Cyclists Touring Club (CTC), a friend of mine was a member, held a rally every year, I think in August, at the Knavesmire Racecourse in York. Three of us went at the ages of 14 and 15yrs. The first year we went there and back in a day. The second year we stayed over on Saturday night in a tent. We took turns carrying the tent on our backs, as saddlebags were full of other things, don’t remember what, but food would be there somewhere.
When I left school at 15yrs I worked for Huddersfield Co-op butchers. The first shop I worked at was down Princess St. It was known as Central, as it was the main Co-op in the town. There were 40 butchers’ shops belonging to the Co-op in the Borough of Huddersfield. I worked at nearly half of them over the years, many of them as holiday relief manager.
I was not allowed to ride my bike in the town centre at that time as it was too busy. So, what was one of the first jobs I had? Delivering meat on a butcher’s bike with a basket in front, in the town centre and elsewhere. The first problem I had - I expected the basket to turn with the front wheel, but it didn’t. So, guess what? I fell off, but remounted and carried on regardless.
I can remember riding along Bradford Rd to a house somewhere in Lightridge Rd, Fixby, where I sometimes met a lad from another Co-op shop. He really struggled to ride a bike, but he said it kept him going as he had MS (I think). I believe he died in his early 30s and I’ve never forgotten him. He was a big Town fan and I blame him for sparking my interest in them.
I also delivered to a big house in Kingsmill Lane to a man named Mr Brown, who told me he had been a friend of Paul Robeson, the singer. There was an elderly couple who lived next door to the Ship Inn at the bottom of Ramsden St, I had to go through the pub yard to their back door. They used to sit one on each side of the fireplace in the kitchen and although the fire was lit they were wrapped in blankets. Still we chatted a little while as I did with a lot of my customers. The odour there was not very pleasant and I was pleased to get outside and into some fresh air.
From Newsome, I remember delivering to an elderly couple in Lawton St, they were extremely proud of some decorating they had done and invited me in to look at their handiwork. Of course, I praised their efforts despite the fact that the wallpaper came onto the skirting boards and cut at all sorts of angles.
In about 1960 I was at the Marsh shop; the one place I remember delivering to there was Croft Manse on of course Croft Lane, the home of Mr and Mrs Mason. I remember leaving the order on the front porch. They were the parents of James Mason, the actor, whom I served in the shop one day on one of his rare visits home.
These bikes were not easy to ride. I don’t remember having a puncture or a breakdown on any of those robust machines and you could have ridden into battle on them.
I think the bike at Newsome must have been particularly hard to ride as occasionally I went to work on my own bike. Till one day I set off on a bright sunny morning to be at the shop for 7:30am, but as the day went on, the weather deteriorated rapidly and at home time, 6pm, it was very wet and very windy. The capes we wore on bikes then weren’t good for riding into the wind. I usually got home about 6:45 by bus, but it was 7:15 and I still had 2 miles to go when I saw my father had come looking for me in his van. My prayers answered!
Whilst this might be more about people than bikes, life is about people of all characters, but to meet these people in their homes wouldn’t have happened without a bike.
Brian Hibbert, Outlane