Inspiration for ‘Rita’ Transcription 2
Where were you born in Sheffield?
I was born in Nether Edge Maternity Unit, I was bought up in Crookes. Or
Crewkes [ph] as we call it.
People call it Crookes now?
Well that’s because they are comers, original people call it Crooks.[ph]
How long did you live in Crookes for?
Until I was, I have to think about this, I was 24 when I got married and our first
house was down at Crookes terminus on the corner of Heavy Gate Road and
Northfield Road, so I lived there a further 2 years, so I would have been about
28 when I left Crookes altogether and went to live at Base Green.
So you lived in Crookes for 28 years?
Obviously it’s changed a lot. Better?
I’m not keen on Crookes anymore because I don’t know it as I knew it. I knew
it as a friendly place, where we all knew everybody, and we all went to
different Sunday Schools. There was great rivalry between all the Boys
Brigade and Scout Bands and stuff like that. We all went to different schools,
and we knew one another from school, and Guides and Scouts and all that
sort of thing. A few of the originals are still up there, I know, a lot of them
have moved away, a lot of them have gone higher up towards Lodge Moor.
Some of them have gone up towards Loxley. You just sort of knew everyone,
and me mother used to talk to everybody. She used to talk about the ham
and egg woman, this particular lady, I don’t know who she was and I can’t
remember her name, but of course I was bought up during the post war period
of austerity when there was rationing, much more so than we had had during
the war. Because we were so short of everything, everything even bread,
potatoes had gone on ration at one point. But this particular lady had been on
holiday somewhere, she was telling me mother all about it and she said ‘eee,
Mrs we had ham and eggs every morning for breakfast’.
How do you think the journey of Sheffield has been? Over how many
years have you seen it change?
Well I’m 71; obviously I’ve seen it change a great deal. When I was a child
me mum was very stylish, not like me at all, I couldn’t give a toot. But me
mum liked to dress nicely and she liked to go to town on Tuesday’s. So we
would get dressed and go to town on Tuesday’s. Of course, when I was very
young, the war was still on, we’d go down there and we’d find gaps where
there had been buildings the night before, stuff like that. She took me to the
Co-op down at the bottom of Ecclesall Road which is now, its that
supermarket, Waitrose. We’d go there, there was a lane that ran through onto
bottom of Cemetery Road and that was called the Arcade in fact the whole
shop was called the Arcade. She used to buy a Whitsuntide club ticket which
she would cash in just before Whitsuntide to buy clothes. She would have
Christmas club stamps that she would cash them in. She’d buy them in the
local Co-op and then she’d cash them in when the time came. She’d get so
much back in vouchers to spend in the shop that was the interest; the rest that
she’d paid in herself was money, was cash. She’d get that back. But you
didn’t get the interest in cash you’d get the interest in vouchers so you did
make a little bit, basically.
We used to go down there, then we’d work our way up the Moore. Atkinsons
when I remember it, there was nothing there except a hole in the ground with
a spring running into it where it had been bombed. It took years and years to
sort that lot out, because of the water in bottom.
What became, well it became a club didn’t it, the old Landsdown Picture
Palace at the top of Landsdown Road, bottom of London Road. When I was a
child that was in fact, oh what was that now, was it Marks and Spencers, I
think it was Marks and Spencers, because they had been bombed out so
they’d moved into that old cinema there.
As you walked up the Moore it was a lot of gaps, empty spaces because what
the Germans did was, the missed what they were looking for. They were
looking for the steel works and they went and bombed the shops instead. Not
realising the steel works was all out on the East side, thank goodness. But of
course it put paid to the shops, the shops suffered. So you walked right up the
Moor right from the bottom of Ecclesall Road, that big brick building thing
wasn’t there. I’ve heard they are going to take that down again and re-open
the road, how true it is I don’t know, I hope they do they should never have
closed, but there you go. We begged and begged, they left a tunnel, you
know a bridge, an archway, there should have been a right of way through
there, it should never have been closed but they closed it. Then we would
walk up the Moore, the trams ran up the Moore. The trams ran up to
Ecclesall, to Fulwood, up Ecclesall Road and they ran to Millhouses and
Abbeydale, and they joined at the bottom of Ecclesall Road and went on up
Then you got to the Moore Head where the traffic crosses over now. Then
after that it was Pinstone Street, which it still is of course.
I don’t remember St. Paul’s church, that was pulled down in the year that I
was born, so I don’t remember that at all. All I remember is that it was
generally known as the Peace Gardens, because, at the end of the war,
they’d turned it into a garden already, or they had turned it into a garden to
commemorate peace after the first World War, something I can’t recall. I
know St. Paul’s was pulled down. The Cathedral is actually St. Peter and St.
In front of the Town Hall, bang opposite the end of Surrey Street really, in the
middle of the road, was an island which you could walk across [recording
inaudible] that was ever so nice, really nice. That disappeared and in they put
in its place a fountain called the Goodwin fountain where the money was
given by Sir Stuart Goodwin who was one of the city philanthropists. People
used to chuck washing powder in and make a mess of it, so that eventually
was taken away, it used to get blocked up and allsorts. So now of course
they’ve pedestrianised the whole of Fargate anyway.
The other thing I used to delight in, because on Good Friday all of the city
centre was closed, there was no shops open, it was a public holiday. I used
to take my roller skates and roller skate up and down Fargate. Cos there was
nobody about. Mind you not everyone was on holiday on Good Friday, the
steel works and the engineering works, they didn’t have a holiday on Good
Friday, they had the Monday and the Tuesday. Easter Monday and the day
after and that was because of the furnaces. You couldn’t fire the furnaces up
for four days, you see, you had to fire the furnace up for five days and then
shut it. So they shut it on the Friday and it didn’t open again until the
Wednesday. Something to do with that, I know that’s what they did in
Sheffield. Nowadays, nobody ever seems to have a holiday at any particular
time at all.
So me dad remained a file smith all his life, but he moved from there, but at
that time he worked down there. He used to go for his dinner onto, they call it
Port Mahon, I think it’s still there actually, it was a little café, and he’d go there
sometimes for his dinner. He’d pass the end of a small steel works called
George Clarke and Sons. Standing in the yard in 1939 he spotted a trailer
caravan, very unusual for those days. And it looked beautiful, it said ‘for sale’
on it and me dad eyes lit up. He went in to have a look and some of the men
came out and said ‘aye we built that for the gaffers son, now it’s come back
because they think there’s going to be a war’ ‘cos everyone thought there
were gonna be a war, and he’d got married and he’d took it down to
Mablethorpe or somewhere on the east coast. Whether they lived in it down
there or just had it for a weekend retreat I don’t know. The chassis of that
caravan had been made in the works, and the works joiners, the works
carpenters had created the infrastructure to a pattern. It was all set out with
pots and cutlery, beds and everything, it was fantastic. Me dad was most
impressed. Now I only heard about this years afterwards, this is not my
memory, this is a memory passed to me. However, my dad bought it; he
managed to find a place where he could take it. A farmer up Dungworth who
took campers and some of the campers liked camping so much he’d allowed
them to erect huts on the land and go for the weekends. Me dad found a
place, of course they paid the farmer rent. He bought it and he had it taken
up there. Now I knew nothing about this, not a thing. Me Dad, my Aunty was
a nurse, a district nurse, and she had a car, most unusual for 1939. I don’t
know if it was a little Ford or a little Morris, ‘cos she had both at different
times. She was on holiday and she was allowed to use the car? I don’t know
how they worked it out but it finished up with, my very, very earliest memory is
of sitting on a beach wearing a sprigged dress, with me back to the sea. Me
mum was sitting there and Aunty Madge was sitting there, and I was aware
that my brother was somewhere or other and in front of me was a sandcastle
and I had a wooden spade, flat bladed wooden spade in me hand. A child’s
spade and I was patting, rather ineffectually at the sandcastle and Aunty
Madge took the spade out of hand and said ‘no love not like that, like this’ and
patted it with her hands. I watched her and I was impressed by the finger
marks on the sand. After that I can’t remember anything. That’s memories
I questioned my family about that, where was it, why was I there and why do I
remember it. Me mother didn’t remember, she was clueless, brother said it
must have been when we went to Kinmel Bay near Rhyl in 1939. You were
only 2 then, how do you remember that?’ I said ‘ I don’t know’ I says ‘I had a
feeling that you were somewhere but I couldn’t see you. But you was with us.’
He said ‘ yeah I went.’ I said ‘I had a feeling that me dad, for some reason
wasn’t.’ He said ‘No he didn’t go’ and he said ‘he stayed at home because he
had to go to work and we’d gone in Aunty Mage’s car’ he said ‘ and you were
sick.’ I said ‘that sounds about right’. Anyway, regardless of me being sick,
when we got back the War had been declared. The rationing period started, I
don’t remember any of that of course. I was only told about it years later,
when mother found one of her note books that she used to take to the Co-op
with her weekly order in it. I was marvelling at the tremendous amount of
sugar that she used to order every week, about 6lb of sugar. I said ‘mum,
whatever did you use all that sugar for!’ She said ‘well we used to bake, every
week, cakes and things, pies that’s why I needed all that.’ I said ‘well we don’t
use it now’. Cos we had teeny little bits of everything you see, I was amazed
because she had ordered all this stuff. She said ‘oh yes I used to have all that
every week.’ Of course I can’t remember any of it I was brought up in the time
of austerity so I don’t’ know.
So, anyway, the next memory I had, was we had one of those wet snows
which bring everything down like power lines and things like that. We had one
of those and me dad had built an arch, rustic arch in the garden and that
collapsed. I’d had my swing hooks in this rustic arch. I cried over this and it
was all down, he said don’t worry about it we will put them up in the door way
and it will be alright. Not only that had collapsed but next door was the old tin
chapel that had belonged to the Baptist church and that had collapsed and
they had to clear all that. That had been there before the actual main building
was put up, so that was old then. That had collapsed. That was a memory
that stuck in my mind.
I remember the noise of the sirens, obviously, because they used to come
and go, come and go, come and go. But not only did they come and go
[imitates noise of siren] that’s how it was. There was another one from
somewhere else cutting in half way through and it did sound really weird, you
know. I know there was one on top of the tram sheds er on Pickmere Road
and there was another one on top of the Crookes Working Men’s club I can’t
remember where the others were. I don’t know where the others were. That
was really strange. I remember those noises and being bundled up in rugs
and being taken into the air raid shelter that me dad had put in the garden.
Me dad used to put on his overcoat and a balaclava helmet which had ear
flaps in it, that he could tuck in so he could hear and a tin hat on top. He used
to go out. I used to say ‘where’s he going?’ ‘He’s going fire watching.’
Because me dad had been wounded out of the first war and he wasn’t fit to
serve. He ran the fire watching team for the local streets. He had to be out in
the air raid all the time.
I know during the shortages, when I was a small child, we used to look out for
the coal man coming. Even coal went on ration. Me mum and dad used to go
through the brick yards at Loxley and collect fire bricks and put them in the
fireplace to make the fireplace smaller so that they wouldn’t have to burn as
We got up to all sorts of stuff. Hair brushes, it sounds so stupid this doesn’t it.
A hairbrush was something to be cherished because you couldn’t get them
and ours was falling apart. We had it between us, and it was in such a state.
You could buy a comb but you could not buy a hairbrush for love nor money.
Hot water bottles, which you desperately needed because it was always cold,
no central heating, they would perish. They were made of rubber, they are
not made of rubber now it’s sort of plasticy stuff, if you do need to buy one.
But they would perish and you’d get a leak. You’d find you’d wake up with a
puddle in your bed at the bottom. Oh yeah. So you had to dry that out and
then what did you have in your bed? Some people used to put oven plates in.
Y, know, those plates that you have in your oven, an oven tray; they would
heat one up in the oven and put that in the bed. A clean one of course, and
that would warm the bed to get in at night. Otherwise you were freezing.
What my mum and dad did of course back to the brick yards, we would pick
up bricks and put them in a bag on our way through the brick yard. I suppose
they were pinched really. Put them in the oven, get them really, really hot
then wrap them in rags and put them in the bed and they would stay hot
because they were made of fire clay. They made fire clay at the brick yards
for the furnaces. Things that people did.
One last question – what would you say is the heritage of Sheffield, what
makes Sheffield, Sheffield?
Oh dear me, what a question. I don’t really know, there are so many things. I
think it’s because, people who come here and live here, my ancestors for
instance. I’ve never tried looking at the ancestry I’ve thought about it but I
know it’s going to be a lot of work if I start. We’ve been self reliant, Sheffield
people are very, very self reliant, they’ve not depended on a lot of other
people for things. They’ve made their own, they’ve created their own and
we’ve welcomed people to come provided they were prepared to get down
and do some grafting. They were always welcome. That’s what set Sheffield
apart and the Sheffield people apart. We don’t welcome people who come
here and don’t want to do anything or just want to sponge, they are not
welcome at all. People who are prepared to come and get stuck into what
we’ve got here, I think have always been welcome in this city