Stan Pickles’ First Holiday

October 1, 2021 by

Last month’s tale took us on an adventure to the Leeds School’s Camp at Langbar near Ilkley in the 1950s. This month our old stalwart Stan pickles takes us back, through the papers he left for us, to 1923 and a beautifully different schools holiday for deprived children organised by the Leeds Schools.

My First Holiday
By Stan Pickles
Recently I was returning from a holiday in Whitby with my twin eleven year old grandsons and my mind went back to that holiday many years ago when I was thirteen years old and throughout the hard years I hadn’t had a holiday from one year to the next. Silverdale had been providing holidays for Leeds school children for a number of years but a new venture had just got underway. Yorkshire villages such as Nun Munkton, Barmby Moor and Bishop Wilton opened their doors to many under privileged poor children of Leeds and a memorable school holiday in the depressed year of 1924 is still treasured in my life.
Along with two other boys from my class at Ellerby Lane School I was chosen to have two weeks at the delightful Barmby Moor. You can just imagine our excitement as the wonderful day in August arrived. Children from various schools in the city grouped on the station platform for their big adventure, what a scene it was with about a hundred boys and girls all carrying pillow cases packed with a change of clothing and the other essentials for our holiday. Many of them had never been on a train, let alone a holiday. Eventually, the train pulled in to the excited chatter of our party, with our parents waving us goodbye and a last word from the officials we were on our way to Pocklington station where four or five farmers with horse-drawn flat carts took us to our village about a mile and a half down a lovely country road, where the local children greeted us and took us to our ‘digs’ for our stay.
Barmby Moor was beautiful; we stayed in a cottage by a stream with an elderly couple who were so kind to us. The three of us shared a bedroom with a big double bed and we soon made ourselves feel at home with the nice couple. Each morning we came down to breakfast at 8.30 to the smell of fresh baked bread in the neat kitchen where a pot of tea, a boiled egg with bread butter and jam awaited us. Then it was outside to walk around and explore, sometimes accompanied by the village children who had become our friends. Each day a very nice lunch and tea were ready for us and always there was a glass of milk at bedtime.

Each Sunday we went to church and on the first Sunday the vicar gave a special welcome to the ‘Leeds children’ and wished us all to have a happy holiday. An optional pleasure was a ride in the cart to our host’s hayfield to pitch haystacks. It was all new and interesting to us – quite a novelty – and I learned something I had never known before and what an appetite it gave us! Our kindly hosts gave us an apple each during the rest periods. On the two Saturdays we were there we were taken to the pictures in Pocklington which made a change
I can still see the little stream rippling its clear water through the village. Yes! And the walks on the moors, trips into Pocklington, services in the beautiful church, our work in the hayfields and the welcome we received. To have it all and to be blessed with good weather made this a holiday always to be remembered.
However, all good times have to end and the day of our departure arrived and after we had been given a bunch of flowers each for our mums we said goodbye to all the friends we had made and we were on our way back to Leeds. It had been indeed a special treat for us in those hard times.

My First Girl
(A Little Love Story)
I met Elsie on that lovely Barmby Moor holiday. We hit it of right from the start when we stood side by side on that farmer’s cart taking us to that lovely village for those lovely two weeks. ‘Which school do you go to? Where’s that? What’s your name?’ etc. We had made our first tentative efforts to be acquainted. Although there were about thirty boys and girls in our party we were always in each other’s company. We even managed to go to the two Saturday picture matinees in Pocklington together.
Elsie lived in Hunslet and I knew it well as I often went to the rugby matches at Parkside and to Hunslet feast on the moor. During our holiday a few kisses and cuddles passed between us and on our return to Leeds we said goodbye at the station and Elsie ran off ran off to greet her mother who had come to meet her and I was met by Father. What an excited crowd was on that platform as we went off in all directions to our homes
I never thought I would meet Elsie again but a few days later as I was leaving the street with my pals to play football on the park a voice called out, ‘Hello Stanley.’ I looked around and there was Elsie looking very smart. She told me she was on her way to visit her aunt and after a few words with her I rushed off to catch up with my pals, nothing but sport was on my mind at the time. Alas, I never saw Elsie again. We were both thirteen years old at the time.
After I had had written out Stan’s memories we decided to have a run out to Barmby Moor. It is a beautiful East Yorkshire village with a stream running through the centre. I took a copy of Stan’s tale with me and presented it to the post office None of the present generation had any knowledge that there had ever been such a scheme to give deprived kids from Leeds the chance of a holiday in the country but they were delighted that their forebears had been so kind and charitable. They put Stan’s tale on show in the post office and it was published in the local paper.
Well done the Leeds Schools!

The Leeds Schools Camp

September 1, 2021 by

The Leeds School’s Camps
The city of Leeds had a schools holiday camp designed for children from deprived families who would not otherwise have had a holiday at all, which opened in Silverdale as early as 1904. But the camp our generation will perhaps remember better is the one that was popular to us at Langbar near Ilkley in the 1940s/50s. I was privileged to spend a week there myself but I will leave it to Keith Gibbins to tell his memories of a week at that schools camp
The league of Mountain men, by Keith Gibbins. Around Leeds and dispersed throughout the country there must be thousands of ‘certified mountain men’ who as school boys enjoyed a ‘ten bob’ holiday at the wonderful Leeds School’s Camp. This facility for both boys and girls was permanently sited at langbar near Ilkley. ‘ The aims and purposes of the camp was to provide the children of Leeds affordable holidays in the countryside in an environment which was loosely based on military lines to promote character building and appreciate nature. For the boys who proved themselves to be good campers and climbed Beamsley Beacon their reward was the presentation of ‘The League of Mountain men ‘certificate which was endorsed with the boy’s name and signed by the camp superintendent (no doubt there was a similar one given to the girls) These were great times for us city dwellers and a breath of fresh air during the austere years of the 40s and 50s.
A couple of years ago I took my Grandkids or a nostalgic climb up Beamsley Beacon. I insisted they had to pick up a rock from the base, carry it up to the summit and place it on the cairn which had been formed by thousands of kids fifty years ago. Now this pile of stones is probably the only remaining memorial to the Leeds Schools Camp and it evokes great memories of childhood adventures. When we reached the top I met a man from the old Blenheim School. I introduced myself as an old ‘Ellerby Lane’ boy and he told me four rocks in the middle of the pile that were his. The memories of the fifties came thick and fast: the wooden dormitories – Denton and Nesfield were named after local villages – Mr Podmore was the camp leader, David the cook, the last night cabaret dances at the Stephenson Jaffe memorial Hall – visits to the valley of desolation and Bolton Abbey long crocodiles of boys on day trips to places of local interest – cold water ablutions – early morning inspections of the bunks with folded stick blanket boxes having knife edge squareness etc. ect. etc.
I told my fellow camper how I had personally caused chaos and disruption to the camp in my final visit in 1953. We were on a day trip to the River Wharfe, it was a hot day in mid-April, myself and two other boys decided to go swimming. The river was freezing and within a couple of minutes we were back on the bank drying off in the warm sunshine. Suddenly I developed a blinding headache – the pain and the camp nurse was called, she thought I was having a migraine which was the wrong diagnosis, she sent two boys back to camp for a stretcher and then four boys carried this delirious 14- year old back to the camp sick room where incredibly she kept me overnight. My condition got worse and the next morning she put me in the back seat of a car and took me to Ilkley Coronation Hospital. The events that followed must have caused absolute panic for the Leeds Schools Camp and the Ilkley health Authority as the doctor told them I had meningitis and I was transferred by ambulance to Seacroft Hospital in Leeds and eventually given the lumber punch which showed that I didn’t have meningitis but that I was suffering from a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage. After a couple of months in X Ward: patient number 551. I made a full recovery; despite my shortened last holiday at Langbar I eventually received my ‘League of Mountain Men’ certificate for 1953.
Footnote from Keith’s brother, John, who was also at the camp the same week: I missed out on Keith’s river trip as I had been assigned spud bashing duties but I do remember the stretcher bearing party returning to camp, with their consignment. High drama indeed. Alan Allman was carrying a corner of the stretcher. Our hut was fumigated and we slept on the floor of the memorial hall. Great fun at the time despite Keith’s problems.
Thank you, the Gibbins brothers for your camp memories. Even though I wasn’t an Ellerby lane School boy myself the news of Keith’s drama filtered through to the rest of the East Leeds Schools. I attended the Langbar Camp myself it would have been 1952 a year before Keith’s adventure I remember it was only 7/6 then it must have gone up half a crown to be ten bob the next year. There are just a couple of my own memories I’ll add to Keith’s tale. When we first arrived a guy said to me, ‘You will be a blue eyed boy.’ I thought, oh that’s nice. To another lad he said, ‘You will be a green eyed boy.’ I suppose he said the same to the girls too who were usually from another school so that you were all strangers. Anyway the blue eyed, green eyed thing was just a tag when they called over the speakers for blue eyed boys it meant you had to go to the kitchen and wash up or peel spuds or something, similarly thing with the green eyed lot they had specific jobs too, perhaps lay the table or something.
The last night for the dance in the Memorial Hall every boy had to approach a strange girl from another school who you had never seen before and ask her if you could take her to the dance and of course as fourteen year old boys we were mostly a bit shy and it was a traumatic experience but I’m sure it was character building
One day while we were out on an organised walk, can’t remember if it was the Valley of Desolation or Bolton Abbey, we approached a little temple like building and the organiser said we must make a sacrifice here and he selected a lad at random and made him bend over a stone that he said was the alter. He made the lad pull up the back of his shirt and he said I must brand you to appease the gods, then he took his stick and touched the lads naked back with the cold ferrule tip, evidently extreme cold and extreme hot feels the same and the lad thought he had been branded and screamed out and we all laughed, but can you imagine what would have happened to an instructor if he had performed that trick today.
That week at Langbar was a good rehearsal for National Service which for many of us was soon to follow. And I too have my ‘League of Mountain Men’ Certificate to cherish and remind me of a great character building week at the Leeds Schools camp.
Much later I took my wife to the base of Beamsley Beacon and I said, ‘Right we are going to pick a rock up each and take them up this mountain and place hem on the cairn at the top.’ She looked at me as though I was mad, she had no empathy for it. She was not a mountain man!

Evacuated from East Leeds to None-Go-Byes-Farm

August 1, 2021 by

Evacuated from East Leeds to None-Go-Byes-Farm.
None-Go-Byes is a salubrious farm and leisure complex today but not so eighty years ago in 1941 when I was evacuated from the bombing expected in Leeds to stay with my mother’s sister, Nellie, who lived in one of the pair of cottages that were located within the farm yard at None- Go-Byes.
It amazes me that I can remember things that happened eighty years ago but March 14th was an iconic night in the history of East Leeds and one which is hard to forget for it was the night of 14/15th of March when a string of German bombs hit Richmond Hill School and the Woodpecker Pub. The resultant ‘bang’ was so loud it rattled our Anderson Shelter door at Knostrop.
(Between August 1940 and August 1942 there were 87 alerts 9 air raids, 77 people killed, 327 injured and 763 properties damaged in Leeds)
Illustrated History of Leeds

After that my parents decided it would be more prevalent to evacuate a young child to ‘the country’ for that is where None-Go- Byes was perceived to be. Now I see on today’s website the address for the farm is given as, Otley Old Road Horsforth, but then it rather seemed to be in the middle of a host of districts my aunt said it was Carlton, But we went for fish and chips to Yeadon, the bus turned around at its terminus at Cookridge and the kids went to school in Bramhope, I think I even told my mates I had gone to live in Otley it being the Otley Old Road.
There were no cars about or rather no petrol for the cars during the war, my dad was a bus driver and had a motor bike and sidecar as you can see in the picture, he must have got his petrol for that from somewhere, perhaps he had special dispensation to allow him to get to his bus the first thing on a morning before other buses were running? (I apologise or these pictures showing me, sorry they are

In the farm yard with the big green gate and Mr Barstow’s big house behind
The only ones I have of that time and must have been from on an earlier visit before the evacuation as I’m only a baby on them and I wouldn’t have remembered so far back.)
So Dad got a transfer from Donnisthope Street Bus Depot to Headingly Depot to facilitate the move. Anyway it didn’t seem as though it was going to be a good idea anyway for the very first night we were in the cottage the Germans dropped a flare right outside on the road evidently looking for the giant Avro Aircraft factory which was just up the road but camouflaged to look like a field with cattle grazing on it.
This is an account of how life transpired for me at None-go-byes
A family by the name of Firth had the farm at the time, they had a daughter called Annie, she was about my age, and we would play together. If she is still alive, she will be in her eighties now! I also recall they had a live in labourer called Joseph. There were two cottages; the first cottage housed a couple called, Lynes. They set about building their own house (physically themselves) a couple of hundred yards up the road. I see there is a beautiful house on the site now but that certainly wasn’t the result of their endeavours, they gave it a good try but materials were hard to come by during the war and over the years they seemed to make little progress.

The story itself starts even earlier, 1919 in fact, for it was then that Walter Ward (born 1888) and a soldier of the First World War brought his bride, Nellie (born 1887) who he had met and courted during his leaves, to None-Go-Byes. They had married on his demob from the army and Walter had secured a job with Mr. Barstow who lived in the big house, which stood in the yard beyond the big green gate. I’m unsure as to Walter’s duties but the cottage went with the job and he and Nellie moved in. The location was far more isolated than it is today and the conditions far more primitive than the parental home in Leeds. Nellie was one of five sisters and four brothers and they naturally worried for her well-being, being so far away and living in such primitive conditions. To make sure she was OK they would make regular visits.
I only arrived on the scene as a baby in 1937 but my earliest recollections are of all the walking it entailed when we went to visit Aunt Nellie. For a start it meant two buses the second of which turned at the terminus near the post office at Cookridge, perhaps it still does? We would walk the rest of the way but this was only the start of the walking, for we would usually go for another walk when we got there, perhaps to the little wooden bungalow which sold homemade lemonade at the top of the hill or sometimes all the way to Yeadon for fish and chips out of the paper. Alternatively Nellie would have a great meal waiting for us on our return cooked on the oven range that invariable included the world’s best Yorkshire puddings – dinner plate size.
There was no doubting the cottage’s primitiveness though. There was a dry toilet at the side of the cottage, a ‘double seater’ it had a large hole for adults and a smaller one for children – I suppose it was so they would not fall through? I hated it. The cottage had neither gas nor electricity, nor of course a telephone, when darkness fell a smoky oil lamp would be lit, which was the only light. The only water came from a tap in the yard, which always tasted of iron. The accommodation consisted of a sitting room and a scullery. Upstairs there were two small bedrooms. A tiny window in the gable end lighted the first, which had to be passed through to reach the other. I can’t really remember how we washed but imagine it would be by filling the scullery sink with water from the tap outside and airing it by water from the big iron kettle that always sang merrily on the hob above the open fire.

My entertainment as a child more or less consisted of playing with the buttons out of the button box or with the many lovely cats, which were always around. I remember in particular one called ‘Smuts’, after the First World War general. Walter seemed content, on a winter’s evening after work, to sit smoking and looking into the fire. He had cultivated a beautiful little triangular garden across the road close to where the stream passes under the bridge, where he grew mainly flowers but also made the best dandelion and burdock I ever tasted. Sometimes on a bright early morning we were privileged to gather wild mushrooms from the field behind the garden. I have never known mushrooms to smell or taste so sweet. In the event the family had no need to worry about Nelly’s well-being, the couple lived in that primitive cottage for over forty years and had a great marriage.
Mrs. Firth, the farmer’s wife, kept chickens as well as cows in the field behind the cottage, sometimes she would let me help her feed them and collect the eggs. The bran she fed the chickens had the most wonderful aroma too, if ever I catch the smell of chicken bran, even today, I’m transported back to None-Go-Byes. When Mr. Barstow died his widow provided Walter with a small pension and they remained in the cottage. He then began working for the Council Highways Department. One of his jobs, which I find incredible now, was to walk all the way to the traffic lights outside the Darnley Arms at the top of Pool Bank and blank them out at dusk on the weekends, when the Council wasn’t working, so that they could not be seen from the air. Then he had to walk all the back to None-Go-Byes again! Later at school age and living back in Leeds again my mates loved to accompany my on bike rides to Aunt Nelly’s. It was a great day out I used to ride my little bike through town up Woodhouse Lane, Through Headingly, Lawnswood, Cookridge and then along Otley Old Road, I wouldn’t fancy doing that today, we were always welcome. Walter died in 1960. After that Nelly moved in with her daughter at Bingley until her death in 1970. I lost track of whether or not anyone else lived in the cottage after Nellie, for I was in the army myself (National Service).

The Wards had a son Laurie and a daughter, Muriel (Peggy) born in 1923. Peggy is the one with me on the concrete in front of the cottage in the photograph at the back, taken about 1938/39. The pair of them: Peggy and Laurie, attended Bramhope School in the 1920s/early 30s. They had to walk there of course and went by way of the ‘the Tips’, passing the airshafts of the tunnel. (I once climbed up the outside of one of those airshafts to look down, it was about thirty foot across at the top dwindling to a tiny ring at the bottom with miniature lines and smoke starting to curl up from the bottom and green slime all up the walls, it gave my nightmares)
They took their shoes off and walked to school in their bare feet so they wouldn’t get their shoes muddy and be told off at school. Bramhope School was not just an infant school at that time; it was for infants, juniors and seniors too. They attended the same school from five to about thirteen when they were put to work
Peggy had a curious tale to tell, which always intrigued me, of how she had been walking with a younger child in the Round Wood – not sure where that is? She had heard horses approaching at the gallop and pulled the child into the trees for safety. The tale goes that she heard and felt the wind of the horses as they passed right in front of them but there was nothing to be seen. Peggy worked at the AVRO during the war where she met her future husband. After they were married, they lived for the rest of their lives in Bingley. Peggy died in 1997 but not before she had made a nostalgic trip back to Bramhope School which brought her to write a little poem about Bramhope remembered; the original of which I have in script on a wall at home and a copy I have included here at the back. Not much to show as a lovely family passes from living memory?

‘Click’ to enlarge writing

When I look back, I’m amazed that we have progressed so far in one lifetime from those primitive conditions to our comfortable modern living. Can you imagine life now without electricity and running water? Can you imagine kids walking across the fields to school in bare feet today? Yet in some ways perhaps we have not really progressed at all, for in-spite of those primitive conditions there was a magic about rural living which we seem to have lost.

What do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

July 1, 2021 by

What do you want to be when you grow up

By Valerie Milner?

As a fifteen-year-old leaving school in the very early 1950s my first job came about as the result of a visit, accompanied by my mother, to the Youth Employment Office in the Education Building at the side of Leeds Town Hall.
In my aunt’s brown dog-tooth check jacket, borrowed specially for the occasion, and with glaring absence of qualifications (Ellerby Lane School did not do the School Leaving Certificate), I ended up as Junior Clerk at a starting wage of 35/- for a five-and-a-half-day week. The office was a Trade Protection Association in East Parade basically concerned with debt collection and assessing suitability for credit, not what I would have chosen if given a chance.
At least it gave me office experience and after a couple of years I had the cheek to respond to an advert in the Yorkshire Evening Post for a doctor’s secretary/receptionist. He was a GP with three surgeries in Leeds: Woodhouse, Chapeltown, and Moortown where he lived. To say my pals were sceptical would be an understatement, but contrary to their ‘too young’ and ‘no chance’ attitude, I made it. I did not mind a job of unsocial hours or having two bus journeys from Leeds 9 to get to any of the surgeries. I must have been the cheap option!
As I remember, in the early days of the NHS there was no appointment system at the doctor’s, nor any restriction on the time spent in consultation; you knew the opening hours, so off you went. On arrival at the waiting room the first requirement was to assess your place in the order, usually involving a count of the people already there, or if you were feeling brave enough to interrupt the reigning silence, “Who do I follow, please?”
I imagined I would be stationed in the waiting room with the patients, but on my first day I was given a white coat to wear – that symbol of authority – and surprised to find my place was always in the consulting room with the doctor. For part of the week his wife was there to help me, from then on, I was on my own. I have often wondered if there were other GP practices with someone like me in the same circumstances. I have yet to know of one.
Telephone interruptions during surgeries was rare, re-routed elsewhere.
“Mist ammon et ipecac, Tab Sulphonamide B,” said the doctor, leaving me mystified. Why had he resorted to a foreign language? His wife whispered, “Doctor’s telling you what he is prescribing the patient – you have to write it down on their record card”. These were the days of kaolin poultices, calamine lotion, codeine and adrenaline cream – a relief for me to get my head round as opposed to the Linctus Scillae Opiat. pro infans and the Linguet Lutocyclins etc abounding in his vocabulary. That miracle medicine, popularly known as M & B and produced by May and Baker, was still used, to be superseded by penicillin and other antibiotics. Some medicine he prescribed is consigned to the archives, but one or two still survive.
And remember too, the need we felt and what faith we had in a decent tonic? The nastier it tasted the more likely it was to do us good.
Only once in the early days did I overstep the mark, when a patient distressed by his wife’s illness was leaving. I opened the door with a comforting, “don’t worry, she’ll be alright”. Immediately I knew I had done wrong. Doctor’s face was disapproving, but nothing was said until after surgery when I was told in no uncertain terms. Of course, I deserved it, knowing well enough it was not my business to make such comments. I never did it again.
We formed a good, though formal, working relationship. In the three-and-a-half years I was there, he never used my first name.
When he drove between surgeries I had to sit in the back of the car with his overcoat, medical bag and trilby, in a haze of his cigarette smoke. He did not smoke in the surgery or at home.
My mother always said working there changed me – for the worse! “It’s made you too serious – you used to be so lively”.
But there were lighter moments when doctor and I had a laugh. How can I forget one summons for a visit coming via a note left at the surgery, “Dear Doctor, please call to see my son. He has a rash and I think it is measles”. It was signed ‘The Marquis of Lorne’ – not nobility but the pub down the road!
Doctor worked hard, on call all hours. Our two fullest days meant five surgery slots daily – Chapeltown and Woodhouse in the morning, Moortown in the afternoon, before a break for tea. At tea on those days, we had buttered cream crackers – during the time I worked for him, he sat unconcernedly reading the newspaper chomping away on the crackers while I tried to perfect eating mine silently – never accomplished! After our refreshment, we went on to Woodhouse before returning to Moortown for a late evening surgery. A regular locum doctor, working two nights a week, attended to evening surgery at Chapeltown.
A routine job that doctor rather enjoyed was syringing ears. I would be instructed to prepare the solution – tepid water. I brought in the massive syringe, placed a towel on the patient’s shoulder and held the bowl. If the wax came out in bits, doctor was not impressed, but if he flushed it out in one big piece, he was jubilant, seizing the bowl, thrusting it under the patient’s nose, “Look, that came out of your ear!” For this he expected an appreciative ‘Ooo!’
I was also required to prepare penicillin injections, sterilising equipment and measuring the Avroprocil into the syringe, which I bore ceremoniously to the doctor. Some male patients would present themselves ready, arm on hip, muscles tensed, to be told, “Relax, flop your arm down by your side – you are not in the army now”. Good advice.
Most patients thought doctor could do no wrong, though some thought him brusque. One lady confided he had rudely told her to turn off that wireless before he had hardly set foot in her house. By then I had confidence and developed a way to commiserate without coming down on either side. A man on the receiving end of doctor’s pithy remarks had an injured foot. Doctor examined it before asking the man to remove his other shoe and sock to make a comparison. Doctor looked at the feet and then at the man before observing, “Well, I’d have washed both feet while I was at it”.

I enjoyed my job very much, becoming as familiar a face to patients as the doctor himself. When I left the practice, it was for a better salary – five shillings a week rise was not an option. Doctor gave me a reference for my next job as an hotel receptionist, helpfully adding to the more usual ‘conscientious and honest’ bits, “I have always found her pleasant in her manner towards my patients” – prompting me to think, now he tells me!

The Passing of Mrs Barbara Blakeney (nee Reynard)

June 25, 2021 by
The Passing of Barbara Blakeney (nee Reynard)
We are saddened to announce the passing of yet another old East Leeds Stalwart: Mrs Barbara Blakeney. She was an old St Hilda’s Lass and she wrote us a story of her memories of the bombing of our old Richmond Hill School back in March 1941 which I have produced here for us to read again. Barbara will be sadly missed.
Here is Barbara’s story
I remember the night Richmond Hill School and Butterfield Street were bombed during the blitz of 14/15 March 1941. My dad used to be a fire watcher and was based at Wardle’s in Butterfield Street at the top end going into Lavender Walk. Wardle’s did stabling and the business included hiring out carriages and horse drawn hearses. Dad was in World War One so he was too old for war service in 1939. Fortunately he was not on duty in Butterflied Street the night of the bombing. Many streets had their own fire watching equipment. St Hilda’s Mount where I lived included. The equipment consisted of: ladders buckets, stirrup pumps, shovels and sand, all to deal with incendiary bombs. Drills were often organised but no incendiary bombs were ever dropped in our street. There was a club to witch residents contributed three pence per week towards their cost at the end of the war when I was about twelve the residue of the money provided a street party and each child received a brass three penny bit. Tables chairs and benches and believe it or not pianos were carried out of people’s homes into the street and a bonfire was lit. I have one of the old stirrup pumps but the rubber tubing perished years ago. I have some shrapnel too from the blitz part of an exploding shell probably fired from the guns at Knostrop. St Hilda’s School was closed at the beginning of the war and some children and their mothers were evacuated to Ackworth School near Pontefract. I don’t know when they all returned but my cousin, Eunice Johnson and I were taken to Lincolnshire to stay with my grandmother’s relations in the small village of Swinstead twelve miles from Grantham and nine miles from Bourne, We arrived there on Sunday 3rd of September (The day war broke out) and only stayed there until the end of January 1940. I think we were home sick.

Other childhood memories are of the pleasure we had walking or cycling down Red Road to the lovely blue bell woods near Temple Newsam Golf Course and up to the mansion or down Black Road to have a paddle in the Wyke Beck at Red Walls. Sometimes we cycled further afield to Leventhorpe Hall and then onto Swillington; my weren’t we in the country! Seeing the billets where the German POWs were and the big guns at Knostrop in the encampment during the war, it was another world away. Eddie and Edna Pawson lived in a farm down black road and at the side of the farm was a derelict little cottage that Edna professed had a ghost to try and frighten us. Nowadays places like that would be out of bounds due to health and safety, there was no compensation culture then. I must have been about three and a half when I saw a German airship flying over the Copperfields in a north westerly direction . From reports it was June 1936 when I started in the babies’ class at St Hilda’s School under a Miss Williamson. Until I was nearly four we had to sleep in the afternoons in camp beds with a blanket over us ( I remember those camp beds too but I could never get to sleep it seemed unnatural) There was a flat sheet with corner ties underneath which our mothers had to take home and wash every weekend. Miss Powell had standards one and two Miss Duckworth standards three and four and Miss Fewster standards four and five.
cabbage mixed with used tea leaves aren’t a bad substitute – at least it’s much better than smoking those dreadful Pashas – Ed

The Passing of Margaret Croll

June 11, 2021 by
We are sad to announce the passing earlier this month of Mrs, Margaret Croll (nee Ibbotson). Margaret was a St Hilda’s former pupil, for many years sacristan at St Hilda’s Church and the oracle on things to do with Richmond Hill. Margaret regaled us with her tale of Richmond Hill in December 2014 and I reproduce it here for us to see again.

When thinking of my childhood during the first decade after the Second World War my mind sometimes wanders back to the time when there were lots of shops in Richmond Hill. One in particular brings back fond memories because it belonged to my Aunt Emma (nee Reynard) and Uncle Tom Woods. My mam was Mollie Ibbetson (nee Reynard) and was cousin to Emma. The shops at 29 Upper Accommodation Road at the corner of Nellie View formally belonged to John and Susan Reynard who were uncle and aunt to my mam. The shop was grocery and green grocery selling fruit, flowers poultry and game.
The shop had a marbled top counter with scales for weighing dry goods such as: flour, butter, lard, cheese and fruit: apples, pears etc. On the counter was a bacon slicer for cutting thick or thin rashers of bacon and ham. It was also used for cutting boiled ham and corned beef. (I don’t think the health inspectors would have liked cooked and uncooked food being sliced on the same machine today?) Under the counter was a vinegar barrel with a tap; customers would bring their own jug or bottle for vinegar. The shop was stocked with dried fruit for baking, fresh fruit included apples pears, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, grapes, bananas and soft fruit when in season – strawberries, raspberries plumbs, gooseberries red currents and black currents. Soft fruit was not available all year round; it was the same with flowers.
In the right hand corner of the shop was a big wooden potato hod, which was a pyramid shaped container, with the point at the bottom, standing on a frame with wooden side supports. Sacks of potatoes were emptied into it. There was a big scale next to it shaped like a coalscuttle, it was used for weighing the potatoes: people would ask for two pennyworths, six pennyworths or a shilling’s worth according to their needs. The green vegetables were also at this side of the shop – cabbages cauliflowers and sprouts alongside the root vegetables swedes, parsnips, onions, white turnips carrots and beetroot.
The front window looked onto the main road. It was Mam’s job on Monday morning to clear and clean the window and brass the big rail, which is another way of saying clean the brass rail with Brasso. The rail had hooks on it that went all way across the window. Mam would then redress the window in the afternoon as it was half day closing. She would shine the apples with a soft cloth and arrange all the different fruit in the window with salad, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes spring onions, all arranged in separate baskets, then mam would hang black and green grapes on the hooks.
At Christmas time the shop had holly and mistletoe on the hooks outside. In the big kitchen Mum and Aunt Emma would skin and chop rabbits, pluck and draw chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. In the shop were nuts, walnuts, Barcelona (like hazel nuts) almonds, Brazil nuts dates figs and crystallized fruit; all nice things for Christmas.
Very early on Friday mornings, Mum and Aunt Emma went to the wholesale market which was in Leeds Kirkgate Market at the time. They would order all the fruit, vegetables and flowers for the shop. The shop hours were 9 am to 1 pm on Monday the other weekdays 9 am to 6 pm and on Saturday 8 am to 5 pm. on Saturday. When the shop closed for the weekend Aunt Emma would bring any soft fruit that had not been sold into the kitchen to make jam. She also pickled onions, beetroot and red cabbage, used cauliflowers to make piccalilli and made her own chutney, all this to be sold in the shop. She would buy two ounces of Turmeric from the chemist: Timothy White and Taylor to make the piccalilli, here were no metric measures in those days. She also made potted meat by boiling the ham bones and any leftover ends of bacon; there was always a queue of people waiting for it.
Aunt Emma and Uncle Tom retired in the 1960s the shop was sold and they went to live next door. I miss all the shops that were part of my childhood and growing up. Federation housing is now on the site of the shop and old streets.
There were so many shops in Richmond Hill all our daily needs could be purchased locally. Some of those which come to mind are: the Thrift Stores in Dial Street and Tommy Hutton the herbalist. Upper Accommodation Road had no end of shops including general grocers, Maypole, Drivers, the Co-op, Gallons, which later became Bill Benn’s television Shop. The Co-op also had a butchery and shoe department. There were lots of butchers in the area and confectioners, newsagents, drapery and clothing. Today all that remains in Upper Accommodation Road is a pharmacy, café, off licence and a sandwich shop. A bakery has recently closed. Nowadays we have to travel by bus or car for our everyday needs which usually come from the big supermarkets like Kwik Save on Torre Road or Morrison’s at Hunslet. Yes I do miss those little shops of earlier years.

The Richmond Hill Whit Walk
This was an annual event. It started from the Prospect Hotel, down Accommodation Road, Dial Street, Easy Road and then around the periphery of the old running track at East End Park, twice, before returning to the Prospect. It attracted a large field and there was a monetary prize. There is a dramatised film based on the race in existence. If I recall correctly an old mate, Jimmy Croll, won it twice, at least.

East Leeds in the Middle Distance

June 1, 2021 by
East Leeds in the Middle Distance
My peers and I can take tales of our East Leeds back to the second world war but we have Stan Pickles, who passed his memories onto me in 2011 before he was called to join that great story teller in the sky at the goodly age of 101 years to thank for tales of earlier years, mostly between the wars. I have reproduced a few of his memories here, (he had many more) I will concentrate on his tales of: The Sporting bank, The Easy Road Picture House, East End Park, Trams, Those back street Bookies, The Monkey Walks, and York Road when it was a pleasant thoroughfare.
Interestingly it seems going back to the 20s and 30s Richmond Hill School (before it was bombed) and Mount St Mary’s were our primary East Leeds School football Teams rather than Victoria and Ellerby Lane School as portrayed in a recent entry here.

The Sporting ‘Bank’
We had some popular rugby players living on the Bank. Dolly Dawson, Harry Beverley and George Tootles all played rugby for Hunslet. Afterwards Dolly Dawson was ‘Mine Host’ at the Hampton and the coach at Headingley. I can still see his face burst into a smile when we sang: ‘Get along Dolly Dawson, get along, get along.’ To the tune of the popular song, ‘I’m Heading for the Last Round up’. Dolly of course knew how to deal with the odd awkward customer or troublemaker.
Harry Beverley who helped in his father’s coal business, played cricket at East Leeds and had the great honour of playing rugby for England on tour in Australia. I think Dolly was very unlucky not to be picked for England. George Tootles, who was also a boxer, had a short career with Hunslet, finishing up almost blind due to boxing.
Doris Storey, the Olympic swimmer, was born and bred: a ‘York Road lass’. She learned her swimming at York Road Baths and came fourth in the 200 metres final. In that final, the three in front of her were using the new breast-stroke, which had just been officially accepted, while she was still swimming in the old manner. She would have had the Olympic gold if all things had been equal.
Easy Road picture House and East End Park
These two places keep cropping up in my mind and in my writing and for a long time my life revolved around them. The picture-house had a fireman we called ‘Old Gridiron’ because he sold tin lids and cooking dishes of all sizes during the day. The cinema pianist was a Mrs Scott, whose family kept the pastry shop opposite the ‘top hollows’. Then of course there was Abe, the Jewish roly-poly character: the jovial manager who was everyone’s friend. He always had a word for you about the films and a ‘Good-night, hope you enjoyed the show’ when you were leaving. He knew us all from being lads in our ‘penny rush’ days to the time we started courting and took our girls with us. Now and again he would give us trade passes, which my cousin and I were delighted to have and were able to see previews of coming films and to attend the shows at the Majestic or the Scala.
The Easy Road Picture House always closed the show with a serial, generally in fifteen weekly parts, with its tag line…to be continued next week’ after a nail biting finish. The big night was the coming of the ‘talkies’ The Broadway Melody packed the cinema to capacity each show for a week (in fact we packed in like sardines).
The local lamplighter was Mr Kendall and next door to the cinema was Mr Smallie’s blacksmith’s where we used to watch him shoe the horses and where we could take small household goods to be welded. East End Park had a little duck pond with railing around it, which was so attractive with mothers and young children throwing titbits for the swans and ducks to dart after. The flower gardens, the grass with its neatly cut verges and the lovely landscaped floral arrangements all combined to make the park a delight for everyone. All presided over by Dolphus, the ‘Parkie’ who kept a lookout for any mischief-makers and woe betide any trouble-makers. You will note I didn’t say ‘vandals’. There were no such people in that day and age.

Ho! Those Trams
There were very few cars then and the working classes depended on the tramcars for
almost all occasions, from early morning until almost midnight they took us to work and back and then were ready to take us out for enjoyment. The workpeople’s 2d and 3d returns always carried full loads across the city. My tram was the South Accommodation Road one, which carried workers to Hunslet Road for the big engineering works and to Armley and Wortley for those who worked in the mills. What would we have done without them? On Saturday afternoons, they dispatched huge crowds waiting in Briggate and Swinegate to Headingley and Elland Road and were there waiting outside the grounds to bring them back at the end of the game. It was a sight to see the poor conductor trying to get up the stairs to collect the fairs, with the stairs looking like escalators in a big store. Then it was back to town and returning for another load.
Yes, we were very dependent on them right from our young days when Mam and Dad took us out on our school holidays to places like, Roundhay Park and Kirkstall Abbey. Otley Chevin also featured in our tramcar rides, where they were engaged in carrying lots of visitors to the famous hill. There we enjoyed the day out, furnished with potted-meat sandwiches put up by Mother and pots of tea bought from the tea-hut at the hilltop.

Car number 22 just after leaving the terminus at Temple Newsam

It is no wonder the tramcar is remembered with affection, when it could be relied on never to let you down. I wish today I could once again catch a tram and see the cheerful conductor, always at our service. Thanks for the memories!

Those Back-street Bookies
Looking back I see those dismal small huts up some dark ally or a house in a back yard, which were almost the only places where one could place a bet in those far-away days in the 20s and 30s (and it was illegal of course). There were no brightly lit offices in the main streets where smiling girls were ready to take your bets and pay you out if you were lucky. It is good now to be provided with a neat betting slip and a pencil instead of the grubby bits of paper, which used to be the norm. It is good also to be able to watch your selection running on the TV. In those days between the wars the latest thing was the ticker-tape machine which tapped the results through. Our main bookie was, Charlie Tobin, up a passage in a little shack off East Street or Willie Haselgrave in an old yard in Easy Road.
The bookie’s clerk took your bets through a square hole in the wooden wall and gave you a numbered ticket to identify your bets. Many is the time we had to scamper off in all directions when the lookout gave the warning that the police were raiding. We generally had time to run through the streets to take refuge in a friendly house. I wonder how many living today remember those raids and the ‘Black Maria’ taking the punters away to Meadow Lane Police Station? The police had decoys in overalls posing as engineers or painters and then pouncing a day or two later with evidence of accepting bets.
On one such occasion a blank slip was placed in front of Willie and looking up Willie said, ‘What’s tha ‘aving?’
‘I’m ‘aving thee,’ was the reply.
Willie retorted: ‘Tha’s nor big enough for a copper!’
But back came the answer, ‘I’m big enough to cop thee!’
Yes, the luxurious betting offices of today make it a pleasure for the punters. Even a
snack and a cuppa is available. What changes indeed!

The Monkey Walks
Recollections of the ‘monkey walks’ in the 20s and 30s when young men and girls paraded up and down in innocent flirtation come to mind. Our walks began in East End Park on Sunday afternoons, when we paraded up and down the main drive past the little duck pond and beautiful landscaped flower gardens. The park was always a picture with its newly painted forms in a lovely green and the lawns a ‘sight to behold’. Always on the lookout for our favourite girls strolling by, we would sit around talking of the films we had seen the previous night at the Shaftsbury, Princess or Regent cinemas or in noisy argument about the rugby match at Headingley on Saturday afternoon. Of course, when the girls came round the conversation changed and there were other things on our minds.
Often we would make for the big area of grass near the bandstand to join the crowd lounging about and listening to the band rendering overtures from: The Maid of the Mountains, The Desert Song, The Merry Widow and all the rest of the popular music of the times. Just before we left to go home for tea we would have the last half-hour enjoying an ice cream or a bottle of pop with the girls and our last chat. On leaving the park our parting words were usually: ‘See you up the Beck tonight.’ For the ‘Monkey Walk’ up Killingbeck was our Sunday night rendezvous. It was always well packed on the paths between the Melbourne and the Lion and Lamb, boys and girls chatting up within the range of the old gas lamps. All though our teenage years we looked forward to being: ‘Up the Beck’.
A little later, we were old enough to have a few drinks in the Melbourne, where we had many a happy night. Our host, Jim Greenwood, provided a most friendly atmosphere with his walk around and his chats to the customers and would often give us his version of ‘The Girl in the Alice Blue Gown,’ which brought special applause to Jim’s delight.
Captain Miller, our Shaftsbury host, with his adopted stance of his regimental days, took a bit of stick from the lads regarding the two race horses he owned: Shaftsbury Lad and Shaftsbury Lass (They couldn’t have beaten me!), just about sums up their ability on the track, although I saw ‘the Lass’ win a three horse race at Pontefract.

York Road
From the Woodpecker to the Melbourne
Our lives revolved around York Road for apart from the friendly shops on either side the road was a very busy lively hub of everyday wants and interesting times. A lot of our time was spent on York Road with its double lines of tram track stretching the whole way. The shops were open until 8 p.m. in those days and were so friendly. I remember Harry Bart’s cut sweets and cigs was always busy, Clayton’s the furniture shop catered for all the needs of the folk who lived in the adjacent streets of back–to-back houses, Addleman’s, the outfitters, next to the Woodpecker, would fit you out completely. Jack Niman – ‘the miner’s friend’ never turned anyone away who wanted a few £s on the tick – many is the time I bought a shirt, tie and socks. York Road School with its railings almost on the road itself was filled with joyful laughter at playtime. A drink in The Hope Inn, White Horse or Shaftsbury Hotel held many happy hours for the lads. Victoria School was another landmark with more rows of shops waiting for our custom. A nice pork pie from Revill’s or a glass of ‘Vantas’, a spluttering drink drawn from a glass oval with different flavours to suit your choice (very welcome on a hot day), Mrs Dighton’s shop and the ‘Murder Shop’ so called because of their slogan, ‘We don’t cut prices – we murder them,’ sought their trade in ladies ware. The lead out from East End Park entrance came out onto York Road too. Continuing further up York Road you came to the busy part catering to feed the many workpeople at lunch time, sandwiches, fish and chips etc. For entertainment there were the cinemas: The Victoria (later the Star) and The Shaftsbury. And the pubs apart form those already mentioned: The Stag, the Dog and Gun and not forgetting our Sunday night rendezvous – The Melbourne.
It was nice to have a game of snooker now and then at Pemburton’s over the Blacksmith’s shop on York Road at the bottom of Pontefract lane. Yes, York Road deserves special mention as it contained many happy memories for us between the wars. I can still see with affection the Accommodation Road tramcar turning sharply off York Road at The Hope Inn to continue its journey to the Hunslet terminus. Also the regular stream of tramcars on their way to Cross Gates and Halton and passing each other on their way back to town and beyond. The ugly motorway which now runs down the centre makes the memories of the past all the more pleasing.
No vandals, no muggings, there was now’t to rob,
We felt we were rich with a couple of bob.
People were happy in those far off days,
kinder and caring in so many ways.
The milkman the paperboy would whistle and sing
and a night at the pictures was our one mad fling.
Thank you Stan, You’re a star!

The Great Characters You Meet Along the Way

April 8, 2021 by

The Great Characters you meet along the way

We can all look back through our lives and think of the great characters that stand out in our memories, some alas will have passed to that great story teller in the sky but they are not lost to us.

I propose for you to meet four of the folk it was a joy for me to know. I’ll change their names as I have lost contact with them all but I fear that any of them who may happily be still alive may take umbrage to the way I am revealing their foibles in public.

I’ll start with Burt; he was pure joy to work with. Burt was old school he was an ex grammar school lad and one of a depleting few who could write and speak Latin. He had at one time held high office but now nearing retirement he had been shunted into a more menial position and he was now in a running down mode. Burt was a real character, in my eyes he was a star, he had a favorite saying, which went along the lines: ‘the work is hard and the pay is small. I think I’ll take my time.’ And take his time he did, sometimes it was hard to tell if he was really still awake. He had a pair of glasses which he wore ‘Amy Johnson’ style on his forehead. He would take up a comfortable pose with his head back and his hands across his stomach so that it was difficult to know if he was actually thinking or sleeping. On one occasion, Burt was in this pose but with a mug of tea in his hand when a new chief officer came on a tour of inspection. Burt’s only movement as he came through the office was to raise his mug to him and he was still in the same position when the chief made his exit twenty minutes later.
Best of all I liked to listen to Burt’s tales of his railway days when he’d worked on the footplate in the days of steam as both driver and fireman. One tale I enjoyed in particular was of the time Burt was caught short on the engine. There were no toilets on the engine itself of course nor was provision to get through to the carriage toilets – so evidently, the common practice was to relieve oneself out of the side of the engine while it was passing through a tunnel. On this particular day Burt had left it a bit late and he was still in action as the train emerged from the tunnel, resulting in him spraying a gang of platers who were working on the line and were standing back to allow the engine to pass safely. Can you imagine this scene from the platers’ point of view? There they were standing back and waving pleasantly to an engine exiting the mouth of the tunnel and then the amazement of coming to terms with the sight of this bloke standing on the footplate and p…..g all over you as it flew past.
Another of his engine tales concerned a tunnel again – on this occasion Burt was the fireman and he became concerned that the train was travelling very fast considering it had to stop at a station which came immediately after the tunnel, ‘Don’t you think we are going a bit fast for such and such a station?’ Burt had said to the driver.
‘B……. Hell!’ had replied driver, ‘I’d forgotten we were stopping there today!’ With that he had banged on the anchors so hard that the wheels locked and the train slid out of the tunnel and passed the platform with sparks flying from the wheels. An old lady happened to be waiting for the train and unabashed the driver lifted his hat to her and said, ‘I’ll be with you in a minute madam’, as the train slid past. In fact, they had to get permission from the stationmaster to change the signals and allow the train to reverse back to the platform. But yet again it’s the concept from the lady’s point of view that is so funny – the idea of a train sliding out of a tunnel, wheels locked and sparks flying and the sight of the engine driver tipping his hat as it slid past.
There is one final tale concerning his engine days. Burt said he was the fireman again and we were bringing a train load of empty wagons back down our side of the Pennines, because they were empty the driver, a little gnome of a feller thought that the brake on the engine would be enough to control the train so he hadn’t bothered to couple the brakes up on the actual trucks. I thought we were travelling a bit fast as we would come into the main line at the bottom of the Pennines. I said to the driver ‘Don’t you think we are going a bit too fast in case the signal is against us at the bottom. When I turned to look at him he was braced in the corner of the engine with his feet pushing on the brake, clay pipe gripped in his mouth. ‘What do you think I am doing,’ he said ‘I’ve had the brake on for the last ten minutes and we’re not slowing down.’ We shot out onto the main line at the bottom like a cork out of a bottle and luck was with us, nothing was coming.
Another great character I worked with, I’ll call him, Jack. Jack was a qualified chartered accountant and I know how hard it is to pass those accountancy exams from the number of clever folk I have known who couldn’t manage to pass them which made it all the more puzzling that Jack made himself such a victim. Jack didn’t fit the stereotype idea that accountants are boring, for instance he insisted in coming to work dressed as a cowboy: string tie cowboy boots the whole issue which didn’t endear him to the chief accountant who happened to be a woman. Jack was certainly good with figures or so he would tell us he was forever working on formulas to beat the bookies, he would say I’ve had a dry run and got it right this time it can’t fail so we would all chip in and he would put it on a horse, it never won for us.

Although around the age of fifty Jack led the ‘Peter Pan’ lifestyle of a twenty year old. He loved the life of wine, women and song. Yes, he used to actually get up and sing on stage anywhere where he got the chance. He had a myriad of tales to tell, one concerned a time when he and his girlfriend fell out in an old Victorian pub, which resulted in her throwing a pint glass at him. Jack naturally ducked and the glass sailed over his head and shattered a stained glass window, which had been in-situ for about a hundred years. They had to leg it fast on that occasion.
On another occasion an argument resulted in them falling out on the side of the city where his girlfriend lived. Jack, who was out of money, had to start walking all the way home, about eight miles distant to his home on the other side of the city. What Jack didn’t realize was: he had unknowingly retained his girlfriend’s house keys in his pocket. She arriving at her door found she could not get in and believed Jack had taken her keys on purpose. Not realizing that he was out of money and walking home she caught a taxi to Jack’s abode arriving there she found the house in darkness. Thinking Jack was in bed she tried to knock him up – of course, there was no answer for Jack was still in the process of walking home. Receiving no response to her banging, she though he was playing silly beggars because of the fallout and promptly put his windows through. When the poor lad finally made it home the street was filled with people, police fire brigade, and the lot.
As a finale, they came home late one night after being out dancing; another argument ensued in which John’s thumb was bent back so forcefully that it resulted in a compound fracture. The thumb had to be put into plaster causing him to be absent from work for a considerable period. While already having one thumb in pot, Jack got himself into argument in a Chinese take-away in which the thumb on his other hand was bent back and broken too. This meant he had to walk around with both thumbs in pot stuck up in the air. Thumbs up for OK was about all he could manage. What a guy, but all part of the rich pattern of characters you meet up with in life.

Chalky White.
One character, who stands out from my time at RAF Wildenrath in Germany, on national Service, was a lad named, Graham White we nick named him ‘Chalky’. I’m not sure if Chalky was truly intellectual or just intellectual in comparison to the rest of us in that debased barrack room. Whatever, his middle class refinement and natural sensitivity isolated him from our crude society where a pint, a pie and a punch up constituted a good Saturday night out. He would have been more at home as an officer would old Chalky and he probably would have been were it not for the fact that he had an ability to get up people’s noses. This was OK when it was just us – the lowly gash hands – that he antagonized, we would just ignore him or threaten to ‘pan’ him if he didn’t go away. His major problem was that he antagonized those who were above him in the hierarchy too. He just would not bow down to authority and that was more serious because it upset the power source and the power source is sacrosanct in the army.
On one occasion it seems that a tiny red faced sergeant, who had been strutting about screaming obscenities at squaddies – which was a drill sergeant’s specialty – had walked up to Chalky who was six foot plus and putting his face level with Chalk’s chest had called him ‘A ‘orrible little man.’ Amused by the ludicrousness of the statement, Chalky had made the fundamental mistake of bursting out into laughter. For this disgraceful transgression he had been ‘posted off’ to another unit. Chalky was always being ‘posted off’ to other units. I met up with him in two different camps myself but Chalky had traveled a far longer, lonelier road than this.
Chalky was an aerial photographer attached from the ROAC (Royal Army Ordinance Corps). Photography was his job and his hobby. He always had his Rolleiflex camera at the ready, evidently Rolleiflex cameras were the ‘bees knees’ at the time and nothing but the best was good enough for old Chalky. There is no doubting his photographs were always top quality I have him to thank for the records I have of my army days in the khaki. He would take black and white ‘studies’ of the rest of us; he got mad if we called them ‘snaps’. I can well imagine him showing them to his posh friends back home, presenting them as: ‘artistic captions of a peasant society’. Perhaps it was due to this airy-fairy artistic kite that he flew which made him so different to the rest of us and such a pain in the bum but he was different from the rest of us in other ways too; for instance he was such a victim romantically – forever falling in love and being burned by the girl. As being compassionate was not in our rough nature, he would then have to suffer added insults from the rest of us for being such a prat. Chalky could not come to terms with the fact: that in barrack-room culture squaddies never admitted to falling in love. They only had sexual encounters that when related in the raw made poor, sensitive, Dinger, wince.
I recall the occasion when he parked himself on the foot of my bed one evening, disturbing my evening nap. For some reason he would choose me as his confident, I think I had won his dubious affinity after bailing him out from taking a ‘hiding’ once or twice. He started to pore out this tale of woe of how this guy had walked off with his girl while he’d been on leave. I said to him, disinterestedly, hoping he’d go away, ‘Why didn’t you just clobber him, Chalky?’ It seemed quite a reasonable comment to me but Chalky was aghast. ‘What would that prove Rufus?’ he said. He called me Rufus Rotunda. I don’t suppose I could complain; what with all the names I called him. He went on, ‘The guy might have brilliant brain!’ That statement seemed so irrelevant and yet so profound that I have remembered it all these years. Then he went and had the record: This Nearly Was Mine played on the camp radio, which brought him to tears and made the rest of us wince even more? Barrack-room culture has no place for ‘hearts worn on sleeves’.
D.H. Lawrence’s book: Lady Chatterley’s Lover had just been published and it had really hit the headlines – big time in 1960, there had recently been a case in the High Court following its publication to establish whether the book was actually obscene or not. As can be imagined everyone wanted to read the book for themselves, the whole nation was agog with it. Chalky took delight in telling us of how he had been traveling back from leave on a train and he’d had a book laid out on the table in front of him. He’d covered everything but the author’s name: D.H. Lawrence, with a newspaper. ‘Everyone thought I was reading Lady Chatterley,’ said Chalky. ‘But just I was getting off I moved the paper and let them see that it was not Lady C. that I was reading, but one of D.H. Lawrence’s lesser known, artistic novels.’ He obviously believed that his reading of this more ‘highbrow’ literature elevated him above the common man. Only Chalky could have contemplated being ‘such a plonker’. Yet underneath this veneer, he had a heart of gold, he’d help anyone out who was in a spot and he was full of good conversation, delivered in impeccable English. One could learn a lot from Chalky if you were prepared to tolerate his peculiarities but it took a sort of ‘inverted snobbery’.

My favorite Chalky tale was one he would tell himself: it concerned an incident, which took place during his basic training. As I indicated earlier, the drill pigs would send a squad rushing off on all sorts of degrading wild goose chases in pursuit of discipline. This would be accompanied by the threat, that last one back would be doing some evil job like cleaning the urinals with a razor blade or polishing the sergeant’s boots until he could see his face in them. Chalky found this charade totally beneath his dignity and would amble along always coming second last as there was seemingly some unfortunate guy in his platoon with the name of ‘Absent,’ who Dinger knew he could always beat without having to exert himself. Came the fateful day when the sergeant had called out: ‘Right into that field you lot, touch that tree, last one back is cleaning my boots tonight!’ So, off they all shot, Chalky bringing up the rear, safe in the knowledge that Absent would be even further back. ‘I touched the tree and turned for home,’ said Chalky I expected to meet Absent still on his way out. I couldn’t believe it, Absent was nowhere to be seen; Absent actually was absent! In a mad panic I tried to catch up with the others but it was too late.’
Poor old Chalky had the ignominy of having to clean the sergeant’s boots that night, which really went against the grain. I can just visualize his panic, his long legs flaying about trying to rectify the situation to no avail.
Years later, after we’d all been demobbed: out of the blue Chalky turned up on the doorstep of our old terrace house in East Leeds. He seemed more out of place there than ever. He’d made the effort to look me up but we were both a bit embarrassed for we had nothing in common at all now, not even the army. The passage of time gives credibility to old Chalk’s values; it was just that he had them too early and in the wrong place to fit in with the rest of us and our ‘laddish’ behavior. In retrospect, I have to say that I really liked the guy! I hope he’s gone to some grand society where there is no authority, a place where love is king and Chalky can just get on with being, ‘Chalky’

For the final character in my four I’m going to call him ‘Ron’.
Now Ron was a great character himself but he was renowned for telling great tales too and it is one of his own great true tales I am going to relate to you here.
Now it seems Ron had two daughters, we’ll call them Joyce and Jean. Jean was twenty one years old and married, Joyce was sixteen and a ‘bit of a lass’ that Ron had to keep his eye on. On the night in question Joyce was babysitting in a house that was overlooked by the house where Jean lived. Ron said, I got a telephone call from Jean, she said, ‘Dad, our Joyce has got lads in the house where she’s babysitting.’ Ron said, I jumped in the car and went around to the house, I went in and there was no sign of any lads but I thought I’d better have a look round, there was one lad behind a door another lad in the bathroom and another even a cupboard. I kicked them all out and gave Joyce a telling off and then went home.
I sat at home watching the telly until it got dark but I was still uneasy. I got back in the car and went around to the house again, it was all in darkness now and the door was locked so I banged on the door and finally the bedroom light went on and Joyce’s head appeared at the window, ‘What is it now Dad? I’m in bed, I was asleep.’ ‘Let me in I want to look round again,’ I said. So she grumbled for a bit but finally came down and let me in. I looked all around the house and it appeared she was alone and I was just about to go home when I thought I’ll just look under the bed and there was a lad laid out under the bed. I said, ‘What are you doing under there and he said, ‘I’m looking for my watch.’

We were in no Hurry to go back to School

April 1, 2021 by

We were in no Hurry to go back to School

No disrespect to the kids of today who bemoan that the schools are closed and can’t wait to get back, but in the early 1940s schools were closed down too while the buildings were fortified against expected bomb damage and retired teachers were brought back to replace those called up for the war.

            But there was a different cultural attitude abroad then than that which exists today. Schools were staffed by strict Victorian teachers who welded the cane with gay abandon (I was no stranger to the cane, myself). Remember how the comics of the day, Dandy and Beano would have a school feature with kids bending over to receive ‘six of the best’. And the cruel tales of the public school bullying. So, just like with National Service, which came later our peers who came before us did not encourage us to like school.  (In fact we liked them both looking back). So we saw school as prison and out of school as freedom

If you had a bad day the day of the eleven plus you were out to work in full employment at the end of the fourteenth year anyway. (it had only recently moved from the end of the thirteenth year) but at least we were streetwise, can you imagine today’s generation of thirteen/fourteen year old kids being told at the end of the lockdown you’re not going back to school lad or lass it’s out to work for you now. Would they be able to cope with that?

             A few years ago we were in the hall of a large comprehensive school discussing local history for a project with the headmaster, when a lad came charging by shouting something at the top of his voice. We were surprised when the headmaster just said, ‘Stop running boy,’ and the lad just ran on. My pal said to the headmaster, ‘What’s happened to administering a swift clip behind the lug ‘ole? The headmaster was aghast and answered, ‘I can’t do that now-a-days, I’d get the sack!’ How things have changed.

            The other major difference was that we were not anchored to the home  by electronic gadgetry and of course currently by the pandemic, we were free to roam far and wide and get our knees mucky, so being off school always seemed preferable to being ‘in school’ and we made the most of it. The one thing I hope today’s kids will not miss out on that we would have hated to miss was, school sport, especially inter-school football. The first time you saw your name on the notice board for being selected for the school football team was a red letter day and you didn’t sleep a wink before the day of the match.

            In our old East Leeds there was a myriad  of mostly small Victorian built schools almost on every corner we had: St Hilda’s, Mount St Mary’s, St Charles’s, All saints, Ellerby Lane, Victoria, Saville Green, Leeds Parish Church, South Accom. We should have had one more: Richmond Hill School but that was bombed down on the 14th March 1941, I heard the bombs fall. We were a happy community but very competitive on the football field.

            The highlight of the Leeds Schools football year was the Schools Cup Final and it is hard to believe this year, 2021 makes seventy years since the iconic cup final of 1951/2 between two of our local East Leeds Schools, Ellerby Lane and Victoria which became infamously known as the ‘Lucky Dressing room Final.’ I remember the day of that final, being Friday our school was attending Victoria School for wood-working instruction as was our lot every Friday afternoon. We were chivvying their lads a bit, as lads will do saying how Ellerby Lane would murder them tonight, Ellerby Lane were favourites they had a great football team and a rugby League team too that year and they were winning everything put before them. But there was to be a little caveat regarding the ground where it was to be played, it having one lucky and one unlucky dressing room to contend with. I have told this tale before on this site but as it is the seventy year anniversary here it is again.   



Alan Allman

The School’s Cup Final was the pinnacle of the Leeds schools’ football year. In 1951/52 the finalists were: Ellerby Lane and Victoria – two East Leeds rivals the match was to be played at East End Park’s ground at Skelton Road. In those days the dressing rooms consisted of a large wooden hut at one end of the ground and consisted of: a large tea room, a dressing room for the officials and two dressing rooms for the teams; one of which were deemed to be the ‘lucky dressing room’ and was twice the size of the other. Folklore had it that the victorious team would be the one that changed in this dressing room.

I was ordered by Brian Monk (our school captain) prior to the match to go sit in the ‘lucky dressing room’ and save it for the Ellerby Lane team. I was only a young lad and in awe of Brian, I did exactly as I was told. It was to be an evening match and I was in position in that ‘lucky dressing room’ an hour before the kick-off but before our team arrived the Victoria team turned up and one of the Victoria team, Terry Renouccie (who in later years became a footballing colleague and good friend) turfed me out and told me in no uncertain matter to go sit in the smaller ‘unlucky dressing room’. When Brian and our team arrived he was furious that I hadn’t managed to keep the Victoria lads out but what chance had I, a thirteen year old, against the whole of the Victoria team?     Folklore held good, Ellerby Lane had been the favourites to lift the trophy but Victoria playing out of the lucky dressing room won the match two-one.

      Although there is more than one version of this tale the lucky dressing room saga is still a bone of contention between Victoria and Ellerby lane former pupils on occasions of reunions for old East Leeds folk even through more than sixty five years have passed since that legendary match. Mischievously we bring a group of former Ellerby Lane lads and a similar group of old Victoria lads together and then drop the bombshell, do you remember that lucky dressing room final? Step back and watch them go!

As a footnote We really loved our teachers, stern as they were and we are sad it is too late to truly thank them for the hard work they had educating us.

Beeston – All the way from Copperfield Ave- and a whisker from being run over

March 1, 2021 by

Beeston – all the way from Copperfield Avenue – and a whisker away from being run over!
By John Holloway

When I was seven, my mother had to spend several weeks in hospital, and as my father worked full time (at Lever Brothers) it meant me going to my ‘Nan’s’ straight after school. Lovely – ‘spoiling’ coming up! I soon adapted to delicious beans on toast for tea, and tea cakes (with currants), but best of all she had a TV – which we did not! It didn’t matter that the toilet was up the street and shared by other residents of Lady Pitt Place, it was all a great adventure for a young lad – firstly the Bus from Cross Green Lane followed by the No 5 tram to Beeston from just round the corner in Briggate.
I had been to Beeston a few times with my parents and sister, so knew to get off at the stop just before the top of Beeston Hill, and I had soon made friends with the local youngsters who lived in that area. Their favourite pass-time was roller-skating – on the pavement of course – and I had soon passed the ‘test’ of skating down the short hill from the bottom of Lady Pitt Place towards the Dewsbury Road. Most times we stopped well before the main road, knowing that – if needed – there was a sturdy metal Lamp-Post further down on the corner – a ‘ridged’ post which gave extra grip! Some of the older, more adventurous kids, skated on as far as the Lamp Post every time, swinging themselves around it with one arm to slow themselves down until facing back up the hill – the Dewsbury Road just feet away!
I’m not sure if my Nan and Grandad (Mr & Mrs Booth – actually my cousin’s grand-parents) knew about the skating just around the corner, but most days – after watching the brand new children’s TV programmes – I would ‘pass’ on the BBC News and go out to play – skates at the ready!
I was a fairly competent skater, having spent quite some time, ‘honing my skills’ skating up and down the lovely smooth surface of Courtley Road back in east Leeds, so eventually decided to have a go at catching hold of the lamp post on the corner of the Dewsbury Road.
I can remember it all as if it were yesterday. Several of the local children were there, encouraging me on as I bent down and set off down the pavement on the south side of the short hill. I was determined to do it and watched the lamp-post getting closer and closer, gritting my teeth. I knew I was going a bit too fast but still thought it would be ok – until I reached out for the lamp-post and found it was out of range! The next thing I remember was dropping down off the pavement onto the Dewsbury Road with a thump and gliding at full pelt right across both ‘carriageways’ – and still upright! I had no idea how I managed to ‘keep my feet’ crossing the main road but the smooth surface must have been a big factor. I can still remember the noise of the vehicles I just missed!
But I can’t remember trying it again! Mum must have come out of hospital at just the right time.

I have ‘Google-earthed’ the area recently but it is very different now – Lady Pitt Place gone. And no! ………….. I daren’t look for the Dewsbury Rd!

PS Does anybody out there remember the ‘Lady Pitt’ roads – I think there were 2 or 3 (Place…Road?….Ave?) and all short, with ‘back to back’ houses. I guess they were early Victorian houses – built with those lovely deep red bricks, and – if I remember rightly – Lady Pitt Place had 5 houses on one (east) side only, with two ’shared’ outside toilets between the five, at the top of the road.