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Article, based on the 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 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

Mrs Pugh and Mrs Wakefield
Evening Telegraph, 1972

American visits old folks
RUSHDEN Housemartins Over Sixties Club had a visit from its American president, Mr James B. Pugh and his wife, Tabitha, this week. They saw 28 members of the club on Tuesday morning at a meeting at 32 Avenue Road, Rushden. Mr. Pugh, who is 64, and his wife have been staying in the area since last week at the home of Mrs. Susan Smith, who founded the club over eight years ago,

Mr. Pugh, a bank manager from Portsmouth, Ohio, USA, got to know Mrs. Smith's parents when he was stationed at Melchbourne during the war. When he visited Rushden again in 1964 he went to a Housemartins Club meeting and Mrs. Smith asked him if he would like to be the club's president.

"Mrs. Smith thought it would be interesting for the members to have an honorary president in the USA," said Mr. Pugh.

Mr. and Mrs. Pugh leave for Copenhagen tomorrow. Their stay in the area is part of a holiday for them.

Mrs Tabitha Pugh (from America), wife of the president of the Housemartins Club, shows
Mrs Olive Wakefield the club badge that had been presented to her.

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 thev 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 mast 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 a longer page about the club and some of the outings and events in the Rushden Leisure Section

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