EARLIER this year we ran an article by regular contributor Vincent Finn looking back at the history of the Co-op.

The first shops, set up by the Co-operative movement, were initially called Co-op Industrial Societies and served local neighbourhoods. “The idea was that they were run by and for members,” wrote Mr Finn. “You paid an initial ‘joining’ fee. When my parents joined the Co-op the fee was £1 and the membership fee was for a lifetime. You were assigned a membership number. My family’s number was (33-647) - 33 was the number of ‘our shop’, on Gilpin Street, Bradford Moor.”

A former manager of the Gilpin Street Co-op is David Turner, who got in touch with us to share memories of his 37 years working for the Co-op. Mr Turner’s first job, after leaving Buttershaw Secondary School, aged 15, was at Queensbury Industrial Society in 1962. “At school they asked us what we wanted to do. I said, ‘I don’t know, just put me down for joiner or electrician’. Then I brought my school report home and my mum said, ‘You’re good at maths David - don’t you think you’d be good working in a shop?’” recalls Mr Turner.

“I started as a trainee. They moved me to Shelf within 12 months. The Co-ops were different to how they are now - today they’re like supermarkets but we had a more personal service over the counter. People often came in for a chat, there was a social element that you don’t really get now. Customers came in with their shopping orders written in a little book and we got everything for them. Everything was in bulk and had to be weighed out. We weighed butter and sugar on scales and cut the bacon and cheese on a slicer. I had to be over 16 to work that.”

Staff noted the items bought in a ledger and gave customers a check stub receipt for the purchase, so the bill could be settled. Co-op members shared in any profits earned by their local society, published quarterly, based on how much they’d spent. The ‘dividends’ to be paid out were displayed in the shop window.

By the age of 23 Mr Turner was a deputy manager at Westgate Co-op: “I was in charge of staff and book-keeping. I had to lock up at the end of each day and take the keys to Sunwin House (anchor store and head office). My first job as a manager was at Whetley Lane. I moved around a lot to fill in for other managers.”

As the Co-op movement grew there were shops serving neighbourhoods across the district. Mt Turner worked at Denholme - where he handed the keys over to Tommy Finn, Vincent’s brother, when he took over as manager - Lidget Green, Wibsey, Little Horton, Scholes, Otley Road, Brighouse and Gilpin Street, where he was the manager from 1983-87. He retired in 1999. “They had started to become mini supermarkets by then,” says Mr Turner. “I saw lots of changes over the years, a big period of social change. We used to do all the adding up, long before the tills did it, and when Decimalisation came in there was a lot to learn. In the 1980s it became more self-service. Over the years Co-ops in different areas have sold different kinds of food, for their communities. Some started selling hardware, clothing and furniture. Central Stores at Queensbury had a function room that did funeral teas.

“The Co-op was a big part of my life, I have good memories of working in various branches,” adds Mr Turner. “I discovered that my grandad had worked at Queensbury, where I worked. I was told he worked upstairs in a warehouse, so I think he may one of the two men on the right of the photo wearing aprons."