When Jason Cullen launched a Facebook page all about people’s memories of Leeds, he didn’t expect it to become the sensation it has.
Since launching the ‘Leeds Back in the Day’ page in November, he has had over 14,000 ‘likes’ and the site has taken on a life of its own, with avid online amateur historians uploading never-before-seen pictures of Leeds back in the day.
As well as a wealth of black and white pictures of his home city, there are a growing number of early colour photographs showing Leeds before the big developers moved in to build the likes of the St John’s Centre and other shopping precincts.
Now James, 40, who works as a self-employed online book seller, is planning a number of nostalgia events based around the website.
Speaking to Times Past, he said: “I was very surprised how it took off. I knew of a similar site on the internet but that was for another city. I have always been interested in history and before my granddad Harry Haley died just before Christmas, I used to love sitting with him and looking through old pictures of the city.
“That’s where the idea came from really, he would have loved to have seen the website and how successful it has become.
“When I first set it up, I had about 30 friends on facebook and I emailed them all to see if they would be interested. The first weekend we had something like a thousand ‘likes’. That’s when I knew I might be onto something.”
“My granddad died about two weeks after I started the site, he was 92 and had been poorly for some time. He had always lived in Leeds and so I dedicated the site to him.”
Since its launch, the site has become a talking shop for all kinds of subjects, from people’s memories of buying cassette tapes from HMV to what it was like when trams ran through the city centre.
There are pictures from the modern era right back to the 1930s and before.
One from 1936 shows a picture of City Square as the Queens Hotel is being built. Another is a sketch of City Square from 1909, while yet another shot shows cars from the 1970s, including an Austin 1100, a Mini, two Cortina’s and a Morris Marina.
The comments attached to the pictures are equally as absorbing, one lady recalling a ditty from the early 1960s: ‘10 pints of Lager, a great bag of chips, a big juicy woman with big juicy lips, sober up in City Square with five lamps around, then time to catch the last bus home, with change from a pound.’
Jason said: “In November 2012 when I created the Leeds Back In The Day facebook page, I had little expectation as to how it would develop. Maybe 50 or 100 people may follow it, perhaps.
“I uploaded a couple of old photographs and sent the page to a handful of friends. Leeds Back In The Day was born. Within two days the page was being ‘liked’ by over 1,000 people.
“The speed at which the word spread on my little site was incredible. Later that week my grandpa passed away. He had lived a wonderful long life in Leeds and was loved by everyone who met him.
“He was a caring and generous man. He loved to talk about the old days and look through photographs and that’s what people are doing at Leeds Back In The Day.
“It was a fitting tribute to dedicate the site to his loving memory. Harry Haley was a stage and radio legend in his day, founding the musical comedy ensemble The Godfrey Brothers along with Diz Disley.
“They appeared continually throughout the late 1940s and 50s on BBC radio and at theatres across the country working with Wilfred Pickles and alongside the likes of Joseph Locke and Julie Andrews.
“A Leeds resident of 92 years, he would have loved Leeds Back In The Day. It’s a place to visit and revisit those long lost memories from the back of your mind.
“It is for all those who grew up in the great city of Leeds and want to be reminded of things that maybe aren’t around any longer. In the last 20 years alone, so much has changed. Roads have become pedestrianised, buildings taken down, rebuilt, redeveloped and many areas of the entire city have been totally changed in one way or another.
“Over the past two months I have encouraged all of my followers to upload their own images and share their own stories and memories of life in our great city.
“With many thousands of members the site has now become a daily routine for people all across the world.
“I have several ideas to move Leeds Back In The Day forward throughout 2013, the first of which will be announced when we reach 15,000 members.
“ So, come and say hello, invite your friends and anyone who has ever lived here to come and join Leeds, Back In The Day.”
To find Leeds Back in the Day, log onto facebook and type in ‘Leeds Back in the Day’.