Hazel H

Hazel H

Hazel was born in Sheffield on the 13th January 1929 and grew up on the Sutton Estate in Hillsborough.

Hazel is being interviewed by Mary Grover on the 9th May 2012.

One passage was cut from the recording and transcript.

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MG: Where were you born Hazel?

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HH:      Oh Sheffield, I think I was born, no, I came to live on the Sutton Estate when I was two. Yes, I was two. I just don’t know where. My mum lived in West Don Street, it is all coming back to me. They had a shop, just a jumble shop that sold clothes and things like they did in them days. I think me mum were a bit ambitious and me dad was a traveller and I think he did that and run the shop as well. Same time. She put her name down for the Sutton Estate when it was being built because it was a modern estate in them days, with hot water and, you know, that sort of thing that sort of thing that was important. We grew up on the Sutton Estate, we had a good childhood. Dad died when I was two, but we’d a good childhood, friendly, good neighbours and we lived on a little place, what do they call it, Dunella Place [Hillsborough]. There were a few houses and neighbours were good but they weren’t intrusive at all. They were very, you know, they came to the door and they knocked and they waited like. They just didn’t walk in or anything like that. And we lived there for quite some time until we grew up, there were four us, and we wanted an extra bedroom and that is when we moved into Laird Road at the bottom, bottom house, on the Sutton Estate.

MG:     That’s in Wadsley.

HH:      Wadsley, yes. And what do you want to know from there?! I went to Wisewood School and it had just opened. I think I was in the first year of it opening and I went at Easter time, my birthday was January, I went at Easter time and it was lovely. We loved school. It wasn’t a bit strict and things like that, it was lovely. Everybody wanted to go to school.

MG:     Was that junior school or senior?

HH:      Junior. mm, infants. Started at infants and the junior school was part of it. Then the senior school was the bit that they pulled down. Do you remember that? Do you know about that?

MG:     No.

HH:      You know where the post office is at Wisewood? Well there was a school across the road and their junior school was in Ben Lane next to the chapel. You know that building next to that?

MG:     Yes.

HH:      I think that’s down now int’it?

MG:     So you loved school?

HH:      Yes I loved it. There were no reason not to really because I think it was a new way of educating children. I don’t know but it weren’t strict and, mm, you did respect the teachers. That’s a fact, that. They didn’t lose that at all.

MG:     When were you born?

HH:      13.1.29

MG:     Thir?

HH:      Thirteen, one, twenty-nine.

MG:     So you went to Wisewood School in the thirties then? The middle of the 1930s.

HH:      1934 would it be? You went when you were five then didn’t you. I think that must be when I started.

MG:     Did you remember any books that were read to you at school?

HH:      I remember Enid Blyton a lot but I don’t think I was very clever. I didn’t pass me eleven plus. [Laughs]

MG:     So where did you go on to school when you were eleven?

HH:      At Wisewood Senior School.

MG:     Wisewood Senior School, yes, yes.

HH:      And then I left when I was, was it 14? Yes.

MG:     What did you do then?

HH:      I went to dressmaking.

MG:     Did you?

HH:      Yes. I like sewing. We had an interview at school and they asked us what we liked doing and of course I was shy and didn’t like saying anything. So me mum chipped in. She always did because I were always backward at coming forward. “Well she likes sewing”. So they said, “Oh well, they want somebody at the shirt factory.” Well I came home furious. I didn’t want to make shirts! Oh I came home and I were angry, you know, “I’m not going there”.  And there was an advert in the paper that night and it were for John Walsh’s. You don’t remember that do you? Well it’s a big shop, you know where the place is now you know, I think it is T J Hughes, it were there. This was a big old building on the corner and I went to work … No! I didn’t, I’m lying, because it was the Blitz and it got firebombed. No, that didn’t get a firebomb, it caught fire from a shop next door and it just went right through the building. And so this job was advertised and it were at Broomhill and I went there.

MG:     Making clothes.

HH:      It was John Walsh’s, John, oh dear. John Walsh’s had a place at Broomhill and it was all where their buyers and senior staff lived and then they went down to the shop in town to work. Well when it was on fire during the Blitz, the senior staff had to go and get digs, I think John Walsh’s organised that but, a week, but the shop took this big building over. Do you know where it is?

MG:     I know Broomhill, whereabouts in Broomhill?

HH:      It used to be in Broomhill, Glossop Road, that was the address, Glossop Road and you know, a big side entrance and it was about …. you know where the King Edwards School is? Well the bottom gate down the front of John Walsh’s used to be like you came out of that and you could look up over onto King Edwards.

MG:     Yes, so when you were working at Walsh’s, did you enjoy your work?

HH:      Oh I loved it.

MG:     Did you?

HH:      Loved it every bit.

MG:     Did you get any time to read when you were working there?

HH:      No. We used to go dancing.

MG:     Dancing! Yes. [Laughs] So life is too much fun really to sit at home?

HH:      No, I didn’t sit at home because I met friends there. I had two good friends and we stayed friends right until we were 18 and they wanted to go in the Forces because that was a time, you know, when I remember it was just after the war, weren’t it? Something like that. They wanted to go in the Forces and I wouldn’t, couldn’t leave me mum. I couldn’t just leave her because she was a widow. Well I couldn’t do it, it didn’t seem right.

MG:     Did you have any brothers and sisters Hazel?

HH:      Yes. I had a brother younger than me, Crowther, was born after dad died, Bramble was two years older than me and Cynthia was two years older than him. So there were two years in all of us.

MG:     Right. So there was Cynthia and then your brothers and then you.

HH:      Yes, Cynthia.

MG:     And when you were children did you have any books in the house?

HH:      No, no … I think probably, I don’t really know why, but me dad died when we were young and me mum, there was no such things as pensions and things in them days. So she had to go on what was called public assistance. That was the next step to the workhouse so she had to try hard … It upsets me. She had to try hard to keep the wolf away from the door and to keep us, look after us and she did.

MG:     How did she do that? How did she look after you all?

HH:      Well, we’d got a good grandma on me dad’s side and she was very good to us. Just how good we shall never, ever know because she didn’t talk about what she did. But we used to go to grandma’s, one of us would go, usually Cynthia and I would go up and grandma would push some money in Cynthia’s hand and she’d say, “Sixpence towards your breakfast, sixpence…”[doorbell rings]…are you there Ernie? [Ernie answers the door] “ … Sixpence for insurance man,” because you’d to pay some insurance hadn’t you for death and things like that and da, da, da, da we never knew what last was … that was grandma. That was always what she did, put this money in our hand but I think she was an angel to her, an angel. And my dad had a brother and he was just as good to me mum, nothing in it, you know, just a really good brother-in-law to her.

MG:     So there was no money for books?

HH:      There were no books, no, no money for anything. [Inaudible] …. food either. I mean I don’t know what we’d do without me grandma.

MG:     So when did you start to find books for yourself?

HH:      I joined the library when I were a bit older, like probably, probably when Cynthia didn’t used to take me down. It might have been round about seven or eight or something like that. I just can’t remember that exactly, round about that time. I can’t remember the books that I read, there’s only Enid Blyton and that because I think it were probably the first. I know I remember reading Gone with the Wind and them sort of things, as I got older.

MG:     Where did you get Gone with the Wind from?

HH:      I think that was from‘t library.

MG:     The library, yes.

HH:      Yeah because we couldn’t, hadn’t money to buy books.

MG:     No.

HH:      We’d no money at all.

MG:     Do you think Gone with the Wind was one of the first grown up books you read?

HH:      Yes. I don’t know how old I was when I read that, probably, I was probably older than what I think, I don’t know. But I remember all these books, oh me mum bought us some books. Somebody came round to the door and she ordered these books and she paid for ‘em weekly. She did do well ’cus she didn’t have cash in them days. We had these books and there was a collection. I think there was about twelve in a box but some didn’t appeal to me because some were for boys and I remember more of these about poetry in ‘em. I remember them. I used to look at and read them because I could understand them better.

MG:     Can you remember any of the poems?

HH:      ‘Meg Merrilies’, she was gypsy, that stands out most and I used to say that. When we used to recite at school, we used to have to go on  … [inaudible, laughing] and I always used to say that one.

MG:     So you learnt a lot of poetry by heart at school?

HH:      Oh I did that, yes. Poetry. But that was as I say, these books that mum got us. As I say I never looked at others because they were boys’ books.

MG:     So there were no story books there, it was mostly poetry or boys’ books?

HH:      I don’t think I could get involved in a story, I don’t think I could have read a story. I don’t know, even that has gone from me. There’s a lot I can’t remember.

MG:     And when you left school did you go on using the library?

HH:      [Speaks almost in a whisper] No I went dancing.  I went to John Walsh’s and we went out dancing.

MG:     So reading sort of faded away a bit after that.

HH:      Yeah.

MG:     Did you ever get back to reading?

HH:      Umm, no not really because I had me children, didn’t I, when we came here. We got married in 1954 and then Julie were born in 1960 and, mm, they sort of like introduced me to a new world because you do everything you can for them. You live for them and do everything. You know, they didn’t go short of anything but it was … because Ernie were working then. Yeah, Ernie were working, married in 1954, Julie were born in ’60 and Ernie were working so we were like considerably better off. Don’t take that literally will you! [Laughing]  But, you know, we were. Did I tell you he used to work nights?

MG:     Yes.

HH:      Oh and that were a nightmare.

MG:     He worked at W H Smith as a night manager.

HH:      Yeah and that were a nightmare ‘cus he was in bed all day but he loved the kids and there weren’t anything that they were short of, so consequently, that used to be a lawn there, so consequently all the kids used to come round our back and play. Well you know what kids are when they play, because they were all little together and he never used to get any sleep! So he used to have to swap and he had to sleep in front bedroom and I stayed in back bedroom and that’s like it stayed ever since. That’s how your life gets structured.

MG:     It does, it does. Did you read to your children?

[cut]

MG:     So what with Ernest working at W H Smith, did he get any discount on books and newspapers?

HH:      Oh yes, he got a discount. We had a card. Yes, yes, he got some free papers, I think it were two free papers a day. We always had newspapers in the house but there again his dad worked with newspapers at Weston’s, I can remember that name. That was another, so Weston’s and W H Smith were like competing.

MG:     So did you ever buy books through W H Smith?

HH:      No, I can’t say I did that. No, I can’t.

MG:     Would you buy them now or not really?

HH:      Well I can’t concentrate long enough to read now, mm, so it’s … sometimes I’m talking to Ernie and I have to ask him again. He gets … he takes it all with a joke but it’s not funny.

MG:    It is hard isn’t it?  When you are watching television I suppose it is the same?

HH:      Oh aye, he watches … [speaking softly, inaudible] … I don’t like  … I like Coronation Street and I like Emmerdale. I like those two programmes because they deal with everybody’s problems. They are all acted out aren’t they in them series and that is what I like about them. It’s real life and then Ernie is on to cowboys and … things … and then so I have a code word book what I do. Um, you fill lines in and get letters, you fill lines and make the word right.

MG:     Like a word search?

HH:      Yes. Oh no, a word search is when you are looking for them in a line like, aren’t you? These are not that. You fill the letters in.

MG:     I know what you mean. You have a little clue, code word.

HH:      Code word. I do them and I have one at side of me bed and I always, when I go to bed, I’ve got me little cup of milk and I’m doing me code word and the next thing … the book’s there on t’other side …

MG:     And you’re away.

HH:      And I’m away. That’s my, what you call it where you have something to make you sleep? Sleeping tablet.

MG:     Sleeping tablets. Better for you. So when really the time you read most was when you were at school, is that right?

HH:      Yes. At school and I can’t remember what I read and I know me mum, we had these books what were bought and there were … and me sister used to read to me.

MG:     Did she, did she?

HH:      Yes, we used to sleep together. Yes.

MG:     Can you remember anything Cynthia read to you?

HH:      No, I think she’d read to me and I think I would be asleep before she knew. You know, it were like a sleeping tablet. She were kind to us.

MG:     Is she? Is she still a reader, Cynthia?

HH:      Cynthia died in … she’s four years older than me. So Cynthia died, I think she were about 85 when she died, could have been 86, I don’t know.

MG:     Did she go on enjoying books when she was an adult?

HH:      No, because she got into dancing and that sort of thing. It was a different era.

MG:     What about the war, too? Did that not leave you much leisure time?

HH:      Mm, how old was I in the war?

MG:     You were ten when it started so yes, you were at school then, so you were ….

HH:      That were involved with the eleven plus weren’t it?

MG:     That’s right.

HH:      I didn’t pass.

MG:     So is there any one book that stands out, Hazel, in your life, that you remember?

HH:      I just remember Gone with the Wind, I don’t know why but I know I saw that film as well. I think it was the talk of the day then, weren’t it probably, you know. Everybody probably went to see it.

MG:     Did you go to a lot of films?

HH:      No, we didn’t have the money.

MG:    No. Was dancing cheaper?

HH:      Yes and it were more fun.

MG:     Fun yes, so you loved dancing?

HH:      Yes, we had to push hard to get that last tram, to get that last bus, the Worrall bus that used to start at the bottom of Dykes Hall Road because we lived on the Sutton Estate.

MG:     Where did you dance then?

HH:      City Hall…[inaudible]. Yes City Hall. We were all of us, we weren’t, I don’t know how to put the word … common. That’s what me mum would use I think. We weren’t common we were like still sedate, still, don’t know, we weren’t let loose or anything like that. We used to rush out for that bus, you know, that tram and get on that and nip in house, because we lived in Laird Road.

MG:     You never missed that tram or that bus?

HH:      Oohh no! You left early enough to get you out. You’d be running like but … !

MG:     Did you meet Ernest at a dance?

HH:      Oh no! He’s not a dancer. If he was in here you know what he’d say, “Oh no I always walk like that.” That’s Ernest, you always get that joke with him. No, how did I meet Ernie? Well he was me brother’s friend and they were at school together and he used to come up ont’ common here, scrumping, and they’d go home with shorts full a apples. One day a local bobby caught ‘em and said, “What you doing there, lads?” They saw him coming so they got down the tree. “What you doing there?”, so he says, “Oh nothing, we just …” and so he said, “And what’s that then?” with his truncheon, “And what’s that then?” and of course the apples smashed on me brother [laughing]. They took ‘im home, not by the scruff of his neck like … [interruption]

MG:     …  Yes, so they took him home?

HH:      They took him home and of course me mum was angry because you know to get into trouble with the police, it were … and that’s the only trouble he’s been in. He didn’t get any … that were the only thing he ever did wrong. And the thing was, Ernie’s granddad was a police sergeant and he lived in Shropshire and when they promoted him to sergeant, they had to move him. So they sent him to Sheffield, and I think that were to sort Mooney Gang and that out. Mooney Gang, you don’t know them, do you? You’ve heard of ‘em?

MG:     Heard of them, don’t know much about them?

HH:      I think they were to sort all that out and of course he met a Sheffield girl and he married and that’s Ernie’s side of the story but you didn’t come to hear that. What did I tell you that for?

MG:     How you met Ernest, whether it was to do with dancing?

HH:      Through the bobby. And Ernest’s granddad was very strict but nice, you know. He had a lot of influence on his family like. So that’s kept him out of trouble. There were a lot; he could easily have gone ‘t wrong way.

MG:     Well Hazel thank you very much. That is very interesting.

 

 

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Librarians’ Voices – When We Were Very Young

I turned a page and found an article by Herbert Waterson, published in the Sheffield Libraries staff magazine.[1] He was writing in 1934, perhaps to mark the opening of the new Central Library. What was exciting was that he started work in 1869. Here were the reminiscences of a Victorian librarian.  

Herbert Waterson started as a junior assistant on 27 December 1869, when he would have been about 11 years old. He followed his two older brothers into the job, he says, and already knew the library well from sitting in the reading room, devouring books like R M Ballantyne’s Coral Island (1857) and The Dog Crusoe (1860). Perhaps his brothers let him in, as no-one under the age of 14 could join the library, although there were some children’s books in the catalogue. Or perhaps children were allowed in the reading rooms.

The Mechanics’ Institute – home of Sheffield’s first public library {{PD-US}} – published in the U.S. before 1923 and public domain in the U.S.)

Sheffield’s public library had opened in 1856, in the Mechanics’ Institute in Surrey Street, on the site of today’s Central Library. According to Waterson, the library occupied the ground floor and basement and shared premises with the Institute itself and the Council. The Council Chamber and various offices were located in the Institute. The chief librarian’s office ‘doubled as the Mayor’s Parlour’, and the caretaker and his family shared the basement with the library.

The library had few staff, we learn. There was the first chief librarian, Mr Parsonson, with Mr Hurst and Mr French and three boys. (According to the official history, The City Libraries of Sheffield (1956), Walter Parsonson, a former silverplater’s apprentice, was in charge from 1856 to his death in 1873, when Thomas Hurst took over.) At Upperthorpe, a couple of miles away, there was Mr Bramhall and ‘one boy assistant, J Bunn’, looking after the only branch library. This had opened in October 1869, in the schoolroom of the Tabernacle Congregational Church in Albert Terrace Road. The building is no longer there, but here is a photograph.

The City Libraries of Sheffield says that the staff worked hard.

They were at first on duty every day during the whole twelve and a half hours that the library was open. … every effort was made by the Committee to see that each [person] in turn got a chance to go off duty at 8.00 pm instead of 9.30; and in 1859 they were each allowed half-day off a week – a good custom which continued for ten years before the Council knew about it, and, apparently, promptly stopped it. (pp.14-5)

Waterson describes the lending library, with its two counters, for lending and reference. The ‘closed access’ system was used, with the public choosing from catalogues and staff retrieving the books. There were separate reading rooms for men and women and, in time, a reference library room. The basement staff room was also the store for bound newspapers and Patents, which sounds uncomfortable.

One of Herbert Waterson’s duties was to locate books requested by borrowers. They were stacked up to the ceilings, in rooms behind the counters, and it was, it appears, hazardous work.

Owing to the system of storing the books on shelves to the ceilings of each room, we Juniors became adept at ladder-climbing…This system of ladder-climbing was somewhat dangerous as was proved by a severe accident to one of the staff, Mr French, who fell by over-reaching and was seriously injured; afterwards a grill was fixed to the shelves and hooks were attached to the end of the ladders.

The closed access system continued until the 1920s, but presumably the measures adopted after the accident made it a little safer for the intrepid boy assistants.

In August 1875, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Sheffield, to open Firth Park, given to the town by the then Mayor, Mark Firth. Waterson remembers that the library was closed for the visit, and that a formal lunch was served in the men’s reading room.

Opening of Firth Park in 1875 (public domain)

In the mid-1870s, Waterson says, a new librarian came to Upperthorpe. Thomas Greenwood (1851-1908) was a library enthusiast. In 1886, he published the first manual of library management, Free Public Libraries: Their Organisation, Uses and Management. ‘He did not ‘leave any identifiable mark,’ says the official history, but Upperthorpe was the only library he ever worked in so ‘it seems certain that Sheffield left some mark on him.’

Meanwhile the network of libraries was slowly developing. In 1872 a branch opened on Brunswick Road in Brightside.[2] In 1876 Upperthorpe got a whole building in place of two rented rooms in a church, and Highfield on the other side of town got a branch too. These two were known as the ‘twin libraries’, designed by E M Gibbs,in the Florentine Renaissance style, and each had a librarian’s house attached. Waterson says:

Those branches were considered to be the best equipped branch libraries in the country at that time.

Upperthorpe Branch Library

Highfield Branch Library

He also reveals that Sheffield’s first female library worker started at Highfield:

The first lady assistant was a Miss Barker. She was engaged at Highfield Library in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, and was very satisfactory, although the old system of ladders was in use at the time; afterwards other lady assistants were not so satisfactory.

In 1876, when he was 19, Herbert Waterson became head assistant to the chief librarian, Thomas Hurst, and his memoir stops. But we know more. The Sheffield Independent tells us that he became branch librarian of Upperthorpe in 1882 and stayed there until 1928. He would have lived comfortably in the librarian’s house attached to the library. He was 70 years old by the time he retired and had worked in Sheffield Libraries for almost 59 years. Has anyone ever broken his record? (We suspect not.)

The librarian’s house at Upperthorpe

[1] When We Were Very Young (Waterson, H), The Wicket, 4 (2), 9-11 (1934). Appended to An Oral History of Sheffield Public Libraries, 1926-1974 (Kelly, James R. MA thesis for the University of Sheffield (April 1983). Held by Sheffield City Archives (LD2390/1).

[2]  The name was later changed to Burngreave Library. The building is now the Al-Rahman Mosque)

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