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U3A Writing: A Well-Used Space

...All was well until the girls became teenagers and went out dancing until late, bringing friends home to sleep and not rising early any more. Many a young visitor leapt from slumber, rudely awakened by the organ motor...

Peggy MacKay tells of surprise awakenings – and a happy home.

We moved to Linthwaite on December 27th, 1962, in snow showers. Our flat at 31 Chapel Hill, underneath the Chapel, was as spacious as our last one was small.

Here we had a large living room, a regular sized sitting room, two huge bedrooms, a bathroom and a long corridor, which ran into a wash kitchen where stood the cooker.

After two or three weeks of galloping back and forth in there, I got the cooker moved into the pantry, and even though this was small to even tiny, it worked fine for me. I cooked meals for family and friends, with little problems that could be overcome.

Now there was just one thing that took a bit of getting used to. The organ motor was in a cupboard in the largest bedroom where slept our three daughters. They, of course, got used to it. Normally it was played on Monday evenings – organist practice – Thursday evenings for choir practice, Sunday morning at 10 am and Sunday evenings.

All was well until the girls became teenagers and went out dancing until late, bringing friends home to sleep and not rising early any more. Many a young visitor leapt from slumber, rudely awakened by the organ motor. We were so used to it we didn’t even think about it any more.

We did often have young visitors, with three young daughters, and many a party was held in that house. As one now middle-aged lady, one of their friends, remarked to me a short time ago, “Your door was always open and we were all welcome”, which really pleased me.

John and I celebrated our Silver, Pearl and Ruby Weddings with family and friends in that big living room. We could put up two tables together and seat 20–25 people.

During this time John had moved from meter repairing to pump maintenance and on to Inspector for the Waterworks during the building of the Ring Road. And for the last five years before retirement he had been in charge of complaints and the telephone exchange.

We now had oil-fired boilers in both buildings, which made life much easier because John used to shovel the cock into the boiler house each week. Now he polished all the floors with the big electric polisher and in lots of other ways shared the work with me and then went off walking, as he was retired in 1976, some ten years before I retired.

We had a huge garden which became John’s pride and joy, and the grandchildren had great fun and freedom when they arrived. We had a border terrier for 16 years, and he stood guard beside prams and toddlers as they arrived. The garden was quite overgrown, and as it snowed and froze on and off from the day we moved in until March, we didn’t really see what we had.

When it did thaw, my brave husband took up his spade to make a start. The garden was surrounded by a high wall, and the bus stop was on the other side. As he commenced to dig, he heard one man say to the other, “He’s too bloody late; he should have done that a month since.” He had to smile, as there was a foot of snow covering it at that time.

As you know, Methodists are not allowed drink on the premises, i.e. Church or Sunday School, but John and some of his friends decided to have a go at wine making. Elderberry, wonderful for colds, dandelion and orange were some of them.

However, one day some of the bottles exploded, and as the wash kitchen was right under the Vestry, it smelled like a brewery. A few red faces, and a bit of explaining was necessary, but it passed.

Every Christmas Eve a wreath arrived Interflora from people in Australia to put on the family grave. Never a letter or note to me, and every year I had to search for the grave because I had forgotten from the previous year. I often wondered if they ever thought how it got to the grave – a fairy perhaps.

Those were the days of two-day bazaars. Every room in use had to be scrubbed and clean and then all set straight afterwards. Walking out day, when everyone came back to a sit-down tea, and of course the Old Folks Treat, which is still held every year in our hall, catered for and worked for by our young people (some of them no longer young, I might add) but greatly appreciated by all who attend.

This affair is funded by a collection round the village, made every Christmas morning by the men of our church, who started as lads and now bring their sons and daughters. In two hours they collect over £1000 and that is spent on the day for food, parcels, entertainment and a coach.

We also have a large billiard room which was very well used in my working days as we had several teams playing in the Sunday School League. These lads had been used to throwing cigarette ends on the floor along with any other rubbish, so I had to set about training them to use ashtrays and bins. It took time, but it worked in the end.

We also have a bowling green and two tennis courts. These were well used with two ladies’ and two gents’ teams, but the bowling green just used by all members. I can’t remember the subscriptions, but they were reasonable.

The girls played tennis, and John and I bowled. Summer Saturdays saw whole families there with a picnic and playing until dark, also on summer weekday evenings. My eldest daughter remarked a short time ago that we all spent many happy hours there.

We worked hard, but there was a lot of pleasure too. I was in the dramatic society and I’m still in the choir, although not much of an asset now I’m afraid, but I haven’t yet been kicked out.

I was secretary of the Women’s Fellowship for 28 years, but resigned at 80 so that someone younger could take over. It is now the Thursday Fellowship, and we do get one or two men and still get 20–25 people each meeting.

We did have whist drives and dances too and an all-male pantomime every year, but they have long gone, although we do still have a pantomime and usually one play each year. Actually there is now discussion about having tea dances in the afternoon, as that is the thing, I understand, so that people don’t have to turn out at night.

We used to have a big youth club, and my girls were happy members, even going on weekend trips to London to MAYE weekends, which were wonderful times and where many friends were made. Now we no longer have youth clubs, but we do have Scouts, Brownies and Beavers using the premises, and of course playgroups and toddlers.

But I no longer have to clean up or supervise, just enjoy my retirement with a lot of happy memories. As I hung out washing today, I remembered when the girls were all at home down at 31 and I had hung out the washing in our big garden. Remembering there were four females in the house, a lady with two children passed and I heard the little girl remark, “They must have a lot of money at that house. Look how many pairs of knickers are on the line.”

The girls all had their 21st birthday parties in the flat, and the two eldest were married in the Chapel and had their receptions in Sunday School, not to mention all the other parties and get-togethers. We had the space, and it was well used.


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