ever think of doing it because I would be afraid of fire and not being able to get out. Mind you these days I think a fireman would have to come in and carry me out (I wish). I'm not too good at jumping through windows now.
There wasn't television either back when we were youngsters before the War so you didn't hear as much of what went on, but I think it's changed for the worst because of the drugs. People were in their right minds back then, not stoned up to their eyeballs. Half of these things wouldn't happen if they weren't. Not as many robberies took place as most of them are for drugs. I remember five murders. Pearl Cowman and Peter Evans murdered in Stalybridge and Banana Bill and John Kilbride and the woman murdered in the Prince of Orange in Ashton. Where now, every time you turn the news on, it's one after another, drive by shooting, stabbings, muggings. They are queuing up here to be tried. I don't think it will ever get back to normal now.
So many children died back then, didn't they? My mother and father buried my eldest brother Sam at age eighteen months, in around 1913. Had there been penicillin back then I think they would have all lived. A lot was from measles, scarlet fever and bronchitis, which can be cured now.
Knitbone was a common name for comfrey. It's a herb. my dad used to boil it in water then put a bandage in the with it so it would be soaked through, then wrap the bandage round any sprains. My dad swore by comfrey, knitbone... Our dog Rex, known to all my mates as Rex Buckley, was knocked down by a car and his leg fractured. My dad boiled knitbone in a big iron pan every night after he got home from work, then soaked bandages in it to wrap around Rex's leg. It cured it. hence knitbone I suppose... Rex was as right as rain within about four weeks. There were no money back then to take your pets to the vet so it would have been certain death for Rex.
I remember the jars, we used them when empty for hot water bottles in winter. My mother had the proper hot water bottle and about half an hour before going to bed she would say, "boil the kettle and fill my hot water bottle and don't forget to let the air out!" How many times I filled it too far and ended up scalding my stomach pressing it against myself to let the air out, I don't know! It's a wonder I'm not permanently scarred!
My dad was as fit as a fiddle but if he got a cold, I used to be running to the chemist for belladonna plasters, lung healers and cough medicine. The plasters, my mother put over his lung or his kidney, whichever he was moaning about. I think they had some kind of heat in them but not sure. Putting them on was great, taking them off was another story. My mother would get a hold on the corner and rip it off real quick. He used to shout at the top of his voice. We all used to laugh and that made him worse. He would say, "it's summut laugh at in't it?" But where the plaster had been it left a white patch, the hair from his back was stuck to the plaster so it must have hurt. The cough bottle I used to get from Harrops or Greys herbalist. It cost tenpence. It had in it fourpenn'oth of liquid spanish, fourpenn'oth of buckthorn and twopenn'oth of chlorodine. If you didn't take your own medicine bottle it cost a shilling.
I remember ricketts,. There was a special hospital that was called Bidolf. That's how it was pronounced, I don't know how it was spelt or whether the hospital was called Bidolf, or the area it was in [Biddulph]. Quite a few kids from Charlestown went to stay there, it was babies that got ricketts.
Colgate toothpaste, I'm nearly sure you could get toothpaste in a tin back then, or maybe my imagination is running wild. I seem to remember it being wrapped in coloured cellophane. Would it be Gibbs toothpaste I'm thinking about?
Cecil Wood's headache powders, Fullers Earth cream, Fords pink pills. We used to get a tablespoon full of malt as kids. I remember my mam putting the spoon in the jar and keep turning it till she got a big dollop. I loved it too. Also blood bitters, which I hated, she got us from facing the old fire station. Was it Greys herbalist? I forget now.... Halibut oil capsules that would burst a while after you had swallowed them and the taste would come up into your mouth - yak... Dog fat and goose grease were used if you got a cold on your chest. My dad swore by that. A teaspoonful swallowed, that's if you could keep it down.... He also believed in cumfrey, then know as knit bone, for sprains. Nurse Sykes cooling powders for babies, zinc and caster oil cream for babies' bums, borax to rub gently on babies' heads when bathing them to stop cradle cap... Have you all noticed how vinegar is being recommended for all kinds of things these days? I have always added vinegar to the water when cleaning the windows. Just shows, doesn't it, that the old remedies did work... One woman who lived near us used to wipe her baby's mouth out every morning with the first nappy she took off. Swore the urine stopped thrush. I used to use glycerine and honey on my two. You could buy it in jars. Glad she wasn't my mum, but then you don't know what your own mum got up to did you...
What about the Liquafruta? Can't spell that but glad it wasn't going when I was a kid, just to take the top off to give it to my two turned my stomach. I don't know why it was but Karen and Alan would take anything you gave them. They both had glandular fever and the doc told me to give them liver. He said to drop it in boiling water just wait till it turned white and give them a small piece on every meal. Yes, they ate it. The blood were fair coming out of it. So long as I promised to buy them a bottle of Lucozade they would down anything. I remember the midwife giving me cod liver oil with a half teaspoon of ginger in it after I had been in labour from Sunday night to Wednesday night. She had me eat half an orange first, then the cod liver oil, then the other half orange. It did me no good - I brought the lot back. I did have the baby that night but had the flying squad right after for an emergency op.
I was just thinking about bus fares as a kid, under five years was free, is it still the same? Also there were standing room when the bus was full. It had a notice up, "standing room, five only". It cost a penny from Hurst to the market, twopence adults. The Roxy cinema was fourpence for kids, tenpence adults. A penny for a bag of broken biscuits inside the market. Twopence for an ice cream cornet. We could get bad apples from the greengrocer at Hurst Cross, May Bailey's, she would cut the bad out and charge us a penny. Bitter oranges she sold us for a penny. We called them marmalade oranges. Smiths crisps were about twopence. It had the salt wrapped up in a piece of blue wax paper. Chips were threepence a serving, fish fourpence. You notice I don't mention sweets, it's because the War was on at this time and we needed coupons to buy them. We were only allowed a quarter of toffee a week, and that's only if we had the money besides the coupons. A lot of families sold their sweets and clothing coupons to people who had money to buy these, so they could to buy food. It was then as it is today, only money people got the best, they probably sat gorging chocolate that should have been ours. Times were hard. My dad gave us threepence each every Thursday, and like Buttercup, we went to Jessie Lees. You would have thought it was attached to a piece of elastic, we stretched it so far.
At age fourteen in 1947 it cost two shilling to get into the dance hall, threepence to hang your coat in the cloak room, three pence bus fare going. We walked it back home, so for two shilling and sixpence we had a great night. That would equal about 13p now, wouldn't it, that's if the old shilling is worth five p. I'm not sure of the money there now. I was lost when I was there last sorting out and paying for things.
Do any of you remember the old money boxes? There were two as I recall when I was a nipper. One was red and shaped like a letter box. The other one we had was a black bear, made of cast iron. Had you dropped it on your foot every bone would have been broke! We used to put pennies on its hand and pull a lever in its back and its arm went up to its mouth and it swallowed the penny. There were no place to get your money out and when my dad was skint he would put a knife in its mouth and hopefully get the pennies one at a time to balance on the knife blade and gently pull it out. By the time he got enough to buy a pint, the pubs were shut! I can remember him also nearly pulling the sofa to bits looking for odd coppers that had fallen down out of someone's pockets. It was amazing what he found down there. Things that had gone missing years ago. That were my old dad. Drink out of a sweaty clog, he would.
Poverty / Hard Times
When a person went into the workhouse, they were stripped searched, examined and their hair cropped. If it was a family they were all separated from each other. It's said that one man went to give notice to leave with his wife and children and was told, "You can't take your wife with you, we buried her three weeks ago." Thank goodness they closed... I knew a family that had three children - a girl 8, a boy 5 and a girl 3. The little boy was killed on the street where they lived by a lorry. This was during the depression years. Not many men had work, including this boy's father. At the inquest the coroner summed up the case then said, "Well it's one burden off your shoulders." The father said, if he had had a gun that day he would have shot the fellow. How cruel can anyone be? And as sad as that is, you wonder sometimes that maybe there should be judges similar to these kind of hard hearted people to deal with the the criminals of today.
Don't forget the pawn shops. They were in full swing at that time. You would see the mothers going in every Monday morning to pawn the weekend clothes then back on a Friday when the old man was paid his coppers to get them out again, so the family could get dressed up again to go out on the weekend. I think a few people might remember Mary Ellen Wild and Tommy Sizers.
You have to giggle, don't you? Poor buggers hadn't two halfpennies to rub together, so had to learn the tricks of the trade early on. You would see them going off Monday morning with a parcel under their arm. Everyone knew where they were off to, Mary Ellen Wild's pawn shop. Then back again as soon as pay day came round to get the old man's suit out so he could wear it on the weekend, then back it would go Monday morning, hopefully not stained, or a couple of coppers were knocked off the lending price. It was as well that the old man didn't want to wear his suit during the week as half the time he didn't know his suit was going walk abouts. The missus would have got a leathering for it. I would hate to see those days come back, but I think it taught you to appreciate what little you had. And certainly a great sense of humour, and everyone on a par with each other. There were none of this, "I'm better than you", even when you are not... I always remember what my mother taught us, "don't ever think you are better than anyone else, but always remember... you are just a good!"
I remember a tale going round as a kid where one woman hid by the side of the dresser and sent her kid to the door to say she wasn't in. The collector must have been able to see the woman's feet and said, "Well next time your mam goes out, tell her not to forget to take her feet with her." You must admit though, we were brought up posh, mmm [tongue in cheek] [grin].
Another thing that tickles me, when I think of it, was getting things on tick.. food especially. I don't think there was anyone round Smallshaw that didn't go in the shops at Oak Fold and get tick. It was rare to see anyone back then open their purse and pay, but what tickled me was, say your bill came to thirty shilling, you would be sent on pay day with perhaps a pound, so the other ten bob was carried over, and this went on for weeks until the shop keeper would say, "Tell your mam she can't have anything else until she paid off the balance." And the thing was, they would take whatever money you had, and tell you after that you couldn't have any more food, so it left the poor people without money or food. Poor old John Stafford got called all the names under the sun for that. [Grin] "Bloody owd swine, he's nowt else," "I've a good mind to go round and give him what for..." It never entered their heads the poor fella had his bills to pay too. One of our neighbours sent me often to the newsagents at Hurst Cross she would say, "Go and tell him he hasn't left me a newspaper, himself will go mad if there isn't one to read when he gets home." I knew right away himself had no chance as she hadn't paid her bill, but I went anyway because she always shoved a penny in my hand.
We were never allowed to put new shoes on the table, it was supposed to bring bad luck. My mother also hated to see crossed knives on the table. She wouldn't have birds up on the wall, nor was you allowed to open an umbrella in the house. Our little superstition as kids were not to tread on a nick. "If you tread on a nick you will marry a stick and a blackjack will come to your wedding." Crazy or what?
There used to be a fortune teller lived on Albermarle Terrace or Street. I never went but my sisters and their mates used to go for a laugh. She always told them they were going to meet a nice tall dark handsome man, and during the war it was always, they would meet a man in uniform. I never believed in that sort of stuff.
As youngsters, we used to call catholics 'cat lites' and they called us 'proddy dogs', but two of my best friends were catholics and I used to love going to their church with them. And then as teenagers, every Saturday night before going to the local dance hall, I would sit at the back of St Mary's Church holding their bags while they went to confession. We never spoke of religion, ever. Now and again I would ask them what they had confessed but they wouldn't tell me! I still keep in touch with one of them, in fact I sat and wrote her a letter last night. The other one sadly passed away. One thing I like about catholics is, they stay friends forever, even after they leave school, where we didn't do that. Even now my friend keeps in touch with all her school mates. She lives in Stalybridge but goes to St Christopher's now and again and meets up with all her chums and all are in their seventies. I think that's great.
I'm wondering, if someone near you dies, do they still collect for a wreath amongst the neighbours? I remember we always did that when I was a young un, and on the day of the funeral, the body would be brought and stood under the front window for people to view if they wanted, and everyone's curtains were closed on that day and stayed like that a couple of hours after the funeral left the house, giving time for the burial. The curtains were only closed during the day for funerals and Wembley!
I remember my mate Brenda and me going round one night to collect for an old man. We would be about 14. Now this man was a real misery, got on with no one, but the change in people after he died! Me and Brenda was in tucks laughing. It were like, "We're collecting for Mr So and So." "Oh, come in. Eeh, God rest his soul. He were a nice man. None better!" Next door: "We're collecting for Mr So and So." The face changed straight away to a funeral face,. "Eeh, poor man, wait till I go and get mi purse." Talk about a turn about! They could really put it on, them lot! One elderly lady never opened the door unless you identified yourself first. "Who is it?" "It's us." "Who's us?" "Lily and Brenda." "What do you want?" "We're collecting for a wreath for Mr So and So." "Oh, 'as he died?" Honestly we couldn't hold up for laughing. Talk about two faced. I never did go and collect for any other body, but we did have a good laugh.
Boston was Turner Lane area, in case you don't know it. You went under the bridge beside Charlestown railway station to get to it, or you could cut through Henrietta St. Or get to it from the Old Ball, cut through where Bob Fish's bungalow was.
Expressions and Sayings
'Brain us' meant give us a hiding. It was a word my mother used to use. She would shout us in from playing outside and if we didn't come first time she would say, "If you don't get in here quick, I will brain you!"
Another word was 'cop it,' but they didn't say "you will cop it," they said, "you will get cop it." I remember as a kid if I had done anything wrong while playing with my mates, like tear my dress or something, they would say, "Aw, you will get cop it when your mam sees that!"
When someone believed anything you told them, they were "like a pawn shop, took owt in."
They had a "mouth as big as Portsmouth," if they shouted.
If someone was trying to take a rise out of you, "they must have thought you had fell off a flitting," a removal van.
For a woman who can't make up her mind, "it's a pity you don't change your shift (vest) as often as you change your mind!"
Another saying, when I think back is, "any road up," instead of anyhow. My mother, when chatting someone she had met out shopping, would say, "any road up, I must get going now before he gets home for his tea." Everyone seemed to know who HE was, no one ever said "WHO?" A lot of women called their husbands HIMSELF. That was before Germaine Greer burnt her bra!
Another was, "ger out o't bloody road, thet neither use nor ornament," if someone wasn't doing a job properly, and "if tha wants owt doin proper, do it tha sen!"
They used to say in Ashton, "home is where you hang your hat up." I don't own a hat here. I left mine in Ashton. Hung up.
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