Archive for January, 2017

Miserable gits

January 1, 2017



Another great tale from Eric Sanderson

As you meander through life, the rich pattern of different personalities cross your path in a continuous stream, some for a fleeting moment and yet others leave a lasting impression.
Sometimes it’s for the better, at other times it’s for the worse and I think it applies universally, whatever the community.
I suppose that this is one interpretation of eternal life, some of those characters of 60 years or so ago are still as vivid after all this time. In our minds eye, they still look and sound the same and so have lived on unchanged in our memories.

Many were bright, cheerful, friendly folk whom you were happy to know and enjoyed coming across :-


But there were the perennial moaners, whingers and downright unpleasant characters – the “Miserable ’Gits’ “ who were never happy unless they were being miserable.


These were the ones you tried to avoid at all costs , especially if some of the grubby rumours were to be given house room, but it wasn’t always possible.
Here’s a few I came across over the years in our area and without mentioning any names, the descriptions might just strike a chord.

The first are really a group rather than individuals. These were the folk who lived in end terrace houses and used to complain to us lads that thumped a football endlessly against their wall end
We just couldn’t understand their mean-ness and animosity towards this perfectly innocent pastime.
In a similar vein , one chap used to become really ratty when we used his garden path as the run up, bowling to the cricket stumps chalked on the opposite terrace end wall.
Some people are so unreasonable.

Then there was the cinema usher and attendant. He ran his fiefdom with a rod of iron and woe betide any miscreant who didn’t obey his strict rules. They would be thrown out, unceremoniously for the slightest infraction such as talking ,fidgeting or moving from your allocated seat. The youth of the day lived in fear of him but outside of the cinema, he was a quiet, unassuming man whose demeanor completely belied his reign of terror inside the cinema.
Trying to ingratiate yourself with him was a complete waste of time. In fact it seemed to have the opposite effect by making him suspicious of your motives, resulting in being kept under even closer scrutiny and at greater risk of forcible ejection.

A shopkeeper on Temple View Rd ranks near the top of the most miserable git list. His was a general grocery store and he would greet customers with a snarling demand of “what do you want “ ?.
With a trembling voice, meekly and respectfully stating your needs , he would mutter & sigh before slamming your purchase onto his wide counter. If you had the temerity to not offer the correct amount of money, he would roll his eyes and quite literally throw your change at you across the counter top. I dreaded going there and even my Mother, who could hold her own with most, was wary of him – that’s probably why she used to send me !.
Such behavior was/is completely inimical to running a service business where the vendor should surely go the extra mile to encourage his customers to come to him with repeat business.
Although this particular establishment was an extreme example, many corner shops were not known for their friendliness , seeming to think they were a cut above their customers – their vanity being the quicksands of their reason.

The Park Ranger at East End Park in the 40’s & 50’s could hold his own on the miserable git league. It must have been part of the job spec for all Park Rangers, for they all seemed to be the same, that a deep seated hatred of people, particularly young boys , came naturally to them.
This particular guy was a quite small and wiry which made him a formidable challenge because you couldn’t easily run away from him. He always carried a stout stick and he wasn’t averse, or even slow to give a swift whack to any errant youth.
At the time, it was forbidden to walk on the wide sweeps of grass (crazy or not ?) but it was a source of mischief to do so, calling to the “Parkie” to attract his attention and encourage a chase. Even if he didn’t manage to catch you, he had a good memory and would often extract his reprisal a few days later.
Another forbidden practice was riding your bike along Victoria Avenue , which went from one end of the Park to the other. Of course, this was another activity which the youth of the day just had to do. One time, a group kept sweeping up and down , dodging the Parkie who was obviously furious, shouting and waving his stick. His control finally left him and thrusting his stick into the spokes of one rider as they swept by once again, the unfortunate cyclist took a tumble and suffering a badly damaged wheel. But it brought the practice of the mickey taking cyclists to an abrupt halt.
Yes, “Parkies” were in the first division of miserable gits.

Schoolteachers had their champions in the miserable git stakes. I can only speak of Victoria but there was at least three there in my time who would quickly and readily administer corporal punishment at the earliest opportunity. Although some were good at actually teaching, there was often this underlying ,habitual code of strict discipline and little of the pastoral care prevalent in many schools today. But, every silver lining has a cloud, maybe the more “friendly” schoolteachers of today don’t gain the respect they once enjoyed and some people’s desire to do the right thing considerably exceeds their ability to discern just what the “right thing” is.

A nearby chippy was owned by a real grump. Fish and chip shops abounded in the area and everyone had their favourite. In those days, they would close for two or three weeks in the summer whilst the owners took their holidays so you had to switch allegiance for that period. This particular chippy knew you weren’t a regular and wouldn’t hesitate to let you know and disapproved of your using his establishment for convenience. On more than one occasion, I heard him tell customers to take their trade elsewhere. Unbelievable.

A well known barber on York Road, near Victoria school was the scourge of young boys. He would enforce silence whilst waiting your turn to have your haircut in the style he decided. He took no notice of your requests and would only condescend to let you in the chair when all the adults had been seen to first. I’ve even known lads, in mid haircut, to be removed from the chair to allow a later arriving adult take priority. Not only that, he was a nasty piece of work to boot and one to steer well clear of.

Another cinematic nightmare was the manager at the Star Cinema. In the fashion of the day, he always wore a tuxedo , sported brilliantined hair and a clipped moustache. But boy, was he a piece of work. He would fix you with a gimlet eye and if he didn’t like the cut of your jib, might not even let you in. To be fair, it was mainly teenagers in groups that attracted his wrath but it wasn’t always fairly administered and protest merely justified his draconian justice.

I had a friend whose Mum was not so much miserable but intensely house-proud. Our friend used to have piano lessons at home but to be truthful, anyone less musically talented would be difficult to imagine. However, when we called for him, he would sometimes be in the midst of his piano practice and although she invited us in, she would place a newspaper on the floor and insist we stand stock still, not move onto the sparkling lino floor or speak so as not to disturb the budding pianist whilst he practiced his ear offending scales. I’m no musician but my god, there are limits. Shoes were inspected prior to entry and naturally, sitting on the highly polished leather suite was strictly forbidden.

Some neighbours also figured on the miserable git list but they were far outweighed by the many friendly people who lived in the area ,who were kind and tried hard to make the lives of young people much better. And in the end, that’s what made the old East Leeds community the great place to grow up in that era – after all is said and done, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years and Old East Leeds was the place to do that.