Fred Lines was born on 28 January 1904, being the second son of Thomas W. Lines, who at that time was cowman for Daniel Sabin at Home Farm, Sibford Ferris. He left school at the age of 12 in 1916, and started work at Temple Mills for John Sabin at the grand sum of 4/6d a week, and had to do Sunday mornings as well. He didn’t like the job very much because he had to take John, the youngest son out in the pram. It was said that one day he tipped the pram over, so he got out of that job!
At the age of 14 he went to work for Tat Taylor at Swalcliffe Grange — soon to be joined by his brother Steve. Then Fred started to drive the tractor — a wonderful job in those days, though most of the work was still done with horses. He left there to go to work with brother Tom at Nill Farm. Times were very hard, so at the weekends Fred and Steve would go to the golf links, and sometimes picked up more money in one day than they did for the whole week on the farm. At that time of day, one had to meet the motors as they came along the drive and jump on the running board, saying “Caddy Sir?”
I think he then went to work for Joseph Lamb as cowman; this was about 1925. He also had to shut up the chickens around the farm, with hen houses at Draff pool, Field barn, and the last one at Goodins. He was just starting to play in the Band with my father who was the leading Cornet player, so they were always practising out the back of the little cottage where we used to live, now known as Little Thatch. Mr. Herbert who was a teacher at the Friends School was very fond of Fred, and he sold him his motor bike; it was a 1912.”OK” with direct drive from the engine to the back wheel, by belt. The back wheel was a Sturmer Archer 3-speed, with a.built-in clutch which was operated by foot. To start it, we had to put it on the stand, prime the cylinder with petrol, put it into gear, and rotate the back wheel. Once you got it going, you had to press the foot clutch, then you were ready to go.
When Fred went out Banding with my Dad, he used to give me a penny to shut up the hens. I was about 10 years old at the time, and being a bit of a Rocker, unknown to Fred, I used to take the bike out of the cow shed where he kept it when shutting up the chickens. Then Don Woolgrove and I used to have great fun on it until it ran out of petrol; then we had to push it back! When Fred found out about this, he used to put a chain round the back wheel, so that finished our great sport.
There weren’t many jobs that he couldn’t do, and mole catching was one of his jobs. He used to skin them and tack them on a board until they were dry, then he would send them off to some farm up north. That meant a bit extra cash for a pint of petrol or a pack of Woodbines at 2d for 5! By the way, petrol was only 10d a gallon, or 6d for half a gallon. These were called the “Good Old Days”, but my! they were very hard indeed. Rooter, as Fred was called, could always catch a rabbit, skin it and cure the skin. A fresh rabbit was great grub in those days!
About 1931, he bought an A.J.S. 350 cc motor-cycle for £5 which was a real goer…No more belt trouble because it had a chain drive. In the early ’30s he went to work for Harold Stewart who worked the stone pit at Gibralter, and had come to Sibford in the ’20s. They had two steam wagons and his partner was Mr Dix, so they were known as Stewart & Dix; most of their work was hauling stone all round the country for the Council.
Fred was a wide boy, always thinking of something new. He never had much time for women, although he would have made a good husband, but I’m sure he resented what we called ‘petticoat rule.’ He would be Fred, and do what he liked, when he liked.
In the years of the depression, times were very hard. I can still hear my mother say'”0nly one slice of bread and lard” – home cured, of course … meat from the pigs that we always used to keep at the and of the garden. So you could say we were brought up on fat bacon, spuds and broad beans.
The older Fred got, the more amusing he became, and had some very queer sayings. People had a job to understand his talk. With more traffic coming on the roads they had to be-improved, so Fred and a chap called Bert Breean turned to stone breaking.
The stone was drawn from the pits and dumped on the side of the road in 5 ton loads. I’m not sure, but I think when they first started, they got 6d a ton! They made good money at it, but they just couldn’t pass a pub, so when they could they really lived it up (of course, no woman trouble). They were both single and pleased themselves.
Fred was a great believer in Hook Norton beer, and it didn’t matter what pub you went to in a radius of 20 miles, they all knew Rooter and Bert. Banding was his love — or it might have been the free beer that the band always had. When war broke out in 1939, Fred went to work at Brimbo Iron Stone. Then when he was about 44 he was transferred to the G.W.R. to keep the lines open when and where they were bombed. After the war he worked for the Council as the sewerage attendant at Sibford, and later at Milcombe and also Hook Norton. He retired at 65 and then worked at the Friends School as a cleaner, which he did for ten years and really enjoyed. After that he did all kinds of jobs so long as there was a drop of beer and a few pounds in it, and he did so right up to the last year of his life. Every fortnight he used to have two dozen Hook ales, which he said kept him going.
He still had an all-groups Driving licence which is valid till 1991. Where he got the name Rooter from I do not know, but Boy! could he tell a good tale.