FRANK THE BAKER MY
Every school boy has his hero – usually in some sporting field. I was no exception, except that mine was a man called Frank Hazeldine and he was no sporting hero – he was a baker of bread in Fred Farnells bakery.
Unless you have listened to the crackling of the loaves fresh out of the oven and smelled the smell of Frank’s bread, you have missed something in life.
The bakery was situated in Walkmill Road, located in what must have been once a small cottage.
One room was set aside for the making of the dough and the other was where the oven was located. Out side in the nearby field were stored the logs which provided the fuel for the oven and the stabling for the horse which pulled the van for deliveries by Fred to the local communities. Frank did everything – he chopped the logs, made the dough, baked the bread and finally helped load it into the van. He was a character in every sense of the word. He could deal politely with customers calling at the bakery, banter with school children on their way to and from school or pass the time of day with anyone recalling numerous episodes from his childhood in Market Drayton.
He always impressed me as an honest and hard working
man who required no supervision, and was completely self motivated. There was a small area of ground behind the cottage and in the summer evenings before cycling home Frank allowed himself some relaxation by cultivating this.
In this mechanised age, the way the bread was baked is enlightening. After mixing in the one room in an electrically driven mixer, the dough was carried outside and into the other room and left in big wooden troughs to ‘prove’, using the heat from the oven for the process.
Frank would then attack this mass of dough with a ferocious knife, hacking off loaf size pieces of dough. These were then check weighed and so skilled was the operation that it wasn’t often that dough had to be added or taken away to ensure that the weight was correct.
The next operation was the kneading of the dough and this was accomplished by Frank rhythmically bending from the hips, pushing the palms of his hands in unison into two portions of the dough lying side by side, folding the dough and then repeating the operation.
When this had been completed to his satisfaction, the dough was expertly plonked into already greased tins ready for the oven. The process was then repeated on the next two pieces of dough.
To see the complete process was poetry in motion with the rhythm once started continuing until the whole batch of dough was put into tins ready for baking.
The oven was a brick lined chamber heated by placing logs into the chamber and setting light to them and closing the door. The logs would then crackle away until Frank instinctively knew that the oven was at the right temperature.
The remaining wood and ash was then raked out and the
floor of the oven cleaned with a large cloth on the end of a pole.
The loaf tins were then carefully positioned into the oven by the use of a platform on a long pole. Once the oven was full, the door was closed and latched and the baking started.
At this point, Frank who had carried out all these operations could afford to take a break and would stand with his back to the door ready to talk and give his opinion on any worldly matters.
The author was born in Crewe, Cheshire in 1931. With his family he moved to Market Drayton, Shropshire in 1937 and it was there that Gwyn attended both Junior School and Grammar School. In 1948 he left home to start an apprenticeship in engineering, in which discipline he spent most of his career. He is now retired and lives in Eastbourne, Sussex.
The illustrator of the charming pen sketches also lived in Market Drayton and attended the same Junior School and Grammar School as the author. June has lived in Australia for many years.