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Article, based on the minute book and scrapbooks kept by Susan Hollowell, by Kay Collins, 2008

Charlie Jones and his daughter Susan Smith

Evening Telegraph, October 1979

Charity knit-in

The click of knitting needles interrupted birthday party celebrations as pensioners took time off to raise cash for Age Concern.

More than 80 members of Rushden Housemartins Over-60s club sat down to a 15th birthday tea and later 31 brought out their knitting for the sponsored hour-long knit-in.

Among them was 72-year-old Mr Charlie Jones, the father of club leader Mrs Susan Smith who is pictured here getting a few tips from his daughter.

There to start the casting on was the organising secretary of Age Concern in Northamptonshire Mr John Christian.

Mr Christian also presented the cup for the best attendance at club meetings to Mrs Nora Sinfield, Mrs Edie Underwood, Mrs Alice Jones and Mrs Maud Knight. The cake was cut by Mrs Olive Wright and club organiser Mrs Smith was presented with a gift of china by Mrs Olive Sanders.

Later members were entertained by the Morrison Concert Party of Barton Seagrave.

This social club was started in October 1964 as a "Darby & Joan" or over 60's club for the Court Estate area, by Susan Martin (later Smith, then Hollowell). Susan saw a need in the older members of the outlying community for a social gathering and started the meetings for over 60’s in her home. They met fortnightly and paid one shilling a year membership, and soon changed their name to "Housemartins".

The first committee members were:

Susan Martin Mrs Bradshaw Mr Bill Knight Mr Preece
Mr Allen Mr Chettle Mr F Knight Mrs Preece
Mrs Berridge Mrs Connelly Mrs M Knight Mrs Tompkins
Mr Berridge Mrs Groocock Mrs Northwood Mrs Willmott

By 1970 subscriptions had increased to 2/-, then in 1976 they were paying 20p per meeting. 1979 saw another rise to 50p, 1983 to £1 and 1990 £2.

The minute book lists all the members just as Mr or Mrs, no initials of forenames. In 1967 the first holiday was to Exmouth, and became an annual event. Outings to local attractions or just for a countryside ride were also arranged two or three times a year. In June 1973 Susan started to run a “Lunch Club” for those members who were single or widowed and continued this until March 1986. She would call and collect them and take them to her house and provide a lunch for them, before the meeting started.

They also ran a raffle from 1971 – 1980 and the minute book lists the winners. Another page lists all those who took a turn at washing up after the coffee break.

Other interesting notes:
Diamond Wedding Mr & Mrs A. Willmott 7th August 1980 (Ena was a founder member)
Diamond Wedding Mr & Mrs Green 19th July 1983.

All members were given Silver Crown to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, and another Silver Crown for the wedding of Prince Charles & Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. [Note: a crown was worth 5 old shillings, or 25 new pence]

In the 1970’s Susan arranged for classes to be run for 6-8 weeks on a variety of subjects.

Flower arranging in 1973

Old Tyme Dancing from January 1973 to 1979, two courses each year.

Bowling in 1973 & 1974

Handicrafts in October 1974 & February 1975. The helpers for this were Mrs Murdin & Mrs Hunt.

The Achievement Cup – given by Mrs G Hacket was first presented in 1988 Club Presidents
Mr Tom Lawrence 1988 Mr J B Pugh 1968-1977
Mrs Susan Hollowell - 1989 Silver Jubilee Year Mr G Willmott 1978
Miss Audrey Parker 1990 Mrs O Wright 1982
Mrs Phyl Denny 1991 Mr G Moore 1983-1987
Mrs Hazel Sands 1992 Mr P Bayes 1987-2001
Mr & Mrs Joe Butler 1993 Mr Clive Wood 2001 (current)
Mrs M Graham 1994 (30 years)
Mrs Cora Jones 1995
Mrs Susan Hollowell 1996
Mrs Phyl Attley 1997
Mrs Joan Cowan 1998
Mrs Jean Butler 1999
NOT GIVEN 2000/1

Old friend is first president - An American bank president who has kept in touch with friends in Rushden since the last war when he spent some time at Melchbourne is to become the first president, "in absentia", of the Rushden Housemartins Over-60 Club. Mr. James B. Pugh, president of a bank in Portsmouth, Ohio, said in a letter to Mrs. T. Martin, who formed the club nearly four years ago, that he was "most appreciative and deeply honoured" with the suggestion that he be named the first president of the club.

He also sent his best wishes to all the members for their health and happiness and for the continued success of the club.

Mr. Pugh is himself just over sixty and has visited the club twice on recent visits to this country. Rushden Echo, 1968

James Pugh from USA

Portsmouth Times, Ohio USA, November 1968

Bonds of an old friendship have extended across an ocean - to honor a Portsmouth man with a unique appointment.

James B. Pugh, president of Security Central National Bank, has been appointed the first president "in absentia" of the "Housemartins Over 60 Club" at Rushden, Northants, England.

The club meets frequently for tea, conducts various community projects in Rushden and takes group tours to various resort areas several times a year.

The organization of "older" folk in the Rushden area was originated and is sponsored by Mrs. Susan Jones Martin, a daughter of Charles Jones, a close World War II friend of the Portsmouth bank president. Pugh visited the club twice on recent trips to Rushden, a rural community of some 20,000 persons. On their most recent visit to England, Mr. and Mrs. Pugh were thanked by the "Housemartins" for their gift of a movie screen to be used by the club to view films and slides.

After the Pughs' return to the U. S. in May, the bank president received official notice he had been elected the first president of the "Housemartins Over 60" Club in recognition of his friendship with the Jones family since World War II.

An edition of the "Rushden Echo", published in Northamptonshire, carried a photograph of Pugh and the story of his election to the "Housemartins" presidency "in absentia."

The Portsmouth man became a friend of Rushden's Charles Jones family during some three years service with the U S Air Force Ordnance Department in England. Pugh was stationed at the time on Melchbourne Park on the Estate several miles from Rushden.

The American airman and Jones became fast friends. They were tennis buffs and played frequently on the sports ground managed by Jones for the John White Shoe Co. of Rushden.

Jones' children, Susan and David, were 7 and 5 years of age, respectively, when the Portsmouth man left England.

Both now are married and have their own homes and families. Susan and her family were hosts to Mr. and Mrs. Pugh, when  the Portsmouth couple ] visited England in 1964 and in the spring of this year.

Pugh renewed old acquaintances in the Rushden vicinity and visited the Melchbourne Park Base, which has been returned to the Lord St. John Estate.

In a letter to Mrs. Martin, Pugh said he was "most appreciative and deeply honored" by the appointment to the first presidency of the "Housemartins Over 60 Club".

Evening Telegraph, March 1979
Special date for couple
Pensioners' club president Mr George Willmott and his wife, Doreen, will be celebrating their silver wedding anniversary in style — at a club meeting. The couple will be the guests of Rushden Housemartins Over 60 Club.

The celebration will be held during the club's meeting on Thursday at Top Farm, Yelden, home of Housemartin's organiser, Mrs Susan Smith.

And Mr and Mrs Willmott plan to return the pensioners' hospitality by inviting them back to their own home for tea on March 27. About 30 are expected to attend.

There was a celebration atmosphere at  Rushden's Housemartins' Over 60’s club meeting when a silver wedding anniversary gift was presented.

A pair of Staffordshire china cups and saucers were given to member Mr. George Willmott and his wife Doreen, of Manor Farm, Bedford Road. It was handed over by committee member Mr. Cyril Smith.

During the meeting a talk on China was given by Mrs. Jane Young of Wollaston.

Members of a pensioners club were the guests of their president at a tea. More than two dozen members of Rushden Housemartins Over 60 Club helped their president and his wife, Mr and Mrs George Willmott, to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

The event was held at Mr and Mrs Willmott's home, Manor Farm, Rushden.

A toast to the couple was proposed by Mr Albert Martin, and a vote of thanks to them was proposed by Mr Cyril Smith.

Olive with George Osborne

Evening Telegraph, October 6, 1980

Top job for Olive - The new president of the Rushden Housemartins Over 60s Club is Mrs Olive Wright of Wymington. She was elected at this week's annual meeting at Top Farm, Yielden.

The committee is Mrs Susan Smith (chairman and secretary), Mrs Marjorie Austin (treasurer), Mrs Ellen Smith, Mrs Edith Payne, Mrs Margaret Armitage, and Mrs Margaret Clark.

The club has had a very busy year with holidays, outings and some very good speakers, Mrs Smith said.

The annual meeting was followed by a harvest festival service taken by Mrs Joan Willmott. Afterwards there was tea and an auction of produce which realised a record £17.50.

Picture : Olive chats to George Osborne, mayor

The fourth President was George Moore. The picture shows George & his wife Joyce at the annual tea in October 1983.

In April 1984 Susan organised a "Surprise Party" for George & Joyce to celebrate their Ruby Wedding Anniversary.

Note : George died in September 1999.

1983 annual tea
Peter Bayes Peter Bayes took over the presidency in October 1986.

He was best known locally as an auctioneer and for his antiques salesroom.

Peter retired in 2001.

Evening Telegraph, October 2001

Rushden Housemartins elected Town Mayor Clive Wood as president at their annual meeting.

Former president Peter Bayes has stepped down. The attendance prize was shared between four members - Sheila Lawes, Peggy Hooton, Rita Cashin and Doreen Church - who attended all 30 meetings in the last year.

The annual meeting was followed by a harvest festival led by the Rev. Nigel Brown and gifts were donated to Rushden women's refuge.

The day ended with a feast tea.

Picture : Clive Wood (centre) chats to Mick Hollowell on the group's outing to London on August 15th 2002.

Evening Telegraph, 26 Jan 1972, Interview by 'Ruth'

The baby with 30 grandparents

They call Edward Smith, the bonny fellow in the picture, the only baby with over 30 grannies and grandpas. Most of them are honorary ones, of course, but they all take a great personal interest in him. For his mother, Mrs. Susan Smith, of 12 Hall Drive, Finedon is a very important person in their lives.

Rushden-born Susan, who spent most of her spare time as a child on her grandparents' farm in the Bedford Road, was 25 and the mother of two little girls under five when it occurred to her that there were a lot of elderly people in the Court Estate area who had no convenient club to join.

"It meant them going two miles into Rushden if they wanted to go to Darby and Joan Club meetings, so I though they should have something handier", said Susan, when I met her at her home.

Never a girl to let the grass grow under her feet, Susan went straight into action. She let her plans be known — that she was starting an independent club for the over 60's - and a dozen people turned up for the inaugural meeting in a private house. That was eight years ago.

"We had to think up a name, and because we were meeting in a house, somebody suggested that we call ourselves the Housemartins," said Susan.

The membership is limited to about 30 — if it got any bigger it would be too unweildy — but there are plenty of friends to fill a coach for the many outings that Susan organises.

The Housemartins' meetings are held fortnightly at the home of one of the members, in Newton Road, Rushden. "We nearly always have a speaker. I think it's important for elderly people to keep their minds active", Susan told me. "A talk gives them something to think about. We have a busy programme throughout the year."

And she went on to tell me plans for all sorts of outings and social activities for the coming months — a beetle drive, a half-day coach trip through the countryside on Easter Monday, a week's holiday at Weston Super Mare in May. An outing to the Cotswolds in June, a strawberry tea, four days at Blackpool in September to see the illuminations, a fish and chip supper —  the treats are endless.

"We never have any trouble filling a 51-seater coach", said this dynamic young woman, who takes on most of the organisation side, herself. "I know I can always call on my helpers if necessary", she said. But it is she who books the coach, she who arranges the year's programme and finds the speakers, she who books the holiday accommodation.

Edward & Susan in 1972
Edward & Susan
She looks after her neat-as-a-new-pin home, a husband, two schoolgirl daughters, Rachel (10) and Sarah (13) and her new son, Edward, who is eight months old.

"He is a very good baby - no trouble at all, and the girls are marvellous with him. They can feed him and change him", said his proud, mother.

She is obviously a very happy and energetic person, always busy. Having plenty to do keeps her fit, she said. As if all her voluntary work — she's a Meals on Wheels helper at Rushden too, did not keep her busy enough, she encourages her daughters to take up outside activities, and was holding a coffee evening at her home for Rachel's Girl Guide friends on the day I called.

Edward has surely made history by attending his first Over 60's meeting before he was three weeks old.

"We call him the only baby with more than 30 grandmas and grandpas” said Susan. "They all want to have him on their laps if I take him to a meeting".

Special events, like the fashion show arranged for the Housemartins in November, their Christmas party and their New Year's Day fish and chip supper, are held at the sports pavilion lent to them by John White’s.

Susan’s husband Barry joins in with the holiday in May, and cine films are taken of the Housemartins enjoying themselves.

click here to read about some of the outings and events of the club

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