‘We had been out on Chrismas Eve to Smithfield market to buy a wreath for Aunty Betsy’s grave. The ‘pot’ man was busy trying to persuade you to believe your Christmas dinner would taste nicer on the row of plates he had lined up on his arm, and the ‘boiled sweet man’ was tempting you with a large humbug he had made just before your eyes. We bought apples for the apple sauce, onions for the stuffing and some nuts and Shrewsbury biscuits for Dad from the biscuit shop on Swan street. These, and a canary which we bought from a pet shop on Tib street as a companion to our other bird, Gaby were to be his Christmas presents.’
From ‘Sunrise to Sunset’ by Mary Bertenshaw
‘My father was one of many unskilled labourers and in the winter of 1931 he became unemployed. We were soon below the poverty line. Being the eldest of four younger brothers I knew how my mother was struggling to make ends meet. About two weeks before Christmas we were told how she was finding it hard to manage, but she would try and get us a little something, we just had to wait and see. We understood the situation, thankful there may be a ‘little something’ for us at Christmas and it helped to take away the gloom.’
A Collection of short stories and poems by the Past & Present group
(based at Harpurhey Library)
Excerpt by Ellen Casey (nee Jones)
A visit to Father Christmas, 1930’s
‘A little later when I was about 4 years old my auntie came to take me into town (Manchester) to see Father Christmas at Lewis’s department store. I remember seeing lots of boxes piled up behind him split into pink tissue paper and blue tissue paper wrappings to make it easier for him I suppose. Father Christmas asked me what I would like for Christmas and I have absolutely no idea what I said but was given a box wrapped in pink paper. I remember hugging it and would not let my auntie take it from me, we reached the top of the staircase where I slipped and rolled down the stairs.
My auntie was running down after me, when she reached me I was still hugging my parcel and appeared to be completely unhurt, from there we went into Woolworths to the sweet counter where I chose some chocolate with nuts in it. In those days the chocolate was in a slab and the assistant would tap it with a little hammer to break it up, it was then put into a little bag and given to the customer.
When I reached home I then opened my parcel with my mother and inside was the sweetest little doll, I treasured it for a long time. On Christmas morning I would find a pillow case at the bottom of my bed with presents delivered overnight by Father Christmas. I remember a doll dressed in pink wearing a bonnet, a Pet Stores which was a little sweet shop, nuts and fruit and usually a selection box of chocolate bars. As I got older I was always given a box of hankies perhaps with my initial in the corner or pretty flowers. I loved everything I received.’
By Alma Royle
‘It happened to be one of those dark dismal days, as we walked up the Bakers steps to Rochdale Road it was a wonderful sight. Looking down the road towards town it looked like a ‘fairy grotto’, all the shops were lit up, the globe Mantle windows had positioned the display lights on their winter coats and gowns and all the shades were shining out to the road.
The London Paris Modes not to be outdone had done the same, the satins and taffetas and all the glowing colours looked like fairy land to us. May’s jewellery windows shone in the distance. Woods butchers was well lit and decorated with the traditional pig’s head in the centre with an orange in its mouth. Mr Butterworth the cloggers has stuck a sprig of holly in a new pair of clogs in the centre of his window.’
‘A Collection of short stories and poems by the Past and Present group (based at Harpurhey Library)’
Excerpt by Edna Bumby (nee Walker)