The Old Lockup Shop in Burmantofts

February 1, 2023 by

The Old Lockup Shop in Burmantofts
A couple of my aunts, assisted on occasions by an uncle, took over a lock-up grocer’s shop on the corner of Jenner Street and Shakespeare Terrace in what was then the run down Leeds suburb of Burmantofts. It was shortly after the end of the war, about 1946/47. I recall on my first visit to the shop – I would be eight or nine – thinking how dreary the prospect of the area was. There was an abundance of rotting woodwork and broken masonry with not a hint of greenery to break the monotony – unless that is you counted the tired green tiles of the Rock Inn opposite. These depressing surroundings did not however become manifest within the residents themselves who enjoyed a wicked sense of humour in spite of their decaying habitat. The shop was located in the middle of an absolute warren of back-to-back terrace streets. The property consisted of: the shop itself and a stock room, which was crammed with so many cartons and tins that my aunts were forever barking their shins and coming home covered in cuts and bruises.

‘Click’ on map to enlarge.
The thing I remember most about that shop was the conglomerate smell of bacon, cheese, butter, tea and the like. In today’s world of wrapped foods such smells are lost to us but in the 1940s it was quite a different matter: bread came unwrapped so did butter; margarine, cheese, ham and the like arrived from the wholesaler in bulk and had to be sliced up and weighed on site with the aid of a little pyramid of brass weights and a set of balance scales. The cheese would be cut with a wire and the ham sliced with a long slender knife. These implements had to be very sharp with the result that cut fingers became an occupational hazard. I suppose all the unwrapped food, cut fingers and lack of refrigeration would be considered a health hazard today but it didn’t seem to harm anyone at the time.
Rationing was still in effect in those early days at the shop. Customers had ration cards, which aunt Doris kept under the counter. There were so many points allowed for fats, sugar, sweets, meat etc. When a customer came into the shop to purchase one of the food items on ration, Doris would have to mark off the ‘points’ on their ration card. She would cross the squares out in blue pencil and say: ‘Right Mrs…do you realise that leaves you with only …points left for the month on ‘marge.’ Margarine was the staple diet for most of us in the war, not many of Doris’s customers ran to butter. I particularly remember bread units, ‘BUs’ as we called them. They had to be cut out of the ration book with a pair of scissors and sent to the Ministry of Food Office. I would help her count them out and band them into hundreds at the weekend, ready to be sent off. Inspectors were always on the prowl to ensure fair play but the black market still managed to flourish.
The shop ran on ‘tick’ or the ‘slate’ as it equivalent was called in the pub trade. Folk in the area were invariably broke after the weekend so they would ‘tick’ up goods on credit at the beginning of the week and supposedly settle up at the weekend when their husband’s wage was paid in or perhaps their pension – not many married women actually went out to work in the 1940s. Settlement from some seemed to drag on and on until it became an embarrassment for them to keep on asking for the money, especially if they knew there was some other priority which made them unable to pay. A few would do a ‘moonlight’ or fall sick, perhaps even die still owing the money. Other times the sisters would take pity on some poor old soul and just let them off because they knew they would have paid if they could. Somehow or other they always seemed to come out the losers with the ‘tick’ system but it was a necessary evil; the shop could not have functioned without ‘tick’.


There was one old lady who would sidle up to the potato rack and keep slipping an odd potato into her basket. They knew she was doing it but never let on. ‘Poor lass, she must be desperate,’ they would say. Another poor chap had an affliction, which made him nod his head violently all the time making it difficult for them to know what he wanted, he’d be holding the queue up but they always persevered with him and never made him hurry. This caring attitude and the knowledge that folk would always find a sympathetic ear made the shop very popular. The customers took to them and they became firm favourites of the community and it seems confidents to the whole area. People would come in and pour out their secrets, problems and particularly their aches and pains. The shop often resembled a doctor’s surgery when they all got going about their infirmities and operations but it usually ended up with a great belly laugh all round. Often the place would be full of women but no one buying, they had just come in for a ‘cal’ and perhaps a pinch of snuff- you could tell the snuff takers by the residue of brown powder beneath their noses. The sisters just put up with it all with a smile, they realised that for some their major social event of the day, just to escape the household drudgery for half an hour and have a ‘cal’ in Doris’s shop.
All three were slight of build but their popularity meant they were never short of champions among the husbands of their younger customers should a bit of brawn be required. Not that there was many altercations, the yob culture was still a distant nightmare away but as a lock-up shop it was always vulnerable to burglary, particularly when the shop was empty after they had left for home. Cigarettes were the attractive item of the day. The neighbours would try to look after their interests at night when the shop was unattended but they couldn’t be expected to be on guard all the time of course. Locks bolts and bars didn’t seem able to keep the criminal fraternity at bay but a brilliant home-made burglary alarm was devised by piling up the large tin boxes that the biscuits came in and placing them tight behind the doors. Taking advantage of their slim physics the last sister to leave would squeeze out through the narrowest of gaps between the door and the boxes. When an intruder came along and forced the locks he would believe himself to be in but he was in for a shock for as he pushed open the door to make good his entry the biscuit tins would be sent cascading across the floor. I’m told the resultant noise was loud enough to bring the willing neighbours running out crying;
‘Quick! – shop’s being broke into.’
It was quite a trek for them to travel from the shop in Burmantofts, to their home in Knostrop. It entailed a mile walk at each end and a number 63 bus ride from the Hope Inn to The Cross Green Hotel the middle. As they dare not leave the day’s takings in the shop overnight they would carry it home and back to work again next morning in an old gasman’s bag. Amazingly, considering all the years they made that journey, they were never mugged once! What’s the price of that happening today?

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Miggy Clearings -Field of Dreams

January 1, 2023 by
Miggy Clearings (Field of Dreams) Recently I read a piece in a Sunday supplement about the 1950s Britain. It described it as a drab grey decade, still suffering the austerity left over from the war, with rationing still in force and stereotype concepts of utility furniture, hair nets, nine inch tellies and 40 watt bulbs. Nah! That’s not the fifties I knew, my fifties were set in a golden age of youth culture and great music – we’re talking pre-Elvis here – great singers ruled the roost like Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Frankie Vaughan and Johnny Ray and their songs had proper words, words you could sing along to at the top of your voice if you so wished, especially if you were lucky enough to be wheeling your bike through the woods to cricket practice on that ‘field of dreams’ Miggy Clearings. Songs like: ‘The sun is shining oh! Happy day’ or ‘I talk to the trees’ which was quite appropriate for Miggy woods was so remote no one would hear you singing and if they did then what the hell! Why should you care this was the fifties and life was as good as it gets. The Clearings was a grand place, it was the healthy lung of Leeds – high enough to have a panoramic view across the whole of the city, large enough to incorporate a score of football pitches and with air fresh enough to take your breath away. Surprisingly in view of its great size the Clearings is not and never was an easy place to find, no doubt this is due to its remote location and secluded position in thick woodland. Initially I had two abortive trips trying to find the place myself. This may account for the fact that the ‘field of dreams’ has remained somewhat of a ‘lost world plateau’ to most Leeds lowlanders. Once discovered however, the magic of the Clearings has an ability to match ones declining physical prowess against the passing of the years. If you hadn’t a bike then the best way to reach The Clearings in the 1950s from Leeds was by means of the tram. The tram track ran clean through the woods and had a handy stop right in the middle – this must have been just about the most remote tram stop in the whole of Britain. Alighting at this stop the field itself was to be gained only by climbing one of several steep paths up through the rest of the wood, which was no mean feat then and has become meaner through the years. The return journey entailed a wait at this woodland stop. The old tram would emerge rocking and rolling down the steep gradient. It was unusual for anyone to be waiting at the woodland stop so the driver would be enjoying getting quite a ‘lick on’ down the hill – when he spied you waiting there you could see he looked really ‘bogged off’ – you could imagine him muttering ‘B…dy Hell!’ He’d have to bang the anchors on and the old tram would complain bitterly, sliding and screeching to a halt, often many yards past the stop. Alas! The last tram ran in 1959, but beneath the burgeoning vegetation the odd sleeper or rusty bolt bears witness to the fact this golden age was more than just a dream. The passing seasons of The Clearings rewards visitors with a myriad of sensations – the grass newly cut would transmit wonderful aromas. On a particular spring weekend the huge field would parade in white from countless daises. On another it would be a yellow mass of dandelions or buttercups, when the dandelions entered their ‘hairy man’ phase and blew around, that too was a sight to behold. Being so high The Clearings was rarely waterlogged – so one could invariable play football when lower pitches were little more than bogs, but the wind, now that could be a problem a Clearings wind was something to behold. I once saw Bobby Collins toward the end of his career having a kick about with a Sunday morning team up there and realised Bobby was mortal after all for even he couldn’t kick the ball against a Clearings wind. In summer the works cricket team had a corrugated hut on The Clearings that acted as our pavilion. We used it for changing in and as a place for the ladies to serve tea between the innings. We also had a huge roller for rolling the square, this when not in use was chained to a large tree, unfortunately we were never able to prevent the local vandals from releasing it and rolling it down the woods – then it would be a matter of mustering the whole team and a tractor to try and pull it back up again. I think its still down there now. In the end they demolished the whole hut, which evidences the fact that vandals were already alive and well as early as the 1950s. On other occasions the woods could be an asset as in the case of one match I recall: while playing a football match one of our team, who happened to be a twin, became injured (this was at a time before substitutes were allowed) it just so happened that his twin brother, who was also a footballer but did not play for our team was standing on the touchline – at half time the injured twin disappeared into the wood – allegedly to relieve himself – and returned as his uninjured brother for the second half. Autumn would bring golds and browns to the leaves and form another layer of leaf carpet over last years carpet and the countless years before softening the irregularities of the terrain and filling the air with that unique smell that tells you that it’s autumn. In winter the rugby teams changed in a sort of park ranger cum gardeners hut along with all the rakes and spades, it was a dark low affair nestling in a woody dell, usually there was a great fire burning in there but no light. When you were changing into the playing gear it was all right, you could just about see what you were doing from the daylight coming in through the doorway, but after playing when you returned covered in mud, to change back into your normal togs the light would have gone and the fire out, it was like returning to a great dark cave- then it became a matter of trying to remember where your clothes were and feeling about in the dark. People would be putting on the wrong shirt – socks were almost impossible to find. Of course if you’d won what did the loss of a sock matter. Eventually the combative sports of youth give way with the years to jogging in the lunch break and finally walking and watching others compete. But the Clearings has not finished with you yet for this is the stage when it really is ‘the field of dreams’ – when you can’t do it for real you can still dream of that goal or try scored, boundary hit or catch taken. In this I know I am not alone for while walking the dog up there I saw an old kid wheeling a bike, periodically he would stoop and pick something from the grass dropping it into a plastic bag suspended from his handlebars. Puzzled to see what he was collecting I kept having a glance round to see if I could make out what it was he was picking. On such a glance I was surprised to see he had dropped the bike, bag and all and was in the process of running towards the centre of the field. What’s he up to now I thought? Perhaps he’s going to relieve himself? But why run towards the centre of the field the woods were the other way. Intrigued I watched – he reached a set of goal posts and set himself as if to do the hundred yards dash – this old kid must have been all of eighty – flat cap – trousers in socks. I bet he’d been a sprinter? He rocked backward and forward as if waiting for the gun and then he was off sprinting for the other goal, it wasn’t fast, it was better than that: it was beautiful! I’ll never know who that old chap was but I know I like him, he’d succumbed to the enchantment of the field to have a go at recapturing his dream and he’d had enough bottle to do it. Earlier this year while walking the dog on the Clearings I noticed that the position of the goalposts, which had moved around over the decades to different areas of the field had returned to the same position they were when we played under seventeen’s football. Could it really be fifty years since we beat a team thirty eight nil on this very pitch and our goalie Geoff Manning was sent off for ungentlemanly conduct after sitting down and leaning against the goalposts; miffed because he’d never touched the ball for the whole of the game? I thought great, I’ll sit down where Geoff sat all those years ago, have a drink of coffee and re-live that game, after all this was the field of dreams. So I planted my haversack at the foot of the posts and as I don’t seem to bend so easy in the places I once could – it was a matter of leaning with my back to the goalpost and shuffling down till I reached the ground to arrive at the same position Geoff had taken up all those years ago. In this position the dog and I enjoyed a pleasant ten minutes me drinking coffee, he eating biscuits – You don’t forget a ‘thirty eight – niller’ even after all those years. At the conclusion of this pleasant interlude and now even stiffer I tried to regain my feet once more, this entailed another spot of leaning against the post and shuffling up in order to regain my feet. It was only while in the process of walking away that I happened to look back ‘shock horror’ the goals perfectly aligned on my arrival were now leaning backwards and to one side like a rhomboid. That it should come to this – my weight had damaged the field of dreams! They’d not be able to play on that pitch come Saturday. . Ah Well! I comforted myself, at least this time the vandals would be blamed for something they hadn’t done

A Picture Evokes Many Memories (Quarry Hill Flats)

November 7, 2022 by
A picture evokes many memories
(The Quarry Hill Flats)
( All persons described in this reminiscence are no longer with us – apart from the contributor!)
I was recently sent a few tales from the East Leeds Memories site and on the cover was a photograph of a grey horse grazing in front of what were some of the last vestiges of Quarry Hill flats.
It reminded me of seeing this huge high density housing project, modelled on the Karl Marx-Hof in Vienna, Austria, every time I went ‘into town’ on the tram and later on the bus from my home near Torre Road Garage, which, like Quarry Hill Flats, is no more.



When I attended West Leeds Girls’ High School, from 1957 to 1964, if I missed the No. 11 bus which went nearest to the school I had to change buses at the bottom of York Road outside the Woodpecker Inn. I could then spend time examining the flats, which seemed enormous and rather intimidating.


I only got to go inside one of the flats when my dad’s nephew Derek and his wife Freda moved there with their baby son David. Compared to the 78,000 back-to-back slum houses, which were demolished to make way for the flats, this must have been a delight. With an indoor bathroom, a flat per family, a clean and spacious site right in the heart of the city, close to buses and shops; the 3,000 people who lived there considered themselves extremely fortunate, especially as they also had an on-site laundry and, according to one resident, ‘’the best fish and chip shop in town.’’
My dad was really good at keeping contacts with what was a fairly dysfunctional family and one day took me on a visit to see Derek and Freda.

Just a bit of background. Remedial support for those with speech impediments nowadays has improved so much that it’s very rare to have children in school with a debilitating stutter and, as a retired teacher and head teacher, I have encountered only two during my 35 years in schools.
Unfortunately Derek had a severe stutter all his life having been at school during the 1940’s. He was married to Freda who came from the valleys of Wales and had a very strong Welsh accent. They were an extremely volatile couple and argued a great deal about anything and everything. As the arguments escalated the stutter got worse and the Welsh accent more pronounced until eventually no one could understand either one. At other times they were kind and caring people especially towards their only son David.

In the kitchen of the flats at Quarry Hill, they had a butler sink with a waste disposal. This was covered with a large heavy metal plug which you removed in order to throw down waste material. For Freda it was easier to bath baby David in this large sink – I’ve done it myself with my own kids, in the kitchen sink of a house where I lived in south-east London.
You can probably now guess where this story is going – well one day whilst David was sitting up in the sink, splashing away, at about 8 months of age, there was a knock on the door. The flat was compact so it was not a great distance to the door, so off Freda went to see who was knocking. When she opened the door she was greeted by the happy smiles of two members of the Church of Latter Day Saints – Mormons.
In her usual manner Freda directed them to go way, using a combination of words which I didn’t understand when she later shared this story at a family gathering. My father did explain later that a lady never used words like that – which confused me even more as he was not explicit.
I digress. Let’s get back to Freda. After the hasty departure of God’s messengers she hastened back to the kitchen to discover David half way down the hole of the disposal shoot. She used a lot of Welsh at this point in narrating her story but I understood that, at the time, she must have panicked and resorted to her native tongue. Fortunately David was a chubby chap, for which everyone was grateful. If he had not been quite so plump he would have departed this world a lot faster than he came into it.
For your information, the installation of a waste disposal in the flats was incredibly modern. The French Garchey system disposed of vegetable peelings, fire ashes and, as you can imagine, often many unsuitable items (fortunately not baby David). But the system was beset with problems and was always breaking down.
As years went by, the huge modernist scheme, which had survived the damage of bombing raids – perhaps because Hitler had, apparently, earmarked the construction for his headquarters after Britain’s defeat by the Nazis – had mounting repair bills. The concrete slab facia began to crumble and the steelwork below the ground was said to be buckling. The reputation of the estate also added to its misfortune. Its appearance as some kind of fortress was intimidating and unwelcoming and so demolition was completed by 1978 after having housed people for only 40 years. No physical traces of the site remain, but vivid memories and a fond legacy linger.

The site was grassed over for a while but did not fall into disrepair. It is now home to a number of institutions such as Leeds City College and Leeds Conservatoire, the city’s Playhouse, the BBC’s Yorkshire headquarters and the looming, distinctive, Quarry House, which contains government departments and NHS offices, otherwise known as the Lubyanka.

In 2021 planning and building approval was finalised for the further development of the old site. Due to commence in 2022, St Cecilia Place will include 352 residential apartments, ranging from studios, one-bed, two-bed, and three-bed apartments, and a communal leisure space on the ground floor. The space will provide two courtyards, cycle storage, and a residents’ car park.
So, what goes around comes around. Many happy memories were taken away by former occupants when the flats were demolished. The community made up of people moving in from severely sub-standard housing created many happy memories formed during the time spent in the laundry, ‘larking about’ in the two large playgrounds and chatting with neighbours in the small parade of shops, along the walkways and queuing for fish and chips. Families who had occupied what was a new concept of social housing were moved out, onto the suburbs, some glad to go, others sad to leave behind the ‘village within the city’.
Will the new streamlined development create similar feelings of communal belonging? I think not. Constructing extremely elegant, modern living areas may encourage a sense of isolation and loneliness. This is not housing to meet a social need for the average family. As far as I am aware it will be available only to those whose income can meet the cost of the rent.

Linda McCarthy nee Culloden 26th May 1946.

The site was grassed over for a while but did not fall into disrepair. It is now home to a number of institutions such as Leeds City College and Leeds Conservatoire, the city’s Playhouse, the BBC’s Yorkshire headquarters and the looming, distinctive, Quarry House, which contains government departments and NHS offices, otherwise known as the Lubyanka.

In 2021 planning and building approval was finalised for the further development of the old site. Due to commence in 2022, St Cecilia Place will include 352 residential apartments, ranging from studios, one-bed, two-bed, and three-bed apartments, and a communal leisure space on the ground floor. The space will provide two courtyards, cycle storage, and a residents’ car park.

So, what goes around comes around. Many happy memories were taken away by former occupants when the flats were demolished. The community made up of people moving in from severely sub-standard housing created many happy memories formed during the time spent in the laundry, ‘larking about’ in the two large playgrounds and chatting with neighbours in the small parade of shops, along the walkways and queuing for fish and chips. Families who had occupied what was a new concept of social housing were moved out, onto the suburbs, some glad to go, others sad to leave behind the ‘village within the city’.
Will the new streamlined development create similar feelings of communal belonging? I think not. Constructing extremely elegant, modern living areas may encourage a sense of isolation and loneliness. This is not housing to meet a social need for the average family. As far as I am aware it will be available only to those whose income can meet the cost of the rent.

Linda McCarthy nee Culloden 26th May 1946.

The Dentist

November 1, 2022 by
THE DENTIST
Up until the early part of this very year I had never seen the inside of any dental surgery other than that of Mr Truman. When I finally did so the new fangled gadgetry had me really impressed, I hadn’t realised how far Mr Truman had fallen behind modern dental technology.
Of course it had not always been the case, no not by any means, in fact the first time I attended Truman’s surgery as a small child at my mother’s hand, too young to be even treated at the school dental clinic, the surgery had overawed me with its palatial splendour. The practice was operated by Mr Truman senior, and Mr Edward – Mr Ted as he was known and Ted’s brother Mr George, which always struck me as confliction of terms – respect on the part of the ‘Mr’ but familiarity on the part of the ‘Ted and George’. However it seemed to work efficiently and overcame any potential confusion with the names.
Surely it is not without trepidation that even the bravest of us enter the clutches of the dentist. How I would envy those folk waiting at the nearby bus stop and think whatever their destination it was sure to be less intimidating than mine in the dentist’s chair. Pushing aside the wooden gate in Barley Row one passed through its twin stone portals into a world of semi-silence. The everyday sounds of bustle were left behind to be replaced with new sounds stark and clinical. The doorbell set in the centre of the frosted glass door, drrrring!!! a pause, footsteps thumping along the carpeted corridor, the light through the glass obliterated by a shadowy form, then ‘click’ the door would be opened by the starch white receptionist.
‘Yes.’
‘Err…I have an appointment with Mr Ted.’
‘Oh yes, what name is it please… Mr Wood, right would you go right through into the waiting room, please.’
On those early visits the waiting room was beautifully carpeted and liberally equipped with a mixture of elegant sofas and rosewood backed chairs. A bay window gave views of everyday people going about their everyday business. Everyday events never appeared as attractive as when viewed from that dentist’s waiting room. A Welsh dresser piled with high class magazines reared against the west wall and across from this the eastern wall centred on a marble fireplace complete with a high mantelpiece that featured a magnificent chiming clock; to this day I believe that to be the most beautiful clock I have ever seen; its case was of finely sculptured mottle blue marble, with delicate pinnacles and spires that climbed high above its face. When I was very young I used to think of it as being Westminster Abbey. Perhaps it reminded me of a picture I had seen of the abbey or perhaps it was something to do with ‘Westminster chimes’.
One by one patients who had arrived for earlier appointments would be whisked away to one surgery or other by the immaculate receptionist. Old Mr Truman had his surgery on the ground floor as did Mr George; Mr Ted had his up the stairs on the first floor. New faces would arrive and fill the chairs of those whisked off to the surgeries but one became increasingly aware that your ordeal would come before theirs.
‘Mr Woooddd…. Next upstairs please.’ I never consider my name sounds pleasant when heard through the mouth of another but especially so when the other happened to be Truman’s receptionist; she spat it out staccato fashion with a long ‘d’ bitten off at the end with obvious please jerking me from my seat like a fire bell.
Then it was upstairs, into the chair and if it was to be an extraction blowing into the gas balloon, the sycamore outside the window waving me goodbye with its mighty branches would gradually retreat into oblivion and the next thing you are conscious of is a voice saying ‘There now, it’s all over, you didn’t feel a thing did you? Just rinse you mouth out into this bowl.’
Then it’s. ‘Thank you Mr Ted’ up onto wobbly legs down the stairs, a triumphant glance at the unhappy folk still in the waiting treatment room – then it’s out through the gateway and into everyday life again and deciding I wouldn’t swop places with the folk waiting at the bus stop afterall.
It does me no honour to admit that in those early days I visited the dentist only when toothache raised its ugly head; in fact my visits were often spaced by several years. In the mid nineteen fifties old man Truman passed away and Mr Ted and his brother continued the practice alone. The surgery seemed to continue as a thriving concern; rarely was a seat free when one entered the waiting room although it saddened me to see that on one of my visits the open fire had been replaced by a gas fire and the clock – that beautiful marble chimer – had been replaced by a modern wooden affair. The overall feeling was that the air of superiority surrounding the establishment had become slightly tarnished.
During the late nineteen fifties and early sixties an even longer period than normal elapsed between my already infrequent visits to Truman’s whilst I busily avoided the army dentists. It was upon release from Her Majesty’s Forces that I returned cap in hand to Truman’s with teeth in a sorry state. The sight of the establishment gave me quite a shock. The whole area seemed run down; the once fashionable suburb had obviously deteriorated seriously; the wooden gate swung slovenly on its hinges and the path had a sprinkling of weeds. Within the waiting room itself the same furniture survived but unmaintained, hollows had appeared in the chairs and horse hair protruded from the odd settee, the Welsh dresser had taken on a dowdy look and its previously upmarket magazines downgraded to the cheap and tatty.
Mr Ted had obviously aged but he set about my teeth with a will – an extraction here, a filling there, sometimes a word of warning, ‘I think we will leave that one well alone, if I touch that it will likely have to come out’. I believed him and though he gave me a modicum of pain and never an injection I considered, ‘better the devil I know than the devil I don’t know’ and bearing in mind he knew which of my teeth to leave well alone I decided to, ‘go all the way with Mr Ted.’
However, that first course of treatment after the army had been a lengthy one and I couldn’t really afford to lose any more teeth so I resolved it would be common sense that in future I should make regular appointments. Every six months I trotted faithfully to the surgery in Barley Row and on each occasion I observed a continuing deterioration.
Mr George passed away leaving Mr Ted to run the practice with the aid of the receptionist who herself seemed to have fallen rather short of the starchy receptionist of my youth. The carpets had given way to oilcloth and rather curt hand written notices had started to appear leaning up against things, the wooden clock for instance which was now permanently stopped or attached to the walls with drawing pins: ‘No smoking, have your national insurance number ready, payment must be paid at the time of treatment, do not adjust the gas fire’ etc.
After about three years of these six monthly visits, Mr Ted surprised me by opening the door himself – the receptionist had gone. Even so Mr Ted continued to operate from his surgery at the top of the stairs; one would have thought he would have taken over one of the ground floor surgeries as all the running up and down stairs seemed to be taking its toll on Mr Ted who himself was now getting on in years: not to mention the inconvenience to the patient who may be at some critical stage in his treatment when the door ball rang. Anyway Mr Ted must have come to this opinion himself for on my next visit the front door was wide open and the bell disconnected it was a matter of wandering to the bottom of the stairs and announcing your arrival and then waiting your turn for Mr Ted to shout ‘NEXT!’ down the stairs. Having the door permanently open caused the waiting room to be bitter cold in winter, especially as the gas fire now seemed dysfunctional and dampness was causing the wallpaper to peel away at the bottom. On one occasion a small rat ran across the waiting room floor. It was either on this or perhaps my next visit that I started to notice the antiquated state of Mr Ted’s dental equipment. As previously expounded my knowledge of dental equipment was scant but even I could see that Ted’s equipment had a Victorian look about it. For instance his main consul was made out of polished wood rather than of a stainless steel construction and his instruments had intricately worked ivory handles reminiscent of a bygone age.
Mr Ted had seemingly decided to stop keeping any dental records but often he wouldn’t bother to touch my teeth at all, these were the times I longed for; I had done my duty in coming for a check up and evidently everything was fine, ‘I’d go along with Mr Ted.’
The magazines dwindled until there was a single copy of ‘Queen’ it was about five years old but if no one had already grabbed it you could pick up on the article you had been reading and had to leave unfinished on your last visit six months previous. The oil cloth had gone altogether as had the curtains, one of the waiting room windows had been broken and boarded, The wallpaper was now peeling in the surgery itself and Mr Ted’s own white coat looked less than hygienic and had a great square tear in the back. It was really getting a bit much when his ancient belt driven grinding tool packed up every time he applied it hard to a tooth. Mr Ted didn’t even seem keen to give me a card for my next appointment; that had never happened before. He said the property may have to come down and showed a general apathy. However, I was not to be lightly pushed onto some butcher who didn’t know which of my teeth to leave well alone. After a period of about nine months I phoned and made an appointment. The district had deteriorated even further several houses were now empty in Barley Row. No one else was waiting in the waiting room when I entered; it was the first time I had ever known this to happen. I shouted up the stairs to announce my arrival and Mr Ted’s now feeble voice bade me to come up… God…He was still in the same coat, the tear now accounted for half of the back and the remainder, speckled with blood from some messy extraction looked far from hygienic, the rinsing bowl was now broken half across and a whole section of the wallpaper had fallen to the floor. It was to my great relief when I was given a clean bill of health.
My mind was made up: I must find another dentist. Yet four or five months later I began to suffer acute toothache, it was the first time in years and I didn’t want it to be tackled by a stranger. I’d go along with Mr Ted for one last time.
The telephone call I made to Truman’s surgery went unanswered, the receiver was ringing out but no one was answering it. Perhaps he only worked on certain days now? I decided to visit the surgery, in person, for one final time. Almost all the houses in the row were now vacated though a liberal sprinkling of people still stood at the bus stop. One of the great black gateposts had tumbled to the ground and was laid askew across the pathway; the paving stones were cracked and littered with fallen bricks. I had to leap across a yawning hole exposing the cellar beneath, where the coal grate had disappeared, in order to reach closed door; miraculously the frosted glass was still intact. The door opened at my touch, inside the small of mould indicated that the dampness had finally gained the upper hand and it was with great care that I tried each rotting floorboard in the passageway – not wishing to be plunged into the newly perceive cellar below.
‘Mr Ted,’I called up the stairs; no answer. With mounting trepidation I began to climb the stairs now entirely bereft of covering. With heightening anxiety and echoing footsteps I turned the corner into the passageway to Mr Ted’s surgery and pushed through the cobwebs protecting his door. Mr Ted was still there leaning across his old console grinning sardonically his blood spattered white coat now completely in tatters. He’d been dead for several weeks so much was apparent from his state of decay and yet I was not repulsed, I had always ‘gone along with Mr Ted’ but he’d had his turn, it was my turn now. His ivory handled tools were still sprawled out in front of him.
I – DREW – HIS – TEETH – ONE – BY – ONE and dropped them into the bowl, ‘Rinse out now please – there now, it’s all over, didn’t feel a thing did you?’ Something didn’t feel quite right in my head but I was enjoying myself now, pausing only to collect a priceless talisman I tore off the rest of the fusty wallpaper than down into the waiting room to pull down all those annoying, curt notices: ‘no smoking – have your National Insurance Number ready – do not adjust the gas fire.’ I felt a childlike exuberance as I skipped out of the gate for positively the last time.
My head is really hurting now but I don’t care but why do the folk at the bus stop look at my so strangely as I stumble up to them in Ted’s beautiful blood splattered coat? Why are they backing off when I show them the half rinsing bowl and my lovely ivory handled instruments, don’t they know: I’m the dentist now? Why are they running away when I tell them I am doing extractions today?
It’s all true apart from the last few lines when my imagination ran away with me.

The Magic of London for a Young Child

October 1, 2022 by

There doesn’t seem much cause for me to visit London so much these days; there was a time when I seemed to be there at least once a year for something or other: a business course, a show, or perhaps to the old Wembley Stadium where Leeds United and Leeds Rugby League teams are perennial visitors.

Taking into account those many times I did manage to visit the capital over the years the first time still shines out like a beacon. It would have been about 1946, I was about seven years old the war had recently ended and the first new models of motorcars since the 1930s were beginning to make an appearance. My dad worked for Leeds Corporation in a driving capacity and the Corporation had just acquired a new Vauxhall, I think it was the Velox model; it was all black and shiny with the Vauxhall’s chrome logo fluting along both sides of the bonnet. I can still smell the magic aroma of the new interior when the doors were opened.

One day my dad came home from work and said he had a letter, which was so important he had to drive down to London in the new Vauxhall to deliver it by hand. To my delight, he said I could take the next day off school (which actually turned out to be two days) and accompany him. We set off early morning but as there were no motorways in those days it was evening before we arrived. I recall his employers had booked him a room in Russell Square, I imagined it would be the same as Barkley Square and listened out for the nightingale.

Having established ourselves in our accommodation, we took the tube into the West End. The tube itself manifested itself as a wondrous thing to me, particularly the maps, which were so beautifully simple as to allow even I, a seven-year-old child, to navigate a way easily around the city. That night we were regaled to see the brilliantly lit, Piccadilly Circus: neon lights in themselves were still a novelty for us, having only recently emerged from the years of ‘blackout’ Piccadilly Circus appeared to be the centre of the world to me: all those people going this way and that way. I had heard the saying: ‘If you stand in Piccadilly Circus long enough everyone in the world passes by.’ And so it seemed.

We walked around Leicester Square, Oxford Street and Trafalgar Square with its columns and pigeons; mentally I was ticking off the Monopoly sites as they appeared. It was all a wonderful adventure for me. We were up and out early the next morning, Dad delivered the letter (I suppose he should have then started on the way back) but instead we spent the day sightseeing. And what sights we crammed into that day: Buckingham Palace, Whitehall, Westminster Abbey, the Thames Embankment and the Tower of London. All the places I had read about or seen on the movies (as yet there was no TV) were here in actuality. Most inspiring of all to me was the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral.

After returning home, I read everything I could find on Christopher Wren and his buildings; I learned the architectural dimensions of St Paul’s and how the three components of the dome had been constructed. I think it would be fair to say: that fleeting visit awoke in me an enquiring mind, which thankfully, I have retained.

Dad must have driven home through the night; he was due back at work and me at school; that part I cannot remember – probably because I was fast asleep, tired out from my wonderful day.


In today’s scheme of things I suppose both my parents and I would have been in trouble for having missed a couple of days schooling but on this occasion my education was surely enhanced as a result and my eyes permanently opened to the wonders of the world. Thank you Dad!

The power of the People

September 1, 2022 by

                                     The Power of the People

There is one particular match at Elland Road that stands out more to me for the interval than the match itself. I remember it was against Newcastle United and it was in the early part of the present century when Leeds were in the premier League before our last relegation. It’s a long time ago but I have remembered it all these years.

It so transpired that a local motor car agency, which shall remain nameless (it was Dixons) had taken to advertising their product by driving one of their cars around the perimeter of the Elland Road football pitch at half time. It was usually a little yellow Fiat bedecked in the company’s logo; the idea was that some lucky football fan could win the car by their skill at kicking a football.

The competition involved stringing a sheet across the whole of the goal at the Kop end of the ground, this sheet in addition to providing another advertising board for the company had three holes in it, on the left about half way up the goal was a hole about two feet in diameter on the right was another hole about four feet in diameter and in the centre a tiny hole hardly bigger than the size of the football itself.

idea was for three fans to be selected at random out of the crowd and invited to come down onto the pitch and try with three shots each to win the car. On the field was a white suited master of ceremonies complete with a microphone prancing about and addressing the crowd in a mock American accent in a way only white suited pillocks with microphones can.

The idea was that if a shot went through one of the larger holes the guy or the girl would win a replica Leeds United shirt or meal at a popular restaurant depending on which one of the larger holes they were successful in scoring through.  If they were lucky enough to kick the ball through the two larger holes and the little one, which would be indeed luck for even the guys playing in the match would not have had enough skill to do that as the tiny hole was hardly large enough to allow the ball to be passed through by hand, if in the unlikely event of he/she being successful on kicking the ball through all three holes they would win the car that was being driven around the ground. Dixons had increased the difficulty as previously someone had won the car which obviously had cost them real money and I imagine wasn’t in their plans, hence they required the fan to shoot through all three holes, surely an impossibility. On this particular day a lad in a bright yellow jersey had been called out of the crowd and he managed to score through the tiny hole with his first shot. We all cheered, somehow he then managed to shoot through one of the bigger holes as well and for good measure he scored through the third hole too with his last shot, it was a phenomenal achievement, I would like to have bet that none of the professional players playing in the actual match could have matched that. We all cheered like mad and yellow jersey was holding his hands above his head in triumph he had won the car. Then this berk in the white suite who must have received some information through his headphones walks up to the lad in an uninteresting manner and says, ’Hard luck you shot the balls through the holes in the wrong order you do not win the car,’ and straight away moved onto another subject brushing off the lad’s disappointment as if it were of no consequence. The lad was obviously disappointed and slouched off back to the west stand you could see his yellow jersey making his way back up the terracing. Surely his had been such an astonishing achievement that the order in which he had scored them was obviously of no consequence. In the space of a few moments he had won and lost a car.   

Then almost imperceptibly a murmur could be heard around the ground which turned into audible ‘boo’ low at first but beginning to swell louder and louder with every minute. The prat in the white suite tried to ignore it and continued spouting on about something else but no one was taking any notice of him now, his voice was being drowned even though he had the microphone  such was the extent of the sound it could not be ignored.

The chant then turned from booing to;

 ‘Give the lad his f………g car! Give the lad his f……….car!’  It reached a mighty crescendo and the Newcastle fans joined in too, nothing could be heard from the public address system above the din. It continued right until the players came out for the second half and still went on. White suite was obviously flustered he didn’t know what to do it is perhaps unfair to put all the blame on the lad – he was literally left in the middle by the sponsors to take all the flack but the dismissive way he had shunted yellow jersey aside won him few friends  and now he had to pay with the situation from he’ll.

The way things were going there was no way the match could have commenced against such a barrage. Finally white coat managed to get across that he’d received a message from Peter Ridsdale – the Leeds United chairman and still a good guy at the time – that he would personally pay for the lad his car – great public relations. We all cheered, Yellow jersey came skipping down again from the west stand receiving an ovation all the way down for white suite to finally tip up the keys. That it subsequently turned out that he couldn’t drive was incidental. The point is if the crowd had remained quiet the lad wouldn’t have got the car he so justly deserved. It was down to the people who recognised the injustice and used its united power to re-adjust the outcome. On this day I was proud to count myself part of:

                                                    THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE

                      (I wonder if anyone else remembers that day?)

Bruce’s tale and how the Geriatric Four,Plus Madge and their Bette used their magic Day

August 1, 2022 by

Bruce’s Tale and how the Geriatric Four, Plus Madge and their Bette used their magic Day

                                    Bruce’s tale by Bruce Brewer

We used to walk down black road towards Knostrop. Down there was a pond where we used to fish for gudgeon. It was very small but we called it Danger, Deep Water after the sign on the side. Once, Terry Sidebottom and I were standing on opposite sides of the pond throwing a large wood beam as deep as we could to see how far it would go under. It then surfaced at the other side. He chucked it in his side and it bounced right out of the water and landed on my foot! He was mortified! I limped home and my Mam took me to the Dispensary where they told us that I’d broken a bone in my foot and put a plaster cast on it. Later that evening I was sat on our front step In Oxley Street waiting the sun to dry it when Terry sheepishly come round to show me his prize box of different bird eggs  laid out on straw with names on them all. He passed them across to me to hold and I purposely dropped them and bust quite a few! He said “don’t worry Bruce, it’s no big deal”, but I know it was. Unbelievably we are still friends after more than 65 years since that happened!

My brother Clove who is 85 now walked down to the power station at Skelton Grange with his mate Keith Hewett they decided to climb to the top of the ladder attached to the side of the chimney, they managed to get there and had a gander around and then decided to come down. Mistake! If you look at it, it bulges at the top. Up OK, down no way! They couldn’t get their feet onto the ladder rungs!  Eventually some workmen and the police had to help them down. 

Bruce read last month’s tale about the walk around Cross Green Richmond Hill and East End Park and made the following comment:

I bet you didn’t notice but I walked practically all the way round with you. Once you mentioned the Navvy. I recalled that up near George Sidebottom’s garage we built a cave in the side of the navvy and used to sit secretly in it. Once a bloke shouted ‘gerrata there’ we ignored him, he shouted again and reluctantly we climbed up. I shouted ‘bugger off’ as we scrambled up the hill. When we got to the top it was my dad, I got a good arse whipping for that.

I’m going to tell you how we, the geriatric four plus Madge and Bette, enjoyed our magical day offered by the magic cup.

Well as it transgressed the cup delivered its magic gift we did wake up in 1951 and we remembered we had to make our way to the Snake lane field by nine o’clock. And we all assembled there bright and shiny as 13/14 year olds bursting with energy we looked at each other in amazement, ‘Crikey,’ said Malcolm, ‘Madge and Bette you both look half pretty’

‘Pity we can’t say the same for you,’ was the girls reply.

Right we have got a lot to get through in our magic day,’ said Brian, always the one to take charge of the situation. ‘We are right on site for your sprint, Pete, I’ve got a watch with a second hand on it I’ll time you get to those goal post and I’ll start you off.’

‘I used to be able to do the hundred in eleven seconds,’ I said, ‘that’s the hundred yards of course not the hundred metres.’

I set myself by the top goal post and Brian said the old ’ready, steady, go.’ and I was off as fast as I could go I felt I had loads of energy but somehow I seemed to be treading water a bit, when I got to the other goal posts Brian checked his watch, ‘Thirteen seconds,’ he said.

‘Oh that’s a bit disappointing,’ I said, ‘I used to be able to do it in eleven.’

‘Go on then have another go,’ he said.

So I set myself again and off I sprinted, when I reach ether other end Brian checked his watch again.

‘Sorry mate,’ he said, ‘fourteen seconds this time.’

‘Oh, I’d better give it up,’ I said, ‘I’m getting worse. Perhaps I have been thinking I was faster than I really was and ‘bigging’ myself up when I didn’t deserve it.’

‘Right next it’s Bette and her jumps,’ said Brian, ‘Let’s get down to her field and set the jumps out we’re on a tight schedule.’ said Brian. So off we walked down to Bette’s old farm.

‘Oh goody,’ exclaimed Bette, ‘there’s Prince my old pony still there in the field.’

So we mended the round of jumps which were already laid out in the field, But the pony was skitish and it wouldn’ take the jumps ‘Oh hard luck Bette,’ we said and made off on our short walk to the navvy for Brain’s attempt on its depths. 

Brian had formally descended the navvy by the route we had named ‘the devil’s drop But on this occasion he had chosen to descend form the Copperfield’s side.

‘How are you going to make your descent Brian?’ we asked.

‘Well, I’ll go down via Ginner Rock and the Town Hall Steps and then finally the scree.’

We stood back and encouraged him on but somehow he didn’t seem very confident, he negotiated the Town hall Steps but seemed stuck on Ginner Rock he attempted a further descent a couple of times but he was obviously unhappy  and finally he started to back up he was white and shaking.

‘I’m sorry guys,’ he said, ‘I can’t seem to be able to see a safe way down and I’m windy. I can’t believe it I used to be able to do it easily but that which seemed exciting now seems dangerous, I’m really disappointed with myself.’

‘It’s not going as we expected is it?’ said Malcolm, ‘Pete couldn’t recapture his speed for the hundred yard sprint, Bette couldn’t get her pony to perform and

Now Brian has failed with the navvy. Come on let’s get on the number 61 bus and hope Madge has better luck at the Mecca,’ I said.

Madge had brought some dancing shoes with her and had managed to keep reasonably tidy but the rest of us were beginning to look a bit scruffy. I was sweaty after my attempt at sprinting; Brian was less than pristine after his battle with the navvy. In fact as we walked up the County Arcade to the Mecca we looked a bit of a motley bunch.

The doorman took one look at us and said, ‘You scruffy lot aren’t coming in here dressed like that.’ We argued with him for a bit and then he said, ‘The young ladies can come in but not the rest of you.’

‘Go on Madge you and Bette can go in and have a dance together we’ll wait for you out here.’ So they went in and we sat on the steps. They were only in there about twenty minutes and then they came out, they weren’t looking happy.

‘What’s up girls? ‘I said, ‘you weren’t in there very long.’

‘The lads were rude to us,’ said Madge, ‘and the disc jockey, a guy with tartan hair was getting familiar with us.’

I nudged Malcolm and said, ‘I bet that was Jimmy Saville.’

Even Malcolm was quiet and didn’t try to put Madge down for once.

‘So that leaves my tram ride and Bri’s swim.’ said Malcolm.  ‘I bet it will be a bit cold Bri, I hope you’ve brought your trunks and where’s you towel?’

Anyway we caught a tram in Briggate and went upstairs to the wooden slat seats, there was seemingly something wrong with the tram as they couldn’t seem to be able to get it moving.

‘This reminds me of a tale my dad used to tell,’ I began. ‘ My dad used to be a tram driver and this particular day the Leeds Corporation were unveiling a brand new type of tram that was supposed to be so easy to drive that anyone could drive it and the Lord Mayor had been invited to unveil  the tram and then be the first to drive it. Well just like this the blooming thing it wouldn’t move they tried all sorts and then they had the embarrassment of aborting the unveiling, as it turned out it seemed that my dad who had driven the tram to the place of the unveiling had left the brake on at the other end of the tram.’

They all had a little chuckle. Just then there was a jerk and our tram started off. It jumped and jerked up Roundhay Road and it had put the ticket collector in a bad mood when we tried to pay half fair because were under sixteen he became obnoxious with us it was altogether an unfortunate ride and not what Malcolm had hoped for, finally it gave up the ghost at Oakwood clock and we had to walk the rest of the way across the Soldier’s fields.

‘Another disappointment,’ said Malcolm. ‘You build things up into something they never were in the first place then you’re disappointed. I don’t suppose trams ever were ever as comfortable as a modern coach anyway.’

We walked down to the lake from the main gates; Bri had brought his trunks and he got changed behind a bush, he was already shivering.

‘Are you sure you want to try this?’ said Madge, ‘it looks awfully cold and an awfully long way across,’ 

‘And awfully dangerous too,’ said Bette.

‘I’ll be alright,’ said Bri, but he didn’t look alright he looked white and shivering.

‘We are not going to let you attempt to do it without an accompanying boat,’ we insisted. ‘Look someone has left a boat un-attended two of us will row across with you in case you get tired. The rest of us can have a rest on the grass.’

We stated rowing the boat with Bri swimming alongside, he started off strongly but after about 300 yards we could see he was starting to struggle his arm and leg coordination was out of sync and he was beginning to splutter. ‘Get in the boat, Bri,’ we said, ’you’ve given it a good crack.’  He complained but we grabbed him and pulled him in.

‘I don’t know why I thought I could do it all the way across, the last time I tried it I had to be pulled out too but you always think you can do better than you really can, don’t you?’

We got him to the bank and dried him off with some excess clothing we mustered between us.

Let’s get him to the café and get some hot Bovril down him we decided. He was still shivering

We sat there in the café drinking Bovril and all chastised.

‘I wasn’t up to the swim,’ said Bri.

‘And I was scared of the navvy,’ said Brian.

‘I couldn’t run for toffee,’ I said.

‘I didn’t enjoy the jumps,’ said Bette.

‘Nor me the tram,’ said Malcolm.

‘Nor me at the Mecca lunch- time dance,’ said Madge, ‘it was awful,’

‘Perhaps being young was not all we made it out to be,’ said Bri, ‘it was never plain sailing even as a teenager there were always challenges to be met and heartache.’

‘And look at us now; have we ever had such great mates or great adventures?’

There was a juke box playing in the corner, I went over and pulled the plug out and it stopped.

‘What did you do that for, Pete?’ said Malcolm.

‘Well, we’ve been disappointed with so many things today I’m not going to chance adding fifties music to the list,’ I said.

‘Good on ya,’ said Malcolm.

‘Have we got enough left in the kitty for fish and chips?’ Somebody said to Bette who the treasurer.

‘Ya, I think we can just manage it,’ replied Bette.

‘At least we’re lucky we’re still alive at our age,’ said Madge,

‘Ya, we can’t die as young folk anymore now, can we?’ said Brian

Let’s make the most of it and go fill our boots ’

We linked arms and set off for the park gates.

‘Step it gaily off we go,

Heel to heel and toe to toe………..’   

An imaginary walk around Cross Green,Richmond Hill,and East End Park with Old School Mates.

July 1, 2022 by

An Imaginary Walk Around Cross Green, Richmond Hill, and East End Park with Old School Mates.

Four of us old guys and two girls who had been at school together in the 1940s had recently met up at a reunion and shared nostalgic tales, here is one of an imaginary walk around our old locality.

The date that suited us all turned out to be the following Thursday and we decided we would finish up with a picnic on everyone’s favourite place: East End Park and duties were allocated for bringing the coffee, biscuits and the scones etc. Came the day for our local nostalgic adventure and we set off from Jimmy Goodall’s old off licence on Cross Green Lane and walked up Fewston Avenue. The first point of interest we came to was the railway bridge across the navvy, we noticed it was now closed to traffic and there had been an attempt to install some troughs filled with flowers to brighten the bridge up a bit. The ‘navvy’, as we called it, was an eighty foot deep railway cutting which had been cut in 1899 to allow goods trains to pass from the main line at Neville Hill to Hunslet Goods Yard and beyond

                                                The Navvy

‘Oh look they have put metal railings up so you cannot walk along the parapet.’ said Bette.

‘What do you mean to say you walked across the parapet? Bette, that was a bit dangerous, a gust of wind and you would have been in for an eighty foot fall.’

‘Yer, it was a regular thing for us,’ said Bette, ‘and we used to muscle across the Monkey Bridge a bit further up too.’

‘Well, I never walked the parapet,’ I said, ‘but I did climb down the vertical side.’

‘We all did that,’ said Bri, ‘you were a wimp if you didn’t at least once stand on the lines at the bottom of the navvy; it was a badge of courage.’

‘We had names for all the stations on the descent didn’t we, I recall there was; ‘Ginner Rock’ and the ‘Town Hall Steps’ and if you managed to get passed there the last thirty feet were easy you just slid down gravel scree. It was not so easy climbing back up again.’

‘That was on the Copperfield’s side,’ said Brian, ‘when I was a lad I lived in the Glencoe’s and we climbed down the other side of the navvy at a place we called ‘the Devil’s Drop’.

                              The Devil’s Drop

‘It was like that mountaineers call a ‘chimney’. There was the brickwork of the bridge on one side and the rock of the navvy on the other. You put your back to the wall and your feet to the rock and shuffled down.’

‘Now that was a really dangerous manoeuvre,’ I said, ’but do you remember David Wilson?  He went one even better; he jumped all the way down near the Bridgefield Pub for a bet, six pence and some comics.’

‘Yes and he broke his arm too,’ someone countered, ‘and he never got the six pence or the comics, of course he has become a legend for his daring deed. Health and Safety have stopped all that now with all those railings, you’d cause more harm to yourself trying to get over those spiked railings than climbing down the actual navvy.’

‘Do you know though,’ said Brian, ‘I’d still like another go at climbing down the old navvy,’

‘What, In the state you’re in now? You’d never make it in one piece,’ said Malcolm.

‘I know,’ said Brian, ‘but I’d just like to have a try. ‘

We did manage to have a peep through the fence to that Brian called ‘The Devil’s Drop before we moved on to ‘The Ginnel’.

‘Oh look the roof has gone from the ginnel,’ said Madge. ‘It’s open to the sky now that the paddy train doesn’t have cross over to the coal staithe, it used to be quite  a bit spooky,’ said Madge, not really frightening but you were always glad to get through it, but I don’t think there were the muggers around then that we have around today.’

Next up on our nostalgic ramble we came to the site of the old Easy Road Picture House. Now it was an improvised car wash where young guys were washing cars. ‘Oh I remember the old ‘Bug Hutch,’ piped up one of our voices.

‘You mean ‘The Picture House Easy Road,’ piped up another. ‘It was scruffy but allegedly had the best ‘talkie’ in Leeds’.

‘Do you remember Abe White the jovial Jewish proprietor? He used to stand at the door in his dress suit with a ‘Good evening I hope you enjoy the show’, to all his patrons. If you were not sixteen, which included most of us at the time, you had to buttonhole an adult and say, ‘will you tek us in missus’.

‘Yes, Abe’s sisters used to man or rather woman the pay box didn’t they.’

Abe used to turn a blind eye if you were about thirteen or fourteen, his cinema would have been half empty if he had kept strictly to the rules.

I once got clotched from the Easy Road,’ said Malcolm, ‘by Abe himself. I had been messing about and making too much noise down in the six pennies they were the wooden benches weren’t they, Abe came down and told me off, but I was still misbehaving and Abe came down a second time and pulled me out, as I was going out I grabbed hold of the bench and said can I have this for the bonfire, Right you’re clotched he said, you will not be allowed in here again. But it so happened that soon after that poor old Abe died and his sisters didn’t know I had been cotched so I was back in there like a shot.’

‘You were lucky to get back in then,’ said Bette, ‘if I remember though Abe was strict but fair.’ 

‘Do you remember the old Easy Road flicks had a balcony, it was a shilling to go up there you would only usually go up there if you were with your mam and dad we could never afford a shilling ourselves. When you think the prices were six old pence at the front (it was only five old pence at the Premier Cinema) nine old pence at the back down stairs at the Easy Road and a shilling in the balcony. Six pence in old money was only two and a half pence in new money and a shilling only five new pence and we thought things were expensive.

The front row of the balcony had an upholstered front rail and I thought it was referred to as the ‘A’ box as it was the first line but in actual fact it was really referred to as the ‘hay’ box as it appeared to be stuffed with hay which was starting to come out. But we had some great times at the Easy Road flicks, didn’t we life would have been poorer for us without the ‘flicks’. 

We moved off into Dial Street. ‘Where have all the shops gone?’ Someone asked. ‘There used to be dozens of shops starting on Easy Road from the ginnel exit and moving up Easy Road, then Dial Street and onto Accommodation Road.

Starting on Easy Road There was Alf Allen, the butcher, Nelson the barber, Hall’s chemist, Rocket’s and Louth green grocers, Pecks shopkeeper and father up Wall’s ice cream and the NAAFI bakery. On the other side there was Bill Benn’s bike shop The Porterprinter’s yard, Easy Laundry, Boxup’s, then after the Easy Road picture House there was East Leeds Working men’s club, Overend’s fish shop, and the Breeze Block concrete Company, They had an annexe at Knostrop too I believe. 

Madge was toting up all the different shops there used to be on the three streets: Easy Road, Dial Street, and Accommodation Road, ‘there were three chemists: Halls, Hutton’s and later Alexander’s and Timothy Whites up Dial Street. That was at least three and I’m not sure there wasn’t another up Dial Street and butchers, how many butchers were there? There was Alf Allen’s,  , Revel’s, Cardis, Dawson’s Frank Ward’s Beal’s, Quimby,s and then of course the Co-op had a butchery department.’

Yes, don’t forget the coop,’ said Brian, ’everybody had to remember their co-op number to get their ‘divi’ paid.’

‘And don’t let us forget the confectioners’, said Malcolm.

Mr Emmott was the newsagent he held we lads in the palm of his hand he had the the contract to distribute comics in the area, comics were on a permit in the area because of the war effort, it was a seller’s market he only let his favourites have them and if you stepped out of line, goodbye comic.   

‘I remember my mam shopped at the Thrift Stores,’ I said, ‘she used to drag me there by her hand, the shop was always full to the door with women and their babies, the bacon machine was always whirling away cutting rashers off the bacon and it had me in mind of that old music hall joke, ‘Please don’t sit your babies on the bacon machine, ladies we are getting a little behind with the orders.’ A little later I believe another of our old class mates, Glenny, served in the shop.’

Now we came to the streets called The Bertha’s, Those streets had women’s names didn’t they, Like The Bertha’s, the Nellie’s and the Elsie’s, probably the names of the builders daughters. Those streets were filled with our contemporary friends who attended: Mount St Mary’s, Ellerby Lane, All Saints and St Charles’s schools, you didn’t know them all to speak to but you knew most of them by sight as they tended to do the same things as we did.

Now we were coming to the Chapels, New Bourn, and Richmond Hill, sadly the chapels that flourished in the 19th and early 20th centuries were now badly depleted in the 21st century. Here too was the surgery of Doctor Devlin and Wade the dentist. ’I bet we’ve missed loads out.’ I said.

We were now at the site of the old Prospect Hotel. ‘I was in the prospect one night when the mother of all fights broke out,’ said Brian, ‘I was  in there having a quiet drink with a few maters in the singing room, there were two huge parties of lads in there, there must have been twenty lads in each party taking up a half a dozen tables up each. One group were easily identifiable as they were all decked out in string ties, You could see they didn’t like each other there had been a few curt words and a few drinks spilt. Towards the end of the night you sensed something was developing and it kicked off just before closing time all forty lads started fighting, we took to the walls to give ‘em room, Buffets were flying and there was blood and broken glass everywhere, guys were laid out on the floor. My mate, George, said, ’look they’re putting ‘em a fresh tie on and sending them out again.’ The room was completely trashed, there were no bouncers on hand to sort this sort of thing out in those days they relied on a tough landlord to quell such things but this was something else, I think they had to close the singing room down for a bit until they got it sorted out, we used to refer to it as ‘The Battle of the Prospect’.

We were now descending Richmond Hill towards York Road passing the site of our Iconic Richmond Hill School, which was bombed by the Germans on the 14th March 1941. It was through the night so there were no fatalities but the pupils were scattered around the area mostly to Ellerby Lane School or evacuated for safety completely out of the area. Richmond Hill School had a good football team, so did Mount St Mary’s it is said when they played each other on East End Park it attracted a four figure crowd.

The railway cutting was really deep at this point it had at one time in its early build been a tunnel and even now the bridge was about 100 yards long with buildings constructed upon it. There was another pub down Accommodation Road too before we reached The Hope in, That was the Accommodation Inn a grand little Melbourne pub opposite yet another fish and chip shop that you entered on a slant.

Madge pointed out to the left. ‘Oh look Edgar Street Clinic used to be there, didn’t it? Who remembers Edgar Street Clinic?’

Well, we all did, you went on your own, mams didn’t take kids to the dentists in those days. The waiting room was a place of purgatory, you slid along wooden benches waiting your turn and listening to the screams from the inner sanctum, kids often lost their nerve when it was their turn next and went to the back of the queue again. When you got into the surgery they would put a horrible green mask over your face and a metal clip into your mouth to hold it open. If you needed the drill it would be a foot drill affair. When they had finished with you, you passed into another room with a line of sinks where kids were spitting out blood everyone moved up a sink to accommodate the new arrival. Ellerby Lane School also had their woodwork department on Edgar Street.

We were now at the Hope Inn (still Standing). The trams ran past here on York Road and it was here the number 63 bus turned at right angles from York Road into Accommodation Road. Straight across used to be the huge multi story York Road Board School but it had been derelict as long as I could recall.

At the other side of York Road was the Saville Green district. We played football against their school but it was generally a bit out of our arear.

We turned right here and passed that which was formally the Hemmingway’s Brewery. It just struck me that If you had grown up in a close knit community like ours you became familiar with every stick of the area. Having said that the next up was the popular York Road Baths and Library and I had never been in there, that was because our school used Joseph St baths and at the weekends we tended to jump on the 61 bus and attend Union Street baths in Eastgate which was easier to get to. 

‘Oh! I used to go to the York Road baths and the Library,‘ said Brian, ‘the changing cubicles got so full we had to get changed on the balcony, I think they had other arrangements for the ladies. Some nutters used to jump into the baths from that balcony and when the guard wasn’t present they would muscle along the metal beam that crossed the bath and drop in in the middle. Ellerby Lane School used to have their swimming lessons there and they talked of a demon swimming instructor who was quite cruel to them he used to push them under with a long pole, some used to talk about dreading having to go to his swimming lessons but he must have had something about him as he trained Doris Story who went on to win the breaststroke at the then Empire Games and they say she would have won the Olympics if they hadn’t changed the technicalities of the breaststroke. She later went on to take over her parent’s fish and chip shop which was close to here.    Next up we came to Eveleigh Road. ‘Oh this is where we used to go dancing at the LUYMI.’ Said Madge, .

We continued to move further up York Road and the old Star Cinema came into view on the other side of the road, now advertising as a martial arts gym

Once cinemas began opening on Sundays in the mid-fifties the Star Cinema became a favourite venue for ‘boy meets girl’. ‘Do you remember the length the queue got to sometimes on a Sunday,’ said Malcolm ‘it wound right around the building and you feared there would not be enough room inside to get us all in.’

‘The thing was,’ I said, ‘the programme was continuous,  if it got full  they would wait till a couple came out then they let a couple more in so when you managed to get in the main picture might be half over, so you had to pick the film up and watch it to the end, sit through the interval, watch the shorts and the newsreel and then watch the main picture until you get to the part you had seen and that was when the old phrase developed, ‘this is where we came in’ and you left the cinema and allowed two more to come in, unless that was the last showing of course.’

‘Yes it wasn’t ideal but like everything else, you just got on with it. Anyway you didn’t just go there to see the film it was a social event as well wasn’t it?’

We now approached the site of the old Victoria School, it was now a single story nursery school but we all remembered when it was a huge multi story school.

‘They had a good football team here in the 40s and 50s, ‘I said, do you remember Willie Knott? He was a sporting legend the best at everything he attempted and do you remember that iconic Schools Cup final in 1951: Victoria v Ellerby Lane, which became known as the ‘lucky dressing room final’ The Ellerby Lane school team had sent a lad up to claim the ‘Lucky Dressing Room’ but the Victoria school team arriving later turfed him out and took over the lucky dressing room themselves and the luck of the dressing room held true, although Ellerby Lane were favourites to win Victoria won the match. Much bad blood followed between the two schools over that ‘turfing out’ incident for many years.’   

                                                          Victoria School

‘But we St Hilda’s lads remember Victoria School for something entirely different, don’t we lads,’ said Malcolm.

‘Yes,’ we replied in unison, ‘Cleggy!’

We lads from St Hilda’s School attended the woodwork class at Victoria every Friday afternoon from the age of about eleven onwards.

‘Go on tell the tale about Cleggy Pete, ‘I’ve heard you tell of the infamous ‘Cleggy’ before but give us it again.’ said Malcolm.

‘OK here we go,’ I said, ‘Cleggy: Cleggy, the woodwork teacher at Victoria School was a legend. Victoria was a large school for its day and had its own woodworking department; our school didn’t, so we attended theirs every Friday afternoon from about the age of twelve or thirteen onwards.

Before you embarked upon this adventure for the first time you would be painted a picture of Cleggy by the lads who were already attending the woodwork class. ‘He’s about six feet four – with eyes like saucers,’ one would say. ‘He’s a little weedy bloke with hands like shovels,’ another would say. ‘He hits you across the head with pieces of  two by one,’ would say another. Each one altered the tale a bit so you didn’t know exactly what to expect – but you had an idea you weren’t going to like him.

Tales of him abounded, ‘If you spoil a piece of wood,’ they would say, ‘he’ll ask you what you want – the mallet or the chisel? If you say mallet he lays your head on the bench and whacks it with the mallet about an inch from your head so that your head bounces up and down on the boards, if you say chisel, he lays your hand on the bench and goes in and out of your fingers in quick succession with the chisel. If you move your hand you’ve lost a finger.’ You can image that with all this build-up we lined the stone steps up to the Victoria Woodworking Department on our first Friday, prim in our new white aprons but filled with trepidation.

‘Be quiet!’ boomed a voice from aloft.    You could have heard a pin drop.  After an eternity of complete silence came the order, ‘Come!’ We marched up in single file and lined up to attention in front of several rows of benches and there saw for ourselves the redoubtable ‘Cleggy’. He was a man in his sixties, not tall but barrel chested beneath a brown dustcoat, his bulging eyes had beady centres and nestled beneath huge bushy white eyebrows, which were by far his most prominent feature. So this was the famous ‘Cleggy’.

You could tell he was held in awe for some of the lads in attendance were absolute villains back at our school but here they weren’t making a whimper.  Proceedings began with a reading of the register. Cleggy would read out your name and you answered, ‘Here sir’, he’d make a stroke for ‘here’ and a naught for ‘absent’.    Woe betide anyone arriving this week who had a naught entered against his name last week – Cleggy would pause upon such an name for an inordinate period allowing tension to build up, then very slowly he would lift his head and scan the line beneath those bushy eyebrows – when he located the unfortunate culprit he’d rip him apart with verbal ridicule. This charade ensured that one turned up for woodwork by hook or by crook in order to avoid this public humiliation.  There was one lad however, Geoff Mellish, who had a long string of noughts after his name, he’d been off that long he daren’t come back.  When Cleggy reached his name in the register he’d just make rude noises with his mouth, ‘Mellish – braarp’ and move on.

Once this initial ordeal was out of the way we’d begin work on our particular pieces and Cleggy was OK – he’d persevere with you if he thought you were trying and there was no doubt that he really knew his stuff. If he thought you hadn’t tried though he’d call everyone round your bench with a piercing whistle, then he would put your piece in a vice and proceed to tighten it until the piece disintegrated and you were left red faced. 

If he caught your messing about or watching the girls playing netball out of the window – they had some big lasses at Victoria – then the pieces of 2” x 1” would fly, a  woodworking room is no place for larking around. Of course he never actually aimed to hit anyone.  I don’t think many of us lads minded so much being punished for a ‘clean cop’. Especially back at our school the cane was the natural order of the day. Corporal punishment is frowned upon today but for us it was no big thing, it stung for a moment then it was over, you bit your lip and showed the rest you weren’t hurt. If you managed to do that then you had taken another step on the road to manhood.  A teacher would often congratulate a lad who took his punishment without rancour. Now if the punishment was to miss a sports lesson, then that was really the bad news. (Girls didn’t have the cane).

About five minutes before home time Cleggy would give one of his famous whistles, when we heard this we had to stop dead in our tracks like statues. This was the signals that all tools had to be returned to their racks, we had one stand for pencils and another for rubbers – if a pencil or rubber was missing we stayed until it was found, sometimes we were still looking twenty minutes after we should have been going home but the item had to be found before we could go and always was, nothing went missing permanently.

The day came which is indelibly etched on my memory, out of the blue Melish turned up, some frightful consequence must have been threatened by the headmaster back at our school to warrant such a suicidal mission. We lined up in the usual fashion, Cleggy began to read out the register with his normal wry comments and rude noises for anyone who had been missing the previous week, we waited in electric anticipation for him to reach Mellish’s name. ‘Mellish – bruurp’. Cleggy prepared to move on as a matter of course when from somewhere in the line was heard a timorous ‘Here sir’.    The ensuing silence was the longest yet it seemed to go on forever. Finally the teacher’s head began to rise, ever so slowly – up came those bushy eyebrows, up came the bulging eyes with the beady centres and began to scan the line, he didn’t know all of us as individuals as we only came to Victoria for half a day a week and he had several other schools who came too. ‘Mellish’ he said again, in incredulous tone.  ‘Here sir’, answered Geoff, the tallest lad amongst us but now shrunk to half his size, ‘Here sir’.  Cleggy slowly rose to his feet and pointed towards the door, ‘Go back to your own school’ he said, ‘and ask them to give you some knitting to do.’

Geoff left the room and was never to be seen in Cleggy’s woodworking section again.

Cleggy retired during our stint in his class, which would have been around 1950, so we can assume he was born in Victoria’s reign, his values were those of the ‘old school’ he demanded respect and he got it and I bet you couldn’t count the number of craftsmen joiners and carpenters he’d turned out during his long teaching career. He lived in hope of receiving a decent delivery of timber for us to work upon, but with the war recently over materials still was scarce, timber was needed for post-war recovery and our stools, teapot stands and bathroom cabinets had a low priority.  The timber we did have through was pine and pine gives off the sweetest of scents when worked, even today when I catch the sweet smell of pine I’m pleasantly transported back to Cleggy’s woodwork room and reminded of the ever absent Mellish.’   

‘We had cookery classes here too didn’t we Madge in a class room underneath the woodworking room but it was not as seemingly traumatic as your woodworking class,’ said Bette. The old school friends discussed the cookery classes as we progressed further up York Road.

Almost all the shops were closed and shuttered now we noticed on a road which once had been as lively as the town centre, much of that was obviously due to the fact that York Road, once a single carriageway with tram lines down the centre and even cobbled in places was now a busy dual carriageway with fly overs and cars travelling at manic speed, you couldn’t have crossed the road now if you had wanted to apart from the new subways, which didn’t lend itself to friendly local shopping.

When we finally reached Victoria Avenue, which is the street that runs down from York Road to East End Park and then on through the park itself, it became more as we remembered it. The avenue had been blocked off at the top where it once exited into York Road and was still a pleasant tree lined avenue and the houses had retained their little front gardens. It encouraged us to link arms across the street and burst into our signature tune: Off to Marie’s Wedding: Step it gaily off we go heel to heel and toe to toe, our spirits were lifted after the disappointment of York Road.

We were now at the former gates to East End Park, there were just the pillars remaining now and a low metal security barrier all the way around the park baring access to wheeled vehicles.

‘Oh, the park used to be so fine didn’t it? ’ said Brian.

‘Yes, and it still is nice and tidy now’ said Bri ‘and there is still a children’s playground.’

‘But there’s no paddling pool or sandpit,’ someone added.

‘The trouble with paddling pools and sandpits is that broken glass invariably finds its way into then and kids get their feet cut.’

‘Do you remember,’ said Malcolm, ‘we used to assemble in the kids playground on our way up to woodwork on a Friday afternoon?’

‘I do and do you remember the longboat,’ said Bri, ‘and that maniac lass – the demon long-boater – you were brave if you dared get on when she was controlling it, she would set it swinging far higher than it was supposed to go and it used to go into that we called ‘the locks’ where it would come to a dead stop and if you weren’t prepared it would throw you right off.’

‘Happy days,’ said Brian, ‘and do you remember the band stand? It’s  gone now it was a gazebo type thing but look the foundation stones are still there we can sit on those to have our picnic.’

Seated on the stones we dished our picnic out overlooking the engine sheds and the football pitches, each of us delving into or own personal memories of the park.

The Engine sheds were still there Neville Hill is still a major railway hut but the big hopper has gone the one we called ‘the coal cracker’ it used to be one of the focal points in old East Leeds.

The conversation returned to memories of the old band stand. ‘Sunday afternoon’s used to be the time when the band stand was at its height the brass or silver band would set its stall out on the bandstand and play genteel songs of the moment, Gilbert and Sullivan, the Merry Widow, the Maid of the Mountain that type of thing. I’m told between the wars guys would parade in blazers and straw Benjie’s and the ladies in skirts or dresses, no slacks or trousers then for the ladies.   The yob culture was a distant nightmare of the future.’

We finished up the picnic and tidied up. ’That’s about it then isn’t it ‘said Madge ’we’ve done the full circle.’

‘Not quite, ‘I said, ‘what about our most local site: our school playing fields. Snake Lane or St Hilda’s field as it used to be called when it was owned by the church.’

‘Yes, we’ve got to give good old Snakey a visit before we finish,’ was the consensus.  So we made our way out of the bottom gates of the park which were now two just a couple of pillars too.

‘The parkie used to lock the gates up at dusk, didn’t he,’ said Brian, ‘he was very strict’.

‘Yes, he did,’ replied Malcolm, ‘he was a demon but there  were railings all the way round then to lock up, they took them away for the war effort.’

We crossed back over the bridge across the railway close to where Doctor  Holliday had his surgery and passed by the railway cottages with their plaque ‘1934’, passed the site of the former Bridgefield pub, that used to be a fine building cut down in its prime. We passed over the place on Cross Green Lane where the old paddy train crossed taking its coal from Waterloo Colliery to the staithe the bottom of Easy Road.

‘Do you remember there was an old guy who sat in a little hut across the road  and he came out a couple of times a day with a red flag to stop the traffic on Cross Green Lane to allow the train to pass,’ said Malcolm.

‘What a job that was,’ said Bri, ‘the train only crossed a couple of times a day, I suppose he was just a retired miner or someone who had been injured in the mine ’

‘Can you remember the names of those paddy engines?’ said Brian, ‘I can, there was Kitchener, which had four wheels, Jubilee and Dora which had six wheels each, later there was Antwerp and Sylvia.’

‘They were grand old engines,’ I said, ’built in the Victorian era. When we were playing our impromptu games of football on old Snakey we never had a watch and we always argued when we should finish those losing wanted the game to go on so they could level and those winning wanted it to end so they would be winners so we used to say we’ll finish when the paddy engine passes the top goal post. The paddy train also used to pick miners up at the Bridgefield and take them to the mine and back again at the end of the shift, it was a long walk to work if they missed the one and only train, no busses down Black Road in those days.’

We entered our good old Snakey sports field some new children’s playground equipment had appeared at the top and the old top pitch had been completely re-laid and a retaining fence erected to stop supporters encroaching onto the field of play and so allowing the team to compete in a higher class of the game but it was now a rugby pitch and the bottom pitch which used to be our pitch for school matches had gone completely and was now a builder’s car park.

The grass tennis courts the bowling green and the terra cotta dressing rooms were also gone. We were standing on the rubble which had once been the largest of the terra cotta dressing rooms.

‘Do you remember there used to be a metal drinking bowl attached to the wall here with a tap above it,’ said Brian.

‘Yes, I remembered, ‘It had an iron cup held by a chain so no one could nick it , Amazing we all drank from it but we never seemed to poison each other, did we?’

Malcolm had gone a bit glassy eyed he seemed to be thinking deeply and then he began to speak. ‘Do you know I was up here on my own one day, it was early evening and there was an old guy standing alone he must have been about the age we are now, he seemed to be out of it a bit and he was chuntering to himself, “It only does it for you once, It only does it for you once” I remember saying to him It only does what for you once, old love.  “It only takes you back one time” he said. It only takes you back where? I asked him, I thought he was just an old eccentric and I was trying to placate him a bit but he seemed quite coherent, “It’s the cup” he said, “it has magic properties because hundreds of only young folk have drunk out of it over the years it has  built up an overfill of youth and if an old person drinks out of it, say like me, an eighty year old, some of the overfill of youth spills into him, but it will only do it for you once.” I didn’t believe him of course but I was intrigued, How does it work then, “Well if you drink out of the cup it will allow you to have one day at an age seventy years younger I woke up the following morning and had shed seventy years, I was twelve years old again and I lived out the day as a twelve year old, it was wonderful but I’ve been back here numerous times trying to buy another day as a twelve year old but it has only allowed me that once.” With that he shuffled sadly away and I never saw him again. I never thought anything about it at the time and it went out of my head. But just think we are at that age he was now, think how we would benefit from having a day seventy years younger – we’d be about thirteen/ fourteen years old wouldn’t we it would be 1951 what a time we could have!’

‘Well, it sounds like a tall tale,’ said Madge, ‘but look, the cup has gone anyway.’

‘Yes, sadly it has,’ said Bri, ‘but look there’s quite a bit of old rubble strewn  around you never know the cup might still be here amongst this lot.’

So we searched through all the bits of terra cotta and general rubbish most had been thrown into the site of the old allotments that had formally been alongside the sports-field but now themselves overgrown. We were almost on the point of giving it up as a bad job when Bette who had been searching a little further afield walked back to join us she was smiling and holding something behind her back, she walked right up to the main body of us who were just standing talking with our hands behind our backs  ready to pack up, she waited until she go right up to us and then with a triumphant ‘Da-Da’ she produced from behind her back the iron cup still swinging on  its metal chain.

We looked it over it was dirty and rusty but there was no doubting it was the original cup for it was familiar to all of us, every one of us had drunk from it at one time or another.

‘Shall we give it a try,’ I said.

‘Well the original tap has gone so we don’t have the water,’ said Brian.

‘But is it the water or just the cup?’ I offered.

‘Well the old guy who talked to Malcolm said it was the cup, didn’t he,’ said Bri. ‘Have we any water left from the picnic?’

Madge had a look in her bag and said, ’I think there’s just enough for one gulp each if we fancy it.’

‘Who’s game?’ I said and nobody declined.

‘It’s all full of compounded muck,’ wailed Madge.

‘We can use a bit of the water to clean most of the muck out of it then fill it up with what we have left and just have a drink out of the top,’ I said.

So with the cup full we prepared to drink.

‘Just a minute let’s think this through,’ said Malcolm, ‘For a start it’s probably just a tall tale but if it does work will we be transported back seventy years to say 1951, we were all in the same class so we are all roughly the same age we will be just ready to leave school, will we be transported from here or will we wake up in the morning and be young again at home?’

‘And will we be as we were then or will we know what we know now?’ said Brian.

‘That old guy said he woke up in his bed at home and had a full day seventy years younger and lived out his wonderful day until bedtime just as he wished.’

‘Well, let’s consider if we did wake up in bed and we were 13/14 years old what would each of us like to do, what would you like to do? Pete,’ asked Bri.

‘I thought for a minute and then I said, ‘Presumable if we went back 70 years things would be as they were 70 years ago the bottom pitch would still be here, I used to be a decent runner but I daren’t even try to run flat out now for fear of doing myself and mischief, I’d like to set off from the top goal post and run flat out to the bottom goal post without fear of having a heart attack.’

‘Good choice,’ said Brian, ‘and what would you like to do, Bette?’

‘Well, Iused to love riding my Pony particularly in Gym Kharnas, I’d like to make a ring of jumps down Black Road on my old farm and ride him round the jumps.’

‘How about you Bri what would be your wish?’

‘Well,’ said Bri, ‘I was a decent swimmer I once swam across Roundhay Park Lake; I’d like to do it again.’

‘That’s a bit dangerous,’ complained Madge, ‘Roundhay Park Lake is supposed to be bottomless a few have drowned in there,’

‘Well I’d like to give it another go,’ said Bri. ‘How about you, Brian, what would you like to do ?’

Brian had obviously been thinking about it, ‘Well ever since we just looked down the navvy I’ve had a yearning to climb down it again for old time’s sake, obviously I couldn’t attempt it in this useless old body but if I were young again I could give it a go.’

‘What about you, Madge?’ 

‘Well, as you know I always liked to go dancing, I’d like to go dancing to one of those lunch time sessions they used to hold at the Mecca in the County Arcade, In the Leeds City Centre.’

‘Well, that just leaves you, Malcolm, if we manage to get back in time what would you like to do?’

‘Well mine is a simple request, I always lamented the passing of the tramcars in 1959, I really had a thing for the old trams, I’d like a ride on an old tram.’

‘Right what have we got?’ said Brian, ‘sprint, horse jump. Navvy, dance, tram ride, swim.   So if we manage to get back to 1951, meet up here at nine o’clock, Pete can have his sprint here between the posts, then we go down to Bette’s field set up a jump course, back for my attempt on the navvy, a bus ride in to town on the old 61 bus, up the arcade for Madge’s dance at the Mecca, and then a tram ride to Roundhay Park for Malcolm and finally it’s Bri’s  swim across Roundhay Park Lake.’

‘You seem to have got it all sorted, Brian,’ I said, ‘it sounds like a plan.’

‘Well that ties it up nicely, ‘said Bri, ‘but what if it’s a school day and what if we can’t remember what we decided to do.’

‘Oh that’s a lot of if’s and but’s let’s play it by ear, but remember to find some old money to put in your pockets we might have to spend a bit. Right if all goes well we meet here at nine o’clock.’

We all took a swig from the iron cup.

************************************************************

Do you want to know if they had a magic day? Leave a comment if you do.

Surprisingly Extended Generations.

June 1, 2022 by

Surprisingly Extended Generations
My maternal grandparents: Lenard Knowles and Polly Harland were born in 1868 and 1867 respectively, at the time of writing 155 years ago, why am I still here?



Lenard and Poly Knowles and family
My wife Brenda’s father (not grandfather), Lenard Martin was born in 1895 he was at school in Castleford with the famous sculptor Henry Moore and a combatant in the first (not second) World War; thankfully, she is still here too.


Lenard and Lily Martin
My paternal grandfather: Lenard Wood (that’s a lot of Lenards). Unfortunately I don’t have a photograph of him, not only fought in the First World War he fought in the Boer war too; I know that because I have his medals. As can be seen our generations were quite extended. I wish I had been able to ask them more about their lives they would have been able to regale this site about memories but the latter, Len Wood my paternal grandfather was really the only one I was old enough to ask him about his life, I wish I had known him better but there was some sort of rift between him and his son, my father, so I was not encouraged to be close to him.
It is difficult for an immature child to strike out and do anything other than follow Father’s line. The result was: that I recall my paternal grandfather as a rather frightening old guy with a gruff voice who lived in a tiny house full of Victorian clutter.
It never even occurred to me to explore for myself the reasons behind this family rift but thinking about it now – with the benefit of 90 years of hindsight – it is easy to consider the plausible scenario: Grandfather (Len) returns home, in-jured and brutalised by his First Word War experiences, to a world that seems to be doing nothing for returning heroes and to a young teenage son – my father – who probably resented his own life being turned upside down by the return of a strict Victorian father and showed it. Hence a bad relationship is formed. Dad told how his father was very strict and in addition made him sell fruit from a handcart around the streets; a job he came to hate. In the end Dad ran off to join the Royal Navy himself at the age of seventeen (originally without parental con-sent) in order to get away. Of course I may never know the full truth of it all but naturally, being as I was a child, I never questioned Dad’s interpretation of this unhappy family schism.
Sometime after Grandfather’s passing the current occupier of Len’s old house presented me with two medals complete with tattered ribbons; they had been about to be thrown out with a load of other rubbish and the person kindly wondered if I would like to have them. It was a kind consideration for which I am truly grateful. Those medals have lain in a drawer for a long time; occasion-ally I have come across them when rummaging for something else and passed over them. But the other day I held them in my hand and it struck me how little I knew of the man to whom I owe my very existence.
One of the medals is part of the ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ trio, which were issued to First World War veterans. Grandfather served in the Royal Artil-lery in that war. My estranged grandfather was a genuine ‘Tommy Atkins’! Perhaps he actually survived the battles of: Ypres, Passchendaele or even the Somme where the flower of Britain’s youth died together on that infamous date: July the first, 1916? Could it be that even his gruff voice was a result of a gas attack?
The other medal was awarded for his service in the Imperial Yeomanry, fought out against the Boers in South Africa. This medal bears two clasps: one inscribed: South Africa and the other Cape Colony. Perhaps he saw service at theatres with such iconic tags as: Ladysmith and Kimberley. Who is to know now? Maybe he witnessed the lifting of the ‘Siege of Mafeking’ in 1900,

giving rise to the famous cry: ‘Mafeking has been relieved’ and allowing those super staid Victorian to have a day off and let their hair down in 21st century style. As volunteers fought out both the South African and the First World War it follows that Grandfather had volunteered to serve his country on two separate occasions.
Surely this warrants that I make a more positive assessment of the man. ‘Among my souvenirs’ there is another reminder of those distant conflicts. It is a lapel badge bearing the words for ‘King and Country’. These pieces, I believe, were issued to combatants invalided out of World War One, to be worn as a testimony that they had already done their bit for ‘King and Country’. Hence, giving them space from the so-called ‘shirkers’ so vehemently despised at the time. I cannot vouch that this badge did in fact belong to my grandfather. It just seems to have been around as long as I can remember. Inscribed upon it is a number that I must check out someday
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that I will ever find answers to these ques-tions now, of that stern old disciplinarian who lived his declining years amongst his Victorian clutter but I have come appreciate that his eyes witnessed events, which makes him still the grandfather and me the grandchild. I will not question my father’s actions, of course.
(Dad must have somewhat relented anyway, for I am told my name was going to be ‘Len’ after his father (yet another Lenard in prospect) this was headed off by Mother). But in retrospect I have revised my own assessment of Grandfather Leonard Wood. I can perceive a positive side to a guy, who volunteered to serve ‘King and Country’ in those two separate and diabolical conflicts. I know what I’m going to do now: I’ve sent off for a mug painted with the ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ medals and inscribed ‘Cheers 1551 Wood L’. I’ll not put it on a shelf, I’ll just drink my tea out and when it breaks I’ll get another. And sometimes when I drink I hope I will remember to say: ‘Cheers Len Wood – Granddad,’ I’m proud of you; I wish I had been of an age to know you a little better!

The Ticket to Ride By David Harris.

May 1, 2022 by

A Ticket to Ride

By David Harris

It was the winter of 1958 and I was nineteen out of work and out of a place to live. I scrutinised my options there wasn’t very many but I was a fit lad and I wanted to see the world so an army career seemed a possibility. I found myself standing at the bottom of the steps outside the army recruiting office just around the corner from the Majestic ballroom in the centre of Leeds. It was decision time a sea change moment had to be addressed. I decided to bite the bullet I ascended the stairs and presented myself to the recruiting sergeant. I came out of there with just A Train Ticket To Ride and the destination on the ticket was Wrexham and stern instructions to be there within four days with just the clothes I was wearing and no luggage.

I took myself back to the lodgings that I could no longer pay for and made plans to put my affairs in order. One necessity was the matter of my best suit that had to be found a place of safety and I decided ‘Uncle’ might be the best bet for the suit, ‘Uncle’ was the local name for the pawn shop, there was one down Green Road, you put you suit in on Monday when you were skint and drew it out on Friday when you were paid and off to the Mecca in it. Of course I was not expecting to retrieve my suit any time soon but I needed to know it was safe and I could think of no better place than ‘Uncles’. I made sure I secured the pawn ticket in a safe place and set off to the army camp at Wrexham in my second best suit. I enlisted in the army and completed eighteen hard weeks of basic training. At the end of those eighteen weeks we were all excitedly waiting for our permanent postings, wanting to see the world I was hoping for Tripoli, Hong Kong Singapore Kenya or even Christmas Island they were all ongoing posting at the time. Where did I get? Scarborough! They were clearing the moors all the way nearly to Whitby to build the new Fylingdales Early Warning Station. Those moors had been used during the war for manoeuvres and there were likely live ammunition still lying around. There was even a model village on those moors built during the war to decoy German bombers to drop their bombs on it rather than on a proper town or city, we had to clear that out too, there were unexploded bombs, bullets hand grenades all over the place, there was real danger in it for us, two lads had already been killed and seventeen others had been blown up and injured but survived We were well trained though how to deal with explosives and there was always a sergeant in charge of us and we had mine detectors strapped to our backs. If anything was found that was a threat we would tell the sergeant he would stick a red flag near it and the bomb squad would come in at the weekend when we were stood down and blow them all up.  There was one dozy lad in our squad who found a ten pound bomb and smuggled it back into the billet he wanted to prove to his father what we were doing as he didn’t believe him.  He could well have blown us all to smithereens, he was made to put it outside in a dustbin until the bomb squad came and blew it up. We never saw him again after that. He was probably discharged via the nut house.

But on a lighter note this was Scarborough in the glorious summer of 1959 and we had the weekends off. One of my pals from home, Phil Wilson, used to come over and spend the weekend by the seaside with us sleeping in the billet everyone just took him to be one of us, and we being red blood males were always ready to meet the young ladies with purses full of holiday money arriving at the train station on Saturday mornings, we used to meet them at the station in our uniforms and hope they would be generous to we poor squaddies. We would carry their bags and strike up conversations to meet up with them during the week.  If we had no luck we would meet the next train into Scarborough. It wasn’t a bad life.

After I’d had my fill of army life, it didn’t look like I was going to get to any exotic places overseas so I managed to work my way out of the army on medical grounds, it wasn’t hard. By this time I wasn’t broke and I had done an apprenticeship as a joiner so I soon found work got myself settled in new lodgings and thought, ‘Right first job get my best suit out of pawn’, I still had my ticket safely tucked away. So off I went down Green Road to ‘Uncles’ I got to the place where the pawn shop had been and found myself standing on a pile of bricks! You guessed it the porn shop had been demolished. I never did get to see my best suit again but I have still got the ticket ha-ha.

I hadn’t been out of the army long when an old mate, Bluey, looked me up, he said he had a new girlfriend and she had a mate did I want to make a ‘four’ up with them for a night at the Mecca? The mate’s name was Shirley; we were courting for four years and married for forty eight years. You never know your luck in a big city.