Terraced houses et al

by

Note: The next East Leeds Old Codger’s Reunion will be held at the Edmund House Club, Pontefract Lane, Leeds 9. on Tuesday 7th of Nov. commencing round noon. All Welcome.

Terraced Houses the Winter of Discontent and Sliding Sash Windows.

By Eddie Blackwell

I may not be able to remember what I had for tea, but I can remember back a long way to my early childhood in Devon Street. We lived in through terraced houses with no front gardens, the front door opened onto the pavement, we had a small back yard with an outside toilet. When it was winter you didn’t linger longer than you had to especially in 1947. That was a really cold year, the snow had drifted obliterating the back door. We had to walk from the front door to the end of the street, around past Mrs Olbisons down Back Devon Street and dig our way through to the back door. Then dig out a path to the toilet, Mum lit a candle and said put that in the toilet it may help thaw it out, and put plenty of salt down. It was all too little too late I’m afraid Jack Frost was in control. When you’ve finished there go and dig out Mr Tempests, she’s was an old Lady who lived on her own a couple of doors away. It was amazing in those days how people would help each other out and muck in together willingly, suppose living in close proximity developed a better community spirit. The war had just ended and we were all in the same euphoric frame of mind, stick it out and we’ll win.
The cold weather went on and on through February and into March which was worse than February. Snow fell somewhere in the UK every day for 55 days, it was cold enough to freeze the Ears off Brass Monkeys.
We still had Ice in our school playground that Easter. Although as I recall the Council did it’s best to keep things going, and had men with grit, picks and shovels going round clearing the paths so that people could walk, a practice not followed today. Now it’s a man in a lorry with a grit spinner distributing the grit at high speed, spraying everything in its way, a bit like the machines that were used in the Steel Industry to fettle the furnace hearth with before the furnace was charged.
We had great times that year down on East End Park, sledging and playing in the snow, pity the kids of today never seem to experience hard winters or those the happy times we had. Suppose they would have to wear a Safety helmet, knee protectors, elbow protectors and safety glasses today, where’s the fun in that.
During the war Mum had to work full time Monday to Friday, as did most women during that period. Without their efforts behind the scenes I wouldn’t be telling this tale. Weekend was when she did her house cleaning, my sister and I helped as much as we could, for example one of my jobs was to scrub the scullery floor, Halifax Stone slabs set in mortar were laid to form the floor. Concrete was not used for that purpose when those houses were being built. The specifications then, were wooden joists and floorboards or stone slabs set in mortar, they were large slabs about the same size as those used to make the pavements in the street. We were not well off so no oilcloth down, therefore it had to be scrubbed daily to ensure it was clean.
One of Mums main tasks on Saturday mornings was to clean the windows there were three large sliding sash windows to the front elevation of the house, and two to the rear. These were single glazed windows in wooden frames that slid up and down in a hollow wooden outer frame which housed pulleys and weights suspended on cords to act as counterbalance weights, enabling the window to maintain its position in the frame when lifted or lowered.
The procedure was to lift the lower window from the inside then sit through it onto the outer sill clean the outer windows, come inside close the windows and clean the inside, job done. On this particular Saturday morning Mum went to do the front downstairs window she got the chair to stand on took down the net curtains, went to unlatch the window and bang the upper window slid straight down trapping the fingers of both of Mums hands between the frames, the cords that hold the weights had rotted with age and when Mum released the catch gravity took control of the window and it slid down. I tried as hard as I could to help her but I was just not tall enough or strong enough to move the window frame, I tried to use the poker then the brush handle as a lever to lift the frame but it wouldn’t budge. There was a lady coming down the street and I asked if she could help, she answered I’m sorry love but this is my husband’s dinner in this basin, he’s working all day today and waiting for it, so I can’t stop now I’m sorry. By this time Mums not looking very well. Aunty Margaret was out shopping, all I could think of to do, was run up to my friend Neville Todd’s house and asked if his older brothers could help, Neville was smaller than me and his brothers were working. He said Mr Smith (can’t remember his real name but I’m sure he won’t mind me calling him Mr Smith) has some ladders he’ll help us and he did.
We all pushed together and the frame lifted and Mum’s hands were free, she got down off the chair and fainted, by this time Aunty Margaret had returned from her shopping and took control of the situation Mums fingertips were very sore but there were no bones broken. Mr Smith said he was going to get some tools and materials and come back and fix the window, Mum was sat on a chair now with a cup of tea and looked a lot better. True to his word Mr Smith came back and fixed the window. If you wish I’ll call round tomorrow and do the other windows for you, because their all in a similar condition. Mum said, yes please if you would, it’s very kind of you to be so helpful, and I don’t wish to have another experience like that every again. He called the next day and fixed the other windows, Mum asked how much it was and he said, just pay for the materials and that will be fine, don’t know how the Lady taking her husband’s dinner got on but we never saw her again.
It was very frightening when something like that happens, and you have no communications other than going to find help, most able bodied people were either working or away in the Forces. Mr Smith was a Miner and we were fortunate he was working late shift, without his help and his ladders it would have been difficult, Aunty Margaret would not have been able to reach, you needed to get above the level of the window frame to get the leverage to lift it.
The lower window to the rear of the house was adjacent to the winders on the stairs that lead from the scullery to the bedrooms, and I must say with hindsight that it would not have passed the planning stage today, imagine a 4 foot wide window facing onto the stairs, however things were very different back in those days. My sister and I were acting about one day on the landing at the bottom of the attic stairs, I wouldn’t say that we were arguing being five years older than me we didn’t argue, more like here telling me what to do, and I tripped falling down the stairs and straight through the back window, I was shocked but escaped without a scratch, not a mark on me and there was thick glass strewn all over the place. I think because I’d instinctively curled up in a ball I’d avoided injury but it was a lucky escape. I thought I was for it when Mum got home, but she was so relieved that I had escaped unscathed, she said she wasn’t bothered about the window and we boarded it up until it could be re-glazed.
There was a knock on the front door and it was my friend from up the street, Peter Hanlan, he said Mrs Blackwell my Mum has sent me to see if we can borrow a couple of buckets of coal till next week, that’s how things were in those days people helped each other out.
I remember Peter and I getting into a scrape one time, we’d seen these lads from Ascot Street with a bogie, they were riding it down Berking Avenue, turning quickly before they reached the bottom of the Avenue to avoid running into York Road.
We could make one of those I said to Peter, but we haven’t any wheels or axils. Peter said we’ve got an old pram at our house we could use the wheels and axils off that.
Well we set to, Peter took the wheels and axils off the pram, and I unscrewed one of the leaves off the scullery table, it was one of those tables that folded for storage, I had nails and wood and I fixed the axils by knocking nails over on alternative side I found a bolt for the steering axil and burnt a hole through the table leaf and the axil rail with the poker which I’d heated red hot on the gas ring, Peter found some clothes cord for the painter and we were all set big smiles on our faces riding up and down the street, then Mrs Hanlan popped her head out of the front door and shouted PETER. We were in trouble, we hadn’t realised that his Aunty who was staying with them was pregnant, things like that never entered our heads, and the pram wheels and axils were from the second hand pram she’d bought for after the baby was born, then the table leaf I’d used from the kitchen table which I’d never seen used, well we were in real trouble.
I reverse engineered things and Peter re-bolted the axils and wheels back on the pram, I straightened the nails and recovered the wood for reuse, and fixed the leaf back on the table, but I couldn’t get rid of the hole.
Peters Dad was home on leave at the time, he’d been for a pint in the Shephard Pub in Pontefract Lane. He’d just got back and found out what had happened, he got me and Peter together and said, it was a good try lads, and you used some thought to get it made, but you must ask in future before you do things like that. We were off the hook until my Mum got home, then the balloon went up. Mr Hanlan tried to mediate on our behalf he said we could smooth out the hole and make it circular then cut a dowel and glue it in, but Mum was having none of it she said, I’ll still know it’s there. I was grounded for a week.
Gone are those innocent days when you could do and make anything without needing a piece of paper, and you didn’t need anyone to tell you how to do it you just knew what to do and worked it out yourselves. Money never entered into things because you never had any, and you still believed in Santa at Christmas time, and you thought that the Stalk brought babies in a Nappy. Things move on and the innocence of childhood disappears, but it was great whist it lasted.

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23 Responses to “Terraced houses et al”

  1. peterwwood Says:

    Great tale as usual, Eddie. I hope that woman’s husband’s dinner wasn’t cold when she got there, what a pity that would have been . I don’t suppose you could blame her too much, women were taught by their own mothers to always have their man’s dinner ready on time. Thankfully modern women would give short shrift to that!

  2. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks for your kind comment Pete, and your right you can’t blame Her too much she was fulfilling her wifely duty, and food was an important factor in those days of rationing. Thanks for the reminder about the Old Codger’s reunion on the 7th Nov, I’m going to wear an armband this year so your sure to recognise me, it will probably have two stripes up, don’t want to be swanky, look forwards to seeing you there this year.

  3. Doug Farnill Says:

    A fabulous story Eddie. That “Mr Smith” who came to help extricate your mother from the broken sash window must have been quite a man. I think you said he was a miner. Well he must have been quite a carpenter too. He had to remove a board from each side of the sash to get access to the weight, and have the suitable cord to replace the broken one, and then get it all back together again. I can remember other people sitting on their windowsills to clean the outside, and some of them did the upstairs windows like that, perched with their bums hanging out over the street, and I would be hoping someone would be holding their legs inside so that they wouldn’t fall out. Sometimes, a window-cleaning man would come down the street with his ladder, bucket, and chamois leather and do your windows for 3d – if you could afford it. You brought back many memories, thanks Eddie.

  4. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks for you kind comments Doug, yes the people in those days did a bit of everything, they had to of course because most of the skilled Craftsmen were away in the war, and as I recall when Mum sat out to do the upstairs windows I used to hold her legs from inside to be sure she didn’t fall out. Eventually we did have a man who did the outside widows, can’t recall how much he charged but it was worth every penny especially the Attic window, I saw a picture on Leodis recently of our old street, couldn’t believe how high the attic windows were. Today we live in a bungalow so it’s a relatively easy job, and I’ve just bought one of those widow cleaning machines which takes the pain out of window cleaning….lol…Cheers Doug.

  5. aussiepom Says:

    So many wonderful memories of my Grandma’s house in Devon Street Eddie. All the married ladies were formally addressed as Mrs Surname and never by their christian names by their neighbours. I remember running errands for Mrs. Tempest. She had a piece of fish lightly battered every Friday from Quarmby’s fish’n’chip shop in Ascot Street. Quarmby was Doris Storie’s married name and they had the shop in Ascot Street before moving to East Park Drive. Mrs. Tempest would sit just inside the open front door in the warm weather and chat to everyone who walked by…until 11 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. Mon.-Fri. when she would switch on her wireless to listen to Mrs. Dales Diary. A bygone age when the radio made you use your imagination of scenes acted in weekly/daily episodes of imaginary characters and situations. If the radio made a crackling noise you gave it a thump. Hanging the washing on the criss cross clothes line in the back yard where each item had the same place every week so it didn’t touch the house bricks or the outside loo had to be adhered to or I’d get a thump as well.

  6. peterwwood Says:

    Great comment, Audrey. For those who don’t know of, Doris Storie she was our local swimming hero and she trained at York Road Baths.. She won the Commonwealth games which was then called the Empire Games in the breaststroke. They then made a technical change to the breast stroke requirements or they say she would have won the Olympic Games too

  7. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks for your kind comment aussiepom, yes they were great days, and all the Mrs’s were fine Ladies, I also remember the first time that I saw Doris Storie in old Mr Quarmby’s fish shop on the corner of Ascot Street and Cross Ascot Street, it still had coal fires for heating the pans in those days. The shop was opposite where my Grandmother lived. As you can imagine Doris Storie was a very fit lady, and she lent over the counter and looked down at me and said, your making a big strong boy can you swim, if you come down to the York Road swimming baths, when I’m there I’ll show you how it’s done. Well it was like a Film Star had spoken to me, and we spent a lot of time in the swimming baths before the polio scare, it wasn’t very long before I had 3rd, 2nd, and 1st class certificates, and I was going for the intermediate life saving certificate my aim was to get a Bronze Medallion, then the polio epidemic started and Mum stopped me going to the swimming baths. “Happy Days when you Bath”, there was a poster to this effect in the reception area to York Road Baths as I recall, I passed by there the other week on my way to the L.G.I., the facade facing onto York Road is all that remains.

  8. Gloria Blakey Says:

    I remember Doris Storey very well in fact I used to see her on the bus when I worked in Leeds she lived down Templenewsam but unfortunately she died a few years ago, in fact one of my closest friend’s auntie used to train with her at York Road Baths I only saw her a couple of months ago and she said she would be 100 next June, how time flies she did do quite a bit of reminiscing about Doris Storey, I also remember the fish and chip shop I used to go down for fish and chips with plenty of scraps those were the days. I also used to go to Maggie Walkers for fish and chips too. Does anyone remember her?

  9. peterwwood Says:

    Even the facade is coming down now the whole lot is being demolished and someone has nicked the clock!¬now Eddie

  10. John Holloway \(Stronsay\) Says:

    Thanks very much for letting us know of the reunion date Pete. Here’s hoping we can make it – and make a full day of it. We shall probably stay in Leeds overnight and travel on to Kent by train next day. I guess there is a Premier Inn near the station? All will depend on whether we can get off our island and then on to Scottish Mainland on the days immediately before the Reunion, but we are used to missing ferries etc etc due to winds force 11 etc, and have learnt to take it as it comes! It is necessary for us to have a ‘plan B’ to hand! Will ring you in a day or so – and once again thanks for all you have done, including the new article on East Leeds Memories. John & Sue

  11. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Hiya Gloria, Maggie Walkers sounds very familiar and in my time I must have visited all the fish and chip shops in that area, but I can’t place where Maggie Walkers Fish and Chip Shop was ???.
    That’s sad news about the Swimming Baths facade Pete, I thought it was a listed Building, and the Library too. I borrowed my 1st book from that library it was called the Boy Electrician. I can’t believe someone would steal the clock. I suppose it’s all about money at the end of the day, if the Health and Safety people were called in and they deemed repairs were necessary to keep it safe, who’s going to pay, there’s more profit in demolishing it, that Portland Stone will be worth a few bob. Yet another piece of history disappearing, and some concrete monstrosity arising no doubt.
    Hope you make it John, but time and tide as they say.

  12. Gloria Blakey Says:

    Hiya Eddie,

    Maggie Walker’s fish shop was I think in Ascot Street or Ascot Terrace,the Co-op supermarket was at one end of the street and her shop at the other it was at the end nearest to East Park Drive, the co-op was nearer to Pontefract Lane and Pape’s hairdressers. We used to ask Maggie for loads of scraps in fact there were more scraps than fish and chips. Those were the days. We also used to go to one at the end of our street I lived in Glensdale Street in my youth and this was at the end of Glensdale Grove or Glensdale terrace. We used to go for 2 pennarth of scraps and a bit of fish if you were lucky. We used to call him Fu Man Chu he very frightening but kind hearted he used to say all you kids will destroy me wanting scraps instead of fish and chips. We then used to go and sit in the railway wall and watch the trains go by whilst we ate them happy times eh?

  13. Gloria Blakey Says:

    Eddie I forgot to say she was a littler woman with dark horn rimmed glasses, her husband used to fry the fish.

  14. Eric Says:

    Hi Gloria
    I also remember & frequented Maggie Walker’s chippy ( along with Quarmby’s & Knights in Temple View Rd) & it was at the East Park Drive end of Temple View Terrace & I believe that a chippy still exists there. Do you remember the queues trailing out of the entrance & down the street.
    I used to live nearby at the East Park View end of Charlton Rd . Was the other one you refer to at the end of Glensdale Rd or Terrace on East Park Rd , just below Pape’s barber shop. Don’t think I ever used that one , it always seemed to be closed in my recollection

  15. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks Gloria thanks Eric, I’ve got it now, I had a couple of friends who lived in that area, Peter Costello and Selwyn Earth, I recall going in there but didn’t recognise the name. I only ever went in Knights in Temple View once Eric, presumably it was Mr Knight used to say we only serve regular customers in here or words to that effect. I also remember the one just below Pape’s Barber shop, but I only remember seeing it open on one occasion and they cooked the fish from frozen. Thanks anyway Gloria and Eric for refreshing my memories of those happy days when you could eat fish and chips as much as you liked and never gained an ounce.

  16. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Hiya Pete, I was talking to Kenny Walker the friend I mentioned who made contact after reading on of your tales. He was born in Bickerdyke Street which was on the other side of York Road and ran down towards Torre Road, he was really upset that the facade of the swimming baths is being demolished, he also spent many happy hours of his youth in there, and Doris Storey taught him how to swim, apparently his Mum knew her quite well.

  17. aussiepom Says:

    The ” Chippy ” at Glensdale Grove was a chinese take away shop in 1981 when I took my two young teenage kids to visit my parents. Aussie raised since they were toddlers they kept asking why all chip shops looked like bathrooms because they all had white tiled walls. I had no answer. At first they turned up their noses at the thought of eating chips instead of rice with chinese food until they tasted them. After returning home I was glued to the deep fryer when their friends had chinese meals at my place.

  18. Jackie Hainsworth Says:

    Thanks for the memories it’s good to be reminded of the days when everybody was happy with there lot no competition just a good simple life,my Mam was the one that used to sit on the window sill to clean the windows i always thought it looked dangerous but no money for window cleaners,in fact i don’t recall there being one,our house was back to back with a toilet in a yard down the street which we shared with 3 other houses but it never seemed to be a problem we just got on with it no point in complaining it was the same for most family’s ,our chippy was Robinson’s in the Clark’s fish chips and Tizer great!!There is no special treats now as everthing is so easy to come by the kids of today get the things they want at the drop of a hat Christmas Birthdays are not special it’s there all year round they don’t no what it’s like to have to save and don’t appreciate how much life has changed some say for the better I’m not so sure good old days i think so what about you!! I also learned to swim at York road baths salt biscuits and a cup of Oxo on the way home another plus in my book such a shame how it has been left to rot in thought it was a listed building.Hoping to see old school friends at the reunion the Ellerby Lane kids would love to reconnect.😉😉😉

  19. aussiepom Says:

    I’m asking a big Favour to anyone who has my email address and going to the reunion. Will you take some photos and send them to me please. I would really love to be able to attend but the journey for me to get there takes slightly longer than a No. 62 bus would take. Many thanks in advance

  20. Gloria Blakey Says:

    Hi Eric,

    You were right it was at the end of Glensdale Grove, which was just below Pape’s Barber Shop near to the railway wall, we used to have many happy hour sat on the wall eating fish and chips out of the paper, do you remember Wally Taylor’s. My cousin used to take his dog for many a long walk also visited Knights fish shop in Temple View. Do you remember Hensons butchers my mum used to get her meat from there. We have spent many a happy hour down East End Park not the same anymore as most things are not the same. At least you could play out and knew you were safe. Not like it is today.

    Referring to what Jackie said we used to have a toilet down the street but didn’t; share it with anybody else. You used to wait until you were desperate before you went especially in the winter. My dad used to stand outside in case anybody came in. It is a shame about York Road Baths it was left to rot. Such a shame.

  21. Edward Blackwell Says:

    All these memories about East Park Road and Pape’s Barbers Shop stirred some memories for me, of a L
    adies Hairdressers on East Park Road, I think it was called Yvonne’s, it was about half way down, my Mum used to go there for her hair doing, I remember going down there and all the ladies were sat on chairs with what I can only describe as space helmets over their heads, they were the knees bees in hair dryers at that time, can anyone else remember the ladies hairdressers. I think your right Jackie things are too easily come by for the kids of today. and it’s not scooters and toys anymore, but very expensive gadgets, like radio controlled Drones and Phones and expensive Computer games, gone are the days of sticking bits of wood together to make gliders, boats or cars, Granddad I’ve got to have one of these…£££££…

  22. aussiepom Says:

    I lived at No.20 Charlton Place, Yvonne lived at No. 2. Her shop was behind her house and had a door leading into her house. Thank God I had curly hair and didn’t have to have it permed. I had my hair set for special occasions but saw the contraption for heating the clips used in perming. They weighed a ton on your head before going under the dome hairdryer where you baked and the smell of the perming solution knocked you off your socks. Yvonne’s salon was always packed out. She set my hair the day I got married

  23. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks aussiepom at least I got the name right, Yvonne’s. I also recall that smell of the perming solution, but never saw the perming tongs thank goodness, that being said Mums hair always looked a treat after a visit Yvonne’s. It’s such a pleasure to reminisce those happy days. I’ll try not to get my knees before the bees in future, but those domed dryers did look like something from another world.

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