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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Jack Strong

    [TRACK 1]

    TW:

    It’s Tony Wright, the 21st of April 2011 and I’m talking to Jack Strong and we’re in Mytholmroyd.  Now can you tell your full name and where and when you were born?

     

    JACK STRONG:

    Jack Strong.  I was born at 4 Water Hill Lane, Friendly on the 28th of June 1930.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay.  What was Friendly like in those days?

     

    JS:

    The name describes it – Friendly.  Everyone knew everyone else and everybody helped one another, and there was no transport much in those days like there is today, so we all remained around home, playing in the fields and that, and…..there were basically four different families, children, and we all played together.  Occasionally we fell out with one another but most of the time it was very good.

     

    TW:

    Right.  Did Friendly…it’s very near Sowerby Bridge, sort of half way up the hill from Sowerby Bridge.  Was it a different part of Sowerby Bridge or did you feel as if you were

     

    JS:

    Oh yes, yes.  If we went into Sowerby Bridge it was like going on an excursion because we’d to walk there and walk back and the only time we went in those days to Sowerby Bridge was when we got to be nine…..eight or nine year old, we used to go on a Saturday afternoon to what they called the tuppenny rush down the local cinema, where they were showing films and things like that – cowboy films especially, and we used to go down there – walk all the way down, walk all the way back and we felt as though we’d been in another world really, it seemed so far away then.

     

    TW:

    Right.  What school did you go to?

     

    JS:

    Tuel Lane.  I started school in 1934, as usual, there were complaints in Parliament about children were starting too early, some said they were starting too late.  Most of the time they started at three year old, but because this debate was going on, I didn’t start school until I was four year old, and I went to Tuel Lane until I was eleven years old and then I transferred to Bolton Brow and went there until I was fourteen; I left school at fourteen – out to work then.

     

    TW:

    What work did you do?

     

    JS:

    I started working at William Edleson’s Ltd in Sowerby Bridge, a textile manufacturer

     

    TW:

    What was your first job?

     

    JS:

    Going out for the morning papers for men [laughing] because in those days they used to start at seven o’clock and the…young lad who started like I did, the first job was you went out for the morning papers for anybody that wanted them, and any sandwiches or anything like that…or order the sandwiches for the men at the canteen and that, yeh.

     

    TW:

    And can you remember what you got paid at the beginning?

     

    JS:

    Twenty eight shillings a week which is approximately what now….twenty eight…..

     

    TW:

    One pound forty or something like that

     

    JS:

    Yes, one pound forty, that’s right, yes.

     

    TW:

    And how many hours did you have to work for that?

     

    JS:

    We started at seven o’clock in a morning till half past eight, breakfast then for half an hour, we start back to work at nine o’clock until twelve thirty, an hour for lunch until one thirty and finish work at five fifteen, and that was five days a week and then on a Saturday it was seven till half past eight, nine till quarter to twelve and then we’d finished for the weekend.

     

    TW:

    Right.  How long did you do that until you actually started working on any…what was your next job I suppose?

     

    JS:

    Well I started working on the machinery.  There was a man in charge and I was more or less the assistant and I had to learn what to do and watch what they did and things like that, yeh.

     

    TW:

    Right.  What machine was that?

     

    JS:

    That was what they called the damping machines, the raising machines and the cutting machines.

     

    TW:

    Right.  So you did all three?

     

    JS:

    Well over a period of time, you know, as years went on like, until you got to be about seventeen or eighteen year old, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, then you got a machine of your own and it depended on the foreman whether it was cutting, raising, damping, brushing, pressing, all that kind of thing, yeh.

     

    TW:

    Right.  So when you did the damping machine, what did you actually have to do on that machine?

     

    JS:

    Well the cloth went round a series of rollers and there was sprayers there, only fine sprayers, just damping it, putting so much moisture into the cloth and that

     

    TW:

    And what did that actually do to the cloth –why did you do that?

     

    JS:

    Well, it helped to condition it and also it helped for when it went on to what they called the raising machines to raise the pile, and also it put a bit of weight into the cloth.  If you were sewing seventeen ounce cloth, seventeen ounce a yard, if it was only sixteen and a half, by the time they’d finished it was seventeen [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Right.  So when they raised it, how did they actually do that?  Were there brushes or what was it that raised the cloth?

     

    JS:

    There were a series of rollers on a barrel, the cloth went over the barrel and these rollers turned round; they were like what they call carding

     

    TW:

    They were like little sort of pins or nails

     

    JS:

    Yeh, yeh, they were pins more or less, and that used to rake it.  As the cloth went that way the rollers went that way and just pulled it out a little bit at a time, and….I’m trying to think now……

     

    TW:

    So once it was raised, you got the pile up, then it went on to the cutting?

     

    JS:

    Yes that’s right, on to shearing, just taking the top of to level it all

     

    TW:

    Right.  So you raised it up and then you kind of gave it a hair cut?

     

    JS:

    That’s right, yes.

     

    TW:

    Right.  Was there a particular kind of width or height that you had to have it?  Was there a specification?

     

    JS:

    Well it depended on what the cloth was going for.  If they were making…..we didn’t make it, but same as billiard cloths for a snooker table, had to be cut right down to the ground.  For a lady’s coating they’d leave maybe half and inch or quarter of an inch, depending on what they were made out of.  If it was wool it was a shorter one, if it was mohair or alpaca then it was left a lot longer

     

    TW:

    Right.  Did you do cotton as well as wool then?

     

    JS:

    No cotton at all.  Cotton was mainly done the valley in Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, Todmorden especially.

    TW:

    Okay.  So when it was cut then, was it just cut in big long lengths like a hundred yard lengths or was it cut into pieces?

     

    JS:

    They were cut into sixty yard lengths and then what we used to do was either bale it up or parcel it up, some went to London, some went to Canada, Australia, Egypt, all over the world, yeh.

     

    TW:

    So what kind of…..you know, clothes were made out of that material that you had?  Was there a large range of things?

     

    JS:

    No they were what they called mostly ladies’ coatings, top coats for ladies mostly, yeh.  And eventually later on, many many years later, they went into manufacturing scarves, cashmere scarves.

     

    TW:

    Oh right.  So how long did you actually work there?

     

    JS:

    Well I worked there from 1944 until [phone ringing] Jack answered phone.

     

    TW:

    Right, so you started work in 1944

     

    JS:

    1944, and then in 19…..I got married.  I met my wife at work and after we got married and had children, we decided…..I tried to better myself and I emigrated to America to a clothing firm over there in 1966.  Unfortunately it didn’t work out; my wife never settled because it’s a man’s country is America, and we returned to England in 1972 and I went back to Edleson’s and I worked there until I was made redundant in 1990.

     

    TW:

    Right, I see.  So your wife worked there as well then?

     

    JS:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    What job did she do?

     

    JS:

    She was what they called a dispatch clerk, so she made up the addresses for where the material was going to.  Everything mostly went by train in those days so she made out the railway warrants and things like that

     

    TW:

    Oh I see, right, very good

     

    JS:

    And then she got her claws into me [laughing] and we’ve been happy ever after since!

     

    TW:

    Whereabouts did you go to in America then?

     

    JS:

    Just outside New York, New Jersey, a small village outside New York, Linden and it were a small village and they’d…..mostly Americans have a similar outlook and kind of……they’ve a better life than we have in England but they’re very, very similar in most respects you see – ordinary people

     

    TW:

    So was that in the wool trade again?

     

    JS:

    It was what was called men’s suitings and what I did, I examined the cloth to make sure it was perfectly free and they were all what they called worsted then, men’s suitings – we made suits for film starts, senators, all the top people because they were the top price, that’s why they wanted them absolutely perfect.

     

    TW:

    Right.  So what was the name of that firm?

     

    JS:

    Norman Hilton.

     

    TW: 

    Oh right, okay.

     

    JS:

    Unfortunately they’ve gone by the board like a lot of them

     

    TW:

    Yes indeed.  So when you came back, what job did you do then?

     

    JS:

    Well I went back to the…..doing what I was doing……they welcomed me back you see, because in those days they were still……there was a shortage of labour.  In 1971, ’72 you could leave one job and walk into another one the day following, so they welcomed me back because they knew the experience that I had, and I assume I was a good worker.

     

    TW:

    Yes, right.  I’m curious about you – you spent twenty two years working on the machines and then when you went to America it was almost like you had a better job, you had a quality control job and when you came back, you went back to working on machines again

     

    JS:

    No, no I went back…well, similar to quality control more or less, oh yes…..examining the work here most of the time, but of course in the textiles, in the finishing departments you moved around.  If somebody was off poorly or anything like that, or had left, that machine was stood idle till they found someone who could run it, and I was one of those who could do more or less anything.

     

    TW:

    Right.  Did you like working in that job?

     

    JS:

    Oh I enjoyed my work apart from the fact that the trouble with the textile industry was it was always long hours.  The hours I’ve told you about were normal working, and then if you wanted to work over, you finished work at quarter past five, had half an hour for a tea break which eventually got cut out because most people didn’t want it, and then you might work till half past seven, eight o’clock at night, sometimes even later, it was so busy.

     

    TW:

    Was the over-time, the extra money, was that handy in those days?

     

    JS:

    Well yes, well then you see, same as me, I got married and we quickly got a family, so I was paying a mortgage and the wife was at home looking after two young children so you had to – you wanted every penny you could get.

     

    TW:

    So they were in Sowerby Bridge.  Did you live in Friendly or Sowerby Bridge then?

     

    JS:

    No, when we got married we moved up to Norland, a cottage up there and then what happened in those days, as soon as the children arrived, the cottage was too small but in those days they didn’t have extensions built on or anything like that; you looked for a larger house, so we moved to what they call Pye Nest which is on the Sowerby Bridge outskirts more or less.

     

    TW:

    Did you live there for a long time then?

     

    JS:

    Well we got married in ’58, we’d be up Norland until 1960 and then we moved to Pye Nest until 1966, and then off to America.

     

    TW:

    And then when you came back, whereabouts did you live?

     

    JS:

    We lived with my uncle for….well my wife came back before me.  I had a contract – I had a five year contract so I brought my wife and family home on the QE2 and then I flew back to complete the contract, and I flew home on Christmas Eve 1971.  We stayed with my uncle……at King Cross for only a couple of weeks and then we saw a house we wanted in Rochdale Road, Sowerby Bridge, and went in to see the solicitor, we looked at the house Friday night, I went to see the solicitor on Monday morning; I says ‘I want to buy this house.  I’m going to pay cash’ because we’d made a bit of money in America; I said ‘I want it through as quick as possible’ I says ‘their solicitor is across there, you’re here, I don’t want you mailing anything – if it happens to be raining I’ll come along, get the mail and take it over there’ and in less than two weeks later we moved in

     

    TW:

    That’s very quick

     

    JS:

    The solicitor who was working for the vendors said he’d never moved as fast in his life [laughing]

     

    TW:

    I’m just wondering….did your family….were they in the textile trade as well?

     

    JS:

    No, my brother worked at the building society and my other brother, he worked in the…..he married a girl whose father had an ironmonger’s shop in Halifax so obviously he went into that ironmongery business.  My sister worked in the textiles

     

    TW:

    What did she do?

     

    JS:

    My oldest sister, she was a weaver and then the other sister worked in what they called Astin’s…..they had a place in Hebden Bridge didn’t they?

     

    TW:

    They did.

     

    JS:

    Astin’s, yeh, she worked there making overalls and things like that

     

    TW:

    She was sewing?

     

    JS:

    Sewing, yeh, sewing, a machinist

     

    TW:

    So where did your sister that was the weaver – where did she work?

     

    JS:

    She worked at what they called Oakley’s Carpets but she didn’t work there long because the war came along….twenty two she’d be……she’d be about nineteen when the war came along…..seventeen, nineteen, and then of course she got called up into the WAAFs and like everything else she met her husband in the Air Force and she married and went across to Northern Ireland, so….

     

    TW:

    Oh really?  Oh right.  How about your parents?  Did they have anything to do with the textiles?

     

    JS:

    My father did; my father were a general labourer and of course mostly when I think about it, in the 1930’s after the slump and depression and things, he was glad to do anything more or less.

     

    TW:

    Right.  Was he a weaver or did he do any of the jobs that you did?

     

    JS:

    I don’t know just what he did

    TW:

    Right.  I was just wondering whether it was him who got you into the textile trade

     

    JS:

    No….oh no…..as I say I left school at ’44, went round, had a few interviews at places and that and then started….you know

     

    TW:

    How about your mother then, what did she do?

     

    JS:

    Mother didn’t do anything.

     

    TW:

    Did she just stay at home?

     

    JS:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    You had a lot of children in the family didn’t you?

     

    JS:

    Oh yes, yes.  Later on in life she did get cleaning jobs, cleaning for rich people mostly

     

    TW:

    Right.  I’m just wondering, your factory was all wool.  Was any of that sort of recycled material?  Stuff that was collected and used again, or was it all just new wool?

     

    JS:

    All new, what they called recycling was mostly over in Dewsbury and Batley, that’s what they called the shoddy trade, you know, where they gathered all the things and then tore it all up and then made it again.  Every woollen district did that

     

    TW:

    So you didn’t do that then?

     

    JS:

    No, no…ours was supposed to be top class, everything top class so ours was all new wool

     

    TW:

    Right.  Were there any other firms around here that did that kind of shoddy work or was it all over that side?

     

    JS:

    No mostly in Dewsbury and Batley area.

     

    TW:

    Interesting.  I’d like to kind of go back a bit to your childhood again, and talk about, you know, the house that you lived in.  What was it like, the house that you lived in?

     

    JS:

    Very cramped.  One up and one down and a small cellar.  There were….mother and father who slept in kind of one corner of the bedroom with a curtain across…there were three boys in one bed…..me two older sisters might have shared a bed…..and then there was the younger sister, she were only a baby then you see, and then eventually what happened, me eldest sister died in 1939 and it upset me father so much, he says’ if we don’t get out of this house, your mother, there’ll be another funeral’ and so we managed to get a much, much larger house – three bedrooms - we thought it were marvellous, and a bathroom, because the cottage we had, obviously there were no….I remember it when we didn’t even have running water, but eventually we did get a cold water tap fitted, but we used to….normally what we used to do was, when I was probably six or seven year old, around that age, up to that age we used to go to what they called, at the end of the row of terraces there were a well there and we used to get the fresh water out of there, and as regards the toilet, we used to go outside, no flush toilets, just the old what they called bins.  The men came round in t’early hours of t’morning or during the night and emptied them.  It must have been rotten must that……but we’d some very, very happy days.  In those day I remember once when we went blackberrying – took a jam jar, I think there were probably three of us went down what they called Daisy Bank round t’Luddendenfoot area, and we left home at ten o’clock in the morning, went blackberrying, we never filled a jar because we were eating them all the time, and when we got home, probably about five or six o’clock in the evening, mother hadn’t the slightest worry……not like kiddies today where…..if you’re half an hour….out half an hour they want to know where….I’d only be seven or eight year old then.  There might have been a twelve year old in charge more or less, but…..never bothered

     

    TW:

    What other sort of things did you do in the countryside then?

     

    JS:

    Well we used to go digging for what they called hairy nuts, digging these plants up and there were nuts, like a bulb with nuts, you could eat them and we used to go playing football…..swinging on trees, anything that lads could do….we’d no television to distract us, in fact we didn’t have a radio until…I think it was 1939 when we got our first radio because Halifax was in the Cup Final at Wembley….we didn’t get it, but somebody down the road got it so of course everybody went in to listen to the commentary [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Did Halifax win?

     

    JS:

    Yes they did, twenty points to three as a matter of fact, oh it was so exciting, and then the following night, well I wouldn’t say the following night, it might have been about two to three days later, we all went down to the bottom to the main road, and Halifax had a tram - a bus - I think it would be a bus in those days, a bus with the trophy on and all the team on top and…great excitement….[laughing]

     

    TW:

    They’re not doing so well now

     

    JS:

    No, I don’t know what’s happened.  They were doing right well last year weren’t they?  I haven’t seen….have they won a match?

     

    TW:

    I think they’re near the top of the league but they didn’t get voted in to the higher league

     

    JS:

    No they didn’t

     

    TW:

    That’s what I meant really

     

    JS:

    It’s a shame really because they’ve got a nice stadium now, or it looks nice; I haven’t been down

     

    TW:

    Did you like school at all?

     

    JS:

    Oh yes, yes, school was alright.  Yes, as I say when I were four year old I went to school; I remember it….what were it….more or less playing around and then in the afternoon we all slept on camp beds for an hour or so, and then of course we got transferred from the….what do you call them….real infants into the five or six, seven year olds and then of course you were started doing your reading, writing, arithmetic as it was in those days

     

    TW:

    What was your favourite then out of those?

     

    JS:

    I was fairly good at everything, apart from at…I’m not very good at English; I didn’t understand grammar and things like that, you know.  As regards arithmetic I’m very good, even though I say so myself.  Mental arithmetic…when you see them today, if they haven’t got a computer they can’t add up and subtract, because I remember once in America, when the electric went off in the store and they hadn’t a clue how to add prices up, and I mean dollars and cents were easier to add up then pounds shillings and pence.

     

    TW:

    I’m just thinking….the firm that you worked with; they had a very long history didn’t they?

     

    JS:

    Oh yes

     

    TW:

    Do you know anything about the history of that firm?

     

    JS:

    In what respect?

     

    TW:

    Well how it’s changed over the years

     

    JS:

    It actually……it was started by Edlesons and then in…..at the start of the First World War was the time it rose to the top, because they got in….a chap came in, they called him Willy Haigh, and it would probably be about 1913 or ‘14 I think, and the firm was in a bad way.  The cloth was stacked everywhere in the warehouse, they couldn’t sell it, and he came in; he wasn’t a textile man, he was more of shall we say an accountant really, and when he came in, Maurice, the office boy, saw the opportunity and then he made himself into a salesman and then the war started in 1914; of course they cried out for everything then – blankets, any kind of….woollen cloth or anything could be made into blankets for the troops, and before he knew what had happened, he’d sold the lot, and so, wonderful, so they made him the Managing Director and he never looked back, and he lived until 1948, then he had a sudden death and so his Assistant Manager then took over running of the factory….just before the Centenary he died, and he…..John Kaye took over and he were more or less….he carried on for…..probably forty years, then his son took over and like as they say in textiles, clogs to clogs in three generations [laughing]….they went bankrupt, well they went into receivership and administration, and eventually closed down completely

     

    TW:

    Was that because of the foreign imports from the Far East and other parts?

     

    JS:

    No it was bad management.  I talked to one of them who was the Associate Director and he said ‘at the last Directors’ meeting, they were three million pound in debt; there was no question about how we were going to reduce the debt.  The only thing that came up of any importance to them was – which car are we going to have next year?  They were more interested in their cars they were going to purchase, which they couldn’t afford, rather than trying to save the firm.

     

    TW:

    That’s a shame really.

     

    JS:

    Oh it is, yes.  It was a very good, very well managed company for all those years – all the years that I knew them, like I say, going back to 1914 when the chap knew what to do, because it didn’t fall into his lap; they said he was going to work at probably seven o’clock in a morning doing a couple of hours work, then he’d be on the train to Liverpool or on the train to London selling cloth anywhere or anything, and he worked long hours like we did, and he made the company what it was, established it and that, and then of course as I was saying the young fellow that came in, he was bright eyed here; his father was too old-fashioned and he was going to turn it round and do everything, and they finished up three million pound in debt, the bank said ‘we want your money’ and didn’t even get it

     

    TW:

    Well when he tried to change it round, what did he try to change then?

     

    JS:

    Oh all sorts, you know.....he thought he knew everything you know; his father was too old-fashioned and he’d spend money, try to modernise and of course…..it’s good to modernise and keep abreast of everything, but it’s a case of can we afford to do it, or if we can afford it, can we do a little bit this year and a little bit next year and the year after and you know, like ten year plans and five year plans rather than try to do it overnight which, I mean young people are the same, I suppose I might have been the same when I were  young, trying to do things too quickly.

     

    TW:

    When it went into receivership then, what happened to the firm?

     

    JS:

    They came in, Price Waterhouse came in and……they tried to find a buyer but of course nobody would buy it and then there was big headlines in the Courier – ‘twenty jobs saved at William Edlesons’ but they didn’t tell about the over the hundred that had lost – they thought they’d done a wonderful job, you know, but there again that’s reporting isn’t it?  They twist it round….and they moved to Huddersfield…..that’s what they do when try to sell businesses, is people buying part of it, sections, so they bought a section, moved it to Huddersfield, but as far as I know everything’s gone completely now.  Edlesons’s name is forgotten about – nothing.

     

    TW:

    Right.  I was thinking again, back to when you were young…..did you grow vegetables or things like that?

     

    JS:

    Yes, my father….we hadn’t a garden of course, back-to-back cottages didn’t have a garden - well we’d a small garden up on the hill, but it was only more or less for growing flowers, but what he did was…..she were a nurse this lady who lived on her own and she’d a bungalow on Warley Wood Avenue which wasn’t too far away from  where we lived, and what she did, the arrangement was, I think my father did the little bit of the front garden for her and then he had the whole of the back garden, which would be what….probably about thirty yards long, and he grew all kinds of vegetables there, then we used to make…..he made what they called a bogie, like a wooden wheelbarrow style thing, and he used to take that on because he grew that much we had to wheel it on home and when he grew potatoes like you know, he dug them up and….course he had it to do because you know, couldn’t afford….well, they were saving money for something else

     

    TW:

    Did your mother cook all kinds of food?  Did your mother do baking and things?

     

    JS:

    Yes, bread, baked her own bread and that……and we’d what they called the fireside oven.  You’d a fire in the middle; you opened up one side and then you’d the water boiler at the other side with hot water, because as I say we’d no running hot water, and then Friday night was bath night, get the old tin bath out [laughing]….I was the cleanest of the boys so I always went in first, because when two or three had had a bath, it was getting a bit dirty.

     

    TW:

    Whereabouts was the well, the spring where you got your water from?

     

    JS:

    Just at the end of the terrace.  It were about six…..round about….yes there’d be six houses in the terrace and at the end…..do you know Water Hill Lane?  You know Friendly…….you know where Friendly Band Room is?

     

    TW:

    I know where that is, yes.

     

    JS:

    The Band Room.  Well if you turn left up there and then you’ll see the row of cottages about maybe a hundred yards up

     

    TW:

    I know where you mean

     

    JS:

    Then on your left there, there’s the well.  There’s like a little recess in the wall and  you’ll see the well.

     

    TW:

    I’ll have a look next time I go past there.

     

    JS:

    It’s beautiful water

     

    TW:

    It’s nearly….it’s on the road that goes up to the Maypole at Warley isn’t it?

     

    JS:

    Yeh, well you can’t go up it now you see.  They’ve made it a one-way now, you can only come down it

     

    TW:

    Did you ever go in the Maypole?

     

    JS:

    Oh yes, well in fact there was at the end of our row of cottages, there was….what did they call the pub…..White Lion I think it was called…..but it was……it wasn’t a pub as we know it today, it was just more or less one room and….I wasn’t old enough to drink of course in them days, but my father went on and as far as I remember they all had….they didn’t have glasses, they had pint pots, and the landlord would be there, and they might have only had four or five customers in, I don’t know if there’d be a dartboard or they might have played dominoes or something like that, but that’s all –there were no snooker tables and things like pool tables like there is today, no jukebox, they just sat there and talked as far as I know

     

    TW:

    I was just wondering about the Maypole, how it got its name – do you know anything about that?

     

    JS:

    Well there would be a maypole there….I don’t know, over the years they’ve put the maypole up at odd times on May Day.  I don’t know if they’ve done it recently or not, or whether they’re doing it now or not

     

    TW:

    Did they do it when you were young then?  Did that happen?

     

    JS:

    Yes, yes we did yeh.

     

    TW:

    Did it stop after the war?

     

    JS: 

    Probably after the war and that.  You see, everything stopped you know during the war more or less you know, nothing happened really because they were concentrating on winning the damned the war that was all.

     

    TW:

    I’m just curious; you’ve lived in a number of different places all around that area.  How do you compare like Norland to Friendly to…..and then Sowerby Bridge?

     

    JS:

    Well Norland….my mother always used to say she liked to visit Norland because when she went home she’d the best night’s sleep over there, so she thought the atmosphere was good and it was…..Norland would be…..north facing wouldn’t it……north facing whereas Friendly was south facing, so it would probably be warmer and things like that…..and then of course you see it was different…..when I lived up Friendly I was a child and when I lived up Norland I was a married man with two children

     

    TW:

    That’s true, yes

     

    JS:

    Although it were nice and that, but people used to walk – well they walked everywhere because nobody had cars or anything like that in those days, apart from the boss of a factory or something like that

     

    TW:

    What do your children do?  What kind of work do they do?

     

    JS:

    My son is a service engineer, travels all over the country, Ireland as well, sometimes on the Continent putting in what they call……the machines, you know, you’ll have seen them in a car factory, these with robot arms and things like that, he services those

     

    TW:

    Oh I see, right

     

    JS:

    My daughter went into….when she left school she went into….banking with the Yorkshire Bank, worked with them for quite a few years, met her husband, same as here, normal carry on in our family, you meet your husband don’t you and your wife through work; he’s a Business Banking Manager, but she’s left the banking now, she’s an Office Receptionist, Office Manager sorry, at a doctor’s practice.  Very very happy as well because the banking world, there’s so much pressure on them today and everything, even though she were only working part-time after she had the children, the pressure was still on her to get new business and this that and the other, she couldn’t stand it….her husband’s the same; apparently he’s the top man in the business banking but they tried to get rid of him……but they don’t want to have to pay him redundancy, so they kind of what they do now, they transfer them round to different jobs.

     

    TW:

    Well that must disrupt your home life quite a bit

     

    JS:

    Well bear in mind it had got to the stage where I don’t think he was right bothered; he’s plenty of contacts because as I say he’s a top manager’s job, he’s plenty of contacts and of course their children and grand-children are grown up now, so I should imagine the house will be nearly paid for and that, so they’re in a better position than many top people are….well I hope so anyway.

     

    TW:

    When did you come to Mytholmroyd then?

     

    JS:

    When we came back from America we lived at….in Pye Nest and we were working at Edleson’s then.  What we did in…..1973, we started caravanning; the children were the right age and everything, they were eleven and twelve so we could tell them what to do.  We went caravanning for three or four years; of course they got to be sixteen, seventeen, didn’t want to go with us so we sold the caravan and we bought a cottage up Old Town, a derelict cottage, and we spent a few years going up at weekends doing it up and modernising it, putting a bathroom in, central heating and things like that, and then eventually we…..1990 they brought in, what was it – Poll Tax weren’t it I think?

     

    TW:

    That’s right, yes

     

    JS:

    And that meant we were going to have to pay for….I had all my finance….my daughter by then had got married, so my son was still at home living with us and we said ‘right, we’re going to move up to Old Town’…..’I don’t want to go to Old Town’….So what do you want to do’, so anyway,  so what we did then, because we’d paid only a small sum for the cottage, we managed to pay what little mortgage, we paid that off so that was….and we’d bought the other for cash so we paid that off, and sold it to him at a reasonable price and we moved up to Old Town, and then shortly after I was made redundant, that would be about 1990, ’91 made redundant, so I kind of…..I was sixty year old then, I thought ‘I’m not gonna get another job’ so I checked my savings and said ‘oh I’ll manage to last and see what happens.  The wife was only working part-time and for what she was earning I couldn’t claim anything for her, so she gave up work then, six months later gave up work, and I claimed a little bit for her being my dependent, but then when I was sixty one or two, watching your savings go down until you get the state pension at sixty five, however we survived and that, and then fortunately I got a small pension from America

     

    TW:

    Oh did you really?

     

    JS:

    Someone my wife was friendly with, somebody who got either the Independent or Telegraph, they sent me this cutting saying that anybody that had worked in America could get a pension, so I got in touch with the American Embassy and……told them I’d been there five years, I’d done this that and t’other, gave them my social security number and then they said ‘oh, right, you can have a small pension’ – not a large pension, but it’s paid in the bank every month or so and it’s surprising how it mounts up if you don’t touch it you know, for a holiday and things like that

     

    TW:

    So when you left Old Town, did you come here to Mytholmroyd where you are now, here?

     

    JS:

    Yes.  We moved to Old Town in….as I say, we’d been going up there for, oh, well over ten years at weekends; in t’holidays we’d stay up there for two or three days and then going back home and….my wife went back home and cleaned for the son and looked after him, you know, when he was on his own, and then when we got….it were…..what would it be….I was approaching seventy year old and we decided then, the bus service up Old Town was very poor in those days and although I was still running a car, I realised that when the time came, if I couldn’t afford to run the car or I couldn’t drive, we’d be kind of stuck up there so….and the trouble with Old Town is that as soon as ever you went out of the cottage it was either walk down hill or walk uphill, so we looked at this place and we moved here in ’99, and we’ve been very happy since….you know, it’s on the main road, you’ve a good bus service, a good train service, five minutes to the train, and also a nice walk to Hebden Bridge, do my shopping, if I want to call at t’doctor’s or anything like that and catch the bus back, and it’s all on the level

     

    TW:

    Yes.  Has Mytholmroyd changed then since you’ve lived here?  Have you seen any changes happen?

     

    JS:

    No, they’ve more or less just extended Caldene Avenue that’s all, then across…..I don’t know what there was…I think there were an engineering works where Longfellow Court is now

     

    TW:

    That’s right, yes

     

    JS:

    And they’ve made a good job of the memorial gardens and the doctor’s surgery, that was all built……it used to be a doctor’s house I believe and then they opened it all up and modernised it and made a large car park there, and so it’s like…..a nice doctor’s surgery now, you know.

     

    TW:

    Do you remember at all, all the shops that used to be in Mytholmroyd, because there’s not many today is there?

     

    JS:

    Well Barclays Bank, I remember that closing down……actually you see because, in some respects it’s better now because you’ve got what’s it called – Sainsbury’s, it used to be a Spar did that before but Sainsbury’s took over and they seem to have more variety and stock more goods, and then the Co-op have opened next to the…..they’ve that small supermarket next to the garage, but of course it’s killed one or two of the small businesses you know, a few closed, and then there was a little supermarket over the back here, I forget what they called it, but it was a very inaccessible spot off Cragg Vale Road, I don’t know if they did much business or not, but that’s closed now.

     

    TW:

    Right.  I mean you came on my walk last year, I mean that’s how we met.  Are you interested in sort of the history of old mills and that sort of thing, or is it just by the by

     

    JS:

    No, it’s just what….these things crop up.  I thought you’d be interested in this what I’ve got, so I dropped it off for you, you know

     

    TW:

    It’s fascinating stuff, it’s very fascinating that information, yeah.

     

    JS:

    No, I like to…..as I say, I enjoyed that walk of yours very much indeed, but it was too much for me, I must admit that, you know, in fact I don’t know….two ladies, they were very good, they helped me out, you know, I did really appreciate it, then of course I caught the bus back down to…

     

    TW:

    Well I might be able to put something your way if you’re interested in history because a friend of mine who was born and raised here in Mytholmroyd, he and his friends, they’ve done a list of all the businesses and all the shops, and there were over forty shops in Mytholmroyd at one time, and also forty five different businesses, and they’ve made a big list of them for me.  Hardly any of them are there any more, but it’s interesting to have a read of that, I mean I could pass it on to you if you wanted me to

     

    JS:

    Oh I would like that, yes.

     

    TW:

    I’ll make a list of that and send it on.  I’ve got your address so I can post it to you if you like.

     

    JS:

    Whichever easier – I can pick it up if you want, whichever, I know you probably wouldn’t know when you’re at home and things like that….whatever’s easiest

     

    TW:

    Yeah okay, I’ll do that.

     

    JS:

    Because as I say I’m…..not only me – we go dancing a lot, of course I’m over eighty now you see, as you know like, but I have friends…..Reggie, he’ll be eighty four or five and I know…..I know a few people, old people in Mytholmroyd, who might also be interested in it, and might even shed some light onto things

     

    TW:

    Oh that would be interesting, yes, that would be great.  So where do you go dancing?

     

    JS:

    We go Todmorden Town Hall, you know when we were on the walk up to Jack Bridge

     

    TW:

    That’s right…..Hudson Mill

     

    JS:

    It were the last one on the right, we used to go dancing – well he still does the dancing – but he has a dance floor in his basement, a proper dance floor, but he does that , and then we go to….St Michael’s Church on here and that’s about it now because we’ve cut down.  As you get older and that, you do tend to cut down a little bit and also we used to go to Brighouse but the point is now, it’s……the petrol – I don’t use the car unless I’m more or less forced, I mean I still use it but t’same as this morning, I’ve been to Gordon Rigg’s; well I went on the bus, you know, I’ve plenty of time you see, different when you’re working, you know

     

    TW:

    Yeah that’s very true.  This dancing at the Hudson Mill up the Colden Valley.  Do you know the chap who does that then?

     

    JS:

    Oh yes, Peter King.

     

    TW:

    Oh right.  And has he been doing that for a lot of years then?

     

    JS:

    He’s just done twenty years at the…..Todmorden Town Hall.  They had a presentation for him the other week.  I don’t know whether you get the Hebden Bridge Times or not

     

    TW:

    I do, yes

     

    JS:

    Actually I should have asked them because I know when we were there, the photographer were there taking pictures and we don’t bother with the papers because we go away quite a bit.  I do pick them up occasionally but I don’t want them delivering regular, because if you’re not here like regular, so I don’t….but yes, he’s raised many, many thousands of pounds for charity.  These are the people that should be given the knighthoods, not these that….knows somebody that knows somebody else [laughing]……that’s my opinion of course.

     

    TW:

    I must admit he would be an interesting person to talk to about dancing in that mill and the history of that mill because it’s very, very old isn’t it?  Is it sort of seven hundred years old then?

     

    JD:

     I don’t know.  I’ll tell you what – as I say, he’s getting on for ninety now, but I could have a word, tell him what your idea is and if he does get, you know, if he’s interested – they’re a bit……everybody’s different in this world

     

    TW:

    Of course.

     

    JS:

    His wife might be really keen if it’s about dancing, you know, and of course  you want to talk….it isn’t publicising dancing really is it?  It would be more or less dancing in the mill you’re interested in.

     

    TW:

    Well it’s the building and the activities that go on in it, because I’ve spoken to a lot of older people born, you know, in the thirties and in the twenties as well, and dancing was the big, big thing in this valley, and they had them all over.  They had one in the Co-op in Hebden Bridge and even at…..a few other places

     

    JS:

    Up in the National Trust

     

    TW:

    That’s it, Gibson Mill

     

    JS:

    Gibson Mill, yes

     

    TW:

    And I’m just really curious to know about how…you know, how many people did it and what kind of dances and what kind of music and just the history of the dancing I think would be fascinating

     

    JS:

    Yes, yes, well all I can do is ask; I’ll have a word

     

    TW: 

    Well you have my phone number on the back of that don’t you?

     

    JS:

    Yes. Well actually what I did Tony, I wrote it down; I checked 1471 and I wrote it down, just in case I needed to contact you, you know, to say I couldn’t keep this one o’clock appointment

     

    TW:

    I see.  Well if you could do that, that would be great.  If he wants to then I’ll get in touch, but if he doesn’t want to that’s fine as well.

     

    JS:

    Yeh, well if you don’t hear from me, you know, it’s a no-go.

     

    TW:

    Okay fine.

     

    JS:

    But you’re more or less interested in the mill and the dancing, you’re wanting to know about the history of the dancing for the last… you know, for the….when would they start dancing?  They’d be dancing what…..round about the war time wouldn’t they?

     

    TW:

    Yeah.

     

    JS:

    You see because, I don’t know what happened but…….this is his second wife….now whether it’s with her that he’s got into dancing, in fact he might only know the last twenty years

     

    TW:

    Well that would be fine, that would be fine

     

    JS:

    Yeh, well they do dancing – like I say they organise the dancing at Todmorden Town Hall, in fact his presentations………Citizen……what they call it….Citizen of the Year of Todmorden or something like that.  I went to one a couple of year back where they were presenting him with this plaque

     

    TW:

    Oh that’s great.

     

    JS:

    Well I’ll certainly have a word with him Tony, and see what he…..

     

    TW:

    Before we started recording you were mentioning about young people today, not knowing that much about the history of the place where they live.  Do you think it’s important that young people should know how the place they live, how it’s changed and the things that have gone on there.  Do you think it’s important for them to know that history?

     

    JS:

    Oh yes I do think so, because the thing is you see, when I was a young fella, like I were telling….cos I were only six, seven when me father were doing all the gardening, but then we moved to another house and we got a reasonable sized garden.  Father used to do gardening and then we’d go out and he’d say ‘do a bit of weeding’ well……but I wish now, although I picked a lot up, I wish now that I’d taken a lot more interest in, and I think this is what the trouble with young people is today.  I’m not saying that….it’s a nice little trait isn’t it, that they want to do their own thing and all like that something that they’re not interested in, but sometimes you think afterwards in life ‘oh I wish I’d taken more notice of that at the time’ yes….

     

    TW:

    Well I’ve only got one other question really.  Is there anything that you would like to say that I haven’t asked about?  Is there anything about your life or about this area that you’d like to say something about that I haven’t asked?

     

    JS:

    No I think we’ve got through it pretty well like and that, you know……I can’t think off-hand of anything…..we’ve covered the working life more or less haven’t we?  The hours I’ve worked and what I did…….the only other thing about…going back to working life……when people got to be sixty five year old they didn’t retire like the do today on pension; they stopped working over and then when they got to maybe seventy, they were still working so then they’d go on to what they called …not all of them but the majority would look for what they call a part-time job and they’d be coming in a morning, maybe nine o’clock and work till lunch time sweeping up, because there was no such thing in textiles as people retiring; maybe the odd one or two and that, but most just worked until they died.

     

    TW:

    Was that because they didn’t have a good pension or was it just

     

    JS:

    Well the only pension they had were the state pension and that.

     

    TW:

    So they needed to make more money even at that age

     

    JS:

    Yes, well the state pension never really, I mean…..things are better today because they’ve got benefits and disability – not disability – what they call it……I can’t think of it, because I don’t qualify for it, but……anyway they do get help…..most people get help of some sort today and that, but they just couldn’t afford to retire and that.

     

    TW:

    So it’s a good thing that some people get help today then really?

     

    JS:

    Well it is to a certain extent, I mean there’s a lot of people getting far too much help, in my opinion

     

    TW:

    Okay, fair enough! [laughing]  okay, well we’ll finish there then and thank you very much.

     

    JD:

    I think we’ve covered everything, I can’t think of anything else

     

     [END OF TRACK 1]

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About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Get in touch

Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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