Team photograph brings back so many memories

JUST when you think you know everything there is to know about old Dewsbury something pops up to prove you wrong.

Friday, 2nd September 2011, 9:00 am

This happened the other day when Trevor Hirst showed me a picture of staff at Dewsbury Woolworths at a presentation event in 1959.

It brought back happy memories of the time I worked there on Saturdays and during half term when I was at Dewsbury Technical College.

Trevor’s late wife, Margaret, was a supervisor there in the 1950s and 60s and her sister Anne was window dresser.

This was in the days when if you worked at a place and put in a good word for a relative, that was enough to get them a job as well.

Many sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles, worked at the same place, and many firms, like Woolworths, never had to advertise for staff.

Chatting with Trevor about these good old days, gave us both the opportunity to test each other’s memories of times gone by.

He remembered popping into Woolworths on Saturdays when he was courting Margaret and would sit and have a cuppa at the tea bar at the back of the store.

He asked if I remembered the tea bar, and for the life in my I couldn’t.

Trevor prompted me with further details. “There were no tables, just the tea bar, and about 15 chairs. Customers used to come in through the side door, down a few steps, and there was the tea bar. There were about four attendants serving drinks.”

Trevor was painting a picture for me of something I’d completely forgotten, but try as I might, I couldn’t recall it.

Until that moment, I thought I knew everything about Woolworths. After all I’d worked there, and on nearly every counter.

But the memory can play tricks on us all, especially as we get older, and this is why we end up getting into arguments in the pub on a Saturday night, once we start recalling old times.

People will swear black and blue about a certain thing, and sadly there are few people left who we can ring up to settle it for us.

That’s why these days I’m reluctant to push my point of view too far, even when I feel hundred per cent certain, because, as I said, the memory can play tricks on us.

I am so grateful to Trevor Hirst, not only for this photograph, but for reminding me of the tea bar at Woolworths.

I’m sure it will revive a lot of memories for others who worked there, and, unlike me, they’ll remember immediately, and perhaps they too, like Trevor, will remember sitting on those maroon leather chairs, sipping a cuppa all those years ago.

IT WAS just before my 16th birthday when I started working at Woolworth’s in 1957, and I thought I was the luckiest girl alive to have landed a job there.

Forget Marks and Spencer’s across the road, Woolies was the place for me. It was a brilliant place to work at.

Far more relaxed and easy going for a teenager than snooty M&S, across the road, and, anyway, the kind of customers at Woolies, were more up my street.

I was delighted when I got the make-up counter to look after. It meant I was able to have a chat with all my friends who came trooping in on Saturday afternoons.

We would discuss what we were going to wear that night at the Ben Riley dance hall, and who was the lad they currently had their eye on. It usually changed from week to week.

They would ask advice on what make-up to wear but always went home with the cheapest, Outdoor Girl, which they believed all the top Hollywood stars wore.

The colours they chose were always the same, pale pink lipstick, blue eye-shadow, and black eye-liner, later to become Dusty Springfield’s trademark.

Looking at Trevor’s photograph brought back such happy memories of my teenage years in Dewsbury.

What a bustling town centre it was, always full of happy, smiling people. Or perhaps I imagined that.

It was lovely to work in a shop where you seemed to know all the customers, and the bosses were great.

We weren’t restricted by health and safety rules, and when we ran out of anything on our counter, we just nipped up to the stock room and brought down whatever we thought we needed.

We were never bored because we were kept busy with a constant stream of customers, and I still cannot believe we no longer have a Woolworth’s in Dewsbury, or anywhere else in the country, for that matter, What on earth happened there?

Marks and Spencer was the first to go, followed shortly by Woolworths, and a black cloud seemed to descend on the town, which seems to be taking some lifting.