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The Day Before Yesterday: 33 Lighting Up For Christmas

...One girl brought rhubarb wine. It had been stood a while and nearly blew the cork off as it was opened. We used our pots for glasses and each got a generous helping. Others were drinking more potent stuff. We munched cakes and sandwiches and all manner of food stuff...

Gladys Schofield recalls Christmas parties in a Yorkshire textile mill.

The blond youth began to station himself each morning at the bottom of the steps that led up to our department. The weaving shed was at the top of five flights of stairs, winding around and around the lift shaft. I was so fit at the time I could run up all the way to the top. It got to be a chasing game but I always got to the top first. I knew he wanted to ask me out but I still was not ready to take this step.

Christmas was a fun time in our room. The weavers put a few streamers up and everyone got into the festive mood, with always someone having a bit of fun. We worked right up to Christmas Eve. If it came on a weekday, we had a few days
holiday over the Christmas period and were back at work before the New Year.

We all gave up working on Christmas Eve as soon as the boss had been with our pay packets. He was very crafty too. He knew quite well what was being prepared in every department, so we would get everything prepared and hidden away before he reached the top of the lift shaft. As soon as he was out of sight the looms came to a halt and everyone contributed in some way to the party.

One girl brought rhubarb wine. It had been stood a while and nearly blew the cork off as it was opened. We used our pots for glasses and each got a generous helping. Others were drinking more potent stuff. We munched cakes and sandwiches and all manner of food stuff.

Every now and again we received a top up of the fizzy drink so much like lemonade. This lovely drink warmed me through very quickly. I was not used to any kind of alcohol at sixteen and began to wonder what I had been missing.

But now the girl in charge of the drink seemed to have a problem pouring it. It was going everywhere except into the pots. This is when we thought it best to break up the party, as a few seemed worse for drink.

We knew the boss would be celebrating also, tucked away in one of the offices, as the mill was strangely silent. Only our department seemed to be occupied, and the noise got louder and louder. Someone was trying to sing. Apart from the nice warm feeling and flushed faces of my friends, I didn't think we were too bad, so we started to make our way through the quiet rooms.

Here and there we would pass a couple in a compromising position, half hidden in the shadow. And a giggle now and again amongst the machinery told us Christmas was coming early for some. Let's hope there were no repercussions in the New Year.

The girls and I parted company at the mill gates and set off to our various homes. As I walked up our street, I could have sworn the snow felt warm on the top of the walls, as I remarked when I eventually got home.

One look at my face and Mum said, "Whatever have you been drinking, girl? You've enough glow in your face to light the neighbourhood.

"Oh, just homemade wine, Mum," I replied.


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