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.

hazel-hotchkiss-2

Mary Grover: Where were you born Hazel?

hazell-hotchkiss-1

Hazel H:      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.

 

 

Recent Posts

In the year 1873

I’m researching the remarkable Walter Parsonson (1832-1873), who was Sheffield’s first chief librarian from 1855 to 1873. Here, by way of an introduction to the man, is an account of the public library during his last year in charge. It comes from the annual report of the Council’s Free Library Committee, as it appeared in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph on Monday 6 October 1873.[i] 

Walter Parsonson (copyright Sheffield City Council,
used by permission of Picture Sheffield. Ref: u04592)

In 1870, three years before Walter Parsonson died, the Midland Station opened in the valley below Norfolk Park. Sheffield would not become a city for another 20 years, but the new rail route to London, via Chesterfield, was a sign of the town changing fast. Sheffield’s population had trebled to 239,000 since Walter’s birth in 1832, although its area was smaller than today’s city, with districts like Hillsborough yet to be incorporated. Steelmaking and related industries were making fortunes for the few and keeping the many going. The town centre was being developed and new residential areas like Crookes being settled. Thousands of people still lived in slums, however, and public health was poor. Schools were expanding thanks to the Elementary Education Act 1870, and by the end of the decade steel baron Mark Firth would establish Firth College, the forerunner to the University of Sheffield.      

The public library, which opened in 1856, was a well-established part of mid-Victorian Sheffield. There were the central lending and reference libraries in the old Mechanics’ Institute in Surrey Street; and branch libraries in Upperthorpe and Brightside. These branches were recent innovations, with Walter Parsonson’s ‘valuable services…most cheerfully and unstintingly given’ to them, and the Council was proud of them, on civic and cultural grounds, as pledges for the future.

Brightside

Brightside was judged a success by the Committee, with 3,800 borrowers registered in a year:

The returns from the Brightside branch library are eminently satisfactory, and prove the wisdom of the course adopted by the Town Council in erecting a building specially adapted for its efficient working.

It opened, on Gower Street, in September 1872, at a cost of £2,000, with about £800 spent on a stock of over 5,000 books. There was a lending library, a ladies’ reading room and, upstairs, a public reading room (there was, you see, the public and then there were women). As Sheffield’s first building ‘erected with some consideration for the working of a library’, according to Alderman Fisher of the Free Library Committee, it was an experiment.[ii] The Sheffield Daily Telegraph said on Thursday 5 September 1872:

It is sufficient now to say that it is a neat if not handsome-looking edifice, and that the interior arrangements are the most appropriate character, surpassing in the matter of convenience the central institution.

Brightside Library, Gower Street (copyright Sheffield City Council, used by permission of Picture Sheffield. Ref: u03145)

Neat on the outside, Brightside had on the inside state of the art Victorian technology, which was another sign of Council commitment to libraries:

… the handsome mahogany frames on each side of the lending counter, in which is arranged what known as the ‘Indicator System,’ whereby the reader may see at glance whether the book he wishes to borrow is available or not. The system is ingenious, yet so simple that all can understand it. The frames contain 72 columns … and each of these is divided by thin slips of japanned tin into 150 little shelves. (Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Saturday 17 August 1872)

Each shelf was marked with the number of a book. Borrowers chose from a catalogue and then checked the indicator. If the allocated shelf was clear, their choice was available and library staff would retrieve it from behind the counter. But if the shelf showed red, the book was out on loan. The Brightside indicator, made locally, by Mr Cocking of Watson’s Walk in the town centre, worked ‘most usefully and satisfactorily’, said the Committee report.

Brightside was evidently well used: in 1872-3, ‘the issues have been 67,177 volumes, or a daily average of 248 volumes’, with fiction (46,435) easily the most popular. This was always the way, although some complained that libraries should only have ‘books of information’, frivolous novels being a waste of time and public money. There were 7,200 books on the Brightside shelves by 1873, and almost 40% were fiction. But there were also almost 2,000 books on history, biography and travel, and 800 on arts and sciences.

Brightside (with a later name change to Burngreave) remained a library until 1990. The building is still there, and is now the Al-Rahman Mosque.  

Upperthorpe

The branch had opened in 1869, in rooms rented by the Council in the Tabernacle Congregational Church on Albert Terrace Road. No doubt it had also been seen as an experiment. Its facilities were obviously poorer than Brightside, but the Committee felt that it too had performed well:

Its work during this time had been extremely satisfactory; the average daily issues which had fallen from 162, in 1870-71, to 150 in 1871-2, having this year increased to 183. The total issue for the year had been 49,640 books.

Tabernacle Congregational Church, Albert Terrace Road, Upperthorpe (used by permission of Picture Sheffield. Ref: s22751)

Once again, fiction comes top: ‘5,289 had been history, biography, and travels; 4,446 arts and sciences, 680 theology and philosophy; 410 politics, 1,680 poetry, 30,508 fiction, and 6,627 miscellanies’. Just one book had been lost, of the 7,138 books in stock, and at 13s it must have been one of the more expensive.

The demand for books in Upperthorpe and the success of the specially-designed building in Brightside led the Council to invest in two prestige projects in 1876 – a new library building for Upperthorpe and its twin at Highfield on the other side of the town. These were fine buildings,  designed by one of the town’s premier architects and fitted with up-to-date indicator devices, at an overall cost of about £6,000 each. One hundred and forty-four years later, Highfield is still a Council-run library, and Upperthorpe an associate library.     

Central Library

The Central Library was less satisfactory. Issues were down:

IssuesReferenceLendingTotal
1872-313,470128,032141,502
1871-215,162134,086149,248

The Committee thought that the decrease was due ‘partly to the extremely good state of trade during the past year’ (which is an original suggestion. Did people stop reading if there was business to be done?) and ‘also partly to the extensive and excellent collections’ in the two branch libraries. It pointed out too that the total for the three libraries together was in fact rising: 178,155 volumes, or 754 per day, in 1871-2 and 244,849, or 890 per day, in 1872-3. This was clearly entirely satisfactory.    

There was, however, a problem. The reference library issues had been falling steadily since the late 1860s, from 19,384 in 1869-70 to 13,470 in 1872-3. The Committee begged the full Council to take action:

It is true that the reference library is in extent scarcely worthy of the town; but it possesses many rare and valuable works, and it is much to be regretted that quieter and more spacious accommodation for their use should not be provided. Until that is done and a safer place of deposit furnished, it appears unlikely that future committees will expend much in the extension of this valuable department, or that owners of scarce works will present them for public use. The decreased issues … appear to prove that the discomfort and offensiveness of a heated, overcrowded room are too much for the zeal after knowledge to overcome. Since the opening of the reference library in 1856, private enterprise has abundantly provided our largely increased population with commensurate accommodation for drinking, dancing, and other amusements, whilst the accommodation for the nobler tastes which would bring our population to consult the learned and artistic works which are accumulated and accumulating in your reference library (which, from their rarity and value, cannot be lent out) is scarcely at all improved and extended.

The Mechanics’ Institute – home of Sheffield’s first public library

The Mechanics’ Institute building was now wholly owned by the Council, and housed the debating chamber and various offices. The ground-floor library had long outgrown its allocated space – there was no room for an indicator system there. While the Council did invest over the years in branch libraries, it failed to look after the heart of the service. The Committee’s plea in 1873 was simply an early iteration of the case its successors and its librarians would make for the next 56 years, as the situation worsened. Sheffield needed a modern, properly equipped central library.   

Conclusion

I’ll finish where the Council’s report starts – with a tribute to Walter Parsonson, about whom I plan to write more. The Committee’s report was tabled just a month after his death, and he perhaps had helped to draft it.

At the outset the Committee state that they have first to deplore the loss by death of the late chief librarian, Mr. Walter Parsonson, FRAS. Mr. Parsonson had filled the office of chief librarian with great ability since the establishment of what is now the central library in February, 1856, and the later portion of this time his valuable services were most cheerfully and unstintingly given towards the establishment and opening of the Upperthorpe and Brightside branches. Mr. Parsonson’s diligence, urbanity, integrity, and rare devotion to all the duties of his important office during this long period of service, appear to require this brief record of the melancholy reason why his name no longer appears in the ‘list of officers’ prefixed to their report.

I will be writing more about Walter Parsonson here. I’ve also recorded a podcast about Walter with Sheffield Libraries which is here. Many thanks to Picture Sheffield for allowing the use of images.


[i] Unless otherwise stated, all quotations come from this article.

[ii] Quoted in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph’s report of the opening ceremony, published on 5 September 1872.

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