Delivering the Sunday papers in 1950s East Leeds

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blog eric sand del papersEric Sanderson tells of his trials and tribulations and some of the benefits od delivering the Sunday papers to East Leeds and Knostrop   

Sunday Morning Papers in East Leeds

By Eric Sanderson

For a couple of years in the 50s, I did the Sunday morning paper round for Oldcorn’s newsagents, which was on the short parade on Cross Green Lane between the church billiard hall and Easy Road Coal Staithe. It is no longer there having been replaced by a modern housing development. The only other establishment I remember on that parade was Fletcher’s barber shop.

            I took over from a lad called Wilfred Pickles who left to become a police cadet. Wilfred was a tall, fair haired good natured boy: I guess he made an excellent Bobby. The weekday deliveries were done in my time, if I remember correctly, by two girls called: Jennifer Chappelow and Beryl Morley.

            My job started early, around 6 a.m. summer and winter and often having had to awaken Mr Oldcorn. My first task was to lug in the huge bundles of newspapers, unpack and sort them and place them in rows on the shop counter. There was no paper or magazine racks in those days. I would then put the papers I had to deliver into two bags which finished up enormously heavy, leaving me at the end of my round with an aching back, shoulders and neck, but I usually slipped two or three ‘spares’ into bag number two – more of them later.

            The first part of the round covered: the St Hilda’s, the Copperfields and Cautley Road, which was covered on foot and largely uneventful apart from the odd man eating dog. The second bag didn’t have so many deliveries but covered a much larger area including right down to Skelton Grange and had to be done on my bike. This section started at a couple of rows of cottages on South Accomm, just before the river bridge [Falmouth’s and Bridgewater’s]. Without exception every house had a letter box with the strength of a rat trap and barely large enough to let a mouse in, let alone bulky (sometimes several) Sunday papers. Trying to push the paper through usually shredded it, especially if wet from the regular Sunday morning shower of rain. Tucking them behind the door knobs had equally unfortunate consequences and my only solution was to roll the paper up tight and jam the first few inches into the letter box, leaving them stuck out like sore fingers. This was far from the perfect solution as the newspapers would become soaked if it rained, Complaints were not unheard of but there was no practical solution. At the end with knuckles bleeding from the gin trap letterboxes, I could look down the row and see what looked like a line of sentinels with a fag in each mouth. Today I suppose they would have been rolled up and placed in plastic sleeves but no such high tech solution existed in those days.

            It was then up South Accomm, onto the Long Causeway and down Knostrop Lane. I had long been impressed by seeing at the cinema, American newspaper boys tossing rolled up papers from their bikes up to the customer’s front doors. My first wheeze was to try this but there were a couple of critical errors on my part. First my aim was not so accurate as theirs and my papers often finished up in the wrong garden or in a cabbage patch. Secondly, they didn’t have the waterproof wrapping that the US boys had. Legions of complaints quickly followed so my experiments at improving efficiency had to be abandoned.

            Next calls were the Old Hall and the New Hall, these were two fine if fading Jacobean and Georgian houses. One, the New Hall, with a round house feature was converted into what today would be called ‘apartments’. Winding marble staircases,  intricate wrought iron balustrades with floor to ceiling doors characterised the place – along with a horrible stench. Walking along the balconies, dropping papers by the doors (there were no letterboxes) usually whistling (the place was like an echo chamber), I was often shouted at from behind closed doors—“SHARRUP” – do you know what time it is?”  Consulting my one inch thick Newmark watch (with luminous dial I might add) I would shout back, “Yes, it’s seven o’clock” Then colourful ripostes shocked my innocent schoolboy’s ears and couldn’t possibly be repeated here.  Nonetheless, it was good sport and a bit of fun on an often dreary and lonely job. One resident of the New Hall, an elderly, kind lady who seemed to be living her life in a slightly shabby and fading elegance, would always eagerly await her Scottish Sunday Post. She kept about 1,000 cats and had a very impressive collection of antique firearms which she enjoyed showing and explaining the provenance of.

            On to the next call, round the double bend and onto the straight towards a row of cottages, which I think were called the ABC Houses (but I never knew why) adjacent to the water treatment plant. On the way my wheeze number two came into play. I invariably crossed with a van carrying workers from Skelton Grange Power Station. They would always stop me and ask me if I had any extra copies. Remember the few ‘spares’ I mentioned earlier? These were always profitably disposed of which earned me a bob or two extra with sometimes a tip thrown in.

            Next stop was the row of ABC cottages where I had to collect the money for the week’s papers as well as deliver the Sundays. The residents were always somewhat grumpy. Even though they wanted their papers early they didn’t relish getting up to pay the bill. They even had the temerity to suggest I come back later in the day for the money. Not a good idea.   

            Wheeze number three came into operation here, I used to keep a very small amount of change in one pocket and when proffered payment, said I had very little change. The residents would then often round up the payment which translated into another few bob or so for me. Of course, I couldn’t operate the scam on all of the people, all of the time but it was an occasional nice little earner.

            Just after the cottages a narrow gauge railway line crossed the road at a very acute angle. In wet weather this was quite a tricky hazard to negotiate on a bike and many is the time a tumble resulted in muttered profanities, bringing down curses on anyone who happened to be in my bad books at the time.

            Onwards to Skelton Grange and here was a short row of terraced houses in the shadow of the cooling towers. What a depressing windblown place this was but after avoiding the usual combination of scary dogs aggressive geese and deep potholes, I had finally arrived at my furthest point. One resident, a huge man, always in bib and brace overalls and hob nailed boots, had massive hands, a bald head and a mouth full of rotten teeth – he could easily have starred in the film – ‘DELIVERENCE’. Nonetheless he was a very nice man.

            Then turning for home, head down, peddling furiously, spirits rising, back past Old and New Halls and turning right into Snake Lane (some called this part of the lane which ran up to Black Road – Red Road but rightly or wrongly I always considered this part of Snake Lane). Up, the hill, turn left into the part of Snakey that ran into Cross Green Lane and stop at the farm (which later became the school but even that has now gone), my last call, parking the bike and walking up to the house which was about a hundred yards away, I first had to get past the snarling, slavering Hound of the Baskervilles, which was (thankfully) chained to a stout post. The chain was just about long enough to allow me to sidle past without having the brute sink its fangs into me and once past I approached the house deliberately looking dishevelled, forlorn and a bit of play acting came into play here for wheeze number four. The lady of the house was always very kind, enquiring after my wellbeing and my play acting stood me in good stead here, feigning cold and hunger, she would sometimes invite me in for a bacon sandwich and a steaming cup of cocoa, especially on cold winter mornings.

            Suitably refreshed and often with a nice tip (one shilling), I tripped back down the path past the dog, which strangely never bothered me on the way out. Feeling warm, replete and with spirits soaring, my round was complete and I headed back to the newsagents. Oh, bliss and joy, did bacon sandwiches ever taste so good? Back there, the good old Mr Oldcorn would give me my five bob and sometimes an extra shilling if the weather was bad (because I never let him down) and I would set of for home with nearly ten bob in my pocket, to 68 Charlton Road where I lived until I was eighteen.

My dear Mam would be waiting for me with a hot bath to warm me up and sooth away my aches and pains to be followed by a full breakfast, THE FULL MONTY.   

I never did tell her (until many years later) about my ‘early starter’ at Snake Lane Farm. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have got the extra sausage with my breakfast.

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