The Infamous ‘Navvy’

January 1, 2018 by

The infamous navvy
The three areas that formed our ‘Old East Leeds’ (and still do) are: Cross Green, Richmond Hill and East End Park. These three areas are neatly divided into three by two great gashes of railway cuttings. To the north dividing East End Park from the other two is the main Leeds/Selby railway line.

‘click’ on pictures to enlarge.

Built originally as long ago as the 1840s it was so deep that it was firstly built into a tunnel – one of the first tunnels to admit passenger traffic. Later it was opened up to an eighty foot plus cutting with six bridges of varying types. When you look over the retaining walls you see a 60 degree slope followed by a fifty foot vertical drop, with express trains shooting along the bottom. This was far too dangerous for even our notorious local nutters to contemplate a descent. But it did not deter them racing across the bridge parapets on the way to the Princess Cinema, one on one parapet at one side of the road and another on the parapet at the other side, when a fall would have surely meant certain death. The thought of it makes you cringe. Sensibly they have now put pointed top stones on the wall to render this practice impracticable.
I have been told, although I cannot authenticate this, that a guy being pursued thought vaulting over the bridge wall – thinking it was just a common or garden wall – would facilitate his escape. Some say his fall was fatal others that he only broke his legs and his back (only!)

The other cutting built in 1899, which spurred off the main line at Neville Hill and ran on between the Glencoe’s and the Fewston’s on one side and the Copperfield’s, Cross Green’s and St Hilda’s on the other side, on to Hunslet Goods Yard and then over the hills and far away to join the main London line. This cutting was colloquially and affectionately known as ‘The Navvy’. The Navvy at about fifty feet deep was still dangerous but not as deadly as the Selby line cutting, you would be maimed rather than killed should you fall all the way down unless you fell from a bridge, then you would be surely killed. But like all dangerous places it attracted us lads like a magnet and provided an adventure playground for us. It had five bridges with brick parapets and one – the one that allowed the paddy train to traverse across The Navvy to disgorge its coal at the coal staithe in Easy Road – this bridge had metal, horizontal, rail barriers that daredevils including sometimes girls, would dangle over and use as a trapeze. Not unnaturally, this acquired the name ‘The Monkey Bridge’
It became a sort of badge of courage to at least once descend the Navvy and stand on the lines (not many trains came along this cutting). Yes, I have my own virtual badge. The beauty of The Navvy was they were a number of quite easy descents that had developed names, Ginner Rock, The Town Hall Steps if you could get down the first vertical twenty feet in some places you could hurtle down the last part on screed. One descent, a bit more dangerous, was ‘The Devils Drop’ on the Glencoe side of The Navvy. This one meant you had to descend with your back to one wall and your legs to the other side like descending a chimney. Some got into more mischief by pinching the wooden blocks that secured the rails for their bonfires. The Glencoe kids had a game where they set a can on the line and then fished for it from a bridge with a magnet on a long string. Of course there were many cases of broken arms, shoulders and legs; lads would usually tell their mams they had done it in some other way as nobody was allowed to officially play in ‘The Navvy’.
The construction of these two great gashes into East Leeds has long past living memory and all is calm again but can you imagine the disruption to life in the area when they were under constructed, the deep cuttings being dug out by hundreds of navvies (I suppose that’s how our navvy got its name?) and carted away by horse and cart. Where did they all live for those years while the digging was going on and where did all the spoil go? I suppose it’s lucky that with railways no sooner is a cutting completed than they come to a place where the railway needs the spoil to construct an embankment.

The Devil’s Drop

There is a famous tale – which I know to be true – that one daring but foolhardy lad, David Wilson, jumped all the way down The Navvy for a bet – I think it was near to the old Bridgefield Hotel – for a bet, six pence and some comics. He broke his arm and to add to the chagrin it is said that he didn’t get the sixpence or the comics but he got much more, he is remembered as a legend – look I am writing about him here although David is long gone from this world, how much is that worth, to be a legend? If you’re looking down, Dave, congratulations you jumped the navvy, you’re a legend!
The Navvy is still there, old East Leedsers come back to look down and remember their daring doo’s. The ‘Town Hall Steps and Ginner Rock’ are overgrown now; no lads climb down there today. ‘elf and safety have now totally encased the Navvy and the bridge parapets with great pointed metal railings that would probably damage a lad more than the Navvy itself.
But this only emphasises the great freedoms we had in the forties and fifties that are denied to our counterparts today. Now they have only virtual adventures on iPods and Xboxes!

See also March 2014 ‘The Glencoe Railway Children’.

Happy New Year to all our readers.



A Seasonal Tale 1948’49

December 1, 2017 by

A Seasonal Tale 1948/49.
By Eddie Blackwell
When I was 10/11 years old before my voice broke, I was in the school choir and I had a reasonable voice, although a bit tone deaf, but I enjoyed singing. It was December 1948, Christmas was nearly here and I decided to go carol singing in the local area in which I lived. I knew all the traditional carols, Good King Wenceslas, Once in Royal David’s City, Away in a Manger, The Holly and the Ivy, O Little Town of Bethlehem, We three Kings, I could go on and on and I’m sure you would still say do you remember this one.
They were great times the war was over your Dad was back home, respect to those that did not return, but all was well with the World. The carol singing was going OK I was hitting the high notes sweet as a bell and the money was rolling in. I must have spent two or three hours doing the rounds, I’d finish off with “A little bit of spice cake, a little bit of cheese, a glass of cold-water, a penny if you please, if you haven’t got a penny then a halfpenny will do if you haven’t got a halfpenny then God bless you.
I did get a glass of cold-water, some sweets, and lots of money. I remember going into Lavender Walk, there was a small courtyard behind the Shepard Pub, Adjacent to where Charlie Atha lived, a row of Cottages can’t remember what they were called. The Cottages were arranged in the shape of a crescent which must have had an amplifying effect on my voice because one by one all the doors opened and people were listening to me singing the carols. Usually I was quite nervous when I had an audience, yet on this occasion I didn’t have butterflies in my tummy it was great. I got a small round of applause after I had finished, and some contributions, so I wished them all a Merry Christmas and was on my way.
I did have some close family who lived in the area, my Gran lived in Ascot street, Mums youngest sister Aunty Eileen lived at No. 144 Devon Street, it was a back to back terraced house which had been subjected to mining subsidence and looked as though it was about to fall-down, the window sills were all crooked and the door was skew whiff, but it was quite safe, and the rent had been reduced, which was an added incentive to live there, then there was Aunty Margaret she lived in Ascot place, which was the street joining Devon Street to Ascot Street, it was a tiny through terraced house with a small front room just big enough to take a half size billiard table, if you can imagine that small. You couldn’t open the front door fully so you had to be slim to get in and out. Well I’d done the rounds and by this time I was getting hungry, so I made my way home.
How did you go on asked my big Sister, I bet you didn’t get anything with your scrawny voice, I didn’t do that bad I said, and I emptied my pockets onto the table and there was well over a pound in coppers and tanners. That’s a lot Dad said the church will be very pleased with your donation. Ups I hadn’t thought about that and after all, the people were giving for Christmas Carols. Well my face must have dropped and Dad was on it straight away, he said I don’t suppose they’ll notice five shillings is missing but the balance goes as a contribution to the church, there’s the Centenary Restoration coming up shortly and they need every penny to repoint the steeple and make it last for another hundred years. Now I had the princely sum of five shillings in my pocket plus my weekly pocket money of a shilling.
Wow six bob I was rich and it was burning a hole in my pocket as it does when your young. The following morning I met up with my friend Kenny Walker and we wandered over the Saville Green wreck down past the Regent Cinema and onto Green Lane looking in shop windows at toys and saying I bags that for Christmas, people were rushing about as they do when Christmas is almost upon us. There was a little sweet shop on the corner of a street facing onto Green lane it was a funny shape almost triangular in the corner there was a hard backed book on display called “The History of the Motor Car” it was expensive five shillings and six pence, I picked it up to have a look inside, and a voice boomed out you’re going to take the print off those pages if you’re not going to buy it put it back. I put it down, I wanted the book but I didn’t have enough money to buy it, and that would mean no money for sweets or anything. Yet Christmas was just around the corner and you always got sweets and things in those days for Christmas. I’d already spent a shilling, and needed sixpence to buy it, but it may as well have been a trip to the moon, I’d no chance of buying it, I’d had my pocket money. Then a thought crossed my mind, what if I could borrow sixpence from next week’s pocket money, I’d have lots of sweets from Christmas which would tide me through and I’d still have sixpence, sounded like a good plan and I really wanted that book, it would be very educational, I’m sure Dad would approve.
Well would you believe Dad said he was skint, Christmas was coming on and he’d been spending his money on this and that for Christmas treats. But Mum came to the rescue, OK she said but I want it back I’m not made of money you know. Off I went and came back with the book. Dad had a look at it and said make sure you read it don’t just look at the pictures, and I don’t suppose you’ll want your Christmas presents now. What had I done, but it was a terrific book, it detailed the types of powered vehicles and their history, Steam, Electric, Gas Turbine and of course the Internal Combustion Engine, giving details of Speed records, and performance. The names of Famous Drivers and their achievements. The illustrations were great, and it was full of technical details, with an artist’s impressions of the Jet Car. It fired my imagination and I’d dream I was a Racing Driver winning lots of cups and medals. The book was a gem well worth the 5/6d I’d spent on it.
The tempo was increasing as it got nearer and nearer to the celebration, excitement and tension was in the air, people didn’t have a lot of money, and made what they could for special treats on Christmas day. Dad had made the Christmas Cakes several weeks before, he always said they needed to stand for a few weeks to mature and settle to be just right on the day, and he was right, and always served the cake with White Cheshire Cheese delicious. Mum would make those minced tarts and pies, and we’d sit around the coal fire with Horse-Chestnuts and Chocolate Brazils, with the radio in the background broadcasting Christmas carols. It doesn’t get much better than that. Although I do remember in later years after I’d returned from National Service. When Christmas Eve was upon us. Mum Dad and I would sit down in the living room, and empty our pockets on to the floor, (I always made sure I’d got plenty of cash on me because Dad was always skint), and then we’d share out equally the money we’d got, and I think for me that was the true spirit of Christmas. To share with each other what you’ve got, even though it may not be a lot, means more than you can ever imagine.
Oddly enough I had this book together with a full collection of Eagle comics from the first issue, in the roof loft at Mum and Dad’s house before I went to do National Service.
When I returned home in 1961, I asked where my collection was. Dad said that whilst I was away Mum had had a clear out and thrown them all away. They’d be worth a fortune now, you never miss what you’ve never had as my Granddad used to say.
I’ve tried to find a copy of the book since Mum had her clear out, but to no avail, obviously without the publishers name it’s very difficult. I’ll keep trying, who knows when my old pal Kenneth Walker makes contact after 65 years you must never give up hope.
Well I hope your all getting ready for the forthcoming festivities, we’ll be having our Nativity scene on display and all the traditional things associated with Christmas trimmings, and were thinking what’s wrong with Egg and Chips for Christmas Dinner.
We were grateful for what we could get years ago.
Christmas was different in those days there was more emphasis on the reason for the celebration rather than today’s commercialization of the event.
We were lucky to get sweets and fruit things that weren’t readily available in the shops in those days unless you had coupons, or connections with the black market, but for that you needed money. I think we had Chicken for Christmas Dinner that year, stuffed with sage and onion, and thought ourselves very lucky. Never the less they were happy days filled with enthusiasm, the war was over and the future was ours for the taking.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.


November 1, 2017 by

Just a reminder before Jean’s Tale that The East Leeds Old Codger’s Reunion for 2017is to be held at the Edmund House Club, Pontefract Lane Leeds 9 on Tuesday 7th November from around noon onward all welcome.
St Hilda’s School Cross Green Lane, Leeds, was a grand little school in the 1940s/50s. Unless you were of the elite and passed your eleven plus and off to high school you stayed at the same school with those same class mates all the way from five years old until you left school at fifteen. In those ten years we got to know each other pretty well and had a great affinity with each other. Of course we didn’t always appreciate it at the time. So imagine what a treat it is to meet up with old class mates, hale and hearty, from that old school seventy five years after the day we all started school together. I recently had that pleasure when I bumped into a couple of old mates from that class; the twins; Joyce and Jean (nee Burrows). Jean has a tale to entertain you with from that old school

I was eight years old when attended St Hilda’s Church of England School. It was December 1945 and Mrs Duckworth was our teacher in class 2b, and it was the day of our school Christmas party, I still remember the day well. My twin sister, Joyce, and I shared an attic bedroom and as soon as I awoke that morning remembered it was the Christmas party. It was so cold in the attic that morning that the window was covered in ice. I crawled out of bed and felt the shock of my feet on the cold attic floor. Quickly I pulled the large hand pricked rug from the bed onto the floor and sank my toes into the warmth.

Mam had made the rug last winter on a large frame in front of the living room fire. Within the rug could make out the vestiges of the red material from our lovely red coats which had too been made by Mam, this time on her treadle sewing machine. How Joyce and I loved those coats, but alas they were now too small for us, at least now, along with some of our other old clothes they were having an afterlife here in the rug.

I walked over to the large mahogany washstand beneath the window and scraped away the ice from the pink and blue patterned jug, and poured water into the bowl. When my ablutions were completed and I had fully dressed in my school clothes I pulled Joyce out of bed too, reminding her it was the day of the school Christmas party. Downstairs Dad had lit the fire but it had barely caught hold yet and was throwing smoke into the living room. I remembered we were awaiting the chimney sweep and hoped he would arrive to do his job while we were away at school. Mam was stirring the porridge in the kitchen and, Pauline, my other sister, was busy setting the table Mam had washed our socks and gloves for school so I checked the coal oven which was alongside the fireplace to make sure they were dry. Joyce came thundering down from the attic and we all sat down for breakfast. Mam poured the porridge into the bowls and in no time at all we had polished it all off.

The morning lessons dragged on, nobody seemed to want to work, even our teacher, Mrs Duckworth, seemed to lack enthusiasm. At twelve noon Joyce and I rushed home for dinner. Mam had just cooked us egg and chips as she knew soon we would be starting the Christmas party. The parents had all donated various types of delicious party foods for their children to take to school. Mam had prepared jelly, custard and iced buns for us to take.

At 1.00 p.m. the kids trooped into the classroom but we were to do little work before the big event. Eventually we were told to make our way into the big hall where we all sat on mats laid out in rows on the floor, the sandwiches, buns, cakes and various fancies were brought round on large trays. Everyone was allowed a choice and when it was my turn I greedily chose a Swiss roll from the centre of the tray, which I had decided to take home and share with my family. I put the Swiss roll on my lap and was busy talking to my sister and our friends when all of a sudden the Swiss roll was grabbed from my lap by a group of boys who started breaking it into pieces and throwing it about the hall. Pieces were going everywhere, children were screaming and teachers were all over the place trying to sort out the chaos. Eventually when, everything had calmed down Mrs. Duckworth dragged me from my position on the floor and took me into her classroom: I was trembling with fear wondering what she was going to do to me. She started shouting at me – demanding that I tell her why I had started throwing the Swiss roll about. I tried to explain what had happened and how I was not to blame but she wouldn’t listen, she called me a liar and pushed me into a corner of the classroom closing the door behind her. She then left the room herself closing the door behind her. I had felt so happy that morning now I felt so miserable and frightened: I could hear all the happy children enjoying themselves and wondered what would happen to me. Time passed and I could hear everyone leaving the hall to go home. Eventually Mrs Duckworth came back into the classroom and told me that when I returned in the morning I was to be severely reprimanded.

The dreaded morning arrived and I dragged myself to school feeling sick with fright. I hid in the cloakroom until the religious study period was over and then crept out to be confronted by adversary; she grabbed me by the jumper and marched me into the hall where she said I must stand until I admitted throwing the Swiss roll.

To cut a long story short I stood in that bloody hall for two and a half days. I was so bored and so cold as each day went by that I finally decided I would admit to the dirty deed but the injustice of the situation still infuriates me, even after seventy years. All through my life I have regretted my decision to actually LIE about the event. It was such a tiny episode but to an eight year old child it felt quite monumental. I realize now it was just a childish prank by the lads, but if anyone remembers who threw that Swiss roll I’d still like to know.
WOW Jean! Anyone know who threw the Swiss roll?
I was at that Christmas party all those years ago I don’t remember the Swiss roll but I remember my mam sent a blancmange in a fancy glass mould and I was worried it might get lost. A lot of water has run under the bridge since then Jean. Sigh!

Terraced houses et al

October 1, 2017 by

Note: The next East Leeds Old Codger’s Reunion will be held at the Edmund House Club, Pontefract Lane, Leeds 9. on Tuesday 7th of Nov. commencing round noon. All Welcome.

Terraced Houses the Winter of Discontent and Sliding Sash Windows.

By Eddie Blackwell

I may not be able to remember what I had for tea, but I can remember back a long way to my early childhood in Devon Street. We lived in through terraced houses with no front gardens, the front door opened onto the pavement, we had a small back yard with an outside toilet. When it was winter you didn’t linger longer than you had to especially in 1947. That was a really cold year, the snow had drifted obliterating the back door. We had to walk from the front door to the end of the street, around past Mrs Olbisons down Back Devon Street and dig our way through to the back door. Then dig out a path to the toilet, Mum lit a candle and said put that in the toilet it may help thaw it out, and put plenty of salt down. It was all too little too late I’m afraid Jack Frost was in control. When you’ve finished there go and dig out Mr Tempests, she’s was an old Lady who lived on her own a couple of doors away. It was amazing in those days how people would help each other out and muck in together willingly, suppose living in close proximity developed a better community spirit. The war had just ended and we were all in the same euphoric frame of mind, stick it out and we’ll win.
The cold weather went on and on through February and into March which was worse than February. Snow fell somewhere in the UK every day for 55 days, it was cold enough to freeze the Ears off Brass Monkeys.
We still had Ice in our school playground that Easter. Although as I recall the Council did it’s best to keep things going, and had men with grit, picks and shovels going round clearing the paths so that people could walk, a practice not followed today. Now it’s a man in a lorry with a grit spinner distributing the grit at high speed, spraying everything in its way, a bit like the machines that were used in the Steel Industry to fettle the furnace hearth with before the furnace was charged.
We had great times that year down on East End Park, sledging and playing in the snow, pity the kids of today never seem to experience hard winters or those the happy times we had. Suppose they would have to wear a Safety helmet, knee protectors, elbow protectors and safety glasses today, where’s the fun in that.
During the war Mum had to work full time Monday to Friday, as did most women during that period. Without their efforts behind the scenes I wouldn’t be telling this tale. Weekend was when she did her house cleaning, my sister and I helped as much as we could, for example one of my jobs was to scrub the scullery floor, Halifax Stone slabs set in mortar were laid to form the floor. Concrete was not used for that purpose when those houses were being built. The specifications then, were wooden joists and floorboards or stone slabs set in mortar, they were large slabs about the same size as those used to make the pavements in the street. We were not well off so no oilcloth down, therefore it had to be scrubbed daily to ensure it was clean.
One of Mums main tasks on Saturday mornings was to clean the windows there were three large sliding sash windows to the front elevation of the house, and two to the rear. These were single glazed windows in wooden frames that slid up and down in a hollow wooden outer frame which housed pulleys and weights suspended on cords to act as counterbalance weights, enabling the window to maintain its position in the frame when lifted or lowered.
The procedure was to lift the lower window from the inside then sit through it onto the outer sill clean the outer windows, come inside close the windows and clean the inside, job done. On this particular Saturday morning Mum went to do the front downstairs window she got the chair to stand on took down the net curtains, went to unlatch the window and bang the upper window slid straight down trapping the fingers of both of Mums hands between the frames, the cords that hold the weights had rotted with age and when Mum released the catch gravity took control of the window and it slid down. I tried as hard as I could to help her but I was just not tall enough or strong enough to move the window frame, I tried to use the poker then the brush handle as a lever to lift the frame but it wouldn’t budge. There was a lady coming down the street and I asked if she could help, she answered I’m sorry love but this is my husband’s dinner in this basin, he’s working all day today and waiting for it, so I can’t stop now I’m sorry. By this time Mums not looking very well. Aunty Margaret was out shopping, all I could think of to do, was run up to my friend Neville Todd’s house and asked if his older brothers could help, Neville was smaller than me and his brothers were working. He said Mr Smith (can’t remember his real name but I’m sure he won’t mind me calling him Mr Smith) has some ladders he’ll help us and he did.
We all pushed together and the frame lifted and Mum’s hands were free, she got down off the chair and fainted, by this time Aunty Margaret had returned from her shopping and took control of the situation Mums fingertips were very sore but there were no bones broken. Mr Smith said he was going to get some tools and materials and come back and fix the window, Mum was sat on a chair now with a cup of tea and looked a lot better. True to his word Mr Smith came back and fixed the window. If you wish I’ll call round tomorrow and do the other windows for you, because their all in a similar condition. Mum said, yes please if you would, it’s very kind of you to be so helpful, and I don’t wish to have another experience like that every again. He called the next day and fixed the other windows, Mum asked how much it was and he said, just pay for the materials and that will be fine, don’t know how the Lady taking her husband’s dinner got on but we never saw her again.
It was very frightening when something like that happens, and you have no communications other than going to find help, most able bodied people were either working or away in the Forces. Mr Smith was a Miner and we were fortunate he was working late shift, without his help and his ladders it would have been difficult, Aunty Margaret would not have been able to reach, you needed to get above the level of the window frame to get the leverage to lift it.
The lower window to the rear of the house was adjacent to the winders on the stairs that lead from the scullery to the bedrooms, and I must say with hindsight that it would not have passed the planning stage today, imagine a 4 foot wide window facing onto the stairs, however things were very different back in those days. My sister and I were acting about one day on the landing at the bottom of the attic stairs, I wouldn’t say that we were arguing being five years older than me we didn’t argue, more like here telling me what to do, and I tripped falling down the stairs and straight through the back window, I was shocked but escaped without a scratch, not a mark on me and there was thick glass strewn all over the place. I think because I’d instinctively curled up in a ball I’d avoided injury but it was a lucky escape. I thought I was for it when Mum got home, but she was so relieved that I had escaped unscathed, she said she wasn’t bothered about the window and we boarded it up until it could be re-glazed.
There was a knock on the front door and it was my friend from up the street, Peter Hanlan, he said Mrs Blackwell my Mum has sent me to see if we can borrow a couple of buckets of coal till next week, that’s how things were in those days people helped each other out.
I remember Peter and I getting into a scrape one time, we’d seen these lads from Ascot Street with a bogie, they were riding it down Berking Avenue, turning quickly before they reached the bottom of the Avenue to avoid running into York Road.
We could make one of those I said to Peter, but we haven’t any wheels or axils. Peter said we’ve got an old pram at our house we could use the wheels and axils off that.
Well we set to, Peter took the wheels and axils off the pram, and I unscrewed one of the leaves off the scullery table, it was one of those tables that folded for storage, I had nails and wood and I fixed the axils by knocking nails over on alternative side I found a bolt for the steering axil and burnt a hole through the table leaf and the axil rail with the poker which I’d heated red hot on the gas ring, Peter found some clothes cord for the painter and we were all set big smiles on our faces riding up and down the street, then Mrs Hanlan popped her head out of the front door and shouted PETER. We were in trouble, we hadn’t realised that his Aunty who was staying with them was pregnant, things like that never entered our heads, and the pram wheels and axils were from the second hand pram she’d bought for after the baby was born, then the table leaf I’d used from the kitchen table which I’d never seen used, well we were in real trouble.
I reverse engineered things and Peter re-bolted the axils and wheels back on the pram, I straightened the nails and recovered the wood for reuse, and fixed the leaf back on the table, but I couldn’t get rid of the hole.
Peters Dad was home on leave at the time, he’d been for a pint in the Shephard Pub in Pontefract Lane. He’d just got back and found out what had happened, he got me and Peter together and said, it was a good try lads, and you used some thought to get it made, but you must ask in future before you do things like that. We were off the hook until my Mum got home, then the balloon went up. Mr Hanlan tried to mediate on our behalf he said we could smooth out the hole and make it circular then cut a dowel and glue it in, but Mum was having none of it she said, I’ll still know it’s there. I was grounded for a week.
Gone are those innocent days when you could do and make anything without needing a piece of paper, and you didn’t need anyone to tell you how to do it you just knew what to do and worked it out yourselves. Money never entered into things because you never had any, and you still believed in Santa at Christmas time, and you thought that the Stalk brought babies in a Nappy. Things move on and the innocence of childhood disappears, but it was great whist it lasted.


September 1, 2017 by

Here’s another great tale from our favourite Aussie pom our East Leeds lass in Australia
Audrey Sanderson (nee Tyres).
Hit ’em with it Aud!


By Audrey Sanderson

Reading Eric’s recent stories of poltergeist and all things ghostly set me remembering when I and two friends used to go to the tea cup readers. At that time there was lots of tea rooms in and around Brisbane. Predicting the future through reading tea leaves and tarot cards was illegal so they called it tea and entertainment. They were as thinly disguised as the brothels of the time were. The tea rooms were not as blazenly advertised as the other form of entertainment was. Most were what is now called Mum and Pop cafés. The only cooking done was toasted sandwiches; no deep fried anything or vast menus to choose from. Simple sandwiches of ham and cheese, plain ham, canned salmon, chicken. No gourmet cakes but scones with jam and proper cream, sponge cakes, fruit cake, shortbread biscuits, all homemade and delicious.
You usually found these small establishments by word of mouth. All the sign outside the establishments said was Tea Room and opening hours. Some were tucked away in shopping arcades, some up a flight of steps and over the shops on street level. All of them were very discrete and very quiet when you walked inside. There were only about 6 small tables with 2-3 chairs at each one. Tables have pretty cloths with a very small vase of flowers in the centre and an ash tray.
Everyone spoke in whispers as you gave your order to the waitress. They served coffee but of course if you were having tea leaves read you obviously ordered tea. I got a fit of the giggles every time I went in to one of those places. All the secrecy and whispering when everybody from miles around knew what you were going to a tea room for.
One of my friends was a staunch catholic and was having doubt if she should be there or not. We told her she could wait outside on the footpath if she felt that way about being there and we’d tell her all about it when we came out. She got huffy and said that would be worse as she’d feel like a lady of the night. We were acting like adolescent kids. I said she could stand on the other side of the street on the corner and swing her handbag; she might be able to earn a few dollars and only charge half price because it was in the middle of the day. She didn’t see the funny side at all. She didn’t leave though and said she wasn’t going to confess where she’d been as like the sign said it wasn’t fortune telling it was entertainment.
So we sat and ate the sandwiches and cake, drank the coffee and waited for our turn with Mystic Meg or whoever was the soothsayer that day. When the tea or coffee was served you were given a small ticket, about as big as a raffle ticket at the local pub for a meat tray prize. You had to give the ticket to the mysterious one for him/her to get paid for the day’s work. It wasn’t actually a full day they opened around 10 a.m. and closed at 3 p.m.

Waiting was like waiting in a doctor’s surgery when I was a kid. You looked around at faces and calculated when it would be your turn. My catholic friend thought the ticket was the number they called out when it was your turn. My other friend, a seasoned tea room visitor told her to be civilised as it was not like a queue at the local delicatessen.
She told me to stop laughing or I’d get the lot of us thrown out. Have you ever tried to stop laughing when you have a fit of the giggles? It makes me want to laugh more. I had to keep looking at the table cloth and try not to laugh. When I looked up to take a quick scan of the room I nearly had convulsions. The others in waiting were all women with dead set serious faces. I thought any minute John Cleese was going to walk in.
Discretion was the thing at these places. You weren’t meant to listen in to anyone else’s readings and being a novice I assumed there would be another room used for revealing the future. We’d sat at the only vacant table and didn’t know the folding screen next to us was where the actual entertainment was. It wasn’t until a lady left the cafe´ and one of the ladies in waiting moved behind the screen that it dawned on me that am where the action took place. My first thought was My God! Could they hear what we’d been saying? What a bunch of idiots thinking no one could hear us. It stopped me from laughing anyhow. You couldn’t hear what was beginning said behind the screen so hopefully the previous lady hadn’t heard us.
Eventually after what felt like hours it was our turn. My catholic friend didn’t want to go first the other friend said she always went last if she goes with anyone else. Looks like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t feel like laughing as I went behind the screen and sat down at the small table. The man sat opposite me was on the large side and asked if WE were having our cards read today. I didn’t play up by looking round to see if there was anyone else with me so I just said yes and handed him my ticket. He put it in a very nice beaded drawstring bag that was on the table. Talk about surprised. I thought card reading would be from an ordinary deck of card with Kings, Queens and Aces.
I had an aunt who used to say she could read cards when you chose one but it was from a deck of playing cards. These cards were enormous and had medieval pictures on them. What have I got myself into!! Wait ’til I get outside, that lunatic who talked us into going had said nothing about weird stuff. The man asked me to shuffle the cards. I’m no good at shuffling normal sized ones these went all over the table when I tried to mix them up. The man wasn’t impressed, gathered them up saying he would give them a good shuffle but I must handle the cards before he could read what was in store for me. I could see my immediate future as a quick exit and not embarrass myself anymore than what I had done. The cards whizzed through his hands and he handed them back to me telling me to do the best I could and not to drop them again. Great, being chastised by card shuffler and owner of a classy evening bag. I managed to shove some cards into spaces without dropping any and handed them back to him. He did a lot of hmmming as he looked over them and said they were pretty good. He was enjoying himself playing with the cards and pictures; he could have told me anything I hadn’t a clue what any of the pictures represented. He made a big t’do as he told me what it all meant. Can’t remember word for word what he said but it was about getting news from overseas. This happened ages before the internet and airmail letters took 6 days to arrive from England. He was on pretty safe ground as my Yorkshire accent is as strong today as it was when I lived in Leeds. I’d drawn a money card he said I told him it was probably bills that needed paying. He said no, it was money coming to me. As I don’t enjoy losing I don’t gamble so couldn’t see that happening. My love life was on the up and up and a man was coming into my life that was going to disperse all of my problems. O Goody can’t wait for him to arrive. A bit more about me and how I got on well with people and he could see an aura surrounding me which was very favourable as it was purple and that meant royalty. More Goody Goody, Prince Charming at last going to solve all my problems.
I went back to the others at the table and my catholic friend nervously went behind the screen. My other friend excitedly asked what he’d seen in the cards for me. I pulled a face, “News from my mother surprise surprise, a money gain and Prince Charming on a white horse is going to sweep me off my feet.” She clapped her hands together and said she hoped he told her the same. O Good. I get a man and she wants him, that’s no surprise at all she’s man mad.
Back comes my guilt ridden friend saying the man was a nut case and said he could see a wedding looming on the horizon. She was as mad as hell saying it had been a waste of money. I said not a complete waste she’s had some lovely toasted sandwiches, melt in the mouth cake and a great cup of coffee. It wasn’t listed you paid for the card reading as the cops would have raided them you just paid a little extra than other cafés charged for the eats and drinks.
When the 3rd. of our little group came out from behind the screen she hurried us out onto the footpath. “What’s the hurry? Are you babysitting and got to pick up the child from school?”
“No, hurry up and get in the car I’m going out tonight”
“Why didn’t you say beforehand we could have gone tea cup reading on another day”
“It’s because of the cards I’m going out tonight. Can’t you go any faster I’ve got to iron a dress?”
We asked what the soothsayer had told her. One of her cards was cupid or whatever the love card was and he said today was exceptionally good for her to meet people and it might mean a romance for her. Green lights all the way as far as she was concerned. I’d hardly stopped the car outside my place before she hopped out and got into her own car and sped off.
Us two went into my kitchen where I put the jug on for more coffee and asked if she was feeling any better than she was half an hour ago. She said not much as she was sure it would be her ex-husband getting married to the woman he’d left her for. I said she was well rid of him and could now sleep nights without wondering who he was philandering with and to forget the card reader. She said it was etched into her brain. I said nothing he told me was going to make a penny worth of difference and asked if she could see a purple light behind me. She asked what the hell I was talking about so I told her how the mystic one had seen a purple aura around me and said it meant royalty so in future she’d better brush up on her curtsies in case I got lucky.
She laughed a bit and said “Shall I tell you exactly what he said?” I said not if it was going to upset her. She said she wasn’t going to cry but if she told me maybe I could make better sense of it. I told her I knew absolutely nothing about fortune telling. The farthest I’d ever been into it was to read the stars in the morning paper and that was one size fits all.
Again can’t remember word for word but the card reader hadn’t said anyone was getting married he said what he could see was a lot of people celebrating a happy occasion and it could be a wedding. He’d put the idea into her mind and she’d assumed it was her ex that was taking the plunge. We talked about it for a while, could mean this, could mean that. I asked if he’d told her anything else. “The idiot asked if I was thinking of buying a new car as he could see something metal on four wheels “I said it might be a billy cart and laughed…she didn’t. I told her not to take it serious; it was good for a laugh and got us out of the house for an afternoon. Still serious “There’s something else. He said he saw a female who might cause a problem. It will be the new woman in the old fart’s life, she’ll try to cut my kids out of his will ” I said I’d be the female causing trouble if she didn’t stop being a pain in the neck ” Look on the bright side, you might get an invite to a party in the next week or two. If you do, ask if I can go too “She shrugged I’ve already got an invite to the twins birthday party. They are 8 next week, you can come along if you want, and you like entertaining kids “I said I’d give it a miss. They were holy terrors and always fighting with each other. She started smiling “You know what; I think I’ve solved what the tea cup reader meant. I’ve bought Josh a model of a racing car for his birthday and Rhonda a bride doll. He has such funny sayings and makes me laugh and she can be a little madam when she wants” Thank God for that. No more mention of ex husband and his paramour, weddings or new man in her life and no more guilty feelings of having her fortune told.

I got frequent mail from overseas I wrote to a lot of people. I never got any surprise money just my fortnightly pension and the only guy who takes away something I don’t need is the garbage man who comes every Monday. It’s a good job I didn’t hold my breath waiting for Prince Charming or any other form of royalty. Maybe the purple hue he saw round me was the sun reflecting on something outside and I was stood in the way.
The man mad one had a string of guys and the last time I saw her she was still looking for Mr Right. She did continue going weekly to tea cup readers, sometimes to different ones in a week until she found one that told her what she wanted to hear. She also had a dabble with séances and oiuja boards. I cried off going to them. I’m not that interested what the future holds. I didn’t fancy being in a dark room holding hands with a bunch of strangers waiting for something to happen. I’d been in an amateur theatre group for years and found out how to make illusions happen on stage. I enjoyed that as I knew all the people well. They had big egos but they wasn’t that weird.
She used to tell me things that had happened at séances and kept asking me to go with her. She was O. K. with the oiuja board when she first started going to the group that had one. She swore she never moved the upturned glass as it spelt out the names of the people round the table. It didn’t stay that friendly after a short time. When she told me it had whizzed all over the board spelling out Knives, Maim and Kill she said she was scared. I told her to stop going and her problem would be solved. She’s definitely not into violence she’s more the Mills & Boon type of person and happy endings. She continued with the séances for quite a while before she said she was fed up listening to dead people she wanted a man with some life in him.
The funniest one of all she told me about was one of the earliest gatherings she’d been to. She’d mentioned others of candles flickering when a spirit was present, smelling perfume or burning wood, mist floating around and cigarette smoke drifting by. Real amateur theatrics making that happen in a dark room.
But the one I remember most was the one which she went to where the Clairvoyant had managed to call up the spirit of a lady’s dead husband. He asked her if she was looking after the rose trees he’d planted and she said she did exactly how he’d showed what to do. An older man’s grandmother said she’d met some of the other relatives and they were all fine and at peace with everything. Then the woman went into a trance and started talking like a parrot. It squawked out a man’s name and a man at the table said he was there. More squawking and the parrot said how he wished he was back with the man and the man close to tears saying how much he missed him.

Tears were running down my face too I couldn’t stop laughing. She said I was rotten for laughing and didn’t I believe her. I said I believed what she’d told me but didn’t believe the Clairvoyant.
She said I should go with her sometime and see for myself. “Any how I believed it. You know how much I like pets I’m telling you Audrey it really was the parrots voice. It was lovely to hear it say he missed the man and he thought so too or he wouldn’t have been nearly crying. Why don’t you come with me? Is there someone from your past you’d like to talk to?”
I said I could ask Cary Grant if he was coming back.
“You actually knew Cary Grant!!!!” Sure, along with Errol Flynn, Robert Mitchum and Clark Gable. I asked if the Clairvoyant had found anyone for her to chat with.
“No you don’t ask her to find someone. You have to wait until she goes into a trance and then she asks if there’s anyone in the room called ???? And if there is she tells them what the spirit wants them to know”
“O.K. That’s how it works is it… How come the parrot got to talk for its self?”
“Sometimes that’s how it happens and I think that’s when she becomes a medium and they talk through her “I was finding it very difficult not to scream laughing. Years later I was reminded of what she’d said when I saw the movie Ghost. I also asked if they got a cup of tea and biscuits afterwards. She said no, as soon as the overhead lights go on everyone goes home. She said the woman was exhausted after going into a trance
” It must take a lot out of her doing all that Audrey I wonder if it’s hard to learn how to do it ” She was always getting crack pot ideas so I told her she was crackers enough without going into a trance and floating around the room. Told her she’d be floating around forever as she’d forget how to get out of the trance. She was always losing her glasses, car keys, and looking round car parks at shopping centres for her car.

Time moved on after World Exppo ’88 came to Brisbane. Countries from all over the world brought the best of their countries to show to everyone and also for them to see Australia. Brisbane changed forever. Not only Aussies going overseas to see other countries the rest of the world wanted to see us. Tourists poured into the country and multi story hotels popped up like mushrooms. Sacrifices had to be made and lots of the older small building was replaced with flash new ones. The end of the tea rooms which were replaced by side walk cafés and the word alfresco became trendy. Glitzy, glamorous but not half as much fun as the quaint discrete old fashioned tea rooms.

A Day in the Life of our old East Leeds (Knostrop) Gang

August 1, 2017 by


This month’s tale is A Day in the Life of Our Old East Leeds (Knostrop Gang)

But before that can I announce that this is the anniversary of The East Leeds Memories site and we thank WordPress for allowing us to air and beautifully archiving our tales since August 2007 = ten years at one tale a month 10 x 12 = 120 tales which have linked up old East Leedsers across the world and I hope given enjoyment to many. Thank you WordPress may we long continue.

Ten years is a long time for us oldies and during that period a few who added their tales here in the full flush of life have now gone to join that great story teller in the sky. While this site remains their tales can still be picked up as sort of an epitaph. Within their tales they can still live. I’ll try to list a few here that readers might like to revisit. I apologize for any who may have dropped off their perch without my knowledge.

Sept 07      Pauline Rushfirth (nee Brown.) Air Raids.

Jan 08        Stan Pickles  My Life Between the Wars.

Apr 08        John Gibbins       My Early Life in East Leeds

June 08      Brian Conoby  Memories of Brian Conoby

Feb 09       Denis Gudgeon   Memories of Denis Gudgeon

Mar 09       Brian Conoby      More Memories of Brian Conoby

Nov 10       Frank Shires     Memories of growing up in East Leeds

Feb 11       Gerry Thrussle  Memories of Gerry Thrussle

June 12   Kenneth Heptenstall  Kenneth’s Tale

Oct 12        Stan Pickles  Cinemas and the Leeds Shopping Centre

May 15      Barbara Curran (nee Tootle)   Barbara’s Tale 


I hope WordPress continues to allow us to parade our tale on their great site and that we all continue to enjoy. Can I point out that there are some great comments after most stories too, don’t miss the comments they are sometimes the best part of the tale.

And can I point out that there must be lots of you out there busting to tell us a story of your own – you know the type of thing we do – it doesn’t have to be about East Leeds – to put on the site. Send me a comment that you may have a tale we can use – we are always on the lookout for new contributors, the comment will have your e-mail address included and I will contact you ref your tale and we’ll take it from there. Thank you if you have waded through all this. Now for my tale.

Pete Wood

A day in the Life of Our Old East Leeds, Knostrop Gang

It was August 1945, the year the war ended, and I was seven years    old. The iconic Jawbone Yard was our adventure playground, it was the summer school holidays and we were all incredibly happy.

I awoke to the pleasant sensation of the sun beaming in through the bedroom window and the exquisite smell of bacon drifting up the stairs. I sprang out of bed and dressed in my short corduroy pants and a check cotton shirt, but first I had to put on those terrible white underpants with the gaping fronts and the little loops for the braces to hold them up. I bounced down the stairs as only a seven year old can. Mam had my breakfast on the table. ‘Come on lad, have your breakfast, your mates are already playing out in the yard.’

I needed no encouragement gulping down my breakfast and making for the door. ‘Here better take this’, she thrust a Bovril sandwich into my hand and I recalled how she had always tried to fatten me up in case the Germans managed to stop the Atlantic convoys getting through with food from Canada and America and we all starved.

‘Mam I can’t go out eating a sandwich they all laugh at me, I’m too fat already.’ But she shoved me out into the yard and closed the door behind me.

They were playing football with a tennis ball – we did well to get even a tennis ball with the war in full swing.

‘Look who’s here and he’s eating a great sandwich already. Come on Fatso you’re on our side, were getting beat four one, although I can’t see how you’re going be much good munching a bloody sandwich.’ It was Harold; he was such a great player he could keep even a tennis ball up on his ankle.

Somebody took a great swing at the ball and it hit me on the fleshy part of my exposed leg. It stung for a moment but even so it felt good; onto the ground went the sandwich.

‘Well done,’ called one of the Peters to the kicker of the ball ‘Now that sandwich is out of the way maybe you’ll get stuck in Woody.’ The stable doors were one goal and the shed doors the other. We went at it hammer and tongs for half an hour until we were exhausted and then we sat on the grass together for a breather. It felt good – really good.

‘Let’s make a den,’ said Brian and we all agreed so we wandered out of the main yard and into a tusky field (rhubarb to the uninitiated) sampling the red rhubarb sticks as we went. Rhubarb grew in gay abundance in the area so nobody minded us pinching the odd stick or two (in truth it was far too sour to eat without sugar and we rarely made it to the end of the stick without wastefully discarding it). Then we set about fashioning a den out of a bush in one of the hedgerows. We made blow pipes out of the green stick branches and pretending to make bows out of the more substantial ones; of course we rarely had string to finish off the job properly. Presently it began to rain, gently pattering on the top of our green canopy and activating the scent of vegetation mixed with the perspiration of youthful   endeavour, bringing us close to nature at its best.  We squatted there waiting for the rain to ease, telling jokes, making, plans and the general banter of carefree youth.

It stopped raining and we wandered out of the den and down the lane. We had an old wheel-barrow and took it in turns to push and alternatively be pushed.  When you were in the barrow you had to close your eyes and try to guess where you were. We had a daily rigmarole and that entailed returning home for dinner at twelve o’clock – mams were quite insistent on that. We all disappeared to our various homes arranging to meet again in an hour, in our ‘Wellies’, prepared for a visit to the pond field. We called our mid-day meal ‘dinner’ not the ‘lunch’ they had at mid-day in the south and even up here in the 21st century. At five o’clock we had ‘tea’ which was another man size meal. Lunch did not figure in our curriculum but we had supper too; it sounds as though we should have been even fatter than we were – eating four square meals a day, but of course we could only eat what we could get with the war being in progress so we had to stretch the food we had out a bit.

Dad arrived home from work for his dinner too and we set about a real plateful each. I was pleased that today it was to be  sausage and a veritable mountain of lovely mashed potatoes big enough to make Alpine tunnels to allow passage for my lovely gravy. Dad told me off as usual for reading my Beano comic while I was eating. After dinner the gang met up again to go to the pond and collect frog spawn. Passing Knostrop Old Hall to the rear.


The girls, Pat, Pauline, Brenda and Rita had elected to bring some jam jars from home. We would collect frog spawn in the jars; watch it turn into little tadpoles, watch the tadpoles, lose their tales and turn into frogs – than we would let them go. Of course this metamorphosis didn’t all happen in one day. As usual we all ended up with wet feet and a telling off from our mams, ‘Just time for the chasing game before tea – remember we are off to the flicks tonight, it’s a cowboy,’ said Michael. We all liked cowboys.

We picked two captains and then two equal sides. We “dipped” to see which captain had the first pick:  ‘dip-dip-dip-my–blue-ship-sailing–on–the–water-like-a-cup-cup-and-saucer-you-do-not-have-it. The one who won the dipping contest had first pick and would pick the best runner and the other captain would pick the next best runner alternatively until everyone had been selected. There were: three Peters including myself (Peter must have been the in name at the time) Brian, Michael, John, Malcolm, two Denis’s Harold and the girls: Pat, Pauline, Brenda and Rita.

Off sped the first team and ten minutes later off sped the chasers. Miles and miles we ran; The idea was for the first team to run and hide and then make it back to base without being caught. We ran for miles – over fields, through woods, across streams and hay stacks, we were completely free to roam. It was wonderful to have young lungs to fill with air and feel the cold wind hitting above the knees. By the time the game was over it was tea time and arrangements were made for our evening visit to the ‘flicks’. It was to be at the Easy Road Cinema (the bug hutch) and as it was going to be an ‘A’ film children had to be accompanied by an adult. Pat, who was only a couple of years older than us herself said she would put her hair up to make herself look older and get us all in. It was a quite transparent ruse of course but Abe White, the roly-poly proprietor, wanted a full cinema and the place would have been empty if he had looked too closely at kids passing as adults to take their mates in. Lone urchins without an adult would accost strangers with the plea. ‘Tek us in, Missus.’ We were on the wooden sixpenny seats on the front row, so the actors were all long and thin and either walking up hill or down. You virtually got sand in your eyes when Roy Rogers rode across the screen on Trigger and we always got a little song from him when they were finally seated around their camp fire eating baked beans. It was brilliant. Then we were out running down Easy Road with our gabardine raincoats strung around our necks like cloaks and firing our fingers off like six guns at passing strangers. I loved it. Nearing home we saw there were ongoing road works and a watchman with a coke brazier. We sat with him for a while and ‘chewed the fat’ with the coke fumes permeating our nostrils. Then we accompanied him while he checked his lamps. Finally, my lovely day was ending and it was time to go home. As we entered the yard I felt a wet nose pushed into my hand. Joy of Joys it was the first dog I ever loved: ‘Peggy Parker’ a neighbour’s mongrel come Labrador. We were inseparable mates and Mam allowed her to come into the house and lay by the fire for a while until I went to bed, then she would have to go home. After the darkness of the night (there were no street lights because of the War-time black out) the gaslight in the sitting room was brilliant. One of my aunties was tinkling away on the piano, an uncle was playing a musical saw and a game of darts was ongoing. It had been a day of perfect freedom, one of many pure gold days. Weren’t we of our generation the lucky ones?

The Old Princess Cinema

July 1, 2017 by

The Old Princess Cinema.

By Eddie Blackwell

I remember the first film I ever saw on my own was at the Princess Cinema, Dad was in the RAF and the War was raging. I queued down that passageway that was adjacent to the Shepherd Pub and you sat on those wooden forms at the front of the Cinema it was only a few pence to go in, the film was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, it was the original Disney film and it scared me silly, I ran out half way through and back home to 29 Devon Street and the safety of my Mother’s arms. But it marked a turning point in my life, I’d done something on my own, even though I couldn’t sit through the whole of the film. Another one I remember from those early days was The Jolson Story, Larry Parks played Al Johnson, I recall going home and getting down on one knee and singing, “Mammy my little Mammy the Sun shines East the Sun shines West but I know where the Sun shines best”, and Mum started crying so I stopped singing but I thought it was a great film
Then my big Sister came back home, she’d been living with our Great Aunt Anny in Seacroft, families did that in those days, the idea was not to have all of your eggs in one basket so to speak, and if the bombs dropped at least someone might survive, they were difficult times we lived in, but we took it on the chin and coped as best we could. My Sister’s five years older, and we started going to the cinema on a regular basis. Well the radio wasn’t working so it was the only form of canned entertainment we could find. In those days the Evening papers used to have a “What’s on in Leeds”, column and all of the Leeds Cinemas were listed and the films they were showing. They were open six days a week, everywhere was closed on Sundays, a feature film would run for three days and then a different film would be show for the next three days, and a film would do the circuit until all of the cinemas had screened it, and eventually it would come around to your local.
My Sister played the Piano but it was all classical stuff so I found it quite boring, but she was under instructions from Mum to teach me everything she learnt, and I tried but being a lefty meant everything was the wrong way around for me, so I wasn’t very good. The cinema seemed a o suitable alternative, and the Princess was only a few hundred yards from where we lived.

The films we saw there you would not believe, “Gone with the Wind”, “Sinbad the Sailor”, “Lost Horizon”, Cowboys and Indians, Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling films, James Stewart, John Wayne, Bet Davis, Edward G Robinson, Humphry Bogart, and a host of others, we also went to the other local Cinemas in our area The Star, The Regent, The Shaftsbury, and of course the Easy Road Bug Hutch. Bring them back alive, The Perils of Pauline, I recall one film we saw at the Easy Road scared us both, and we ran all of the way back home, “The Hounds of Zaroff”, a black and white film. A man is shipwrecked on an Island, the Host who lives on the Island wines him and dines him and then sets him off on a human hunt where he’s the prey, then they release the dogs to chase him down, it must have been a U certification because I was only 6/7 or perhaps the Lady turned a blind eye, money was tight in those days, and it still is more than seventy years on, I think it’s because the people who are wealthy want it that way, that old saying the rich get richer and the poor get poorer still holds true today. I don’t think ambition or ability have much to do with it, we’ve all worked hard in our lives, but perhaps we undervalued ourselves, or were held back by the people who were investing the money to make more money.
When my Sister started work when she was 15, she went to Pitman’s College for a Diploma in shorthand and typing, yes I had to learn shorthand, but the typing was out the left handedness once again. Pitman’s in those days was next to Young’s Fish and Chip shop just up from the Odeon Cinema in town, opposite Lewis’s Store. She was working for a Chartered Accountant in Park Row Obviously she didn’t want to be going to the Cinema with me anymore so I Started going on my own. We’d moved to live in Osmondthorpe, but I still went regularly to the Princess in Pontefract lane, I use to walk there and back, through East End Park over the Pit hills and home only took me about 30 minutes. This was the very early 1950’s and there were some very good Westerns and War films being made. My Dad loved Westerns and War films and he started coming with me. He could manage the Star and Shaftsbury but the Princess was a bit too far for him, although if there was a good film on we’d catch the tram at the Shaftsbury and drop off at the Swimming Baths and walk up, that way it was OK.
Star Cinema, High Noon, “Do not forsake me oh my Darlin”, Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, the theme song was sung by Tex Ritter, “On this our Weddin Day” we enjoyed that one “Wait, wait along” must be classed as one of the greatest Westerns ever made albeit in black and white. I remember we had Fish and Chips as we walked home up past the White Horse Pub, through the ginnel alongside the LUYMI Football Pitch over Osmondthorpe Lane then down the pathway to the Railway Bridge and through onto Wykebeck Avenue and home.
There were so many great films made in those days. “Colt 45” Randolph Scott, “Shane” Alan Ladd, Jack Palance, “The Quiet Man” John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen, these people were Actors and Actresses, they lived their parts, and Dad and I enjoyed every minute of it, the big screen released us from our everyday lives, all the pressures were gone and we were refreshed to start another day. Does anyone remember, The “Fighting Sullivan’s”, it was a WW2 film about five Brothers in the American Navy they were all killed fighting for the Battle of the Guadalcanal, Anne Baxter played the mother it brought a tear to my eye did that one “Off we go into the wild Blue Yonder”.
I still went down to the old Princess Cinema at least once a week, I was about 14/15 now and on several occasions as the film was drawing to its conclusion a young Lady would come and sit in the next seat to me, I don’t know who she was, but she would laugh when I laughed, and sort of mimic the things that I did, but before the film was over she would be up and off. I think she must have been one of the girls around my age from Devon Street, and she recognised me, or it may have been a random event, but she never spoke, and I could never get a good look at her in the darkness, and she knew the timing of the films, because she was away before the lights came up, a mystery for sure. It was obvious that the attendance was falling off at bout this time, the films they were showing, like “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, “The Thing”, “It came from Outer Space”, “When Worlds Collide”, “War of the Worlds”, “The Creature from The Black Lagoon”, I really found these films enjoyable, but they could be quite scary and it was always the last performance, then I would have to walk home. I must admit after I came out from seeing “The Thing”, I gave the East End Park way home a miss, and went down onto York Road where the Lights were, I could run a bit in those days, and I ran all the way up to the Dog and Gun, then through the pathway over the pedestrian foot bridge across the railway down into Wykebeck Street and indoors. Dad said your out of breath lad have you been running, yes Dad I replied I’m in training for the half mile at Children’s Day. How far have you run he asked, from the Princess Cinema, I hear their showing a scary film this week, and he started laughing.
When I was 16 I started going out with a local Girl, I knew from school, and we would meet and go to the pictures once or twice a week, the Shaftsbury Cinema was one that we favoured it was near for both of us, and there were some fantastic films going the rounds at that time. We used to go up into the balcony they had some of those double seats up there for courting couples, on one occasion we went to see “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”. We were sat in one of those double seats, and they always had a supporting feature before the main film and before the main film started the lights would go up, well we’d been doing a bit of snogging while this first film was on, and when the lights went up I could hear this voice behind me, say it is it’s our Edward I thought it was, so I looked round and there two rows behind us was My Grandma and my Mum’s sister Aunty Alice, I certainly hadn’t seen them when we went in, and we’d been a bit occupied after the lights went down.
Well I was so embarrassed, hello I said we’re looking forward to seeing the main feature, would you like an Ice cream, no we’re alright Gran said, then the lights dimmed and the film started. It was a great film and the technical effects were fantastic, I was on my best behaviour no distractions. James Mason, Kirk Douglas, Peter Laurie, Paul Lucas, fantastic cast, but all the time it was running I could feel these eyes watching me from behind. When it finished I said did you enjoy it Grandma, and she gave me a thumbs up, then the National Anthem started, and we all stood still and were quiet and respectful until it finished, can you imagine that today.
A couple of days later I went down to Ascot Street to see my Gran, I said I was a bit embarrassed Gran we’d been doing a bit of snogging in the cinema hope you weren’t too shocked. She said don’t think anything about, it we’ve all been young and foolish you know, I remember my first kiss, I was sat on a five bar-gate with a field full of cows, at least you were comfortable, and she looked a nice girl, just don’t get mixed up with any Strumpets out there. Well I had to look it up I remember Shakespeare used that word in some of his plays but I wasn’t sure what it meant. She was clever was my Gran and she’d looked after me when I was little, she would roll me on her knee when I had tummy ache and it always went away. I was her Posser man, and I turned the Mangle for her, but we’d reached a different level, I was grown up and she recognised it,
She lived with Aunty Alice now and she could be a bit terse at times, but I could always accommodate that I understood her, and she didn’t tolerate fools lightly. I went down to the Princess Cinema in Pontefract Lane a couple of years ago, I was saddened to see it was no longer an emporium of entertainment, but a Fish and Chip Shop, The Shepherd Pub was still there, also the Gate that mastered the side entrance to the cheap wooden seats that I had experienced when I queued to see “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was still intact, but there was no Big Earnie or that feeling of excitement that you got when you were taken for a journey into another World where make belief transported you into an illusion of the future…Follow the Yellow Brick Road, We’re off to see the Wizard The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

‘That’s twice you’ve been to the toilet, I’ve got my eye on you, there’s no hanki-panki in here,’ and the beam of his flashlight illuminating you in your seat would bring you back to Earth and hat was why I never spoke to the mysterious   young lady again.

‘Two to beam up Scotty.

Craft Learning

June 1, 2017 by

Audrey Sanderson, our East Leeds lass in Australia, takes us on a journey from Australia back to Ellerby Lane School. Look out for Audrey’s dad’s white knuckle adventure in the lift at Hitchin’s Department Store.
Craft Learning
By Audrey Sanderson.

Don’t you just love the modern language used now for mundane jobs, basic equipment and a million other everyday chores as if it is new and exciting. Have you ever heard of a job called a Replenishing Supply Assembling Operative? My friend was excited as she told me someone she knew had finally got a job. I said it sounded most impressive but what did the job entail. She said she wasn’t quite sure but thought it could be something in an office as the young woman had been an accountant before getting married. Again I said Assembling seemed to indicate putting something together. I reminded her anything on an assembly line in the 50s was usually in a factory on a conveyor belt and covered heaps of jobs from engineering to putting chocolates into boxes. I asked where the place of employment was. She said it was an evening job at a supermarket. I debated whether to tell her what the job was. It’s a necessity but not a glamorous job. Thought I’d better put her straight before she started bragging to her other friends what the ladies job was.
It’s a person who restocks supermarket shelves after the store has closed. In Australia they used to be called Night Fillers and lots of people did it to earn extra cash. It got me thinking of new fancy names they now use. A garbologist – person who empties garbage bins. A Landscape Creator is a gardener most people pay to cut the lawn. A dustbuster is a vacuum cleaner. Every kind of mechanic and tradesman is called a technician. I had a cleaning business with many employees many years ago, I was a cleaner. Now I would advertise as a professional cleaning operative. I mentioned something about a Blue Collar worker to someone a while back. They actually thought it was a bunch of workers who wore blue collars on their uniforms.
Political correctness in all sorts of things has me baffled. A man hole in the road is still a man hole no matter what the new name for it is called. A chairman of a group is not a chair person. A prime minister is still a P.M. whether it be a man or a woman so why should other titles be altered because some nut can’t tell the difference between a man or a woman. Which brings me to what now in the 21st. century is classed as ancient.

I felt as old as Methuselah after reading an article on reviving ancient arts. Upon reading it found out it was the ancient practice of hand knitting articles you can actually wear.
It amused all the ladies of a Knit for Charity group I organise. US! Ancient! How dare they. Just because our oldest member is a lady approaching her 97 birthday and obvious to all she is more active than some women a fraction of her age belies the tag of ancient in any way shape or form.
Feathers were not ruffled as we all laughed at the notion of actually wearing something that had been hand knitted as the writer of the article suggested it was a novelty revived from a forgotten age.
At Ellerby Lane school knitting was taught to girls from the age of around 6-7 years old. Parents had to supply a pair of plastic knitting needles and a ball of wool for their daughter. Miss ????? taught the class I was in. It wouldn’t be fair to name the lady as my description of her to my Dad was from an innocent child who observed peoples mannerisms. She was a thin lady and to us young kids we thought she was as old as our grand mothers. On reflection she would probably have been in her 40s but she didn’t dress in the height of fashion or wear any makeup. In the course of the year I was in her class she asked various ones what their fathers did to earn a living. My Dad had been wounded in WW1 and was employed as a lift operator in Hitchin’s department store which was situated in Briggate opposite Marks and Spencers. He wore a uniform with brass buttons which he polished every night along with his black shiny surgical boots and was very proud of the job he did. He called out what each floor supplied as the lift transported customers up and down to each level. A prelude to the T.V. show ‘ Are you being served ‘ many years later.
He arrived home at his usual time of 6:30 p.m. one night and before taking his coat off said a lady had rode up and down in his lift several times before chatting to him. Instantly Mum wanted to know who the woman was, what she’d said and what did she look like.
He said she was an odd sort of lady and was probably younger than what she looked but she had been very nicely spoken and said all sorts of interesting things. He’d hung up his coat and sat at the table. Mum banged his dinner plate in front of him and demanded to know what the woman has said. He said he would finish his dinner and then he would tell us.
Dad didn’t usually act that way but it was plain to see he was enjoying every moment. He was smiling to himself all through the meal and mum was furious. My brothers and I ate up quicker than normal, all eager to hear about Dad’s secret woman. Mum had a face like thunder ” WELL ” she demanded as soon as Dad had eaten the last mouthful.
He made the tale spin out saying it was a day like any other. How the lady had rode up and down in the lift twice and not got out on any of the floors. No security guards back then and sometimes especially in the colder months now and again unfortunate members of the public who had a mental disorder would wander round large department stores where it was warm. They never bought anything nor did they try to steal anything they just wandered around looking at things. They were well know to the staff and so long as they didn’t annoy any of the shoppers they were free to move about the store. If they were the worse for drink or really did need a bath they were soon escorted out of the building and onto the pavement.
Dad described what the lady was wearing and how she kept taking off and putting back on her gloves before she spoke to him. My Dad was a perfect gentleman and always polite to everyone. He said he thought she might have been an old lady who was getting forgetful. We’d never heard the words Dementia or Alzheimer. If you had white hair, couldn’t remember certain things the rellies said you were getting senile. My Dad was more polite, he took everything in his stride and never got flustered about anything.
He asked Madam if she was looking for something special and maybe he could tell her which floor level it was on. She fidgeted some more with her gloves as people were leaving and entering the lift. This went on until there was only Dad and the mystery woman alone in the lift. To us kids the tension in the room was like listening to a radio play. The atmosphere to Mum was like a red rag to a bull, she was on the point of yelling her head off or smashing the table with her fist.
Dad said, ” You’ll never guess who it was ” he looked at us 3 kids. We thought it was somebody famous like Vera Lynn or Gracie Fields. ” NO,” he laughed ” It’s someone one of you three know very well ” We didn’t know anyone famous.
Mum started yelling ” For God’s sake who the hell was it?
Smugly Dad said, “It was one of your teachers”
Straight away Mum asked Alan, my eldest brother what he’d been up to at school. Standard reply from him ” Nuthinn ”
She started to rant ” If you’ve been getting up to no good you’ll be getting a what for I can tell you ” ‘A what for ‘ could mean anything from a clip round the ear, a thump from her fist or a belting with Dads razor strop.
As calm as anything Dad told her to leave him alone and why did she always think he was up to no good the minute he was out of her sight.
He said to Norman, the youngest one of us three ” What about you, have you been doing anything naughty?”
Immediately Mum jumped to his defence “It wasn’t him, leave him alone, he never does anything to be ashamed of, do you “she said as she faced Norman. He shook his curly head but looked apprehensive at Dad. A sort of look any young kid has if he thinks he’s been found out on some misdemeanour or lie he’s told. How much trouble can a five year old get into that would warrant a visit from the school teacher?
Dad looked at me. I was one of the quietest kids in the school what had I done wrong? Dad said it was my school teacher who had been to see him but he forgot what her name was.
Mum grabbed hold of my shoulder and started yelling asking what I’d done to bring shame on the family. The only thing I could remember getting wrong that day was spelling the word Tyres wrong in the spelling bee. My surname was Tyers and that’s how I’d spelt the word meaning car tyres. It was hardly bringing shame on the family when we all had the same surname. Dad told mum to sit down and WHY didn’t she shut up and listen for a change instead of thinking Alan and me were always doing things to annoy her. Always wanting the last word she said because we always did something we weren’t supposed to be doing. Looking back on it I think breathing must have been on the top of her list. It didn’t faze either of us as we grew up with the same sense of humour Dad had and we both found something to laugh at in most situations.
Dad asked the name of my teacher and what she looked like. In all my innocence I said she always wore a twin set and flared skirt. A twin set being a short sleeved jumper with a matching long sleeved cardigan of the same colour and design. She wore wedge heeled brown shoes and she didn’t wear lipstick. Her hair was grey and she combed it into a bun at the back of her neck and she wore glasses. Dad said it sounded a bit like the lady who had spoken to him.
Mum wanted to know what she’s said and why did she go to see him where he worked. He had a big smile on his face and said “She came to tell me I had a very intelligent daughter who was a pleasure to teach.”
Mum’s jaw dropped “What else did she say? There must have been something else or she wouldn’t have wasted her time searching you out to tell you that. Teachers only want to talk to parents if the child has done something wrong. ”
He said, “Well this one didn’t. She said our Audrey was eager to learn and quick at picking things up and she was far advanced than a lot of kids in her class. ”
Mum wasn’t convinced and asked me if there was another girl in my class called Audrey.
My Christian name wasn’t very popular back then, I don’t think there was any other girl in the school called Audrey. Plenty of Jean’s, Joan’s, Barbara, June, Brenda, Pauline’s. I think those names were also film stars names of the 30s and 40s.
Dad asked he if she wasn’t proud her daughter was doing well at school and pleased the teacher had taken the trouble to find out where he worked to tell him how clever I was.
My turn to be pounced again “Why did you tell her where your Dad worked? What did she want to know for? “I said she’d had asked plenty of the other kids as well. She asked if Miss???? had been to see the other kids’ fathers. I said I didn’t know. She told me to ask them.
Asking a quiet kid who never said boo to a goose to go around the class asking if Miss ??? had visited their fathers was asking to be singled out for all the kids in the school to want to know why. I said I wouldn’t do it. Pounce, Pounce again she yelled “You’ll do as I tell you or get a what for “I was close to tears at the thought of having to ask the other kids. I knew I’d have to do it or cop a belting from her.
Dad said quietly to mum “Why don’t you go and ask Miss whatever her name is why she came to tell me and at the same time you could ask if she’s been to see any of the other fathers. It might also be a good idea to thank her for taking so much interest in her pupils and telling parents how their child was doing at school.” Mum was good at giving looks that would freeze hell over but said nothing.
I’m sure Dad was also intrigued to know if other fathers had been contacted and if not why was he the only one.
He asked again if there was anything unusual about Miss ??? he should have noticed so he would be able to spot her if she ever came into his lift at the store again. I asked what sort of thing was unusual. He said some people do things when they are nervous and Miss ??? had taken off and put back on her gloves a dozen times before speaking to him. Had I seen Miss ??? do anything when she thought no one was looking.
I giggled. He waited and I giggled again. He asked again what she had done. I said some of the girls in the class said Miss ??? is always looking at herself when she thinks no one can see her. He said he didn’t know classrooms had mirrors in them. I said they didn’t and she looked down at herself. He asked a lot of questions, did she mumble to herself? Did she laugh out loud for no reason? Did she stare and look as if she was day dreaming? I said no she didn’t do anything like that but she knew what everyone in the class was doing even if she had her back to them.

He asked me to show him how she looked when she was looking at herself. I felt silly having to show him in front of my mum and brothers. Never the less I stood up looked down at my chest, hitched some imaginary thing on both shoulders, looked at my chest again and smiled. Said “If you see somebody doing that Dad it will be her ” Alan let out a laugh that the whole street must have heard. Dad said not to let Miss ??? see us giggling and Mum said ” What do you expect, she’s a spinster. And you’d better tell me if she comes visiting you at work again and I’ll have something to say to her ” I never knew why Alan had laughed so loud and hoped Miss ??? never went into Hitchin’s store again because I didn’t want Mum to come to the school and shout at my teacher. I didn’t know what a spinster was either so looked it up in the dictionary. That’s what you do when you’re a quiet kid. Try to find out answers yourself before asking anyone and risk getting laughed at because you don’t know. So, Miss ??? Wasn’t married. I knew that because she was called Miss instead of Missus. Why did anyone laugh at the word spinster? It wasn’t until a few years later and Miss ??? had left the school I realised what she’d been hitching up and why she’d been looking at her chest and I felt sad for giggling at my spinster teacher who’d had a crush on my Dad.
Dad never mentioned the episode again but Mum asked frequently if anyone interesting had been in his lift. She got annoyed at him the day David Whitfield had been in the store. He’d been to the record shop to sign records of his latest hit. I can’t remember the name of the shop or the name of the street but it was off Briggate higher up than Hitchin’s, between Matthias Robinson’s and the Empire theatre. Every teenager knew it as they had little booths where you could hear the record played before you bought it. He’d also been into Hitchin’s store which was a surprise to all the staff. Dad was not pleased at all the girls stampeding through the place screaming their heads off and told mum she wouldn’t have liked it either. She said she thought David Whitfield was a lovely man and wished she could have seen him. Dad said she was crackers and not a teenager anymore.
Dad never did understand teenagers of any era and although Mum didn’t dress or act like one he didn’t like hearing her singing along with the radio to tunes she found entertaining. She thought Rock around the Clock was a catchy tune until she saw a photo of Bill Haley and wanted to know why an old man like him acted like a teenager.
Who said looks aren’t everything? To my Mum and Dad entertainers had to be perfect in every way. God knows what they would have thought with all the scandals that they reveal now, which everyone is bored with hearing. They do make a lot of money though by dressing up stupid and yelling out words to some sort of electric music.
Is it only me that is becoming like my parents condemning modern music that to me is only a thumping noise? Who cares I still have my old L.P. vinyl records of Count Basie, Sinatra, Tony Benet, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Coniff and heaps of others and an old stereo that plays them nice and loud when all my neighbours are at work.
Still a teenager of my era when it comes to ballads that meant something and you could hear every word….and still knitting items you can wear, only these days I give them to others in need.

Great tale Audrey

The Poltergeists of Old East Leeds

May 1, 2017 by

The Poltergeists of Old East Leeds
By Eric Sanderson


The very thought of the supernatural invites ridicule from most but for some, the spectre of an apparition from the dead appearing before the living , or unexplained noises & movement of objects is a credible concept or even a realistic experience.
The spiritual aspects of ghosts & poltergeists (noisy ghosts) derives from ancient religious be-
liefs but the paranormal has continued to be the hunting ground of the charlatans of the dark arts by the
Ouija Board exponents, Ectoplasmic illusionists, Hypnotic Seances , Satanic Rites events & the like.
Although apparently inexplicable events are reported, they almost always have a logical expla- nation such as unusual air currents, underground movement, mechanical vibration , geomagnetic activ- ity etc. Research in anamolistic psychology suggests poltergeist activity is most often explained by illusion, memory lapses, wishful thinking as well as delusion & deception.

I recall a few instances from my youth where those involved truly believed that they had wit- nessed an event that convinced them that an attempt had been made to contact them from the “other side”. It has to be said that those involved had a pronounced religious inclination and/or belief in the power of parapsychology. Rather than ghostly apparitions, most involved the belief in Poltergeists & their ability to create physical disturbance such as loud noises & objects being moved or destroyed.
Here are just a few & I also append my own , admittedly sceptical, opinion as to the probable

A friend whose mother had recently died, took to daily placing fresh flowers in a vase in memory of her mother. She claimed she would frequently hear a loud crash , finding the vase knocked over & the flowers strewn over the floor. Being possessed of a strongly evangelical character, she believed this was a signal from her recently deceased mother , displaying her displeasure at what had been a less than happy end to her life.
This continued for some time causing distress to the daughter, extending to increased religious fervour in order to seek atonement.
My own take was that it was the actions of her elderly , mangey tom cat Leonardo ( Fleonardo would have been a more apt name) who wandered off frequently , coming home battle scarred late at night & jumping onto the mantlepiece over the fireplace for warmth & comfort, knocking over the vase in the process. The cat died shortly afterwards & the vase ceased being knocked over but the friend be- lieved that this was because she had shown sufficient contrition & that her mother was now happy on the other side.
If such phenomena exists, I imagine Fleonardo is having a good old laugh at his owner’s expense.

Another example was a family who lived in one of the Railway Cottages on East Park Parade , next to the bridge crossing the railway.. They would claim that they regularly found ornaments , in par- ticular religious ones, had moved from their original placement . They were a family that practised try- ing to contact ancestors through the activities of seances & mediums & were convinced that these movements were attempts to contact them from the other side.
In all probability, it was the vibration & ground shake caused by the outward bound express trains from Leeds as they hurtled from the railway cutting between East Park Rd & Pontefract Lane.

My final example involved a middle aged widow who, late one evening on returning home, claimed that she had been physically picked up & thrown over a privet hedge into a neighbour’s gar- den, suffering a few scratches & bruises & having difficulty in an accurate recollection of the incident.
She publicly attributed this to the ghost of her recently deceased husband, expressing displea- sure at her post mortem lifestyle.
Given that she was a pretty hefty person & that it would have taken superhuman strength to accomplish what she claimed, the more likely explanation was her frequent visits to the Slip Inn Jug & Bottle out- sales being the culprit, inducing hallucinations of her dead husband & causing her to crash through the hedge in a drunken haze.
It may be cynical & I expect many of us have, on occasion, suffered hallucinations as a consequence of over indulgence of the demon drink & if I believed I had a ghost living on my street, then I would certainly try to stay alive & offer it exactly what it wants.
Nonetheless, there remains, over the years, many examples of unexplained events that defy rational explanation & baffling even experienced researchers. All philosophies are, to some extent, nonsense, but some are greater nonsense than others & although such superstitions are patently absurd, if we we’re to retain an open mind, we mustn’t be frightened by absurdities.

So, if you die in a lift, don’t forget to push the “UP” button.

That’s given us food for thought, Eric. Comments on your own paranormal activities welcome

East Leeds to Orkney

April 1, 2017 by

East Leeds to Orkney
This month we are regaled by John’s tale. East Leeds lad now living in Orkney
Here are pictures of the Orkney shore line and John’s cottage in Stronsay The two views are taken from exactly the same spot on the drive ; one facing SE to the sea and the other NW to the house.
permission to drool

Remember to ‘click’ on pictures to enlarge.

‘Memories of East Leeds’ by John Holloway (72)

A year or so ago I stumbled upon a website whilst searching for some obscure information. ‘East Leeds’ suddenly came up, then St Hilda’s School…..The Copperfields…..Cross Green Lane. My eyes lit up. Blimey, I thought, that’s where I used to live over 60 years ago! And I’ve never been back. I read on.
There was more – East End Park, ‘the paddy’, the ‘bug hutch’, ‘the Navvy’ (with its ‘Town Hall Steps’), and Knostrop. That was it – I was hooked. My mind went back to the 1950s – whatever happened to all my mates?

My family lived at 10, Copperfield Avenue in East Leeds and I had a lovely childhood there with my sister Linda – 5 years older than me. Suddenly in the summer of 1954 we were moving – all the way down to Gillingham in Kent. First day at school and disaster struck. I proudly showed all the lads in my class my collection of Cigarette Packets (THE thing to collect in Leeds in those days). Puzzled faces and a distinct lack of interest followed – they all collected matchboxes! Worse was to follow. I took my bag of marbles (taws) to school and searched for the holes in the grassy playing-field – vital for the game. Absolute disaster – no skilful flicking of thumb and forefinger to propel the marbles down there in Kent – they just rolled them along the gutter trying to hit each other’s marble. No skill in that! Nobody had heard of ‘I’m a’needa’ and all the other fineries of the ‘real’ game. As for my much-covetted cigarette card collection – even worse – their game was to throw them down onto the ground one at a time, trying to land their own card on top of the opponents card. Sacrilege! Mine stayed firmly in their sets held together with rubber bands! I wasn’t going to let all those famous racehorses, railway engines, and footballers etc become soiled! Whatever next? Well yes – on top of all that, they called me ‘Scottie’! None of the children knew the Yorkshire accent down there in the ‘deep south’ but I soon succumbed and within a few months I was talking ‘Chathamese’ – the local dialect in that part of the world. I was quickly loosing my ‘Yorkshireness’ – no more ‘corser-edge’ for me! I had arrived in a very different ‘world’ – most of the kids hadn’t even heard of John Charles, and the nearest Town Hall Steps were in front of a big building in Chatham – not in the railway cutting near Copperfield Avenue! In Gillingham I soon discovered that there was a bewildering network of alleyways everywhere, between houses and houses, and gardens and gardens. All I remembered from East Leeds in this respect was the ‘ginnel’ on the way to the butchers shop!


On leaving school I joined the Civil Service as a cartographer but craved a more adventurous outdoor life and after three years took up a job as Lifeguard at the local Swiming Pool in Giilingham which I ran for several years until the threat of closure loomed in the mid-seventies. At 33 and still having a sense of adventure, my wife Sue and I, along with our children, moved to Scotland – one year in Orkney followed by 6 years on Britain’s most isolated populated island – Fair isle – where we ran the shop and had some great experiences – 130mph winds and all! With the closure of the island’s two Lighthouses the shop became unviable and in 1983 we were back in Kent and back at the Swimming Pool for a few years.
The yearning for adventure took over once more when our daughter fell in love with an Orcadian boy during a family holiday, and in 1987 we found ourselves heading back north to Stronsay in Orkney where we have lived ever since, our main source of income until retirement being from our Birdwatching Holiday business and writing & illustrating bird books. But every so often Leeds comes to mind – often precipitated by a good result for Leeds United or the mention of Beeston or the Neville Hill railway sheds.


Going back to Leeds – I just loved school, and one of my first recollections of life in East Leeds is of the small camp-beds we had for a ‘lie-down’ at St Hilda’s School and the ‘Music and Movement’ programme on the radio in the hall which accompanied our late-morning exercises. My class was in the same hall when the death of King George V1 was announced over the air-waves.
But what of the rest of my class? Since leaving Leeds at the age of ten I have heard very little. My parents kept in touch with several neighbours for many years and in my mid-teens they passed on the news that two of my class-mates – Paul Reaney and Peter Bradford – had been given trials with Leeds United FC. I had played goalkeeper for St Hilda’s and was the ‘reserve’ to Paul at the Yorkshire Schools Sports in Roundhay Park where he came 2nd in the sprint (100yds?) two years running. I had often wondered who on earth could possibly have beaten Paul – he was so fast – but many years later I learnt that the Yorkshire age-group champion for those two years was his future team-mate at Leeds Utd – Paul Madeley. (Not surprising they were both brilliant full-backs!).
Others – most of who appear in the class photo attached, were: Freddie Dubber, Ronnie Harvey, and Graham Clarkson who all lived in my street; Gary Foxcroft – who collected autographs and lived in St Hilda’s Place, and Stephen Smart, Wilfred Binns, Raymond Batley, and Peter Robinson who all lived nearby. Kathleen Gale was the ‘top’ girl, but (‘fortunately’ – so my wife Sue says!) I cannot remember the names of any of the other girl’s in the photo. Phew!

Remember those great open backed happy buses? Anyone recognise themselves?

A good part of my out-of-school time was taken up with train-spotting – sitting atop the substantial stone-wall which ran along the railway at East End Park, and occasionally – on Sunday afternoons – sneaking into the Neville Hill shed to admire the engines around the turn-table. We were never sent out! ‘Health and Safety’ was not yet born! I can remember many of the regular engines which went by – Captain Cuttle, Ocean Swell, Geoffrey H Kitson etc. etc., and if the engine was too ‘regular’ we would shout ‘scrap it’ to the driver. The pullman train ‘The Queen of Scots’ was one of our favourites. Two of my pals – Dennis Garside and elder brother John (lived in a shop in ‘the St Hilda’s’) preferred the LMS engines to the LNER engines of Neville Hill, and occasionally we would go across Leeds to Ninevah (?) engine shed to collect train numbers of the LMS region. (Personally, I felt a bit of a traitor!).
Bobby Taylor was a good pal and lived at the farm in Black Road where I spent even more time than at East End Park. When we were not helping on the farm we would hunt for caterpillars among the rhubarb fields and fish in the small ponds nearby. The coaches to the ‘paddy’ railway were parked alongside the farm on Sundays and we would often climb up and sit in the small coaches which took the miners to work during the week. The only engine I can remember was called ‘Dora’ – a small saddle-tank. One of our favourite ‘games’ was to wait outside the farm – where the dustcarts heading for the rubbish tip slowed down – then jump onto the small platform at the back, and jump off again as the cart slowed down to go through the tip gates several hundred yards away! (Health and Safety again!!!). We then had the long walk back to the farm! One day Bobby and I were in one of his fields, messing about at one of the water troughs, I pulled the arm of the float up to let more water into the trough and I must have bent it a bit as when it went back down the water kept on coming into the tank and pretty soon it was flooding over the edges and running down onto the grass. ‘You’ve flooded the world,’ Bobby shouted out and I ran off home as fast as I could as he went back off to his farm. I lay in bed the night worried sick , Bobby’s words kept ringing in my ears – at nine years old I had no idea how the water was going to be stopped, it just kept coming, I really thought ‘I had flooded the world’. First thing next morning I dashed out into the street in panic and looked right, straight down to the field the trough was in (the one further away from Cross Green Lane then the rhubarb field) what a relief all was dry as a bone, although I could not see the trough of course; it was too far away. I had expected the water to be a least up to Cross Green Lane and everywhere eastwards to be underwater, what a relief!
Nearby we often went to watch East Leeds at the cricket ground, and on one occasion, one of my uncles visiting us from London claimed (and did so for many years!) to have caught out the ‘up and coming star’ we had all been told would be opening the batting that day. Well my uncle did catch the ball on the full – but he was well over the boundary among the crowd at the time! It was a six. And the batsman? The future Yorkshire and England star Brian Bolus!

It was almost mandatory to visit the ‘pictures’ at least once a week and I remember the wooden benches in the ‘Bug Hutch’ (in Easy Road?) where it was easy to squeeze in a pal who turned up late, but far more important than watching the ‘flicks’ – as we called them – was our regular Sunday morning trips to the Star Cinema on York Road where there would be a pile of empty cigarette packets from the night before, swept out into the yard. Perfect for us collectors, and we would sometimes find a rare brand – Sobranie, Camel, Lucky Strike etc. etc. which we gathered up eagerly for our collections. The tall padlocked gates to the yard were no obstacle for us!
On Sunday mornings my dad often took me fishing in the ponds (reservoirs?) at Cross Gates – the end of the tram-line, and my mother would take us for walks along the river at Wetherby in the holidays. Temple Newsam was an absolute must for all of the family, especially to see the flowers in Spring. The only other times I ventured out of Leeds – other than holidays and the occasional bus outing – was to go to Aberford with the Cubs for a week-end camp. We all went off – gear and all the boys – in the back of a small open lorry. It was great fun, with one of the lads telling us a short story every evening which always ended in his inimitable phrase – ‘Carbolic Soap to cool you down’. There were the ruins of a stately home close to our camp and it was a big ‘dare’ to go in to see if we could see the Barn Owls said to live in the chimney. Very ‘spooky’! One particular incident which still shines bright and clear in my memory regarding the camps is the time we found a baby Jackdaw which was clearly too young to be out of the nest. It seemed to have no fear of us and I put it on my shoulder (pirate fashion) and proudly marched back to camp to show Akela (the troup leader). Everyone gathered round to look at the bird which promptly turned its back towards my head and relieved itself right into my left ear! I can feel that strange ‘liquid warmth’ to this day!
Back home in Copperfield Avenue – and perhaps the highlight of the year – was the bonfire in the middle of the road on 5th November. Wood was collected for several days beforehand (chumping) and stored in people’s gardens and garden sheds, and the night before the fire (‘MIckey Night’) it had to be guarded throughout the night to prevent it being ‘moved off’ to another bonfire nearby!
Looking back, it is hard to believe that the streets were still lit by Gaslight at the time – and one of our favourite tricks was to kick the cast-iron ‘post’ – opposite No 10 – in order to get the light to come on a few minutes early. It always worked. Weren’t we naughty! Perhaps – but we were certainly happy.

Thanks John and Sue for your great contribution to our East Leeds Memories
Hope to hear from you again soon

John Holloway ‘Castle’ Stronsay Orkney KW172AG Scotland

I would love to hear from any old class-mates from St Hilda’s School