When cigarettes saved your life...

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane
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Geoffrey Shryhane’s memories and musings...

I’m of an age to remember advertisements in magazines claiming: “Cravan A cigarettes – good for your throat.”

Those were the days when 60 per cent of the adult population puffed away to their hearts’ content. And many died too soon.

Yes, we all know someone who smoked 200 cigarettes a day and lived to be 101. But that’s the rare exception rather than the rule.

Now, my old friend Ronnie Hunt who loves everything Wigan, has sent in some old ads from yesteryear. They are amazing and shocking at the same time.

Here are some examples. It’s true we laugh at them now, but how many folks did these products kill? To keep a slender figure, reach for a Lucky Strike cigarette and not a sweet.

Dr Batty’s asthma cigarettes for your health. They effectively treat canker and bad breath. Not suitable for children under six.

Woman in bikini: “Men would not look at me when I was skinny. But now I’ve put on 10 pounds, I can get all the dates I want.”

Attractive woman cherishing her Christmas present – a vacuum cleaner.

Woman carrying a green loaf of bread says: “Try penicillin made from mould. You can get it from your doctor, but I prefer to prepare it myself.”

“Guard your throat – smoke Pall Mall.”

“Try our maternity corset – makes birth almost painless.”

“Cocaine tooth drops instantaneous cure.”

The hunt is on to find relatives of a sailor who lost his life in World War One.

John Wilfred Oaks lost his life with other military men in the Chatham Naval Dockyards bombings.

The men died when German fighter planes dropped their unused bombs when returning to their Nazi base on September 3, 1917.

Now Hindley History Society is attempting to trace relatives of the 23-year-old bachelor who lived at 86 Wigan Road, Hindley.

History Society secretary Joan Topping explained: “A special service is being held in Chatham to mark the centenary of the disaster which robbed so many families of their loves ones.

“John Wilfred Oaks is buried in Hindley Cemetery and our task is to find his relatives to tell them about the service in Chatham.

“Each family will receive a commemorative poppy.”

Joan added that the name of sailor Oaks appears on the war memorial in Hindley St Peter’s Church.

“Relatives of the sailor who lost his life are asked to contact Joan Topping on 01942 25761.

These are changing days in Standish. It’s not a charmingly dozing village any more. At peak times, the traffic is a motorist’s nightmare. Vast new private housing estates are everywhere.

Standish is busy, busy, busy.

But many years ago – perhaps in the 1930s – one day was far from sleepy. It was the day the village’s only cinema caught fire and burned to the ground.

And My World reader Ann Grimes, now 95, of Avondale Street, has written in to say: “Ah yes. I remember it well.”

But although most people firmly believe the cinema was gutted by fire, they are wrong.

The My World team has been rooting around and discovered that the cinema, opened in 1927, showed its last film – Reach for the Sky – in 1957 and the building was then turned over to a plumbers’ merchants.

Back to Mrs Grimes...

After seeing a photo of the cinema on this page, she put pen to paper writing: “I’m the little girl on the left.

“It was wonderful to see it again.

“If we were given a penny, we always went to the Palace Cinema on the High Street. “We sat on wooden forms and the place leaked.

“On one side of the cinema was a sweet shop run by a lady called Hettie and on the other side a shop owned by Wildings.

“I do recall the fire. I took my son Michael, who was five, to see the flames.”

Seems that before the Palace, Standish, had a cinema in Pole Street.

I could not let this week pass without remembering poor Stephen Shepherd.

It is half a century since I reported one of the saddest cases in my life.

Despite the passing of time, the events surrounding the mysterious death of Stephen Shepherd remain vividly clear in my mind.

Bullied at his secondary modern school at Ince, he was a true victim.

When the Beatles Strawberry Fields Forever was top of the pops, the 12-year-old was taken to spend a happy day in the Newburgh strawberry fields.

The story goes that desperately unhappy, he returned to those fields. And died. His body was so badly decomposed, the cause of death was impossible to discover.

We never knew if he died after falling into a drainage ditch – or if he had been taken there and murdered. The search lasted 51 days.

On that Thursday long ago, I went to the scene of what became Stephen’s temporary grave.

The light was already fading and police officers and forensic experts were mulling around.

The whole town mourned the death of Stephen Shepherd. And even now, 50 years later, he is remembered with sadness.

Ethel has had her hair curled. She says to Doris: “A’v ad mi air dun. Like it? I feels a girl agen.”

Doris: “I thought there waz summet different. Yeah it’s nice. Is it a special okasion? Wot does Bert think?”

Ethel, giving a wan sideways glance, admits: “E’s not noticed. Not yet any road. And ah’ll tell you wor its fir – it’s fir Vanentines day.”

Doris : “Ooooooooo...ow romantic. I never knewed you ad it in yer Doris. You little romantic rip.”

Ethel: “Aye, but it’s gerring Bert in’t mood. That’s problem. ‘Ee’s still got Th’imperial Leather after-shave from’t weddin 25 yer ago. It’s gone off summut shockin’. Smells of onions. Makes me ‘art sick.”

Doris: “Keep your pecker up luv. Give Bert ‘int. Tell ‘im shops is full o’ roses.

“Give ‘m some After Eight mints. Posh them.”

Next day.Doris: “Wot ‘append?”

Ethel: “Nowt. Bert et all’t mints and later buggered

off to bed and said he’d

forgot tell me he’d left me a lightly battered fish in’t th’oven.”

Doris: “Worra shame.”