Short’s Scrapyard, North Shields 1957

The place was more than likely lousy with fleas - but you never gave it a thought

 

It’s good to think back to the good old days. When I saw one of Short’s scrap wagons running around, it reminded me of when we used to do odd jobs for their dad back in the fifties. In those days, it was just a small lock-up place based on the corner of Burdon Main Road and Lawson Street. On the odd Saturday morning, if we were skint (as usual), a couple of us would call in to see if he needed any rags bundled. You could tell straight away the answer was yes, by the mountain of rags and woollens in the far corner.

The rags were bundled separate from the woollens and, what you did was, take the rags over to a wooden box based in the other corner and pack them in until it was bursting over the top. Next, there was a four-armed lever over the top and one of the lads would turn this so the clothes were pressed as tightly as possible. When the clothes could be squeezed no more, a piece of rigid wire, with string tied on one end, was pushed underneath then pushed through the top and tied as tightly as you could. Now this was done on the end, middle, then the other end. The same thing was done to the sides also so, when the press was released and one side removed, the bundle could just be rolled out.

This process was done the same way all over again till the rag mountain or most of it was bundled up, ready to be sent wherever. Now the same thing was done separately with the woollens for, I believe, they were worth more than the old rags. Come to think of it the place was more than likely lousy with fleas, bugs and spiders etc., but you never gave it a thought.

At the end of the job we got paid between 6d (a tanner) and 12d (a bob), or in today’s cash two and a half new pence or five new pence, but to us it was a lot of money!

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