We were in no Hurry to go back to School

April 1, 2021 by

We were in no Hurry to go back to School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Alan Allman

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

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

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

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

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

March 1, 2021 by

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

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

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

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

East End Park – Then and Now

February 1, 2021 by

                                      East End Park – then and now

                                      By Eric Sanderson

In the early summer of 2020, after almost fifty years, I decided to repay a visit to East End Park which had played such a large role in my younger life from the mid forties to the late fifties.

I used to live, ‘til the late fifties at the top of Charlton Road, looking down East Park View at the park only a couple of hundred yards (or metres) away. So it was quite natural that we gravitated to the park for much of our spare time, especially in the long hot days of summer. Countless hours were spent there , often with a bat or ball or just to roam from end to end, corner to corner, always finding something new to attract our attention

Unlike many parks, which are little more than an open area of grassland , a few trees and maybe the odd football pitch and little visual merit , EEP had a rolling, undulating topography with areas having different features and characteristics that very few other parks have.

So starting at the East Park Parade Western entrance nearby the bridge crossing the railway cutting, you were confronted by a pair of huge stone pillars , the gateway to Victoria Avenue , a narrow   tree lined avenue that ran the full length of the park, exiting into the continuation of Victoria Avenue up to York Road .  I don’t know what purpose this road had as there was never any traffic on there  and furthermore, the Park Ranger saw to it that you were not even allowed to ride a bike on there (more of which later) On entering the park , to the South (or RHS) was a low lying area of several acres running down to the Neville Hill railway branch line but was little more than scrub & seemed to have little practical use . The only redeeming feature was a steep grassy bank running along the edge of V.Ave where we would often sit or sunbathe whilst watching the changing landscape during the building of Skelton Grange power station.

This area has now been grassed over & has playing fields so, a big improvement there .

          Further along on the same side gave way to what we used to name as the “big hills“. This was an undulating area rising quite high above the general level & covered with trees, shrubbery & criss crossed by well worn pathways leading to a summit from which could be viewed the whole of South Leeds and beyond. It was a prime area for tree climbing , hide & seek & any number of other adventurous activities, even sledging in the wintertime.

Unfortunately, this area is now almost inaccessible with overgrown  & blocked pathways, untended shrubbery & trees & considerable areas of boggy ground . So this a very definitely a deterioration.

Across V. Av from here & stretching almost to East Park Parade barring a narrow grass strip & line of trees (actually running the full length of the park), was a well equipped playground , surrounded by a chain link fence with it’s entrance on V.Av.

One of the features at the time was a central pond which was variously described as a duck pond (although I never saw any ducks on it) , a model boating pool ( a few people did occasionally sail model boats on there) or simply a paddling pool which seemed to be the most popular use of it although it was only rarely filled with water. It’s now no longer there & the playground is a shadow of it’s former self so yet another blow to the former glory.

I suppose the young people of today have different priorities & interests to those of the time when there were no electronic gadgets & games & you had to make your own entertainment.

Swinging back to the South side of V. Av , the “big hills” gave way to a large circular rose/flower garden , always stocked with  colourful displays & surrounded by numerous park benches, freshly painted each year in a bright green with black ironwork.

Alas this has now gone & all the remains of the area is one of dilapidation & neglect & the loss of a magnificent feature.

          Passing on, on the same side arose the “Little Hills” another area of small hills with paved footpaths amid well cultivated trees & shrubbery. This area was very popular with couples out for a stroll & remains broadly similar to those days.

          Coming down from the “Little Hills” & further along towards east end of the park were the playing fields which ran to the far eastern end of the park & the Neville Hill Roundhouse. These playing fields were the “home” grounds for Victoria school , & I dare say one or two others & they were in constant use way back then but I saw little evidence of much recent use .

          Another fascinating feature of this area was the coal bunker. We used to watch in wonder at the raising of the coal laden trucks to the top of the tower, being turned upside down to dump the coals into the storage bunker , in wait for the locomotives to pull under & fill their coal tenders with bright, shiny coal. It wasn’t ‘til many years later did it become clear how the coal trucks managed not to tumble into the bunker themselves.

It was fortunate that many of the iconic steam locomotives of the time made periodic maintenance visits to Neville Hill & I can remember seeing the streamlined Royal Blue Mallard & Sir Nigel Gresley as well as the dark Green Flying Scotsman slowly trundling to the maintenance yard.

Across the way from the playing fields & running over to V.Av was a huge expanse of grassland which seemed to serve little purpose & was rarely used. But, it was a big, wide open space & I can distinctly remember skylarks hovering & singing over this area where they were probably nesting. It’s many years since I heard skylarks in an urban setting.

Crossing over V. Av came  the well used tennis courts & the Eastern end of the park with , again, huge stone pillars but this time fitted with wrought iron gates which I never saw opened, hence, no through traffic

The tennis courts were run by a chap sitting in a solid brick building with changing rooms at each end. The players would buy a ticket from his kiosk which would entitle them to (I think) one hours play &summertime saw the enthusiasts in their tennis whites most weekends . There were I think four courts so it was a pretty cushy number for the guy in the kiosk but, I suppose he probably looked after the changing rooms & maintained the courts as well. The courts are still there but look little used & somewhat dilapidated.

Going back down towards the playground was a large, green painted open fronted pavilion, known colloquially as the “old man’s shelter” & was presumably intended to be a meeting place for retirees to gather & chat.  However , as the place seemed to be more often used as an open toilet , it was hardly surprising that it was little used & is now gone.

The bowling green was a very well used & popular feature, surrounded by a neatly trimmed hedge providing a sheltered environment for players & spectators alike. That is still there but again, seems to lack the horticultural care of those days. I seem to recollect however that young boys were not encouraged to venture into such hallowed ground.

          Backing onto the bowling green & facing the playground was the Park Ranger or “Parkie’s “ house . I don’t know how well paid the Parkie was but he lived in a nice detached house surrounded by pleasant parkland, which was some bonus.

          However, the Parkie at the time was a real piece of work , patrolling the place with a thick stick with which he wouldn’t hesitate to threaten you.

Between his house & the playground was a large greensward which at the time had those ridiculous “keep off the grass” signs scattered around. But of course it was too much of a temptation to young boys to transgress this prohibition ,especially as this was a short cut for us from where we lived, although if the Parkie saw you, he would give chase , waving his stick whilst instructing you to get off the park altogether. How stupid, simply for walking on a wide grassed area, doing no damage whatsoever.

His control of all areas was total & my god , did he use it.

Reverting to an earlier comment re the banning of bike riding along V.Av., a group of older lads were sweeping up & down on their bikes, much to the frustration of the Parkie who kept shouting at them to clear off. Finally being unable to contain his wrath, the next time the bunch swept by, he poked his thick stick into the spokes of one of the riders bringing the caper to an abrupt halt. Such was the tyranny of the Parkie in those days.

Walking back westwards towards the place we started, passing the playground on the RHS completes the quick tour of EEP.

On the whole , whilst some aspects maintained a semblance of their former glory, it was disappointing to see a general decline in what had been a gem of a local facility. Whether this is because of declining use, vandalism & safety or escalating costs,  who knows?.

But in any event, this site is about nostalgia and the tales on here help us to share that nostalgia & fleetingly relive the happy memories of those, at times, golden days

We Had Two Red Roads And a Black ‘un in Old East Leeds

January 1, 2021 by

    We Had Two Red Roads and a Black ‘un in old East Leeds.

In our magical East Leeds playground of the 40s and 50s we had two Red Roads and a Black ‘un. All were portals to adventure.

Click on picture map to enlarge

The one I have marked on the sketch as Red Road (one) slanted off from opposite the Briudgefield Pub and had a gate and a keeper’s cottage. In the early days the gate keeper was not always accommodating in letting us kids through – not sure why – but a gate couldn’t keep we kids out anyway there were loads of other places you could get through onto Red Road. The road was quite wide and hard cored in the red shale that originated as spoil from the numerous local mine shafts in the area. Its proper name was Halton Moor Road and as the name implies it led to Halton and Osmondthorpe. We had a couple of families of kids attending St Hilda’s School that lived at Osmondthorpe and they walked all the way from there to school down red Road and even went home for dinner as school dinners did not materialise until the 1950s. How did they manage that in the school dinner hour and a half?

That Red Road was one of the two arteries that allowed us old East Leedsers access to our favourite walk to Temple Newsam. You could go down either Red Road or Black Road, For the sake of this tale I will take you down Black Road We would set off with our bottle of water and a pinch of sugar in a twist of newspaper to eat with our stick of tuskey (rhubarb) that we would harvest on the way, wild rhubarb grew everywhere in the area. Our first stop was at the iconic Red Walls for a paddle in the Wyke Beck. Everybody knew Red Walls. Look out for glass in the feet. Then the left turn to Austin’s Farm with the duck pond and the resident flocks of ducks and geese. Then it was on to the cyclists delight ‘The Basins’ Old mining depressions in the ground which provided a ‘wall of death’ ride for cyclists to go up and down them or ride daringly around the edges. Woe betides you if you went down them without enough speed to get up the other side, then your bike would tipple back over the top of you. The great late Keith Waterhouse, who had once lived in Halton, would make nostalgic pilgrimages to ‘the basins’. Then it was through the blue bell woods and onto the delights of Temple Newsam itself. There was a tram terminus at Temple Newsam to ride home if you were tired but of course we never could afford the fare.

It was the other Red Road, the one I have marked Red Road (two)that had most of my attention as a child. My parents used to call it ‘The New Road’ so they must have seen its origin. I’m not sure what was its intended purpose, it was about 500yards long, only five or six yards wide and had stumps at the bottom and the Paddy lines at the top, so it was not open to vehicular traffic but it was a portal from Knostrop Lane to Black Road and that  too was hard cored in red shale.

Before I was old enough to face the rigors of traffic (which was not that much in the 40s and 50s anyway) Mam would allow me to walk up the little Red Road on Saturdays to watch the giant St Hilda’s football team in their claret and blue quarters and the Mount St Mary’s giants in their green and white quarters, they shared the bottom pitch of Snakey Lane weeks about.

I played for both these teams when I too was an adult but we never seemed such giants as those old guys. There were terra- cotta dressing rooms at the top and bottom of the playing pitches, grass tennis courts and a bowling green. There was also a drinking fountain with a chained up iron cup. Amazingly we never poisoned each other! In summer it would be up the same little Red Road to watch east Leeds Cricket Club. Happily one of the few east Leeds institutions that have stood the test of time, they are still with us, well done East Leeds CC.

I had an ulterior motive for watching East Leeds play cricket, In addition to watching the cricket I would smuggle my railway stock book out with me, I was not allowed to go to Neville Hill to collect train numbers but I could manage to collect them as they passed behind the cricket field, of course the trees that mask the railway today were not so high and my eyesight was better.

On November the 5th we would have our bon fires on little Red Road. We were allowed to have them on there as it did not damage  the Tar Mac of a normal road. There were grassy banks a third of the way up that provided seating accommodation for all the families that made it an annual event where all the neighbourhood met up it and we had parkin and toffee apples, it was a big night for us as we had been collecting ‘chumps’ since the August School holidays.  We managed to keep that fire going for about three nights before it gave out. Of course in 1945 we had three bon fire nights one for VE day one or VJ day and the proper Guy Folks night. That year chumps were getting a bit scarce.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is molly-in-rhubarb-sheds.jpg

Half way up little Red Road, on the left was the rhubarb sheds, where cultivated rhubarb was forced to grow in the dark. These were sinister places where we were not supposed to go but of course we got in everywhere that’s a kid’s vocation. They were low, dark spooky places and large vats were let into the ground where liquid manure was stored to feed to plants, I don’t know

how you would have got out if you had fallen in? Although sometimes older members were allowed to help the farmer officially see picture.

Off to the right were a couple of old mine shafts, they intrigued me, I have always been interested in industrial architecture, bits of old masonry, old disused rail lines wat did that used to be where was that line going? I have looked on old maps to try and find the names for those old shafts but never been successful. They has not been filed in so they, like all danger, drew us to look into their depths they both had crumbling brickwork headings you climb them and look down to the level of the water down below. One was circular the other was square at the top but tuned circular part way down. On one the brickwork was broken away at the side allowing folk to get rid of unwanted rubbish down there. The thing was: there was only a deeply rutted cart track leading away from the shafts to Cross Green lane, no sign that there had ever been a metalled road to transport the coal away, so I came to the conclusion they were probably old Victorian coal mines particularly as the Victorians were notoriously reckless with making pit shafts safe, and the cart track indicated that it was probably horse drawn transport that took the coal away.

The whole area was first savaged by open cast mining in the 1960s and then concreated over for the Cross Green Industrial Estate. Anyone arriving newly into the area today would never know of the provenance of the area as a childhood paradise.

An East Leeds Kid’s Apprenticeship

December 1, 2020 by

An East Leeds Kid’s Apprenticeship
By Doug Farnill Old East Leeds Lad now living in Australia
I started work at George Bray and Company on 1st September 1947 at the age of 15 as an apprentice fitter and turner. I had failed my first job after only two weeks as a builder working for the Robinson brothers at 15 shillings a week. I had soon found that pushing a handcart loaded with bricks and cement and climbing ladders against a high building to hand up slates or tools was not for me. I was relieved to be accepted as an apprentice by Geo Bray.
Work started at 7.30 and for me that meant a brisk walk of about 40 minutes from Glensdale Terrace and getting up at twenty to seven for a rushed cup of tea and slice of bread and jam. It was as quick as taking a 61 bus (or was it a 62) from East End Park on its circuitous route, and besides, the bus fare was an important consideration on an apprentice’s wage. We finished the day at 5.15 pm, and in wintertime that was in the dark. On two nights we had to go to night school at the Tech after work.
My first year was spent in the Mechanics Shop. My first day, exceedingly long and boring, was standing by a more advanced apprentice as he worked a lathe. At the end of an 8 and ¾ hour day I was completely exhausted. The next day I was shifted to work a shaping machine under the tutelage of a lovely old man (he was probably about 40) called Walt Bailey. He showed me the rudiments of sizing and squaring small metal blocks that were to be used by the fitters to make tools and jigs of various designs.
I worked the shaper for several months and became reasonably proficient, although I made wasters from time to time when I cut off too much metal, or got something radically out of square so that the “marker off” complained that he couldn’t work accurately enough with my blocks of steel.
My early apprenticeship was as much about life as it was about particular methods of machining. The Mechanics Shop had a host of memorable characters. There was “Soapy Joe” an ageing man who was a turner of exquisite skill. The legend was that a highly valuable tool needed to be modified in a lathe, but the tool was so delicate that it could not be cramped between the jaws of a chuck as it revolved in the lathe: any pressure would snap or distort its delicacy. So, Joe, fixed the valuable tool to his revolving faceplate using beeswax, and very delicately made the refinement.
Many of the men had nicknames.
One such was Cornish Bob who worked the slotter- a machine that could, for instance, cut square holes in blocks of tool steel. Cornish Bob was perhaps the most unkempt and untidy man I have ever encountered. I don’t suppose his home had any washing facilities, he and his clothes were dirty and smelly, and his uncut fingernails were like claws. I was assigned to watch him work for a day as part of my learning, and I discovered that he had a heart of gold, a most lovely person. At the afternoon break, when Music for the Workers came on for 10 minutes, he broke open his newspaper package and gave me a half of his slice of seed cake. Inside, and I hope it was not discernible from the outside, I shrank from the thought of his dirty hands and fingers, but I took and ate the cake, thanking him, and confronted myself with the shameful smugness of my superior hygienic values based on one bath a week. He was a fine man and I wish I could have enjoyed his cake rather than metaphorically choking on it
Sinbad, was a milling machine operator, he had recently been demobilized from the Navy, and I was always a bit scared of him, he had been in pretty many rough and tumbles.
Pravda, was a precision grinder who worked to very fine tolerances. And he was a vocal communist, the mouthpiece of the official newspaper of the Russian state. When Mr Nixon, the manager of a large section of George Bray’s walked through our workshop, Pravda would begin a chant “What about the Workers” and other tradesmen would pick it up immediately until the whole place rang with “What about the Workers” and Mr Nixon would scurry by.
There were other characters and it was a most formative period of my life, after one year I was transferred to 12 months in the Drawing Office where I learned to file blueprints and fetch the morning tea from the Canteen, but the Mechanics Shop will ever remain a positive memory.
I worked in several other machine and production shops as part of my apprenticeship though I spent most of my time in the drawing office, destined I suppose to be a draughtsman eventually. At the end of my apprenticeship, at age 20, I migrated to Australia, and after 2 days got a job as a fitter and turner and a little later a job in management. But thank you Geo Bray and Company and the Mechanics Shop.

The New Neighbours (Ausie style)

November 1, 2020 by

Hooray!! She’s back Our Audrey: Mrs Audrey Sanderson (nee Tyres) East Leeds Lass (Ellerby Lane School ) now living in OZ.

The New Neighbours (Aussie Style)

My closest neighbours have lived in the same street as I for many, many years. Only one house has been bought and sold many times. Goodness knows why, it has the same view as we have, hears as much noise from the traffic as we do and subject to the same council rates and taxes as we do.
Not all the new owners wanted to live in the house. Lucky, lucky me they bought it for an investment and it is situated slap bang next door to me. Before being rented out the new owner was going to do some renovations. This was long before out T.V. channels were bombarded with demolitions and re-builds.

The suburb is a very nice area close to a major shopping centre, plenty of schools, lots of sporting clubs and playing fields, heaps of restaurants and very close to the train line. Local trains are used more than busses as a means of public transport.

The original owner had lived beside me for 20 years and it was very sad to see her and her two adult children leave. Their life style had changed and Mum was going into business down on The Gold Coast.

The new owner arrived early on Saturday morning with two other men of the same age, late 30s early 40s. Lots of banging and clanging before 7 a.m. was not a good idea to endear himself to the rest of the neighbours. The day starts early for 90% of Australians compared to the english style of living. By 8:30 a.m. all business are working at top speed. Schools also start at the same time and finish at 3 p.m. The councils do insist no outside work such as building sites etc. start work before 7 a.m. Looks like Mr. Property owner next door thinks rules are for everyone else and he will do what he likes. No good my standing on my verandah yelling at them and adding to the noise. The neighbours would all have been well and truly wide awake after they had emptied the small ute they’d arrived in. A Ute? short for utility truck and it has a cabin usually big enough for 2 and the back is an open trailer. Looks like a van with the backend bit with no roof. A one man business of plumbers, electricians, carpenter used to use them in the era I’m talking about. Long before mobile phones, the internet and credit cards for every day use.
They looked as if they were going to remodel the front and back yards in one day with two lawn mowers, a chain saw, Heaps of thick rope?? and garden hoses galore. plus enough shovels and spades to build another botanical garden. After littering the front yard with all this machinery they went into the house and all was quiet.

I had a quick shower and got dressed. It was going to be a long day and knew I would have a headache by nightfall. I had only just gone back into my kitchen when there was a knock on the back door. Thought it was my son who had recently left home as he’d got married. Everyone else uses the front door. I’m speaking as I unlocked the door ” What’s wrong ? ” he lives near my place but it was early for him to be visiting. I was surprised to see a chubby fella dressed in faded jeans, a red check flannelette shirt holding an electric jug. ” I’m the new owner of next door and asking a favour of you already. Would you mind boiling this jug for me as I forgot to get the power switched on and my men are in need of coffee before they start work ” I plugged the jug into the socket in the kitchen and he followed me giving my dining area a good look over. The kitchen at one end with a large slice of the kitchen bench top dividing the area between kitchen and dining room. I’m not thrilled when strangers start checking my house out but could hardly stop myself laughing when I turned to face him and saw him strutting up and down between both areas with his thumbs tucked into the waistband of his jeans doing a bad impersonation of John Wayne. Akubra hats are pure Australian. They are not a fashion statement. They have a wide brim and keep the sun off your head and back of your neck. They are worn by everyone, man. woman and child way-out in the outback where there is no shade at all and degrees of 40+ all summer long. You do see men wearing them in the city now and again but it’s mostly tourists or Aussie jerks who think it makes them look like Hugh Jackman or Mel Gibson. It makes them look ridicules. Guys who are born and bred in the small country towns and the outback would never ever wear the hat indoors and are perfect gentlemen to ladies of any age. This miniature version of John Wayne looked as if he’d lost his horse when he stood still and placed a wide space between his feet or maybe his jeans were too tight. He said he was going to transform the yard and get rid of the umbrella tree in the far corner of the back yard as it wasn’t going to clog the drains with it’s roots. Umbrella trees have a bad name for invading underground water pipes/ I told him the roots of all the trees on the fence line of all the back yards go out under the road at the back of our houses. When I moved in here there wasn’t a blade of grass and only 12 houses dotted over the area. We planted umbrella trees because they grow fast and they had to survive on rain water. Tree roots follow the water supply and we have monsoon drains in the gutters at the edge of the road. He didn’t listen to a word I said. I told him the layout of the water and sewerage pipes in his yard, where the stop tap was, and he started puffing out his chest saying things were going to be different. Hmmm, I have a brother like him, knows everything and infact knows nothing.
I said I hoped they enjoyed their coffee but I was going out in a couple of hours so perhaps he’d better ask the neighbours on the other side of his house if they needed hot water again.
It wasn’t long before both motor mowers started up. The area is called Arana Hills and as the name suggests it is hilly. Not mountainous but all the yards slope. I looked out the front windows to see what HIS men were doing. Both of them a lot slimmer than J.W. but the same uniform, faded jeans, check flannelette shirts but one green plaid and the other blue plaid. They didn’t wear hats. They didn’t know how to cut grass either. Instead of mowing sideways across the slope they were pushing the mowers up and down. It was like pushing a truck up hill and running like hell to keep up with on the down hill run. They abandon it and told boss man they’re going to start chopping down the umbrella tree. They didn’t tell him, they yelled at him from the yard, boss man was upstairs in the house, he yelled his answer to them without coming downstairs. They’d thrown a wheelbarrow out of the ute earlier on but spell bound by now I watched them carry heaps and heaps of thick rope from the front to the back yard. Wearily they sauntered back for the chain saw, a can of fuel, an extension ladder and a bag full of what I presumed was cleaning cloths. Their day job was certainly not gardening.
All quiet once more I took advantage of the situation and made myself toasted sandwiches and coffee. I was fascinated what they were going to do next.
A little bit more awkward for me to watch when they were in the back yard. I had to watch through the kitchen windows as I didn’t want them to see me. God knows what they would have done if they thought they had an audience. Maybe think the were in a movie and start playing Tarzan. The only windows in that part of the house are over the kitchen sink.
I wish I’d have had a video camera back thenYOU would not BELIEVE how they missed having serious accidents. They started off just after lunch. It took the 3 of them a fair time to sort out the ropes. Everybody wanted to be chief and nobody want to be an indian. They were all giving orders left, right and centre of how to place the rope to stop it getting tangled. I couldn’t wait to see who was going to climb into the tree. Eventually they got sorted and boss man and one of the other guys tied the rope round the poor soul who drew the short straw. I’m no expert but I would have though a proper harness would have been better than just relying on how good the others were at tying knots and holding on to the lose end of the rope. I wasn’t laughing as the brave little soul started climbing the ladder. Boss man yelled at him he had forgotten the chain saw. He yelled back at him to climb up behind him and hand it to him when he got sat astride the branch. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Boss man was the order giver, the one who told him he was doing a great job and then took the glory if and when jobs got finished. Trees in yards don’t look very tall until you see them from the top. You should never attempt to chop them down if no one with you hasn’t got any experience. First rule when you climb to where you are going to start chopping is sit across the thick branch with your back to the trunk of the tree, not facing it. One of the Shep, Larry and Mo team Yelled at the guy up the tree he was facing the wrong way.
Man up the tree ” I’m sorry if it’s offending you but you can swap place anytime you like “
Man on the ground ” I’m only trying to save you falling out of the tree knuckle head. You’re sitting on the bit you are about to cut and you’re going to come crashing down with the branch you’ve chopped “
From the top of the tree ” There you go again being a smart arse “
From his mate on the ground ” Suit yourself stupid bastard. I’ll be the one still standing on my feet when you are on your way to the hospital “
” Sorry. A bit nervous up here. Send up the chain saw and lets get this over and done with “
Boss man had to tie the chain saw to another rope and haul it up to him. No he didn’t use a thinner rope and two inch thick one was not working as planned. A running commentary from the man up the tree how everything looked different and how great it must be to be able to fly like a bird and go anywhere you liked. Man on the ground started playing with the rope he held…the one his mate up the tree was fastened to. The voice up above hidden by the leaves yelled at him to stop yanking on the rope or he’d make sure he fell on top of him if he got pulled off the branch. Boss man had put the chain saw into a hessian bag and tied it to the rope with a plastic clothes line. When it reached the man in the tree he yelled down to him ” No need to go to the trouble of wrapping it up hauling it up would have done and the job be half done by now.”
I thought any minute now they’ll be having another smoke and if they don’t get a move on the birds will be coming back to roost for the night. I couldn’t see the two on the ground hanging around if the birds started swooping trying to get the guy out of their tree. The chain saw roared into life and all action down on the ground. The mate hanging onto the rope his eyes never leaving his mate up the tree. Boss man was running from side to side of the tree yelling orders of which branch to cut next. Shades of Shep, Larry and Mo Saturday afternoon at the movies.
When all the branches within reach had been chopped down Boss man told him to come down a few feet and start sawing again.
” Tell you what boss. Seeing as you’re the expert why don’t you show us how it’s done and I can stand down there telling you which bit to chop off “
O Dear. Everyone getting tired and realised it is not such a good game after all. The tree lopper said he’d had enough and was coming down. Boss man said they would come back the next day and finish the job. Both mates said he was on his own. They didn’t mind doing him a favour but didn’t think they’d have to risk life and limb. Boss man got real angry and said he’s finish the job himself. He grabbed the can of fuel and emptied it all over the tree, lit a bit of paper and threw it onto the fuel. Whoosh, up the flames went before you could bat an eyelid. Having an open fire in suburban yards had been banned for years. The smell of smoke neighbours came running with garden hoses gushing full pelt. As soon as the fire was doused they asked who’d lit it. no one spoke but the two mates stepped away from the boss man and the neighbours threatened him with a good hiding if he didn’t leave the area and if he came back they would call the cops.

A few weeks later a friend of mine asked if the house next door had been bought by a short, arrogant fella by the name of N>>>>>>> son. I said I had no idea what his name was and why was she asking. She said one of her married daughters had told her one of her neighbours was bragging about the house he’d just bought in Arana Hills and was going to be able to retire soon and live off the house rent he was charging. I asked if her daughter was friendly with him. She answered Jan couldn’t stand the sight of him and someone else who worked with him had said he nearly got killed a few weeks earlier as a reversing truck nearly ran him over.
” My God! What sort of work does he do? “
He was some sort of Union Boss down on the wharfs.
This was not 1930s in Chicago with Al Capone and company. This was the 1980s and Brisbane was still like a country town for most of us. A few years later we found out why the city seemed such a sleepy place. The Police Commissioner and a whole lot of his chums were all behind bars for running the place like Dodge City.
Gee Whizz. It was never like this in Charlton Place

More of Linda’s Reminiscences

October 12, 2020 by

More of Linda’s Reminiscences
From Mrs Linda Esgate (nee Holloway) Former St Hilda’s School pupil

It seems you are far more familiar with Knostrop than I ever was. Peter. To me it was somehow strange and secretive with a brooding atmosphere and I don’t really know why.
My father had an allotment down Knostrop during the war which I remember as a three or four year-old. It was quite near the river Aire. He was exempt from military service as he was nearly blind in one eye and was working in the optical trade which was one of the essential businesses. Almost every time anything was ready to pick or dig up it was stolen, like the family tent which was locked in his shed…..that was the final straw and he decided to give up the allotment. My mother and I used to go down to the allotment occasionally and as we walked towards a railway bridge we had to pass under she pointed out a tawny owl sitting on one of the metal supports. It was my first sighting of an owl and I remember it well.
We children used to go “down Knostrop” to collect conkers in late August and September. I can’t remember any other horse chestnut trees in the district so the Knostrop ones were in great demand and we used all the tricks to harden them up for “tournaments”, i.e. leaving to dry naturally, baking in a cooling oven, pickling in vinegar etc. I used to love playing conkers. We sometimes played in the playground at St Hilda’s school. (The nanny state hadn’t reared its ugly head then.)

It’s odd how we suddenly remember events from a fleeting memory jog like that. There was a foreign lady (German we children thought)who lived “down Knostrop”. It was unusual in those days to have a foreigner living near us and we gave her a wide berth, poor lady. One Saturday when I was about seven I was in the Co-op butcher’s in a long queue, waiting forever it seemed, to get the weekend joint(still on ration). The butcher was preparing a piece of pork for someone, scoring the fat when his knife slipped and he badly cut his hand. The blood fascinated me, I couldn’t take my eyes off it and it couldn’t be stopped it seemed. I fainted. I remember the side of my cheek hitting the sawdust-covered concrete floor before I passed out completely. I came to being clutched to a large lady’s chest while she slapped my face saying “Come along, come along” in a very guttural accent. I soon came round properly! I realised later how kind she had been.. probably the first person in that long queue to react and help. If you lived down that way you will probably know who she was. I never knew her name or exactly where she lived. I hope I thanked her for her help.
I remember the lady you mention, Linda, she was the mother in a Czech refugee family who came to live in Yate’s Yard at the top of Knostrop Hill. They were a nice family and they made ends meet by making ladies handbags out of a red and black material. They had a daughter called Rose Marie. Thanks for you memories Linda.

Jaw-Bone Yard Knostrop’s Golden Acre

October 1, 2020 by

Jaw-Bone yard – Knostrop’s Golden Acre.


Before this month’s tale I have to report that due to Covid 19 we have been unable to arrange the Old East Leeds Codger’s Reunion for this year.

Jaw Bone Yard

(‘click’ on pictures to enlarge)
Jaw-bone Yard was our magical playground in the heart of Knostrop. I believe there had been some whale’s jaw-bones at the entrance of the yard at one time but that was before my time. The yard was a dirt impacted area surrounded by seven houses and stables and barns. I recall some of the names of the cottages: Jaw-bone House was at one time the farmer’s house and then there were: Ash Cottage, Ash Lea, Wisteria, Rose Cottage, and a couple more whose names escape me. Some of the Houses were Jacobean others eighteenth or early nineteenth century. Electricity did not arrive in the yard until the 1950s. The houses had gardens at the front; it was the back doors that opened into the yard. I was born in 1937 around 1941 Mam opened the back door and said, Go out and play. I joined the gang already playing out there and it was then my life began
Jawbone Yard was the centre of our activities: seven houses backed onto the yard and out of the houses came seven kids, augmented by the lads and lasses from the ‘ABC’ houses, the Hall, the Lodge and sometimes too; our friends who joined in the fun from ‘The Top’; which were the streets which sat at the top of Knostrop Hill. This was the gang and didn’t we have a ball! We played every game under the sun in that yard: cricket, rounders, kick-out can, speedway bowlers (hoops) and all the general schoolyard games. The lads and the lasses all mucked in together. We played football with a tennis ball – you were lucky if you could get hold of even a tennis ball while the War was in progress, for just about everything being produced by the nation was to support the war effort – so proper footballs were out of the question. The positive side to this was it certainly taught us how to control a ball. Some of the lads became so proficient that they could ‘keepy-uppy’ with a tennis ball. Harold Sedgwick could even keep it up on his ankle! This all made it that, much easier when we finally did progress to a proper football.
We who played in the yard were fortunate in that one of the dads, who worked on the land at the time, would find balls that had been lost down drains and had ultimately found their way onto the land. He would bring them home and leave them in a grate where we would find them. Mind you a ball had a short lifespan with us, especially when we were hitting out at cricket; balls would fly into the long grass in the adjacent field and become lost. You were out if caught one handed off a wall or if you hit the ball onto a house roof.
Kids from school would say, ‘Can I come home with you after school and pay in your yard.’

In the case of hitting it onto a roof the culprit would be the one to climb onto the roof and retrieve it. The ball would usually be lodged in one of the gutters so you had to climb up onto the roof, via a coal house, then it would be necessary for you to lean perilously over the edge in order to reach it. Like kids all over we were oblivious to the danger.
It pleasantly amazes me that trivial incidents can still be brought to mind after half a century and a lifetime of other more important experiences have elapsed. For instance Keith Gale, a participant in our games, having read the original draft brought to mind an incident, which had occurred when we were playing cricket in the yard. On this occasion Gordon (Oscar) Brown was batting – we could never get him out he was like a limpet. Ball after ball he would just play a dead bat: ‘podging’ as we called it. On this particular day Gordon must have had a rush of blood to the head for he smote a ball mightily, it bounced first on a house roof and then onto a coalhouse roof, finally to be caught one handed by Peter Whitehead. By our rules we believed this to have been have been out, but good old Gordon wouldn’t budge, he stood his ground claiming that as the ball had bounced twice this did not constitute being out! The beautiful thing about this little tale is: that although Keith had been out and about for over fifty years carving out a life for himself, with all the toils and tribulations entailed, that most trivial of incidents had not been erased from his memory.

There was one particularly daft game that we played where one of us would stand facing the stable wall and the rest would choose a film star’s name without letting on what it was. We would form a line across the yard about thirty yards back and the one facing the wall would shout something like, ‘Veronica Lake take two giant strides’ or perhaps, ‘three fairy footsteps.’ Then the person who had chosen that particular name had to execute the ordered manoeuvre without being seen. Should the one calling the shots turn and catch one of us in the process of moving then the name of the culprit would be shouted and they would be out. The first person to reach wall without being seen won.
At one time we had an old wooden wheelbarrow, we would take in turns to sit in the barrow with our eyes closed while some other member of the gang would spin it around and then set off in a series of changing directions. The idea was for the one having the ride to try and guess where they were. In the middle of the yard there stood a huge wooden shed, it had three large gates at the front to accommodate flat four wheeled carts. We would use the gates as the goals in winter or the central palings as the wickets in summer. We could shelter inside the shed when it rained and perhaps play with the large wooden boxes which were intended to transport the vegetable produce to market; cabbages, cauliflowers and especially rhubarb. The boxes could be fashioned into all manner of constructions, houses, cars, whatever we fancied at the moment.

Pauline Brown, (now Mrs Rushfirth), remembers that shed too and another game we played called ‘Escape’. Someone would stand on top of the granary steps with a torch or a bike lamp, shining it on the shed gates and moving it backward and forward and we would try to escape in the dark bits. Pauline recalls it as: quite frightening. We had obviously been brain washed by watching prisoner of war films. .

There was another shed in the yard too, one in which sacks were stored – I believe the sacks must have been filled with soot for when we climbed about in there we’d get ourselves ‘black bright’. On other occasions we played whip and top, conkers, hula-hoop. We had phases when we played with potato guns, catapults or sped around the yard with bowlers in impromptu speedway races. We had dens everywhere, sometimes in the bushes where we could pull off the ‘green stick’ branches to make weapons. One type could be hollowed out for to use as a blowpipe while another ‘springier’ type could be fashioned into the bow for bow and arrows. Sheltering from the rain under a den’s green foliage is among the sweetest experiences life has to offer.

We were a bit light on girls but the ones we had were great, Pat and Pauline from the yard, Brenda, Rita from the New Hall Lodge and very occasionally, Lizzie, from the ABCs. all the rest were lads but the girls all mucked in and pulled their weight especially when we were collecting wood for the bonfires. You could tell which the girls were: they were the ones who practised their pirouettes when there was a lull in the game and did ‘crabs’ up against the wall with their frocks tucked in. There was always a god cohort of dogs running with us

One particular time everyone seemed to be wearing wooden clogs – I think they may have been an attempt to offset the problem of shoes wearing out too fast, or was it that being made out of wood they did not attract clothing coupons? Whatever, the idea was a fad and went out within a few weeks. Then of course there were the bikes, Denis Harrison had a bike on ‘fixed wheel’, it was unforgiving, if you put your feet on the ground before the bike had properly stopped it would punish you by trapping the back of your legs with its pedals; that was really painful. There was another bike which had a bell as big as a teapot and yet another, a butcher’s bike, which had you scared for the basket bit didn’t turn straightaway when you turned the handlebars giving the impression you were not going to make a corner. Peter Whitehead later organised ‘East Leeds Wheelers’ a proper cycling club. Meetings were held in a little building where the dustbins were usually kept. Membership to this club was quite exclusive and mainly taken up by a more ‘up market’ class of cyclist than us ‘yardies’, who rode ‘drop handlebar’ bikes and mostly lived at ‘the top’.

Jawbone Yard was part of a market-garden owned by a couple of brothers: Percy and Fred Allinson. They would arrive at the yard in a couple of beautiful pre-war blue Wolseley motorcars. The sight of such a motorcar today has me drooling. To be fair they put up with a lot from us kids but sometimes they would tell us off, if for instance we were playing with boxes that had already been packed with produce for market.

The area was famous for rhubarb growing being in the golden triangle with Leeds and Wakefield. It was said to be something to do with the soil and soot from the West Riding industry. Rhubarb grew everyware some of it even grew wild, our name for it was, ‘tusky’ and we ate it until it was coming out of our ears, in reality it was a bit of bravado, without custard or sugar it was too sour and made us wrinkle up our faces. We always had a contingent of dogs following us about. It was not antisocial in those days to just open you door and let your dog get out and about the business of being a dog. When we were out though they would always latch onto us, it was a great life for a dog too if it lived in Knostrop. We had a great dog, called Smokey. He would follow us everywhere when we were playing out. Unfortunately, when school started he couldn’t handle it and would make his own way up to school where he would sit in the cloakroom near my coat. When the classroom door opened, he would be in and smelling around among the desks for me. At first, this was a novelty and the teacher had the kids writing a composition about ‘Smokey’, but then he began to guard the door and wouldn’t let anyone in. After he tried to bite the School Board man the teacher told me he’d not to come up again. Mam had to keep him in or tie him up after that but holding him in check was like trying to hold quicksilver. He would even jump out of a bedroom window into the flowerbeds if that were his only avenue of escape.

In the early days we were allowed to play on a grassed area adjacent to the yard where a permanent pile of dried ‘oss muck provided an improvised boxing ring for us. Dried ‘oss muck has a great aroma, one I still enjoy today. Eventually, unfortunately for us, a fence was erected to preclude us from this area. This exclusion, which made it difficult for us to retrieve our ball, had us singing in defiance a contemporary popular song; Don’t Fence Me In. At the east end of the yard were two stables, which usually housed a couple of horses. I remember there was a black one called ‘Prince’ he was not much bigger than a pony; sometimes he would pull a small trap. More powerful horses were stabled to pull the loaded vegetable carts to market. Pat and Pauline’s dad worked with the horses. Pauline writes: ‘My earliest memories are of my dad ploughing the fields with the horses, he was employed at the market garden. Looking back it was very hard work, long hours and poor wages. Back to the horses, one was called Tidy and the other Blackie, both were big shire horses, I liked to watch them being groomed and fed in the stable.’

Our own house backed onto the stables where the big shire horses would sleep in the stalls in a standing position, they were too big to lie down. On odd occasions, a horse would slip onto the floor in its sleep. Then there would be a great commotion as the horse flayed the sides of the wooded stall trying to regain its feet. ‘Hoss down!’ would be the cry and the foreman, Mr Lightfoot, would be sought to try and assist the horse back onto its feet. Sometimes a poor horse would develop boils. I say, poor, because a terrible way of lancing the boils was used. First, the air was burnt out of a jam jar by means of a lighted candle underneath, so causing a vacuum, then the lid would be removed and the open end quickly slapped over the boil making a seal with the horse’s flesh which caused the yellow matter to be drawn out of the boil and into the jar. It got rid of the boil but the horses didn’t half complain. On May Day the horse’s tails would be tied up with coloured ribbons. On Whit Sunday it was our turn to be made to dress up like ‘dog’s dinners’ ourselves. .

Pauline remembers how she liked to decorate bricks, yes bricks! She would mix water with the lime that was heaped in a pile ready for use on the land and make it into a paste. Then she would decorate the brick with daisies, leaves and such. ‘They looked good enough to eat’, she claims. It didn’t take much to keep us happy in the yard!

I think our absolute favourite game was one we just called ‘chasing’. We could play ‘chasing’ in all seasons; it was fun whether it was the light or the dark nights. To play the game; first a couple of sides were picked by the old ‘dip-dip-dip’ method, then one team would run off and after a prescribed period the other team would run after them and try to catch them before they could return to base. In the process of this game we covered miles and miles, over fields through woods, haystacks, rhubarb sheds. We had the lot at Knostrop. The area we covered was so vast that when I consider the game now it astounds me how we ever managed to locate individuals who had run and hidden often several miles away and sometimes in the dark too, but amazingly, we did!

When the game was over we would congregate around one of the gas lamps and talk. Sometimes there would be road works and a night watchman – perhaps we would sit with him for a while around his coke brazier watching the blue red flames and choking on the fumes. Maybe we’d tell a few yarns and then accompany the watchman while he checked his lamps. Pauline remembers being scalded when one of the lads, Brian Smith she thinks, tried to jump the brazier and knocked the boiling water from the big iron kettle all over her legs, causing here to miss school for a while.

In the spring we’d likely go to the pond and collect frogspawn in a jam jar and observe it over a period of time while it turned, first into tadpoles, which eventually lost their tails, grew legs and finally turned into frogs. Then we’d set them free. Invariable a trip to the pond would end up with wellies full of water and a telling off from our mams. In the winter when the pond would be frozen we’d walk gingerly on the ice. I’m told previous generations were more adventurous and would skate on the pond but we didn’t run to ice skates.
As the yard had been there for well over a century I often thought of the many other generations of kids who had a golden time in that yard but no more golden ages now, the yard as with all of Knostrop was bulldozed down in the 1960s on our watch to make was for the Cross Green Industrial Estate .
Pauline as the last of the gang to leave the yard is honoured by having the last word.
‘I was the last of the gang to leave Knostrop; I was in my late twenties. We had to leave owing to re-development. I remember the day we left our lovely old cottage, the only home I knew and loved. I burst into tears I couldn’t help it, I was so unhappy to be leaving. It didn’t seem to matter that we were moving to a new home with hot and cold water, bathroom, indoor toilet, central heating and easy access to town and the shops. I had never been used to mod cons so I didn’t miss them.

The older inhabitants of Knostrop were turfed out of this semi-rural ideal to more modern urban living. But modern conveniences do not necessarily make up for a friendly rural community. ‘You could take the folk out of Knostrop but could you take Knostrop out of the folk!’ Some of the older ones found it difficu settle and perhaps passed away earlier than they should. Such is evidently the price of progress – and Knostrop – like the War, lives on only in our memories. But when we are gone – who will remember then
They built a factory on the site of our lovely yard which was later to burn down at the cost of a million pounds. How dare you suggest that was anything t

Working on the Tools

September 1, 2020 by

Working on the tools

After writing 164 tales mostly about old east Leeds I’m running out of new things to say about the old area, but I’m sure there must be some of you out there who can add a tale to the site. If you think you have a tale that might suit the purpose of the site please email it to me at peter_wood@talktalk.net

In the meantime I hope ‘Working on the Tools’ will make you smile.

Working on the Tools.
In the engineering we called working down at the sharp end where the real work gets done as ‘working on the shop floor’ and we had our iconic tales to tell. Miners call it ‘working at the coal face’ and teachers ‘working at the chalk face’ When I joined the building services section of a local council I found their tradesmen called it ‘working on the tools’. And they had a goldmine of great tales to tell too, mostly about jobs gone wrong with disastrous consequences. .
There are ‘brickie’s tales, joiner’s tales, roofer’s tales and probably best of all, probably due to their working environment being concerned with excrement: the plumber’s tales. There is something intrinsically humorous about people coming into contact with excrement. Take Ray’s experiences as an apprentice plumber. His first job, straight from school, happened to fall in that bitter winter of 1962/63 when the country was frozen for months on end, including a bank of about ten well used toilets at his new place of work. Those toilets were banked up so high that users had needed to pile bricks across the top of the pedestals topped off with a board in order to get more in. Well; when you’ve got to go you’ve got to go! The foreman told Ray to take a shovel and scoop out each frozen bowl in one solid lump and to lay each lump at the side of its pedestal while he thawed out the pipes with a blow lamp. When the water was flowing again he had to break up the piles and flush them away
You can imagine as a baptism of fire that takes some beating but his first job at the Council came close. His first job there was to free a blocked urinal at Morley Town Hall. Being unsure how to go about this job Ray rang his boss for advice.
‘Go down into the cellar,’ said his boss, ‘there you will find the bottom of the waste pipe – there will be a ‘U’ bend and a locknut, unlock the nut and clear the bend, it’ll probably be blocked with match sticks.’
Ray went down into the cellar and located the ‘U’ bend. To undo the nut he needed to stand directly underneath it and reach up. When it came free so did the contents of a two inch diameter pipe four stories high filled with urine, right onto his head.
Much later on another job for the Council Ray had to replace a w.c. pan. It was just before lunch by the time he had removed the old pan; it was then that he realised that the replacement pan he had brought along with him was the wrong size. Ray apologised to the lady of the house. ‘I’m sorry,’ said Ray, I’ve brought the wrong size pan; I’ll have to nip back to the stores and get the correct one. Will you be OK for half an hour?’ The lady said her husband came home for a sandwich at lunch time but that it would be alright. Unfortunately, when Ray returned with the new pan they had already made a deposit into the hole.
Finally, Ray, now in charge of a gang was advised by his lads that they refused to work in a certain house because it was so dirty and smelled terrible.
‘Course you will – we can’t pick and choose where we work,’ said Ray, ‘follow me.’ With that he walked into the house, slipped on a pile of dog excrement on the bottom step and measured his length up the stairs coming into contact with another pile on virtually every step; he was covered in the stuff. He reckons he ripped out the stair carpet himself and waked out of the house
Enough of Ray – another plumber replacing a complex of pipes realized he needed an elbow joint from the old pipes to use on the new pipes but it was tight and he couldn’t get it off cold so he heated it up with his blow torch until it was red hot that enabled it to expands and free itself. Unfortunately when it came free it fell onto the bathroom carpet and began to burn it, he tried to pick it up with his pliers but it was awkward to grasp and it was making a hole right through the carpet now, so he panicked and tried to pick it up with his hand but of course it was really hot. ‘Ouch!’ he had to drop it; it began to burn another hole, he tried to pick it up again. ‘Ouch!’ he dropped it again and it began to burn a third hole; he picked it up again, ‘Ouch!’ a forth hole. He finished up with eight holes in the bathroom carpet and then it got away with him down the stairs and made a burn on every step of the stair carpet. The tenant complained that she had 26 mysterious burns in her carpets – how could this have happened? She demanded and got a new carpet from the Council.
Still on the subject of carpets, a joiner this time, screwing in a new threshold near to the door was horrified to see a weft of the carpet had wrapped itself around his drill-bit and had pulled a ladder all way across the lounge carpet – virtually cutting it in half. Yet another carpet tale was that of a lad cleaning a chimney. He found himself with a shovel full of hot ash and no bucket. Instead of taking the shovel to the bucket he rested the hot shovel on the carpet while he went seeking the bucket. You can imagine what happened to the carpet. Another joiner needing to ease a door removed the door and rested it along the back of the settee in order to plane a shaving off. Unfortunately he removed a shaving off the back of the settee at the same time.
Mind you sometimes visits highlighted bizarre habits by the tenants as well as ‘clangers’ by the tradesmen. For instance one lady called for a tiler to replace her fireplace tiles, which she said had just dropped off. When he attended it transpired she was burning old railway sleepers. She would stand a chair with its back facing the fireplace and balance a sleeper with one end on the chair back and the other in the fire itself, as the end of the sleeper burned away she would just feed it further into the fire.
The same lady called for a plumber complaining her bathroom carpet was wet: damaged by a leaking pipe. She was after a new carpet from the council but she had been seen getting the same old carpet, dripping wet, out of a skip.
While in the process of studying glazers at work I recall another weird occurrence. We had arrived to refit a small bathroom window, we had the new window already manufactures and on the van. While we were there removing and fitting the small bathroom window it was noticeable that the lounge window had no glass in it at all! The inhabitants were sitting unconcernedly watching TV on a bitter cold day with just a piece of dirty plastic flapping in the window aperture. The lounge window had evidently been dispatched by a hurled dustbin and not by fair-means, so they would have to wait a replacement for that window.
Putting a bath in is a plumber’s job but boarding in the bath is a joiner’s job. There was an old tradesman joiner who would say to his lads, ‘Never let a hammer head come close to a bath edge, hammers and baths are a lethal combination.’ We are talking here about the old cast iron baths covered in white enamel: if the hard surface of a hammer head comes into contact with the roll over edge of the bath a thick chunk of enamel would flake away right down to the cast iron. On this particular day the old tradesman came back from lunch and saw a huge chip out of the bath edge. He went ballistic but none of the lads would own up to being the culprit. He considered his options – as the bath had already been plumbed in the cost to remove and replace it with a new bath was really ‘big money’. So against his own better judgement the old lad decided to attempt a ‘bodge up’. He bought a tin of enamel touch up paint and secreted it on the job, at the same time masking the offending bath edge from prying eyes with a piece of ply. Each day he proceeded to apply a layer of paint in an effort to try and build it up to the original thickness. It was a painstaking task which had to be completed to perfection as he knew the Clerk of Works would inspect the work and he was a real ‘hawk eye’ at any kind of a cover up; if he suspected any impropriety he would insist on the whole job being stripped out and replaced.
On the day of the initial inspection the masking job wasn’t great but considering the old saying: ‘A blind man would be pleased to see it.’ The old tradesman thought he’d take a chance; he crossed his fingers and removed the plywood. The Clark of Works went straight to it. ‘What’s this,’ he said, ‘it’s had a touch!’ The old joiner feigned surprise and ran his fingers along the damaged edge, ‘Well I never, I haven’t noticed that before, it must have been like that when it came,’ he said.
The Clerk of Works wasn’t happy, he pointed to the damage and then put up his finger, ‘It’s had a touch he repeated,’ but as he spoke he slowly walked on. The old joiner thinking perhaps he’d got away with it continued to improve his work with a further layer each day for he knew there would be a final inspection. Unfortunately he couldn’t find the pot one morning when he arrived. He went to the bathroom and there was the Clark of Works holding up the pot of enamel in triumph. ‘You’re nicked,’ he said ‘strip it out and gerit replaced.’ So all the old boy’s work had been for nowt and his credibility had taken a knock too all because a hammer came too close to a bath edge.
When the lads were working on site they would get up to all sorts of pranks; like nailing the cabin door shut while their mates were having their snap then blocking the chimney with a slate so that those inside almost choked to death on the smoke. The site toilet would be a hastily constructed hut over a manhole direct to the sewer. To complete the job they would secure a couple of boards across to form a makeshift seat and this would serve as the ‘thunder box’ as the lads called it. They tell the story that while a lad was already using this contraption they jammed the door shut, nailed a shaft to each side and raising the whole lot off the manhole ran around with it like a sedan chair with the lad still inside.
Things tended to go missing from those building sites ‘big time’. It was a regular occurrence for ladders to disappear from one side of the building site while the lads were working at the other. More spectacular was the case of a bricklayer grinding out between bricks for pointing with a hand held grinder which was being powered by a compressor located around the other side of the building. He was amazed when the grinder was ripped out of his hand and away out of sight around the corner of the building. He raced around the corner just in time to see the compressor disappearing up the road on the back of a ‘gyppo’ pick up with the hand grinder bouncing along the road behind, still attached with its pipes.
Then there was the case of the cement mixer – brand new – never been used, it was left outside the cabin while the lads had their lunch, when they came out it had disappeared never to be seen again. It never mixed a bucket of concrete in anger for the Council.
Best of all was the disappearing engine. The vans were kept in a depot compound overnight secured by a fourteen foot high wall. On the particular morning in question a guy couldn’t get his van to start so he asked his mate to give him a tow start – still no joy, so they looked under the bonnet and there was no engine there at all! Take about ‘my engine’s missing’ this engine was really missing. But how did they manage to remove a 1,600 cc diesel engine and get it over a fourteen foot high wall without anyone seeing or hearing anything? And there were houses all around the depot.
Finally, a roofer’s tale to finish with; this roofer was working on an old lady’s bungalow roof when he lost his footing: he went clean through the roof and the ceiling to arrive amidst a cloud of rubble onto the settee next to where the lady was sitting having a cup of tea. Quite unabashed and quick as a flash he said, ‘We’ve got to stop meeting like this you know.’


August 12, 2020 by

Great News

Great News Folk: Our readers will be happy to learn that Audrey Sanderson (Ausie Pom) has just sent me an e-mail, She’s still alive and kicking. Audrey: an Ellerby Lane School former pupil now living In Australia has written many tales on this site but we have not heard from her for a long time and feared for her wellbeing.
Less happy news is the demise of Bernie Finn who wrote tales from Victoria School.