Interview with June who was a Firefighters wife – from what year did your husband Michael join the fire Service ?
He joined in Winter 1974 .
So when did you move here ? I would think February 1977
But your father served here ?
Yes joined during WW2, I am not quite sure of the dates when he began.
Did you live round here as a child? No we lived down in Harehills near Roundhay Road.
Did you move here in 1974 and live in the house that you showed me?
No, when we got married in 1974 we lived in a house in Seacroft. One of the fireman wanted to do a house swap so we swopped and moved here was in 77. We moved out of that house in 2001.
What was it like ? I can’t imagine being a fireman’s wife?
When Mick first joined he went and signed up without actually telling me. I wasn’t very happy, because for a start of it, he took a cut in pay, from when he was a washing machine engineer. So that didn’t go down. I had young children and I didn’t like it when he was away on nights, I got used to it. I did sometimes get woken up when he got hurt… he had fallen through a floor, he was in hospital but he came home and he was okay.
When Michael joined he the did ‘three days and three nights three off work pattern’. That didn’t change till the strike in 1977. Very hard then, we really never recovered if I’m honest about it. Especially Christmas time, because we had no money. I didn’t work at that time and for young children it was very, very hard. We got a caravan that was placed outside my house so we could make the firefighters cups of teas and biscuits. it was our way of supporting the picket line.
How long were they out for? can you remember the month?
They were on strike for 9 weeks, November through to January. We had no income for many weeks and months. it was really hard.
Did the rest of the community support you ? We supported each other, my mother and Mick’s parents supported us, I have no idea what we would have done without them. Recovering financially and emotionally was very hard and looking back I don’t really know and we managed .
What was the feeling with the other wives and women?
We were very supportive yes, I remember the wives going on Radio Leeds – not something I’m use to, speaking on the radio but we did well .
It was a lot for you as the wives and families to deal with? There were no mobile phones then?
Yes, it was a lot to deal with. We just got on with our normal day, we took the kids to school and did all the family chores, we never really knew what machine he would be working on or what job he was on.
Did the fire station contact you or let you know what was going?
No, there was no contact unless there had been an accident and injury or something like that.even when Mick had been In hospital over night I was unaware until I read about it in a local newspaper seen over someones shoulder.
We had Halloween balls and New Year’s Eve dances and various things .They were good, very happy memories, to know to know that any time of day, if you were in trouble anyone from the firefighting community would help you out. If I needed anything, even if it was a Sunday at the fire station there would be someone there to talk to and help you out.
When Mick was at home he was doing nights and sleeping during the day what was it like for you and the kids?
I don’t really know, just to get on with life in general. If you were poorly it was impossible for Mick to stay and look after you as his job would have to come first. I wouldn’t begrudge that he had to do that. (even whilst giving birth!)
Do you have memories of your dad working here? So there is another woman holding history?
Yes, he was a fireman here at Gipton during the WW2. Mum passed the story down.
My dad would’ve loved my that my house was so close to the fire station and our memories connected to it. He would’ve loved that we live here and that Mick was here too.
I grew up in Harehills, in the Bayswaters. Mick and I use to hang around on the streets. Mick went to the same social club as my Dad. Mick was going out with one of my friends at the time, but when my father died Mick came to the house to pay his respects and offer his condolence. I lost my father in May 1970. In the June, I was sitting on the top step Michael came to give his condolences (or chat me up!) by 1st August we were engaged and married in January 1971.
Having no money to buy a wedding dress, I borrowed a beautiful white satin dress. There was a photographers opposite the church called ‘Roberts’ based on Roundhay Road. We could never afford to buy the actual photographs. We had no money. 19 years later we walked into the shop on Friday afternoon to ask if he still had the proofs and and he went out the back.To our relief and delight he still had the photographs and then he turned round and told us he was closing on the Monday, he was retiring !!
The morning Mick rescued the lady – I was going to work that morning and Mick was on nights. I was going out to work at the doctors as a receptionist, (I did this for 36yrs) Mick finished around nine, but it was 7:45am. He said I’ve been in hospital all night. I just went off to work and said I’ll find out what’s going on later. He went in to bed, he said nothing about what he had done. I found out what it was in town, someone with a newspaper showed me a picture of the fire and that Mick had given his breathing apparatus to save a women’s life. We didn’t really talk about it.I kind of felt embarrassed by all the publicity, to be honest because we didn’t want a fuss. in the day, it was about his job and you just had to get on and do what was expected. Mick had a cough for ages, it still affects him, but there was nothing wrong with his lungs, they are fine thank goodness.