Beware the Cliff Edge

November 1, 2019 by

Beware the Cliff Edge
I hope you will indulge me as this month’s tale is my own regarding retirement and beyond. They talk of the great event milestones in life: Bereavement, Marriage Moving house etc. But there is another to add to the list: retirement. Perhaps this tale might help anyone coming up to retirement?

I’d had many jobs in my working life time and my final job was working for a metropolitan district council who had an obligatory retirement age of sixty-five years. For a while I had been marking down time to retirement like on the demob charts we had in national service and folk would say, you lucky B you’ll soon be able to take it easy and that was my thought too. About five or six weeks before my retirement was due another chap retired from the office and we had ‘a bit of a do’ for him like we always did and off he went and I thought he won’t be coming back to this great office on Monday morning and inside I thought. ‘Oh, I’m glad that’s not me’. From that day I had a sea change in my outlook instead of happily winding those days down I realised I was walking towards a ‘cliff edge’ and each day became a jewel to be savoured. An unreal situation begins to manifest itself as time grows short, you are in the work place but not of its future, instead, you are being persuaded ever so gently towards the cliff edge. Plans are being made of which you are no longer a part, someone else in the twinkling of an eye is absorbing the tasks you previously performed. Nobody ever prepared you for this.

Colleagues who had shared your joys and woes and you theirs are going to be plucked away from you in a frightening finality – no longer will you be privy to tales of the doings of their loved ones, sons and daughters and, oh! No more of those great laughs, the book is going to be slammed shut with an alarming thud. You had never thought before of how much you were going to miss this the old place. Worse is to come, there’s a dawning realization that there is going to be one particular day when the cliff edge will be actually reached and you will have to say goodbye to all these great mates with an element of composure and walk out of the door for the last time, a daunting prospect and as that day approached it made me feel quite ill. They had a bit of a do for me too and I had to give a speech and lay a ‘bun fight’ on for them, then while they were all still tucking in I slipped my pass and keys on the table and slipped out of the building for ever before I blubbed in front of them all, I couldn’t have faced having to shake hands with them all.

When I arrived home Brenda, my wife, could see I was bit upset and she said I have just seen Stuart he’s just retired too, I asked him how long it took him to get over it and she said, he thought for a bit and then said. ‘Oh About an hour.’ So that brightened me up a bit. It was coming up to Christmas 2002 and on the first Monday of my retirement I took to the canal bank it was a fine morning and all the crush of weekend walkers was over and I virtually had the bank to myself. So I walked along the canal bank thinking I’m a parasite on society now and wondering what I could do in my retirement. (No, I didn’t contemplate jumping in). So I walked and walked, I have a pedometer and when I got home I found I had walked six miles and enjoyed it. This isn’t so bad I thought I can walk everyday and so I did I walked twenty miles the first week and I thought I can do better than this so I walked thirty miles the next week and then forty and even fifty and I thought fifty seems a bit too much but perhaps I can maintain forty miles each week and see how far the gets me. So on the first week in 2003 I started walking forty miles every week and I kept a record and I thought I bet I can walk 10,000 miles like this at forty miles a week and I did it took me four and a half years. There was a contemporary record out that had the lines, ‘I have walked 5,000 miles and I can walk 5,000 more.’ So Brenda bought me a tee shirt which had printed on it; ‘I have walked 10,000 miles and I can walk 10.000 more’ Of course I daren’t wear it.

We had fallen into a quite indolent life style in that convivial office and we’d take any excuse: Someone’s birthday, someone becoming a grandparent and we would all celebrate with buns or sausage rolls. The walking helped to take off the four stone off I had put on in the office and got my blood pressure, which had been high, back to normal, within a year of me starting to walk.

So, I had well and truly got the walking bug, though I did get a bit obsessive on the days when for some reason I could not get out and do my six miles and I would make it up by walking more on others days. Even when I was away on holiday I would manage to take time out to get my six miles in. So, after achieving the 10,000 mile goal I though what can I do next? I found out that it was 24,901 miles around the Earth at the equator, so I thought is it possible for me to do that? (I counted in the 10,000 miles I had already done of course). I put a map of the world up on the wall and drew a red line around the equator. I kept a record of my mileage each day and where I would be if I was actually walking around the world properly I marked it off on the red line after I had completed each 1,000 miles (see Pic). Folk knew what I was doing and asked where are you now? and I would say I’m in Brazil etc. As the pacific is nearly 7,000 miles at the equator I was in there for nearly four years and folk would say are you still in the pacific and I would say yes, and my boots are beginning to leak ha-ha.. So, like Forrest Gump I walked and walked but like Howard in ‘Last of The Summer Wine,’ I had to be home for tea.

Daily walks record.
I completed the circumnavigation on American Independence day (4h of July) 2014 it had taken me eleven years and a bit, approximately 4,150 straight days at six miles a day. I had worn out four pedometers and a pair of boots a year I considered as the boots had a year’s guarantee on them and I hadn’t had them a year yet taking them back and saying look these boots are still under guarantee and they have worn out, of course I wouldn’t tell them they had walked 2,000 miles and of course I never did anyway. I completed did all the walks around West and North Yorkshire and I was always home for tea but I did have a few adventures, I got chased by a few bulls, fell in a few bogs, got caught up in a bit of barbed wire and once found a dead body but otherwise I was unharmed. I managed to walk the ‘Wakefield Way’ once and the ‘Leeds Country Way’ twice. These ‘Country Ways’ are a great starting point for any potential walking plan, the local councils have produced leaflets outlining the maps and dividing the walks up into ‘bite size’ walks with starting parking areas or bus routes for the none drivers. I can thoroughly recommend the ‘Country Ways’ and you get to see bits of the local area you hardly knew.. The ‘Maenwood Valley Trail’ is another fine hike if you live in the Leeds Area. I suppose I was lucky in seemingly having durable joints. Once or twice I thought a knee or an ankle was starting to fail but apologies to those with knee problems, I seemed to be able to walk through it

So did I pack up after completing the world trip? Nah, I’m still walking I have slowed down a bit but I have now done 34.700 miles since retirement. Have I got another milestone in mind? Well there is Earth to the moon but that’s 240,000 miles I don’t think I have enough time left for that. But seriously, for anyone coming up to retirement and at a loose end for something to do why not contemplate walking around the world frorm home? It improved my health and my wellbeing and you can always be home in time for tea.

I drew a red line along the equator

Wendy’s Poem

October 14, 2019 by

Mrs. Wendy Carew, East Leeds lass now living in Australia has found this poem

which seems appropriate to this weeks tale.

Wendy says not my poem but thought you might lke it.

Back in the days of tanners and bobs,
When Mothers had patience and Fathers had jobs.
When football team families wore hand me down shoes, And T.V gave only two channels to choose.

Back in the days of three penny bits,
when schools employed nurses to search for your nits.
When snowballs were harmless; ice slides were permitted and all of your jumpers were warm and hand knitted.

Back in the days of hot ginger beers,
when children remained so for more than six years.
When children respected what older folks said, and pot was a thing you kept under your bed.

Back in the days of Listen with Mother, when neighbours were friendly and talked to each other.
When cars were so rare you could play in the street.
When Doctors made house calls and Police walked the beat.

Back in the days of Milligan’s Goons,
when butter was butter and songs all had tunes.
It was dumplings for dinner and trifle for tea, and your annual break was a day by the sea.

Back in the days of Dixon’s Dock Green, Crackerjack pens and Lyons ice cream.
When children could freely wear National Health glasses, and teachers all stood at the FRONT of their classes.

Back in the days of rocking and reeling, when mobiles were things that you hung from the ceiling. When woodwork and pottery got taught in schools, and everyone dreamed of a win on the pools.

Back in the days when I was a lad,
I can’t help but smile for the fun that I had.
Hopscotch and roller skates; snowballs to lob.
Back in the days of tanners and bobs.


So Much Change in a Single Lifetime

October 1, 2019 by

Before this month’s tale an announcement: This year’s East Leeds Old Codger’s Reunion will be held at the Edmund House Club, Pontefract Lane, Leeds 9 from noon, on Tuesday 5th Nov 2019. Light refreshments will be available. All welcome.

If we are lucky enough to look back on a decent life span we cannot fail to notice the significant changes that have taken place.

Taking the changes that took place in my father’s lifetime: he was born in 1903 before man had powered flight and lived to see man fly to the moon!

Now, to consider our own generation: those babies born just prior to World War Two, the war babies themselves and the so called ‘baby boomers’, which were born when the heroes came home. I’ll try not to be judgemental and not even tackle bourgeoning inflation – the spiralling cost of things, which goes without saying and is perpetual. I consider, we who fall into those groups, to have been the luckiest of all the generations, although, it has tagged off a bit towards the end – more of that later. We were born into a god fearing society who told us that the world was created in seven days and Adam and Eve arrived fully formed without any evolution. Oh! And Eve was made out of Adam’s rib. Now the favoured view seems to be that we started off as single cell pond life. Quite a leap!
The war was, over Britain was broke but on the up. We left school at 14/15/16. And there were jobs for everyone. By the time modern youths are leaving Uni with a mountainous debt – you could have established yourself in a career and be on the housing ladder if you chose. Social accommodation was also available as they were still building council houses. Now large percentages of modern youth, although better educated than we, find it a monumental task to get on the housing ladder without a helping hand from our generation.
The population was mostly indigenous and there were few beggars. I cannot ever recall seeing folk sleeping rough on the streets, and never a food bank. Your mam took you to school on the first day thereafter you went on your own there was no ‘Chelsea tractor’ school runs. When your teacher pinned the world map up on the blackboard it was coloured predominantly in the red of the empire the Victorians won for us and we were proud. The Victorians set a high world platform for us that we have found impossible to maintain. Now colonialism is a dirty word and we are told we shouldn’t have been in those countries at all!
When they played God save the king/queen we stood to attention. We had capital punishment, hanging and corporal punishment – the cane. We did our courting around mellow street gas lamps (you could kick them to make them come on). The streets were mainly cobbled and the loos outside or down the yard. Now new houses have to have two loos at least and often more on-suite. We went to work or leisure in good old tramcars and our lovely red telephone boxes have given way to mobile smart phones and the sci-fi skype. When you looked up into the sky you saw spitfires, hurricanes and Lancaster bombers now you only see vapour trails.
In May 1953 – the same year as the coronation, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzzing, were the first men ever to conquer Mount Everest. It was seen as the ultimate achievement. In a recent picture published in the papers it could be seen that hundreds of people were queueing up to take their turn to stand on the summit. What happened there?

In 1954 Roger Bannister nearly expired after falling through the tape to break the four minute mile. Now they are doing in in 3 minutes 43 seconds! You were a big lad at school if you were in the top half of the five foots but that makes you a midget among metropolitan youth of today who are usually well over six foot. We were happy to have a holiday in Blackpool, now they go inter-continental.
Our generation was lucky enough to be the first to experience the new emerging ‘youth culture’ mainly imported from America but we saw the demise of many of our beloved places: the back street boozers, charabanc trips, local cinemas, local primary schools, red telephone boxes, friendly chatting on the doorstep, the demise of our beloved High Street department stores: Lewis’s, Schofield’s, Marshall and Snelgroves and Woolworths where you could buy your mam a birthday present with your pocket money. Taws and conkers have given way to electronic games, plastic, once hailed as the wonder material is now demonised as destroying the planet. Smoking, once the height of sophistication, especially on the cinema screen is now banned in most public spaces. Pints and pounds gave way to litres and kilos to suit the Europeans but America stayed true to imperial, bless ‘em. Things that came and went: National Service. If it came back today I wonder what percentage of the population would manage be ‘conscientious objectors’? And of course in the world of equal opportunity females would have to be conscripted too! For we in East Leeds there were a few places came and went too; Skelton Grange Power Station, Cross Green/ Copperfield’s School, built in the fifties gone already, Quarry Hill and to Leek Street flats gone too. But we enjoyed the football World Cup win in 1966, The Rugby Union World Cup win in 2003, the 1948 and particularly the 2012 Olympics and of course the Last Night of the Proms every year. Britain knows still how to put on a show!
The upside is medicine has improved, we still have the NHS (just) and generally we are living longer although we do inevitably lose good old friends along the way, We have social media I can send this ‘blog’ in the blinking of an eye for anyone around the world to read if they should wish. I like Alexa she can make bird song and sounds of the sea which sooths me. I’m quite proud that we have a tolerant metropolitan society and that people from all around the world are willing to risk great dangers to come and live here in spite of Brexit but I can’t help but think it is a less friendly place that we leave than that we entered. Surveillance is everywhere – like in Orwell’s 1984 ‘big Brother is watching us’. Live facial recognition, clip a bus lane and it’s a £60 fine similarly if you get caught in the yellow Hatching or just drop someone off where you shouldn’t or tarry too long on a meter or park where you shouldn’t and you would think you had committed a capital crime Then there is the congestion charges, emission fines, £75 if you are caught daring to feed the pigeons. The penalty always seems to far outstrip the crime. Fighting, knife crime and terrorism is ongoing all over the world and poverty and opulence exists side by side. Political correctness, ‘elf and safety, traffic wardens, yellow lines and carbon footprints, request for the public to nark to the police, sixty quid if you take your kid out of school for a holiday. It’s OK now to be gay, lesbian or trans gender, which is fine but if you touched somebody’s leg twenty years ago you had better look out!  Now I hear the courts are reviewing eighty laws as the sentences are too lenient!, no doubt all brought in with good intensions and no doubt are warranted, but it does tend to make life less fun and unfortunately, accelerating I.T. goes too fast for us geriatrics to keep up, and Oh! VAR and The Irish Backstop!

I keep finding more things to moan about. So Scotty, beam me back to the more friendly society of the fifties and a bit of decent music.

The ABC Houses

September 1, 2019 by

As life accelerates beyond four score years and no one seems interested in writing an account of a lovely disappeared community and place you come to the realization that you must do it yourself or it otherwise it might not get done at all. Such a community and place is the ABC Houses and its community at Knostrop.
I used to think of those folk who lived in that single row of terrace houses in lower rural Knostrop (proper name Knostrop Terrace) as very lucky, slightly cut off from the rest of us they seemed to enjoy a more exciting life style, especially the kids. When the whole of Knostrop, which was part of the Lord Halifax Temple Newsam estate, was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Cross Green Industrial Estate I feared those folk from the ABC Houses in particular, plucked from their rural idyll would find it hard to settle, if they were cemented in with us in those well-loved but definitely urban streets of Cross Green, Richmond Hill or East End Park.
As a Knostrop lad myself from half way down Knostrop – Jaw Bone Yard – I would think how lucky my mates were from further down the road in the ABC houses to live in such a rural idyll. By the way we never did have a convincing answer as to why they were called the ABC Houses, the dozen or so houses were numbered numerically in the normal manner not alphabetically and they were originally built for workers at the sewage works and their families. The idea was formatted that ABC stood for: alum, blood and charcoal, which were the three constituents in the treatment of sewage but that somehow seems a bit unlikely. The houses had gardens at the front but no bathrooms apart from the two houses at each end which were slightly larger and housed the manager and the foreman. The toilets were outside in the back yards and the houses ran on gas until electricity arrived in the late fifties, shortly before their demolition.
They were never on a bus route and it was a long walk to the shops in fact sometimes adults sent kids for bits and pieces over the rickety paddy bridge and across the locks to Stourton. It was a penny to cross the locks so kids would dangerously climb up onto the huge railway bridge (the swing bridge that never swung) and kept the penny for the lock man for sweets. Having said all that, it was an absolute paradise playground for kids. I haven’t a picture of the ABC Houses but I have drawn a sketch of where they used to be.

there were seven of us lived in Jaw Bone Yard or there about which was a little higher up Knostrop Lane and we had the luxury of a big soil compacted farm yard where we could play football and cricket so the ABC kids would come up and have a game with us and then we would travel down the country Knostrop Lane to their magic habitat where they had everything kids could ever hope for. There were two plantations which we called the first wood and the second wood, the ABC kids could shin up those trees like monkeys and we were allowed to cut the dead trees down when we were chumping for bonfire night. They had the ‘Red Hills’ to clamber about on, these were the red shale residue from worked out coal mines, there was even an old mine shaft (Dam Pit) which was brick lined and filled up to about five feet from the top and there was a bit of residue pit head gear we dangerously played about in there unknowing that the shaft had only been capped off in timber which was probably now rotting. There were abandoned rail trucks on a siding line another playground for us and an abandoned prisoner of war camp which had held German and Italian prisoners. After they had left and until they pulled them down this was another source of our adventures. There were also the remains of a tank testing bath and the remains of the facilities of a barrage balloon and ack ack battery. There was a pond to catch tadpoles and sticklebacks and a bigger pond near the pig farm to fish for roach and perch with the traditional bent pin on a hook. The kids from the ABC Houses were more proficient at all these pursuits than us but less palatable for me were their ventures into ratting, rabbiting with their dogs and bird nesting but of course you kept that under your hat if you wanted to keep the salubrious relationship. We would just drift off around that vast area without any particular plan in mind and just have a great adventure wherever our feet took us; we were completely free to roam.
You could also nip across the old disused ‘Paddy’ bridge or cross the weir itself to the enigmatic Dandy Island with its putty mill and the mysterious Dandy Row. Who lived there where did their kids go to school? The kids from the ABC Houses and the farm cottages beyond had to make the long trek up to the same schools as we used, St Hilda’s, Ellerby Lane and Mount St Mary’s They usually rode their bikes up to the top of Knostrop Hill and then left them in a mate’s back yards. As there weren’t any school dinners until the late forties/early fifties they had to go home all that way and back again for their dinners, the teachers used to let them go early so they could get back for the afternoon session in time. But the Dandy Row kids would probably have to somehow cross the river?

It was a long way to the Easy Road picture house but probably safer to walk the long distance than to cross the river by the rickety bridge and the locks to Hunslet and go to the Regal or the Strand especially in the dark?
There was a narrow gauge railway for use of the works and sometimes a bogey would be left on the line and we would set it going and have a ride on it;

The sewage workers were quite tolerant of us in their little brick built pumping houses with sloping tiled roofs for all the world masquerading as cottages. In some of the fields where horses grazed you could pick wild mushroom they always smelt better than the cultivated mushroom you can buy today and ‘tusky’ wild rhubarb was liberally at hand if you were brave enough to take it without sugar.
There were a couple of farms and the farm cottages further before you reached Newsam Green. Skelton Grange Farm was a Leeds Corporation farm but they all had to make way for the Skelton Grange Power Station which has now been and gone but left us with the dangerous ‘sludge lagoons – wicked places which just had a white crust covering dep metres of black water, someone once, unthinkingly, threw a stone in there and my dog chased after it just managing to return before the ‘lagoon’ swallowed him up. So the area was not without its dangers: the sludge lagoons, Dam pit, the works settling tanks and the weir which was somehow controllable and there could by a surge of water when you were half way across. At just about our furthest limit to our adventures was the ruins of Thorpe Stapleton Hall habitat of owls and of great antiquity having been built in the 14th century in the time of King Edward the First perhaps the oldest building in Leeds but I have looked for it recently and all trace is gone. We would play a chasing game which took in all this vast area,

On the face of it the whole of our adventure expanse was rural but in fact Mother Nature had reclaimed it back after the Victorians had ravaged the land. All was green now but it was an industrial archaeologists dream, bits of industrial heritage were to be found everywhere as the area had once had at least seven pits, miles of wagon ways an iron works and the marvellously disappeared pit village of ‘Waterlooville’ the remnants of which I have sought for years.
They used to say that they couldn’t build on the area of our adventures as the land was undermined and liable to subsidence but they must have found a way of getting over that now, buildings abound, the sewage works now called: The Water Treatment facility has doubled in size. The workers there now are not as friendly as their predecessors and will stop entry, everywhere there are fences. You can see the Red hills through the fencing although they now look greyer than red and happily the two plantations still survive but look a bit scraggy. But as a place of adventure that is long gone and just a memory as long as we dwindling few exist, then no one will ever realize what a great place this used to be.
With the help of my good friend, the sadly recently departed, Eric Allen, we have compiled a list of the residents we remember as living in the ABC Houses in the 1940s/50s. His mother, Lucy, was a Dobson and lived in the ABC Houses before she married
Knostrop Terrace
(The ABC Houses) Family Name Children’s names dogs
Harrison Denis/Brenda Laddie
Miss Barmfirth/Ainsworth
Linley Denis
Sedgewick Bill/Harold Trixie
Through the gates
Proctor Lizzie

Skelton Granger Farm Jameson George
Blower Sheila
Farm Cottages Fox Alan
Hewitt Barbara
Other Farms Austin

The Old Corner Shops

August 1, 2019 by

The Old Corner Shops.
By Eddie Blackwell
Shopping is it any wonder I dislike it today, it’s just not as it was in the days of the old corner shop. You were recognised by the shopkeeper as a customer a person with a life, not a plastic bag on a conveyor passing through the checkout, or £’s going through the computer as fast as they can because their primary function is to take your money as quickly as possible. The corner shopkeeper would know your likes and dislikes, and they’d always stock things that they knew you’d want to buy, none of this psychological selling, placing the most popular brands on the top and bottom shelves where it’s awkward, in the hope that you’ll take the easiest ones to reach which are the ones they want to sell you, and placing pallets of goods at the ends of the isles to block you in like sheep thinking you’ll buy more goods because you take longer to get through. If you really want everything in one store, furniture clothes hardware etc you can always go online. I have to tolerate it because that’s the way it is today, the big International Companies squeezing out the corner shops, with their bulk purchasing power, but it’s our fault because we support them it’s our money their taking, and where do the profits go not back into UK pockets that’s for sure. When you add up the time that we spend shopping during our lives it amounts quite a bit. My feeling is if I must spend that much time at least it should be doing something I like. Here’s a few memories of when shopping was very different than it is today.
Mrs Fenton’s half way up Devon Street was the first corner shop that I remember, she sold groceries, provisions and potatoes, and she kept cats which I couldn’t understand at the time, because they obviously peed on the potatoes you could smell it when you went into the shop. I was born in Devon Street about 100 yards from the shop, we lived at No 29 and the shop was No 41 which due to a bend in the street, made it at right angles to our house, There was a connecting door to No 43 which was where Mrs Fenton and her family lived. This was during WW2 and rationing was in force, you had to register your Ration books with a selected supplier, Mrs Fenton was ours for everyday groceries. There were hardly any motor cars on the roads, although Mrs Fenton’s daughter’s boyfriend had one that was powered by producer gas, and had a big rectangular bag on the roof of the car that was filled with gas from the street lamps (in hind sight that must have been illegal), but it was a gravity feed to the engine, we spent hours pushing him up and down trying to get it started but usually to no avail, it need a pump to feed into the gas into the engine, even as small boys we realised the problem, but this guy was oblivious to the advice we gave him, we threw a few bricks onto the top of the bag, and the engine fired two or three times. He walked with a limp supposedly from a mining accident down the pit, but he always seemed to run without limping when his car wouldn’t start.
As you can imagine from a very early age I was sent to get this or that as and when we needed it, Mum had a tick book (sometimes called a slate) that she paid every week, it was the way in those days, people never had much money and were always waiting for their weekly pay packet, on Thursdays or Fridays. Obviously being a small boy I became friendly with Mrs Fenton over the years, and I remember one year I think I was about five, Mum said I was to have a scooter for Christmas, and my older sister who used to send me up would say, go to Mrs Fenton’s on your (imaginary) new scooter, and get some sugar or whatever, but be careful on the road and make sure nobody steals the scooter whilst your in the shop. Off I went all excited on my pretend scooter, placed it neatly by the shop window and went into the shop there was a queue, with Mrs Fenton gabbing away to the customers, and I would pop outside to check the imaginary scooter was still there. Eventually Mrs Fenton said what are you doing Edward your in and out like a fiddlers elbow, I’m watching to see that nobodies pinched my scooter I replied, well she lifted the hinged counter and came outside with me, and said I can’t see a scooter there Edward, I know I said but I’m getting one for Christmas and I’m just practicing for when I get it. Well they all burst out Laughing in the shop and thought it hilarious. They played some awful tricks on me when I was little, but I did indeed get the scooter that Christmas, it was a handmade wooden affair made by some one who lived behind the old Slip Inn, the wheels were a bit on the big side but I eventually I grew into it.
I recall each week Mum would get the book and add up all the shillings pennies and half pennies to see how much she owed, which she found a bit laborious (no electronic calculators then), sometimes she would make the total less than Mrs Fenton, but usually ended up paying it anyway, she new figures were not her forte. As I got older 9/10 I was doing quite well at school and I found numbers to be my best subject, and I’d take the book add up the weeks shopping and go with my Mum when she went to pay the bill, occasionally Mrs Fenton would find it more than the book total, but instead of just paying thinking she was wrong Mum would say add this up Edward, and I’d go through it page by page adding in my head, suddenly the boot was on the other foot, and It was Mrs Fenton that had to capitulate. She’d say I hate adding up the books, you could come and do this for me every week Edward. We still got our weekly shopping from Mrs Fenton for two or three years after we moved, I had a 27 inch diameter two wheeler bike now, a Magenta coloured Dawes with drop handle bars and alloy rimmed wheels, and I would ride down collect the shopping and Mum would call in on her way home on Fridays to settle the account. After food rationing ended in 1954 we found it was easier to shop locally and slowly stopped using Mrs Fenton’s.
I remember another shopping incident when I was about 8/9 rationing was still on, it would go around the area if one of the local shops had special goods for sale like Chocolate Biscuits which were on ration, well one such occasion occurred. It was a grocery on Temple View Road almost opposite Knight’s Fish and Chip shop, the name eludes me for the moment, I’ll most likely remember it when I’m driving in the car. It was a Saturday morning and Mum said, take this ten-shilling note and the ration book up to was it Crowther’s, and ask if you can have half a pound of Chocolate Biscuits please, and then you can go to the ABC Minors which starts at twelve o’clock. Great I thought I’ll run and be back in plenty of time to get to the Shaftsbury Cinema, a Flash Gordon Special was on that day that I wanted to see. I arrived at the shop, waited my turn, asked politely for the Chocolate Biscuits, handed over the ration book with the ten shilling note on top the lady opened the ration book cut out the coupons weighed out the biscuits and said that’s one shilling and three pence please( I don’t remember the exact amount), I gave you a ten shilling note with the ration book I said, well it’s not here son perhaps you’ve left it at home, I’ll save these for you until you come back. I was home like a shot I new this was trouble with a capital “T”, Mum went absolutely bonkers, the monies not here you took it with the ration book, she walked me back to the shop the way I’d gone, we looked in every nook and cranny, but the money was not there. Eventually we went into the shop, and the Lady said hello you’re the little boy that came in earlier for the Chocolate Biscuits, I found your money it must have fallen on the floor when I opened the Ration Book, here’s your biscuits and there’s your ration book and your change. What a relief ten shillings in those days was a lot of money, but I still wasn’t out of the woods. You’re not going to the ABC Minors Mum said, that’s not fair it wasn’t my fault Mum, possibly not, but you were given the responsibility, and you’ll make sure it doesn’t happen in future. Sometimes you learn the hard way, and this was one of those occasions. I was grounded for a week.
In those days you could find a corner shop that would sell or provide anything you could ever want, “Manchester House”, had a shop in Pontefract Lane, it had a large baby doll in the window as I recall, they sold all kinds of wool, and knitting patterns etc. My Grandma would send me there for hanks of wool, then I’d hold them with arms apart for her to turn them into balls of wool for knitting mittens, gloves, scarves, jumpers and balaclavas, for the winter months. She would also knit Baby Clothes, bonnets, coats and booties for additions to the family they were usually white in colour, the sex of the baby in those days was not known until it entered the world and a neutral white suited either sex. Then there were the rugs that we would make from clippings of old clothes, she’d set a canvas base on a wooden frame, and we each had a pricker usually whittled from a wooden peg, then the clippings would be inserted using the pricker into the canvas base to form a “u” shape and the loose upper ends were the working surface of the rug, usually a decorative pattern would be made, forming a new rug to adorn the floor in front of the fireplace for Christmas.

Another odd shop that we don’t see today was the cobblers, we had one in Pontefract lane, opposite the Princess Cinema. Can’t remember his name now but he had rows and rows of shoes and boots that had been resoled and heeled, the welts and sole edges all sealed with black or brown wax to make them waterproof. Uppers were always made from leather and would last for years if properly looked after, we polished ours every night before going to bed, in readiness for the morning. I always had a lot of help from my big sister in that direction it was something she enjoyed doing. I remember a craze that became popular on the concrete paving in the school playground, it was sliding. You could have steel studs and heel segs on the soles and heels of your school boots, which prolonged their life before needing repair, but also enabled you to slide on the hard concrete surface of the playground, we found it great fun until the headmaster saw us and stopped the practice, he said it was too dangerous and someone could break an arm or a leg if they fell whilst practicing this pursuit. Seemed an odd thing to say when at his behest the school played Rugby League Football. I think the real reason was we were wearing the surface off the concrete, and he could see a bill for repairs coming if it wasn’t stopped. We still enjoyed the studded boots though we’d form a line and march in step left right left right (a sound to be repeated in later years when National Service came around), and they did extend the life of the leather soles and heels, however in those days you were growing that fast you needed a new pair of boots anyway because the old ones didn’t fit any more. When my Dad came back from the war, he bought a cast iron last (we still have one in the front garden as a reminder of the old days), and we used to repair our own boots and shoes. These adhesive stick on rubber soles also became available, and unfortunately the days of the cobbler’s shop were numbered. Today Footwear is a throw away market, cheap imported mass-produced products have taken over, and a new pair of shoes is usually cheaper than the cost of repairs. Most of the old established Cobbler shops are now key cutters and suchlike. I took a pair of good quality Ladies leather shoes for repair the other day, some of the leather stitching had become frayed and needed repairing, the Guy examined the shoe and said these are not really worth repairing I’d have to re-stitch them by hand, and it would take ages and cost a fortune, your better off buying a new pair. I couldn’t believe my ears, he just couldn’t be bothered to do the job because he would have to use his hands, unbelievable.
In Pontefract lane, we had an Upholsterer’s Shop it’s true, it was adjacent to the Old Cobblers shop but on the other side of the row of houses I think it was Devon Terrace, he could make you a brand new three piece suite, or completely recover an old one to give it a new lease of life, he repaired broken chairs with upholstered seats and backs, re-polished tables and suchlike, He’d come round to your house and sort out scratches and damage furniture. I used to watch him doing repairs through the shop window, but never had any personal contact. It seemed an unusual shop to me, although I suppose he did need somewhere to display his craftsmanship. Further down was a confectioners and bread shop, a toys and sweet shop Turners as I recall, Manchester House and then a barbers shop Mr Thwaites I think it was called, he had cigarette packet cards on the walls hundreds of them, I always thought he must be a heavy smoker, but I never saw him with a cigarette in his mouth. He wore glasses and had a magnifying lens attach to the right hand side of the frame, I think he repaired and cleaned clockwork watches as part of his business activities, it was short back and sides and a tuft on top, not a very stylish cut, but clean and healthy as was dictated by the times, and of course the nit nurse. Who visited schools in those days on a regular bases, to ensure unwelcome visitors weren’t invading your hair.
Well I know I’ve been rambling on a bit, and you’ll all be fed up by now, I’d just like to leave you with this list of food which was the amount of food allowed for an adult for ONE WEEK, during WW2.
Bacon and Ham 4 oz.
Other meat to the value of one shilling and two pence (equivalent to two chops).
Butter 2 oz.
Cheese 2 oz.
Margarine 4 oz.
Cooking fat 4 oz.
Milk 3 pints. (occasionally reduced to 2 pints).
Sugar 8 oz.
Preserves 1 lb every two months.
Tea 2 oz.
Eggs One fresh egg plus one packet of dried egg every 4 weeks.
Sweets 12 oz every four weeks.
Vegetables unlimited depending on availability.

Try it for a week, weight watchers the Ministry of Food an Official Body authorised by the Government of those times, compiled this list as being sufficiently nutritious for an adult to live on. If you could grow your own vegetables, or had money to buy on the Black Market, then you could supplement your diet. “Dig for Victory” was a catch phrase from those times. No wonder we had to have Malt and Cod Liver Oil supplements at school.

Remembering our old East Leeds Schools

July 1, 2019 by

This is tale number 150 that WordPress have kindly archived for us on the East Leeds Memories site, why not have a re-look at some of the earlier ones?
Remembering Our Old East Leeds Schools
During the early years of the Second World War some of our old East Leeds Schools were closed for defensive fortification of the buildings I suspect this wasn’t only an East Leeds phenomenon. Air raid shelters were built in the school yards and shatter proofing defencing to the windows. Richmond Hill School had already been bombed on the night of the 14/15 of March 1941 and its pupils re housed in other local schools or evacuated to the country. Another problem was to find replacement teachers to replace those called up into the armed services. So, in many cases we had, either female teachers or older males called back from their retirement, the result was that we were generally taught either by teachers who were Victorians or Edwardians themselves, or had been taught by Victorians or Edwardian teachers, which made them immersed in discipline and very strict. They certainly were not pussy cats! So we were subjected that despised ordeal: ‘corporal punishment’, predominantly the cane. But you know it wasn’t so bad it stung for but a moment and then it was all over, most of us preferred the cane to the loss of a sports period or being made to ‘stay in at playtime’. Sometimes the teacher would congratulate a lad who took his punishment without rancour and he would become elevated in the eyes of his peers (girls didn’t get the cane). I have a notion that the up side of this was that we were used to being subjected to discipline and never got to the stage of having to be ‘excluded’ which seems to be of epidemic proportions today. Of course, I could be wrong?
So, which of the old East Leeds schools fall into the scope of this tale; Victoria, Ellerby Lane (later referred to as ‘Cross Green), St Hilda’s, St Saviour’s, Mount St Mary’s, Saville Green, St Charles’s, South Accommodation Road, Leeds Parish Church, All Saints, Richmond Hill and East End Park Special School. None of these old schools exist in their original buildings. Osmondthorpe and Corpus Christie were larger more modern schools and a bit out of the area. A new huge Cross Green School was erected on the rhubarb fields off Cross Green Lane appropriately called. ‘Cross Green Lane’ School, that morphed into Copperfield’s High School with the motto; ‘The Roots To grow – the Wings to fly’ but that has flown away and been pulled down already. There is a new Richmond Hill School, a new All Saint’s school and Mount St. Mary’s exists as a college. But this tale is about our original old schools. What did we get up to? As a former St Hilda’s School pupil that is where most of my memories lay but I imagine they were common to all the schools mentioned.
Your mam took you to school on the first morning then generally you were on your own, no cars to ferry us about but there were usually plenty of other kids to walk down to school with. We started at nine until four but we had an hour and a half for dinner as there were no school dinners until the 1950s and that gave us time to walk home and back for our dinner, not many mams worked in the 1940s. It also gave us plenty of time for school yard games.

school yard games
Before school started in the morning and at playtime the school yard game culture reigned. The staple diet in winter was always going to be football for the boys played twenty odd a side with a tennis ball and with coats for goal posts. In the summer cricket took over the wickets being chalk marks on the wall and with three or four balls on the go at once. The whistle for the end of playtime always seemed to blow when it was your turn for an innings.
I spoke to an old school mate at a reunion recently – he recalled playing football in that old school yard (we called it the field) and how workmen had been mending the road outside the railings at the time. He said this old road mender had been particularly watching the game with a whimsical look in his eye and had finally come over to the railings and said to him, very sincerely, ‘Do you know son, these are the happiest days of your life’. The old school mate said ‘I’ve remembered his words all these years and I think he was probably right.’

Richmond Hill School
As an alternative to football and cricket and to suit the seasons more individual games were played. Ice on the ground meant a giant slide with everyone having a go causing the road to becoming like glass endangering un-wary pedestrians.
These cold days would see us attired in our ‘our long/short’ trousers and long socks, which left only a couple of inches of knee on show to catch cold. I suppose it would have been preferable to go the whole hog and let us wear long trousers but lads rarely did, for mothers kept them in the long/shorts until about the age of twelve. I was even more unfortunate as my mother thought lads in long trousers looked like ‘little old men’ and made me wear shorts until I was a monster fourteen.
Schoolgirls were limited to dresses or skirts, trousers or jeans were never seen on schoolgirls, although the land girls did wear slacks with the zips at the side. To complete our somewhat bizarre appearance by modern standards our winter turn out included woollen Balaclava helmets that became shiny at the bottom from runny noses.
At Whitsuntide, mostly the girls, would play whip and top – colouring the top with chalks to make an attractive pattern. In the autumn it would be conkers and bruised knuckles each time you missed your opponent. Each player kept score of how many conkers his conker had broken, the way this worked was: if your conker broke another which had in turn already broken, say two conkers itself then you added those two to the score as well, so if you broke the conker in this case three was added to the score.
Lads would try to make conkers harder by baking or pickling in vinegar. Sometimes they had become tiny hard things like a walnut kernel but providing they had not broken away from the string hole they were still considered to be ‘alive’. When a crack occurred the shout was, ‘It’s laughing!’ Last year’s conkers were like iron and wouldn’t be played against if recognised. ‘It’s a ‘laggie’ I’m not playing that’ would be the cry.
Another game was played with cigarette cards or the big bus tickets of the day, which all had a sequential number on the back. In this game a lad would take a wadge of cards or tickets of roughly the same number in each hand and another lad would take a similar number in one hand and bank on one hand or the other – then the bottom ticket or card would be turned over in each hand. If he had banked on the hand bearing the larger number of the two then he would win the cards in that hand. If he had banked on the lower number then he would lose his cards to his opponent. As school bags were a ‘no – no’ in those Victorian schools a lad’s pockets would often be bulging obscenely with all his winnings. Marbles or ‘tors’ as we called them was another favourite game. There were several different types of marble: ‘allys’ (coloured marbles), ‘bottle-washers’ (clear glass), and ‘stonkers’, (made out of stone.) Some lads were real experts with calloused knuckles to prove it. These experts would have a favourite marble, which they always used when playing – normally it would not be a pretty one but rather a gnarled old thing, which would give a good grip. They would surrender any of their stock of marbles rather than their ‘player’ should they lose the game. The rules of the marbles game we played too were as follows: two lads would normally play with a marble each – more could play if required – a small hole was excavated in the earth and called the ‘knack’, the idea was for the lads to take it in turns to try and hit his opponent’s marble. After a ‘hit’ had been made it was still necessary to ensure the marble was not a ‘needer’. A ‘needer’ meant their opponents marble still ‘needed’ to be hit more than two shoe lengths away from the hole, big shoes were an advantage if you were the one wanting to be a ‘needer’ little shoes if you didn’t want him to be a ‘needer’. To win the game it was only then necessary to roll your own marble into the hole.
The girls had their own playground, a raised concrete affair higher than our dirt ‘field’. From this lofty perch they would carry out their skipping games: ‘pitch -. patch – pepper’ etc. Or dance around singing their traditional songs: ‘the wind, and the rain blow high, the snow comes scattering from the sky, she is handsome she is pretty she is the girl of the golden city. She goes a courting one, two three please can you tell me who it can be?’ Then they would shout some lad’s name, say ‘Tommy Johnson’ then continuing: ‘says he loves her’ then they would all let out a great scream (silly Beggars) – ‘All the boys are fighting for her’ and so on. The lad in question probably playing football in the field would blush to the roots of his hair but be secretly delighted – alas it was never me! Sometimes much to the annoyance of the girls we would sing along with a much ruder version.
Sport was always king, every year we would have the school sports incorporating track and field although the field sports were only the simple ones for which we had the equipment: long jump, high jump and throwing the cricket ball Winners at the school sports would represent the school at the District Sports, where more names of schools spring to mind: Prince’s Field, Green Lane, Primrose Hill, Harehills and Brownhill.
Those talented enough to win through at District Level earned the honour of competing at Roundhay Park on ‘Children’s Day’ This was a big day in the calendar and included the crowning of the Queen of Children’s Day’ who had been selected after elimination from the whole of the Leeds school areas. Those who won an event at Children’s Day proved to be the best in Leeds and earned cult status with their peers.
Football remained the jewel in the crown for us. Because schools were so much smaller then, perhaps only fifteen/twenty boys in each year and remembering too that the school life terminated at the end of the fourteenth year (it had only shortly risen from the end of the thirteenth year) – it was not unusual then for young footballing prodigies to be knocking on the door of the first team aged eleven or twelve, which was very exciting for them. To be able to ‘dribble’ well was the benchmark against which all these prodigies were measured: Kerrigan at Corpus Christie, Sedgewick and Whitehead at St Hilda’s and Monk at Ellerby Lane are just a few names which fall easily into this category.
Victoria had a boy’s own character who transcended all, not in the art of dribbling but in pure power. He was the amazing Willie Knott; best in Leeds at every sport he put his hand to. Already complete with a moustache and legs like tree trunks at age thirteen he could hit those size four balls the length of the field and woe betide any schoolboy goalie that tried to stop them. He was also king at cricket, swimming, sprinting, and fighting. When Willie walked by we would just stand aside and gawp.

Modern educational policy has seen a sweeping away of these small Victorian senior schools in favour of the huge comprehensives, so colossal that although probably educationally sound it is unlikely a twelve year old lad will ever again have the magical thrill of seeing his name on the first eleven team sheet.

Inter school football had generally been suspended during the war and even after the war non-essentials such as footballs and football kit could only be obtained on ‘permit’ and permits were as hard to land as rocking horse dung. This meant that unless footballs and football gear had been stored since before hostilities had begun then improvisation was a necessity.
Our improvisation was to elect to play in white. This allowed the lads to use their own white shirts when playing for the school team. Not all lads managed to get hold of a pair of proper football boots either and were forced to revert to playing in ordinary black working boots. In spite of this rag tag outfitting I recall with fondness those who formed that first post war school football team in their white shirts and sugar bag blue shorts.
Those lads were giants in our eyes. I don’t think they won many matches, we were a particularly small school even for the day, but it seemed their charisma as well as their boots were hard to fill. Should I meet any of that old team, now well into their eighties – I always try to mention how they were our heroes which invariably brings a glow of pride to their cheeks.
Eventually we did manage to obtain some proper football jerseys and treated them like gold. I think this was after a fund raising campaign. They were green with lace up fronts. The girls made it a project in their sewing class to sew a red ‘V’ onto each jersey accompanied by a monographic ‘SH’ for St Hilda’s
Because changing accommodation was almost universally un-available on school playing fields we were allowed to wear the football jerseys to school on the day of a match. Odd lads could be seen dotted around different classrooms proudly wearing the green jersey with the red ‘V’. Some seemed to drag it out to wearing the jersey to school for a week before the teacher had to tell them off. Visits to all away fixtures were undertaken by public transport. Few teachers aspired to cars before 1950. Once at the pitch we had to leave our togs on the grass, rain or shine and often had to travel home on the bus with clothes dripping wet.
It seems that schools traditionally kept the same style and colour jerseys year after year – perhaps this made more economical sense in that they could replace the odd worn jersey rather than replace a full set. It also had the effect of setting a tradition, an expectation of what was in store when you saw that particular jersey. For instance I recall St Mary’s played in all green, Coldcoates in green with red sleeves and Osmondthorpe in all red. Squares were very popular, Ellerby Lane played in red and white squares, Corpus Christie in light blue and dark blue squares and Victoria in blue and gold squares which were extra glamorous being near to the blue and gold halves sported by Leeds United at the time.
Numerous school football competitions were on going for Leeds schools at the time. Those that come to mind are: The Meadow Cup, the Teachers Shield, the Denmark trophy, the Daily Dispatch Shield and perhaps the most prestigious, The Schools Cup, the final of which was played at Elland Road, every lad’s dream. The Catholics had an additional competition: The Bishop’s Cup which produced many hard fought finals between St Mary’s and St Charles’
I recall Osmondthorpe winning, in addition to the Leeds schools trophies the Yorkshire Cup in the 1940s and understand that Stourton a tiny school just south of the river swept the field of all the Leeds school trophies year after year in the 1930s. Finally one year to become all England School Champions.
As the school years roll by a close knit relationship develops among the group of lads and lasses destined to spend their whole school life together from start to finish from (age five to age fifteen) without the hindrance of moves to middle, or senior schools etc. The girls develop from bairns to beauties and the lads gel together in a good climate of Esprit de corps.
At age eleven a loss is sustained to the whole as the brightest half dozen or so in each year is successful in passing their eleven plus examination and leave the comfort of those small Victorian schools to become elevated to the larger secondary or private schools. Alas I did not number among these successful students, but would have been proud to have sported the brown and gold blazer of Cockburn, the royal blue of the Central High, navy blue of West Leeds or the red and black of Leeds Modern at Lawnswood. Not to mention the green and black of Roundhay High School that seemed to be outside our catchment area and of course the numerous private schools. The girls of Ralph Thoresby (all girl’s school) looked good in their maroon.
No doubt the successful students who embarked on life in these schools of higher education have their own tales to tell. I can only relate the story of we who were left, generally destined to be the ‘factory fodder’ of the next generation, with no opportunity to take the School Certificate which was the then gateway to university. No chance to learn a foreign language, work out in a gym or compete in the ‘House’ teams of which they talked so enthusiastically.
There were compensations: no new big informal schools to break in with associated new smells and hundreds of new faces. No homework either – but not, thankfully, no hope!
In my personal opinion our teachers never gave up on us. They were a continuing inspiration for which I am eternally grateful. And I am only saddened by the fact that by the time I realised this they were all gone and I will never be able to thank them for igniting in me and I imagine many others, a love and thirst for knowledge.
There were other compensations too for staying on at those old Victorian schools, not least playing great inter schools football (many of the high schools played rugby union) and perhaps even trying out for Leeds City Boys. Better still the chance to spend a week at the Leeds schools camp at Langbar, near Ilkley. Where one could become a blue-eyed boy or a green-eyed boy at the dinner table, take your first girl to a dance (compulsory) and climb Beamsley Beacon, so becoming an honourable member of the League of Mountain Men.
Eventually like all golden ages school days trickle away and the close companionship of schoolmates has to end, only perhaps to be re-kindled again some three years later for National Service. Meetings now become rarer but a chance encounter with an old school mate or indeed any member of that old street corner society is a red-letter day for nostalgia.

Eric Allen’s Tales

June 16, 2019 by

I’m sad to have to break the news that another of our old stalwarts has passed. Eric Allen died in St James’s Hospital today 16th June 2019. As is traditional here is are couple of tales he put on our site. He will be sadly missed:

Eric’s Tales
Delivering the meat to Knostrop
While still a schoolboy I would deliver the orders of meat for my dad, Alf Allen, who owned the butcher’s shop in Easy Road, down near the ginnel. We actually lived in St Hilda’s Mount and I had a mate who lived in the same street called Vic Wilson. Vic was a butcher’s boy too, but as he was a little older than I he was actually in employment at the Co-op butchers in Cross Green Lane. As it so happened we both had to make deliveries on the same day to the ABC Houses in Knostrop We would converge on the ABC Houses on our butcher’s bikes and after delivering the orders we would meet up at Winnie Jacob’s house; she was a good sport and would give us a cig each and we’d have smoke and a cal with her in her yard. Of course we were really too young to smoke officially so like all forbidden fruits it was an exciting interlude and one we always enjoyed.
One particular day it had been snowing quite heavily and we’d tarried with Winnie for quite a long time already before we decided to set off back up Knostrop, even then our illicit habits were not finished for we had a second stopping off point in Alec Grumwell’s pig sty for a second ‘ciggy’. Alec, as locals will probably recall, had the smallholding in the triangular shaped field between Knostrop Hill and the Long Causeway, where he grew vegetable produce for sale and kept pigs. Alec was a familiar local figure, regularly to be seen around the district gathering pigswill on his little horse and cart. Alec would perch on the front edge of the cart in his flat cap and his weight would bring that side of the cart down and being so tall his legs would dangle onto the road. Anyway, this particular day we spent longer than we should smoking with Alec and as we had spent all that time at Winnie’s too we were really late. At this point the realization of how the time had got away with us dawned upon Vic. I was OK – still a schoolboy but Vic was allegedly a workingman now and receiving enumeration for his labours: his time had to be accounted for and a delivery to Knostrop didn’t warrant all the time we had taken messing about and smoking cigarettes. Vic by this time had begun to anticipate a telling off from his boss, Frank Ghan: so, thinking on his feet he took his bike and bounced it on the road so hard that it became un-ridable, then he carried it the short distance back to the Co-op complaining that he’d come off the bike in the snow and had needed to carry the damn thing all the way back from the ABC Houses in its damaged state. And good old Vic – he managed to get away with it!
Working for my Dad in the Butcher’s Shop
My dad was a butcher and when I was a lad I used to help make the sausages. First I had to collect the ingredients. We hadn’t a car at the time so I had to take the butcher’s bike to Stoke and Daltons for the rusks, which went into the sausage meat. I’d have to collect a full sack and it was very large and heavy. I’d put the sack into the basket of the bike but it was so big and heavy I couldn’t then turn the handlebars properly. This of course made it dangerous to ride but then being stupid I always did try to ride – Well You never push a bike if there is chance to ride it do you? That bike was like a taxi. I’d regularly take our Brenda home to Knostop in the carrier; it was all down hill so we could make good progress. In actual fact, if just kids were involved I could get five on, three in the basket, one on the cross bar and myself.
When I had the ingredients back to the shop I’d begin to make the sausages proper. First I’d mix the ingredients, which made up the insides of the sausages (the sausage-meat), in a mixer. Then it was a matter of stretching the skin over the outlet of the mixer and turning a handle to force the sausage-meat into the skin. We used beast’s intestines for the skins in those days. The problem was they were not consistent in size. One day I got a really big skin – it was really huge. Undaunted I continued winding the handle to fill this huge skin until it had taken virtually the whole of the contents of the mixer, which was supposed to be enough to fill a whole batch of sausages and I just had this one giant sausage. When my dad saw it he went mad, ‘Silly b…..,’ he said, ‘who the b…. hell would want a sausage as big as that?
The Cricket Bag Gordon Brown and I were joint scores and bag carriers for East Leeds Cricket Club. The bag was a huge affair – it was bigger than us and heavy too being full of bats and pads and all the rest of gear wanted by the cricketers, it’s a good job it had two handles so that we could hold one handle each with both hands to get it off the ground. We had a real job manhandling it onto buses and trams for away matches, for this we would be paid two bob and our tram fare. We took it in turns to be scorer. Only one could be the scorer along with a scorer from the opposition. The beauty of being the scorer was you got a free tea. The one who was just the bag handler for the day had to ‘whistle’ for his tea or spend six pence of his bag money on a sandwich and a cup of tea. When East Leeds was playing at home it was always the highlight of the day for the scorer to have his tea in the pavilion along with the players.
My dad didn’t go into the army but he was drafted into the ARP (Air Raid Patrol)
I remember they had their headquarters in a shop in Easy Road, near the picture house. They would assemble there, sit around a while and then go out on patrol. If there was an alert on he could be out all night.

Before there were Clubs we had lively Pubs

June 1, 2019 by

Before there were Clubs we had Lively Pubs.
The first night club I recall in Leeds was The Ace of Clubs in Woodhouse; I would think that would have been in the late 1960s. But before then we had great lively pubs to keep us entertained. Pubs that were worth a good old distance of travel to reach.
The breathalyser did not appear until 1967 and no doubt stopping drink driving was the way to go but in the early stages it did not have an immediate impact. We were used to being able to travel to our favourite pubs have a few drinks and then carefully drive home but this was going to be a sea change event to our life styles. Traditional drinkers would say, ‘What’s this Micky Mouse law? It’s not going to stop me going to my favourite pub and having a few pints.’ And being creatures of our time, please forgive us, it didn’t.
50’s and 60’s pubs with live music drew us like magnets. I’m going to mention three of my favourites for a start I’m sure you will all have your own favourites. On Wednesday nights I loved to visit The Wakefield Arms near Kirkgate Station in Wakefield. Tony C the landlord was also a great pianist. It was worth the trip just to listen to him but there would be singers too, sometimes he would play in the small room just to the left of the entrance or on big nights the music room would be open and all manner of singers and instrumentalists would perform.
My second favourite was: The Royal at Boston Spa. That must have been before we had cars because we travelled there by bus and one Saturday night we missed the last bus and had to walk all the way home from Boston Spa to Leeds. Renee Johnson held court there sometimes augmented by her husband and her sister. Renee was a great act with her risqué little ditties: ‘Caviar comes from the virgin sturgeon The virgin sturgeon. is a very fine fish’. Later she regaled us again at the Crooked Billet in Stourton and even later I believe in Allerton by Water.
My third favourite was: The White Horse on York Road. They held weekly talent nights there and there was a cash prize for the winner. There was one guy who was on every week he sang ‘Dalila’ he would stab himself with an imaginary knife and then throw himself all over the stage in imaginary his death throes, we would cheer him and sing along with him but I don’t think he ever won the prize money.
Some pubs put on ‘turns’ of these there were many but I’ll just put on four who I particularly remember: The Johnson Brothers, Ronnie Dukes and Ricky Lee, Harry Benden and Jonny Joyce.
Apart from the pubs which attracted us for the music there were other pubs that just became popular, particularly on Thursday nights because they jammed both the sexes in together. A couple of these were: The Star and Garter in Kirkstall and particularly The Cherry Tree in Burmantofts. I remember one particular night in The Cherry Tree the place was heaving and the great Billy Bremner had got himself in a position where he was holding the toilet door open for a never ending flow of folk to get in and out he was stuck there and guys were cheering him on, he just took it all in good part laughing and saying it looks like I’m going to be stuck here all night.
I’ll just mention a few more of my favourite pubs I’m sure anyone who reads this will be able to add names, there were hundreds of them: The Slip, The Gardeners at Lofthouse, The Haddon Hall, The Beehive at Thorner, The Queens at Micklestown, The Malt Shovel at Armley, The FForde Greene, The Adelphi near Leeds Bridge, The Peacock at Horsforth (Wallace Family) The Stanhope, The Dynley arms on Pool Bank, The Cavalier on Richmond Hill a great pub for Irish songs and an old guy who used to get up every week and sing, ’The laughing Policeman’, he had us all in stitches: The Plasterers, The Skinners on Regent Street where old guys would get up and do Irish dancing with a straight face and arms by their sides. There was a pub half way up Meanwood Road, I can’t recall its name now but it had green tiles outside, we went in there one night and a guy was singing an Irish song it must have had a hundred verses he was singing it when we went in he was still singing the same song when we left. I made a joke to my mates that I went in a couple of nights later and he was still on with the same song. The Beckets Arms and the Meanwood were pubs we would visit as a prelude to the Capital Ballroom. The Bingley Arms claimed to be the oldest pub in England, The Arabian Horse and the Swan at Aberford, The Gascoigne at barwick, The New Inn, Scarcroft
Connoisseurs were prone to travelling to pubs who stocked their favourite beers: Tetley’s, John Smith’s, Sam Smith’s, Theakston’s, and before the amalgamation by the giant breweries: Bentley’s Hemmingway, and Melbourne’s etc. Tetley’s was supposed to be the Yorkshire man’s drink. In August when Leeds virtually encamped in Blackpool folk would say: ‘Meet you in the Huntsman, The Huntsman stocked Tetley’s.
Then there were the pubs which were just a nice little run out to on a summers evening: The Windmill at Linton. The Wellington at East Keswick, Boot and Shoe at Tadcaster, another Boot and Shoe on the Selby Road The Crooked Billet near the Lead Church, The Greyhound close to Tadcaster, The Kings Arms at Heath Common, The Scott’s Arms at Sicklinghall, Dick Hutson’s and The Royalty and The Sun up on the moors, Fenton Flier at Church Fenton, The New Inn near Eccup and The New in near Harrogate, The Harewood Arms, The Wild Man and The Buckles Inn on the Leeds /York Road, The Star at Collingham. The Chequers at Leadsham (no Sunday Licence) The White Horse at Ledston, The Fox and Hounds at Bramhope, The Anchor Inn at Whixley, The Queen of Old Thatch at South Milford, The Unicorn at Carlton, The New Inn now Squires (biker’s Café) near Sherbourne, The Anchor at Whixley, The Bull at Kirk Hammerton The Alice Hawthorne at Nun Moncton, The Beulah on Tong Road, I could go on forever, almost every village had a great pub, but now I fear that in the present day they survive more by the sale of food that that of beer.
And then of course there were ‘The runs: The Westgate run in Wakefield, the Tadcaster run, The Wetherby run, The Otley run, The Richmond Hill run and of course all the City Centre pubs. Apologies if I have left out your favourite pubs. Unfortunately for us oldies those pubs are passed their sell by date. How many are still left? It was a golden age and like all golden ages it was over before we knew it had begun. But ‘We supped some stuff’ didn’t we.
Now unfortunately if I ‘sup any stuff’ at all, I’m laid awake half the night! But we had our great times, didn’t we?

My First Car and the Prang

May 15, 2019 by

It’s quite amazing how closely my life and the life of Eddie Blackwell, who wrote the last tale, duplicated each other. Not only did we clash on opposite sides in the 1954 Leeds Red Triangle under 17s football cup final but we were both conscripted into National Service in the late 1950s early 1960 we both learned to drive in the army and both got our own first own car in 1962.
I want to tell you about my first car but first about the ‘prang I had while learning to drive in the army

We national service personnel worked alongside career regulars. I believe my regular colleagues were disadvantaged in comparison to normal civilians. In the army, it is so easy to fall foul of authority. A mistake committed even in an off duty period could result in a NCO being ‘busted’ down, which contrasts sharply with civilian life where a transgression committed outside the workplace does not normally instigate disciplinary action at work. An instance of how easy it was to transgress happened to me while at Detmold: I managed to find myself on three charges at the same time. The first charge was for innocently wandering across a football pitch, which was evidently out of bounds. The second was after being pulled for having my hair too long and the third for having a ‘prang’ in a one ton truck while under driving instruction. On the face of it I looked a real villain, three charges, but what great misdemeanours had I really been guilty of? Nevertheless, it was not good policy to keep being dragged up before the OC.
The ‘prang’ though is an incident worth recording. A few of us were learning to drive in a one ton truck under the instruction of a subaltern, who like all subalterns spoke very cut glass.

It was my turn to drive and the rest of the lads who were either waiting or had already had their turn were sat in the back where they couldn’t see forward. We were driving along, on the right of course, it being Germany. The officer ordered me to turn right into a minor road where a German civilian bus was waiting to get out. Being totally inexperienced, I was going far too fast to execute this manoeuvre. I was still in third gear when I tried to turn into the side road. I can still see the horror on the faces of those Germans when they realised I was not going to make it. I gave the bus a real crack amidships. The unseeing lads in the backs cheered: ‘Hey up, Woody ‘as ‘it somat’
‘Oh hard look Wood!’ said the officer admirably keeping his composure. ‘Right Wood, reverse out.’ He was using the theory: if they prang, dust ‘em off and send ‘em up again before they lose their confidence. Unfortunately, I selected the wrong gear; instead of reverse, I selected one of the forward gears and gave the bus another crack. The lads in the back cheered again: ‘Go on Woody – give ‘em some more!’
‘I think I’d better drive back,’ sighed the officer, his good intentions going out of the window.
So, I was on a charge for the driving offence: as they put it, ‘For causing damage to a War Department vehicle and a German civilian bus’. I was marched under guard to the OC’s office. ‘Left-right-left-right,’ screamed a sergeant, it was all very formal, normally he was an alright guy but he’d turned into monster for the day. ‘Left-turn-right turn, beret-off-left-turn, A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N!’ They had me so confused by all the shouting that I finished up with my backside to the OC. (Captain Juniper) ‘Oh turn him round, sergeant,’ said the OC. in exasperation, whereupon the sergeant took me by the shoulders and turned me through 180 degrees. As far as I can remember, I only received a balling out and never heard anything more about the other two charges at all.
So the result was I didn’t actually pass my driving test in the army. But I had put that right by 1962 when I passed my test in civilian life and got my first car.

My First Car
It was a Friday lunch time in 1962 and clutching my new driving licence I was dropped off by Dad outside Magnetic Motors in Water lane, there to pick up my very first car. It was a 1959, beige coloured, Ford Popular 100E three years old and cost me the £165 that I had managed to save up from my meagre army pays. It was standing there bright and shiny amongst all the other cars in the showroom. I asked the salesman to manoeuvre it out for me as I was afraid of scratching it, not to mention the other cars. He parked it across Water Lane, shook my hand and wishing me the best of luck departed. I sat in the driver’s seat, twiddled the wheel a bit and looked across to the passenger’s seat; for the first time I saw there was no one sitting there – it was all a bit scary!

drove gingerly back to McLaren’s Fabrications where I was employed at the time; I was as proud as Punch and eager to hit the open road but it was still only Friday lunch time there was the afternoon to get through first. I worked with my dad at the time and Dad’s mate was a guy called Cliff; he was a grand guy – the firm’s mechanic. He came over to take a look at the car standing there, still all bright and shiny and he said, ‘Well, it looks a million dollars.’
I had to park it overnight in our back street and in those days even in a back street a car had to have lights. Now, if you were to leave a car overnight with even the sidelights on the battery would be as flat as a pancake in the morning, so people had various devices to show a light. Some obtained road-mender’s lamps and placed them in the road alongside the car. I had a spare battery, which I positioned in the boot and ran a line to a tiny little light that fitted onto the top of the driver window and showed red at the back and white at the front. Well, as ‘Sod’s law’ would have it on that very first Friday night that I had the car we had one of the worst gales I can recall before or since. I lay in my little back bedroom hearing slates being blown off the house roofs and crashing down into the street all night long, crash after crash; all I could think about was my poor little car. In the morning there was a huge gash where a slate had sliced into the car roof.
The following night, Saturday, I proudly took my mates out for the night – we went to Harrogate and I was relieved when I managed to get the vehicle home without further damage. After the slate fiasco Dad had managed to negotiate with a neighbour to allow me to leave the car overnights in his large unused garden. This would save me from falling slates and absolve the need to put on any lights at all. Unfortunately, while attempting to manoeuvre the car into his garden the front wheel fell down a huge unseen hole and crumpled the front mudguard. I had to get Dad up to extract me from the hole as I was making an even greater mess of the car in my efforts to pull clear.
I drove it to work on the following Monday morning; Cliff the mechanic took another look at it – now with its gashed roof and crumpled mudguard. ‘Well.’ he said, ‘It looked a million dollars on Friday – but I wouldn’t give you tuppence for it now!’
The winter of 1962/63 was a bad ‘un; one Friday night (4th January 1963) I parked the car in the centre of Leeds and went dancing with my mate to the Majestic Ballroom. I met Brenda that night and gave her a lift home we got stuck in the snow on a hill between Harehills Road and Harehills Lane. The very first night we met. Brenda had to push me out of a snowdrift in her high heeled shoes – we never looked back and had our golden wedding in 2018

The Summer of 1962

May 1, 2019 by

By Eddie Blackwell
I’d just finished National Service in February of ’62, it was the annual Summer Holiday Weekend, and the weather was reasonable for the time of year, I was living at home with my Mum and Dad, I had nothing planned for the weekend. My Sister Sheila and my brother in law Roy had gone camping with Hazel their daughter who was two years old, to a place called Betws y Coed in North Wales.
Well Mum was fretting they’d been away almost a week, and there were no communications that we could afford, other than a letter or a card through the post. We’d received a post card saying they’d arrived OK and everything was fine, they were camping at a farm just off the main road, they had fantastic scenery all around, and they were having a good time. It was a sunny afternoon and we were sittinging in the front garden, I said to Mum and Dad why don’t we go down there and find them it’s a Bank Holiday Weekend we can stay over and come back on the Monday, ready for work on Tuesday morning. Without hesitation Mum said yes, I’ll get some things together. We had a Black 1953 Ford Consul with a I.5 litre engine, it was in reasonable condition apart from a couple of worn tyres. Mum was ready in about an hour, I had filled with petrol checked oil and water lights and tyre pressures, brake light and brakes and hand brake, windscreen wipers, a full first parade. I’d learnt to drive in the Army and followed the way I’d been instructed, be prepared and check everything (famous last words). I think dad was a bit apprehensive, he didn’t drive and either walked or used public transport to travel about, this was a new venture for him, yet he did seem excited to be going to North Wales a place he’d never been.
I’d worked out a route, which may not have been the shortest distance, but it followed the main roads and guaranteed that driving conditions would be reasonable, I estimated about 135 miles and it would take approximately three hours with a pit stop for refreshment. Huddersfield, Manchester, Chester, Mould, Ruthin, then turn right onto the A5 at Corwen past the Fairy Glen Gorge and we’re there. All was going well the traffic was light and we made excellent progress, just one stop for toilets at a garage, and we were turning on to the A5 two and a half hours, well on schedule, and then it happened, as we were going through the forest, the back end went funny, a puncture oh the joys of motoring. No problem I said we have a spare that I checked before we started, I was well trained at wheel changing, part of you driving test in the Army changing a wheel out with the spare wheel unscrewed the nuts with the wheel brace, pass the jack Dad……No jack what, can’t see the jack, oh no, I wonder how far away the nearest garage is, nothing shown on the map, the road was clear, what to do for the best. Then a car came slowly into view travelling at a reasonable speed, obviously the driver saw us and slowed down, wound down his window and said do you need any help (can you imagine that happening today, foot down and off), I explained the problem and within ten minutes we were fixed wheel changed nuts tightened and off we went.
Betws-y-Coed was a strange layout just a main road with small streets running off from side to side, there was a Big Hotel as I remember and then we saw a sign for a farm. We’ll try this one I said, no they didn’t do camping, but directed us to one that did at the other end of town. Spot on we’d found them, with a 6 ft 6 in white ridge tent, there was plenty of room alongside and I pulled the car in. We didn’t have a tent, but it was only for a couple of nights and we’d manage. Mum would sleep in the tent with Sheila and Hazel and Dad, Roy and I would manage in the cars, we called to see the farmer to explain that we were only there for two nights, and didn’t have a tent, that’s OK he said no tent no charge.
Dad had been a Cook in the RAF during WW2 and soon had the kitchen sorted, Mum Had brought food from home, and it was sausage mash and baked beans for tea, I couldn’t wait I was starving,
I could have eaten a Scabby Donkey between two slices of bread.
I think Sheila, Roy and Hazel were pleased to see us, Hazel was over the moon Mum had her on her knee and was reluctant to put her down, well she’d not seen her for a week, things were working out well. After we’d had tea and done the washing up. Dad Roy and I went to the local had a pint and got a few cans of beer to take back.
The following day was a Sunday, Dad had bacon and eggs on the go with tomato’s bread and butter and pots of tea, the sun was shining it was a good day. Greenery all around and the hills formed protection from the wind, Roy and I took off for a walk for an hour to get rid of the cobwebs from the night before, everyone was happy, and Dad was a good cook, and very well organised in the kitchen. That afternoon we decided to go for a walk in the village, and then came the shock in Wales they followed a religious Sunday, and the shops, and the Pubs were closed. A silly idea if you ask me Dad said, they’ll only serve you at the Hotel if you’re staying there, Dad liked a pint on Sunday lunchtime and played snooker in the Working Men’s Club, surely you can go without a pint for one day Mum said, look at the lovely scenery. Roy changed the subject quickly, I know we’ll go to the Fairy Glen Joe, there’s a waterfall there and it’s very picturesque, that sounds fine Roy Dad said is it very far, it’s near where we had the puncture Dad I said, and off we went. We parked in the Fairy glen hotel car park and it took about 20 mins along the path to reach the Glen itself it the Conway river that wanders down then a combination of rapids and cascades that are channelled through a narrow ravine it’s a very impressive sight. It’s one of the principle attractions of the village and where Wuhelmina Stitch waits to see the Fairy Men on Beaver Bridge. It turned out to be a very satisfying experience and you could imagine how it got its name there was a magical feel about the place, suddenly Dads craving for a pint disappeared he was enthralled with the place. When we got back to camp, Roy said you’ll be all right tonight Joe, this Sunday thing happened to us last week, and I decided to but some cans in the boot of the car we can share those between us later. Dads face broke out into a smile and he started whistling, Whistle whilst you work, da dee da ’da-da dee, the primus was being primed and the big frying pan was out. Pork chops with the big ones with a piece of the kidney in, chips and peas, Apple pie with cream, for afters if you could manage it the cream was fresh from the farm life didn’t get much better than this, fresh air sunshine good food and the company of your closest family, but reality was just around the corner work on Tuesday morning.
The following day was Bank Holiday Monday which was also classed as a Sunday in Wales, but to be fair we’d had a good couple of days, we had some fun, and a lot of laughs and Mum had seen Hazel. I was at work on the Tuesday morning, and it was decided that we would leave on Monday morning to avoid the holiday traffic rush, if we left at 10 am we’d be home for about 1pm and Dad could get his pint at the Club, he also pointed out that if his lucky numbers were drawn out and he wasn’t there, he would lose the prize money. The number of years he used that as an excuse for being at the Club on Sunday Lunchtime you would not believe bless him. Sheila and Roy and Hazel were staying on until the Friday to complete their holiday. That evening Roy broke out the cans of beer we had a couple of cans and decided it was time for bed.
The following morning we awoke refreshed, Dad was preparing breakfast, Mum was packing her bits and pieces, Sheila was bathing Hazel in a large plastic tub the kettle was merrily boiling and I was feeling a bit sad at having to leave that morning. Still we all had to work, you need money to do these things, and I did enjoy the work that I did. I was a draughtsman in the building industry and there was never a dull moment in a drawing office, with all the banter, and hilarity you never felt down. The homeward journey was uneventful we arrive home in time for to drop Dad off for his pint at the club. You’ve guessed Dads numbers didn’t come out but there was always next week, in over 25 years I never remember Dad’s numbers coming out, but that’s another story for another time. We’d had a good weekend and there were many more to come. Although I must say it was a joy to climb into bed that night, the car seats were bench type seats you were laid down, but nothing equals the comfort of your own bed, particularly when it’s work the following morning. Although it’s almost 57 years ago the memories are still very vivid, and it seems but a flash of time since we were sitting in the front garden of our old house in Osmondthorpe discussing what we should do for the Bank holiday weekend.
Just a short poem about the Fairy Glen to finish off, hope you enjoy it I

Fairy Glen Betws-y-coed.
As the river Conway flows steadily towards the sea.
It passes by Fairy Glen a place you’d want to see,
Fast rapids and waterfalls are cascading along,
Down through the ravine the current is strong,
Then the river spreads and the waters are calmed,
With moss covered rocks the banks are adorned,
The woodland surrounds with a blanket of trees,
Light scent fills the air as if wanting to please,
A soothing ambience and you’re feeling at rest,
You were tired and weary now you’re at your best,
A magical place seeped in folk-law from long ago,
Wuhelmina Stitch “waits and Waits” to see the fairy men you know,
It’s a spiritual place filled with superstition spells and whims,
Where you want to say your prayers and sing a few hymns,
Toadstools moss with knurled and knotted roots litter the ground,
And you’ll search for the fairy men but their nowhere to be found,
Beavers bridge is there which allows you to across the river,
But when you reach the other side you’ll find your all a shiver,
Beautifully magical but spooky at times is how I’d describe it,
You’ll need good strong shoes and a waterproof cagoule,
It can be slippy underfoot don’t go acting like a fool,
There is a small charge for the upkeep of the paths,
Don’t know now how much it is I was never good at Maths
Stop off if your passing it’s a visit that you’ll treasure,
You’ll really enjoy and it will bring you lasting pleasure.