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Wigfalls van drivers

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Willis was born in 1937. My granddad loved fishing and Willis was the same. Granddad always brought fish home to be cooked. My grandma was a very good cook and if you did eat some eel then I'm not surprised you enjoyed it.

Yes we were born in the same year.I put my bad memory down to old age and poverty.

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Wigfalls Van Drivers.


I first came across Willis South in the early 70’s at Wigfall’s, Bruce Works, on Mowbray Street. It was about the time when Marc Bolan/T.Rex seemed to have a new song in the Top 10 every chuffin’ week. I was aged about 17-18 years old and was a van lad.


What I vaguely remember is:


Willis South-

Mid 30’s, almost 6 feet small, black brushed-back curly hair (as said by Gaz786) with no parting. His hair looked as though permed (it wasn’t) with square neck and ears free. Willis also sported one of those Jason King type moustaches, trendy at the time. With his stance of head-up, and shoulders-squared, one could of expected to find a self-centred, arrogant character, but not Willis. Willis was miles removed from being arrogant. In fact, Willis was far too lenient with us van lads. We worked hard, but we were certainly a handful. Lol.


Willis was very easy going, and his humour was ironic and dry. This humour was often hidden in (or behind) his words, and some colleagues were slow to latch-on… I latched-on, I was a fast ‘un. Lol. Willis was quiet-voiced, I never heard him raise it. It was at times, difficult to fully hear what he was saying due to the light voice. He gave the impression at times of a slight stammer, usually at the beginning of a sentence. Perhaps it was a slight nervous disorder.


Willis once telled me he lived at Pitsmoor. Although he smoked cigs, I didn’t get the impression he was a heavy smoker. Parkies’ plain? Willis’ working clobber was a knee-length grey smock. I can picture him right now. Willis rarely drove the vans when I was at Wiggies. Willis was very popular at Wigfalls, and was certainly nobody’s fool. Willis was in charge (when I was there) of a department where repaired TV’s were handed out to drivers to return to customers. TV’s, radiograms, and other audio units were taken in for repair too.


Willis had some lads under his charge at the depot:


Clifford (spotty kid), Big Joe (manor), Kevin Briggs (Shiregreen or Parson Cross?) and Brian Mawby (St. Phillips area), and others. Kevin and Brian also worked under Harry Green (Frecheville).


Willis’s boss was Don Woolhouse (did he have a false leg?).


R.I.P. Willis South. A good man.


Some drivers: Some did delivery/collection. Some were television engineers:


Mick Headford – came from Hastings originally, and lived at Bradfield Road having moved from Greenland Road. He had a black dog called Bess.

Denis Cerrone – Italian background, lived nr. Valley Road? Later became a Bobby. Top man.

Noel Hollingsworth

Pete Hollingsworth. These twins were great lads. Good workers too.

Paul (or Pete) Grayson. Big Specs.

Roy Surr – decent snooker player. Had bright red hair. Lived Sheff 6?

Jim Furniss, father of Pat, a gorgeous bird who worked at the Firth Park shop on Bellhouse Road.

Ted Crabtree, lived in S12? He often referred to us young ‘uns as, ‘sausage’ or as ‘soss’.

Ted Mansell

Roy(?) Beecroft

Phil Brunt – a mad (wild) driver but a good bloke. Possibly lived at Lowedges?

Stuart Varley, alleged to have courted Pat Furniss. Lived Sheff 6?

Dennis Smith, worked at Rutland Road.

(Steve) Morrell sometimes drove, but he was mainly in the office at the top of the yard overlooking the river.

Dale (surname) was another driver delivering to houses. A big strapping moody bloke with a dull personality. His van lad was Ian “knuckles” Helliwell, but at times Colin Wilkinson. I always dodged working on this van. Ian also worked on Denis Cerrone’s van at times. Colin lived in Sheff 5 or 6, and often wore stay-prressed trousers, and at times a Crombie coit.


The son of Mr. Woolhouse also drove the delivery vans. He did this work between terms at University. He was reading Metallurgy at uni. Not many people knew this, but I did. Lol. Some of the van lads were unhappy with Woolhouse Jnr, because he would try to impress the bosses by delivering to the houses quickly, then returning to Mowbray Street to ask if there were more deliveries to be done. This sometimes had van lads having to work until 19:00 or so, whent they were only paid to 17.30. O’ertime was paid, but the van lads usually wanted to go home at the usual time.


I had a spell working with Woolhouse Jnr (a nice lad) on the vans. I explained to him I only did overtime at the depot where I could clock-out when I was ready to leave. I didn’t tell him overtime usually entailed a half-hour of graft, followed by a half-hour or so, of kicking a plastic football about in the yard with workmates before clocking-out.


As regards to the quick deliveries, I told him that to go back to the depot looking for more deliveries, could rob the other drivers of the next day. I also told him it was also bad etiquette to deliver a day earlier to customers.


We reached agreement on this, and to fill in the spare time we had, I introduced to him the delights of passing away the time at…


Joe’s Café on Regent Street, or

Baines Café on Ridgeway Road, Manor Top, or

At a café on the right going up towards Handsworth coming from Darnall-Main Street. (Handsworth Road?) This third café had a decent jukebox in it.

I only spent a couple of weeks with Woolhouse Jnr., when my usual driver, Mick Headford, was in Urlaub.


It was a pleasure to have worked at Wigfall’s and to have known Willis South.

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Didn't know Don Woolhouse Jr., but spent a few months as gofer to his dad on the vans. Don (Snr) also played drums in a dance band, often at the City Hall.

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