Ramblings around East Leeds in the Early fifties

by

By Eddie Blackwell

We moved houses during late 1949. My Grandma had passed on and Granddad couldn’t cope on his own. We lived in a through Terraced House in Devon Street off Pontefract Lane, it was classed as a Red Area and due for demolition, we had a cold water tap, no bath or inside toilet, but we managed as people did in those days.
Granddad lived in Osmondthorpe in an end terrace of four houses, with Hot and Cold water on tap, and an inside toilet and bathroom, a garden front and back, opulence personified, luxury beyond our wildest dreams, to turn on the tap and hot water gush forth, after you’ve been used to boiling the kettle was almost beyond belief.
Granddad was 71 years old when we moved in with him, he was still quite fit an able, and had all of his faculties about him. I recall he would tell me stories about when he was serving in WW1, He was in the RAMC, (Royal Army Medical Corps) and he was at the front in Ypres and the Somme. They were gruesome tales he had to tell of how both Men and Animals were used as cannon fodder to further the ends of Bureaucrats and Politicians who claimed they’d gained 600 yards, but didn’t mention it had cost thousands of lives and animals to do so.
He had lots of sayings as well, things like, “if you do owt for nowt make sure you do it for the sen”, another one was “life is but a span enjoy it whilst you can”, and “don’t count your chickens before there hatched”, “home is where the heart is”, “Why did the chicken cross the road” and a host of others.
He liked his pint as well, his local was the Wykebeck Arms in Selby Road, He used to manage the football team that played out of there, so he was always well received. Come Sunday mornings about 11 am, he’d start to whistle a little tune to himself and rub the ends of his waistcoat between his forefinger and thumbs, he always wore a waist coat collar and tie and suit, in winter he’d put his overcoat over the top, come Ice, Snow, Hail, Rain or Gale, he’d not miss his Sunday Lunchtime session. I used to go and meet him at 2 pm, he was always a bit tipsy when he came out, so I’d put my arm in his to steady him up and we’d walk back home and have Yorkshire Puddings, Roast Beef, potatoes, two veg, and gravy, they were happy days that I shall always treasure and remember.
Granddad unfortunately had a stroke, I was about 14 years old, and they sent for me from school, which was at the end of the street, but we didn’t have telephones in those days, like we have today, it was down to the telephone box put your pennies in and press button “A”. So the Ambulance took ages to arrive and by that time a lot of damage had been done, they took him to Hospital he was in for about a week, but when he came out he couldn’t walk that well and he was never the same.
We’d been living there just over 3 years when Granddad passed on, and I was devastated. I think my Dad recognised this, of course he was also grieving the loss of Granddad. Dad was a Clubman, he loved the Osmondthorpe Club, we didn’t have transport, but it wasn’t far to walk through the Railway Bridge at the end of Wykebeck Avenue, up the path past the pit hills onto Osmondthorpe Lane and you were there. I remember a story from back then of how, Dad had one too many this night, and walking back from the Club with Mum, he fell through a hedge, Mum said she thought he’d got taken short, and proceeded on home and up to bed. The following morning Dad turned up banging on the door all of a fluster he’d fallen through the hedge and gone to asleep, and the following morning a dog had woken him licking his face, it took a long time for him to live that one down.
Although I always thought there was more to it than we were told. Mum had a terrible temper when she was angry especially if she’d had a drink, and she was pretty handy with her Hand Bags they were always large heavy ones, I thought they may have been arguing and she’d swung out with her hand bag and knocked Dad through the hedge and he’d gone out for the count, then he’d made up that story to cover things over. They were OK the following day arguments never lasted long at our house, Mum and Dad always used to say life’s too short to hold grudges, agree to differ if you must and move on, and we never discussed Politics or Religion, Mum was RC and Conservative, Dad was C of E and Labour just like chalk and cheese from that point of view.
When the Moon was full and shining bright Dad liked to go for a walk, he’d say, are you feeling tired…No, come on then let’s go for a walk, and off we we’d go across Halton Moore onto the bridle path up through the Golf Course and into Temple Newsam. We’d look through the windows of the Mansion expecting to see the Blue Lady but she never appeared, although we did have a scare once when someone shone a light inside, and we made off rather quickly, then it was back down Selby Road into the estate and home. I think Dad did this to try and make a bond, it was his way of compensating for the loss of Granddad.
Eventually we moved on as you have to do with life’s tragedies, but it hurt for a long time.
There was one occasion when the Moon was really big and full with a Yellow glow and a Halo, Dad said come on it’s a Harvest Moon, we can’t let this one go by, and off we went. We were following the beck on Halton Moor just the other side of the road from Corpus Christy Church when suddenly a Ladies voice cried out for help, Murder, murder she called. Well I was very quick in those days and I was off like a rocket along the side of the beck towards the hill from where we flew our model aeroplanes. There was a boggy patch just before the hill where water cress used to grow and I cleared that without breaking my stride, on up the hill and there was the lady sorting herself out, and a Guy much bigger and older than I they were having words. Are you OK I asked the lady, she said yes I am thanks I’m sorry for calling out like that but we were having a disagreement that’s all. Then the Guy said what do you think you were going to do about it anyway, by this time the artillery had arrived, and Dad said I think he’d have coped with the situation don’t you, the lady had sorted herself out, and said come on Fred I think it’s time we were going don’t you, thanks again young man, and off they went down onto Halton Moor Avenue.
Dad said to me they must have been having an argument about something, and how long have you been able to run that fast, just look at me, he’d fallen in the bog and was covered up to his middle in mud.
Then Dad told me if you ever have a situation like that again, make sure you come in with the light behind you and shinning on the other person, your less vulnerable that way. Then we put it all behind us and carried on with our walk, we always stopped on the path as we went through the golf course, the first hole was by the Lady Bower Woods. Dad always fancied himself as a Golfer even before I was born.
When I was little before he went into the RAF he’d carry me on his shoulders from where we lived in Devon Street down Pontefract lane towards East End Park, along Red Road onto the bridle path that leads to Temple Newsam then we’d stop to watch them playing Golf I used to be bored to tears watching fully grown men knocking a little ball into a hole, what’s so difficult about that I used to think.
Dad had never earnt enough money to be able to afford to play the game. It’s a rich man’s sport he always used to say, wish he was here now I’d buy him as many golf clubs as he wanted. Sometimes we’d curtail the walk up to Temple Newsam House, and cut down to Selby Road after the Golf course and this was one of those occasions.
I think this midnight walking must have had an effect on me in my later years. I recall after returning from National Service my Brother in law and I, going into the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District climbing the Three Peaks, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and many more all at Midnight, we’d set off to reached there at 12 Midnight in Roy’s little Mini. We had no walking or climbing gear, just strong shoes and warm clothing, and chocolate, we always had a bar of chocolate with us. I remember when we did Pen-y-gent, it was our first excursion, we left their new house just off Selby Road, it was a bad night very cold and when we got there it was blowing a Gale with Hailstones. Undaunted off we went, it’s not a very difficult climb (well not for us in those days we were very fit), but when we reached the summit, the weather conditions started to get worse, and I got the bonk we used to call it, when all of the energy drained out of your legs. So we sheltered ourselves from the weather and ate a bar of chocolate, that did the trick, after half an hour we proceeded down from the summit into the car and stopped at a transport café for a good breakfast on the way home. We always got a telling off from me Mum when we arrived home, I’ve been up all night worrying about you both, your old enough now to have some common sense, and leaving Sheila on her own, when she’s expecting it’s not right Roy. I’ll bet you two are hungry have you had some breakfast, you pair of juvenile delinquents.

I remember in the early 1950’s we’d moved from Devon street to go and live with my Granddad at 52, Wykebeck Street, Osmondthorpe Leeds 9. It’s strange how things stick in your mind. It was like stepping into another world to have hot and cold water on tap, and a bathroom with a toilet and a bath.
Granddad was in his early 70’s and had kept himself in good shape, but he always said to me, if you want to do things do them before your 70’s, because it all goes downhill from there. He’d worked hard all his life in the Clay Industry, producing Building Materials, Sanitary Ware and suchlike.
It was heavy manual work paid on a piecework basis, punching clay into moulds, then finishing and smoothing the products ready for drying, then glazing and firing. In his later years after he was 65 he had the Foreman’s job which was less physical, but more stressful, and he always said to me he wasn’t sure if it didn’t take more out of him than moulding the clay.
Granddad used to go to the Wykebeck Arms every weekend Sunday lunchtime was his favourite, he always wore a waistcoat and had a pocket watch, I could always tell when it was getting near his time to go, he’d look at his watch and whistle a little tune, rubbing the points of his waistcoat and looking out of the window down the street. Then suddenly he’d put on his jacket, and his overcoat if it was cold don his grey Trilby hat, and off he’d go.
He used to manage and train the football team that played out of there in his day, so he was well received, I’d walk down and meet him about 2 pm, he was always a bit tipsy and I’d put my arm in his to steady him as we walked home, and he’d tell me a tale or two about when he was on the Somme in WW1, and he always had a little story to pass on his experience and wisdom to me.
He was a Corporal in the Medical Corps and when he was on the Somme, he would take a Medical Squad out into No-Man’s-Land amongst all the barbed wire and mayhem, to try and help the injured and wounded, and he always said when it gets to that point in time all men are equal, there are no Officers and Gentlemen or other Ranks your all in it together and one man is same as the other, and anyone who says different was never there.
I played football for the School at that time and he always came to watch me play, and he would clean and dubbin my football boots and have my kit all laid out for me. I never ever played a bad game, but he would always have a bit of advice for me, along the lines if you trained a bit harder you could score a few goals as well. Regrettable he suffered a stroke from which he never really recovered, and I thought the bottom had fallen out of my world.
Dad seemed to sense my grief as you would expect, because he was also grieving, and we started going for long walks together at night when the Moon was full and shining. He would come home from the Club we’d have a fish and chip supper Mum and my Sister would go to bed. Then we’d set off over Halton Moor walking along the beck, cut up along the bridle path across the Golf course into Temple Newsome then back down Selby Road and home, this was usually a Saturday night so we could have a lay in on Sunday morning

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13 Responses to “Ramblings around East Leeds in the Early fifties”

  1. peterwwood Says:

    Thanks for another great tale, Eddie, you paint a picture of how life used to be for us. Regarding going to the aid of a lady in distress another old East Leedser told me the tale of how he came upon a guy half throttling a woman, he went to pull him off and the next thing he knew he was coming round on the ground, she had hit him with a brick!

  2. edward blackwell Says:

    Thanks Pete, yes I can well imagine, that happening to your friend, these domestic issues are not always what they seem, however on that occasion the cry for help in that location at that time of night, warranted a response, but all’s well that ends well as the saying goes.

  3. Dave Carncross Says:

    Loved that tale Eddie. Regretfully, I only recall seeing my paternal grandfather once. My Dad went into the army at an early age – boys service as he used to call it so I think perhaps there might have not been much love lost there. My Mams Dad was about a lot but then again I only remember him towards the very end of his life cos I was the youngest in our family by a fair bit. I have always tried to be very ” hands on” with my own grandkids and I dearly wish they remember me as fondly as you remember yours.

  4. peterwwood Says:

    My maternal grand parents were born in The 1870s . They were deceased before I was born but. But that I’m still here alive almost a 150 years on seems incredible . My paternal grandparents I can just remember, that granddad was in the Boer War and World War one – I wish I’d known him better but I did have a mug printed with a copy of his medals and his army number that I keep on my dresser.
    Well done with your tale Eddie.

  5. edward blackwell Says:

    Thank you for your kind comments Dave, Mums Dad was also an Army Man, he was born in Cork and an orphan, so he also joined the Army as a boy soldier, he made R.S.M. which for an Irishman in the British Army was about as far as he would go, I never knew him he died at an early age of Consumption. After the Army he had a newspaper pitch on the corner outside the Scotsman, opposite the entrance to Leeds Market, Mum always blamed that for his consumption, out there in all weathers trying to sell his newspapers, of course the Trams used to turn there going to and from the Corn Exchange in those days, so it must have been a busy pitch.

  6. edward blackwell Says:

    Thank you Pete, my paternal Gran and Granddad were born in 1881 and 1880 respectively, I still have Granddads demob papers and Medals from WW 1, he served 6 years 109 days and he was demobbed in 1921, a long time to be away from home, still they had 2 sons and 3 daughters, my Dad was the eldest, I was fortunate that we went to live with Granddad, he was a stabilising influence when I was in my early teens, and I could talk to him about anything, and he always had a sensible solution to the problem..

  7. peterwwood Says:

    I’m putting this comment on, on behalf of Audrey Sanderson who is having computer problems putting it on herself.

    I love your stories, Eddie, so full of familiar places because you not only lived next door to my grandma as a child you then went to live near Selby Road when a teenager and where I also lived after I was married. And… the luxury of having a hot bath whenever I felt like it when we moved into our new house made me feel like Cleopatra. The council were still ‘talking’ about demolishing Devon Street when I emigrated in 1969. I remember my Mum writing to tell me when it eventually was demolished . I can’t remember the year.

  8. edward blackwell Says:

    Thank you Audrey for your kind comment, yes a hot bath was a luxury, although these days I must say I prefer the Shower, I’m that arthritic now if I were to sit down in the bath I’d never get out…lol…I think Devon Street was demolished late in 1969/70 although records are not very precise. I saw some old pictures of No. 2 Devon Street the other day, Walter Dunn’s Shop, and it brought back a few happy memories. Hope your computer gets sorted, take care…

  9. Dave Carncross Says:

    Ah, the things we take for granted now like hot water on tap which were a distant dream when we were young. I still think central heating is magic – during the winter, every morning I put my clean T shirt on the radiator just to have the luxury of pulling it on warmed through. By choice, I slept in the attics of our old house in May Grove because there was a lot more room for all my junk but it was hot in summer and bloody freezing in winter. It does you good to remember these things and thank your blessings every so often. Mind you, I think I would be happy to go back as a time traveller for a few weeks. Just think – knees that didn’t ache all the time, loads of hair, weight that never changed no matter how many gallons of ale you supped. Those were indeed the days.

  10. Gloria Blakey Says:

    It sometimes does you good to reminisce, I can remember going down the street to the toilet in Glensdale Street and my dad having to stand out in the street in case anyone came in, bloody freezing, and having a bath in the kitchen, and waking up in the morning shivering with frost on the windows, how times have changed.
    I slept in our attic because of all the junk you hoard up. Dave I spoke to your Sylvia a few weeks ago, I didn’t know about Louise, she said she would tell you the next time you spoke to her that she had been speaking to me, I was so sorry to hear about her.

    • Dave Carncross Says:

      Gloria. Good to hear from you after all this time. Yes nearly a year since our Louise died. It was a bad time for everybody and we also had my wife’s brother Roy died about ten days after her as well. Sylv seems to be coping pretty well as usual.

  11. Gloria Blakey Says:

    David. Glad that you have replied I felt so sorry when I saw that Louise’s name not on her Christmas card, but then when I read the letter she put in with the Christmas card. I did ring her after Christmas and she said that she would tell you that I had rung, but its still nice to hear from people of “our age”.

    Do you remember Donald Richardson and Roy. Roy died quite a few years ago but Donald is still going strong he will be 92 in May. He lives in Paignton Devon now as Janet his daughter lives in Totnes, so it made sense to move to be near her. He lives in a MaCarthy & Stone luxury flat just off the seafront, we have been a couple of times when my husband was alive, but sadly he died in a scuba diving accident 8 years ago, I still relive it as if it was yesterday. But that’s life so they say.

    But thanks for replying it was nice to near from you.

  12. edward blackwell Says:

    It’s amazing where time goes, if you do find that time machine Dave don’t keep it to yourself, I’m sure there’ll be a big queue wanting to take a ride. I had a few friends who lived in those streets where you lived Gloria, always remember calling round for Peter Costello we were going for a game of snooker to the club, and he said I can’t go yet I’m on guard duty our lass is at the toilet, and I have to stand here to see nobody goes in while she’s there. Little did we know we’d be experiencing real guard duty in a couple of years, when National Service came around.

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