By Wilma S.Bolton.
This story is taken from memoirs of Wilma Bolton.
When was the last time you went to a jumble sale or even noticed one being advertised? I certainly haven’t seen any for a long time, yet years ago they were being held almost every weekend and for many a struggling family they were a sure and affordable source of obtaining decent clothing, household goods, toys and prams etc. Going to jumble sales was a favourite Saturday pass time for me when I was younger and I just loved them. They were normally held in church halls and a queue would start forming about half an hour or more before the advertised opening time and there were always a substantial number of people waiting.
Not everyone, however, had the manners to queue. In the last few minutes before the doors opened, you would get the chancers appearing and brazenly walk up to the front where they would indignantly insist that their place had been “kept for them”. The early birds who had been waiting for quite some time would have none of it and usually “invited” them to get to the back of the queue, or else. However, there was one “sweet old lady” who without fail used to take a “bad turn” and invariably someone who hadn’t previously witnessed her Oscar winning performances would hammer on the door to attract the attention of those inside the hall. Despite loud protests of “just ignore her”, she’s at it” and “she does this every time” she would fool them into getting her a chair, a drink of water and first place in the queue. The minute the door opened for the start of the sale, an instantaneous miracle occurred and she led the stampede into the hall to get the best bargains. I often wondered how she never got lynched and eventually came to the conclusion that it was more than likely due to her snow white hair, innocent old face and excellent acting abilities. It was also a good job there were no mobile phones then, for if there had been, the ambulance would never have been away from jumble sales.
Inside the hall, the goods would be laid out on tables some of which were piled three feet high with clothes. There were separate ones for men, women, babies and children’s clothes. There was also a table for books and clothes racks hanging with coats, suits, jackets and items deemed by the workers to be of a superior quality.
The brick-a-brack table quite often stood alone at the top of the hall and facing it from across the room was the children’s toy section where you could buy anything from a dolls pram to a child’s drum kit. The bric-a-brac table was my favourite and that was the first one I headed for when I got through the door. One particular Saturday morning I was at a jumble sale in Hamilton and the table was almost groaning under the weight of the contents. An unusual looking plate caught my eye and as I lifted it up, a man beside me attempted to pull it out of my hands but he wasn’t quite fast enough. I held on to it and paid the ten pence asking price and put it in my bag. As he was a “dealer” and he had been really anxious to obtain it, I started to wonder if it was valuable so I took it to McTears Auction house in Glasgow and asked them to sell it for me. Four weeks later I opened a letter and enclosed was a cheque for forty eight pounds for the plate. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Forty eight pounds was a fortune to me. That was it, my head was up and the music was playing, I was well and truly hooked and I started going to the jumble sales on a regular basis.
I must have taken after my father for my mother would not have been seen dead at one, but a friend of hers Gracie Kane just loved them and I often went with her. Now Gracie had raised a large family and she was the most devout and kindly woman I have ever known. She knew everyone and always kept a lookout for young mothers who were having a hard time coping and kept them in mind when she set off to a sale. She would come back weighed down with bags of good quality children’s clothing and shoes and she made sure that the mothers got them. When Gracie herself was young she had at one point known very hard times due to family illness and she had never forgotten it. She never missed an opportunity to help any mother she thought was struggling and many a child got a fine new rig out via Gracie’s jumble sales. She was one in a million, a friend to all and she always made you laugh when you were with her.
The number of jumble sales gradually got less and less over the years and then they just appeared to vanish. By that time I was working as a staff nurse at Hairmyres Hospital and one day I was admitting a Blantyre patient when she said to me “I know you”. I recognised her right away but wasn’t for admitting it, hoping that the uniform would throw her off the scent, but I didn’t get away with it. Before long I could see by her face that the penny had dropped. “I know where I know you from. You used to go to the same jumble sales as me.” I laughed and said “ten out of ten, you have a good memory.” We had a discussion about “good the old days” and both agreed we really missed them. Jumble sales were great fun and I just loved them and many a time they put clothes on my back and shoes on my feet. I believe the reason for their demise lies with the introduction of car boot sales and charity shops. Although these shops do a good job raising substantial amounts of money for charity, they never held any appeal for me because the camaraderie and laughs you could be guaranteed at a jumble sale, were just not there.
Wilma S. Bolton.© 2017.
Historic Hamilton would like to thank Wilma for sharing her memories with us, Wilma, as always a big thank you to you and please keep your stories coming.