News, events and discoveries of the Walkley Ways, Walkley Wars history project.
Beryl Griffin recounts her 1940’s and 50’s childhood on Harold Street. She writes about school, street games, back street betting, housework and family life. The street was demolished in the 1970s. Part of Ruskin Park now replaces the street.
I was born Saturday 3rd February 1945 on the floor in the front bedroom of 45 Harold Street, Second daughter to Irene and Leonard Radford.
Age 4 after a visit to Dr Debson on Burgoyne Road I was diagnosed with yellow jaundice and sent home with my mum to await an ambulance. When it arrived (navy blue fever ambulance to go into hospital white one to come home) I screamed the house down as I was stripped of all my clothes and wrapped in a big red itchy blanket (even being told that I looked like Little Red Riding Hood didn’t calm me). There was quite a crowd of people outside to watch me go on my own to Lodge Moor isolation hospital. The isolation ward was separate glass rooms. No one was allowed in only nursing staff and visitors had to stand outside and look through the windows. Visiting was only for one hour on a Sunday afternoon and no contact was allowed. Any gifts were left at an office, but not before Dad had held them up to the window to show me what he and mum had brought, but he could not give them to me. I spent three to four weeks there and came home the day before my 5th birthday (in a white ambulance) and on the sideboard waiting for me was a crinoline lady birthday cake.
Not long afterwards I started at Burgoyne Road county school. The reception classroom was full of lovely toys. A sandpit and a kitchen in one corner and a big wooden rocking horse (I loved that horse). One wall had a big open fire with a metal guard around it. At playtime we had milk in small glass bottles. They were frozen in winter and warm in summer. I gave mine to anyone who would drink it.
The first year I moved up to the juniors we did a nativity play. I was Angel Gabriel and my dress was a silk parachute wrapped around me. Material was scarce because things were still on ration from the war. The parachute belonged to one of the teachers and was handed back after the play. The Sheffield Telegraph and Star took a photograph which was printed in the paper.
The six weeks summer holiday always seemed long and sunny. We played out all the time amusing ourselves. Skipping was one favourite game. A long thick rope (used to tie orange boxes together) was purchased from the greengrocer for six pence. (I don’t know who paid for it). There were at least twenty children playing and the rope stretched across the street. When we tired of this most of the girls would crowd into a backyard on Hardy Street, for a concert. This was because part of the yard was up some steps, so it was like a stage. All we needed was a load of old curtains and a few old clothes, let rehearsals begin. We always started off in one long line kicking our legs in the air (like the tiller girls) singing “here we are again happy as can be”. This could take days (and quite a few arguments) to get everyone in step. Other favourites were How much is that doggy in the window? And we’re a couple of swells, this one we did the actions too. Our house had a back garden and at the very top a block of three toilets and a flat area. This was ideal for all the children who had a desk to troop up our garden and sit in a line to play school. One day someone brought some ink to fill the ink wells. I was the one, who it was spilt on, all over my plain yellow taffeta dress. When mum saw it I had to stay indoors all day while my clothes were washed and dried.
I had the job one year of bringing home the stick insect that was kept in a jar in the classroom. I took it out to show my friends and it escaped into the privet hedge! After a long afternoon searching we found it again. I think more luck than anything else, as it did look like a piece of privet, just a stick of about four inches long with little legs.
Always the one to try and make a little money, I would collect vegetable peelings and take them to a house on Duncombe street. They kept pigs. The house had a big garden and a long drive but the pigs smelt awful. I would get three pence for my trouble. I would also collect any old clothes and take them to a cobbled yard on Meadow street. If I was lucky I would get sixpence. The rag man came around the streets every week with his horse and cart. He gave you a balloon for a few items or a goldfish for more. I had a few fish but they didn’t live long. The men in the street used to follow the horse with a brush and shovel to collect manure for their back gardens and sometimes there were arguments as to who got there first.
My mum was a milliner before she married and was very good at sewing and making clothes for me and my sisters. We had a Singer treadle sewing machine, which I learned to use from an early age. Mum used to take in sewing, mostly making curtains. Each pair had two frilled pelmets which I was allowed to make, to practice my treadle sewing. When the curtains were ready I would take them to which ever neighbour they belonged to and I nearly always got a sixpence for going. One night whilst my mum was next door, me and my sister decided to make stamps by perforating writing paper with the sewing machine. My sister put her finger too close and I machined it! As she pulled free the needle broke in her finger. We spent the rest of the night at The Royal Infirmary Hospital, where they drew the needle out with a magnet.
My dad and my Grandma Radford used to work at a little mesters on Meadow Street called Sammy Pieces. They did file cutting. I think this was the first stages of making cutlery. It was a very dirty job and a lot of the women used to wrap brown paper around their legs to keep file cuttings and dirt off.
Later when we were school age my dad started work as a Lamp Lighter. He was responsible for an area of streets and courtyards where the gas lamps were fastened to the wall. During the morning he had to maintain and clean the windows of the gas lamps and at dusk he would walk around with a ladder to check that they were all lit. If not it would more than likely be a mantle that had broken. That is what the gas came through and they were very fragile. This was a good carry on for us as dad was always home at dinner time for me and my younger sister. (My older sister passed her eleven plus and so went to a school too far away to come home for lunch). Mum worked part time at Harry Scholey’s, a well-known drapers and pawn brokers shop on Burgoyne Road. I think everyone in the area used to be in their Christmas club. Paying a little each week. Dad bought comics to read with our dinner. The Judy, The Bunty, School Friend, Girls Crystal and The Eagle for himself. On a Monday lunch time he would have the gas copper lit for me to sort the washing into to boil while we ate our dinner. By this time, late 1950s we had progressed from a dolly tub and wash board to a washing machine. It was very basic and you still had to put the washing through the wringer and turn the handle. It was hard work. Dad usually did the turning, he would help but would not peg out for fear someone saw him. Men did not do house work then. I usually had the first load pegged out before I went back to school and mum came home from work to take over.
On a Sunday afternoon my Grandma Radford, my sister and myself used to walk to my Auntie Doris and Uncle George’s house. They lived on Oxford Street. I liked to go there as they had a dog called Judy and my cousin Derek used to take me and her for a walk on the field at the side of Crookes Valley School. I did all the running about with the dog and a ball, until it was time to go back for dinner. They had a late dinner as my uncle used to like a drink in the Bath Hotel on Burgoyne Road. Auntie Doris used to make Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy to die for. All done on a Yorkshire range. The gravy was done in the meat tin on a metal trivet which was hinged over the fire, so she could stir it. We always had bananas and custard for tea and Derek used to put loads of saccharin’s in (sugar was rationed) and made it very sweet. My Grandma and my sister then went home but I stayed until my Uncle George got up from his afternoon nap. He took me home on his motorbike and side car. The sidecar was just a wooden box that he put his window cleaning ladders and bucket in during the week. It was a very bouncy journey as most of the roads were cobbled and we had to negotiate Blake Street, which is one of the steepest hills in Sheffield. I don’t know how we got to the top, I just hung onto the sides of the box. It was good fun, no health and safety in the 1950’s. No drink driving either. When he had dropped me off at home he went back to The Bath Hotel to meet some more of my uncles. One of them had a flat back open top lorry which he carried fruit from the market to his shop. He would often take my cousin (whose dad it was) myself and my sister a ride. We stood up on the open back, behind the driver’s cab, holding on tight. Not long after, this uncle was killed when his lorry overturned on the way back from The Strines Inn. His dog which was with him at the time (also called Judy) used to return to the crash site and sit. It was brought home many times by different people, but in the end she had to be put to sleep.
In the 1950s there were no betting shops. Gambling on horse racing was illegal. There were what was called ‘back street bookies’ and there was one on Hardy Street next door to my Aunties. He operated from an aviary in the back yard. You went through where all the birds were and he had an office at the back. If he got a tip off that the police were coming he would flush the betting slips down the toilet next door. I know all this because our neighbour went to work early in the morning and would leave his bet for me to take for him at dinner time. My reward was, if he won a few pence he would say that it wasn’t worth fetching and I could have it.
In 1953 there was great excitement and planning for the coronation of Princess Elizabeth. Every Friday for months before two ladies in Harold Street collected a few shilling and entered it in a book alongside the name of each child, as we were having a street party. I followed my mum to the door every week to make sure she paid. I was so afraid that we would not be included. As the day approached two men with a ladder on each side of the street knocked on doors and gave the occupant some homemade bunting to trap in the bedroom windows and stretch across the street. Trestle tables were put up in the middle of the road. The only food I can remember was an ice cream cornet, which was a cone wafer and a square of ice cream wrapped in paper. By the time I got mine it was melted. The man who ran the corner shop dressed as a clown and handed them out. There were only two television sets in Harold Street and one belonged to my Uncle who lived across the street with my Great Grandma. I can’t remember how many people packed into the house to watch the coronation. I was sat on a fold down wringing machine that was like a table, quite high up, so I was lucky to have a good view. The TV was only a twelve inch screen and not a very clear picture, but lots of people were standing and different people popped in and out.
A lot of mums on our street worked what was called the twilight shift, at Fletchers Bakery or Bassett’s Sweets on Clay Wheels Lane. The Bassett’s lady’s used to wear white overalls and turbans and would walk down the street together to start work at 5pm until 9pm, when their husbands were home from work to look after the children. I thought this was a lovely job as they could buy cheap liquorice allsorts from a staff shop. Sometimes they brought some for my mum to buy, but money was scarce so we did not get many, although dad nearly always had sweets for us when he came home. He spent all his money on taking us to the Palladium picture house on South Road and when we came out we went across the road to the herbalist where we had hot Vimto or Sasperella. We sat on a little wooden bench in the tiny shop.
On Burgoyne Road there was an ice cream parlour (if you could call it that). The shop was white tiled from floor to ceiling and very cold, lovely to walk into on a hot day. I remember taking a pudding bowl to have it filled with ice cream.
When I reached senior school the girls did needle work and the boys did woodwork. Our teacher was Mrs Millhouse and to my delight we had one Singer treadle sewing machine. The rest were table top ones that you turned the handle to sew. Mrs Millhouse never did master how to work the treadle, she used to excuse me lessons to teach her. I was also an asset to the class as I am left handed, so all the new stitches we were taught had to be done differently so that they would look the same. Mrs Millhouse would say “anyone who is left handed go and sit with Beryl Radford and she will show you”. This was one of my favourite lessons and we made all sorts of things. The best thing was a Dirndl skirt. That set me off making a lot more. On a Saturday morning myself and my friend next door would go into town to the Rag and Tag market to get enough material for both of us to make a skirt. Then after a wander around the animals that were for sale (cats, dogs, rabbits and mice) we would come home. I would machine two skirts and I think my friend stitched the hems, any way we both had a new dirndl skirt by tea time. The other lesson I liked was cooking. We had no facility’s to teach cooking, so we walked to Morley Street School. The only down side to this for my mum was that it was a good walk home, so any bread or cakes that we made I would eat on the way back.
I don’t know how it came about but I was chosen to be a school prefect. I was very proud of my badge. It was a maroon coloured shield with gold lettering. I wore it every day at school. Our duties were to help supervise at dinner time and to take it in turns with the other prefects (six girls and five boys) to ring the hand bell to signal the end of break time or dinner time. Also to keep order when the younger children lined up and to stand on the stairs (there were a lot of steep stairs) to make sure they didn’t run or fall.
I was never very good at P.E but I loved playing rounder’s and I was in the net ball team. My position was shooter, I think because I was one of the tallest in the class. I left school at fifteen years old at Easter 1960.
My first job was at Globe and Simpsons on West Street. Each year they would contact the school to send so many school leavers for job interviews. I was lucky and I started work the week after I left school. I worked in the filing room putting piles of invoices in order. My first wage was two pounds and ten shillings. I worked Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. I was given the ten shillings for spending money and out of this I paid four pence each way on the bus every day. I bought a pair of stockings each week which were three shillings and eleven pence. So to subsidise myself I worked on a Saturday in the Sunblest bread shops. My cousin was a manager and he picked me up in the Sunblest van at 8am and took me to any of the shops that were short staffed. The shops were very busy (no freezers) so all bread was bought fresh every day. I can remember having to add up every item in my head before ringing them in the till. I finished work at 6pm and my wage was one pound. The best thing was that I got to bring home any fresh cream cakes that weren’t sold!
Mrs Beryl Margaret Griffin (nee Radford).