My great grandfather Maurice Labor, came to England with my great grandmother (her maiden name was Makloskovich) from somewhere between Russia and Poland in 1905 and settled in Liverpool (they were actually on their way to America but they had all their possessions stolen and were told by the ship personnel that they had arrived in New York. It was actually Liverpool docs).
To make ends meet, he would visit various tailors and pick buttons up which had fallen to the floor and sew them on cards which he would sell in local flea markets and hawk around the pubs.
Their daughter, my grandmother, Hannah Labor became a dressmaker and found her way to Birmingham where she married my Grandfather, Harry Witton (previously Harry Wittenberg) who was a tailor for the Co-Op on Birmingham’s High Street in Birmingham City Centre. He worked in the cutting room all his working life and you can see him in this picture facing the camera with his colleagues.
My mom Cynthia, was not a dressmaker but she loved to wear them and along with her shoes and handbags, she had a lot of dresses and handbags and dresses and some more dresses (haha). She married my dad who came from Dungiven which is a small town outside Derry in Northern Ireland.
His mom, Mary Coyle, my other grandmother was married to John Coyle who owned a public house on Main Street and was aptly named Coyle's Bar. Right next door to the pub, my grandmother would sit in her own haberdashery shop where she would make jumpers and scarves from a knitting machine. Her maiden name was McCloskey and I always wondered about the similarities with my great grandmother's maiden name, Makloskovich.
When I left school at 16, my grandmother told me she had secured me my first job with a company called M & J Shapiro Ltd who were haberdashery and hosiery wholesalers on Lower Essex Street in Birmingham. I loved the complexity of haberdashery with all the sizes and colour numbers, there was never an end to it. A range of thread would have 113 colours and i would delight in trying to remember every colour and number off by heart. Anyway, I’ve been connected with haberdashery in one form or another most of my life and whilst my great grandfather had to make a living picking buttons from the floor, I do not but I do have a very nice selection of buttons, go take a peek, you’ll be glad that you did.