Archive for January, 2013

THE TEDDY BOY ERA

January 18, 2013

Another great tale by Eric Sanderson

These tales from Old East Leeds have ranged over a huge range of reminiscences from characters, schools, iconic buildings, football teams, cinemas, pubs, and many other topics. However, the “Teddy Boy” era seems to have been bypassed so here’s one or two recollections that might spark off a few memories.

“Teddy Boys” were by no means exclusive to East Leeds but it did have it’s fair share of dedicated followers of the fashion. So this is not a solely East Leeds yarn but even so, Teddy Boy activities were readily to be found in the district and many will have their own reminiscences of that brief period and who knows, maybe even have participated
During the Teddy Boy era of the 1950’s , the most noticeable and visible aspect was the extreme form of dress which had somehow come to be associated with the Edwardian finery of the 20‘s/30‘s.
In reality, the Teddy Boy styles of those days only vaguely resembled true Edwardian finery which were resplendent and characterised by their bell bottomed trousers and wide lapelled, double breasted jackets made from loud check patterned cloths such as Prince of Wales checks and shiny shoes . The Windsor necktie knot was a creature of that period, invented, if grubby rumour is to have any houseroom, by the then Prince of Wales & later Edward the 8th.

The Teddy Boy fashions probably owed more to Victorian & even Regency extravagance in their choice of colour, materials and adornment and although it certainly wasn’t confined to , or even predominantly an East Leeds practice, there were sufficient exponents of the art to make it memorable. But there was also an implicit darker side to the practice in that, rightly or wrongly, a widely held belief was that such dress heralded an association with the more unsociable side of behaviour, such as gang membership, violence, a much broader & anarchic freedom of activity & expression as well as a dissociation with the general courtesies and values of the day . In fact there were many establishments which barred entry to those wearing the Teddy Boy outfit, presumably because of the associated, real or not, notoriety. These included cinemas, many dance halls as well as many pubs.
The fashion didn’t seem to cross the boundary to girls though they did evolve a generally more racy style.

Be that as it may , it brought a new meaning to style and fashion, as well as a major boost to the textile industry, as well as some colourful characters who appeared to have no inhibitions in disporting their new, and expensive attire.

Close to where I lived, one fellow possessed several suits, all of a similar pattern but in a variety of lurid colours. Pea green, bright red are two colours I particularly remember and all had jacket lengths down to the knees fashioned in what I think was called “full drape“. Strange and funny to many eyes but this character had a somewhat fearsome reputation and it didn’t pay to be anything but complimentary to him. The obligatory black velvet collar, pocket trim and sleeve cuffs set this off ( although that was often marred by a dusting of dandruff on the collar) and required at least double the material to that of an ordinary jacket to make, hence an old friend in the trade telling of the boost this fashion gave to the textile industry and regret at it’s passing.
On the other hand, the trousers were often skin tight from the knee downwards and must have been troublesome to get into (and out of). The trousers were often held up by a belt fashioned from studs or the like and with a huge buckle,( often said to double up as a knuckle duster).What made the trousers seem even skinnier were the huge, aircraft carrier sized and invariably suede, thick soled shoes known widely as “brothel creepers” (wherever did that name come from?).
An uncle of mine once possessed a truly awesome pair of these shoes with crepe soles about 1½ inches thick and on one occasion, unknown to him, my Grandfather thought they might look a bit natty and decided to borrow them. Dressed in his very traditional 3 piece worsted suit, off he trotted in his borrowed brothel creepers to his local but just couldn’t understand why he was such a figure of fun among his contemporaries.
Also, around that time, one or two of the schoolmasters used to wear them. But we always believed there was a practical reason for this, so that they could creep up, unsuspected, to clip you around the ear. So that at least is one explanation for “creepers”. The other part is still a mystery.
The whole was rounded off by a frilly white shirt and a bootlace or slim jim tie , a narrow, usually black ,strip of material , secured by a fancy toggle type fastener.
The hair was an important part of the appearance with a well oiled Tony Curtis quiff, brushed up at the side into a “ducks arse” at the back being the most popular. The Boston, was brushed straight back with a straight line clean cut termination across and above a shaved neck.

Another local revelled in his powder blue version, blue suede brothel creepers and brocade waistcoat. This character was however an easy going soul who didn’t mind a little bit of ribbing over his outlandish choice of wardrobe and who now occasionally attends the Edmund House reunions.

There were quite a few similar fashionista’s in the district and many more who sported less elaborate versions of the style but there’s little doubt that such flamboyance was a game changer in men’s fashion from which men became more adventurous , never to look back to the plain, tight fitting three piece bum freezer suits. No longer was fashion the exclusive province of the ladies, but such freedom also has it’s downside. The license to dress as casually as you like has lead to a higher level of scruffiness from some who think that neglecting your appearance is the same thing. It isn’t.

It became a comic sight though, when the fancy suit was downgraded from best to working clothes and the local coalman turned up humping sacks of coal dressed in a vivid purple, velvet trimmed jacket, stained with coal dust and the knees ripped out of his skin tight drainpipes .

Nor was everyone impressed by the fashion. A friend, who was far from the full blown “Ted” approached a girl at a popular dance hall. He nonetheless affected what he thought was the laid back , cool, Fonze style mannerisms when asking if she fancied a dance with him. After eyeing him critically for what seemed like an age, he received a crushing rebuff & his coolness was badly damaged when the girl said “get lost, you sickly looking t**t !!.
It took some time for him to regain his composure & confidence. Nor did it do his reputation much good either, and he was occasionally reminded of this episode when he became a little cocky.
This lad also occasionally attends the reunions.

Although gang violence was a rarity within East Leeds, on occasion but fortunately quite rarely, groups of lads from outside, notably Hunslet, would foray into the district and stories of gang fights and occasional stabbings weren’t unknown, usually at dances or the York Road fair.

These styles lasted only a fleeting time , to be superceded by the “Italian Look” (I think) but many will remember it vividly and be able to recall other memorable or outlandish examples of this fashion genre and opinions as to it’s association with groups or behaviour

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A Great tale to brighten up February for us, Erc.

Last month’s picture was of course the residue of the Star Cinema York Road

of fond memories

This month’s you may find a little more difficult but I bet all East Leedsers will have been in there at some time or another.St James Infirmary

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ALISTAIR’S TALE

January 1, 2013

ALISTAIR’S TALE
Alistair is a true Scot who now lives in America but in the late 1940s/early 50s we had the honour of having him as part of our little East Leeds gang.

Exile from Fife to East Leeds
And
An introduction to cricket
By Alistair Duckworth.

When I came to Leeds at the age of 10 in 1946, it was to enter a very different world from the Fife of my childhood. In chauvinistic Scotland, the English were the auld enemy. At school in Cellardyke my friends and I compelled a new pupil from England to forsake his allegiances. We made him admit that the thistle was better than the rose, that Wallace and Bruce were the true heroes of history, that Bannockburn was the greatest victory of all time, and that the saltire of St Andrew was a superior banner to the red cross of St George. We even made him agree, against all evidence, that the Scottish football team was better than the English team and–incredibly!– that Wullie Waddell was a better outside right than Stanley Matthews. When one day my mother casually told me that we would soon be leaving for England (so that my father, on leaving the Royal Navy, could find employment in Leeds), I was horrified, believing it would now be my turn to give up my most fervent beliefs.

Of course, nothing of the sort occurred. In Leeds I learned that though the Scots were aggressive towards the English, the reverse was not true. Coming from cold, bleak Anstruther, where fights were common in the schoolyard, to warm and friendly Leeds where fights, as I recall, were nonexistent, was a revelation. My father was from Leeds, and I had visited the city at an earlier age, even attending St Hilda’s school (Mrs Duckworth’s class). But the change was great nevertheless—from a Presbyterian kirk to a high Anglican church, from John Knox and Calvinistic austerity to Pusey and Anglo Catholic ritual, from fishing village to industrial city, from bracing ozone to pea-soup fogs, from the “taws” as an instrument of punishment to the cane.

In Leeds, I was introduced to fascinating new games that changed with the seasons: conkers, top-spinning and marbles (another kind of taws) for boys; jacks and rope-skipping accompanied by songs for the girls. I encountered boys with amazing skills. “Bools” in Fife had been a mild affair played on a concrete surface with vividly coloured glass marbles. Taws at St Hilda’s was played on a dirt surface with stone-hard, dirty-white marbles that had little aesthetic appeal. But in the knuckles of Harold Sedgwick, the game was played at a level of skill that had to be seen to be believed. Rather than rest the marble on the middle joint of the index finger and propel it with his thumb nail, Harold (in a way I could never repeat) lodged the marble between the knuckle of his thumb and the point of his index finger. He could then propel it with astonishing speed and accuracy at the target marble, which would be sent into the middle distance far beyond the circle drawn in the dirt. Harold’s marble, meanwhile, would stay, rapidly spinning on its axis, in the spot once occupied by his opponent’s marble.

Leeds at that time was a dirty city with more than a passing resemblance to Dickens’s infernal Coketown in Hard Times. Born in rural Fife, I at first missed grass, trees and fields. Stone-slab pavements and tarmac or cobbled roads seemed to cover the earth everywhere. From the soot-covered windows of our red-brick house I saw a Lowry landscape of chimneys belching out smoke and carcinogenic particles. The actuaries put the early 60’s as an average life expectancy for men. Soon, however, I found that fields existed, only minutes from St Hilda’s church. To the east Snake Land had two football pitches, a bowling green and tennis courts. And to the south was the village of Knostrop, which time seemed to have passed by. At the bottom of the hill leading from Cross Green Lane, and close to the River Aire, the hamlet was, I believe, a part of the Temple Newsam estate. Its Jacobean hall was still precariously in existence and inhabited by a man named Benn.

Looking back on the place, I see Knostrop as a cross between Cold Comfort Farm and a Grimm’s Fairy Tale landscape (it had a “humbug house”). But I enjoyed going down to this other, rural, world. In the autumn we gathered chestnuts to pickle into conkers. We also played rugby in the pond field next to the old hall. Jack, Benn’s dog, would accompany us. He was the wicket-keeper when we played cricket and the goalkeeper when we played football. But he disapproved of rugby. The ball was the wrong shape, and he was left with nothing to do. Jack is long dead, and so is Knostrop, swallowed up by industry and business parks. But it has an enduring existence in the published memories, written and collected by Peter Wood, an old friend at St Hilda’s School.

An Introduction to Cricket

When I came to Leeds, I was introduced to cricket, a game not often played in Fife and never with the skill and enthusiasm displayed by my new friends in the summer of 1947. When we had time, we played with stumps and a proper cricket ball (but not pads) on a grass pitch at Snake Lane. More usually we played in the streets (still mostly free of traffic) with a tennis ball or a solid composition-rubber ball. If a box or similar object were to hand, it would serve as a make-shift wicket; if not, a man-hole in the tarmac would do just as well. Someone would supply a bat, sides would be selected, and the match was on. On Sundays we played outside St Hilda’s church both before and after Sunday School. I was surprised by the lack of bickering over “out” decisions. A catch was obvious, of course, but appeals for lbw, if credible, would be accepted by the batsman without demur, and if he were beaten by a ball that passed over the manhole within the imagined dimensions of the stumps, batsman, bowler, wicket-keeper and fielders would generally concur that it was an out. A basic fairness prevailed.

Cricket was a topic of much interest in my father’s family, particularly to my Auntie Alice, who followed the fortunes of Yorkshire and England throughout a long life, at first on radio, later on TV. From my father and my aunt I soon acquired a strange new vocabulary; I learned about cover point, long on, and silly mid-off, about off drives, hooks and late cuts, about yorkers, googlies and chinamen, about in-swingers and out-swingers. I came to understand the importance of the weather in determining whether the pitch at Headingley would be favorable to batsmen or bowlers on a given day, and if to the latter, whether it would be best to use fast, medium-fast, or slow bowlers. If slow bowlers, the question would then be debated whether to use an off-spinner or, much more dangerously, a leg-spinner.

But it was not only the terminology of cricket that made it fascinating to me. The history of cricket was also a common topic of conversation. The Duckworth adults knew about the great players of the past stretching back to W. G. Grace and Jack Hobbs, and held strong opinions about the best opening partership (Hobbs and Sutcliffe), the best all-rounder (Wilfred Rhodes, a Yorkshireman, of course), and the best fast bowler (grudgingly conceded to be the Australian Lindwall). They told me about England’s controversial (“bodyline”) tour of Australia in 1932-33, in which the fast bowler Harold Larwood had aimed “bouncers” at the bodies and heads of the Australian batsmen. In an attempt to disarm persistent Australian criticism of England’s tactics, the MCC banned bodyline bowling and called on Larwood to apologise. Larwood refused on the grounds that he had been told to bowl in this way by the team’s captain, Jardine. Jardine, in common with all captains of England until Len Hutton, was a gentleman amateur, whereas the working-class Larwood was a professional. In consequence of his refusal to apologise, I was told, Larwood was never picked for England again. For my father, uncles and aunts, this was a deplorable action on the part of the establishment.

In the late summer of 2009 the Enland XI won the test match over the Aussies at the Oval and by so doing regained the Ashes. Living in Boston, Massachusetts, I was only able to follow the state of play on my lap-top. Even so the thrill of England’s victory was palpable. I was taken back to England’s Ashes victory in 2003, which my wife and I followed on TV while living in London (my wife was in Trafalgar Square when the England team, featuring a very drunk Freddie Flintoff, appeared on the top-deck of an open double-decker bus). Even more evocatively, I recalled an earlier series, the tour of the Australians in 1948. At that time I was a fervent fan of Yorkshire and England. Len Hutton, master of the cover drive, was my hero. And when matches against Yorkshire were not at issue, I could also enthuse about Cyril Washbrook of Lancashire (who opened with Hutton), Bill Edrich of Essex who came in number three, and the dashing Denis Compton of Middlesex, who came in number four.

When my aunt Alice asked my cousin Peter and me if we would like to go to see the Australians at Headingley, I was ecstatic. That summer the Aussies had a formidable cast of players: the legendary batsman Donald Bradman, who had played in the bodyline tests, the charismatic all-rounder Keith Miller, the fast bowler Lindwall. We went on the fourth day and were allowed to sit on the grass next to the boundary opposite the pavilion. Australia’s first innings’ tail was quickly dismissed in the morning, and then Hutton and Washbrook opened England’s second innings. They made an excellent 129 for the first wicket. By the fifth morning, whenYardley declared at 365 for 8 wickets, Australia were left with what seemed to be an impossible target of 404 runs for victory. But Bradman and Morris made a very fast and record-breaking partnership of 301, and Australia won the test, with Bradman scoring 178 not out at the end. I did not see Bradman bat, but he was in the field on the fourth day, not far from where we were sitting, and as captain he could be heard directing the fielders where to position themselves.

In the final test at the Oval, Bradman needed only 4 runs to end his career with an average of 100 per test match innings; ironically, he was bowled out for a duck. No subsequent batsman, however, has come anywhere close to his Test Match batting average.

A great tale, Alistair – thanks for letting us use it.

Did you guess last month’s picture? I know many of you did. It was of course the remaining front façade of York Road Baths and Library

Now for this month’s pic – a power house for boy meets girl – especially on Sunday nights in the 1950sStar York Road