The East Leeds Memories of Gerry Thrussell

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The East Leeds Memories of Gerry Thrussell

Gerry remembers fun nights at the Easy Road Picture House in the 1940s, a time when the German prisoners of war were still incarcerated in the POW camp down Black Road, exchanging derogatory salutes with the POWs and an amazing coincidence when he later met up with one such ex-prisoner on his own ground while Gerry was carrying out his National Service in West Germany. Gerry remembers too ‘Yanks’ in the Leeds City Centre and finally local ‘duffs and dares’ in East Leeds.

The Easy Road Picture House.

One night at the Easy Road Pictures, Alan Ellis, Terry Croll, Picko and me, were making a lot of noise on the forms and Abe White, the proprietor, came down to put a stop to it. In a fit of bravado I said, ’Can we have this form for the bonfire?   Abe got me by the arm and escorted me off the premises and clotched me from the Picture House for good.  As fate would have it however, poor Abe died a few weeks later and his sisters (in the pay-box) didn’t know anything about the ban, so I was lucky and I was back in there like a shot.

Air Raids and the POW Camps

Of course we all remember the air raids and the guns firing. Richmond Hill School was bombed on Friday night: on Monday morning we all marched down to Ellerby Lane School. Of course many East Leeds children were evacuated to Lincolnshire. Later in the war we remember the POW camps in ‘Lover’s Lane’, off Black Road. And how amazed we were to see German and Italian prisoners walking about in Cross Green Lane, Easy Road and East End Park. We even invited two Italian prisoners to play football with us one day on East End Park. One September Evening in 1944 as we kicked the ball around on Snakey Lane about 200 plus Lancaster Bombers flew over, quite low, heading south east to join a 1,000 bomber raid.

Yanks

During 1944, I often went into Leeds with Billy Sowery (whatever Happened to him?) During those days Leeds was full of American soldiers. It was a case of Yanks chasing girls and girls chasing Yanks. Meanwhile Billy and I would chip in with, ‘Got any gum chum?’

 ‘V’ For Victory

In late 1945, after the wear was over I used to cycle home from work for my lunch. I was cycling up East Street one day at the same time as two British Army trucks packed with German prisoners (POWs) slowly passed me heading for the POW camp on Black Road by way of Cross Green Lane. As they drove by some of the Germans gave me the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute, so as we reached the coal staithe where I turned left up Easy Road I stopped and gave the Germans the ‘V’ sign. It was the least I could do! The Germans just shook their fists and I peddled like mad up Easy Road hoping that the trucks would not follow. This was repeated for several weeks running but then the trucks stopped. Perhaps the camp was full? Of course the ‘V’ was ‘V’ for VICTORY. Four years later while doing National Service with the 11th Hussars in Osnabruck West Germany I got into conversation with a new German interpreter working in the camp, a chap called Fritz, he was a huge guy who it was said had been a champion wrestler in the WAFFEN S.S.  When he heard I was from Leeds he was very interested and said he had been a prisoner of war at the Black Road camp in East Leeds during late 1945. Although we had just met, Fritz thought he knew me from somewhere and he would have talked all day but I was on duty and left him with a puzzled look on his face and scratching his head. As it happened two days later a detachment of Hussars, including me left for manoeuvres in Lunenburg Heath followed by a move to Brunswick on the East German border.  So, unfortunately, I never saw Fritz again – I wonder if he ever worked out that I was the boy on the bike in East Street back in 1945?  

 

Duffs:

One of the favourite pastimes of the East Leeds lads of the 1940s was doing ‘duffs’

One good spot for this was the field down Red Road, just behind the East Leeds Cricket Ground where there was a wide stream. We would pick spots to jump across and many a time ended up with wet feet. Poor old Leslie Hall broke his arm there and Terry Brayshaw got a black eye and a grazed nose – both these old friends of mine have now sadly passed way.

 Old Houses:

These were houses left empty when the families were re-housed on council sites. We’d spend many happy hours playing in them before they were finally pulled down. One of our games was throwing stones from across the street trying to get the stones through the upstairs windows of the houses opposite where the workmen had removed the glass. This practice came in handy when we were throwing hand grenades in the army on our National Service. But it wasn’t as exciting!

 Sledging

We all had sledges in those far off days and we prayed for snow in winter. My favourite spot for sledging was the Cavalier Hill between the pub and St Saviour’s church. It was quite steep and a long walk back alongside the church,  I always remember there was an echo there and we used to shout, ‘Hello’ across East Street from the top and a couple of seconds later your voice would come back to you – it was great fun. Perhaps that echo is still there and if you’re passing give it a try – but don’t get arrested! My wife says that ‘Bricky Hill’ was the best hill for sledging, so I’d better mention it!

 

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Footnote: It seems the massive new residential blocks being constructed at the bottom of the Cavalier Hill are to be called ‘Echo Court’   Just a coincidence?

 

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