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Bottles & Jelly Jars

© Rutherglen Heritage Society

Collecting empty bottles and jam (jelly) jars was a favourite way for children to raise money in times gone by. Here, Stuart McNab recalls the joys and hazards of this enterprise with Carol Foreman.

In the 1940s forties to the early 1960s, jam jars (jelly jars), lemonade and beer bottles all had a deposit on them to encourage return to use again.

When the children went to school it didn’t take long for them to find out that bottles and jars taken back to the shops could get you money - one penny for a jam jar and three pence for beer and soft drink bottles.

Younger children were encouraged by older pupils to go out, find, and collect the appropriate items.  However, when they got them they had to hand them over to the older boys who returned them to the shops. 

As we soon learned that more money could be made by not handing our finds to others for cashing in, it was decided that we were going to go it alone.  

So, several volunteers were elected to go round the houses chapping doors trying to get jars and bottles that we could return ourselves. Others went ‘midden’ picking to recover any discarded jars and bottles.

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We then had a problem as to where to store our collections as other groups would have nicked our plunder.  However, this was solved when one of the group’s dad suggested that we should fill our items with water and then sink them into a pool of reasonably deep water in the stream draining into Bankhead Pond.  He assured us that the items would not be seen unless you were almost on top of them.

We collected for about two weeks and the items in the pool were getting close to the surface and were getting easy to see.   It was time to retrieve them so that we could get refunds and our homemade bogeys were the very thing to transport our loot to the shops and bars.  (A bogey was only an orange box nailed to a plank, from the building site and wheels from an old pram.)

We had collected 17 Bottles which gave us 4/3d and 11 jars which gave us 11d.  This made a total of 5/2d to be shared by six of us, giving each 10d and with left 2d in the kitty.

While most shops were quite happy to refund the cash for the jars and bottles, some pubs were reluctant to give us the correct amount of money for the number of bottles being returned.

I then heard that, as a group of older youths were not happy with the way they were always short changed, they found a way to get back at a pub.  They discovered that the gate onto the pub’s backyard was always unlocked between 5:30pm and 6:15pm to allow staff to park their cars in the yard.  


Therefore, during those times they would sneak into the yard and finding crates of empty bottles, proceeded to get the crates out the gate before they were discovered. The bottles that they managed to get out were then taken straight back to the front door and they got an amount for each bottle. This practice could have lasted quite a while if the empty


crates had been returned to the appropriate stack, and not left out in the open which of course meant their scheme was rumbled. I suppose all good things come to an end!!!



The cash raised from the bottle returns was used to purchase penny bangers and fireworks on most weekends between August and Guy Fawkes on November 5th.

We tried to collect 8 bottles weekly giving us 2/- to buy 24 penny bangers that we had fun with on a Saturday afternoon.

We went to a piece of waste ground to dig some of the bangers into the ground then collected empty cigarette delivery cartons from the local café. The cartons were placed over the fireworks to look like tall buildings that were then blown up before they were set on fire.


If the weather wasn’t good we would go to a matinee and were spoiled for choice as there were six cinemas in our area:

THE RIO at the west end was the largest cinema in the area for both seating and screen size.

THE ODEON Main Street near Mill Street.


THE GRAND CENTRAL middle of Main Street was a bit run down and seats were prone to collapsing as the customers were a bit rowdy.  


THE GREENS, known locally as the ‘flea pit’- ITCHING TO GET IN, SCRATCHING TO GET, OUT, was at the east end of Main Street/Farmeloan Road. 

THE RHUL Burnside seldom had a matinee. It opened at about 5-00pm and by 6-30pm it was almost full of teenagers who were all there looking to make new friends. At the interval almost everyone went walk about to try and chat up the opposite sex. When the interval finished it was a mad scramble to try and get seating beside your new friend

And lastly, THE STATE situated at Castlemilk Road just off Kingspark Avenue.  As the cinema was just over the Rutherglen/Glasgow Boundary, we didn’t go there very often.

It’s really sad to think that Rutherglen has no cinemas left with only one of the old buildings remaining, the Odeon, that has been neglected since its use as a Bingo Hall which is now closed.


History Scotland: Fizzy drinks memories from the 1970s

Click here

Hidden Glasgow Forums: 'Ginger' - memories of soft drinks and their makers: Barries, Garvies, Dunn & Moore (Solripe) etc.

Click here

The Heritage Society's feature on Caledonian Pottery Ltd., Rutherglen's manufacturer of bottles and jars from an earlier era.

Click here

The Heritage Society's feature on the cinemas of Rutherglen

Click here

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