Eddies Memories of East End Park

by

EDDIE’S TALE
Eddie Blackwell is an East Leeds lad a former pupil of All Saint Primary School and Osmondthorpe Secondary Modern. He’s on home ground with his memories of

EAST END PARK

I have a Sister who is five years my senior, when she was little, before I was born our Dad and his brother in law Uncle Arthur, used to fancy themselves as golfers, but they never had any money to play the game in those days, however they did acquire a golf club a number 3 iron with a wooden shaft and a golf ball, and would take my sister down to East End Park, and practice hitting the ball, up and down on that triangular area adjacent to the railway when you enter the Park from the gate by the railway bridge on East Park Parade. This was not to my Sister’s liking, she wanted the swings the slide and the roundabout, and to cap it all they used to ask her to go and find the ball. Well the story goes, she was about three or four years old and I was still a twinkle in my Dads eye, and by this time my Sister was getting quite bored with the whole proceedings, and didn’t realize that she was being used as an excuse for them to go and play big boys games, but she was in for a bit of luck, apparently my Dad in his exuberance to out distance Uncle Arthur, hit the cinders prematurely and broke the wooden shaft of the golf club, well my Sister was overjoyed, clapping her hands and singing hurray they’ve broke their bloody golf stick, over and over again until they reached home.. This storey was my first inclining of East End Park, but by no means would it be my last. I arrived in July 1938, and things were not all that good Dad’s work was on and off there wasn’t any stable employment about, I was told he used cycle as far afield as Manchester, with a slice of treacle and bread for sustenance, looking for any kind of employment, but to no avail, of course WW 2 was brewing and there was little that could be done about it.

One of the first encounters I remember with East End Park, was with my big Sister in the paddling pool, it was only a shallow concrete pool for you to wet your feet in on a warm day, and of course as usual glass and stones had been thrown in, my Sister said just keep to the edge where you can see the bottom, and then went off to play on the swings. Do you ever do as you’re told? NO, I went wading deeper than I’d been told and cut my foot on a piece of glass. Of course water works tears streaming down my face, think it was more because I was going to be told off, rather than it was hurting. She ranted and raved told me I was a stupid little boy, and took me to see the Park Keeper in his little office, more of a hut than a building as I recall. Oh dear that happens quite a lot he said and we drain and clean the pool on a regular basis if I catch who’s throwing glass in there they’ll be for it.. Detol or Germoline which do you prefer he said, detol please said my Sister, it’ll sting a bit but he won’t do it again. It really did sting and she was right I’ve never forgotten it or done it ever again. Then we washed our hands under the tap, and went to eat our jam butties and drink that diluted Orange that your Mum got from the National Milk Scheme in the 40’s. I got told off again when I got home by my Mum, Dad was away in the RAF, and I know he wouldn’t have told me off….lol.

One thing I can say about those days you never felt threatened in the Park people were friendly and helpful.
It’s a pity things are not like that anymore, don’t think I would want our little ones in the Park by themselves these days; everything seems to have gone to pot. As I grew older and bigger we used to wander down and play in the Park, particularly in the school holidays, we played Hide and Seek, Cowboys and Indians, tig and all manner of games, of course Football was to come later. We used to climb the pit hills make dens and camouflage them and see how long it was before they were discovered, then if we did anything wrong like climbing trees or suchlike and the Park Keepers saw us they’d chase us saying I know who you are your down in my black book, but they never caught us, think it was as much a game for them as it was for us. we enjoyed ourselves and it was clean innocent fun, out in the fresh air, not a care in the world life was wonderful, until the school holidays were over, then it was back to school nose to the grindstone and all of those enchanting things that you have to do at that school boy age, but we still had the weekend, when we could enjoy our jam butties in the park.

coal cracker

The “Coal Chute” anyone remember that, at the railway end of the football pitches, cinder pitches in the days I’m talking about, I’d sit for ages and wait for something to happen, and nothing would.. Then another day they’d shunt a wagon full of coal onto the front, chain it down and then lift it up till it went over the top and discharged the coal into the chute, then the tenders would shunt underneath, and be filled with coal, in later years when I worked as a draughtsman for “The Leeds Fireclay Company”, I used to make drawings of those chutes to line them with Lefco tiles, which was a siliceous based vitreous tile that was acid resistant and 99.9% impervious, who would have thought that a young lad watching the workings of a coal chute in the 1940’s would ever have aspired to designing linings for those chutes to prevent the steelwork wearing away. believe me it’s true I’m not making it up, the tiles were so hard after they were fired, that they had to be cut and shaped whilst in there clay state, they were used generally as floor tiles for swimming pools, laboratories and the like, light buff coloured tiles 6″square with grooves or pimples on them to make them non slip when they were wet…

In the late 1940’s we had some really heavy snowfalls in the winter, and of course East End Park with its central hilly area was ideally suited for sledging, the best run that I recall was on the railway side running down to the path that bordered the football pitches, I had a sledge that my Dad made for me from thick concrete reinforcing bar, I had the bars bent and shaped at the Blacksmiths on York Road, just around the corner of the junction with Pontefract Lane, where the tram stopped and the hoardings were, I went to collect them and asked how much they were The Blacksmith said your Joe’s lad aren’t you, yes I said, how much have you got on you he asked twopence-halfpenny, well that’s just right he said and off I went pleased as Punch. It wasn’t a huge thing when it was finished, but it fit nicely under your chest after a running dive to get you going. Dad had finished it off, the irons were connected to two thick sturdy wooden cross members bolted with 1/2″ diam nuts, bolts and spring washers, it had a one piece 1″ thick plywood top bolted on with coach bolts, the ones with the domed head so you didn’t catch yourself on them, it was very strongly made but it needed to be because the method I used to stop it was to swing it through 90 degrees which would have caused a lesser structure to buckle as the runners scraped along to bring it to a halt, the only fly in the ointment was the runners being re’bar, had these knurled protrusions running across them so when I tried to sledge they acted as a brake it took ages and ages with a hand file to get the runners to glide, and by that time the snow had gone, Dad said never mind, greased the runners with Vaseline it’ll be fine for next year, and hung it on a nail in the coal hole.. He was right as Dads usually are the following year I had great fun with it, the Devon Street Flyer, it was certainly fast, but needed hard compacted snow or better still ice to show off its paces and there was plenty of that about that year. East End Park here we come…

Dad had been demobbed for about 12 months, and he was obviously trying to find some thing for me to do to keep me gainfully occupied and out of mischief, which was very easy to find at my age. He tried all sorts of things and bought me a fret work set, a chemistry set which Mum banned as too dangerous, because I was using the gas ring as a Bunsen burner improvising as you do at that age. None of these except the Chemistry set took my fancy, and then he started Origami folding things from paper and making various objects…One thing I’d always been very interested in was aeroplanes, it started when I was very little before I could read.
Dad had left a book about flying, when he went off to war, the History of Flight it was called, I was too young to read and my sister used to read parts of it to me, I spent hours squatting down looking through this book which was full of drawings and pictures of the early attempts to fly and it went right through to the then most advanced plane which was a Flying Wing with four push propeller engines. I know Northrop is credited with the design today, but I seem to recall this was a plane under development by Avro because it had the Red White and Blue roundels on perhaps it’s one the Americans claimed, as they did in later years with the Fairy Aircraft Company, but I digress and that’s a story for another time..
So Dad and I started having competitions designing and making paper aeroplanes, and he was surprised to learn I knew so much about flying. After I could read I inwardly digested that book reading it over and over again almost until the print was worn off, so we progressed from there by Dad buying a Model aircraft kit, it was the Keil Kraft competitor a 30″ span rubber duration model, it had a rubber powered propeller which you wound up and let go and it would spin fairly quickly but was exhausted in a matter of seconds. well from there I got the bug as it was called, but I couldn’t afford kits on my pocket money, so I started designing and building my own small models drawing plans on the back of wallpaper then making a list of what was needed an buying the materials from Hobbies in town, they were gliders because they were the cheapest thing to make and for me were the nearest to the flight of a bird. I’d work through the night if necessary to build my Models Mum would tell me off, but I’d be down on East End Park, where the football pitches are in the still air just as the Sun was rising trimming and flying my models, then home for some breakfast and fall asleep for a couple of hours.. It’s doing him no good my Mum used to say, he’s tired on a morning when he goes to school and he’s got his 11+ coming up in just over 18 months.. Dad used to say anyone who knows how to design and build a model aeroplane that will fly at his age are past the 11+ stage words that he would come to regret.
**********************************
Thanks for your great memories Eddie.

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15 Responses to “Eddies Memories of East End Park”

  1. Dave Carncross Says:

    Enjoyed that very much , Eddie. I went through the model aircraft phase too. My best creation was a Frog Witch with a three foot wingspan. Rubber strand powered which took ages to wind up manually but climbed to surprising heights in the few seconds it took to unwind. It’s test flight however was in our attic. I got George Hargraves to hold it at one end of the room and when he or it go it shot across the floor climbing nicely and hit me straight in the face. Still, it stopped it being damaged.

  2. Maureen Beanland Says:

    Great story Eddie thank you.

  3. Edward Blackwell.. Says:

    Thanks Maureen and Dave, I’m still building them Dave have one under construction at the moment, a R C Glider, they have to be R C now, because I can’t chase after them any more, but I must admit I miss the old Free flight days, pleased you enjoyed the story…

  4. Eric Says:

    Enjoyed your yarn Eddie. I remember the Neville Hill coal hopper very well, watched it fascinated dozens of times.
    Afraid my model aeroplane efforts weren’t too successful. After spending ages constructing my first glider – abt 2ft wing span, I launched it from the top of the electricity sub station on the Welbeck Rd “Rec”. It promptly stalled, nosedived & ripped one of the wings off .
    Such a cruel fate promptly ended my model ‘plane building career.

    I do remember someone flying a very impressive RC model from the EEP football pitches & something going awry with his control system because it flew straight on & disappeared somewhere over Osmondthorpe Lane with it’s owner in hot pursuit

  5. Edward Blackwell.. Says:

    Thanks for your kind comments Eric, yes we do have some disasters the one I mention, Dad let fly from the front door it flew perfectly across the street did a wonderful U turn and crashed into the wall between our window and Audrey’s Grandmas window, most embarrassing. I build R C models now but it’s not the same as the old free flight days when you launched it off and it flew like a bird with you chasing it hoping it came down before you left the park…lol..

  6. aussiepom Says:

    For me you’ve closed the gap between OZ and Devon Street in minutes Eddie. Every day we went to my grandma’s house. I don’t remember your aviation constructions but I do remember hearing your sister playing the piano beautifully. Also remember having to queue for a turn on the swings and slippery slide in the playground on East End Park, and loved watching the wagon load of coal emptied into the chute at the railway yard.
    I was reminded of the Blacksmith’s at the bottom of Pontefract Lane on Christmas day when I had been invited to spend the day with my friends family on their property where her son-in-law restores antique furniture. He has restored an old Blacksmith’s shop at the back of the work sheds. As soon as I saw it I was back in time with my brothers waiting to have runners fitted to the the sledge my Dad had made for us. Two months later your story appears and I’m back in Devon Street with all it’s memories. I learnt to ride a two wheel bike on that street. The only bike riding I do these days is on an exercise bike in the garage. I spend all of ten minutes on it, don’t want to over exert myself before joining the Tour de France team.

  7. Edward Blackwell.. Says:

    Thank you Aussiepom for your very kind words there was only the one occasion when we flew a model in the street, and Mum told both Dad and I off for doing so, the other occasions were early on Sunday mornings, as the Sun was rising and I’d be down on E E P on the football pitches , then we moved to Osmondthorpe, to live with my Granddad, and my model flying activities were centered more on Halton Moor. I think my Dad had gone to school with the Blacksmith in York Road, and I used to watch fascinated when he bellowed the fire and heated the irons and made all manner of things, I think it was those days that later influenced me to go into furnace design and maintenance..Pleased you enjoyed going back in time with me to the old days in Devon Street, take care over there and I think they are going to do a Tour De Yorkshire this year, so keep practicing you never know it may become a regular event… P S called to see my Sister this morning, and we were chatting about the old days in Devon Street, she remembers your Gran and her sons who lived next door and a little girl who used to knock on the door and say could you play a nice tune for my Grandmother please…

  8. marlene Egan Says:

    Enjoyed your tale Eddie l spent a lot of my youth on East End Park

  9. Dave Carncross Says:

    Just read all the comments . Was moved to think that if you could somehow distill all the pleasure that EEP gave to the thousands of kids over the years into a drink, it would be the best pint ever brewed and I would be the first in the queue.

  10. peterwwood Says:

    I agree with Dave completely. Sometimes, even now, if I see there is a brass or silver band playing on EEP on a Sunday afternoon (you can get the dates on line) I go along there and shuffle down with my back to a tree – We used to have a bandstand but that’s gone they have ’em near the tennis courts – I listen to the music and drift off into a world of yesteryear when we would come and play on the swings, chase the girls on a nice summer evening, play tennis with one ball, or play a football match on the fields near the engine sheds. EEP we owe you plenty!

  11. Edward Blackwell.. Says:

    I agree with both Dave and Peter, I’d be in the queue Dave and their trying to push in behind me.. I remember the foundation stones to the old Bandstand Peter, as you say it’s great to drift off into those happy days when we did all of those pleasurable things that all children should be able to do. Raise your glasses please and drink a toast to East End Park…

  12. Edward Blackwell.. Says:

    Thanks Marlene, I hope they were happy days, take care…

  13. peterwwood Says:

    After all the comments on EEP I thought I’d go have a nostalgic look today (Sun 6th Mar) East Leeds rugby lads were playing on the top pitch of old Snakey but the bottom pitch, of fond memory, is now a building site. I sat on one of the foundation stones of the old band stand in EEP and had my drink. I thought about picking some EEP grass and sending it to Audrey out in Australia, but you have to declare what’s in the parcel and I don’t know what the customs would have made of ‘grass’. The park looks OK its tidy and the daffies are coming up but somehow it does not seem as good as when we used to revel in there. But then we are not as good as when we used to revel in there are we?

  14. aussiepom Says:

    It was very sweet of your sister to remember the curly top asking her to play a tune on the piano Eddie. I would do anything to make my Gran happy ’til the day she died.
    Thanks for the offer of East End Park grass Pete. The other kind of ” Grass ” is known here as green tobacco or Wacky Baccy. I like having visitors but not ones who arrive in a blue and white car with flashing lights and sirens. I really don’t want a holiday in one of Her Majesty’s secure hotels.

  15. Edward Blackwell.. Says:

    Thank you aussiepom, I’ll pass your comments onto her. She’s doing well to say she’s in her 80’s, now but she had a temper when she was young, I used to have to jump out of the back window onto the flat roof of the outside toilet to escape her wroth, but she always caught up with me eventually, then I was for it… I thought that idea that Pete had was great, perhaps in seed form, it would overcome some of the paperwork problems…lol..

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