The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

IF YOU examine the picture on this page closely you will see that it tells a story of what Dewsbury town centre used to be like on busy shopping days.

It also provides us with little bits of information which we always knew about but may have forgotten.

Bustling area: This Dewsbury town centre photograph shows the Fifty Shilling tailors on the right, along with Marks and Spencer and Woolworths.

Bustling area: This Dewsbury town centre photograph shows the Fifty Shilling tailors on the right, along with Marks and Spencer and Woolworths.

For instance, look at the railings on both sides of the road and ponder for a while why there were so many of them and why were they there?

If you are old enough, you will remember that shoppers in those days had to be literally “caged” for their own safety because stepping into the road would have they’d be knocked down.

There was no Ring Road in those days and no “one-way” traffic system, which meant buses, lorries and cars could travel freely whichever way they chose.

There is something else in this picture you may notice, two major stores facing each other – Marks and Spencer, on the left, and Woolworths on the right.

In recent weeks a number of readers have contacted me with memories of their childhood in Dewsbury and recalling all the shops which once existed here.

They remember the hustle and bustle generated along the various streets, including Northgate, Daisy Hill, Market Place and Corporation Street.

Many have also talked about their teenage years and described what a brilliant place Dewsbury was for entertainment, both daytime and night-time.

Some have mentioned the names of old friends which has helped those who have lost touch to get in touch again.

For this reason alone, I am indebted to all those who have written to me, and I do plan to publish all their recollections in coming weeks.

This week I have more reminiscences from John Croft, who writes not only about the Saturdays he went shopping with his mother, but also the early days of television.

He writes:

“Some Saturday mornings we would call at Hagenbachs to buy a miniature Hovis brown loaf costing 1d, then it was along the road to the Playhouse Cinema for the ABC Minors.

“If you were old enough, or even more importantly tall enough, you could sit upstairs in the balcony area.

“If it was your birthday week, you could go out front onto the stage and collect a present.

“Years later I shared an office at ICI Huddersfield with Nigel Stephenson, of Rugby League fame, and he told me he’d had six birthdays a year at The Minors, and never got rumbled once!

“Then it was time for the Minors’ anthem with the black dot bouncing across the words on the screen.

“The verse was sung through twice and then the action began. Look it up on YouTube and I guarantee you’ll be singing along to it.

“Another treat was going to Worfolks toy shop near Caddy’s, and gazing through the glass encased counter at all those desirable toys. Dinky vehicles, Meccano and Bayko were the toys of choice.

“I cannot remember but I think it was Greenwood’s shop, near Caddy’s, which had an automaton of a cobbler in the window.

“My visits to Caddy’s usually meant I’d been to the dentist called Tartellin to have a tooth pulled.

“If I remember correctly, it was up Leeds Cutting.

“The smell of the gas and air they put you under put the fear in me, because I knew I would soon be biting on a spring and having the mask put over my face.

“My mother believed the ice cream would speed up the healing process, and who was I to argue with such logic if it meant sitting down to a Caddy’s.

“The Caddy’s van was a regular visitor to our neighbourhood and also Crossley’s, who had the most amazing cider flavoured ice lollies. We used to suck them so hard you were left with just ice on a stick.

“Another memory is of families starting to get televisions with the H or X shaped aerials appearing on smoking chimney stacks.

“The smoke helped fuel the annual smog season. Sometimes it was so dense people had to walk to work or school because the buses couldn’t run.

“The great day finally arrived when we got our own TV, and the family could sit down to watch it while I honed my new found skill of being the horizontal hold adjuster, and trying to stop the picture rolling round.

“Because the knob was on the back panel I couldn’t see the screen and had to take instructions from the family such as – “lower, lower... that’s it... oh no, it’s going the other way now!” I didn’t get to watch much TV.

“Harry Laycock, who has been mentioned before, lived next door to my Auntie in a yard off Lees Hall Road, Thornhill Lees.

“During the summer holidays he would stand on The Tops at Thornhill Edge and blow the animal horn that he always carried.

“This summoned all the kids to go for a walk, all of us trailing along in a long line behind him as though he was The Pied Piper.

“Harry would point out the flora and fauna to us, but if anyone was messing about he would tap them on the head with a shillelagh he carried, saying – ‘A bonk on the conk – now get to the back’.

“He was a lovely bloke and I can’t imagine anything like that happening or being allowed today.”

JOHN’S memories, I hope, will encourage others to email me at tresham3@gmail – with their recollections of Dewsbury.

On a more sombre note, may I remind readers that this coming Sunday is Remembrance Sunday and a Service of Remembrance will be held at Dewsbury Minster Church starting at 10.30am, followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the war memorial in Crow Nest Park.