Changes during my Eighty Years Living in East Leeds


Changes During My Eighty Years Living in East Leeds.
By Eddie Blackwell

It’s been a lifetime of changing and adapting to new things. When I think back over the years at the changes that have taken place, in both a physical and a social sense it’s amazing.
They say technology has moved things forward and of course that’s true. Communications for example, when I was a lad we had a Radio, with valves and condensers, one step on from a crystal set, it was the only thing in the house powered by electricity, that magical stuff that travelled along a wire, that you couldn’t see and didn’t really understand, until you experienced an electric shock, then comprehension suddenly dawned, it was powerful and sometime a dangerous thing, that must be respected.
The telephone was a red G.P.O. kiosk with a door, at the end of the street, it had a black box you put pennies in, then you Pressed A or B to speak or get your money back. There was very little vandalism in those days and a man from the G.P O. came around to collect the pennies from time to time, then another guy would clean the windows and sweep it out and sterilize the hand set, each kiosk had a telephone directory for local calls and intercity calls. If you couldn’t find the number you could dial the operator and speak to a lady, give her the Name and address you wanted to call, and she’d give you the area code and telephone number and ring the number for you if you wished, after you’d put the requisite amount of money in the box.
Suppose most communications were made by letter through the Royal Mail (or the G.P.O. as it was sometimes called) in those days, stamps were not expensive and you had two domestic postal deliveries each day Monday to Friday, one delivery Sat morning. Sunday was a day for rest and religion, except for essential services, hardly anything opened on Sundays. Shops and Cinemas were closed, Sunday newspapers were available and delivered, Public transport ran a limited service, and generally things happened at a more relaxed speed.
Today with mobile telephones people’s lives have changed completely, they even answer the telephone in the toilet, and they can’t leave the house or go anywhere without their mobile. I recall when car cell phones first came out, The Company I worked for installed a phone in my car, great I thought what a perk. How wrong could one be, I soon realised that I was now available 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year, there was no escape, if I didn’t answer they left a message. I was accessible 24 hours a day to the Company, the Customer and the men on site doing the work. Don’t get me wrong there were advantages that were good, and saved a lot of heart ache, and time, but at the end of the day working in Heavy Industrial Contracting, usually on a 24hr shift basis, the Company was the winner. I do have a mobile phone now, but it’s not in my pocket continuously, and I only use it for private communication, it’s not glued to my body 24hours a day.
Public transport whatever happened to that. Trams were the main form of transport when I was a lad, I think when they started in 1891 they were single deck Horse drawn carriages. Electrification was completed in Leeds in 1901 taking, advantage of Electricity produced at Whitehall Road Power Station which was located near the Leeds City Station just off Leeds City Square. Who makes these decisions to dispose of a network of trams that existed in Leeds, they were a cheap reliable environment friendly form of Public Transport, which fell victim to the smelly expensive diesel Buses, just think of the emissions that have been released into the atmosphere, since that one decision in 1959, do people ever think through the consequences of their actions. The world seems to revolve around eliminating jobs and saving money for short term profit and long-term disaster, all the money in the world can’t stop the Ice Caps from melting and the Seas from rising to consume the land, but reducing our toxic emissions into the atmosphere can.
I loved the Trams you could go from one end of the City to the other for just a few pence, and they inter linked with Bradford and Wakefield, in fact my Dad would say you can get all the way to Manchester and back by Tram, not sure that was true, but it sounded possible. I suppose in those days the most important thing was were you giving a good service to the Public, as opposed to today with privatisation, it’s does it make a profit without any consideration to giving a service. A sad change in philosophy with the emphasis on commercialisation a step in the wrong direction in my opinion. I once saw an Architects plan of an underground tramways system which had its central station under City Square and linked all of the outlying districts, this idea was from early 1900’s. Just think of the benefits of that today, no traffic jams no expensive link roads or one-way systems and no pollution, a fantastic scheme and very forward thinking. Had it gone ahead it would have saved millions upon millions of pounds in to-days money. regrettably it was shelved and the drawings filed to gather dust in a drawer somewhere.
Over the years things other things have changed dramatically, as a boy one of my jobs was, to go for this, go for that, and usually to the local shop. We had the Co-op which was the largest store I can recall, but generally it was the Corner Shop the Butchers or the Greengrocers, sometimes it would be into town on the tram to go to Leeds Market. Never ever did I have to go to the Supermarket they didn’t exist thank goodness. We do go to the Supermarket today, there like the old corner shop almost one on every corner but I preferred the old system, can you really expect to get the best deal from a Supermarket it’s there to make money. They rate their customers on how quickly they can get your money in their till, It’s true. One store we go to say you can’t put your goods in the bags at the till it slows the process down, they provide a table after the till to do that, well I suppose times money.
There was nothing to equal looking the Fishmonger in the eye and saying my Dad says can we have four cod stakes cut from the neck please, and he’d look down at me and say, your Joe’s Lad aren’t you I know just how he likes them, and I’d put them in the shopping bag and be off home to later put them in a pan cover them with milk and water a pinch of salt and pepper then turn the heat down to low after it started boiling, and let them simmer till Dad got home from work about 15 mins later. Then we’d do Mashed Potatoes and Garden Peas and Dad would make a Parsley Sauce delicious.
It was amazing what those words could do in our local shops my Dad says, and they always knew who my Dad was, I think he must have gone to school with most of them. Then there was the one if he was skint, where I had to say my Dad says can we have a one and a half lbs of stewing steak and he’ll call in after work on Thursday and pay you, I was always a bit embarrassed when I had to say that, but those days we lived hand to mouth, and you never missed paying, because if you did your credit would be no good, and we all needed credit now and then in those days.
Does anyone remember the Club Cheques and Whitsuntide Clothes, I was eight years old in 1945 and I think it was early 1946 before my Dad was demobbed from WW 2. Every year in those days you got new clothes for Whitsuntide, and Mum had joined this Club Check syndicate where you paid so much money every week and then when it was your turn, you got a club check of several pounds to spend, but you could only spend them in certain shops. Whitsuntide was fast approaching and in York Road opposite the Butchers shop, near the Star Cinema was Adleman’s, they sold children’s clothing and school clothes. Armed with the club cheque Mum took me into the shop for a suit for Whitsuntide. Well the first thing Mum said when Mr Adleman came out to serves us was, do you take Club Cheques please. We do Madam he said what a relief, if he’d have said no I wouldn’t have known what to do with myself. He then proceeded to bring out a range of clothes to suit our price range, I was still in short trousers at that time, and the one we chose was made from that woolly Blue material that they made R.A.F uniforms from, the colour suited me and the size was right so we settled on that and bought it, I can still feel it itching when I remember it, It wasn’t top drawer, but it served its purpose and I was set up for another year. I have a photograph taken on Whitsunday of that year which shows me in my new suit, together with my older sister Sheila, and cousins Greta, Shirly and Charles, all of us resplendent in our Whitsuntide clothes, they lived at number 3, Kitchener Street which is off Harehills Lane, Leeds 9 district. It’s not a very good picture unfortunately, but remember cameras were few and far between in those far off days, and film and developing was very expensive, we were lucky to have any pictures to record events. Can you imagine buying clothes only once a year, today it’s a regular occurrence.

When you consider the machine’s we use these days that were never there when we were young, and if they were there we couldn’t afford them, Vacuum Cleaners we used a brush and shovel, Washing Machine and Spinner, we used a tub and a poser, rubbing board and then the mangle, Steam cleaner, we used a mop with disinfectant in the water, Central heating and hot water, we had a coal fire with set pot for hot water, bath and shower, we had a galvanized tin bath that we filled with kettles of hot water, and went to the swimming baths for a shower, Fridge and freezer, we had a larder which was a small well ventilated room with a thick stone slab on which you put your food containers if it looked all right, and the smell was OK, tasted right then you ate it, always remember my Grandad would say, there’s nowt wrong with that lad get it eaten. No use by sell by best before dates just plain ordinary common sense.
We used carbolic soap for most things washing and suchlike we didn’t have a soap for your face, a soap for your hands, a shampoo for your hair, soap for your body, there are more products now for cosmetic purposes it’s commercialisation gone mad, a Marketing mania, just think of the number of different shampoo’s there are on sale, I think they’ve even got one for if you don’t want to wash your hair, if you consider the money that’s been spent on developing these products it must be ginormous, and you’re paying for it all when you buy the goods.
Then there’s the fast foods, in my early days we had Pork Pies (growlers we called them), Sausage Rolls, Cornish Pasties, Fish and Chips, and that was about your lot, I remember in 1956/57 when the first Chinese Restaurant opened in Boar Lane then it wasn’t long before the takeaways started to appear, now there’s a takeaway for almost every nationality you can think of Italian, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Tia Land, Indian, U S of A, Turkish Moroccan, the choice is endless, and there must be a demand for these foods otherwise they wouldn’t be in business for very long. I must say I’ve always enjoyed my Fish and Chips, I can remember going to the original Quarmby’s Fish and Chip Shop that old Mr Quarmby ran, it was in Ascot Street on the corner with Cross Ascot Street opposite where my Grandma lived. One and a halfpenny worth of chips in a little triangular bag, lashed with salt and vinegar, and the vinegar running down your arm I can feel it now after seventy odd years, it’s amazing how a little thing like that never fades from your memory, and is treasured for ever.
I suppose your falling asleep by now thinking we’ve heard it all before, what’s he going on about. Well wake up now I’m about to take you on a ride on a magic carpet. “On wings of song for sailing to distant lands we’ll go”. Air travel has opened the four corners of the World, North, East, South and West, anywhere in the World you can go and rest. The speed at which we travel now it’s difficult to comprehend, before air travel became affordable to the majorities it took days to travel distance we do in hours now. There is a downside of course, each Jumbo Jet you see as a vapour trail in the sky burns one gallon of fuel per second to maintain its flight, that’s a lot of pollution every day seven days a week.
My dad joined the R.A.F in 1941, and he left a book at home called the History of the Aeroplane, I was only just three years old at that time, but it was the only physical thing that I could latch onto that my Dad had, and I looked at the pictures and I tried to understand the words. Then as the years passed and I could read what the book was about, I became fascinated by Aircraft and flying, and the early attempts that were made, I know that we accredit the Wright brothers with the first successful controllable flying machine, and rightly so, but there were others before them, some who gave their lives in a valiant attempt to imitate the flight of the bird. There was a picture in the book of Otto Liliethal flying his glider down a hill on 29th May 1894, I still have that picture imprinted in my memory from all those years ago. It’s a fascinating subject and I started designing and flying model Aeroplanes at a very early age, and I still do, but I only try and simulate natural flight using air and gravity, Gliders. Before I finish I must tell you this, Dad and I used to dream of manpowered flight and we’d design wings and things to try and achieve this, but we never had any money to build anything. One of the things we designed we called Mothman,

I’ve still got the drawings somewhere I’ll post them if I can find them, a couple of years ago I did look them out, and I said I was looking for a volunteer to fly the machine, and my Great grandson said I’ll do it Granddad, how cool was that.
Finally the motor car, I learnt to drive in 1960, I was doing my National Service which was two years of your life wasted, and I thought, I may as well do something that will be of benefit to me when I get out. In those days the mechanics of the engine were easy to understand, and most owners could do their own minor repairs and servicing. Over the years the access to the engine has been made more and more difficult until now without special tools and instruments it’s no longer possible to perform anything other than a water oil lights and tyre check, if you look under the bonnet it’s just all boxed in with no access at all to the engine. It’s just unbelievable that they would go to so much trouble to prevent you from accessing the engine, today without a diagnostic machine for your model it’s almost impossible to do anything at all, and then every activity needs a special tool unbelievable each vehicle is now a captive maintenance market for the manufacturer.
I know I’ve rambled on a bit but I’m putting that down to my age. Peter wrote a story in December 2016, the Magic of Aeroplanes which inspired me in 2017 to build a model Handley Page Victor, I’ll try and include some pictures of it which may be of interest. I know I’ve not covered everything that’s changed in the last eighty years in this tale, perhaps that’s fuel for another story sometime in the future.

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16 Responses to “Changes during my Eighty Years Living in East Leeds”

  1. John Holloway \(Stronsay\) Says:

    Thanks Peter – very interesting but a bit before ‘my time’. One of my earliest memories was of my Dad taking me to school after lunch on the cross-bar of his push- byke – must have been 1950ish – before I had school dinners! John Have not forgotten my intended ‘memory lane’ piece. Busy in summer! Did I send you copies of the photos we took in East End Park last November?

  2. Doug Farnill Says:

    Thank you Eddie. What a great trip down memory lane. I have clear memories of Quarmby’s fish and chip shop too. Sometimes there were also fish cakes – which I actually preferred to fish itself. Sometimes there were something called “Specials” which were big chips cooked in batter. We had a more local fish and chip shop at the end of our street, Glensdale Terrace. I was a regular there in the late evening after night school – what hours did they work, those fish and chip shops? When I emigrated to Australia, I learned later that the proprietor of our fish and chip shop was offended because I hadn’t stopped in to say goodbye. I regret that omission, just as I regret my failures to thank all the other owners of corner ships, Mr Taylor, and the Lindleys, and the Tebbses, and all the others who made a point of giving good service and keeping your custom. I really look forward to the 1st of each month, and a new instalment of the East Leeds stories, thank you Eddie and Pete.

  3. peterwwood Says:

    Wonderful memories Eddie. How lucky we are to have shared 80 years of East Leeds Memories – How lucky we are to have shared 80 years! Eighty seemed to be ancient when we were young. The last time we met in the flesh was on opposing sides of the Leeds and District Football final in 1955.Can you believe that is 63 years ago. I’m often criticised for looking back but at our age I find it preferable to looking forward. I find only a few things appear better today than in the years of our youth: I Suppose medical science has moved on, drink driving becoming antisocial and the removal of dog dirt from the pavements. Well done Eddie.,

  4. Mark Wilson Says:

    Tremendous memoir! Fantastic recall. Sometimes when I see really old things in Leeds, like the inscription on Kirkstall Bridge, you realize that loads of people have been here before you; they enjoyed their childhoods and hopefully loved Leeds life too. I’ll always consider myself lucky to come here when I did – I’m originally from Grimethorpe, near Barnsley. It’s in Yorkshire, but the resemblance with Leeds stops there. Blokes used to dock puppies’ tails with their bare teeth; kill pigs in the back-yard with a hammer; flush unwanted puppies down the toilet. You were always just a few inches from physical violence, and the language…they called it Pit Talk. Did anyone used to have this fighting contest at school called Cock O’t School? If you beat someone who was cock, you became cock. It used to take place in September at the start of the school year.

  5. Eric Says:

    A good , wide ranging, enjoyable yarn & what you say in your tale Eddie is largely true. In retrospect, it does seem that those days were a kinder & certainly more gently paced place than today.
    Nonetheless, today, most are materially much better placed . Who’d exchange their modern vehicle with heating , in car entertainment, air conditioning, satnav etc for the unreliable, rattletrap rustbuckets of yesteryear.
    How much easier life has been made by washing m/c’s, dishwashers, vacs, modern cookers , fridges etc. Our wide screen , HD, colour TVs with a huge choice of programmes have entertained & educated many.
    World wide travel within the reach of many

    But what has changed for the worse is one consequence of increased social freedom without a corresponding change in responsible & considerate behaviour. Witness the prevalent foul mouthed rantings almost everywhere ,- in the street, in shops & pubs & at anyone who risks the wrath of those perpetrators for the most trivial of reasons.

    Or young people creating disruption in schools & public places with little, if any, fear of retribution. Violent crime , at least in some areas & often associated with drug issues, vastly more prevalent

    Widespread drunken behaviour resulting in many “no go” areas & wilfully attacking police & fire & rescue services for no good reason.

    Of course, the vast majority don’t subscribe to such behaviour so whilst I believe the progress in technology has been , on the whole, beneficial, the social & community aspects of modern City life are significantly less so.

    Your tale Eddie, to me suggests the same theme

  6. peterwwood Says:

    Sadly Eddie has suffered a bereavement in the famly, Hopefully he will be responding to ou comments next week.

  7. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thank you gentlemen for your patience in awaiting a response to your valued comments. A personal matter suddenly occurred that needed my attention. I will respond to you all in due course.

  8. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Hiya John, school dinners I’ve had plenty of those in my time, but it’s another thing that’s changed I believe, thank’s to the efforts of Jamie Oliver. I enjoyed your first tales John, hope you have some more in the pipeline for us to read.

  9. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks for your kind comments Doug, Old Mr Quarmby’s fish shop, I remember the fishcakes and the scollops/specials, they were always a treat. I went down that area last Thursday Doug, I stood at the top of East Park Drive you wouldn’t recognise it now, it really upset me, some of the little shops are still there but who runs them now is anybodies guess, I wasn’t prepared for all the changes that have taken place, I went home exhausted. Best remembering them as they were my friend, when you could walk through the streets without feeling you were an intruder, which I regret to say was how I felt last Thursday.

  10. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Hi Mark, thank’s for your comments. Years ago now we used to do some work in the Grimethorpe area, can’t remember all the details but I recall driving along this long road and into an Industrial Estate on the left hand side, and I remember the Pit Talk although I never saw the physical abuse that you mention. However we usually had our heads inside a Furnace or a Boiler so we had very little contact with the general public. I think it was an Engineering firm we did the work for, they supplied Equipment to Industry, Rotary Furnaces and Incinerators, things like that. suppose it’s all changed around there now as there’s very little call for those things now, we seem to import every thing from China these days. I ordered a small Fan via the internet the other day, it’s a hand held thing works on a battery, it was only cheap £2.99, I had an email saying your fan has been posted via Chinese post and should arrive by the 14th of August, the Wife said well that will be handy the heat wave will be over by then.

  11. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks for your kind comments Eric, you got it spot on as usual. I agree the technical mechanised changes have a improve things tremendously over the years and freed us to do more positive things, but many of the social changes have not been for the better. I mentioned in my reply to Dough that I went down to the old stamping grounds last Thursday, and I was appalled at what I saw, I didn’t feel safe any more in the streets I grew up in. It really set me back on my heels, and the Slip Inn it’s almost obscene to see it now. The only saving factor was, as I returned on foot to York Road, I saw a Red Kite hovering in the sky over what we used to call the old wreck, I think its a small park now, and I thought well that’s something I wouldn’t have seen in the old days..

  12. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks for you kind comments Pete, 63 years since we last met face to face, bet you haven’t changed a bit. Bet your still be wearing that number 9 shirt, and be a force to contend with. You’ll have seen my views on the old stamping grounds as they seem today. I didn’t feel very happy at all, and I know I’m older (cough), but their were some very funny looks from people in the streets, and no sign of the Bobby on his bicycle. I thought exit stage left as sharp as you can, which is not very quick these days, compared with 63 years ago, but I managed it in one piece thankfully. I felt traumatised for sure, and I had to have a sleep when I got back. Drove past East End Park on the return journey, didn’t stop I was still in shock..

  13. peterwwood Says:

    Thanks for those few kind words, Eddie. How I wish I could wear that number 9 shirt again. But time and tide etc. You must be tired having to catch up on all those e-mails – sorry about the loss of your brother-in- law. I know from your previous writings you were close to your sister. Regarding the old stamping ground I’m well used to it in its present form and it holds no terrors for me. i park my car in Cross Green at least twice i week and walk into town. When i think we used to catch the number 62 bud into town but you can actually walk it in about ten minutes. In fact so many cars are parked in the streets by day folk must be parking there and walking into town to work .I don’t wonder at the price it is to park a car in the centre of Leeds today.

    Just a point about your dad saying you could catch a tram all the way to Manchester, it is true. My dad ran away to join the Royal Navy all the way to Liverpool when he was 17 by tram because there was a train strike on. You caught a tram to the terminus of your town then walked to the terminus of the next town and caught their tram to the next terminus. and you could get all the way to Liverpool like that.

  14. Eric Says:

    Hi Eddie
    Sorry to hear of your loss.
    I used to live on East Park Drive , at the top of Charlton Rd (68), a few streets below the “Slip” & could see straight down to East park Parade & the Park itself – just to the left of the old “playground”. What a glorious view in those days, not much traffic & a few minutes stroll to what was , in those days, a happy hunting ground for many young people, especially during those long hot summers . Like you, I felt deeply disappointed, when I visited a few months ago ,to see the same scene now .
    I don’t remember Quarmby’s F&C place in the Ascots , but remember it well when lower down on EP Drive .
    Do you remember Maggie Walkers which was on Temple View Place or one of the Glensdales ?.
    There was also one on East Park Rd , abt half way between the Pontefract Lane Bridge & EP Parade bridge as well as the one on Temple View (Rd I think) – Knights.
    We were indeed well served in those days

  15. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks for your kind condolences Pete very much appreciated. I think we’d all like to put our boots on and play again, I take your point about the changes in the area Pete, I think if I’d visited on a more regular basis the changes wouldn’t have been such a shock as you then see them occur over a different time frame, but that feeling you get when people look at you and there’s no friendliness coming from them, and all the windows and doors have bars and iron grills, then every door you pass a large dog growls at you, it doesn’t make for a very pleasant walk down memory lane. Interesting point you make about the old Trams Pete. As children we thought Dad was kidding, because he was prone to the odd exaggeration especially after he’d been to the club on a Sunday lunchtime…lol..

  16. Edward Blackwell Says:

    Thanks for you kind condolences Eric, it was all a bit sudden, and even when you know beforehand it’s always a bit of a shock when it happens. I also had that sad feeling when I saw the way the area has gone down, it was never high society but the people were always friendly and you could sense a social atmosphere. Sadly it didn’t feel like that anymore to me. I remember Maggie Walkers, and there was still a fish and chip shop there, and I recall the others you mention especially Knights, he always used to say we only serve regular customers in here…but they were happy days and you could walk anywhere without feeling an intruder..sadly it didn’t feel like that any more to me, yet Pete who’s been there more frequently is OK with it.. Could be that I’ve also changed of course.

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