By Eric Crookes
I was born at 75 Hoole Street on September 10th 1945 the third child of Ivy and Leonard Crookes. When my dad was de-mobbed from the Royal Navy in 1945 we moved to a prefabricated house on the Arbourthorne estate just a couple of miles from the city centre. What were my earliest memories? I can't really say but I remember brown varnished doors, talk of a cat called Molly and the chickens in the garden. I can also remember a colouring book with a boy and girl on the back walking in the sunlight. Signs of a romantic mind in the making I guess.
My first school was Arbourthorne Infants where I probably went from the age of 3 until my parents moved to 35 Spinkhill Road. I remember nothing of those days. But I do remember the early days at Spinkhill Road especially the bare walls and pictures out of story books that Pat stuck up. I seem to have a picture of walking along a shale pathway on the first day we moved into the house with Aunty Edna who, at that time, lived on Motehall Road. At this time, 1950, my sister Pat was 11 years old, Leonard was 7 and Tony 4. I went to Woodthorpe Infants and Junior schools and struggled against the usual poverty adversities. There was clear evidence that I was fairly bright though I failed the 11-plus exam at 11 years old notwithstanding the fact that kids around me with seemingly less potential managed to pass. In hindsight I believe that was the first example of the class system working against me for whatever reason and in whatever manner!!
My Dad went back into the Navy in 1952 for the Korean emergency and my Mam had to raise the four of us on her service pay. That must have been a struggle though I remember little of it except for the unpleasant processes at school such as free dinners and no clothes to our backs. Even then I recollect being given threepence for doing well in tests in arithmetic and English.
I left Woodthorpe school to go to Brook Secondary on Richmond Road. I went to the wrong school on the first day and got it right on the second. This school was alright for the period though again in hindsight they taught little of any real value other than the 3-Rs. What more could a working class lad wish for? I wonder!! I did well in relative terms, played football for the school, trained with Sheffield Boys, but ought to have done better. There were no formal examinations such as GCEs and therefore no opportunity for further education
I left school at 15 years and 3 months to start working life at Brown Bayley Steels at Attercliffe. Here I met John Blackhurst who for years I thought was the most intelligent man on earth, now I know better. My colleagues were Cliff Mills, Gary Wilkinson and Barry Peacock. I went to day school studying some basic classes in sciences but failed them and so I left to go as an Apprentice Chemical Plant Operator at United Coke and Chemicals. I played football for Dore F.C. and watched Sheffield Wednesday relentlessly. This company was an eye-opener for me. I worked alongside ex-mine workers who were rough in style and manners but they were all an experience and they live on in my memory. In particular Tommy Pickering, a rough plant operator desperate to educate himself. He introduced me to philosophy and philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Bishop George Berekely and John Locke. In my later years I was to pick up a more formal study of these people.
After leaving United Coke and Chemicals at the age of 21 I went into Production Control at Firth Vickers on Shepcote Lane. Although I did not know it at the time this was the gateway to my eventual career. In 1966 I met Grace Short and eventually we were married in 1968. Jobs were plentiful and I had a tendency to move from job to job in a short space of time. I worked for a few months at Jessop-Saville, a classic old Sheffield steel company and then for Cravens Machines before going to Sheffield Twist Drill where I really began to learn about Production Control. Strange how all this is about work and little else though perhaps not so strange since our lives revolve about working and our careers. Perhaps I will come back to all that later and develop how I really felt about my life and how it was going.
We went to South Africa in 1970 until 1972 and met many people who influenced my life especially Geof Wheeler who later killed himself. I worked for Perforation Conidure, Standard Telephones and Cables and Boart Hard Metals. The period in South Africa opened up my life especially giving me a greater sense of purpose and a self knowledge that I could achieve in something or other. I don't think I wanted to come back though I supported very strongly Grace's need to return. What would have been my outcome I wonder had we stayed there? I met people, young people like myself at the time, who had travelled the world and I envied them then but somehow I daren't comment on them or express my true feelings to my wife.
Steven was on the way when we returned to England in October 1972 to dark nights and power cuts. He was born in January 1973 and I worked as a Planner at various places, in particular Spear and Jackson tools. I took on various study courses that stimulated my mind without developing anything in particular although some of the things still stay with me to this day. The philosophy class opened up avenues that were unexpected at the time but were portents of things to come.
The most significant career change was to Trianco Redfyre in Chapeltown close to where Grace and I lived in High Green. Trianco gave me the most productive and adventurous decade of my life, 1975 to 1985. I travelled a lot, met lots of people, created a few waves along the way and studied hard. Went to New York, the UN buildings and the Empire State building. As well as Italy and Sweden all on business. Trianco Redfyre was, whilst it lasted, a good period for me. At the same time I took on the massive task of studying for the B.A. in Humanities which included European Literature, European History and Political Thought. What an enlightenment for me that was and set me running through all sorts of different avenues and areas.
Wendy came on the scene in September 1987 and changed my life completely. We had a torrid love relationship before I was finally found out and we left home for each other. We lived in a small very old cottage in Grenoside which was a complete failure in every respect. It did not bring us anywhere near parting but it did not help our circumstances. It was so cold and forbidding but we made the most of it. How on earth did we manage to maintain the momentum into the early hours of the morning I really don't know!! There were horses in the field and an old lady called Mrs Clover who was about 92 years old. It should have been idyllic and to some extent it was though it almost drove us mad. Then we left there to find a place in Penistone. Wendy hated it though it was home to me and I grew attached to it. Isabel Copley lived next door and I would do her shopping for her sometimes and she would take care of my key.
The Master of Philosophy was completed in 1992 after a six year slog but what an achievement. I learned so much about so many things and I learned how to put it all together. It looks good on a business card and on my C.V. but it's of little relevance to anything else.
The MBA was a different ball game altogether. Modern management based it was fully funded by Lee Steel Strip and was another enlightenment for me. It formalised most of the work I had been doing in my various jobs over the years and gave me a head start over most of my peers. But later on it was to work against me. I became too smart for my own good and people at Lee Steel Strip said they couldn’t understand what I was talking about, that I was an academic. Imagine that a lad off the tip in Sheffield an academic!! They eventually made me redundant. But that was OK – Wendy and I sat in bar on New Year’s Eve 1999 and said I would never be employed again. I would use my massive qualifications, a Bachelors and two Masters, to create our own business and that was what we did. We made some good money and spent it unwisely, going on exotic holidays and nice things.
Wendy and I were married on June 22nd 1996 and we planned it down to the minute almost. We planned our own ceremony with poems that meant something to us and music that we had built our relationship on. The reception was at a restaurant in Stockport and we spent a noisy night at Bredbury Hall. All the guests had a wonderful day and so did we. We went to Cyprus for two weeks and that was a tremendous experience the highlight of which was the trip to Egypt to see the pyramids. That was awe inspiring. The whole holiday was marred only by the awful antics at Lee Steel Strip which, culminated in redundancy in 1999.
Time moves on inevitably and inexorably and things have changed. Not necessarily for the better. We bought a house at Salendine Nook in Huddersfield and moved in at the beginning of September 1997. It was a lovely house and we made our mark there with fine gardens and furniture it had three bedrooms a nice little dining room and lounge and good kitchen and a massive spread of lawned gardens. In the early days in Huddersfield it cost us a lot to survive because we couldn’t sell the house in Penistone but once we had done we became quite comfortable.
We had plenty of money between us. Wendy was working with the Probation Service in Manchester, sometimes wilting under the stress and I was pulling in good money through my self-employments work. At times, I worked in factories and other times I picked up lecturing work either through the Chambers of Commerce in the areas or through the trade institutions I was in. But I never hit the big one, the really big one.
I felt privileged to welcome in the new Millennium when it eventually came. Wendy didn’t share my and the rest of the world’s enthusiasm. I recorded it well in my diaries such as they are and who knows what will happen to them!!
In 2002 we lost Leonard at the age of 59. All his life he had been something of a loner. A circle of friends that went into the pubs at Woodhouse, he rarely had a girl friend until he met Gloria and, for all intents and purposes, she was an alcoholic. They had countless fights and arguments and they finally split up. It was a case of not being able to live together and not being able to live apart. He had a flat to himself on Edward Street in the centre of Sheffield and then a council apartment on the Manor Estate. He was very much on his own and he died more or less alone.
And then, sadly in 2008 Pat died after a series of strokes and heart attacks. She died quietly and peacefully in her sleep. At her funeral her son Shaun arranged that he and his brother Wayne and the three remaining Crookes brothers could carry her coffin into the service. It was a sad duty that I was privileged to perform.
There were lots of good holidays, the USA., Australia, China and across Europe as well as several cruises. We loved them all.
We had issues in Huddersfield principally with the neighbours and the proliferation of immigrants into the area. We prompted to move, put the house up for sale and immediately got good offers for it. In truth Wendy wanted to live back on the other side of the Pennines and we found a new build site in Leigh in Lancashire. We reserved and bought a four bed-roomed town house, brand new, and probably regretted it ever since.
I continued to pull in reasonably paid work. In the Manchester area at Cheethams, in Bolton at Foremost Furniture and in Southport at EFT Systems now at 68 years old I work just one day a week at Foremost.
Leigh is a back-woods, backward town in the middle of pleasant rural land. There’s a lake nearby that accommodates all sorts of bird life that we rarely frequent. There’s a sports village across the way that I go to twice a week; Wendy uses the facility once a week and apart from going to the cinema fairly regularly we do little else.
Stephen lives in Wakefield and has done for some years. He is 41 years old and built like a giant. We try to meet up once a month and have a lunch together in a pub somewhere. I wish he would lose weight!!
I am a comfortable 171 pounds in weight and five feet eight inches tall and my hair has gone, and that is one of my great sadnesses. But I read avidly, write novels and sketch and paint. I think I keep my brain and body active; maybe I’ll live forever.
In the car we share, a Toyota Aurus, I play my constant and eternal friend Elvis Presley over and over again to the chagrin of Wendy but he epitomises my dreamed of style and personality. I researched my family history back to the late eighteenth century, it’s written up and published on these web-pages I hope the knowledge and information it contains is shared with whoever has an interest far into the future.
I share a grandchild with Wendy; her son Paul married Eleanor Hussey and they have a daughter Emily Grace Derbyshire. She’s a gem and the closest I will get to a grandchild of my own. When she was born I wrote her a letter and put together a collection of nothings that I stored in a box I had made at Foremost. It’s painted white and nailed up. Wendy’s other son Jonathan Derbyshire has it in safe keeping to give to her on her 50th birthday – the box and its’ contents are my link to the future.
And so on and on into the present. We have continued with expensive holidays and little else to enhance our lives. I have three unpublished novels sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to gather the courage to submit them for publishing but no matter how much I want I don’t do it. I am now onto my thirty-seventh diary, I started writing my daily life every night from 1980. They e all in a wooden box I had made specially at Foremost, it’s nailed up for privacy’s sake and one day soon I will have the box with the diaries stored away in a museum probably here in Leigh. I will give the museum the instruction that the box must not be opened until September 10th 2100. It’s my second time-capsule for the future.
Today is February 5th 2017. And I am 71 years old.
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