Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Favourite shops are long gone but we still have our memories
Margaret Watson writes: All the shops now have different names and selling different products and even good old Yorkshire Bank, which is still there, has been renamed and given a brand new look.
I couldn’t help thinking back to the shops we once knew and loved and the days when Dewsbury town centre was a busy place full of life.
When I got home I decided to go through my old photographs to find some of the shops which held fond memories for me.
It didn’t take me long to find the one pictured of the staff who used to work at Woolworths (now a discount store) when I had a Saturday job there in the 1950s.
This photograph was one which was brought into our office some years ago by Trevor Hirst, whose wife Margaret had worked there as a supervisor, and her sister Ann, as window dresser.
This was in the days when if you worked at a place and put in a good word for a relative, that was enough to get them a job there as well.
Many sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles, worked at the same place, and many firms, like Woolworths, never had to advertise for staff.
I haven’t seen Trevor for some years, and don’t know if he is still with us, but if he is I’m sure he’d be pleased that I was writing about a company which his wife had loved working for.
The photograph reminded me of a few things about Woolworth’s which I’d forgotten, like the tea bar where customers could get a cuppa.
It was situated at the back of the store which customers could approach from the side door and down a few steps.
There were no tables, just 15 chairs and four attendants serving drinks, and I was surprised to think that I could have forgotten all about it, but I had.
But memory can play tricks on us all, especially as we get older, which is why we sometimes end up getting into arguments in the pub on a Saturday night when we start recalling old times.
People will swear black and blue about a certain thing, and sadly there are few people left now who we can ring up to settle it for us.
That is why these days I’m reluctant to push my point of view too far, even when I feel a hundred per cent certain, because, as I said, memory can play tricks on us all.
I hope there are some reading this column today who have fond memories of Woolworth’s and can remember sitting on those maroon leather chairs at the tea bar, sipping a cuppa all those years ago.
It was just before my 16th birthday when I started working at Woolworth’s in 1957, and I thought I was the luckiest girl alive to have landed a job there.
Forget Marks and Spencer’s just across the road, as far as I was concerned, Woolies was the place for me in those days. It was a brilliant place to work at.
Far more relaxed and easy going for a teenager than posh Marks and Spencer’s, and, anyway, the kind of customers at Woolies, were more up my street.
I was delighted when I got the make-up counter to look after. It meant I was able to have a chat with all my friends who came trooping in on Saturday afternoons.
We would discuss what we were going to wear that night at the Ben Riley dance hall as well as who was the lad we currently had our eye on, which usually changed from week to week.
My customers would ask advice on what make-up to wear but always went home with the cheapest, Outdoor Girl, which we were told all the top Hollywood stars, wore. If only.
The colours they chose were always the same, pale pink lipstick, blue eye-shadow, and black eye-liner, later to become Dusty Springfield’s trademark.
Looking at the photograph above brought back such happy memories of my teenage years in Dewsbury.
What a bustling town centre it was, always full of happy, smiling people. Or perhaps I imagined that.
Or have I put my rose-coloured spectacles on again?
But it was lovely in those days to work in the town centre and in a shop where you seemed to know all the customers, and for bosses who were great.
We weren’t restricted by health and safety rules, and when we ran out of anything on our counter, we just nipped up to the stock room and brought down whatever we thought we needed.
We were never bored because we were kept busy with a constant stream of customers, and it was brilliant at lunchtime when we could dash across town to Dewsbury Market to buy a new blouse to wear for our Saturday night out.
And, if there was time, pop into the Bon Bon Coffee Bar in the bus station for a cup of frothy coffee, or into Caddy’s Ice Cream Parlour for a quick ice cream.
I still cannot believe we no longer have a Woolworth’s in Dewsbury, or anywhere else in the country for that matter. What happened there I will never know.
Marks and Spencer’s was the first of the two stores to close, and Woolies followed suit shortly after.
It was like a black cloud descending on Dewsbury when these two lovely stores closed down. Some of us still mourn their loss.
Dewsbury, for me, has not been the same since, but you could say the same for many other town centres at the moment as more and people shop from the comfort of their home – online!
But we still have our memories.