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Memory Lane 1988

by Mrs Abbey

Bolton is celebrating one hundred and fifty years of local government, and things like this always start you thinking about the past. My husband and I spend many a night talking and having a laugh about the people we knew and the places we went to in the past. A lot of the people have now passed on, a lot of the places have been pulled down and areas have been rebuilt and landscaped beyond recognition.

Although I have lived in the Deane area for thirty years or more, I was born near Trinity Street station. It was a terraced house one of many in those days, our street was called John Taylor Street. There were nine streets in all running off the main one, which was Bridgeman Street.

These went from the station up to the tram shed. Yes I did say tram shed, because when -I was young it was all tramcars, and I can still see the shed in my mind. It was full of trams in rows. There were pits every so far, were the men would go down to mend the trams when they were in need of repair.

Coming home from school sometimes some boys would dare each other to go down the pits, but as soon as they got ten yards inside, there would be such an almighty roar from the back of the shed and a threat to belt anyone's backside who dared to set foot in there again. I would never go in because I was always afraid of the big doors closing on me and I wouldn't be able to get out.

Nearly all the streets I have mentioned ran from Bridgeman Street down to meet up with the mill wall. These walls belong to James Marsden fine cotton spinners. There were five mills belonging to him and across from them on Lever Street were Crosses and Winksworths. Further up Lever Street was Tommy Taylor's Mill. Every were you looked it was mills, because cotton was the main industry at the time.

It may sound silly to some people, but I miss the old mills. I know they were dirty and smelly, but there was a strange warmth about them. Some of my happiest days were in the mill. One of my favourite memories is of darkening days in the winter, a11 the mills being lit up and the crumpet man coming around with his large basket cover with a clean white cloth. He wore a large white apron. I can almost smell the crumpets and hear the noises of the machines coming from the mill as I write this.

The mill wall at the end of our street came in very handy for the kids. Many a game of cricket was played against that wall. Very few lads had such a luxury of a cricket bat or stumps, so the stumps were drawn on the walls with chalk. A flat piece of wood could become a bat and often a tennis ball was used. The older lads used the wall for pitch and toss, the girls played house and shop. By drawing a large square on the floor you could have a house or shop, as you pleased. The house would have the fireplace drawn on the wall, complete with vases and pictures also drawn on with chalk, you could have coloured pictures if you were lucky and could get coloured chalks. This was great if you decided to play shop because you could draw all kinds of coloured sweets and sometime chop the chalk into fine powder to sell.

We were lucky at our end of the wall we had the mill canteen and would you believe it they had a large room over the canteen were social events were held. At the weekend they would have dances during working hours. Sometimes the door was left open and we could play there if we were, quiet. This was great because there was there was a set of stone steps inside and those stairs were our grand staircase in our magical mansion, sometimes we were, chased out if the bosses came through.

It was always lots of fun when they had these dances. We would gather outside and wait for the couples or two girls together to go in and then sneak up behind them pretending we were going to the ball. Lots of the ladies and the girls wore long dance frocks and carried there dancing shoes under their arms. The men had slicked down their hair with Vaseline hair tonic or Brilliantine.

In 1938 I joined the steady stream of girls in woollen stockings and clogs going into the mill. At 7.30 on the dot I was taken to the over looker, and I was told all the rules and regulations. Stress was laid on about not being late, keeping to my work and not being lazy as sometime other people's lives depended on everyone working together. It was very strange and confusing at first, the noise of hundreds of spindles whirling around, the clanging of machines. Handles on frames were stopped and started by a slap slop of the leather driving belts at all the frame ends. These and lots more sounds made one think that by the end of the day you would be deaf. But after a while you became used to it, and even learned to hold a conversation without having to ask another person what they had said. Most people who worked in the mill learned to lip-read, and if you were a distance away you made signs with your hands. (This form of communication was called Me-Mawing)

Lots of books I have read about life in the mill, always seemed to be about spinning and weaving and nothing was mentioned about the card room, which is the starting place of cotton, this is were I worked. The card room was divided into sections. It started in the unloading yard, were the lorriesbrought in large bails of raw cotton. These were taken into the 'skutcher' room. In this was a large machine with a conveyor belt and on to the belt was put the raw cotton. It went through the machine and came out looking like a thick white blanket, which was rolled on to a cylinder. When it was several inches thick, it was then taken to the carding machine. This machine had hundreds of tiny needle like points. The cotton went through this machine and was combed and stretched with the needles. Carding as it was called, it came out in smaller laps about two foot wide and then went onto the combers.

These combers take about four or five laps in a row. They combed the cotton into soft rope like§ pieces. These pieces came together at one end of the machine and after going through the rollers, it came out as one piece, which was let down into a three or four foot can. The soft rope of cotton went on coiling down until the can was full and then taken off. Another machine took over with forty cans at the back and eighty cans at the front. It took six of the cans, twisted the ropes of cotton into one of the cans and likewise with the others. These front can went to a further machine, which twisted the cotton from two cans on to a bobbin. This was a very large bobbin of soft thread and from this process it has to go through three more machines. Each one taking two bobbins, twisting them in to a finer and stronger threads, until it finishes up on a much smaller bobbin and with a much finer thread. It is now ready for the spinning rooms, Then onto the winding rooms and finally to weaving sheds. So you see a lot happened in the carding room, but although it seemed to be the poor relation in cotton without the card room there would not be anything to weave.

During the war we had to start at six in the morning and work till five-thirty at night, but they were happy days and I stayed there until I was expecting my first baby at the age of 26. Six years later I moved from the area from a two up, two down, into a council house up Deane, with a bathroom and front and back garden.

The old days were left behind and when I go back now to were I once lived I find nothing of that area is the same. Gone are the houses and silent are the mills. In their places are large work complexes and offices, all that remains are memories drifting down memory lane.