About 1928, John Edward Burton Gilchrist and his wife Edith (nee Moorhouse) moved into a shop-cum-house on Ledger Lane, which they subsequently purchased. The gable end of the building abutted on to the west side of Queen Street; the shop window and door were on Ledger Lane.
The premises now form part of Harpin's Funeral Service. The shop and two adjoining ones were part of a row of houses built early in the 20th century, which extended as far as two detached houses of earlier vintage.
One of these was occupied by Fred Wood, a greengrocer, whose business was taken over by Charlie Moss. The other, with its large frontage, was known as Outwood Cottage.
Prior to taking the shop, Mr & Mrs Gilchrist lived in nearby Princess Street. Edith earned some money by decorating the interiors of local houses. Perhaps washing and whitening the top one day, scratching off the wallpaper next day and pasting on new paper the following day. At that time, there were no one-coat emulsions or ready-pasted papers.
In the 1930s, Gilchrist’s shop was patronised by countless numbers of children, who called for sweets on their way to and from the school in Ledger Lane. Most of them spent only a penny or a halfpenny.
The shop was a general grocery store, centered in a well-populated area which included Ledger Lane, Annie Street, Leeds Road and the growing Outwood Park council estate. Even the children who did not pass the shop on their way to school made the short trek to it.
Mr & Mrs Gilchrist had five children - Bertha, William, Edith, Doris and Jessie (in order of birth). Mrs Gilchrist suffered from rheumatism, so the offspring had to work in the shop in varying degrees.
Apart from the shop, the premises included a large kitchen, scullery, two large bedrooms, an attic and a small cellar. The backyard incorporated a coalhouse and privy. There was no bathroom, so the tin bath was brought into the kitchen on bath nights.
The shop stocked virtually everything in the grocery line. Fruit and vegetables were supplied by wholesaler John Dudding of Brook Street,Wakefield; mineral waters by Ralph Bell of George Street, Wakefield.
Some of the sweets came from E T Brewer & Sons of Kirkgate, Wakefield. Others were supplied by A Talbot & Sons, sweet manufacturers of Willow Lane, Flanshaw. In the 1930s, Talbots supplied much of their confectionery in 7lb cardboard cartons.
Many of the sweetie goodies were displayed in Gilchrist's shop window. Cachous, fruit pastilles, wine gums (all in great variety) were sold at 2d per quarter, Aniseed balls, jelly babies, mint imperials and Poor Ben cough gums cost the same. A small paper bag of kali
(pronounced kay-li) cost a halfpenny. A sherbet fountain, which was a packet of kali with a tube of licorice through which to suck it, cost a Penny.
Licorice root, which was supposed to have healing properties, was sold in little bundles, either to be chewed or made into a drink with hot water. Machines for dispensing chewing gum were fixed to the outside wall. Some of them were calibrated to give an extra packet every forth go. Bubble gum also was popular.
When quite young, daughter Jessie one day fancied some strawberry split toffee. The shop only had banana split toffee. Berridge's shop, on the opposite comer of Queen Street, had some strawberry split toffee. "Can I get some from there?", she asked her mother. Mum objected at first, but, with a little persuasion, allowed her daughter to purchase the strawberry split toffee.
The shelves in Gilchrist's shop were well stocked with canned meats and fruit, jars of jam and bottles of sauce. Flour and sugar had to be weighed into bags. Pineapple chunks were in favour at fourpence halfpenny a tin. A loaf of bread cost the same. Firewood, for starting the many coal fires, was a good seller. Cigarettes, (Woodbines in fives or tens were a good seller) and tobacco were always in demand.
Mr Gilchrist used to give the slightly decaying oranges to his children after cutting off the bad parts. Which led them to wonder why they could not have the good ones. On hot days, stoppers sometimes
shot out of the full ‘pop’ bottles and caused quite a mess.
The 1939-45 War brought its own problems. Food ration books were issued to everyone in January 1940. Rationing of butter, sugarand tea started in that year, jam in 1941, sweets in 1942 and bread in1946.
The tea ration dropped to as low as 2oz per person per week in 1940. It wasn't just the rationing which affected the Gilchrist shop, but all the hassle which accompanied it, such as counting the rationing coupons and taking them up to the Church Institute. The records never seemed to tally.
After about eighteen years at the shop, the family decided to sell up. Mr Gilchrist had died, aged about 60, and Mrs Gilchrist was not in the best of health.
Four houses, known as Grange Villas, situated further up Ledger Lane on the opposite side, were purchased from Mrs KateTeasdale. Jessie and her mother moved into number 54. Daughters Edith and Bertha, who eventually married, moved into numbers 56 and
58 respectively. Son William was expected to live at number 60, but never did. Mrs Gilchrist died when she was about 69.
Jessie married Robert Lewty who was a jovial man. They moved to 483 Leeds Road (near the Victoria) and raised a family. Their next move was to a bungalow on Potoven’s Lane, in sight of Lofthouse Colliery.
In the 1940s the shop was taken over by Harry Wilson who originated from St Helen’s, that is a story for another day.
By the late Norman Ellis.