Remembering the true spirit of Christmas in old Ripley

Bill Hutchinson and his wife Marjorie who's Grandfather who died in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Bill Hutchinson and his wife Marjorie who's Grandfather who died in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
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Christmas is still 11 weeks away. It may be, as stated in the editor’s column, just three pay days away, but in the old money days of the 1930s and 40s, it was still 11 pay days and too far away from Christmas to be buying gifts. In those days it seemed there was more respect and less commercialism. No shops had any reference in any way to Christmas until after Armistice Day on November 11, which brings around the sale of poppies and respect to the fallen.

The day after this all shops and stalls on the market then put up their decorations and goods for sale.

Their lights were on until late in the evenings and Saturdays. Good old Woolies, the nothing above 6d (1.5p) store down in Church Street, was full of things kids could buy as presents for their parents, siblings, grandparents and all of their aunts and uncles. Because as poor as we were, everyone gave a present to to everyone in their distant family. You may wonder where we kids got all the money.

Shop windows would have their best toys on display. Hornby trains would be going round a circular track and fancy dolls would stand looking pretty for the girls. We would press our nose to the window knowing that these things would cost too much for a pitman’s Santa Claus.

He would bring the usual compendium of games to be shared between the family.

A person could even smell Christmas in the shops and on the market. I said that we were poor but this was not true. There was little money but our house was full in every room, through the windows and up the chimney, with love from our parents.

Ripley market with its numerous stalls would be lit up with their paraffin lamps until late when the meat and fish stalls would be selling their stock cheap to the crowds bustling around them.

Then came 1939 and all the lights went out, but Christmas still came in a different way.

So how did we kids get our money? Most kids when old enough would have a paper round and before school in the mornings would have to get up, collect the papers and take them round. You collected the money for your hard work on Saturday and often get a tip.

Then there was Christmas singing but only for the two weeks prior to the 25th. One had to sing at least one carol through all the verses. If you knew it was a good house where you were likely to get a tanner, not a penny, you would sing two or three carols. I had a good singing voice then and could belt it out. I know mam fetched dad out once and said to him: “Listen, that’s our Billy up on Nottingham Road,” and they stopped to listen.

Yes I love Christmas but not until after November 11. Then I go out and have a good smell of that Christmas coming and feel the love that used to be there but is missing so much today.