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My Autobiography

Dennis Arthur Chown

February 2006

 

To recall my life so far I must endeavour to dig deep into my memory and can justify the reason for writing this autobiography in the hope it may be of some interest and probably amusement to whoever find they wish to know a thing or two about my life so far. The sequel of events may not necessarily be in chronological order as I remember them but will be as near to as possible I hope.

 

I was born in Pitsmoor Sheffield on the 28th June 1928 at my Auntie Polly's House, which was near to where I lived at 82 Sedan Street with my Father, Arthur and Mother, Mary Jane, and Sister Joan, who was four years older than me. The house was a terraced house with kitchen, a middle room with a large black oven and fireplace in which I had my bath in front of the big roaring fire, and a front room hardly ever used, but which had a large aspidistra in the window. The back yard was quite large, with a gentle slope where I pedalled my toy car around, and also housed the lavatory. We had friends in the same yard, but in particular a childless couple Mr. and Mrs. Dungworth. He had something to do with transport and was the first person I know who ever owned a car, and they took us to Doncaster one day for a run out. It was in this car that I first experienced the joys of driving; he took me round to the petrol station one day and while he was in the garage paying for his petrol the car, being on a slight incline, decided to take off. Luckily, he managed to run after it and bring it to a halt - whether it was my fault or not I shall never know, but nothing was said to my knowledge. I guess I would be about five at the time. We had a small allotment near to Firshill School and I was often taken up there by my Dad and recall most vividly being taken short one day and placed very unceremoniously on a plant pot to do what one has to do.

 

The short time I was at Firshill School I had mastered my reading & writing but not my arithmetic. The only notable thing I recall was being taken to the playing fields near by the school one day and given flags to wave as it was to celebrate the Silver Wedding of George V, which I have found was on the 6th May 1935, so I would be nearly six years old then. Due to those terrible days of the depression in the thirties my Dad became out of work at the Bessemer's steel works where he had been employed as a Turner. Soon we moved to Ford, which I found to be so exciting, being in the country, after the boxed in surroundings of town life. He had found new employment as Gardener at Oak House, which came with a cottage on the edge of the estate. We had all fresh vegetables, fruit, apples, eggs etc. but my favourite was the pond with a small rowing boat where one could do a bit of fishing, although I don't remember ever catching any. I clearly recall a massive wooden shed and it was in that shed where I learned to ride a bike. The orchard was very bountiful and the harvest was such that we wrapped the surplus apples to be stored for winter use by Francis the Cook who came down from Marsh Lane where she lived, on a daily basis. It was through her that I tasted my first home-made ice cream. All I remembered of a similar delicacy was when the Walls ice cream man used to come round on the three wheeler bicycle cart selling a type of iced lollypop in a blue triangular cardboard tube, and you had to keep pushing the lollypop up it as you went along sucking it. This of course was when we lived at Sedan Street.

 

Across the road was nothing but fields and woods all the way over to Eckington, except for a small Blacksmith's building just a few yards up, and of course the village Pub, The Bridge Inn, still going strong today but now more in line with modern standards. In those days, especially in winter, customers were a bit on the thin side, and Dad, it being his local, and the other few mates, used to sit in the kitchen drinking or playing at cards or dominoes etc. as Kate the then Landlady didn't find it worthwhile opening up. As we only had two buses a day from Chesterfield to Sheffield and vice versa you can guess how many visitors we had then - probably more at the week ends, when we would say "Townies are here." We opened the door one day to a couple of lads who were sopping wet as they had fallen into the Dam at the rear of the pub and asked if they could get dried, to which Mum obliged with the necessary towels. We had Auntie Polly live with us when we moved to Ford but she died shortly after and is buried in the Churchyard at Ridgeway, where I was more or less hijacked into becoming a choir boy at the said Church. The Vicar Mr. Partridge took us, the Choir boys, to the Pantomime each year after a sausage and mash meal at the Vicarage. Some Sundays we had to take it in turns to pump the bellows for the organist to play, if no one else was available, and one Sunday I rang the Church bell for some considerable time to call all the congregation to the service as the usual bell ringer was not available. It wasn't very long before we had many friends, not really surprising in such a small community. There was a Mr. & Mrs. Ward living in the adjoining cottage but they were such an odd couple no one had anything to do with them. A good example was when the butcher at Ridgeway once asked me to deliver some meat to them on my way home from school, but being a bit wary of them I asked my Mum to take it round for me. After a rather nasty exchange of words Dad finally threw the parcel of meat at them and I imagine told them where to put their meat. At the back of where we lived was Mr.& Mrs. Bolsover and they had three children - two boys, Brian and I don't recall the other name, and Audrey who I met many years later working in the Westminster Bank at Millhouses, which was near to my work at Laycocks, but more of which later. It was in their garden, while sitting in a deck chair, that I nearly had my eye poked out with a pair of scissors. They were accidentally pushed into my face by one of the lads as we played, but luckily just went in my cheek a fraction below my eye. Then there was Mr. & Mrs. Barker, with two girls, Shirley and Betty, and as it happened they moved to Gleadless about the same time as we did and on the same street. There was of course the farms, two in particular that I was always at. One was run by Mr. & Mrs. Seaton, just round the corner from us near the bridge. They had no children, just farm labourers, and it was the most convenient one for me to go to being so near. I loved doing odd jobs, especially things like fetching the cows in from the fields for milking, and haymaking time when the women brought us snacks up to the fields and made it look like a picnic, then back to the farm with the horses pulling the carts ready to make the haystacks. It was great fun watching the stacks grow higher and we would climb up the ladder to spread the hay around with pitchforks and of course roll about in it. This was all in a Dutch barn and nice and warm.

 

The other farm I went to was Fidler's at Sloade Lane, nearer to Ridgeway but quite a walk up the hill and along the lane to the very end. It was a larger farm than Seaton's and much more of a friendly family, having as a bonus to me children of a similar age. There was Bill & Betty - my sister made a good friend of Betty which continued all the time we lived there and I believe for some time after. It was always great fun playing about in the barns and stables and roaming over the fields, especially in the summer when all the fruit was ripe for eating, such as blackberries apples and plums etc. Although I never did any so called work there I was made very welcome into their kitchen and can still imagine Jack the father sitting in the chair beside the fire.

 

The school we went to at Ridgeway was quite a walk up the hill, but this didn't bother us in those days when we were young and fit. I made quite a fool of myself the first day my sister and I were taken to school by our mother and met the Headmaster Mr. Bennett. For some reason or other when I took off my raincoat I had forgotten to put my jumper on, and presumably as it was winter time. I had to go home and get properly attired and returned a little later in the morning. School dinners were introduced a short time later and we walked across the road to the village hall for a new experience of having a hot meal ready for us. Mr. Bennett, as it happened, became the Headmaster of Frecheville School that I went to after three years at Ford when we then moved. The most memorable national event that took place while we were there was in 1937 on the 12th of May. It was the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. All the people from around were at the celebrations in Ridgeway, which was all trimmed up for the occasion. The playing fields at the side of the village hall had various events going on all day, with fireworks at night. Somehow, during the evening I couldn't find Mum or Dad and presumed they had walked home. I think it was Mr. & Mrs. Barker who I walked home with only to find no one at home, but Dad turned up soon after and took me back up to the village to finish off the day. It appears they were in one of the Pubs having liquid refreshments. Then there was the big event of the village having electricity installed; until then we had the daily task of lighting the paraffin lamps and regular filling of same, and also trimming the wicks. The date and time for switching on was given to us and it was with great elation when finally it happened and we were in the modern world. I also remember making bonfires out of the left over potato leaves. We would then find the spuds that had been overlooked and throw them onto the fire to enjoy our own baked potato. It was in one of the fields at the bottom of Geer lane that I was passing my time away while the farmer was ploughing with his tractor, when I threw a stone up at a tree near to the edge of the field and beside the lane. The stone took it upon itself to sail over the lane and break a small upstairs window in the cottage opposite. I did a hasty retreat and often wonder what the owners made of it. Around this time Mum and Dad bought me a budgie we called Joey, who was only a baby when we got him. He was a lovely green and Mum got him talking, so he would say "Dennis gone to school, Who's a pretty boy, Give us a kiss," and eventually "Hitler's coming," when war came. Toward the end of 1938 war looked most likely, and eventually Dad was called upon to resume his occupation in the race to provide munitions for the expected war. He had served in World War One as a soldier in the Coldstream Guards but was called up towards the end of the war and luckily saw no action. He quite often did sentry duty at Windsor Castle and the Palace and spoke of times when the then Duke of Windsor would always greet them with "Goodnight Guard" as he came in from a night out. He also did duty at the Tower of London and performed the Ceremony of the Keys. I think it would be early 1939 when he then went to work at Laycocks at Millhouses as a Turner and he told me much later on that they were involved in many parts for aircraft, including the world famous Spitfire. He used to cycle to Gleadless then left it at Mr & Mrs Barker's, from where he caught the bus to work, and then did the same on his way home. Eventually we moved to Gleadless at 14, Briarfield Avenue, almost opposite Mr & Mrs Barker's. Dad and three other neighbours obtained permission to make four allotments on a piece of land at the end of the avenue, I did a spot of digging for him to get the soil ready for cultivating as it was only rough ground to start with. We did have a front and back garden but kept mainly for lawns & flowers. As everyone was urged to dig for victory, hence the allotment and a supply of our own vegetables.

 

I was now going to the School at Frecheville. It was a big improvement on Ridgeway School as we had a large playing field and football pitch and school yard, woodwork class, science room, and a big hall and gymnasium with showers which were most enjoyable after football. My position in the team was left full back; it was in one of the games when I suffered my worst injury when Jack Winters gave me a kick on my right ankle, the scar which I still carry to this day. He was, much later on in life, picked to play for Sheffield United, but I don't think he played many games for them. It was me and Jack who were caught fighting in the school yard one day and the teacher, a Mr. Sharp, made us stay behind the next day and have three rounds with the boxing gloves on in the gym. We had a good few pupils egging us on, but I think it was called a draw. There was a girl called Brenda Fox who was a bit keen on me, as I was on her. She left school a little while before me, but on her afternoons off work, if we had a football match, she would come and watch us play. We went to the pictures a couple of times but that was it. The sport I excelled at was the high jump, beating the other contenders hands down. We broke a few of the wooden cross bars in the process and had to keep making new ones in woodwork class. It was quite a walk to school and eventually Dad bought me a second hand bike which was received with much enthusiasm. Being adventurous, along with some pals we decided to explore further afield and each weekend would head for some other interesting (if not exactly exotic) location not too far distant to travel. At last we decided on the big one, the run to Matlock, we made a rather earlier start than normal and made it there and back without any mishaps. This trip was followed by one or two more until circumstances such as starting work and the war brought our trips to an end.

 

On September 3rd 1939 war was eventually declared and everyone was buying blackout material for their windows, and tape to stick on in case of the glass shattering. We had air raid shelters delivered for erecting in gardens and back yards, but we had a communal one put up in the spare ground at the back of the house for the residents of the avenue and crescent. Then we had to collect our gas masks from a house which is opposite the now Charnock School. Identity cards and ration books were issued and so we were now all prepared for the war. We had several air raid warnings early on in the war but Sheffield was not affected for quite some time. It was in the early evening of December 12th, 1940 around 7pm, just as Dad was leaving to catch the circular bus to work, him being on nights, when the alert sounded. He returned home and it seemed only a short time when we heard the first bomb fall, somewhere between us and Basegreen, and then it was everyone to the shelter. It was soon apparent that Sheffield was their target for the night as the evening drew on. As the fires and waves of planes increased, we knew that it would be a few hours before it ended. We became more confident to have the odd few minutes out of the shelter to take a look over towards the city. It was a beautiful clear moonlight night and on one at these occasions we saw a German plane cross in front of the moon. There were a few gun sites around our district, the nearest at the bottom of Carterhall Lane, Cinderhill at Norton and Manor Lane, which added to the noise of the bombs and planes. My sister Jean became friends with one of the soldiers at the Carterhall site and he came to our house once or twice. Early on in the war she had started work and became serious with a lad from the Manor top area, called George Towers. He worked for the City Council and was a brilliant artist, doing quite a few drawings of film stars of the time, some of these which he gave me and I kept for quite some time. He was soon called up in the army and was posted overseas almost immediately. Joan had bought him a beautiful leather wallet with his initials engraved in gold for his birthday, but sadly he never received it as he was taken prisoner when we believe the ship he was on was captured by the Japanese. His Mother had just one postcard from him from the prisoner of war camp in Java, and it was burnt slightly down one side so she was very lucky to get it. The wallet was given to me much later on, which I treasured for years.

 

At the back of our estate was the R.A.F. camp where they repaired and tested the balloons used for flying over vital installations to stop the planes from low level bombing. The camp was used for many years, even after the war, when at one time the so called bad boys (minor offenders) of aircrews were sent for their punishment, but they had a very easy time coming and going very much as they pleased. They had Friday night dances in the Sergeants' mess, to which civilians could go. A few mates and I went occasionally after I got out of the R.A.F. myself. To return to the Sheffield bombing, after the Thursday night's attack on the city centre, myself and a pal Fred Wilcox set off on our bikes on Sunday morning to have a look at the effects of the raid. The devastation was unbelievable and a lot of roads closed; even on our way back we had to take a different route as unexploded bombs had been found since we came down them. Again on the Sunday night the sirens went again and this time it was the East End to come under attack. They must have known that they were probably mistaken on Thursday and not hit the heavy industrial targets which were vital to the war effort. After that things eased off for us and although sirens sounded occasionally it got that we didn't bother getting out of bed, especially my sister. One day I picked up a small piece of shrapnel that was at the side of the road a few houses away from ours. It was around four inches long and an inch wide and quite heavy for its size. I kept it in a small box for ages, but like most things they become lost or mislaid. Fred Wilcox who lived on Norton Avenue became my best pal at this time. He was a brilliant pianist and I spent many hours sat beside him in his front room, singing away to the popular songs of the time and turning the pages of the sheet music that he was always buying. There was some kind of concert held in a small wooden hut on Charnock one day and he was playing the piano for the occasion. Somehow he coaxed me into singing a song I think was called "This is worth fighting for." Soon after the hut became derelict (no wonder) and eventually used for garages. It would be 1942 when we decided to join the A.T.C. (Air Training Cadets). Twice a week we went to learn such things as aircraft recognition, both ours and German, the Morse code, and on the parade ground all the drill for marching etc. It was held at a school just off City Road in the evenings. When we got our uniforms it was the cat's whiskers, looking very smart and like all Air Force chaps we were called the Brylcreem boys. One particular outing was specially remembered when we went to the Post Office buildings in Fitzalan Square on a Sunday morning for our second go on the firing range on the top floor which had been set up for various services to use. It had been decided that we should have a kitty for the best shot of the day and surprisingly I won, not very much by today's standards though, probably as I recall a couple of pounds. We had a few visits to R.A.F. stations around the Lincolnshire area and occasionally a flight arranged for us, once lying in the nose of a Halifax where the bomb aimer would be, and another time doing a spot of low flying exercise over the North Sea. There was a time when we had spent a considerable time taxiing for take off that four of us were playing cards. As always on take off the engine noise increases and we thought we were airborne, but after a short time the engines suddenly stopped and we thought we were in for a spot of bad luck. However, we were still on the ground and had to abandon the flight for that day due to a fault.

 

In June 1942 it was my time for leaving school on reaching my fourteenth birthday. I had done excellent in my final year exams and had the honour of being top of the class in my marks. I excelled in English and suppose that was what prompted my parents to get me an interview for a position at The Sheffield Telegraph & Star in the editorial department. Unfortunately, there wasn't a vacancy at the time, but I was offered a job in the commercial department with the option to change later on. I accepted the job and actually left school a few weeks before my official time, with permission of course from the Headmaster. Initially I had the job of post boy, getting to know my way around the various departments and meeting people, as more of the older staff were being called up for military service. I was soon moved into the department dealing with the printing of the Newsagents' delivery quantities for the relevant day's supply. There were about seven in the department and I found it very relaxed and easy going with two other lads near my age, (David Cymbal & Dennis Seal) with whom I became life long friends, along with many more around our age group, especially Roy Dyson, Derek Verity, Joe Abel, Rodney Sewell, and a few of the female staff, in particular the comptometer girls who did all our final checking of the totals in our ledgers. One of the girls, Joyce, was later married to Roy when he came out of the Air Force after serving as navigator. One of our final jobs of the day was to take the comptometers down to the strong room in the basement in case of an air raid. It was down there in the basement that someone obtained an air rifle, which we set up targets on old box files and pelted away at. One by one we were all getting near to being called up for service in the forces and I was in the meantime given the job as Lineage clerk. Working mainly on my own I had both the previous day's papers The Star & The Telegraph brought to me from the Editorial department along with aIl the relevant details from the outside contributors of the material and photographs used that day. I could then calculate how many lines had to be paid to them at the rate set down, also to agencies such as Fox Photos, Reuters etc. for the Photos of theirs we used. I can never forget the day when I received the first pictures of the horrors of the concentration camps in Germany. Being one of the few to see the original photos is certainly nothing to brag about I know, but in some small way a privilege. Our weekly salary was ten shillings and sixpence to start with, rising to around seventeen shillings, until we went in the forces. The lunch hours were excellent at an hour and a half, in which we had good canteen meals then probably a game of snooker, the table being in the canteen, then a good walk around town. One amusing incident comes to mind when occasionally myself and Rodney Sewell would accompany the chief cashier across the road to the bank in George Street, mainly for security reasons but also to carry the larger copper and silver bags which we had on our shoulders. One day, Rodney's blue bag split open, spilling copper all over the middle of High Street and in the tram lines. After holding up the traffic (which by the way was very sparse in those days) we managed to recover every last coin, much to the joy of the cashier. One day, the legendary Joe Davis visited the Editorial Department and news spread that he would have a game of snooker with our top player in the canteen after work. We had three teams in the business league, in which I played in the Green Un team and one year managed to get as far as playing in the semi final of the singles at the Bell public house in Fitzalan Square, although I lost that one. Joe played a chap called Harry Ford and around a dozen or so of us had the privilege of watching the master give us a dazzling display of his skill.

 

By 1945 the war in Europe was coming to an end and on 8th May the official announcement was made. Everybody thronged the town when it was made known the Prime Minister (Churchill) was to make a speech at three pm and it would be transmitted over the loudspeakers in Barker's Pool square. We made our way to the Town Hall, listened to the speech and then the celebrations started in earnest with flags waving and groups linking arms singing and dancing. It was a wonderful sight seeing everyone enjoying freedom at last in Europe and I remember walking home late at night as I presume that all transport had stopped for me to do that. The day, as you will know, was called V.E. day (Victory in Europe) but the war in the East with Japan was still raging and when victory over them came it would be called V.J. day (Victory over Japan). The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on the 6th August and the unconditional surrender of Japan was announced by President Truman on the 14th August after the second atomic bomb was dropped, when celebrations were once more the order of the day. Eventually the prisoners of war were slowly getting home and the horrors of the concentration camps both in Germany and the Far East became known to the public. However, conscription to the armed forces was to continue for some considerable time and it was obvious that I would be called up at the age of eighteen. To ensure I went into the Air Force I volunteered and after going for my medical examination at the Sheffield United football pavilion I received my call up papers towards the end of the year. I left home on the 8th January 1946, reporting for duty at R.A.F. Padgate in the Liverpool area to be kitted out with everything from your eating and drinking utensils to the rifle. There was much laughter getting the sizes of uniform right and then carrying such a load of equipment (much of it stuffed any old way in our kit bags) back to our barracks. There were possibly about two hundred new recruits at the time but we only spent a few days there as we were allocated our trades and where we would be posted for our square bashing. So, with photographs taken for our identity cards, we had pay books etc in our possession. I became Aircraftsman 2nd Class, commonly known as A.C.2. No. 214085 Clerk General Duties. So it came to be that I was posted to Sudbury in Suffolk, an American base just vacated by them, to do my initial training. This consisted of getting us fit with such things as the assault course, route marches, learning to fire rifles and the fairly new Sten gun, throwing a live hand grenade (quite frightening) and not forgetting the endless hours on the parade ground doing our drill to the yelling of our instructors. To me this was easy, as being in the A.T.C. we had been through all that. After six weeks it was time for our passing out parade and each different squad passed out on something other than parade ground efficiency. We had the dreaded assault course, in which I lost my bearings and fell into a dug out which was covered in thick smoke. I groped around for my rifle and emerged triumphant a few seconds later but with eyes running and coughing. Then onto the final hurdles, we were crawling along a hedgerow ditch when the instructors started throwing thunder flashes. This was something we had not had in training and they came in for a bit of our language later on, but all in good fun.

 

Having completed our basic training and getting rid of all our unwanted kit (rifle etc.) we then eagerly awaited the news of our postings for our different trade training. But for a very few of us this was not to be as a new squadron was to be introduced into the Air Force as with other services (i.e. Navy & Army etc.) and to be called in our case The Ceremonial Squadron. So instead of going for our trade training a small number from our camp was selected for their excellence on the parade ground and general smart appearance throughout our square bashing. I along with five others out of all those on initial training from our camp were selected to report to R.A.F. Halton near to Aylesbury Buckinghamshire. After our journey through London which was seething with all nationalities in various uniforms, at last I think we realized that we could now be classed along with the professionals as this was really the first time that we had been away from any instructors and being able to use our own initiative. After travelling on the tube train to Wendover there were lorries waiting to take us, and many more who had been selected from different camps, to Halton, where to our delight was a camp of modern brick buildings and well laid out lawns and parade ground. Recruits were arriving for a few days as we all settled in before getting down to work. I was on the second floor of our building with a good view of the camp, and the food in the mess was excellent to previous camps, such as selection of menu, butter on the tables and ample portions with seconds if you wished. In other parts of the camp were the Women's Air Force Central Band and the boy apprentices. On our first assembly on the parade ground we were introduced to our officers. (I can't tell you their names as we didn't see much of them.) Our drill instructor was Corporal Passey, who was previously a guardsman in the army and had been and still was an expert in all ceremonial movements required for those duties. He was, as expected, a very strict man on the parade ground, but one of the lads off duty. We were told that our stay would be about six to eight weeks, when we would be fully conversant with all the ceremonial procedures required and then a new intake of recruits would be brought in. After that we would then carry on with our trade training. As we had not been able to enjoy any weekend leave since joining up it was a relief to be told that at last this would be introduced once a fortnight with a longer forty eight hour pass half way through the course. The first weekend saw some of us making our way to London, (the first of more to follow) and just a short trip on the tube. We did the usual sightseeing and booked in for a night at the Salvation Army club. One weekend we left it too late and found they were full so we were directed to overspill accommodation at the Clapham deep tube shelters which had been used for air raids. They were only accessible by steps and seemed never ending to the bottom, where there were no trains running through as it wasn't fully developed prior to the war starting, but the slight rumbling of trains in the distance could be heard. On one of our trips into London we walked into a club for servicemen called the Forces Canteen and were met by hostesses who showed you to a table and brought your order. There was dancing if you wished, but none of us had got the ability to dance at the time. On the full weekend pass, after lunch on Friday until Monday morning, we had free railway tickets so managed to get home at last, bringing with us our ration card for parents to claim our food for the weekend, as rationing was still in force.

 

And so we carried on with the training we all enjoyed so much, as there was a variety of things to learn, such as funeral procedure of slow marching, firing over a grave, lining the streets, marching in step on grass, doing a sequence of manoeuvres that needed no voice orders only your own count down etc. We had plenty of spare time in order to keep our equipment in tip top condition, polishing buttons, shoes, pressing uniforms and cleaning our rifles, which by the way were different to the ones in training being lighter and with a shorter bayonet. I failed to mention earlier we were now wearing the flat topped peak hats with the shiny black peak. No early morning starts as the parade ground was used by others first, we even had a morning break when a tea urn was brought onto the parade ground for us to enjoy a drink. The procedure for a squad of men entailed a uniformed formation, the tallest at front and rear and the shorter in the middle section, not a lot of difference to the general public, but essential to the overall picture when marching. To achieve this when the order to fall in is given, each man knows his position in the ranks. There has to be a man who is the marker for the others to line up to and he is called out first to a pre arranged spot. I being tall was given this privilege for one of the two squads we had. The only official parade we had was the funeral of Lord Gorte held at Westminster Cathedral where I and another chap did our stuff and marched out to our places before being joined by the rest of the squad. After the service we were transported to a place I haven't a clue where, for a meal before going back to barracks whereupon we were congratulated on our performance by the commanding officer. It became known that a victory parade would be held in London on June 8th, but as this would not be a ceremonial parade it would not involve us. In the circumstances we would have left before then anyway. So our time at Halton eventually came to an end, but those of us going into clerical posts didn't have to go for trade training like those of a more skilled profession and were dispatched to our new units forthwith and unprepared. A week or so before we left it was decided amongst a few of us that we would ask if we could have seven days leave as we had only been on one long weekend pass since joining and some especially the scotch lads hadn't been home at all. We were shown before the Commanding Officer who blew his top and more or less told us it was mutiny, and so no leave as yet. Before we left Halton some guy had composed a song about our instructor Corporal Passey, which we sang on our leaving party and which he enjoyed immensely. My orders were to report to the 24th Maintenance unit at Stoke Heath in Shropshire. I arrived at Tern Hill railway station having travelled via Manchester and Crewe along with other lads, some new arrivals and some coming back from leave. We had transport waiting for us to take us to the various drop off points, and I was soon to learn that transport was always there to meet the few trains arriving daily, as not only was it a Maintenance unit but also the 6th Flying Training School, a separate unit from us really but just the other side of the large airfield. It was impossible for anyone to get around without transport, and that's why everyone was issued with a bicycle - if they had never been on a bike before they soon learned how to ride one. I reported to the Headquarters site and after the usual settling in to the allocated Nissan hut, showers, mess, N.A.A.F.I. and all the essential needs one requires to know, found that the camp covered an enormous area with three sites for male living quarters, one for the W.A.A.F.'s quarters, a recreation site and two sites for the Maintenance units and the largest one the Headquarters. I was allocated a desk initially in a hanger of one Maintenance unit and soon started to become mates with the other few in the small office we shared. I was doing nothing in particular that I recall, except a bit of filing and larking about. A couple of times I was called upon to escort lads who had done something wrong into the Commanding Officer's room which was next to our office, to be given a punishment or whatever was decided for them. It would be about a month I was working in the hanger and then moved to Headquarters for the job as movement's clerk which I held until I was to be discharged some two and a half years later when my demob No. 73 came up. It was a large office just inside the main gates housing a few senior officers in different rooms and around a dozen men and women in ours. We had a Warrant Officer called Casey in charge of our office and the guardroom was opposite our building to the front. To the rear of our building was the airfield, being separated only by a wire fence and a gate. The test pilot for the 6th F.T.S. had a small building just inside the gate, of which more of later. I had a very nice job as movements clerk, doing all the necessary paper work for the personnel who were posted to or from the unit, such as issuing rail travel permits and routes to those leaving, and for new arrivals all the appropriate paper work to be entered on their documents. I also dished out coupons for such essentials as handkerchiefs, travel food vouchers etc. which I then took to be signed by one of the officers. I had good relations with the R.A.F. police, especially the Flight Sergeant in the guardroom, as it was necessary to inform them on certain issues regarding documents. Also, he was seeing one of the girls in our office on the quiet. We really had a good time amongst ourselves, not only at work but also at the weekends when we decided to stay on camp. Everyone had permanent passes to come and go as they wished after work hours, as long as we turned up for work the next morning. So most Saturday nights saw several of us heading off on our bikes to the little town of Market Drayton a few miles away for our usual three pints of scrumpy at ten pence a pint (two shillings and sixpence or half a crown) and then into the only dance hall there was for sixpence. A good night out for three shillings. the amusing part was getting back to camp in the dark down country lanes and seeing someone come off their bike. You could always count on putting a W.A.A.F back on her mode of transport and watch her go weaving her way down the lane rather tipsy. It was always nice to have from Saturday lunch time until Monday mornings off unless you were in my case on duty as the duty clerk, but I was fortunate only to do it three times while I was there. A few times there would be a dance up at the W.A.A, F, camp but always very strictly run with the Corporals and Sergeants keeping control of things. I was once just getting acquainted with a girl as we came out one night to be moved on. It was by none other than the same W.A.A.F. Sergeant who was having the affair with the RAF police Flight Sergeant, all taken with a pinch of salt as you might say and in good humour. In our hut we had some of the cooks from the canteen and if we stayed on camp at the week ends they would bring us bacon eggs and whatever we needed for breakfast on the Sunday morning so we could stay in bed. Then we could get the stove in the hut lit and do our own breakfast without going a mile or so to the canteen. All our journeys to work and the canteen were through a narrow lane that we called the Burma Road. If we went to the recreation site for the camp cinema or the outdoor swimming pool etc. it meant going out of our camp onto a lane and then onto the main Whitchurch Road, and this also led to the flying school. At one stage I developed a rash on my leg and the medical officer gave me some ointment to put on and permission to use the bath at the flying school once a week for a few weeks as we only had showers. On one Sunday morning visit I had just turned into the Whitchurch Road when a coach full of day trippers had hit one of our RAF lads on his bike and when I arrived he was trapped under the coach. He had the coach side across his chest and his head and shoulders across the kerb edge. The passengers were just getting off and making matters worse by putting more pressure on the lad's chest by their jolting, and this was causing more blood from his mouth. Some of the men had found a tree branch to try to lever the coach up but at this stage I knew he was dead. I set off at full speed to the telephone on the recreation site and telephoned our transport section for a crane and informed the Officer on duty. Knowing I was of no further use I carried on for my bath but never heard any more of it despite my enquiries. Luckily for me I only had two stays in the sick bay while serving in the R.AF., once early on in training at Sudbury I spent two days with a bad cold, and the other was when myself and two mates from 24 Maintenance Unit went down to London for the remembrance day service. Sometime while near to the cenotaph I must have been kicked and found myself with a swollen ankle on Monday. Not able to get my shoe on I was admitted to the sick bay where I enjoyed a few days of being waited on hand and foot (pun). That weekend one of the lads who was a corporal lived in Richmond and after the remembrance service we went by tube to see his family for a few hours. We then had a bit of a pub crawl round the Thames embankment at Richmond that night before returning to camp. Shortly after that weekend I was promoted to Aircraftsman 1st. Class, not much different except a pay rise. To return to the test pilot, our W. O. Casey one day asked me if I would like to go with the test pilot to RAF Burtonwood as he was only taking some papers and we wouldn't be gone for long. I jumped at the chance and after getting kitted out with the parachute etc. we were off. It was the time of many floods in the area and we saw miles of flooding around the Widnes area before we came in to land. It was mainly an American base and the airfield was packed with planes of all makes, and I just had a walk round for about half an hour before we set off for our camp. It had been a grand day out but I don't remember the type of plane we went in. Eventually, in 1948, my demob number was getting nearer and I was expecting to be home for good around September, but as the Berlin airlift was in full swing, things were looking a little ominous. When I finally got my date for release on Aug. 30th I started handing back all my essential kit a few days before. With only three days to go everyone in the camp was informed to assemble in the camp cinema at a certain time and was told that due to the Berlin airlift all demob was cancelled for the time being. The Commanding Officer asked how many men would be affected and it turned out that there were only three of us who put our hands up. We had his sympathy of course, but he told us not to bother about our kit we had handed in and just carry on as usual with our work. As it happened, the other two lads were posted to Germany and as I was expecting to go, I had embarkation leave, but on return it was not for me and I stayed on camp with everyone sympathizing with me. As it turned out I really had a good two months and a few days to do more or less what I wanted to do. W.O. Casey told me to come and go as I wished and a lot of the time was spent going into the country or visiting Market Drayton on my bike. One incident was an adventure that turned out not as expected but nonetheless a change. The R.A.F police Flight Sergeant came in one day and asked me if I fancied going with him to escort a Jamaican prisoner to the ship at Glasgow, where with other prisoners he was being deported back home. Our first stop was at R.A.F. Wilmslow, being taken there by lorry, and on arrival we found ourselves in the camp cinema where there were hundreds of West Indian lads, all with escorts, being sent home for some bad conduct or other. We found that we would be staying with our respective prisoners all night and then be going by train the following morning to Glasgow docks to see them on the boat home. After they had all been lined up on the dock side, they were given a talk by a senior officer and told that if they behaved themselves on the journey all charges would be dropped and they would be free to go. After collecting our train travel passes to go where we wished, I opted to go home for the weekend and arriving home several hours later and very tired spent a day or two recovering before returning to camp. That was all I saw of Glasgow, just a few hours on the docks and railway station. On one of my seven days' leave it happened that Mum and Dad were spending a short holiday with my Uncle Herbert and Aunt Daisy at their home at Scunthorpe, so I had my rail travel made out for Scunthorpe. But on the return journey back to camp I found out by the date on a newspaper I was reading that I was going back a day too soon. Having to change trains at Manchester, I booked in for the night at the Y.M.C.A. and then spent a very enjoyable day at Belle Vue. My release date finally arrived for 2nd November 1948, and I travelled to R.A.F. Kirkham near to St Annes on Sea, where a few of us went out for a drink that night. The following day, after collecting our demob suits and civilian clothes, even a trilby hat, we headed for our respective trains and home. As it turned out I was unable to start full time work again until after Christmas, due to being paid by the R.A.F. So, early in December, I applied to the main post office in Sheffield for work on the Christmas post and spent a couple of weeks or so in the parcels sorting office where the extra bit of cash came in handy for Christmas. In the new year of 1949 I started work again as a civilian at my old job at the Telegraph and Star and reunited with my old friends and some new. It was then I found my old friend Fred Wilcox had got married and moved away. But three doors away from us, Cyril Brown, who I had known at school, had come to live and we started going to play snooker a couple of times a week, dancing at the City Hall and Cutlers Hall and of course chatting up the girls. He was working for the Admiralty at a works at Norton and having very early morning starts and awkward bus times. He soon bought a motorbike which we travelled all over on. We then met up with two lads from the Basegreen area, Don Wilson and Des Shepherd; Don also had a motorbike and likewise he took Des on the pillion like we did. So now there were four of us playing snooker, dancing, having rides out to the country and still chasing the girls. Over the years riding pillion passenger with Cyril we came off the bikes twice. The first time myself and Cyril were going to Graves Park and just passing Lightwood Lane saw two lovely lasses on push bikes pass us on the other side of the road and turn down the lane. We turned round and went after them but at the first bend down the lane we skidded on the gravel and ended up in the hedge, with no damage to the bike, but we had torn trousers at the knees and a few scratches, so never got to see the girls. The second and final mishap was more serious. The four of us booked a week's holiday in a hotel at Great Yarmouth right on the sea front opposite the Britannia pier. It was a beautiful week and we spent most days on the beach and the evenings having a drink and then onto the pier for the dancing. On the Saturday we were due to leave we decided to stay another night and after we sorted out our finances we pooled our money and we booked in for one night at another hotel. Cyril by the way had only the week before bought a brand new bike, a Vincent comet 500. On our way home, almost opposite R.A.F. Cranwell, we were behind Don and Des when on a left hand bend we slid across the road, ended up on the grass verge, and the bike carried on and hit a tree. They came back looking for us and found we had been lucky not to have come off any worse than we had. I had damaged the outside of my right hand palm where it had hit the road and Cyril seemed alright, and was more concerned about the bike. It turned out later that he had broken a small bone in his ankle, and although the road surface was of black tarmac it had also had some rain on it which could have caused the skid. Anyway from out of the blue the Cranwell ambulance arrived on the scene and took us for treatment to the sick bay. Eventually, having made arrangements for the bike, which was repaired and returned as new a week or two later, Don ferried us one by one to the nearby main road junction where Cyril and I managed to hitch a lift on a coach full of fishermen back to Sheffield and home. On Monday morning Cyril found his foot was aching and as I had been told to go to my own hospital he came with me and that was when he found out his injury was a broken bone. We both had a week off sick and looked a right pair, with him limping and me with my hand bandaged up. We managed to have a few afternoons playing snooker but our dancing nights were put on hold for a while. There was the time we went to Scarborough for the day to see the motor cycle racing. It was a very popular event each year and on our journey we came to the top of this very long downward sloping hill. "Hang on" said Cyril and shoved his backside into me and we both laid as flat as we could on the bike. "We might do a hundred" he said and with full throttle we achieved the magic ton on two wheels. It seems a bit tame these days when it can be easily done on four wheels. On the subject of dancing prior to the last bit of information, we dated a few of the girls we met and I remember arranging to meet a girl one night at Coles corner to go to the pictures or possibly for a drink. But on the night we had planned I didn't know if I fancied her or remembered what she looked like so I had the bright idea of getting on a tram in Fitzalan square and sitting upstairs so that I could see if she was there and then make up my mind. I recall giving that one a miss.

 

It would be around 1950 or 1951 when myself and Dennis Beal decided to go for a holiday to Switzerland. Originally, Derek Verity was coming with us, but as the weeks went by as we were saving he backed out to leave just the two of us. We booked through Thomas Cook who at that time was about the only reputable travel agents, as travelling abroad in those days was hardly known by the ordinary folk like ourselves. We booked to go to Lucerne via ferry and train and found the hotel was situated on the edge of the lake named Lake Lucerne. This was a massive twenty three miles long expanse of water which had numerous boat trips and a Lido where you could swim out to a raft which was situated some distance from shore. The mountains were magnificent and we booked a trip up one called Mount Pilatus. This entailed going by cable car to the summit, which at first was covered by cloud, but eventually cleared and we were able to see the very famous Mount Matterhorn in the distance.

 

So as the years passed on we all married and drifted apart, except of course for Cyril and myself, who have always lived a few doors away. He married just before me, to Vera, and lived for a short while in the Sharrow area of Sheffield. I started dating my future wife Mary, who I had known for some time when she worked at Maxies next door to the Telegraph & Star, and from our days dancing at the City Hall & Cutlers Hall. We soon fell in love and got engaged and had a small engagement party at the Pheasant pub at Sheffield Lane top. Our courtship up to the wedding was, I remember, down to only a few days a week as the distance between our homes was from opposite sides of the city. This entailed, most of the time, taking Mary home if we had been out on the town and then after our lovey dovey in the passage between Mary's house and next doors (which by the way was always nice and warm and sheltered in winter), I would then make a dash down to Page Hall to catch a tram to town then across to Pond Street for my bus. If too late for the last bus, I would take a tram up to Manor top, then have about a mile to walk home, and that's what being in love is all about I suppose. Some time before the wedding we had a few days in Morecambe and still have a photograph of us there. The date for the wedding was set for August 28th 1954. I, like Cyril, knew that the Chesterfield Council would be building houses at the bottom of Kew Crescent and, as Briarfield Avenue in those days came under Chesterfield Council, we put our names down for one of the houses. It was arranged that we would live at Mary's Mum and Dad's until we got our own house, which we were told would be ready in about three year's time. By coincidence I met Des Shepherd's uncle on the bus only about two weeks before the wedding. He was a solicitor with offices on Campo Lane, and as we got talking he asked me were we would be living, as he had a house at Grindleford that had just become vacant, and if we would like to go and see it I could pick up the keys that same day. I called in to see Mary, who by now was working at Cockaynes, and we decided to go and have a look. Her Dad took us out to see it the same day and we decided to take it. The day of the wedding arrived and it was a glorious sunny day. After breakfast and a good bath Cyril and I set off on Cyril's bike to pick up the flowers for the button holes, these being for myself, Cyril who was the Best Man, and Mum and Dad's. We first of course dropped in the pub in the Haymarket for a drink before heading home for a bite to eat before getting spruced up in my new grey suit for the wedding at three p.m. The church was St Cuthbert's at Page Hall and the invited guests were already gathering when we arrived. I suppose it was then the excitement started to kick in. Mary arrived, I believe on time, on the arm of her Dad, with Mary & Jean Hetherington her long time friends as chief bridesmaids, and my niece Susan and Mary's niece Julie as the other two small bridesmaids. Mary as usual looked beautiful in her dress and the service was conducted satisfactorily with no hitches. Photographs were taken outside the church by one of the photographers from The Star, then on to the reception held at the hotel nearby. I must admit I don't recall much detail of the evening except the usual introductions to distant relatives of Mary's and the drinking and dancing. Eventually it was time for the customary last dance and we had to depart to Mary's house to get changed and get to the Midland Station for our midnight train to Babbacombe for our honeymoon. By chance we had two of Mary's friends on the train also. Arriving at our guest house early Sunday morning we dumped our luggage and being tired, having had just a few cat naps on the train, we made our way to the top of the cliff overlooking the beach and fell asleep on the grass. We awoke to find later we had sunburn and spent the rest of the week suffering. It was quite a hectic time before the wedding and I spent only a day or two doing a spot of cleaning and odd jobs at our new home. It was a case of do everything when we got back, but on our return found to our surprise that Mary's Mum and Dad had been there and got it reasonably ship shape and habitable. An old friend from Gleadless (Jeff Vaughan) who had lived there for some years introduced us to the villagers, as strangers were not taken to very kindly at first. Getting to and from work in Sheffield was quite easy by train but on Mary's half day off she had to get a bus to Fox House and then walk all the way down home as train times in the day were not always convenient. My only inconvenience was on Friday nights; I was by now second in command of the office and due to our work, which was necessary for the following day's Saturday sports paper the Green Un we had to work very late. Due to the last train around 11p.m. I had to leave them to it. Only once did I miss the train and as Friday night at the local pub the Sir William was mainly men's night I used to call in for the last drink after getting off the train. This particular night I missed the train, I rang Jeff and he came on his motor bike and picked me up at the bus stop at Dore, otherwise a very long walk and practically pitch black all the way. When Stuart was born in Jessop's Hospital he let me borrow the bike so that for the few days Mary was in the Hospital I could visit without being tied down to the train times. One particular day I couldn't start the damn thing and after several attempts finished up nearly at West Bar before it started, so arrived at the Hospital rather later than expected.

 

Eventually I bought a second hand car from a chap in the village, which was an Austin 7 with running boards, big chrome lights and a winding handle to crank the engine. As the Suez canal crisis had started you could be a learner driver and drive without supervision, which was great while it lasted, but we were issued with petrol coupons to curb your mileage, but in any case it was ample for me. One morning on my way to work I broke down at Whirlow and asked if I could leave it in a posh house's drive until two lads from work came with me at dinner time to get it running. The first time we got ready for a run out to visit my Mum & Dad at Gleadless for a Sunday tea we got as far as Fox House. The snow, which had looked ominous from earlier in the day, started in earnest and so we decided to call the visit off and turned back. The highlight of that first car was when Jeff told me there was a starter button on the floor but it wasn't working. As we were going to Leeds to Mary's Mum and Dad's who by now were caretakers at some offices in Boar Lane the following day I booked it in at the village garage to see if it could be mended. Though I was rather doubtful it could be done I was over the moon that he had got it working so there was no further need to wind it up to start it. Life in the village soon became a very enjoyable one as I became more involved in the yearly carnival and at one time was the treasurer. It was great making all the buntings and paper flowers which decorated the houses. Jeff and myself one year got dressed up as Hilda Baker and her sidekick for the fancy dress parade held in the grounds of the Maynard Arms and luckily won first prize. Then there was the boat race, where we had built a raft out of oil drums etc., but I believe we capsized before the finishing line. Can you imagine how relaxed and easy going it was in those times? For instance, when Mary was taking Stuart out in his pram she would empty the post box situated out of the village on the road to Calver and bring the contents back to the post office for them. Stuart was born at the Jessop Hospital in Sheffield, but Glenda was born at home in Grindleford so is a Derbyshire girl. I can still see the midwife who visited us always standing in front of the big roaring fire of the black Yorkshire range chatting away and having a smoke. Mary's Mum came over to stay for a short while, but she was in poor health and I was practically looking after both of them for a few days.

 

After three years of country life the houses on Kew Crescent were built, and being only yards inside the Chesterfield boundary, we came under the Eckington Council for our rent and rates etc. We collected our key for No. 70, Kew Crescent and Cyril got his keys for No, 54, just three doors away again as we were on Briarfield Avenue, and still here to the time of writing except that now Vera lives alone as Cyril passed away in 2002. His friendship to me was such that in his will he left me 1,000. Eventually the boundaries were changed and we came under Sheffield Council. lan was born in 1961, in Hospital but by Cesarean section, to complete our lovely family. As the years passed and the family grew up we were able to enjoy a more sociable lifestyle. The Cutlers Arms just up the road was finally built and along with our neighbours enjoyed a couple of nights of each others company. Most Thursday evenings after closing time Ken Vernon would take Mary in his car for fish and chips, while I would walk down to Ken's house and wait with his wife Joan for our supper. There was a time when we thought about taking a pub ourselves and Joe the landlord at that time offered to teach me the trade. I worked behind the bar for a few months and seemed to be doing fine, but I must admit that Sunday lunch time didn't go down very well with me and Mary. It was also a bit off-putting to Mary as Joe was getting a bit too familiar and Pru,( Joe's wife) wasn't to Mary's liking, so that idea was soon over. Joe was always a good friend and when Mary's Mum & Dad came over and went for a drink with us they always got on very well with Joe too. I remember when Mary's Dad was ill in Hospital he came down to tell us that Dad had taken a turn for the worse. Mary's Mum had phoned him as we had no phone at the time, for some reason. I didn't have a car then and he said we could take his to go and visit the hospital. The next morning I remember was a Sunday and arriving at the pub found that the big beer tanker was blocking his garage. Fortunately Joe had the keys and as he didn't fancy moving it I had the job of shifting it out of the way and so all was saved. I think it would be around the time I had been banned from driving for eighteen months for drink driving and was waiting for another car. It came about not long after the drink driving laws came in and we had as usual been to a club and then for a Chinese supper. We had dropped off a friend and his wife and were at a roundabout when a taxi scraped my car as it came in front of me. I was breathalised and although I was not much over the limit I was automatically banned. It could have also been at the time when we had been out to a pub in Derbyshire with Cyril & Vera and on the way home, just past Fox House on a slight left hand bend, we skidded on black ice. The car spun round and slid across the road and although we had almost stopped it hit the low grass verge and as though in slow motion we rolled on to our side. The front windscreen had popped out so we had to make our exit out that way. No one had even a scratch, so we pushed the car back on its four wheels hoping to carry on, but it wouldn't start. We slowed down another car, which would have probably skidded, and we arranged for him to phone a taxi to pick us up, which came eventually and brought us home. I arrange for the car to be picked up and repaired but I think it was about two weeks before I got it back.

 

Around this time also we met up again with Mary & Eric Marshall. Their family too like ours were growing up and so this was the renewal of Mary's long time friendship between them, which was to continue until Mary Marshall passed away in 2005, Eric having passed away a few years earlier. We had wonderful times together over the years, going to the clubs, Bingo, and parties, and many holidays, the favourite destination in those days being Newquay in Cornwall. A couple of years before Eric died they bought a caravan at Primrose valley near to Bridlington, and it was situated overlooking the lake with uninterrupted views. We had all retired by this time and so we had a good few holidays with them. Mary kept it going for a short while after Eric died and relied on us then to take her, but eventually sold it to her daughter Joanne. Previously they had moved from their old house on Hindhouse Lane to a larger one near to the Shiregreen club. This they shared for a short while with their other daughter Linda, before moving to Beckton Avenue, first in an upstairs flat and then a bungalow. After Eric died Mary got involved with the day centre on their small estate, where they had Bingo nights, luncheons each Friday, social events, trips out and various activities throughout the year finishing off with a good Christmas lunch and party. We also joined the club and eventually I became the Bingo caller and was on the committee for quite some time. It was at the Easter bonnet parade one year when I met and shook hands with the Sheffield lottery millionaire. We also went to Eastbourne twice for the tinsel and turkey weeks and on one of those visits I won the fancy dress night as Miss Sheffield. I eventually resigned after Mary Marshall was admitted to a care home as she was suffering from dementia. We had no further need to be involved with the club, being non residents, and being on the committee I felt I was to some extent getting a bit fed up with the set up and the dwindling membership. To go back to Mary's illness, it was first noticeable to us on one of our holidays at the apartment we had on a few occasions in Bridlington, when she was having difficulty with her money and a few silly things she was doing. Mary found her one day cleaning the kitchen surfaces with a tea bag and using Mary's best scent as a deodorant.

 

In between all the previous recollections of events since getting married I had been promoted to second in command of the Office mentioned before. I held that for quite a few years until I applied for the vacancy of representative in the circulation department, in which I was successful, having passed my driving test by this time and had changed my old Ford to a later model. I was now given a company car which was a Austin 35. Initially I worked in conjunction with another rep., George Sanderson, doing the around town trips to the various street sellers, making sure they had enough supply of papers and updating the latest editions and sports news etc. We had what was an up town and down town run which we took in turns to do. Saturday was a busy day with the Green Un and entailed starting in the early afternoon and working very late as we waited for the drivers who had been on the pub runs selling the papers to return and then taking the money and checking their sales. I really enjoyed the work but the bank holidays were out of the question for Mary as I did quite a lot of out of town runs to events such as Clumber Park, Chatsworth, and Bakewell, which made it late getting home. The benefits of course were the freedom of being out on your own, and in those days not much in the way of traffic, and also being able to fill up with a tank full of petrol and use the car for your own pleasure too. I remember our first long journey to Ilfracombe in Cornwall; apart from filling up before we set off thanks to the Telegraph & Star I also had another can full of petrol in the boot. I would think it would be about two years before I changed to visiting Newsagents on courtesy calls which gave me even more freedom to plan my own daily routine. I would for example be in Derbyshire for a day and probably they would settle their account to save travelling into town or posting cheques, and so quite a friendship was built up with many of them. I recall being in the firm's garage one day talking to one of the new van drivers and later being told that he was the chap out of prison for killing the well known Sheffield prostitute known as Russian Edna. I don't know how he became employed with the Telegraph & Star or much about the case or how long he served in jail. I saw him quite a few times but he eventually left. Again after three years or so I changed back to my original office, this time in charge, as the previous head (Frank Dunn) had been promoted. I was given the choice and a nice pay rise also. The firm's car had to go, so I bought an Austin Cambridge, which was the first of many to come in the future. As with all modern technology coming along in the sixties, the management started introducing time and motion, and eventually it was my office that came under scrutiny. From a staff of five I was left with just two of us, but the ridiculous situation resulted in bringing back old staff who by now had been given other jobs to cover for our holidays and sickness. After many complaints about my dissatisfaction with the set up, I started thinking of leaving and going in for something new. Many of my friends who had started about the same time as me were gradually leaving, so taking the plunge I also left. This would be 1967, at the age of 39 after 25 years service. After a couple of weeks or so, I started work, surprisingly, at my Dad's old firm Laycocks. Dad of course was no longer with us by now, having died in 1958 at the early age of 62. Mum managed to leave Briarfield Ave. and get a bungalow near us on Kew Crescent, but it was not very long before she had to go into a care home which was a long way away near Derby. We only managed a few visits to see her before she too passed away.

 

Soon after I started work at Laycocks Mary went to work at a fashion and children's clothing shop at Woodseats, so was now working close to where I was at Millhouses. My job was a Works Auditor, recording the machine operators' piece work for wages department, making spot checks on their output for any fiddles. Also, when necessary, checking with them the amount of components they had manufactured if there was a discrepancy. We had three factories, two at Millhouses on opposite sides of Archer road and the other about a mile away at Heeley. The factory at Archer road housed the main offices and the large production plants for producing all types of clutches for the car industry. We also manufactured other steel products and lifting gear, across Archer road at Camping Lane. It was the latest and most modern factory of them all and produced all types of Garage equipment from the large inspection hoists to the small lead weights for tyre balancing. At Heeley was the foundry and overdrive section, which was the oldest factory. It was a dusty and, at times a smelly place, and being rather dangerous at certain points, one had to wear a hard hat at all times. There would be about fifteen auditors throughout the three factories and as night shifts and a twilight shift were being worked this entailed some auditors had to work nights. Fortunately for me I worked very few night shifts. By some lucky chance I was given the opportunity to learn the routine at all the factories, as the procedures were different in each case. This of course was very handy to cover for holidays and sickness, although I was initially at Archer Road. I had worked there for about 12 years when I was promoted to take charge of Camping Lane audit, with a staff of three working for me with one of them on nights (they took in turns). I was now wearing a white coat instead of the grey coat, which signified I was classed as senior staff. I sometimes visited the other factories for various reasons and could now claim petrol allowance, which was very acceptable.

 

On our 25th Wedding anniversary, Mary booked a holiday to the continent, taking in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium. We had a very enjoyable time, but in Rudesiem (on the banks of the Rhine) Mary found out later that most of her underwear had been stolen, and this entailed her buying new ones when we arrived in Cologne. The amusing event in our hotel there was after arriving in our room we later discovered that we had a vibrating bed, which was activated by placing a coin in the slot to start it off. When the others in our party found out they all wanted to come for a demonstration, as it appeared that we were the only ones to have one. This, of course, was the case of much hilarity and leg pulling. The mother and daughter who we shared tables with became friends with one of the coach drivers, the interest being with the daughter naturally, and it was agreed we would all go to this pub or club which the driver recommended one night. A taxi was arranged and me being the fall guy paid for it and more than a fair share of the evening's drinks. They must have thought we were well to do, but I seem to remember the daughter being a solicitor or similar, so that didn't really go off very well. It was shortly after that Mary left the shop at Woodseats and was then working in the fur department in town at the House of Frazer. In due course, Stuart, Glenda & Ian left school and started work. Later, they all married to wonderful partners and still to this day are all enjoying a happy marriage. We now have five lovely grandchildren: Stuart & Irene had to adopt a week old boy who they call Paul, Glenda & Ian have a son & daughter Darren & Linsey, and Ian & Barbara also have a son & daughter Alex & Gemma, Alex being the youngest of them all. Upon leaving school, Stuart initially worked at Eric & Mary's firm of motor insurers, but not long before moving to a firm of silversmiths as store manager for quite a long period before becoming a bus driver. Glenda took a course on typing and has had many years now on computers. Ian started work at Sheffield transport as an apprentice on vehicle body repairs. He finished his exams before joining the Navy, but only for a few months before he left, as by this time he had met Barbara and was getting home sick I suppose. Mum & I with Stuart & Irene went down to Plymouth to see him on his passing out parade. After leaving the Navy he worked on sheet metal jobs, classic cars, and then bought his own milk round. I did quite a few early mornings with him on such occasions as Christmas and special times, and also at first with his collection day. So I came to know his round to such an extent that myself and Darren one year did it on our own, while Ian had a holiday. I was of course retired by then and Darren had left school. After finishing with the milk business he branched out on his own into property development and now has a thriving business and employs a good work force.

 

At last my retirement from work came rather sooner than later, due to redundancies at Laycocks. The workforce was gradually being reduced over many months and I had no auditors left in the end, working on my own for many weeks with only a few men on the shop floor left to deal with. I had virtually only a couple of hours work a day, so I kept on to the boss to let me go also. In the end, I was told at Christmas I could eventually leave at the end of February, along with the next few to be made redundant. I think there were four of us who left then and we had a small lunch time gathering at the pub across from the firm, when I was presented with a set of three brass planters from the few remaining staff. Mary was still working when I retired and I then had the job of housemaid, cook and general dogs body until she finally stopped working. I remember the day she came home on her retirement. Glenda had been with her and some of her work colleagues for a lunch time drink and I saw them coming through the gate carrying her bags full of presents and a fur musquash coat she had treat herself to. I think at the time I was decorating the front room and Glenda's husband Ian had built us a stone fire surround that I had designed. Mary's Dad had passed away by this time and her Mum came back to live in Sheffield, not far from where we lived. So I was able to do a few jobs for her and she would come over on the bus and go with us to the nearby Bingo hall on occasions. Mary had for some years been suffering with her back pains and was diagnosed with curvature of the spine, and also started with arthritis. She eventually applied for the mobility allowance and initially was given it for three years. We then sold our car we had at that time, which was a Austin Maxi, and with her allowance bought a second hand Lada Riva. After the three years, she was granted the mobility payment for good and from then on we used the monthly allowance towards new cars. To date we have had a Vauxhall Astra, Ford Escort, two Ford Focus and on March 1st 2006 we will have our fifth one, a Ford Fusion. This of course is because you have to change cars every three years. To return to a few years back after our retirement, I was introduced to a friend of Eric's who had a sign writing business, amongst other things, and he asked me if I would like to do a spot of part time driving for him. I took up the offer and did quite a lot of local and distant deliveries for him to such firms as Yorkshire Water, British Steel, Power stations, to name a few. I made some friends on those regular visits and one day in particular I had the most unusual surprise. This involved a fellow who had a similar factory at Grantham and whose firm I had been to once or twice on deliveries and collections. On this special day, I arranged to meet him half way at British Ropes Retford, as he was visiting a firm in the vicinity. When we met and done our business, he said "I have a surprise to show you," and he opened the boot of his car and took out a small case, and upon opening it there was a Victoria Cross inside. He was some official on the Council and that evening there was some official gathering and the medal was to be on view. He let me take it out of the case and hold it as he explained it was won in the First World War by some officer in Grantham. I felt very honoured and privileged to be one of the very few who had actually had the highest medal in the land in the palm of their hand. Another incident was when I was on my way to a firm at Malton. I was this time driving Peter's car (another boss) which was a 2.8 litre Ford Granada estate. I had a few flat metal signs in the boot, but called to pick up some wooden posts on my way out of Sheffield. The back seats were lowered and the posts loaded in the car for me by the workmen. I set off and was on the York ring road nearing my destination, when the police car following me decided to pull me over. "What are you carrying?" the officer asked. After the delivery note had been produced and questions asked, he said to follow him to the nearby weigh station as it looked like I was overloaded. After the front of the car was weighed, then the rear end, and finally the full car, it was showing that the rear of the car was overloaded, but the total weight was not exceeded. Apparently, in the police car with the two officers, were two other men from the transport authority and he had to give me a fixed penalty fine. He then very kindly directed me back to the ring road to complete my journey. When I returned to the office and presented the penalty fine to Tom he said "I thought there might be a problem with the load," but he wasn't a bit bothered about the fine as he had still made a good deal of profit out of it all.

 

Shortly after our retirements we were invited to go with a relation of Mary's for a holiday to Ibiza. Ivy, as she was called, lived at Boston Spa near to Tadcaster and had for many years been to the Island with her husband until he passed away, and, since then, on her own. It was really a local Bistro and had just a few rooms for friends of the owners, Marie and Bartholomew, who had made friends with Ivy and her husband many years before. We made the arrangements and the holiday was booked by Ivy at a travel company in Boston Spa. The day we arranged to travel up there to pay for the holiday and collect the documents we decided that we would continue on up North to relations again of Mary's at Billingham, and take Glenda, Darren and Lynsey with us for a day out. On the return journey, we were travelling down the A19 dual carriageway, when a land rover type of car that was towing a caravan decided at the last minute to pull out from the inside lane and make a dash for a small gap in the grassed over central reservation, which was only for use by the farmer who lived opposite to gain access to his fields. Mary, who was sat in the rear seat, was reading a story book to Lynsey at the time, and banged her head. Glenda, who was in the front with me, had an arm injury and myself a slight rib bruising, but the children escaped with little more than a shaking up. Until the ambulance arrived, the lady from the farmhouse took them all into the house. I was alright and assisted the police, who could see that the other driver was at fault in an instant, and charged him with the offence. When the ambulance came, it took them to Northallerton hospital and I was taken up there by the police later on. We had to phone both Ians to come and collect us, as the car was a write off. We did eventually go to court and the other driver was obviously found guilty and was fined etc. We, on our part, had compensation given, but both Darren and Lynsey had their award held in trust until they were eighteen, which was very substantial at the end due to the interest gained.

 

We had recovered for our holiday in October and had a glorious two weeks of hot weather. We did quite a lot of travelling round the island and on our visit to the capital, Ibiza town, we climbed the fortress type hill. Upon reaching the top, we visited the small church and shops, then sat outside a small tavern and enjoyed a bottle of wine and a bite to eat. It was very quiet and peaceful and we were the only ones there at the time. The two waiters were chatting to us and Mary offered them cigarettes. When we went inside to pay the bill they insisted on buying us a drink, so after making our way back down into the town, feeling a little tipsy, we arrived in the deserted square to find it empty and everyone having their siesta. We found the nearest bench seats on the waterfront and stretched out for our siesta, only to awaken to a chap sweeping the area around us. Then one day we had a tour of the island by coach and saw some lovely coves and beaches. We visited quite a few on our own, by way of catching boats from the landing pier at San Antonio, where we were staying, and crossing the bay by sea rather than by road. A relation of Marie and Bartholomew had a business repairing boats and was building a new home in the centre of the island; he invited us to join them and some friends of theirs to a meal up at the partly built property on the middle Sunday. We were picked up by car and taken to the partly built property. Two rooms had been completed, but Bartholomew got stuck in making a fire out on the patio and preparing the meal. I had a short walk up a small incline and the only sign of life was a group of stables in the distance where some riders looked as if they were practicing their riding skills. On my return we had been joined by one or two more friends, one being the local police sergeant and his wife. We eventually started our meal, which was paella and plenty of wine to wash it down with. We were dining in the inside kitchen and some outside in the glorious sunshine. And so our retirement, as one would expect, took on a relaxed and carefree outlook, and we had the freedom of making our day to day decisions where to go or what to do. For a few years we booked the apartment at Bridlington that we often went to when Mary Marshall was alive. As it was situated on the sea front, and the view from our window was a magnificent panorama from the harbour and beyond to the right and Flamborough Head to the left, it was ideal for us, as going abroad wasn't our scene then. We got into the habit of going to Bingo at the Gala Club on Sheffield Parkway each Monday afternoon and we called for a lady called Lydia. Alan, her husband now deceased, was Mary's boss at one time and she liked to go with us. We made many friends there and I suppose we had our fair share at winning over the years, though not any big ones. Mary, always one for her kindness to others, kept me busy, as she would be the first to offer our service to people who needed a lift to hospital for their appointments etc., and also such as taking and fetching friends to the airport for example. In 2004 we had our golden wedding anniversary in August, which extended over a couple of weeks. This was mainly due to Glenda and family having previously booked their holiday for the actual date, so we booked the Saturday before to take the family and some friends for a meal at the Gipsy Queen, twenty one of us all together. Then the Saturday after, on the proper day, we held an open house from noon onward for neighbours and others who hadn't been to the meal. It was a very successful day, with callers well into the evening. We were both clearing up till after midnight and rolled into bed tired out, but very pleased with the occasion and seeing so many old friends. Of all the many presents we had, Glenda gave us a picture she had framed for us with all the family on it, and a lovely poem she had composed, also framed. We now have them hanging together on the room wall. In fact, now I remember, we took my sister Joan for a meal the following Sunday as she had been away for the whole two weeks. Now as I near the completion of this saga in the month of February 2006, and nearing my 78th Birthday, I hope that Mary and myself will continue to enjoy our lives together with our family and friends for many years to come, and that God willing I may be able to add further interesting episodes of my life to this one. To my children, and especially my grandchildren, who may read this in the future, I would like to say to them remember the good things in your lives and always keep your family dear to you no matter what may come and may they be as proud of you as we are of you.

 

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