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Home » Memories » Mabel Harrison – Yeadon, 1930s to 1950s

Mabel Harrison – Yeadon, 1930s to 1950s

Mabel Harrison Yeadon 1930s - 1950s

Title Yeadon 1930s to 1950s
Date 1930s – 1950s
Location Yeadon
Written By Mabel Harrison
Comment The 1930s brought better conditions for working people, many council houses were built and people had bathrooms and electric light for the first time. Goods were cheap and plentiful.

People still only had one weeks holiday each year, unpaid, but things were changing.
Cinemas like the Odeon brought a touch of luxury into peoples lives.
In 1936 “Gone With the Wind” was a sensational book, later made into a film, of the American Civil War. The Odeon cinemas had an organ which rose out of the floor and played in the interval.

We didn’t have television in those days so did not know what Hitler was doing on the continent, driving the Jews from their homes into concentration camps.
Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, tried to negotiate with Hitler who threatened war. On 29th September, 1938, they met and Chamberlain came back to England saying it was “Peace in our time” but this turned out to be only one year of peace.

The first Saturday after 20th August was Yeadon’s annual holiday week before the war. All the mills closed and hundreds of people went by train or Croft’s charabancs to Scarborough, Bridlington, Blackpool or Morecambe.
These were popular places for holidays.
No holidays abroad in those days except for the rich. Most families stayed at little boarding houses, paying for the beds and a small amount for the cooking – they brought their own food.
The millworkers were poorly paid and had to save hard to be able to afford a holiday.

At Christmas the chapels went out carol singing at the millowners houses, the local brass band played in the streets to collect money for their funds.
At Easter most people walked over the Banksfields to Otley Chevin, where they were able to buy tea at Jenny’s Cottage.
At Whitsuntide all the chapels joined together and walked around the town singing hymns at the Town Hall and Albert Square.
Carnival day was a great event, with crowds of people lining the High Street watching the comic bands and all the wagons full of children in fancy dress.
After the procession there was a tea in the cricket field and, after the costumes were judges and dusk fell, we danced to the music of the brass band.
After Christmas the pantomime was held in the Town Hall and, a few weeks later, the Temperance Hall put their pantomime on for a week.
Sydney Howard’s daughter was principal boy a few times.
Sydney Howard was a famous local comedian and film star who worked in a mill when young and made a film about Yeadon.

The day War was declared was Sunday, 3rd September 1939, and I had just been married for one year.
My husband and I went from Westfield Avenue and walked up to Silver Lane to our friend’s house where we listened to Chamberlain on the wireless and felt panic but it was still exciting.
One of our neighbours began to dig an air-raid shelter in the garden and other men joined in but we never had to use it.
Leeds was bombed a few times at night and I used to sit on the staircase.
One night bombs fell on Bradford Market and it blazed doing a lot of damage. It was a moonlit night and everyone was out of doors watching watching it and we could hear the guns firing. It was a terrible scene and a relief when the all clear siren went.

The Aircraft Carrier ‘Courageous’ was sunk by the German Navy in the Bristol Channel on 17th September, 24 years old Clarry Kitson lost his life. He was a former pupil at South View School and two of his brothers were in the Navy. We now began to realise what it meant to be at War. Young men were being called up for service in the Forces.
Some boys had to go work in the coal mines, they were called ‘Bevin Boys’ after the minister of labour Mr. Ernest Bevin.
We soon got used to the ‘blackout’ when everyone had to make sure that no light shone from their house at night, people were told to ‘Dig for Victory’ and the parks were dug up and vegetables grown.

In 1940 the Germans swept through Holland and Belgium to France and our soldiers were pushed into the sea at Dunkirk. A fleet of little ships went out to rescue them.
In August the Blitz started when London was bombed regularly. Coventry was the worst hit in April 1941 when the beautiful Cathedral was destroyed and most of the city.

In June 1940 my husband (*my uncle Fred) had to go to Pontefract Barracks to join the York & Lancaster Regiment so I had to find a job. I became Manageress at the Silver Library in Otley for the next six years.
We were not allowed to stay off work without a doctors certificate so when a big snow came over the wall tops and the bus could only go as far as White Cross, Guiseley, we walked the rest of the way to Otley and back again in the afternoon.
Life was hard but everyone was so friendly in those days and we felt lucky not to be bombed as those in the cities were.
My Auntie lived near London and slept in an air-raid shelter for 13 weeks.

In 1738 Thomas Gray made a prediction that one day there would be a battle in the skies and England would win. Yet it was nearly 200 years later before men flew planes in wartime but England did win, twice – in 1918 and in 1945.
The war in Europe ended on 8th May 1945, but the War against the Japanese in Burma lasted a few more months.
Yeadon played an important part in the battle for the skies as the A. V. Roe factory on Victoria Avenue made more than 5,000 aircraft and employed 17,000 people.
A lot of workers were brought to Yeadon from the cities that had been bombed – Liverpool, Sheffield and Sunderland.
They were given prefabricated bungalows at Westfield and, when the war ended, they stayed here waiting until they could be properly housed.

Life was difficult after the War, nearly every night there were electricity cuts and I had to cook dinners by the light of candles.
Rationing still continued to the 1950s. We queued for one tomato or one egg or banana to help our rations. If we were lucky enough to be given half a dozen eggs we put them in a bucket of water to preserve them.
We picked bilberries and blackberries to make jam and took care using our meagre sugar ration.

When rationing ended it was found that the health of the nation had never been better. There had been no chance of over-eating when we only got a few ounces of meat, sugar, butter and chocolate each week.
People were very inventive and made all kinds of meals from unlikely ingredients.

Mabel Harrison.

Consolidated by Jack Brayshaw. 20 August 2022.
Last updated: 20 August 2022.

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