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The Day War Broke Out My Missus Said To Me...

by the Astley Bridge Reminiscence Group

The Astley Bridge Reminiscence Group met each month at Astley Bridge Library. On the day war broke out members of the group ranged from age 12 to 18. Barry, born in 1935, had some fond memories, particularly of listening to the wireless, and this was the theme, but because of the very nature of a reminiscence group it soon led to other things.


Everyone remembered Workers Playtime, and ITMA, but there was also "Happydrome" and there was a spontaneous and affectionate rendition of the theme tune. London's traffic stopped when In Town Tonight was on and "did you know that Workers Playtime wasn't live in the war. When they came to the De Havilland works there was a gap in transmission in case there was an air raid". Someone who went to the Grand Theatre every Friday remembered the comedian Frank Randle. His mum wouldn't let him go to see Frank Randle who she considered to be a dirty old man. She put her foot down about that.

The catch phrases echoed down the years, one after the other.

The day war broke out my missus said to me ..…was the beginning of Rob Wilton's stories and monologues.

"Can I do you now, Sir?" This famous catchphrase, from ITMA, was said by Mrs Mopp (Dorothy Summers), the hoarse-voiced charlady or "corporation cleanser", when entering the office of Tommy Handley, as the mayor. Curiously, the first time Mrs Mopp used the phrase, on October 10, 1940, she said, "Can I do FOR you now, Sir?" This was soon replaced by the familiar emphases of, "Can I DO you NOW, Sir?". She also said 'TTFN' (Ta ta for now)

Finally, a hilarious sketch never forgotten was described, but alas not demonstrated. This was by Nat Jackley and involved pretending to walk down steps behind a settee.


Then it was on to the subject of food. Jim didn't think there were food shortages. Certainly he knew that his mum sold part of her rations in Deane, and others confirmed it was a regular practise. There was no shortage of vegetables either when the Dig For Victory campaign began. There were two plots on Astley Bridge Football Ground, and others at St Paul's and Seymour Road.

Even today on one man's lawn there are two lines which he cant get rid of. The story is that that is where potatoes were grown during the war. No one was ever short in the Chorley New Road area, and there were laughs because of it's nickname Jam Pot Road, so called because there was always jam on the table. An insurance man who used to call on houses in this area verified this. They were well off all right. "Well if they had jam what did we have to settle for?" Unanimously, the answer was dripping. In Halliwell you could get the finest rhubarb in Bolton, and the winberries up Belmont were second to none. Kids today don't know the pleasures of blackberry and winberry picking. One man said his brother brought bananas and a mummified ham from his travels. There was a British Restaurant just near where the Wellsprings is now, and the best restaurant in Bolton was Collison's Café. The technical side of sandwich making was described.The scientific difference between a sandwich and a buttie is as follows. A sandwich is cut, a buttie folded over.


There were 69 tripe shops in Bolton in 1911 (See A Most Excellent Dish: Lancashire Tripe Trade - by M Houlihan. Published by Neil Richardson), and it was still a popular food throughout the war. The blood was sold for gardens. Perhaps that was why the rhubarb was so fine.

D Day brings back memories of praying for the men. At lunchtime at the mill everyone went to special services that week to pray for the men.


There were German spies in Bolton. When arrested they had maps of the Waterworks. There was a rumour that Lord Haw Haw, William Joyce, lived in Chorley New Road for a while, and, while there, no doubt enjoyed his jam.