Eighty-one year old Leslie and seventy-six year old Ronnie (who still lives in the Village) are part of a family of six brothers whose parents brought them up on Helen Street. They both attended Albert Road Junior and Infant School and then Saltaire Secondary School for Boys (the present Wycliffe School building on Saltaire Road). School leaving age was then fourteen, and both went into Salts Mill. Les began at the mill in 1938 as a bobbin ligger, earning 25/- a week. Promotion to taker off earned him an extra 2/6d, and finally to jobber at 30/-. In July 1940 Les started as apprentice overlooker and he recalls with pride collecting his check smock from Gregson's in James Street, Bradford. He was called up into the RAF in 1943 but was discharged early in 1946 because his skills were essential to "Reclothing the country". He completed his apprenticeship in 1947 and became overlooker in Twisting. Then, for twelve years from 1958, he worked at Fred Ambler's mill on Valley Road. Nowadays Les, who was General Secretary of the Managers and Overlookers Society from 1968 to 1989, does not let regular dialysis for kidney failure stop him from helping others as a volunteer editor with Bradford and District Talking Telegraph. Ronnie was a baker at Fielding's in Shipley and Firth's in Saltaire, as told in last month's History of Victoria Road.
The Smith family have had a long association with the Salvation Army in Shipley, where Ronnie was a bandsman on tenor horn. He continues to help at the Citadel, assisting at the Luncheon Club. Just like Les, he is concerned for the welfare of others less fortunate than himself, and since his retirement has been a 'sitter' for the elderly whose relatives need a break; a scheme run by Social Services.
Both brothers are full of anecdotes about the Village and characters who have lived and worked there. They told me about shopkeepers like Miss Fieldhouse on Shirley Street, who had a draper's shop and despite only having one arm, managed to tie up neat parcels using that and her chin, and about the many traders who plied their wares around the streets; including the man who had been disabled in World War 1, and came round with anything small enough to be carried in his suitcase.
Thanks, Les and Ronnie, for a verbal snapshot of old Saltaire, and to the staff of Shipley College Resource Centre for providing a comfortable place for us to meet.