Remembering the many wonders of Woolworths

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I OFTEN wonder how I’d ever manage to fill this column if it wasn’t for those good people who dig out old photographs and post them to me.

Recently, I showed a photograph of staff at Dewsbury Woolworth’s sent in by Trevor Hirst, whose late wife, Margaret, worked there.

This prompted one former employee, Lesley Mortimer (nee Harrison), to send in the photograph which appears on this page, and another Woolworth’s “fairy”, Janet Fahey, to write to me as well about her time there.

Janet, who started working at Woolworth’s in 1959 after leaving school was great friends with Margaret and Lesley, and there are many others she remembers with great affection.

“Many people who worked there became close and formed life-long friendships,” she said. “We were all mates together. We went to each other’s weddings. Margaret became godmother to my daughter, Beverley.

“It was a happy place and we had lots of fun. I remember a group of us setting off on the train one Tuesday, which was half-day closing, and going to look round Rowntrees in York. We had a great time.”

She also recalls the day a professional photographer went to the store to take photographs of all the staff.

“I don’t know why they took all our photographs but they gave us all a copy. I still have mine. We went to work that day all dolled up in our shift dresses with our make-up and hair immaculate. There will be a lot of people who worked there who will remember the unforgettable late Roy Butcher from Thornhill. He was a warehouse lad and played cheeky tricks on the girls. He was great fun.”

Janet also remembers the manager, Mr Osbourne, who everyone, liked, and the under-manager David Greaves, and his wife Carole, who also worked there.

“I have so many happy memories of my time at Woolies. Those were the days.”

Every now and again when I look through old Reporter files I come across snippets of news which in themselves might not seem of great importance but which I feel might interest readers of today.

One in particular which caught my eye related to the honesty of a girl called Pauline Smith, 15, from Dewsbury.

The story appeared in 1976 and was only a couple of paragraphs, but it is worth reporting on again.

It said: “A 15-year-old Dewsbury girl was rewarded on Tuesday by a Crown Court judge. Pauline Smith, of Greenwood Street, was given £5 from public funds for handing in a bundle of notes dropped by a fleeing thief.

“Judge Raymond Dean QC, sitting at Wakefield Crown Court, told her, ‘You found £20, and very properly and very honestly handed it in. I am a great believer in rewarding honesty and you will be given something from public funds to buy something nice for Christmas.’

“Pauline, who sat at the back of court while her evidence was read, said afterwards: ‘The money is going in a frame with a certificate and I will keep it forever.’

I wonder if she did.

ANOTHER interesting item which appeared in 1964 referred to 17 out of 466 male school leavers having tattoos.

The medical officer of health, Dr T W Robinson, said it was with regret that he had to record that finding.

He said: “These boys have been allowed to disfigure themselves at an age when they are in my opinion unable to make their own decisions, and further, they have run the risk of a surgical operation with its consequent sequela which can prove dangerous.

“I cannot stress too forcibly to parents that this fashion should be discouraged by every means in their power.”

I cannot help wondering if any of those 17 boys are still living in Dewsbury – and do they still have their tattoos?