…and the Firshill and Pitsmoor History Group did some more reminiscing.
Story: Marion Graham
Anne Murdoch remembered:
“We used to make Christmas decorations from tissue paper. We would cut it up into strips and stick them together with flour and water paste to make circles and then link them into a paper chain which was then draped across the ceiling from corner to corner. I don’t remember us getting Christmas cards – I don’t think anyone could afford them. We used to write letters to Father Christmas and put them up the chimney.
“I remember every Christmas my Mum would make a new pegged rug out of rag cuttings and she used to varnish the chairs and table legs. We didn’t get much by way of toys, just one main toy, a bag containing an apple, an orange and a new penny and a net stocking with sweets in it, if we were lucky. We didn’t feel deprived because we didn’t know of anything better. Our parents bought us what they could, and what they couldn’t give us in material things they gave us in love”.
Similar memories came from Joyce Rason who also remembered:
“We always decorated the house with paper trimmings, sometimes bought but often we made our own paper chains from coloured pieces of paper, which we stuck into rings and made into a length. A grown-up would then fasten them to the ceiling from the corners of the room to the middle. We had a small artificial tree which we used each year and trimmed with glass baubles. At the end of each branch there was a holder that held a small candle – the same ones each year because we never lit them, but they looked effective. I don’t remember having fairy lights.
“I always had nice presents, such as a doll’s house one year and a school desk and a blackboard another. And I always had a game such as Ludo or Snakes and Ladders or Tiddlywinks. And then there were the pantomimes to look forward to. We went to the Lyceum and the Empire theatres in town. We went in ‘the gods’ right at the top of the theatre and we queued up the stone steps leading up there which was very exciting and noisy! The seats were just steep steps in rows with a padded covering to sit on. We saw many ‘stars’ there at the start of their careers.”
Janet Boam, our youngest member, grew up in the 50’s – but there was still the tradition of throwing notes up the chimney for Father Christmas! She also told us:
“When I was young we lived in the Newhall district of Sheffield and I remember watching my Father decorate the Christmas tree – not a real one but one which resembled a flue brush, made from bristles and twisted wire with a red berry on the end of each branch. We had some lights which were like Chinese lanterns and they were hung on the picture rail around the room. In those days, Christmas was a magical time even though we didn’t have much money.
“The best part was choosing a present from the toy department at Banner’s store in Attercliffe – it was like Aladdin’s cave. The chosen present would be wrapped and taken home to be “sent to Father Christmas for delivery on Christmas Eve”. When that day arrived the evening would see the carol singers coming around to sing in return for a few pennies. When I was older I used to go carol singing with my friend and at one house we were given a shilling – which in the 1950’s was a fortune. On Christmas Day there would be chicken with all the trimmings for lunch and Mum would have baked a Christmas cake and mince pies and tarts. Christmas now is not the same – people spend hundreds of pounds on presents and celebrations but I don’t think they get the same pleasure that we got from our simple presents and festivities.”
Milton, our “outsider” member who came from the other side of the hills, gave us his memories – which really, for all the distance, turned out to be not much different to ours. He told us:
“I lived in Lancashire, near Bolton, and I remember that even when the war was on we always had Christmas lunch precisely at 12 noon. There would be roast pork with Brussels sprouts (served mashed up), mashed and roasted potatoes, carrots and thick brown gravy. Then home-made Christmas pudding into which my Mum put a couple of three-penny pieces or one sixpence (5p today). It was fun hoping you would find a coin in your piece of pudding – but you had to be careful you didn’t swallow it. If I got the sixpence I was over the moon because I could go to the local shop and buy sweets, a pencil, balloons or other goodies and still have a bit of change left.
I used to write a letter to Father Christmas and throw it up the chimney [there it goes again] on Christmas Eve. I didn’t get a lot of presents, maybe a football, or a toy gun or Snakes and Ladders and a few sweets. But one year I got a second-hand push-bike and couldn’t wait to show it to my friends who already had bikes. My Dad used to take me cycling round the country lanes and once he gave an old cycle lamp which was lit with carbide powder – it gave a good light but it didn’t half smell.”
We had lots more memories but not enough space for them all – look for the next instalment about this time next year!