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Christmas In Sheffield !

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Not my memory but the missus', in the 50's Christmas shopping with her Mum, went into Boots and it was packed. They had a one-way system round the shop, and her Mum got whizzed by the crush past the shelf she wanted. She tried to go back but was stopped by the staff and had to go all the way round again!

I can remember that as well it was bad enough just walking past Boots on High street Town is just not the same now.

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Merry Morning with Leslie Crowther from a childrens ward somewhere. My Dad saying "think yourselves lucky youre at home" and us kids thinking that it might be worth a broken leg to get our hands on the presents that were being given away. lol

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I have written a book for my grandchildren about my family and my childhood in Sheffield. The chapter about Christmas has 3647 words. Is this too long to be of any interest to your site?

Mary Dale

mary@ledibirds.freeserve.co.uk

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That sounds tremendous Cybergrandma, please email to Sheffieldhistory@gmail.com and we'll have a look-see - or post it direct if you wish. Nothing too long if its Sheffield related.

Thank you.

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SHEFFIELD CHRISTMAS mid 1940s - mid 1950s

My mother always worked very hard to make Christmas special for us. It cannot have been easy for her with both money and toys in such short supply. For several weeks before Christmas she and I used to make decorations when I got home from school. We made lanterns from bits of old wallpaper and paper chains and Christmas tree decorations. We made our own Christmas cards too. When I was very small my parents decorated the Christmas tree and put up the decorations after I was in bed on Christmas Eve so that it was all there to fill me with wonder on Christmas morning. As I grew older I was allowed to help with the decoration of the tree to surprise and delight my little brother and sister. We had a small Christmas tree, which was carefully folded up into its box each Twelfth Night and put away until the next Christmas. We never decorated our Christmas tree before Christmas Eve.

There was sometimes a Christmas party up at Grandma and Grandad’s house and I remember gatherings at our house too. When I think of how small our “reception” rooms were, I wonder how we managed to squeeze in so many people and still be able to move. One of my uncles was an amateur magician. He could do impressive things with cards and find pennies in our ears. We played a card game called Chase the Lady, which involved secretly passing the Queen of Spades on to the next person, and games like Blind Man’s Bluff and In and out the Dusty Bluebells. Everybody, adults and children, joined in. If we were playing a game where you could be “out” you were given the choice of accepting that you were out of the game or of paying a forfeit and staying "in". One of the adults was detailed to announce what the forfeits would be. Although I remember that many of these forfeits were outrageous and designed to embarrass you and give everyone else a good laugh at your expense, I can only recall one of them. I had to go outside and stop the first person who came along and persuade them to come inside and sing us a song. Fortunately one of my grandparents' neighbours came out of his house as I ventured into the street and agreed to come in and sing for us. He was well cheered for this.

I remember one game played at our house one Christmas. It involved all the children being sent out of the living room and told to wait in the Room (the front room). We actually sat on the stairs, trying without success to hear what was going on next door. One by one we were called in while the rest waited their turn, not knowing what was in store for them. Eventually it was my turn and I was blindfolded and led into the living room, and lowered onto a chair. Then two of the biggest uncles lifted up the chair until my head touched the ceiling. Being so high off the ground was really scary and the chair wobbled and felt insecure and the uncles were grunting and letting me know how much effort they were putting into it. The other adults were making sounds of impressed amazement. Then I was lowered to the ground again, my blindfold was removed and I was told that what had happened was a secret and I must sit absolutely quietly while the others had their turn. I thought, “Is that it then?” The cousins who had been before me were all grinning and saying nothing. When the next person sat, blindfolded, on the chair I saw that the uncles didn’t lift them up to the ceiling at all. They simply raised the chair a few inches off the floor, grunted mightily with the effort of it and wobbled the chair a bit. Then someone else gently hit the child on the top of the head with a book. I suppose it was a lesson in the unreliability of perception. It was, of course, a game that could only ever be played once in a generation and only in a house that didn’t have high ceilings!

Grandma, the aunties and my mother did a lot of baking before these parties, everyone producing whatever it was they were famous for in the family. Grandma’s parkin (a sort of Yorkshire ginger cake), being very dry, was to be avoided but I made a bee-line for my mother’s mince pies and Auntie Leo’s lemon tarts. My mother would have been baking for several nights by the time Christmas arrived. Food was still rationed for much of my childhood and furthermore my mother’s kitchen was too small for two people to work in. Another limiting factor was that there was never much money. My mother could not risk a culinary disaster. She could not simply put the disaster out for the birds or in the bin and start again with fresh ingredients as we might do today. A disaster really would have been a disaster for all of us. For these reasons my cooking experience was very disjointed. I was never encouraged to prepare a meal from start to finish and by the time I left home at eighteen had still never done so. My culinary experience was limited to watching and helping and the best job was helping with the Christmas baking. I greased the baking tins with squares of greaseproof paper and lard and I was allowed to roll out the pastry my mother had made, and cut out the rounds for the mince pies and lemon and jam tarts. You had to be careful not to stretch the pastry, to lift the little rounds carefully, and plop them into the exact middle of the hollows in the baking tin. Then you had to be very careful to put in exactly the right amount of mincemeat or jam or lemon curd. Too little and the resulting tart or pie would be mean and dry, too much and the filling would bubble over the top of the pastry and burn onto the baking tins and be very difficult to clean off.

When the marathon baking session was over and the results had cooled, we inspected them. We were allowed to eat any that were burned or had got broken whilst being levered out of the tins. Oh the moral dilemma! On the one hand was my pride at wanting a perfect pile of mince pies or tarts to display. On the other was the greed that made me want to accidentally damage a few so that I had an excuse to eat them. Once the perfect pile had cooled, everything was packed away into my mother’s collection of tins and stored on the cellar head. Everyone who came to the house was offered mince pies and tarts with their cup of tea.

As the war years receded into the distant past and a wide variety of foods became readily available again, people started making foods they had either gone without for years or had made do with inferior substitutes. My mother started making the Christmas pudding again. Mixing up the ingredients for the Christmas pudding was a great and solemn ceremony. Everybody had to give the mixture a stir. And then my mother added the tiny silver sixpences (6d = 2½p) she had been saving. She tried to put in as many as possible and to spread them well out so that everybody had a good chance of getting one in their portion.

Once the war time rationing was over, some years after the war ended, my mother made her own lemon curd again with sugar, lemons, eggs and butter. During the war years and for some time after she made orange curd for special occasions, using the government orange juice, which was supplied to all families with young children. When this wasn’t available and when butter and eggs were in limited, and strictly rationed, supply and lemons not available at all, she made a substitute, which involved lemon essence, cornflour, a few drops of yellow colouring and water. This tasted nowhere near so good as the real stuff, but was still far better than the so-called lemon curd that was sometimes available in the shops.

My mother must have been bitterly hurt one Christmas . . . it was at a time when I already had a sister but still believed in Christmas, so it must have been the day before my eighth Boxing Day birthday. I used to go to a lot of trouble to make sure that Father Christmas knew exactly what I wanted for Christmas. I not only stood in front of the fire and whispered up the chimney, but I also wrote him a letter, which was also sent up the chimney. I wasn’t allowed to do this myself: my father would hold the letter over the fire until the updraft whisked it away up the chimney on its way to Father Christmas. This was usually done at the beginning of December but the whispering was done regularly throughout December. That year I desperately wanted a baby doll. I had whispered so fervently and so frequently up the chimney that Father Christmas could not possible fail to be aware of this.

Christmas morning finally came and in the bedroom I shared with my little sister I excitedly unwrapped my presents and helped my little sister to unwrap hers. Father Christmas had made a mistake! We each had a shoe box. Inside my sister’s was a beautifully dressed baby doll and in my box an equally beautifully dressed girl doll. I snatched the baby doll from my sister, saying “That’s mine. This is yours”. My sister howled and my mother came to see what was happening. She was very cross with me and made me give the baby doll back. I knew there was a mistake and the baby doll was mine. I sobbed and sobbed and no doubt ruined my mother’s Christmas. Looking back I can quite see that she would not understand how sure I was that it was all a mistake and that I was not intending to be difficult or badly behaved or (worst crime of all) jealous of my sister. I hated the girl doll forever more and wouldn’t even give her a name. Later that day my father took me into The Room and told me the Awful Truth about Father Christmas. It didn't help. If anything I was even more distressed.

One year, after being told the Awful Truth, I discovered where my parents hid our Christmas presents and I carefully unwrapped and equally carefully wrapped them up again. I never did it again because when Christmas came that year it wasn’t the same, knowing what was inside the parcels. My own children have since told me they did the same with the same result.

That was the only disastrous Christmas though: otherwise I remember only happy ones. Of course, early Christmas memories are mostly tied up with presents: I remember our tradition of going up the hill with our father on Christmas day in the morning, taking our presents with us, to show to our grandparents and the spinster Auntie who lived with them and looked after them. With hindsight I suspect the main reason for this visit was to get us out from under my mother’s feet so that she could have peace to prepare the Christmas Dinner (which we ate at lunch time). Quite what it did for our Auntie’s peace for preparing their own Christmas Dinner, I don’t know. I don’t remember ever getting presents from them or from other aunts and uncles. Bearing in mind the vast number of grandchildren/nephews/nieces, this isn’t at all surprising.

Our family tradition tended to be one “big” present and a stocking. I was born in 1938 and don’t remember specifically wartime Christmas stockings. After the war the stocking contained an apple, a tangerine, a half crown wrapped in silver paper and a small chocolate bar: maybe also some crayons or coloured pencils and drawing paper or a colouring book.

One especially well-loved Christmas present I particularly remember was a kaleidoscope. I have seen examples of these since I’ve grown up, I even have one now, but none has ever equalled the one I had as a child. My father made it. It contained bits of coloured glass and bits of gold and silver paper that had started out as sweetie wrappings and a few sequins. You could get absolutely wonderful patterns in it and I spent hours gently tapping the end and holding it up to the light to see how the pattern had changed.

Most of the “big” toys I had were passed on, I discovered years later, from older cousins or more remote relatives. They were also passed on from me to other younger cousins, often before I felt I had outgrown them! I had a stuffed dog on wheels that you could push around. You could even sit on him and get someone else to push you around. This dog disappeared one day and I cried bitterly. My mother said “But you never played with him any more, you’re a big girl now” and I threw a tantrum and cried that he was mine and I loved him. My mother said “Well, if you love him you should be pleased that he has gone to another child who will play with him” and that was the end of that.

My father made me a truly beautiful dolls’ house with lights you could switch on and off and stairs going up the middle from the front door and a garage at the side. This also disappeared one day and I never knew what happened to it. When I was 28 I had a friend who had two small sons. I had a small son and two small daughters. My friend’s father had made her a dolls’ house identical to the one my father made for me, even the furniture was exactly as I remembered it. I told her about my dolls’ house and since she had only sons she very, very kindly gave me hers for my daughters. And now one of my daughters has two daughters and they have Pat’s dolls’ house. I sometimes wonder if Pat now has granddaughters and regrets so generously giving away her dolls’ house.

Another wonderful, memorable present I received was a dolls’ pram. It was a shiny black, coach-built affair with C-springs and big wheels. This dolls’ pram was my pride and joy. My tiny new brother, born weighing 5 lbs when I was 9, slept in it for a few months and when I was sent to the Co-op to do the shopping, I took the pram with me to carry the shopping home in.

Yet another toy I had for a brief time was a toy sewing machine. Although it was so small it sewed perfectly. It produced a chain stitch seam and I quickly learned to hand sew a knot at the end of my seams because otherwise the seam would unravel at great speed. The machine only sewed forwards so you couldn’t lock the stitch by reversing the machine and sewing backwards along the seam for a few stitches. Looking back I wonder that my mother did not keep some of my toys for my sister. I can only suppose it was because the age gap between us was so great and there were always other children needing toys.

From being about ten years old I used to go carol singing on Christmas Eve. I usually went with one or two friends, not more because you didn’t want to have to share your earnings amongst too many people. We would go round the neighbourhood, singing a whole carol outside each door. We knew them all by heart and we didn’t give short measure. Then we’d knock on the door and chant “Hole in my stocking, hole in my shoe, hole in my hat where my hair pokes through. If you haven’t got a penny a hayp'ny (half penny) will do, if you haven’t got a hayp'ny, God bless you!” Then we’d knock again and wait, hopefully. Most people came to their doors and gave us thruppence or sixpence. But quite often we’d be invited in and asked to sing some more and then we’d be offered mince pies or a piece of Christmas cake with a drink of “pop”, Dandelion and Burdock or Tizer. We loved singing in the anonymous dark outside people’s doors but always felt very self-conscious when we had to do it in the middle of their living rooms. One memorable Christmas I went with a girl I didn’t know very well and I can’t remember how we came to agree to go carolling together. But we had a spectacularly successful night. It was a clear, cold, crisp night; we stayed out very late and I didn’t even get into trouble when I got home. But best of all, when we counted up the money, we had 14/6d (fourteen shillings and sixpence: 72.5p) or 7/3d each. Now that won’t mean anything to you but when I tell you it was over seven times my weekly pocket money you’ll realise why it seemed like a fortune.

Cybergrandma

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A brilliant story and truly wonderful memories that I can identify with myself. Today's children might have a lot more presents but they can't possibly beat these memories as they are just taken for granted nowadays to us it was a rare treat.

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The Man Who Made Christmas...a very true tale of my own...

This my friends is a tale of Christmas, but more importantly a true tale regarding myself who as a young lad of five years old, experienced the real meaning of that most wonderful of all celebrations, but first of all and to set the scene properly, I need tell you a little something of the times at hand.

I came from a large family of five children of varying ages, with myself being the youngest of the bunch. There was of course my mother who took care of the home and the needs and wants of all of us, whilst my father worked all the hours he could for very little pay in the steel works. Times were hard for many a family, with money being short and everyday things so expensive, yet there was love and kindness for free and food on the table, so I suppose you could say that in some ways we were all very lucky indeed.

Now as we all know, Christmas comes around just once every year, and in my home it was no less exciting a time than elsewhere, and I can assure you just as eagerly awaited. So a few weeks before the big day, my mother would gather us all around her with a pen and several sheets of paper in hand, and ask each of us to make a list of all the things that we would like Father Christmas to deliver. Pretty much like many of you still do today, I hope? Eagerly we would scribble out our lists without care or thought to the expense, asking for things like the most popular board games of the day, or the latest football strip of our favourite teams, or as in my day the most recent recordings by our favourite pop stars. We had things called vinyl LP’s then you know, that you played on record players unlike today’s CD’s.

So with this done we would hand the lists back to our mother, eagerly chattering amongst ourselves whilst excitedly wishing that Christmas Day would come just as soon as tomorrow. “Now you’d all better behave yourselves” she would say as she tucked the lists safely into her handbag, “or Father Christmas won’t come at all”.

Time soon passed as if in the blink of an eye, and in no time at all, a tall green pine scented Christmas tree had appeared in the corner of the sitting room, its branches hung with sparkling glass baubles, shimmering strips of tinsel, and row upon row of flickering fairy lights. The normally bare ceiling of the room had become crisscrossed with brightly coloured paper trimmings, all hanging and gently swaying as if some magical giant spider had just spun its web, and in each corner there could be found bunches of balloons of various shapes, colours and sizes. All in all the scene before my eyes was a picture to behold, a magnificent shimmering vision of what to any child would be seen as the ideal enchantment of Santa’s very own grotto, yet there was still no presents wrapped in their brightly coloured papers to be found beneath the tree.

As I have already mentioned before, and as I feel sure you will be able to recall, times were hard and money short, although what you couldn’t possibly know, and what I’m going to tell you now, is that this particular year, things were far worse than ever, for you see there was little or no work to be had, which meant even less money was available for spending on things such as Christmas presents. Although my mother and father never mentioned this to any of us, I feel sure that it was of great concern to them both, yet despite all of this, something truly magical was about to happen, something that would for ever more personally bring home to me both the real and truest meaning of Christmas, and with the scene now set my friends, this is where our tale really begins.

My father was a skilled man with his hands and had a little workshop of his own,a place where he would make and repair things, mainly as a fun hobby, but sometimes through need. In there could be found tools of all different uses and types, some for sawing wood, some for drilling, and others for gluing or knocking pieces together. All this was done on a long flat bench attached to which was a big sturdy metal vice, a device that was used to securely hold the things on which he worked. Many a time as a young lad I had joined him in there, collecting odd off cuts of wood to make a sailing boat or airplane, whilst listening to his old crackly radio that seemed to play an endless stream of wonderful tunes, but all of a sudden I was not allowed in at all, in fact none of us were, for the door was now securely locked and bolted at all times.

“Why won’t dad let us into the workroom?” I’d often complain to our mother whilst feeling very confused, “he won’t even open the door when I knock”. “Oh I suppose he’s busy with something or other” she would reply with a slight smile, “all will be revealed when he is good and ready, now you go off and play and leave him be”.

So this is how it was to be, some two weeks before Christmas I would regularly sit outside the workshop door, listening with burning curiosity to all the sounds of sawing, hammering and drilling coming from within, whilst the crackling radio provided its endless stream of tunes for company.

Time again seemed to pass quicker than ever, and now there was only a matter of a few exciting days to go before Christmas day its self, but still there were no brightly wrapped presents to be found beneath the tree. I can recall asking my mother if this was because we had in some way been naughty, or perhaps that we had not done as we were told, or worse still that Santa was unhappy about something or other. She just laughed and said that it was nothing of the sort, and that we had done all the things asked of us like running errands or doing our homework and keeping our rooms tidy. “Then why are there no presents beneath the tree”? I had asked both sounding and feeling a little worried, to which she had replied with a smile, “because it is not yet time”.

It was the day before Christmas Eve, and from my regular seat outside the workshop, I began to detect strange and heady smells that wafted freely from beneath the gap at the bottom of the door. Mixed in with the regular scents of sawn wood and fresh glue, I could also now detect the odor of fresh paint and something like wood varnish and polish, but still my father would not let on as to what he was up to in there. The music had also changed on the crackly radio, and now seemed to play a never ending collection of Christmas songs and carols, some of which my father rumbled along to in his deep bass voice.

Christmas Eve morning, and having sleepily climbed from the comforting warmth of my bed, I went as usual to check if Santa had put any presents beneath the tree, and boy was I in for a shock. For you see there were brightly coloured parcels of all shapes colours and sizes, and lots of them too, and best of all I could see my own name written on some of them in bold writing.

“When did Santa deliver these?” I asked my mother excitedly whilst hopping from foot to foot, “I would have so liked to have had the chance to say a big thank you to him”. “Ahhh but they are all empty at the moment” she said mysteriously, “because he doesn’t make his deliveries until tonight, and only then when you are tucked up in bed and sound asleep”. “Then I will go to bed extra early” I promised feeling very serious about the whole affair. “That’s a good idea” she agreed, “but we mustn’t forget either Santa or his Reindeer must we?” “What should we do?” I asked. “You must write him a nice letter of thanks” she replied, “and we must also leave them something to eat and drink, as it will be a very busy night for them with little time to spare. My goodness, to think of all the children throughout the world that he has to visit”. “Can we do it now?” I asked. “Well you can write the letter now” she laughed, “but I think we had better leave the food and drink until just before bed time”.

So with this said, I fetched a nice sharp pencil from my school bag, and a clean sheet of white paper upon which I would write my letter of thanks to Father Christmas and his very hard working Reindeer. With the letter soon finished, I decided that it needed a picture of a nicely decorated Christmas tree along with a happy faced Snowman to finish it off, and once done, I folded it carefully into an envelope which was addressed to Santa himself in large colourful letters.

Christmas Eve day seemed to drag along all too slowly, and although I amused myself at the table by drawing pictures or playing games, I feel sure that my curious eyes were never too far from the pile of presents still waiting to be magically filled beneath the tree. All too soon darkness fell outside as little white flakes of snow began to collect on the windowsills, and a large and loud yawn from myself signaled to my parents that I was now more than ready for bed. “Come on young man” said my mother scooping me up, “it’s time that we got you into your pajamas and tucked up in bed, we all have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow”. “I can’t go to bed yet” I protested, “we haven’t put the food and drink out for Santa and his Reindeers”.

In no time at all there was cool glass of milk on the table, next to which was a tea plate with a tasty mince pie upon it, both for Santa of course, and next to these was a large crispy orange carrot, which I bet as you can guess was for the Reindeers. To finish it off, I carefully placed the envelope personally addressed to Santa which contained my letter of thanks for all the wonderful gifts against the glass, and only then was I satisfied that all had been properly done.

Once in bed I suppose that I must have fallen to sleep straight away, for it seemed that no sooner had my head touched the pillow, than my brothers and sister were nosily running from room to room in a state of great excitement whilst shouting at the top of their voices, “Merry Christmas”. I couldn’t believe it, after all that waiting; it was here at last, it was actually Christmas Day, and very soon all those brightly coloured parcels beneath the tree would be revealing their most wonderful of surprises.

“Come on lazy bones” my brother bellowed into my ear, “get out of bed and get dressed or you will miss all the fun”. I didn’t need to be told twice, and was out of bed as quick as a flash both washed and dressed, but in my state of high excitement and much to the amusement of my family, I soon appeared down stairs with my shirt inside out and wearing odd socks. With this oddity soon righted, my mother much to my disappointment insisted that before any of us opened one single present, that we should all eat at least some breakfast. Now this proved to be a very hard task indeed, for I am sure as all of you well know, that when you are very excited, eating is an almost impossible feat. Yet with my mother watching each of us with hawk like eyes, I managed a glass of milk along with a slice of toast before being allowed to leave the table. Having then ventured into the living room, my first job was to check that Santa had received my letter of thanks along with his much needed refreshments, and to my great relief it was happily gone. The glass containing the cool drink of milk was empty, and the tea plate held a covering of fine white crumbs rather than a whole tasty mince pie, and next to these lay the stalked remains of the crisp orange carrot, which upon closer inspection revealed the toothy bite marks of his Reindeer.

“Come on then” my father announced at last, “everyone gather round the tree and we’ll begin with the present giving”. So with the delicious smells of a turkey dinner already cooking in the oven beginning to fill the air, we all took our places and waited patiently as the presents were handed out and opened one at a time. Soon it was my turn and the parcel was a heavy one, and after ripping open the paper, there before me was a large wooden lorry that was both big enough to sit on and ride. It was painted bright white with blue stripes down its sides, and best of all in the back sat a collection of building blocks of all shapes and sizes. My next parcel contained two presents, a wooden porters barrow with two thick wheels and a sturdy box in which I could place things, the type of thing used at railway stations long ago to ferry peoples luggage to and fro, and a hobby horse with it’s single wheel, a bright red mane and jingly bells, I couldn’t have been more happy.

This is how Christmas Day morning went, with each of us taking it in turns to open a present whilst the others excitedly looked on, and all too soon it was once again my turn. The next parcel I opened contained a wooden garage that was bright red with white windows. It had a large ramp at the back leading up to a flat roof on which many cars could be parked, and had a large tower at one end which was topped off by a flag pole and fluttering flag. Down below were several show rooms and a long row of shiny petrol pumps, and inside were bays in which cars and other vehicles could be repaired, but best of all, along with it there came a cardboard box containing a brand new fleet of cars and lorries. Just what was needed to make the whole thing work a treat I would say?

My next present contained a stout wooden fort with four round turrets and a working drawbridge. It was painted in grey and brown with its own flag pole and fluttering flag, and as with the garage, this also was accompanied by a cardboard box, but this one didn’t contain a fleet of cars, indeed no, instead it held row after row of painted soldiers all kitted out in their best dress uniforms, each one ready to stand guard or just simply defend their home.

Soon the presents were all but handed out, but right at the back of the tree there remained one last parcel, and believe me when I tell you this my friends, it was a huge one. Now can you ever imagine my surprise and excitement when it was eventually lifted free and my name called out, I can tell now you that I almost sang a silly song out loud with joy. After quickly ripping the paper covering away, there before me gently nodding back and forth was the most fantastic if not the most beautiful present of them all. It was a wooden rocking horse that was as fine as fine could be, its body painted white with green spots and green stripes along its runners. The seat was padded in soft rich red leather, and its mane and tail were made from real lengths of horse hair. Hanging from its body was a cowboy’s hat along with a suit that seemed to drip with tassels, and its waist coat sported a large and most important looking silver badge that declared its owner to be none other than the sheriff. I can tell you all that I was soon wearing the cowboys rig whilst yahooing back and forth with the best of them, and to say that I was utterly overjoyed at the presents I had received this day, wouldn’t even begin to hit the mark.

Now with you the reader being a wise old bunch of whatnots and so and so’s, I bet you can guess what is coming next? The wooden lorry with its cargo of bricks, the porters barrow, hobby horse, garage, fort and rocking horse, were all made by my father during his long days and hours spent whilst locked in the workroom with only the crackly old radio for company. I didn’t realize this at the time, in fact not until many years later. These were toys of great value to me, and have lasted right up until this day, long since those which were bought in a shop have either been broken or given away. You may remember that right from the very beginning of this tale, that I said money was short, yet each and every one of these wonderful gifts cost very little at all except time, care and love, all the things needed whilst sawing, drilling, painting and gluing odd pieces of wood together. This for me is the true meaning of Christmas, its not about what you give or how much it costs, it’s about how you give it and as to how much care and effort you put into the choice.

So you see my friends, at the end of the day I had what you may call a wooden Christmas, that is except for the one or two items like the cars and soldiers which I feel sure Santa did bring, but I can honestly say that it was without a doubt the very best and most wonderful Christmas that I have ever had, and I can honestly say that in this particular year, my father really was the man who made Christmas.

Now before I end the tale and wish you all for the moment farewell, I would like to share one last secret with you. My father looked very much like a character who is a favourite of all us, and here we go with a few of clues. He had a rich and jolly laugh, his own workshop in which as we now know he made the most wonderful toys, and he had a big round tummy and snowy white beard.

Now does this remind you of anyone in particular at all?

All the best to you all.....Al.

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I remember one of the highlights of Christmas, was once school had broken up for Christmas, catching the bus with mum and sitting upstairs at the front as we rode down the moor so I could look at the lights. I seem to remember Debenahams being the Santa we went to in the 1980's 9i think) but Redgates was the place to go.

Christmas presents were always, an apple, orange, walnuts, a Blue Peter Annual, and a big present, some of the ones i remember were Army Meccano, A hornby Flying Scotsman train set, frustration, Campaign, and tank battle, despite being in my 40's I still have some of them tucked away in the loft!

Meltis Newberry fruits is something I awlays remember from Christmas, I always bought them as a present for Mum, and whenever I see them now it always reminds me of her.

I do remember going to the kids Christmas party at Stanley tools, and Moore & Wrights where Dad worked. It was always in the staff canteen which was on the lower floor of the office building in front of the Handsworth site (now the Asda store) Big Christmas tree, and a visit from Santa with a present like a cap gun or toy soldiers! also a cartoon show from a a super 8mm projector.

Going to the Panto at the Crucible and the stars throwing sweets into the audience.

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A trip to see Santa in the Co-op Grotto and then, a visit to Redgates to remind mum and dad what were appropriate presents [though they had no doubt bought the much wanted, extra Mecanno Kits, so that I could build that suspension bridge, extra Hornby Train Stuff, wagons, coaches, and with hope, another locomotive, but never Triang!!

Wandering up and down The Moor and Fargate. The illuminations seemed much brighter and far more abundant than they are now.

Roast chestnuts in paper bags. I seem to remember that the chestnut roaster on Pond Street-Flat Street used coal, or coke. :unsure:

Christmas day, after dinner, laying on the floor in front of the coal fire at home, getting roasted and watching telly. And there was always Quality Street in abundance.

Oh my, innocence lost. Never to return. :(

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I remember getting all togged up to go and see the lights, Downtown, by Dusty Springfield (yes was Petula Clarke) was on the radio just before we left, and hearing that song 40+ plus years later still brings back the memories.I can remember getting off the bus on High Street and walking presumably up fargate and down the Moor finishing off at the santas Grotto on the piece of waste land at the foot of the Moor, the grotto was a walk through real christmas trees to santa sat in a shed.

On Christmas eve, Grandad would pick us up and take us to see Father CHristmas in the S&E co-op at the bottom of Ecclesall Rd, cant remember ever going anywhere else with grandad, but we went to the S&E every Christmas eve.

CRIKEY! you must have been me! or I was you!.... thats just as I remember it too!

although I also remember my dad driving up the whicker, through waingate, oyl in't'road, high st,(then maybe leopold street?,) pinstone st, and down the moor get parked up and into Atkinson's or some other dept store for a sit on Santas knee!

.. this year as a nod to my (future) wifes 20 year stretch in Australia (non-penal)..we had Kangaroo for xmas lunch.. delicious too!!

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I don't know if this will be the same place as others have mentioned but I remember (it would be the late 70's) going to see Santa, at I presume a Department Store, with my Mum where you got on a sleigh and there was the illusion of it moving through a tunnel or similar? I think the tunnel actually rotated around you to give the impression of movement, but I remember being entranced by it all the same.

After a while you then got to meet Santa and received a present. I got a jigsaw that I still remember being particularly unhappy about! he he

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You might know my husband then he worked there as an electrician from 1966 -2005 ( Richard Hill )

Yes I know Richard, I live not far away from you now, he'll remember Nigel

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The thing I remember best about my Christmas's were the Christmas parties.

HD

Apart from all the family Christmas parties we enjoyed there were club and works do's to attend. Our cycle club [The Sheffield Don Wheeler's] would have a slap-up meal and dance at the S&E Co-op, someone would organise something at work [bentley Brothers] and the highlight of the season would be the coach journey to The Palace Hotel at Buxton for Fletchers bakeries Christmas extraganza, now that was a do! To say that we only got a few days off work at Christmas then how did we fit it all in? The generation of today think they have it all, but when you think about it they have got nothing. W/E.

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Yes I know Richard, I live not far away from you now, he'll remember Nigel

Oh yes I know who you are now.

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Apart from all the family Christmas parties we enjoyed there were club and works do's to attend. Our cycle club [The Sheffield Don Wheeler's] would have a slap-up meal and dance at the S&E Co-op, someone would organise something at work [bentley Brothers] and the highlight of the season would be the coach journey to The Palace Hotel at Buxton for Fletchers bakeries Christmas extraganza, now that was a do! To say that we only got a few days off work at Christmas then how did we fit it all in? The generation of today think they have it all, but when you think about it they have got nothing. W/E.

PS. Instead of saying "they have nothing" what I should have said was, back in the 1960s almost all of us had two families the one at home and the one at work. There were good pubs and Working Men's clubs everywhere, one of the best and cheapest 24 hour local transport networks in the country, and best of all, whether you were 8 or 80 years old you could walk anywhere in Sheffield in complete safety. So what went wrong? W/E.

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In the early 80's I used to help put up the illuminations. The tree on Fargate used to be very tall, over 40 feet. I remember one year we strung the festooning and lights around the tree using 2 hydraulic platforms, the one I had was a 40 footer and at full height didn't reach the top of the tree. The lights and set pieces were stored at Hillsborough Barracks at that time, we used to start testing them in September, the barracks were the coldest place I ever worked in, even when warm outside it was freezing inside. Switching on the illuminations was a team affair, at strategic lampposts an electrician would stand with the post door off waiting to throw to switch on his section. The switch on was at the City Hall, but the first thing to be switched on was the tree on Fargate and the Goodwin fountain. The 'star of the show' would organise a countdown, when it reached '1' a worker would bang on the window of he underground gents toilets in the Town Hall, where inside, someone would throw the switches to light the tree and fountain. When that lit it was the signal for the electricians to throw their switched in the lamp posts, and as each section came on other electricians would put on their bit. That's why they came on is a wave fashion and not all at once.

Oh, I would loved to have done that job! My parents would take us into the city to see the Christmas lights during the 1960's and 1970's and we were just amazed by the fantastic lights back then. We would walk round, gawping for hours at the many displays and endless festoon lights - me for one was just as interested as a kid in the many junction boxes that were attached to the then concrete lamp posts which must have fed the electricity supply to the various sections. The ironic thing is that the man in charge of Blakpool Illuminations must have been gawping at the same displays as me at roughly the same times! He followed his dream and made it come true through hard work. I got well and truely de-railed and ended up working for DWP... Follow your soul!!!

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It was interesting but had it's drawbacks, I was heartily sick of Christmas by the time we switched them on having been working on bits of them since September. Funnily enough I hate decorating our christmas tree at home and dread the thought of testing the lights!

I knew the chap in charge of Blackpool lighting in the 1970's he was called Arthur Elliott and was in his late 50's by then. Their operation was a year round job, they made most of the set pieces in their own workshops. Things have changed in Sheffield now, a private firm supplies and fits the illuminations and the council only has to make sure the electricity supplies are still working.

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The last Christmas I spent in Sheffield was in 1974. I think it was called the winter of discontent. Believe me, I was discontented! My South Sfrican wife and I had only just landed at Heathrow for a six week visit and we were met with strikes. When I heard that even the Brewery workers were on strike, it really added to the atmosphere. Anyway, my wife caught Flu and couldn't shake it off, the weather was miserable, bombs wre going off in London and the only bright spots were when I met all my old mates and getting back onto the plane.

I suppose that I was disappointed that is why I paint a bleak picture of the last time I spent Christmas in Sheffield, When I was a child in the Fifties, they were magical!

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The last Christmas I spent in Sheffield was in 1974. I think it was called the winter of discontent.

The "Winter of discontent" was the winter of 1978 -79, beset with strikes it forced an election, brought down the James Callaghan lead Labour Government and put Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in power.

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Perhaps Ian's confusing it with the earlier winter when the other miner's strike forced many people onto a 3 day week. There was plenty of discontent arouns then as well! That one brought down the Heath Government, which in turn caused Maggie's resolve to break the miners' unions. Shame she destroyed the industry, so many communities and so many lives into the bargain.

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The Miners were on strike for most of January and February 1972 which effected the coke ovens where I worked. 1972 was the last Christmas I spent in Sheffield. In 1972 unemployment rose to over one million for the first time since the 1930's and Queen Elizabeth caught fire and sank in Hong Kong harbour (the ship that is)

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The Miners were on strike for most of January and February 1972 which effected the coke ovens where I worked. 1972 was the last Christmas I spent in Sheffield. In 1972 unemployment rose to over one million for the first time since the 1930's and Queen Elizabeth caught fire and sank in Hong Kong harbour (the ship that is)
I remember that winter very well, we had gone all electric the previous summer and with a babe in arms it was a nightmare due to the power cuts, fortunately one of our neighbours still had a disused Yorkshire Range so we reached an agreement that if we supplied the coal we could use it anytime. Just two problems though, one was there was not much warning when the power would be going off, and the other was the coal had to be fetched from the mother-in-laws at the bottom of Blake Street in a old pram, good exercise though! W/E.

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Perhaps Ian's confusing it with the earlier winter when the other miner's strike forced many people onto a 3 day week. There was plenty of discontent arouns then as well! That one brought down the Heath Government, which in turn caused Maggie's resolve to break the miners' unions. Shame she destroyed the industry, so many communities and so many lives into the bargain.

Yes, I remember that one too. In fact the whole of the Heath Government years seem to have been plagued with strikes from 1970 to its downfall in 1974.

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