WHERE was the first self-service shop in Teesdale?

Neil Turner tells me it was at Stainton Camp in the Fifties, when it was a busy army base.

The store was run by the NAAFI and was about the same size as the present Co-op in Barnard Castle. Customers included many civilians as well as service families.

"We sold everything," he recalled.

"I knew a lot of people in the town and they used to come over in droves to get our special offers. It was a really busy place, with 17 staff. When I started there in 1955, the manager was Ann Gibson, of Forest. There was also a service club which was packed every night."

Mr Turner, who now runs the Milbank Arms, in Barningham, came forward with memories of the camp in response to an appeal by Stainton Grove Community Association. It is gathering details for a history project managed by Eileen O'Hara, and is holding an event connected with it this afternoon.

One important task for the store was to supply rations to the other army camps at Deerbolt, Westwick, Humbleton, Streatlam and Barford. Lorries from each of those places queued every morning to pick up their meat, bacon, eggs, vegetables, bread and butter.

But one type of food was not at all popular.

"I didn't like the mornings when fresh fish arrived," said Mr Turner. "Fishy water from the boxes would run all over my clothes and I was stuck with a really disgusting smell for the rest of the day. I hadn't time to go home to change, so when I went into the shop I noticed people backing away from me."

Others will be recalling their time at the camp, which opened in 1942, when they attend a gettogether at the Stainton Grove community centre from 1pm to 4pm today. Some vivid Second World War scenes will be re-enacted by enthusiasts and a number of old military vehicles will be displayed.

SUZANNE HERBERT, who has been making teddy bears for some years at her home, in Eggleston, is about to turn the hobby into a business.

The retired teacher told me that her hand-crafted teddies are intended as collectors' pieces or family heirlooms, rather than toys. They're for adults, not children.

She has sent them to New Zealand, Holland and Malaysia, as well as to friends all over Britain. She has produced them for christenings, weddings and anniversaries, and all have unique features.

One made for a man on his 60th birthday looked like Bob Dylan and wore a Celtic football badge, to indicate two of his great interests.

Mrs Herbert, who is calling her new venture Sherbert Bears, creates them with top-quality mohair. She has been sewing since she was aged ten. She taught textile techniques for years and later became a schools advisor. Anyone wishing to discuss having a cute teddy made can call her on 01833-650277, or contact her on her email at suzieherb@btinternet.com MANY men and women who worked for years at the GlaxoSmithKline factory don't seem to have grown sick of the sight of each other, as they still meet once a fortnight to share a pleasant afternoon.

They go to a social club next to the factory to chat over old times and enjoy some relaxation.

Their retired staff association is possibly the best-supported organisation in Teesdale as these gatherings go on all year round, with a large attendance at every session.

"We are lucky to have the free use of a concert hall or lounge,"

said the chairwoman, Liz Lamb, who worked in the laboratories for 17 years. "It might not do so well if we had to pay to meet somewhere else. We are treated well."

She said the 40-odd members at this week's meeting had given hundreds of years of service between them at the factory.

"We still like to see each other and there is always a good atmosphere,"

she told me. "We have talks or bingo as well as occasional meals, theatre trips and shopping outings."

The secretary, June Peters, who worked in the plant for 27 years, said the company still supports the retired staff to some extent, though conditions in the pharmaceutical industry are more difficult now and national cuts are on the way. One popular figure at the meetings is Peter Stross, an ex-employee who is an expert on pensions.

"If anyone has a pension problem, he gives advice," said Ms Peters.

"He has helped many members, and sometimes goes to their homes to get the figures sorted out."

Social secretary Joan Martin, who was on the staff for 21 years, arranges the entertainment. "I don't think there can be many firms which have so many retired staff meeting regularly in this way," she said.

AREADER showed me a Fifties price card for High Force Hotel this week. A single bed and breakfast was 17s 6d (87p) and a double £1 12s 6d (£1.62). Weekly terms were 8 guineas (£8.40). Lunch cost 5s 6d (27p) and dinner 6s 6d (32p).

Mike Clegg, the current landlord, laughed when I told him the prices. "They've all gone up since then," he chuckled.

A single bed and breakfast is now £35 and a double £75. Lunch is about £6.95 and dinner at least £8. "But the old prices are really interesting," said Mr Clegg, who has been happy running the hotel with his wife, Vicky, since moving from East Yorkshire more than four years ago.