A Day in the Life of our old East Leeds (Knostrop) Gang



This month’s tale is A Day in the Life of Our Old East Leeds (Knostrop Gang)

But before that can I announce that this is the anniversary of The East Leeds Memories site and we thank WordPress for allowing us to air and beautifully archiving our tales since August 2007 = ten years at one tale a month 10 x 12 = 120 tales which have linked up old East Leedsers across the world and I hope given enjoyment to many. Thank you WordPress may we long continue.

Ten years is a long time for us oldies and during that period a few who added their tales here in the full flush of life have now gone to join that great story teller in the sky. While this site remains their tales can still be picked up as sort of an epitaph. Within their tales they can still live. I’ll try to list a few here that readers might like to revisit. I apologize for any who may have dropped off their perch without my knowledge.

Sept 07      Pauline Rushfirth (nee Brown.) Air Raids.

Jan 08        Stan Pickles  My Life Between the Wars.

Apr 08        John Gibbins       My Early Life in East Leeds

June 08      Brian Conoby  Memories of Brian Conoby

Feb 09       Denis Gudgeon   Memories of Denis Gudgeon

Mar 09       Brian Conoby      More Memories of Brian Conoby

Nov 10       Frank Shires     Memories of growing up in East Leeds

Feb 11       Gerry Thrussle  Memories of Gerry Thrussle

June 12   Kenneth Heptenstall  Kenneth’s Tale

Oct 12        Stan Pickles  Cinemas and the Leeds Shopping Centre

May 15      Barbara Curran (nee Tootle)   Barbara’s Tale 


I hope WordPress continues to allow us to parade our tale on their great site and that we all continue to enjoy. Can I point out that there are some great comments after most stories too, don’t miss the comments they are sometimes the best part of the tale.

And can I point out that there must be lots of you out there busting to tell us a story of your own – you know the type of thing we do – it doesn’t have to be about East Leeds – to put on the site. Send me a comment that you may have a tale we can use – we are always on the lookout for new contributors, the comment will have your e-mail address included and I will contact you ref your tale and we’ll take it from there. Thank you if you have waded through all this. Now for my tale.

Pete Wood

A day in the Life of Our Old East Leeds, Knostrop Gang

It was August 1945, the year the war ended, and I was seven years    old. The iconic Jawbone Yard was our adventure playground, it was the summer school holidays and we were all incredibly happy.

I awoke to the pleasant sensation of the sun beaming in through the bedroom window and the exquisite smell of bacon drifting up the stairs. I sprang out of bed and dressed in my short corduroy pants and a check cotton shirt, but first I had to put on those terrible white underpants with the gaping fronts and the little loops for the braces to hold them up. I bounced down the stairs as only a seven year old can. Mam had my breakfast on the table. ‘Come on lad, have your breakfast, your mates are already playing out in the yard.’

I needed no encouragement gulping down my breakfast and making for the door. ‘Here better take this’, she thrust a Bovril sandwich into my hand and I recalled how she had always tried to fatten me up in case the Germans managed to stop the Atlantic convoys getting through with food from Canada and America and we all starved.

‘Mam I can’t go out eating a sandwich they all laugh at me, I’m too fat already.’ But she shoved me out into the yard and closed the door behind me.

They were playing football with a tennis ball – we did well to get even a tennis ball with the war in full swing.

‘Look who’s here and he’s eating a great sandwich already. Come on Fatso you’re on our side, were getting beat four one, although I can’t see how you’re going be much good munching a bloody sandwich.’ It was Harold; he was such a great player he could keep even a tennis ball up on his ankle.

Somebody took a great swing at the ball and it hit me on the fleshy part of my exposed leg. It stung for a moment but even so it felt good; onto the ground went the sandwich.

‘Well done,’ called one of the Peters to the kicker of the ball ‘Now that sandwich is out of the way maybe you’ll get stuck in Woody.’ The stable doors were one goal and the shed doors the other. We went at it hammer and tongs for half an hour until we were exhausted and then we sat on the grass together for a breather. It felt good – really good.

‘Let’s make a den,’ said Brian and we all agreed so we wandered out of the main yard and into a tusky field (rhubarb to the uninitiated) sampling the red rhubarb sticks as we went. Rhubarb grew in gay abundance in the area so nobody minded us pinching the odd stick or two (in truth it was far too sour to eat without sugar and we rarely made it to the end of the stick without wastefully discarding it). Then we set about fashioning a den out of a bush in one of the hedgerows. We made blow pipes out of the green stick branches and pretending to make bows out of the more substantial ones; of course we rarely had string to finish off the job properly. Presently it began to rain, gently pattering on the top of our green canopy and activating the scent of vegetation mixed with the perspiration of youthful   endeavour, bringing us close to nature at its best.  We squatted there waiting for the rain to ease, telling jokes, making, plans and the general banter of carefree youth.

It stopped raining and we wandered out of the den and down the lane. We had an old wheel-barrow and took it in turns to push and alternatively be pushed.  When you were in the barrow you had to close your eyes and try to guess where you were. We had a daily rigmarole and that entailed returning home for dinner at twelve o’clock – mams were quite insistent on that. We all disappeared to our various homes arranging to meet again in an hour, in our ‘Wellies’, prepared for a visit to the pond field. We called our mid-day meal ‘dinner’ not the ‘lunch’ they had at mid-day in the south and even up here in the 21st century. At five o’clock we had ‘tea’ which was another man size meal. Lunch did not figure in our curriculum but we had supper too; it sounds as though we should have been even fatter than we were – eating four square meals a day, but of course we could only eat what we could get with the war being in progress so we had to stretch the food we had out a bit.

Dad arrived home from work for his dinner too and we set about a real plateful each. I was pleased that today it was to be  sausage and a veritable mountain of lovely mashed potatoes big enough to make Alpine tunnels to allow passage for my lovely gravy. Dad told me off as usual for reading my Beano comic while I was eating. After dinner the gang met up again to go to the pond and collect frog spawn. Passing Knostrop Old Hall to the rear.


The girls, Pat, Pauline, Brenda and Rita had elected to bring some jam jars from home. We would collect frog spawn in the jars; watch it turn into little tadpoles, watch the tadpoles, lose their tales and turn into frogs – than we would let them go. Of course this metamorphosis didn’t all happen in one day. As usual we all ended up with wet feet and a telling off from our mams, ‘Just time for the chasing game before tea – remember we are off to the flicks tonight, it’s a cowboy,’ said Michael. We all liked cowboys.

We picked two captains and then two equal sides. We “dipped” to see which captain had the first pick:  ‘dip-dip-dip-my–blue-ship-sailing–on–the–water-like-a-cup-cup-and-saucer-you-do-not-have-it. The one who won the dipping contest had first pick and would pick the best runner and the other captain would pick the next best runner alternatively until everyone had been selected. There were: three Peters including myself (Peter must have been the in name at the time) Brian, Michael, John, Malcolm, two Denis’s Harold and the girls: Pat, Pauline, Brenda and Rita.

Off sped the first team and ten minutes later off sped the chasers. Miles and miles we ran; The idea was for the first team to run and hide and then make it back to base without being caught. We ran for miles – over fields, through woods, across streams and hay stacks, we were completely free to roam. It was wonderful to have young lungs to fill with air and feel the cold wind hitting above the knees. By the time the game was over it was tea time and arrangements were made for our evening visit to the ‘flicks’. It was to be at the Easy Road Cinema (the bug hutch) and as it was going to be an ‘A’ film children had to be accompanied by an adult. Pat, who was only a couple of years older than us herself said she would put her hair up to make herself look older and get us all in. It was a quite transparent ruse of course but Abe White, the roly-poly proprietor, wanted a full cinema and the place would have been empty if he had looked too closely at kids passing as adults to take their mates in. Lone urchins without an adult would accost strangers with the plea. ‘Tek us in, Missus.’ We were on the wooden sixpenny seats on the front row, so the actors were all long and thin and either walking up hill or down. You virtually got sand in your eyes when Roy Rogers rode across the screen on Trigger and we always got a little song from him when they were finally seated around their camp fire eating baked beans. It was brilliant. Then we were out running down Easy Road with our gabardine raincoats strung around our necks like cloaks and firing our fingers off like six guns at passing strangers. I loved it. Nearing home we saw there were ongoing road works and a watchman with a coke brazier. We sat with him for a while and ‘chewed the fat’ with the coke fumes permeating our nostrils. Then we accompanied him while he checked his lamps. Finally, my lovely day was ending and it was time to go home. As we entered the yard I felt a wet nose pushed into my hand. Joy of Joys it was the first dog I ever loved: ‘Peggy Parker’ a neighbour’s mongrel come Labrador. We were inseparable mates and Mam allowed her to come into the house and lay by the fire for a while until I went to bed, then she would have to go home. After the darkness of the night (there were no street lights because of the War-time black out) the gaslight in the sitting room was brilliant. One of my aunties was tinkling away on the piano, an uncle was playing a musical saw and a game of darts was ongoing. It had been a day of perfect freedom, one of many pure gold days. Weren’t we of our generation the lucky ones?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “A Day in the Life of our old East Leeds (Knostrop) Gang”

  1. marlene Egan Says:

    We certainly were the lucky ones Peter it brought back some great memories of easily road l could smell the summer

  2. Doug Farnill Says:

    Thank you Peter. You have captured that carefree spirit that was a joy of those years. I loved my food, but sometimes I had to be reprimanded for gulping it down in the urgency of getting out to play in the street. In those golden years 7 to 10, my playground was the derelict houses in the streets adjacent to the Aylesfords. My best pal Eddie Blair and I were equal bosses of a gang of kids that numbered 4 in total muster, including us. We scrambled across rafters stripped of their boards, demolished sooty fireplaces looking for hidden gold nuggets, and got admonished for being “black bright”
    And Peter, thank you for these years of curatorship of this blog, if that is what it is called, a new story comes with every first of the month, and is invariably interesting and evocative of old times.

  3. Wendy Breakwell Says:

    Peter another fantastic memory which was very evocative of my own childhood growing up in Rhodesia. However, these tales were also told by my dad and my uncle of their growing up in Hunslet. Please keep going with these memories. Glad you managed to visit the exhibition at Thwaite Mills too and it was nice to meet you.

  4. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Hiya Pete, firstly may I congratulate you on on your 10th anniversary of East Leeds Memories Site, it’s a great achievement. I know it takes a lot of time and energy which it’s very much appreciated by everyone. To the contributors who have gone to join the Great Story Teller in the Sky may they RIP. Their stories are their epitaph and great stories they were too, well worth reading again..
    August 1945, all I could remember was a General Election and a landslide victory for the Labour Party. But your tale well it’s superb and it brought back other memories from that year of the ponds at Temple Newsom and sticklebacks in jam jars, with jam sandwiches and Tizer, catching Frogs and Frog Spawn. Playing Cowboys and Indians In East End Park, making Bows and Arrows and Wooden Swords, and Errol Flynn at the pictures, Gentleman Jim, They Died with there Boots On, you stimulated the memory cells for which I thank you, and you brought back that enthusiasm of our youth, when nothing was any trouble, because we could solve any problem, and the future lay before us. Thanks for a great tale Pete and long may the site continue…

  5. Eric Says:

    I join others Pete, in appreciation of your 10 year stewardship of the blog. Like you, I think a few more contributors would be welcome to bring an even wider variety of recollections & comment but, well done anyway in attracting an audience from far & wide.
    Your story echoes & well represents the experiences of many I suspect , along with the detail which ensures it’s realism.
    Great stuff

  6. aussiepom Says:

    Congratulation Pete and many, many thanks for your dedication and all the help you give us to see our stories published. I was a complete novice at using the internet but with your help thanks to you I can send you my ramblings and have joined the very talented scribes, past and present who contribute to this wonderful site. Every story brings back memories no matter where you live today and once more you’re sitting on a dusty seat at the pictures, gathering bluebells at Temple Newsam ( we wasn’t supposed to ) drinking school milk, teenage dancing at many venues and even more pubs as we thought we were grown up. Youth was not wasted on the young, we had the time of our lives and have never forgotten it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: