Far Cotton in the 1960s

Paul Isaac remembers a trip into town.

“My memories of Far Cotton as a child come from the late 1960s. In that time Mum and Dad had no phone, no car and a black and white TV with two knobs on the front. As a 3 year-old, I would jump up and down in front of the TV if it started to roll as the vibrations through the floor boards would “fix it”. Of course, TV programmes didn’t start until late afternoon and there were only three channels to choose from: BBC1 BBC2 and Anglia. But not a lot of time was spent watching the TV.

“I would “help” dad with the vegetables in the garden or play with my friends, but today mum and me were going out. Mostly when I went out I played opposite our house in London road in the spinney. Each tree had its own name, The Helicopter, The Seven Floors and so on. Sometimes, more daringly, we would go over the barbed wire fence into the field with the cows. There we would make a path into the big stinging nettle patches to make a den in the middle where we were safe. If we went up to the abbey to watch people practising in the archery field, we would always keep to the right of the road because the big race horses in the top field would scare us. Why go to the abbey? Because of the newts and frogs in the ponds and the almost infinite places to hide. But today I was going into town with mum. Sometimes we used to watch the cows being driven down the road to the cattle market but not today.

“We set off past Lil and Tom’s and Mr Gillet’s and Aunt Winnie’s the blacksmith’s daughter. then Ashord’s big white house. Then came Mr Busby. If I was on my tricycle, he would say he would like that for himself. I always cycled on the far side, he seemed to spend his whole life in the front garden. I think he was retired but used to be the manager of Burgess the farm supply shop in town.

“A bit further on was Mr Matthew’s, his blacksmiths was by South Bridge. He lived in the Victorian age with no mod cons. Dad and me used to help him collect the honey from his beehives in his garden and use a big spinning machine in the bath to collect the honey.

“Then came the Crescent where my Aunt Iris and Uncle Reg lived with my three cousins. On to Penrhyn road. My grandparents lived here, Pap Ed and Nan Rose, as well as Uncle Johnny the bookie and his wife Aunt Nora, who had the most Jewish nose I have ever seen. I always wondered if our family was Jewish with a name of Isaac. It was only in later life that I found that we were just four generations ago. Pap Ed collected coins and taught me about history through the coins. He loved fuchsias and grew hundreds in his small garden. At the back of his house was an alley but I never went in there.

“We carried on walking, the number 19 bus went past, but we would walk. We were going to Ashford’s corner, to the chemist. I liked going there to see the fish and I always got a lollipop from the counter. Were we going down Ransome Road to my other grandparents, Pap Tom and Nan Gwen. Their house was next to the dairy. I liked it there. They had a mangle and a big old sink in the scullery that I played with, and also a sewing machine with a treadle that I sat on. Nan Gwen always baked me cakes, mostly coconut pyramids on rice paper, my favourite.

“But no, we were heading up town. Wait a moment, a train’s coming, the big white gates were swinging closed. Quick mum, let’s go up the bridge! That was fun to watch the train go underneath. Oh, boring! A diesel. I liked the steam trains, not so many of those now. Just one train; the gates are opening, I liked it best when they stayed closed and another train came in the other direction. Then the traffic would really build up but we could carry on because of the bridge.

“We got over South Bridge to Latimer & Crick. This is where we buy the food for my rabbit called Nibbles. I loved the smell in there, a mixture of straw and wheat and lots of other smells all mixed up. Now we are going round Cattle Market Road past the meat machine house. My dad proudly told me that he made the doors that hang there still. I know where we are going, I’ve got a special day out. I’m off to see Pap Ed who worked in the brewery garages by the entrance to the cattle market. He would show me the big beer barrels they kept there. They were enormous: one for Pale Ale the other for Double Diamond, and they were allowed to take some home with them each night. I got lemonade. But I could sit in the big beer lorries, and be told me how my Great Grandfather had a pub in Woolmonger street and he drove a lorry like this too. I liked days like this.”

Jim Braddock remembers his first job.

“In July 1959, I started my first job as a telegram boy. On the day that I started I was taken down into the Chief Inspector’s office and I had to sign a declaration that I understood I was bound by the Official Secrets Act. This meant if I ever learnt anything about another person’s business whilst doing my job and divulged it to anyone else and was found out I was for the high jump. It could even mean going to prison if serious enough. They didn’t mess around in those days. I was told that if you were spoken to by the Head Postmaster or his deputy you were to call him Sir and all other supervisors were called Mr before their surname – no familiarity allowed then.

“I had just turned 16 years old so obviously I did not have a motor cycle licence. This meant I had to start delivering on a push bike around the town centre area until my motorcycle training was arranged in September. The Post Office had their own trainers who trained me for six weeks. At the end of that I was put in for my test, which I passed first time. Once I had my licence, I had to deliver to the outskirts of town and surrounding villages. On Sundays when the Wellingborough, Kettering and Daventry offices were closed we had to do the entire county.

“My first week’s pay was £1 18s and after I had paid my board I was much worse off then when I was at school, when I had my paper-round money and paid no board.

“I carried on delivering telegrams until I was 18 years old, when I became a postman, which I stuck until I was 21 years old.”

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