The Memories of Doug Farnill

by

blog-dougs-complete-storiesDoug emigrated to Australia in the early 1950s but fondly remembers his early days in East Leeds particularly at Ellerby Lane School 

THE MEMORIES OF DOUG FARNILL

Doug emigrated to Australia in the early 1950s but fondly remembers his early days in East Leeds and particularly Ellerby Lane School

Should any ‘Old East Leedser wish to contact Doug, he would be happy to receive you on e-mail

dfarnill@bigpond.com  

 

The Gong

Pupils of Ellerby Lane School in the early 1940s and perhaps those of earlier and later years will remember the gong sounded for play time and home time. The brass gong, about the size of a dinner plate was kept in the corridor between Mr Consterdine’s classroom and the teachers’ staff room. Its sound brought relief to many a bored or struggling student and there was little hesitation in alerting our teachers to the gong in case they had not heard.

            The gong was usually sounded by a lad from Mr Banwell’s class, and it was an honour to be chosen as the gong monitor for the day. If Mr Banwell said it was time to sound the gong and no one had been appointed there would be lots of hands in the air and lots of ‘Sir, Sir, Please Sir’ kinds of clamour. I was proud to get the job of gong sounder on one or two occasions. Sounding the gong was quite an art. With one hand you held it suspended on its cord at shoulder height and with the other hand drummed at it with a padded leather knob on the end of a drumstick. The art was to hit it gently at first so that it didn’t swing away too far and then catch it with another hit as it swung back, and then over about 10-15 seconds, gradually work up to a crescendo before ending with a stylish two or three big ding dongs. I can hear it still, the distinctive sound of the gong, the blessed sound of the gong, the ‘relief of Mafekin’ sound of the gong, lingering as a fond memory. I wonder who holds the gong today – I am sure it sounds somewhere still.

 

 

The Christmas Plaques

Like many other kids I was scared of Mr Consterdine. Going through the mill backwards with bare back being slapped by all those lucky or quick enough not to be the slowest was a not too pleasant memory of physical training in the hall. His method of teaching was sometimes a bit harsh too. He put up two or three hard sums on the board – say a pounds, shillings and pence amount to be multiplied by 17 and then go around to cane every boy who had got it wrong. One poor lad got the cane for every sum on the board on most occasions. In Mr Consterdine’s class I was very well behaved and quick on the sums but I got his cane across the palms of my hands too many times for my liking. But it was not always pain. Leading up to Christmas was the fun of pouring and painting the plaster-of Paris wall plaques. He had a store of brass plates pressed into Christmas scenes such as holly, a sleigh, a Father Christmas and so on. When inverted and surrounded by a containing ring they could be used as moulds into which to pour plaster-of Paris, He would do a variety and enough for every one in the class. The plaques would sit on the floor drying out and we would be vying for the first pick. They were given a coat of size to seal them and then we could paint the moulded scene in bright colours. Ribbons glued onto the back in a loop would make a hanger and a piece of green felt glued onto the back would finish the job. Each of us ended up with a Christmas present to take home to our Mam. Thank you Mr Consterdine.

Now the Day is Over

After assembly on Friday afternoons, often included singing the hymn ‘Now the Day is over, shadows drawing neigh’ we would be marched off out of the hall to exit into the playground and home for the weekend. Mr Banwell was often at the piano, and to march us out he would strike up a brisk ‘Colonel Bogey’ march. As soon as we were into the corridor and close to the outside door we would start to sing a rude ditty: ‘Where was the engine driver when the boiler burst? They found his body (not really body but rather b*****s hanging on rusty nail, on a rusty nail. A teacher used to push past to catch the culprit but I don’t remember anybody being caught. It seemed to happen regularly and so I suppose the teachers must have thought it was fun too. To this day, whenever I hear a band strike up the Colonel Bogey march the scene and the words come back to me vividly. I wonder did you sing too?

 

Bangers

Every time someone refers to sausages as ‘Bangers’ my mind summons up vague memories of a general Election in the mid thirties. I would be about five or six years old and I’m struggling to remember he details: it would be nice if someone could add their memories of ‘bangers’.

            A banger was a tight roll of the Yorkshire Evening Post, surplus to the fire- lighting needs of the next day, tied to a string about four foot long This could be whirled around the head to make a lovely swishing sound, and could be a very threatening weapon if offence needed. A gang of us led by an older lad would patrol our neighbourhood streets looking for a similarly equipped bunch of kids. Our colour was red and on encounter we would shout, ‘What colour are you?’ I vaguely remember that red was for labour, Blue was Conservative and Liberal was yellow. The idea was that if we met a gang with a different colour we would have a battle with our bangers. All the kids that we met during our patrols were red like us, or perhaps they just said that when they saw we out numbered them or could make louder whooshing sounds with our bangers. I was never tested in an actual skirmish but it was exciting and a bit scary to be on patrol in danger of one’s life.

In the same period I can recall a car in the street with a man shouting, ‘Have you voted yet missus?’ My mam said, ‘Not yet,’ so she took off her pinny and hopped into the car to get a free ride there and back to the Victoria polling booth. I just wished I had been old enough to vote.

 

The Friday Penny

I was a lucky kid in the 1930s. My Dad had a steady though low paid job from my birth in 1931 to the mobilization of the Territorial Army in 1939. I think we were slightly better off financially when he rose to be a sergeant in the ack ack defence of Black Road and then London. My Mam supplemented the family income from time to time with a couple of nights frying fish and chips. During the 1930s my dad used to bring his pay packet home every Friday night and would take an agreed amount for his cigarettes and other discretionary spending, Mam would salt away a shilling or so in the teapot to save up for the August Bank Holiday, usually camping at Cayton Bay or a week in a boarding house at Scarborough or Bridlington, seven and six would be put away for the rent and the rest of the wage packet was for living expenses. A big weekly event for me and my older brother was the Friday penny from Dad: it could be counted on without fail. I would dash off immediately to gaze into the lit window of Taylor’s shop on the corner of East Park Drive and spend minutes of indecision as I salivated before the offerings. Sometimes it was a liquorish pipe that could be smoked for a while and then chewed. Sometimes it was a small bar of chocolate or toffee. Sometimes I just gave up and asked Mr Taylor for a ‘pennuth of something you get a lot of, please’. On occasions I chose to gamble by asking for a penny punch. This was a card marked with little dots. The gamble was to hover over the dots with a little metal punch and then select a target dot, to cut out the top layer of card to reveal a colour underneath. The colour you happened to reveal determined the kind of sweet that you had won, usually worth less than a penny although sometimes more. On returning home I would invariably ask, ‘Does anybody want some or a bite or a lick?’ whichever form of sharing was appropriate, but always hoping that the answer would be no, and sometimes I had already had a suck or whatever it was to influence the answer.

The Gas Meter

Down our cellar was a gas meter that took pennies. You slotted a penny in and turned a knob so that the meter would swallow it and allow another measured volume of gas to flow into our pipes. The best thing about all this was the visit of the Gas man who would come every few weeks to empty the meter.

He would read the dials, reckon the amount of gas consumed and then count the pennies from the meter box. Usually there were a few pennies over and the Gas Man would return these to Mam. It was a bonanza because Mam would often treat us kids to an extra visit to the corner shop. I suppose the meters were set to err a bit towards yielding a small rebate to the consumer. It never occurred to me as a kid just how much trust there was between us and the Gas Man. In these more suspicious days you would be asking how many pennies a potential twister could extract on the side. Was it childhood innocence or did we trust each other more in those days?

Catch Your Dad on the Way Home

I am ever grateful for having a good Mam and Dad who coped very well with very little. Finances were tight enough, however, for cash to run out now and then before provision had been made for Friday’s tea. When this happened Mam might say to me when I got home from school: ‘Go catch your Dad on his way home from work and ask him to open his wage packet and bring some pig’s trotters from the pork butchers.’ When there happened to be a spare sixpence over at the end of the week it was a joy to be asked to run up to Calvert’s confectioners  shop at the top of Kitson Street to bring home four coconut macaroons, or two vanilla slices that might be cut up to share. It was a hand-to-mouth existence in those days but I never felt insecure, this I think is a real tribute to the soundness of the working-class culture of the day, and to parents who budgeted so well.

Christmas Baking

A week or two before Christmas my Mam used to do her baking. It might be two dozen jam tarts, a dozen lemon curd, and perhaps two-or-three dozen mince pies. These would be set out on a stone slab at the bottom of the steps that led into our small coal cellar. It was usually a hated chore to be asked to ‘bring up a shovel of coal from t’cellar our Douglas’ but when there were tarts on the slab I was as keen as anyone to have a good fire burning in the grate. After extracting a tart from the slab and gulping it down quickly the art was, I figured, to rearrange the pattern of tarts to cover the full area of the slab so that no one could notice that one was missing. The problem was that I used my geometric ingenuity too many times and worse still, my big brother and Dad both had the same idea so Mam soon noticed the depredations. Naturally, I was the one who got into trouble being the youngest and admittedly the most prolific thief. But Mam would make a new batch in time for Christmas so all would end well. The moral of the story was, don’t do anything so stupid as to get caught at it.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: