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Peeps into Hazel Grove's colourful past: the memories of Joan Burgess


A fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people in Hazel Grove in the first half of the last century is contained in letters sent to Rotarian John Bennett from Joan Burgess, who died last year at the age of 85.


Joan, a member of Norbury Church who had lived at nine different addresses in Hazel Grove, writes in graphic detail about many of the people and places she knew.


Her first memories are of attending Norbury CofE School. Classes were mixed, but there were separate playgrounds for the boys and girls: "The boys would hang over the dividing wall and shout insults at the girls."


Discipline was strict. "If a little boy misbehaved in class he would be sent to the headmaster, Mr Gee, to get the cane – or made to sit next to a girl."


Joan was a very frail child and looked forward to the small bottle of milk she had to buy each morning. Mr Gee often gave her a second bottle saying, "You look as if you need it."


There was a Miss Pheasy who taught her sewing, although she admits it took her two years to make a nightie. When it was finished the teacher threatened to put it in a glass case.


And a Miss Middleton who taught singing: "The boys would howl like banshees just to annoy her." But generally, all of the teachers were respected – "not like now. It's so different today."


Very few houses had bathrooms in those days – "just a tin bath in front of the fire. If you were lucky you got washed first."


Joan said she had been disappointed at the closure of so many local shops on which local people relied, such as Joe Pilsbury's which shut down recently. She went to school with its founder, Joe Senior: "He used to sell local goods you couldn't get elsewhere – honey and jams, meat pies from Woods of Poynton, sausages from Simpsons in High Lane.

"My mum used to take the tram to Stockport Market late on Saturday night. You got food cheaper then because the traders didn't want to take them back. There were no fridges or freezers in those days."


Hazel Grove was full of memorable characters when Joan was little: "There was Richard Smith, a cobbler who could play the piano. Someone once asked him if it was true and he answered 'I only go pom-pom,' so for ever more he was known as Dicky Pom.


"Another was Harry Pecker, who had a big nose. And Wash Hallworth who made gadgets to help ladies do their washing, like a 'posser', a long stick with a wooden disc at the bottom with three or four legs. You put it in the washtub to turn the clothes around, just like a washer does today."


Grovers were very houseproud: "I remember how some of the ladies who lived on London Road would come out and polish the tram lines."


Of course there was no NHS then. "My parents paid a small sum to the doctor – weekly, I think. Ours was Dr Merrin, an Irishman who had been a GP since the first world war. He would visit patients by bicycle until he got a car, and used to make his own remedies at home in his surgery.


"Of course, our mums had their own cures. You would have your dad's sweaty sock tied round your neck for a sore throat, and camphorated oil on your chest for a cold. There was a herbalist called Cecil Woods who made herbal medicines, like flu powders and little black pills called Bile Beans for constipation. But you had to stay at home if you took one of those!"

Current President

Peter Carter

Hazel Grove Rotary Club meets at 6.45pm on Thursdays at the Deanwater Hotel, Woodford


If you are interested in joining Rotary please get in touch


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