The Nostalgia Column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

THE picture on this page shows just one of the many part-time evening jobs women undertook to help pay the bills.

Many of them had worked in the mills as weavers before getting married but took evening jobs after their babies were born.

NIGHT SHIFT: Four happy working women with their buckets and mops getting ready to give the offices at Wormalds and Walkers in Thornhill Lees, a good cleaning. Women like these worked evenings to supplement the family income so their children could have a better life.

NIGHT SHIFT: Four happy working women with their buckets and mops getting ready to give the offices at Wormalds and Walkers in Thornhill Lees, a good cleaning. Women like these worked evenings to supplement the family income so their children could have a better life.

This week, one mother (not pictured) didn’t have to worry about child-minders during school holidays because her boss let her take her children into work with her.

She was Jackie Kureshi, who recently wrote to this column about the days when she worked at Wigglesworth’s China and Wool Shop in Daisy Hill.

This week she is writing about the other jobs she did in the days when you could walk out of one job and straight into another on the same day.

She writes: “When I was living in Chickenley and my children started school, I went back to work part-time in 1972 at Eric Stott’s in Batley Carr, as a wiper cutter.

“There were so many mills on Bradford Road at that time that if you were looking for a job you could take your pick.

“During school holidays I was allowed to take my children with me into work. Can you imagine that being allowed today?

“It was a very hazardous workplace. We had machines with big cutting blades, also it was on the second storey, and the crane door was always open to winch in he bales of rags.

“We just didn’t seem to think of the danger, but other people also took their children into work as well

“My first job had been at Wigglesworth’s in Daisy Hill, a shop selling china and wool, where I worked for four years. It was one of the happiest periods of my life.

“Mr Greenwood, who owned the shop, paid for me and another girl, Pat Hirst, to go to Batley Art College to do a course in window dressing. I loved it.

“Afterwards, he had me doing the shop window displays. One day he told me to put in the window an old tea-set we’d had in the storeroom for years, and to put alongside it a very modern one.

“He said if we managed to sell it he’d give us ten shillings. Alas it never sold but the modern one did.

“The china we sold was delivered to the shop in tea chests packed with straw, and Rennie, the other shop assistant, and me, were usually given the job of unpacking it.

“We had to take each piece out and tap it with a pencil, and depending on the sound it made, you could tell if it was cracked or not.

“Wigglesworth’s was a very spooky place in which to work, and nobody liked going upstairs into the store room after dark on your own.

“Mr Greenwood always said when he turned out the lights at night and walked down the shop to the front door, the hairs on the back of his head would stand up because it was as though someone was watching him.

“There were many other shops in the town centre which are now long gone, and I remember many of them, like Saxone and Stylo, two shoe shops, Readicut wool shop, near where the fish restaurant is now.

“We used to go to the cinema. One of the first films me and my friend went to see in 1961 was ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, starring Audrey Hepburn. We talked about it for weeks afterwards.

“I left Wigglesworth’s in 1964, and my friend, Margaret Tuke, left with me. We both got a job at Fox’s Biscuits in Batley, working on the production line.

“The wage was twice what we were paid at Wigglesworth’s and we only worked five days a week – no Saturdays. We were in heaven!

“We went dancing at night to the Ben Riley Hall and Town Hall, and also to the Ambulance Rooms in Ravensthorpe, where Margaret lived.

“Margaret left Fox’s to get married in 1965, and I left also and started working in a mill in Savile Town which stood where Asda is now. It manufactured knitting wool. I think it was called Texet.

“I got married in 1965, and we bought a house at the bottom of Halifax Road, at the back of the Rose and Crown pub. It was a steep little road called Spinkwell Hill.

“The house was a one-up-one-down with a cellar and an outside toilet. We paid £150 for it and the mortgage was £1 a week which we paid to the solicitor, not to the bank.

“The houses in Spinkwell Hill have been pulled down and a bungalow has been built on the site. We lived next door to a journalist from the Reporter, John Hewitt, who I had also gone to school with.

“They were happy days.”

Another reader, who enjoys recalling happy days in Dewsbury, is Brian Webster, who sent me the following letter this week:

“Hi, Margaret,

“You cannot believe the joy you bring me when I read the wonderful letters you post in your weekly column. They bring back some wonderful memories of the past.

“Regarding your letter from John Taylor, who asked if I was the same Brian Webster who lived at 38 Swithenbank Avenue. Yes, John I am.

“My brother John was my elder brother and a best friend to me, but we sadly lost him to cancer a few years ago, Dewsbury was our John’s town and like me, he loved Dewsbury.

“We used to go to the Bon Bon for a coffee and then through the snicket past Stringers second hand furniture shop to the Little Saddle pub.

“I wonder if anyone remembers the record shop up the Arcade or the waiting room in the old bus station where we used to do a bit of courting?

“It was a good place to meet on a Friday if you couldn’t afford a coffee at the Bon Bon.

“Margaret Please keep up the wonderful job you are doing with your weekly write ups.

Kind regards, Brian Webster.