My Introduction to Treeton
I failed my 11+ exams, much to my disappointment, and started at Kimberworth Secondary Modern School in the autumn term in 1940. The first two years there were uneventful and at the start of the third year, in 1942, we had an insufficient number of teachers and we were allowed to spend much of our time in the Woodwork & Metalwork classes. Even there, only one supervisor was available; Mr Watson. I enjoyed working with wood, particularly when it was possible to use the lathe in the Woodwork Room, and my thoughts were that I would like to be a Joiner when I left school. Discussing this possibility with my father, I was advised by him (he worked in the J J Habershon’s, Holmes Rolling Mill, Rotherham and his job was very hard, dangerous and hot) that I should not think about manual work but rather go for an office job like his brother. My father was giving me very good advice, as it happened, but I don’t think he knew at that time that I would become troubled with Rheumatoid Arthritis and therefore unable to manage a manual job.
In my years at school, you could leave at each half term if you had attained the age of 14 years. I had met this criterion in October 1942 and was able to leave at the Statutes Holiday, which was always at the end of October. ( The Statutes Fair was an historical event from the days when most young men became Agricultural Labourers after leaving whatever education they had experienced. The hiring of workers was undertaken at this Fair and if they had been satisfactory, they would be re engaged at the next Statutes Fair). Being more fortunate than the young school leavers of earlier days, we were entering the age of a little more fairness for the workers.
One of the teachers at Kimberworth School was a Mr Albert (Polly) Meakin. He taught English, and will always be remembered by me for what he said on the first lesson he gave us. He came into the classroom and simply said "the only sensible thing about popular music is the song that starts; it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it". Very true. Shortly after I left school, I recall hearing that Mr Meakin had left teaching and had gone into the Methodist Ministry as a Preacher. Mr Meakin was a member of the Home Guard and one of his fellow officers had asked him if he knew of a young lad, ready for leaving school, that might be suitable to work in the offices of a nearby Colliery company. It was suggested to me by Mr Meakin that I should apply for the job and he gave me the address to which I should write. The offices were at Treeton, a place that I had heard of and I even knew where the bus started from in All Saint’ Square, Rotherham, but had never been there. I didn’t even know in which direction the bus went to get to Treeton.
I was spending my last day at Kimberworth School, 30th October 1942, and at lunchtime I was summoned to the Headmaster’s Room ( Mr Overington ) and saw my elder sister there. She had come to ask Mr Overington for his permission to allow me to leave school immediately. I had received a reply to my letter to the Secretary at the Colliery Company and I was expected to go for an interview the next morning, Saturday. As I did not have any long trousers, I needed to go to the Grand Clothing Hall in All Saint’s Square, Rotherham to be fitted out. Permission was duly given and I became "britched" as the saying used to go.
There was much excitement in our household that Friday evening, me with my newly acquired grey flannel trousers, and my father telling me what sort of questions I would be asked at my forthcoming interview. As it was a Colliery company, I was sure to be asked if I knew the differences between gross, tare and nett weights. I cannot remember whether or not I slept well that night but I was up early on the Saturday morning to start the next phase of my life.
I made my way into Rotherham on the old "trackless bus" (an electrically operated vehicle with a power supply via overhead wires). I caught the Treeton bus from outside Davy Bros grocery shop at the bottom of the steps that led from the Parish Church into All Saint’s Square. In the future, I would be catching the bus from that point each day and be able to enjoy the aroma of roasted coffee beans coming from the machine in Davy’s shop.
I had been along the road to Canklow before and was surprised when the Treeton bus went that way. This was new territory to me, a lad from the Kimberworth end of Rotherham, so I was very interested in what new things I was seeing. It seemed an eternity for the bus to get to Treeton and I asked the conductor to let me know when and where to get off. I alighted at the top of the hill, opposite the school and made my way through the village towards the pit. Arriving at the pit offices, I was met by Arthur Willetts and Harold Manship and was told by them that I needed to be at The Grange. They directed me up the hill and eventually, I arrived at Treeton Grange. What a magnificent place I thought as I made my way down the drive where I found the Enquiry Office and a nice young lady by the name of Moira Quinn. She asked me to wait and she went to let someone else know that I had arrived for my interview.
I was led into an office at the far end of the building. It had two big windows looking out to the gardens and Tennis court, was very well furnished and it had a lovely fireplace with a very well fuelled fire burning. At the other side of a huge desk, that was in the centre of the office, sat a very small figure of a man wearing a huge pair of very dark rimmed spectacles. This was Mr Sydney Bacon, Company secretary of Rother Vale Collieries. He invited me to sit down on a huge chair and I thought, Gross, Tare, Nett weights; he is going to ask me to explain the difference. To my surprise he said "Can you start on Monday, your wages will be 14shillings and nine pence a week", Without waiting for me to respond, he picked up the telephone and said to the person at the other end of the telephone "Can you come down Frank, please" and replaced the ‘phone. A few seconds later, the person he had spoken to came into the office and I was introduced to Frank Buckland ( Mr Albert Meakins’s fellow Home Guard officer) and he was told by Mr Bacon that this was the young lad that would be working in his office from next Monday, 2nd November 1942 (Statutes Monday). No such thing as a Contract of Employment or even a written confirmation of the job offer, just "be there". I was taken by Mr Buckland to be shown the office where I would be working with him and a gentleman that I was introduced to a Mr Joseph Bloom.
I don’t remember much about my journey home, only thinking to myself, what a long journey it was from my home to Treeton Grange; two bus journeys and a very long walk and what a much longer day it would be compared with going to school. In addition to that, the office was open on Saturday mornings, for three hours and much to my surprise, as there wasn’t a bus back to Rotherham from Treeton until 1.00pm., we had to walk to Catcliffe to catch a bus at half past twelve. Bearing in mind that I wanted to be a joiner, I resigned my self to the fact that I would, at least, give this job a try but I did not feel a very happy bunny.
On that first Monday morning, I was at the Treeton bus stop, outside Davy’s, and I met two other people, both taking in the aroma of roasting coffee beans. They had been told to keep an eye out for me and make sure I found my way to Treeton Grange. One, a lady by the name of Lucy Smith; she had been directed by the Minister of Labour’s officer to take work at Treeton for the duration of the war, and the other, a gentleman by the name of W.O.Cockroft ; he had no teeth, smoked a pipe and was a real reminder of Popeye. They were to be my regular travelling companions up to the time I became the proud owner of a Wigfall’s Royal bicycle thus enabling me to cycle to work. Even when cycling to work, the memory of roasting coffee beans stayed with me.
During my first week at work, one of the jobs I was given involved me going down into the cellars where all the old records were stored. Down there one day I came across a collection of saws, chisels, screwdrivers and hammers. I thought Christmas had arrived early for me. In the office where I worked, my working area, a drop leaf bench fixed to the wall, was poorly lit and, having seen the tools, I asked if it would be alright for me to make some sort of a desk light. Permission was given and before long, I had made a very useful lighting arrangement for myself; practical rather than a work of art. Some time later, I was approached by a very upset gentlemen by the name of Harold Clegg, Foreman Joiner in the Cottage Stores Department. He had found his tools had been used, obviously by an amateur, and all his carefully worked fine edges had been blunted. To say that he was annoyed would be putting it mildly and I was left with a fly in my ear, convinced that I would never again repeat this indiscretion.
I remember many of the names of members of the staff at Treeton Grange. Some came from other villages round and about but the ones from Treeton that come to mind are; Fred Hewlett (Cashier), Bob Staley (Traffic Manager), Dudley Garner, Joe Shenton (Cost office) Syd Pashley, Wilf Cable (Wages office) Tom Rossington, Jim Havard (Stores accounts) John Williams (Personal accounts) Mr Charles E.Frost and Reg Thomas (Buying Dept), Edith Blackburn, Edith Manship, Muriel Rodgers, Moira Quinn and the Switchboard Operator – Sheila Bott. I mention these and wonder if they have any relatives still living in the village.
Apart from doing National Service (1947 to 1949), I spent over 32 years at Treeton Grange and can truthfully say that they were very happy times. There are many names, of people of my generation, that I can recall and wonder where and what they are doing. May be that I follow up this topic with a few memories of them. To close on a sad note, I have recently heard of two people, from Treeton Grange days, that have passed on – Chris Jewitt (from Sheffield) and Mrs Nuttall (nee Miss Francis – Head of the Comptometer Department)
Best wishes to the Editorial Team of TREETONWEB, and many thanks for enabling me to spend a little time in the past with fond memories.
Barry sadly died 8th March, 2013
«Treeton Grange Staff, 1954