Meet the Supper Girls – Val, Janet, ‘Little’ Norma, ‘Big’ Norma, Elaine and Pat.
For 50 years this group of women, who all live on the same Sheffield street, have been one another’s best friends, confidantes and playmates.
They began meeting for supper, once a fortnight, back in 1966 – and 50 years on, they haven’t missed a meal!
“We’ve seen each other through everything – births, deaths, marriages and everything in between,” explained Val Bullock, aged 75.
“Our kids all grew up together and knocked about together and our street had a wonderful sense of community back then. One day, all the women gathered at somebody’s house for dinner and a chat. After that, every two weeks, whatever has been going on with any of us personally, there’s been a supper club at somebody’s house, we’ve never missed one in 50 years and it’s been a lifesaver.”
There were around 20 women from Jepson Road, in Wincobank, that first started meeting up nearly five decades ago. It quickly thinned out to a core group of ten ladies who regularly met up for the next thirty-five years.
Elaine, aged 69, said: “It was so convenient because, if the kids or husbands needed us, we were all right there. We’d crowd into a house and eat a supper and chat and laugh all night long. That’s, of course, where the name Supper Girls came from.
“We’ve sadly lost some women in the last 15 years and now we’re at six. We talked about, now there are fewer of us, dropping the suppers down to once a month, but we realised we’d miss our get-togethers too much, it seemed too long to go between.” Janet, 75, added with a laugh: “Plus, we worried we’d forget everything in a month, our memories aren’t what they once were.”
Norma Butterworth, 80, said: “In the end it was the husbands that said, you must keep doing what you’re doing, you need each other.”
Between them, the women in the room have 14 children and 25 grandchildren and though much has changed in all their lives, the group dynamic has not.
“It’s given me a real feeling of contentment and consistency,” added Norma.
“Nobody has ever fallen out, we always have a great laugh together – and we don’t overstep the mark. We’re not constantly dropping in at one another’s houses. None of us really spend time together one-on-one, we’re a group.”
And as well as the supper clubs, the group of ladies, their husbands and children have, over the years, taken daytrips, holidayed in Scarborough and Blackpool and celebrated every New Year’s Eve together.
Janet said: “We’ve been ice-skating, taken tap classes together, aerobics. Whenever we went away we always dressed in fancy dress, we’ve been clowns, flamenco dancers, cheerleaders, valentine hearts – you name it!”
But the parties, trips and giggles aside, there is serious heart at the centre of this group. For Janet, who lost her husband in 1988, and her eight-year-old daughter in a tragic accident many years ago, her fellow Supper Girls were the ones who helped her pick up the pieces.
“When things like that happen to you, you don’t think you’ll survive them,” Janet said simply. I had four other children and these women, they got me through it and I’m so grateful for that.”
Norma agreed: “We’ve raised our children together, we’ve seen each other through tough times, it’s been the best therapy any of us could have had and I’m so grateful to have had these women in my life.”
And amazingly, even after 50 years – and around 1,500 get-togethers – the women insist they still have plenty to talk about.
“There’s never a lull in the conversation, we always have plenty to catch up on, especially with news of all our families,” said Val, who was the first to move to the street in 1963.
“We know each other so well now, we often finish each other’s sentences. We talk about our problems, knowing it will go no further, and listen to one another. Sometimes, when the kids were young, one of us would come in the door, ready for screaming, and then we’d all talk and laugh so much you just felt a ton better afterwards and, the next day, everything seemed more manageable.”
Norma said: “The husbands have loved it too, what’s good for us is good for them and they’ve enjoyed our big gatherings and holidays all together. They did, however, suggest we implement a curfew as our supper club nights could often go on till 2am. We have a midnight cut-off now which still gives us four hours of nattering and there’s never a quiet moment.”
And the Supper Girls insist they’ll gather as long as they’re able, though they revealed a name change may well be in order.
Pat, 69, said: “We don’t make supper anymore, as it’s a bit much, so we’ve downgraded to making a pudding and having some cheese and crackers. Maybe we’ll change our name to the Pudding Girls.”