Thomas Waddicor (b.1906): Leisure and New Experiences

Amusement in Hightown was very much a matter of making it for oneself… (p.2)

Thomas moves from one extreme to another in his life and reaches many milestones throughout his career. He is a bright individual who achieves greatness through hard work and effort. Throughout his life he experiences many new things, some of which he would not have been able to if he had stayed in Salford and not moved to London. His leisure time becomes plentiful when he moves to London as he is not juggling school and work. He begins to experience new forms of leisure after working for Mr. Hobson, moving to London and owning his own business.

Throughout the memoir, Thomas does not implicitly state whether he is poor or wealthy. The reader is able to make inferences through the way Thomas writes about materialistic items which symbolises his social position. In the early pages of the memoir, Thomas writes about wearing his brother’s hand-me-downs which were worn out and in bad condition. Once he begins to work for Mr Hobson he is taken to go shopping for new suits. This is the main turning point in his life, as he starts to dress as someone who is moving up in class. Thomas later buys a second-hand bicycle, which he had never driven before, and enjoys the convenience of being able to go anywhere in a very short time. Later, he proudly reveals ‘in 1931 I was the owner of a motor car, I bought my first brand new car – a Ford. It set me back about £125’ (p.28). During his childhood Thomas’s family did not have a car and his family would walk everywhere, or use the emerging transportation of the train. When Thomas buys his car it is still a very new thing and high speed diesel engines were still evolving. In the space of three years Thomas buys two cars, he writes how expensive they are but also how much enjoys having them – and upgrades from riding his bicycle. Thomas also experiences new modes of transport throughout his life after he moves to London. He travels in a first class carriage for the first time, paid by Mr Hobson, which he enjoys thoroughly. Planes were also developing at the time and Thomas was lucky enough to go to Paris on a plane. He explains how nervous he was but his pleasant time away was worth it.

During Thomas’s life the wireless and radio were developing and Thomas was very fascinated by this. Griffen-Foley discusses many essential details about the wireless and puts it into context for today’s generation. It was a new and emerging type of technology which greatly interested Thomas, who makes many advancements in his understanding of the wireless. When living in Salford Thomas, with the support from his brother, is able to create his own wireless set. Harold and Thomas are able to learn some technicalities of the wireless so they were able to listen to the transmission of the British Broadcasting Company for Manchester Station – 2ZY. Teaming up with his brother he was able to make a set and listen to the radio very faintly. They were the talk of the town and impressed many people in the area because people couldn’t believe the magic of wireless. Thomas explains that people would be ‘transfixed and spellbound at the splendid wonder and mystery of it all’ (p.13). He later gets in to trouble with his neighbours as he has wires outside stretched out in the yard leading to his neighbour’s house. He provides a signal for another child in the neighbourhood. Quite wisely, Thomas discovers that the wireless crystal set acted as a microphone as well as a radio so he was able to speak to the boy who lived a few houses away from him. However, after many complaints due to the uncertainty of safety the wires were ordered to be taken down by Thomas Waddicor’s father. Thomas was still very interested in the wireless and his passion and enthusiasm was clear to those in his office. In order for Thomas to hear sounds from as far as London and Birmingham he had to have a ‘valve set’ to enhance the sound, but it was a £1 which was something he could not think of spending that money on ‘for something he could not wear or eat’ (p.19). One of his colleagues, who he writes about fondly throughout, hands him a pound note and says he should buy the wireless valve he had wanted for a very long time. Thomas was able to hear sounds from London and Birmingham successfully and Thomas reveals how proud he is of his achievement. Though he was proud of making his ‘crystal wireless set work’ he feared ‘it seemed wrong somehow not to spend every second of then limited broadcasting time with the headphones over my head’ (p.20). Previously, Thomas’s ‘experience of music was confined to hymns, in quantity, and a few folk songs’ which he had learned in school but now he was ‘introduced to a wide repertoire of classical music’ through his creation of the wireless (p.20).

Wireless System,
Wireless System,

Thomas admits that when he was working many hours a day and attending school that ‘the demands of the job left little time over for ordinary childhood pursuits’ (p.4). As previously mentioned, Thomas was unable to experience his childhood as many other children would have and he, unfortunately, missed out on the ‘opportunity to play games such as cricket and football’ (p. 25). However, once he moves to London he is able join the exclusive cricket team for the firm employees only. Being one of the younger four children Thomas and his siblings were ‘impelled (or compelled) towards congregational church every Sunday morning, noon and night’ (p.8). They hadn’t missed a single Sunday school attendance for the past four years. It was from Sunday school that Thomas joined part of the Boy’s Brigade and he was ‘roped in to play the flute but the instrument-fingering defeated me utterly’ (p.7). He is encouraged and almost forced to take part in many different activities run by the Sunday school teacher such a Boys Brigade and Boys Scouts.

Boys Brigade Certificate, Sunday School
Boys Brigade Certificate, Sunday School

Thomas begins to experience many things once he works for Mr Hobson. He makes new friends and meets new types of people. He is invited to a Sunday afternoon at one of his colleague’s home – an attractive cottage in Cheshire. He enjoyed his time there so much that he says ‘when I reached home, that Saturday evening, I was so full of joy of it that I promised my two sisters to take them to Knutsford on the following day so they could experience it too.’ (p.18) Thomas sees making new friends and being in nicer places of Manchester as an ‘experience’ showing that he does not feel as though he is completely equal to those who he is surrounded by.

Although the Waddicor family did not have as much disposable income as other families, they still went out and spent some leisure time together as a family. They would go to the local picture house, The Shakespeare Cinema, every Saturday afternoon to watch a children’s Matinee. He enjoyed watching thriller series as well as the likes of Charlie Chaplin – getting his weekly dose of theatre and TV.

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Works cited

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Hendrick, Harry. Children, Childhood and English Society 1990-1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997

Gagnier, Regenia. ‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies 30.3 (1987): 335-363

Griffen-Foley, Bridget. From Tit-Bits to Big Brother: a century of audience participation in the media, Macquarie University, Australia. P533-4

Trev Lynn Broughton and Helen Rogers. Gender and Fatherhood in the nineteenth Century. Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

Marjorie Cruickshank, Children and industry, Manchester 1981.

Mike Savage and Andrew Miles, The Remaking of the British Working Class 1840-1940. Routledge London, 1994.

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Waddicor, Thomas. ’Memories of Hightown and Beyond’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography. University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:787

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