Leeds nostalgia: Toy exhibition ‘stampede’ and WI trick to growing more potatoes

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Dateline: September 18, 1948: An exhibition of olden day toys and dolls at Abbey House, Kirkstall ended up drawing hundreds of people.

On its opening day, 700 people visited, the following day there were 1,500. After that, things “queitened down” a little, with just 200 during the week and about 600 on a Saturday and Sunday.

Two film companies - J Arthur Rank and another American company - asked permission to make a film about the exhibition.

Mr K Sanderson, Hon, Curator of Period Costumes for Leeds Art Gallery and Temple Newsam, said they had been inundated with letters and that girls visiting the display would take their own dolls to compare them with those of yesteryear.

In other news, there seems to have been some sort of potato growing competition between member of the Womens’ Institute.

One member in Thorp Arch was given one potato and decided to chop it into pieces, each with an “eye”. When she cropped the plants, she dug up 13lb of potatoes, whereas her nearest rival, who planted her potato whole, recovered only 3½lbs.

There was also a story about the first telephone exchange operator for Leeds, a lady by the name of Polly Foster, who apparently worked in the office with her younger sister. It was the practice at that time to employ sisters to undertake the work.

In the 1920s, for example, it was said there were five pairs of sisters and two other girls working at the Leeds telephone exchange. They earned 6s a week, with an annual rise of 1s.

And finally, 32 children who had never seen the sea before, apparently spent a glorious afternoon at Scarborough, courtesy of Leeds City Council and its social services department.