Bill White - Maybole Memories - 1930's
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Cover    |   Introduction   |   1920's   |  1930's  |   Memories   |   More Memories   |   Destiny

I left school and started work with John Lees Boot Factory as a trainee Book-Keeper at 6 shillings per week, I stayed in the office until 1938, when I was earning £1 a week as a fully trained Book-Keeper. I added to my wage in the early days by fiddling the Post Book, an art passed on from each junior to his successor, Jack Rogers taught me and I in turn taught Jackie Richmond.

I suppose I was about 16 years of age when Jackie Richmond joined our office group as junior. I was promoted to full time Book Keeper with a permanent desk, high stool and a solid round ruler. Jackie was of very slight build and I think no more than 5´ 4" tall, so I felt I had to act as protector in the early days of Jackies work life. Every new employee had to undergo a long period of initiation, some of it fun i.e. go and ask the boilerman for a long stand, or a left handed screwdriver etc. but as a junior one had to be on the shop floor quite often, and when they got hold of you it was something you never forgot. Every afternoon all male Book Keepers had to work for an hour or so in the despatch Warehouse to clear the days orders.

One day I found Jackie having a rough time from a 16/17 year old boy called Thor Joelson. I went to Jackie’s assistance as warehousemen and office workers were always at loggerheads, as a result a crowd gathered and the men decided this had to be settled after hours behind the factory between Thor and myself. So for the second time in my life I had to resort to a fist fight to uphold the honour of the particular group I happened to be part of, I couldn’t have cared less and I’m sure Thor felt the same. However half the factory turned out to enjoy our discomfort, once again my Uncle Tommy’s advice came to my rescue “Always get in the first punch”, Thor started off posturing and jigging around, so I just hit him on the nose and it turned out to be a winner, blood spurted everywhere so Thor packed up, not that I had hurt him, he was more concerned about getting blood on his clothing and having to explain to his parents what he had been up to, and a possible hiding from his dad.

Next morning the office manager called me over to tell me Big Alex wanted to see me in his office. Big Alex was the owner and General Manager, he was a huge man who was a real autocrat, he hired and fired at will. Nobody crossed Big Alex. I guessed he had been told about last night so I fully expected to be fired. His secretary let me in to his office and he called me over “let me have a look at you”, he checked me over then said “Nothing wrong with you, couldn’t have been much of a fight, good job you both had the sense to settle it outside the factory, bugger off and don’t do it again”. Thor told me Big Alex had had a good laugh when he checked him over and found slight bruising on his nose, but told him he blamed him for the trouble as he was slightly older than me.

In later years I had another income, as a boy I had joined Maybole Prize Silver Band, aged about 18, along with Alex McKay, Jim Monteforte, Albert Holmes, Richie Robb Jasper McDonald and Wullie MacMasters. We formed the Metronomes Dance Band and could earn £1 to £2 for a Friday night ball, and maybe 10 to 15 shillings for a Saturday Night Hop. This eased things no end for my mother, she had gained nothing financially when Nessie went into service, as her money was only about 2 shillings per week and her keep, my mother lost the Parish allowance of 3 shillings for the eldest child at home, this passed to me, so overall my mother lost about one shilling on the family income. The child allowance finished on leaving school. I was now the major earner in the family and happily things improved. We moved from a one roomed house where we all lived, ate, washed in a bowl and slept in this one roomed stone floored hovel, with garden toilet, to a house with a living room, pantry (very small) and a bedroom, still no bathroom, still the outdoor wash house and toilet, but to us a major move upmarket. Nessie had lived out in service since she had left school.

I transferred from the office to Salesman/Boot-Man and travelled to Kilmarnock, Irvine, Darvel and surrounding villages selling boots and shoes. I now earned £3 plus commissions to each week. This was the White Family’s big break, I could live comfortably on my earnings from the dance band, my wage packet was passed on to my mother each week unopened. Tommy had left school and was training as a butcher, so he was also contributing, so once again we moved house, this time to a modern two bedroom, with bathroom and all mod cons. My mother no longer worked, her family were now taking care of her and I knew she was happy at long last.

The mid thirties were good years for me, I had a job, I had my bike and I had the dance band, I also had Jimmy Kennedy for a friend. Jimmy and I first became friends after a fight, we had been selected as opponents by our respective Street Gang in a fight “to the death”, real “Boys Own” stuff, each street had it’s own gang, nothing serious, mainly football, athletics, boxing type boys games. Jimmy and myself came out of the encounter unscathed, but something happened that night that drew Jimmy and I together until his tragic early death. We used to do everything together, Jimmy also played trumpet, but didn’t make it into the band, but travelled everywhere with us and became librarian, odd job man, anything to help. I have made many good friends since, but no one has ever replaced Jimmy.

There was plenty of pastimes and entertainment about in the 1930s if one was prepared to seek it out, as young boys we were also out and about looking for mild mischief, “daring” was one of our methods to get a laugh, and also a means of getting to know each other. Jimmy was a real sucker and many is the time he has accepted a dare, some succeeded, some failed. Jimmy always fell for breaking the ice in the reservoir, and wading in up to his chest, how he survived pneumonia I’ll never know, each winter Jimmy would fall for a cold dip.

One double dare I do remember, our street gang had decided to pay a visit to the outside toilets of the next street, the idea being that we blocked the toilet with turfs, one acted as a lookout, the other blocked the toilet, as a gang we had had good fun for several nights, the person(s) visiting the loo sometimes carried a candle, so we had to pick a spot to hide near enough to enjoy the fun and hear the remarks, and I can tell you this is a great big bundle of laughs, and improves your command of the basic words of our language, satisfies the risk element young boys enjoy, improves your running and jumping skills when being chased over garden walls and fences. Jimmy and I had to do the business about the fourth night on the trot, and had chosen a double toilet serving two houses with a wall in the middle to separate the garden, and this wall was our escape route. What we didn’t know was that the police patrol had been alerted by the neighbours.

We had blocked the toilet and were on the way to join the rest of our gang when they broke cover and scattered over the garden walls shouting “Police”. Jimmy and I couldn’t follow as one of the cops was trying to catch the slow movers, the other cop was hard on his heels as he came through the entry (passageway between the two buildings). The only way left for us was up, so we climbed onto the toilet roof and tried to make ourselves as small and as quiet as possible. It was a good job it was a dark night, and I don’t think the coppers were taking the incident too seriously, we heard them say when they examined the toilet “The wee buggers have done it again, but at least we have given them a fright”.

They certainly did, it was a long time before we got the all clear from the gang. I certainly learnt a lot on that night, “Quit while you are winning”, we had overplayed our game and nearly paid the price, the police would have given us a good hiding and taken us home, we would have then got another dose of the same. That was the way of things in those days, if you were caught up to mischief by cops, teachers, gamekeeper’s etc. You were usually punished on the spot and then given another dose when taken home or you parents got to know about the trouble.

One big treat we had was the Saturday visit to the “Flea Pit” where we had a programme of two feature films, news reel and a short Charlie Chaplin type comedy, plus our resident piano player, all for a penny, we used to cheer Tom Mix and his pony when he galloped to rescue the fair maiden, and we shouted insults to the attendant who regularly sprayed us with a scented mixture of antiseptic flea killer and water during the performance. Now and again I used to get a free pass if I was selected to carry the bill board and ring the bell to alert the good people of the town of the fare (there was a change of programme three times a week), you don’t get that now at your local, if you have one. It was in the old silent picture house that all the young lads started to smoke, those interested would club together and buy a packet of 5 Woodbines for tuppence, they would light up and smoke and cough and be sick and all the time keep their heads down in case any of their families would spot them, I know, I was one of them. For the penny entrance fee you were placed in the front rows on hard wooden benches, part of the fun was slipping past the usher to get a soft tip seat so that you didn’t suffer from neck ache.

We grew up and finally the talking pictures arrived, a new cinema was built to welcome this event. A group of us youths went to the cinema one night, and after the show an argument developed about a young actress called Jean Gillie, Jimmy Kennedy maintained she had been in a previous film we had watched, the rest of us disagreed, so we dared Jimmy to prove it, if he won we would each pay him sixpence. Some weeks later Jimmy produced a letter from Jean Gillie proving Jimmy was correct and we had to pay up. Unknown to us Jimmy kept up a correspondence with Jean Gillie, which resulted in him receiving an invitation to a cocktail party in Glasgow to launch Jean Gillie’s latest film. Jimmy was working week on week off, short time, so he could go to Glasgow to his aunt, and so attend the function. Imagine my horror when I was shown a copy of the evening paper to see Jimmy on the front page under the heading “Scotland’s Number One Film Fan Presents A Bouquet To His Favourite Girl”. I can’t remember the exact quotes, but the article went on and on with lies and more lies about Jimmy and Jean Gillie. This sort of thing is common place in the year 2000, but in the 1930s, to invent stories and present them as truths was unknown. Poor Jimmy, he never lived this escapade down, even though everyone in the town knew Jimmy had been set up by the City Journalists and couldn’t possibly have led the sort of life they had claimed. It was all good publicity for Jean Gillie for her premier, Jimmy never blamed her, but our little group didn’t agree, but we never ever dared to prove that, he had been hurt enough. Another lesson learned, never believe all you read in the papers.

Cover    |   Introduction   |   1920's   |  1930's  |   Memories   |   More Memories   |   Destiny