Bernie’s Tale

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Bernie’s Tale
Bernie Finn has recently returned to Yorkshire having spent thirty three years in Australia. Bernie tells us great tales of life in the Glensdales and at Victoria School, York Road, Leeds, in the 1940s.

The Air Raid
During the war when air raids were in progress my family, along with lots of others, took refuge in ‘The Slip Inn’ cellar. At the time our family consisted of: baby me, my mother, two aunts, and my grandmother (my father was killed in France two weeks before I was born). I had a carry bag crib thing which also had gas protection. So when the sirens sounded, I along with whatever necessities I needed was placed in the carrier bag. On this particular night off goes the sirens and on comes the usual ensuing panic and the fifty yard flight to the Slip. Apparently it was very much shoulder to shoulder in there and the warden, when there was one, would shut the door when it was full. Well they had been in there for a while when someone says, ‘Bernard’s quiet tonight’ (me). A glance in the bag showed that everything was in there for me but no me. So my mother is off like a shot fighting her way to the steps leaving the girls to argue who was to blame. When she gets through she then had to fight the warden who said he was not allowed to open the special door until the all clear. Anyway she got out of there with the help of the others with him shouting after her, ‘I can’t let you back in’. I’m told he ended up with a bloody nose but nobody knows from whom.

So to put this into perspective, there was little me at the tender age of about one year old left alone to defend the area from attack until reinforcements arrived (my mother). I did a good job too not a single bomb got dropped anywhere near the area that night. I will never understand how come I wasn’t decorated or got a commendation or something. I was just one of the many unsung heroes of the war I guess.

The Slip Inn
The Slip was always part of my life for different reasons I saw it grow as I grew. The only time it upset me was when they extended it and built a concert room. The original (New Regent) was quite small and the local kids were quite mad because we used to have our bonfires on the vacant land they used for the extension. Later on in life I became a patron and loved it for the entertainment, it provided a second home for me in the1960s. It was one of the first places I visited when I returned after 33 years in Oz. I didn’t find it a nice place at all, it was very run down and the concert room was closed off. I took a nostalgic walk around the area few days before my 70th birthday and it was all boarded up but at least I got to see it again unlike my old school (Victoria) which was already demolished.

[At the time of writing I believe The Slip is open again for business]

The Dreaded White Line
In the Victoria School playground there was a white boundary line which ran from the toilet block to a recess in the corner of the main building; this was to stop us fraternising with the girls. There was a set of cricket stumps painted on the wall in the recess and hitting the ball against the wall meant it would go into the girl’s playground and so a good chance for interaction. It also formed a convenient meeting spot out of the vision of the teacher on playground duty. Anyway crossing the line during playtime carried very serious consequences. I had the dubious honour at one time of having most punishments for playground infringements. The toilet block was one building but divided in two for boys and girls. I got caught once climbing over just for the devilment of it. I got caught by a teacher who shouted, ‘What’s the weather like up there Finn?’ I also recall a grave injustice of one punishment. I was doing a ‘Johnny Cash’ … walking the line, sort of showing off I suppose. A group of girls pulled me in… for using that as an excuse I got a double whack. Happy days but gosh we hated that line.

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