Another bite sized chunk of Blantyre History
On the opposite corner from the church stood one of the five red public telephone boxes we had in Blantyre.
1 Church Street
3 Main Street High Blantyre
4 Station Road, Village
5 Stonefield Road.
We had phones in the main post office and another in the sub-post office near Baird’s Raw’s, there was also a post office in High Blantyre, which would have a phone and the last one that I can think of was in the Miners Welfare Hall. This I believe was all the public phones in Blantyre and they were never used. There may have been more but that’s all that I can remember. The only time I ever saw them used was for an emergency, calling for the doctor or ambulance.
Of course its biggest usage was for the Bookies. Five minutes after every race on the horse racing cards throughout the British Isles, the runner as he was called waited near the phone box for the results to be phoned through, he noted down the results First, Second And Third and the price the horse was returned at, he then ran as fast as he was able to the particular back Street where the bookie kept his board up on display, showing all the racing schedules for that day. All of the miners from Blantyre loved a ‘WEE FLUTTER’ on the horses, as it was called.
Of course this was illegal,and many a police raid was to be seen, the police knew every Bookie in Blantyre and would regularly pull them in and they would go to court in Hamilton, pay their fine and be out for the first race on the racing cards.
The police could only arrest the Bookies if they caught them with betting slips on their person, so again there was always a look out to watch for the appearance of the police and also another fast runner standing by, his job was to grab all betting slips and run like H$*L so the police did not have any evidence of gambling.
All good clean fun, the police were very lenient in their adaptation of the law in Blantyre. But they did have the respect of the miners. We had about 10 Bookies in Blantyre, all had their own little area and the business was handed down from father to son. I can never remember any of them going broke so they must have made some kind of a living out of the poor miners, with their sixpence and shilling bets.
As I write this article on the phones Margaret I can truthfully say that during the 1930-40-up until the early fifties the phone as a way of communicating in Blantyre was not generally used, first of all, none of the working class could afford one and secondly there was a certain fear or a dislike for them. I can recall when I was about sixteen I answered my first phone call and I was very apprehensive in doing so, and that was because my employment at that time required me to do so. I suppose it must have taken me a couple of days of calling and receiving calls before I got over my apprehension.
If we wanted to deliver a message, or get in touch with some one, we just as a matter of fact, either walked, rode our bikes or opened the window and shouted it out, somehow the message always got there without the telephone, and life went on.
The old telephone box was a great place to meet people when it rained, you would always find them with two or three people in them and no one using the phone. (We did not have many Gene Kelly’s in Blantyre, and those that we did have, were not that good at dancing with an umbrella.)
Note from Bill: I later heard from Margaret in Australia who told me that the girl in the photo is her cousin, Betty Morrison, her daily job at school was to go to the Post Office for the School Principals mail. The photo was taken on September 17th 1937.
Continuing the conversation between Thomas Dunsmuir Hartman in Chicago, formerly Logan Street, (known as TDH or Drapadew) and Margaret in Queensland Australia on TalkingScot.
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