My Memories of Thorne
by Richard Bond
It was 4 August 1958 when I first started working for the West Riding Constabulary as a Police Cadet at Thorne Police Station. Fifty six years ago according to my reckoning. My memories of those days are so crystal clear in my mind, unlike my short term memory of today now that I am a Septuagenarian.
My first working day was one of those long balmy days that seemed to go on forever during that hot summer. It was so still and deserted round the streets of Thorne that I somehow expected to see a tangle wood blow down the street any minute. There were few cars on the roads at that time, and most of the miners were down the pits at Rossington and Askern because of what was said to be a 'temporary closure' of Thorne Colliery due to water logging. Housewives were mostly at home doing their ritual Monday wash day chores so they could get the washing hung out and dried before their husbands came home for their snap. Others were out shopping, their hair tightly curled in rollers in readiness for a evening visit to one of the many Working Mens Clubs. Many of the children were enjoying their summer holidays playing in the fields, climbing trees and building dams. A few passed their time away in the streets, skipping, playing with whips and tops or hopscotching on the pavements. Life seemed so laid back and simple in the 1950's.
Going to work in a strange town seemed to be an adventure. I was only 16 years old, and now living in lodgings at Wilkinson Avenue, Moorends. On one of my daily cycle rides to work I met my future wife and life partner. Our golden wedding is long gone, and hopefully we still have many years ahead of us.
Thorne's imposing red brick Police Station was fully manned twenty four hours a day, by twenty or so dedicated constables. The Inspector's house was attached to the Station, and had a serving hatch opening into the cells though which the Inspector's wife fed the prisoners. There was a functional Magistrates Court upstairs, and Sergeant 726 David Gwyneth Jones and Sergeant 1501 Harry Scriven lived in specially allocated police houses next door.
As I entered the Police Station for the first time I saw that there was a highly polished public counter over which were two posters, one warning of the Colorado beetle and the other prohibiting smoking. I announced my arrival to the office man PC 563 Nick Kenny, and he ushered me to the police side of the counter where he had been typing a report on the office Remington typewriter. I was soon to meet Inspector Fred Dunham, the sergeants, Detective Officer 1610 Harry 'The Hat' Dunn and Detective Officer 1710 Colin Sampson. Harry always wore a flamboyant silk waistcoat and a black Homburg hat, and Colin went on to be the Chief Constable and later a Home Office Inspector of Constabulary. They were very welcoming and I soon fitted in and felt at ease. Much of my time was spent sitting on a high stool facing the windows close to the small telephone exchange which I had to answer by saying, "Thorne 2122. Police Station. Cadet Bond speaking". Then I would enter details of the call in a telephone register and pass it to the Sergeant who should allocate it to a constable if necessary. Tiny Daisy Muscroft, the office cleaner would kneel on my stool to polish the desk, whilst displaying her pair of white knee length knickerbockers, much to the amusement of the office staff. They used to call them 'Wristbreakers'. I was also required to update Legislation, police reports and police Gazette, attend to visitors to the Station,record reported crime, stoke the fire and the boiler, and serve food to the prisoners. On special occasions I would raise the Union Jack on the flagpole in the yard, and I made weekly bus trips to Goole DHQ to hand deliver the Inspector's correspondence. I had to feed the stray dogs in the kennels and other captured piglets and horses brought to the Station. After seven days found dogs were destroyed by the local slaughterer, which was very sad. Well meaning members of the public would fetch found dogs through the front door of the Station, and an hour later I used to chase them out of the back door. Most weren't lost anyway, because they never got brought back in again and I didn't want to see them slaughtered.
PC Charlie Price, WPC Donald,
PC Les Wiles and
Detective Officer Harry 'The Hat' Dunn.
The weekly Pay Day on a Thursday was the main event of the week. A cheque for about £200 was delivered in the morning post which paid the twenty five or so officers. This would be signed by the duty Sergeant who then took it to cash at the Yorkshire Bank in the Market Place. I would be instructed to 'get the tobacco tins out'. Each officer had a tobacco tin into which I would place their wage together with a perforated pay slip. In the Sergeant's absence I had to calculate how many one pound notes, ten shilling notes, half crown, florins, shillings and coppers each constable needed. Woe betide me if I got it wrong and the last tin ended up being filled with excessive silver and copper. I can still smell the tobacco which lingered in those empty tins! Every officer would collect their wage around 11am, even those who had worked night duty and had to travel to the Station by bus. Many would be accompanied by their wife, who came along for the ride to ensure the wages did not get spent at the pub or the bookies on the way home. Each constable earned around £7 a week, each Sergeant around £8 and the Inspector around £9. My first wage was £4 and three pence and my digs cost £3 a week which only left me just over a pound a week to live on. In addition the sergeants, inspector and detectives got car allowance, and those five vehicles were the only ones that were left of the Station car park. None of the constables owned a car or telephone at that time.
WPC Gwyneth Jones and Cadet Bond
I worked at Thorne Police Station for two years and eight months and met and worked with such people as PC 1426 Frank Bowker, PC 1336 George Peckover, PC 1319 Charlie King, PC 2063 Don Shaw, PC 1824 Pete Fawcett, PC 1790 John Harker, PC 990 Alf Horrobin, WPC 88 Nan Nolan and WPC 38 Betty Baxter. The police women always worked day shifts and never did night duty. They rarely dealt with prisoners and they received a lower wage than their male colleagues. Male officers worked three shifts which were 6 x 2 days, 2 x 10 afternoons and 10x6 nights. They worked seven days and had one day off and every five weeks had a two day weekend break.
My Cadet training at Thorne was to mould my next thirty years in the Police Service.
The twelfth of April 1961 was my nineteenth birthday and also the day I officially became Police Constable1268. I was still working at Thorne but in civvies until my new uniform arrived, as instructed by the Inspector.
A man who lived in Westerton Road reported he had lost a wallet containing £35.00 which to me was a fortune. I made out a lost and found report and circulated the loss to the surrounding police stations. The deputy at Thorne Colliery reported that two lengths of copper cable valued at £12.00 had been stolen overnight and I made out a crime complaint form and handed it to Detective Officer Horace Auty the new detective. He took me in his Ford Prefect car round the lanes at Hatfield and Moorends and told me to be on the lookout for black smoke rising from the gypsy caravans which would indicate that rubber was being burnt off cable. We saw numerous illegally parked caravans on the lanes but alas no black smoke. The next day the Divisional van driver took me to Police headquarters at Wakefield, where I was given a full medical examination. I was then taken with several other recruits to see Mr Lofthouse the Assistant Chief Constable, and after a somewhat pompous talk we were allowed to go for a late lunch to the Headquarters Canteen which cost just short of two shillings - ten pence today.
Sergeant Scriven was in the office when I got back to Thorne, and he said, "Keep your nose clean lad and you'll have a job for life". He then climbed onto his tall stool and recited his favourite piece if poetry. "I wish I was a Bobby, Dressed in Bobby's clothes, With a big tall hat and a belly full of fat, And an Indian rubber nose"! I had heard him recite this a hundred times over the years but it still brought a wry smile to my face. In fact, it still does.
Soon after my new police uniform arrived and I was moved to work at Goole police Station before being sent to the Police Training School at Pannal Ash, Harrogate. But then, that's another story!
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