Claas Kazzer visits Mytholmroyd again

Saturday 24th August 2002

Claas Kazzer has been back to Mytholmroyd during August researching Ted Hughes' childhood and life in the area during the 1930s.

Claas maintains a Ted Hughes website . He is a translator and occassionally teaches children's literature and poetry at Leipzig University (Germany). He works as a freelance web and IT consultant, and does many other things.

The interviewed him about his interest in Ted Hughes and this area, the transcript of which is below: What is the aim of /background to your research?

Claas Kazzer: I am in the process of writing a Phd. thesis on Ted Hughes' books for children. This is the framework and background for the research here. Any such study should have a decent biographical grounding, I think. It should get the facts right.

I've learned a lot during this visit and I've received a tremendous amount of help for which I am very grateful. Can you give us an example of the kind of facts you are after?

Claas Kazzer:What did people do? What did their days look like? And especially, what did children do? How was school in those days and what did they do after school and on weekends?

I am trying to get an impression of what a child's life might have been like in Mytholmroyd during the 1930s. I mean, it was a time when there were things like Sunday School, when a lot of people worked Mondays to Saturdays. The tram was still running, back then. There were few motor cars but there were trucks, steam rail, and the barges were still operating on the canal. The place was full of busy spinning shops and mills and there was no TV, no computers, of course. I suppose also many people would never have dreamed of many of the other gadgets we surround ourselves with these days. Imagine a time when even the "wireless" was not yet a common household object...

You might think that because people worked hard and long hours and were not as well off, they were less happy or even miserable. but that is of course not true. Anyone whom I've met so far and who was a child back then told me that they cherish their childhood memories. That they remember their childhoods as happy days.

I mean, of course, to remember a thing is different from experiencing it in the moment. A good example would be how people talk about caning in school and other forms of punishment. But still, there seems to be some truth in the fact that overall all these peple had a happy childhood.

It is fascinating to see over and over again that a happy and fulfilled life does not depend on how well off one is. On the contrary. it seems to have been easier back then because there were less gadgets to get you sidetracked.

TVs, mobile phones, computers and such are potentially very useful things, but I feel that they can alienate people, maybe especially children and young adults, from a more real world in which they have to live. In the end it doesn't necessarily make life easier.

That is not to say that I am against technology. Far from it. In fact I am working in computers at the moment. But there are so many technological gadgets available which children and young adults sourround themselves with, which are promoted as "cool", "must-have's", etc. And at the same time one is never really being taught the most important thing: how to switch them off, how to be without them, how to entertain oneself rather than wait to be entertained. Many of the people I've been talking to have commented on the fact that there were no TVs in the 30s, and seem to feel that this was a good thing and if you wanted entertainment you'd better do something to get it. And I think they are right in many ways. It makes you aware of where we are now. I think that people made their lives much less dependent on such things. Just think of the many times you sit in front of the set, when there is nothing on which you are really interested in, channel switching doesn't help, but still you sit on and watch...

But all that sounds rather preachy, and it shouldn't. So we should maybe change topics slightly. Before the interview you mentioned that you've heard many exciting stories ... could you expand on that a little?

Claas Kazzer: Oh yes. Well, one of the most exciting and moving aspects of my research are the many little stories people tell. Some of them are anecdotes, often funny. But others are more than that -- stories which are effectually lives, or parts of the lives of the people who tell them. And these are often very moving. You see, many of the people haven't really talked about that time for many years, often several decades, and it comes back to them in a flash, in vivid pictures. And a word can trigger these stories, or an object, like a toy or a picture... So what exactly have you been doing in the area to try and find out about life in the 1930's here.

Claas Kazzer: Well I've been walking with Donald Crossley who has shown me many of the places they played as children - Redacre Wood, Banksfield etc. Donald also took me to the top of St Michael's church spire and we emerged from a door at the top onto a slate like landing to view the whole of Mytholmroyd below. He showed me many of the more famous landmarks like "Bridestones" and "Churn Milk Joan" as well. And we visited some of his more local contempories who were at school at the same time to get their memories of what life was like in the 1930's. I also travelled out of the area to visit other schoolfriends who have retired elsewhere.

I scanned photographs of the area in the 1930's which were kindly provided by Molly Sunderland which were representative of life in the of the area in the 1930's and Frank Woolrych of Hebden Bridge Local History Society, sent me photos by e-mail.

I met for the first time with Glyn Hughes and had a wonderful evening with him at The Stubbing Wharf pub.

If anyone can let me have any further detail as to life as it was then either written or photographs I would be most grateful. Frances Robinson of the Mytholmroyd website has offered to scan objects and e-mail to me for those people without this facility. Claas was to expand on this interview and wished to thank individually all the people who helped him when he was here. The floods in Germany, however, prevent him from giving his attention to these things at the moment so I shall thank everyone on his behalf and hope that we get more news from him when the situation in Dresden where his parents and family live has stabilised.

Claas contacted us again in September and his "news" is on the "Features" section of the

Email him at:
Claas Kazzer