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Bygone Stanley - Visit to Jack Calvert


Webmaster's note:- Sadly, Jack Calvert died 2ndMarch 2007, aged 91. - R.I.P

At this stage I feel a little should be said of some of Stanley's sons and daughters and I felt a visit to an old pal of mine would be a good starting point. So I visited Jack Calvert, aged 79, and his wonderful wife. What more welcome could one get than a nice cup of tea and home baked cakes?

Now Jack is a very talented sketcher and copies of his work on parts of Stanley, past & present, I am privileged to show in this book. He bad done a little write-up which, in parts, gave a factual description of some of the ways of our lives in 1927 in our village. He said 'I feel as though I have never passed springtime. I still have the same interest and enthusiasms I had as a 12-year old which I think stands anybody in good stead. Life has been hard for me. Even winter is best past nowadays. I have always read everything I could get my hands on. It's a wonderful education and I have sat hour after hour studying maps and have always wanted to know what was round the corner, or over the next mile. Some of the miles and villages of the Dales are the finest of my silent friends. I have ridden many thousands of miles alone on my bike, enjoyed rain, hail, snow or sun and made nearly as many friends en-route.'

'Life did not start well for me; my father dying when l was 5 years old. I started work at Newmarket Colliery when work was very hard. That was the day of no machinery and all the coal was got by hand, filled into tubs and horse and man handled right to the surface. The conditions underground were dreadful; roofs and much of the timber was more broken than whole. I lived my early life on Canal Lane with no scullery or bathroom, and an outside toilet, which was a dry one which was emptied only when full. There were gas lamps as street lights and gas only in the houses. Even at school (St. Peter's) boys went to school in cloggs made locally at Bottomboat.'

'The pits all around had buzzers which blew the start and the end of the shift, also at snap time. You could learn to know each pit by the tone of its buzzer. On Sundays everybody wore the best clothes they could afford. People used to walk out on Sundays and take their children with them - a thing not seen much nowadays.'

'Wireless was invented in the early 20's and we had one of the first crystal sets in Stanley. We listened to 2LS Leeds and 2LO London. In 1924 we advanced to one valve and picked up KDKA Schebektady USA. We thought it was fantastic! What a different age we live in now.'

'On Saturday afternoon we could go to Stanley Picture House for 1d. and were given a Jaffa orange to go in. We had a Slaughter House on Canal Lane owned by Mr Tom Wilson. He used to save us the bladder out of beasts which we blew up, dried and played football with for months until they burst. We would spend many happy hours making kites which we flew from Canal Lane End over the open country until you could hardly see them. Pavement games were always popular - hide and seek, kick out can, last man on, whip and top etc. Mischief Night was always a happy night and one of the things we would do would be to put a clothes line though each sneck of a row of eight houses with sneck handles. We would then knock on the first door and watch the fun. The local policeman was always held in awe and when he appeared we always disappeared, although we had done no wrong.'

'At 16 I made what I thought was a great adventure on the bike. Three of us set off on a camping holiday to the Dales and went over the Ruttertubs Pass for the first time. This gave me my great love for the Yorkshire Dales. I rode to Scarborough, Bridlington and Whitby many times during the 30's on my own just to pass time when we only worked three day's one week and two another at the pit. My cycling bag had good fillings of jam and bread, and fat and bread. Yes, we did live rich - Happy Days!'

'Later in the 30's, in club riding, I would take parties of cyclists to the East Coast where we all got Bed & Breakfast for 3/6d. old money, which was sandwiches for supper on Saturday night and as much bacon and eggs as you could eat for breakfast. It was a lot warmer in those days and sometimes it was too warm to go to bed. We have been in the River Calder at 10 pm trying to cool down.'

'People made a lot of their own entertainment in those day's. The Pit Pony races used to be a big attraction. Every year the pony drivers in local pits brought their own ponies our of the pit and took them to Thorpe, near Lofthouse, where the Pit Pony races were held. The drivers usually rode their own ponies to find out who could win most races. This caused rivalry and enjoyment to spectators who bet on the races.'

'Life was a lot easier and people more friendly. So much more neighbourly too; many, many times we forgot to lock our doors and they were left open all night. Radio was the only entertainment in the home apart from cards, ludo and dominoes. I was in the church choir when I was young and had a good voice. The radio came from Basinghall Street Studios (Leeds 2LS) in those days and I sang in a Studio Concert for Children's Corner. The pianist who accompanied me was Violet Carson who was later in 'Coronation Street'. She was then known in radio as 'Auntie Violet'.'

This was how young people in the village lived in that period. Whilst having my second or perhaps third cake, Jack showed me some notes he had made on two now not used pubs. One is of an old house near the old Stanley Quarry, now levelled down of course, and is now the Health Centre. The pub was called 'Who Would Have Thought It' and was named after a disaster. Another old pub was called The Garden Gate which still stands in Intake Lane, Stanley. This was built in the early part of the 1800's and, in the early 1900's rooms were rented as a school for children.

One of our elderly residents, 85 years old Mrs Minchen, states she went to this, perhaps a private school, for lessons for a payment of 4d. For many years this building was neglected and in disrepair but has now been restored to a good attractive house.

Another public house which has been converted into a private residence is what was known as the Gardeners Arms built in 1858 and in the 1920s was managed by Ralph Limer, a Stanley resident now in his 92nd year. Fot many years Ralph's father had a large wooden building which was used as a hairdressers shop. It was almost like a community centre; the locals gathered there for a chat, read their newspapers, a runner was always around to take bets on horse racing to the local bookmaker - all very much illegal, but no one seemed to worry - no doubt the local policeman would have an occasional bet and occasionally would prosecute.

Having a recent conversation with Ralph, he told me that his father had the hair cutting business from 1909 to 1914. I remember as a young teenager in the early 19930's having my hair cut for 2d. On the site of this shop is now our modern Community Centre - a big improvement on Mr Limer's shop-cum-community centre.

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