Archive for the ‘1930s’ Category

Evacuated from East Leeds to Ackworth

November 1, 2010

Evacuated from East Leeds to Ackwoth.

This month’s tale revisits the experiences of two East Leeds school girls: Mrs Kathleen Fisher (nee Lane) and Mrs Molly Browning (nee Smith) evacuated in 1939 from East Leeds to Ackworth, and their slightly differing  ‘take’ on their adventure..

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                                                         Kathleen’s Tale

I was interested to read in the Yorkshire Diary (YEP) about children who were evacuated from Leeds at the beginning of the war and note they mostly went to Lincolnshire and the Dales. It made me think about my own experiences of evacuation – we went as a school group to Ackworth, just outside Pontefract. My seven-year-old brother, Michael, and I (aged 10) attended St Hilda’s Junior School on Cross Green Lane, Leeds 9. Early in September 1939, we walked down from school to the railway goods yard near the river Aire at Hunslet, with our belongings and boxed gasmasks over our shoulders. We got on the train and were taken to Lower Ackworth School where we were given a carrier bag containing, amongst other things, a tin of corned beef and sticks of barley sugar. People then came into the school and ‘chose’ which child/children they wanted – boy or girl, two boys or two girls but nobody seemed to want a boy and a girl whose mother was arriving next day with two babies!!

After much discussion, we were taken to stay in the headmaster’s house overnight (the house was called ‘Graystones’) and a home was found the following day with room for us all to stay together. This was the house of a lady who ran it as a private school and I think we were unwelcome guests!

            My brother and I had a long walk across the field to the village school and were glad to meet up with our pals from Leeds, we all soon made friends with the local children – but back in our ‘billet’ it was not so good. The house rules had to be obeyed, no speaking at meal times, no noise around the house, early bed (thought the sirens went occasionally so we were up again). My mother was very unhappy and took the three younger children back to Leeds. After as couple of weeks (most of the other children were returning too) but as our school back in Leeds was still closed my parents decided I should stay at school in Ackworth to continue my education.

            One morning I woke up to find I was covered all over in spots and wrote to tell my mum (no mobile phones then!) She quickly contacted the lady of the house who was quite cross when she realised I had chickenpox. I was put into strict isolation – away from the girls in the private school and life was even more lonely and difficult. A couple of weeks later I returned home and went to Richmond Hill School. This suffered in one of the air raids and St Hilda’s School was reopened.

            Looking back I think our evacuation to a venue so close to Leeds was an expensive mistake made in panic and to send children away from home to stay with strangers would not be considered a safe idea now. I have talked to some people who were happy and stayed with very nice families, all I can say is – they were the lucky ones!!

 

                                   Molly’s Tale

On the 1st of September 1939, with only a few days warning and not knowing our destination, we were marched in crocodile fashion to Hunslet Goods Yard to catch a train, carrying only our gas masks and a change of clothing. Before we got on the train we were handed a brown paper carrier containing a sandwich, an apple and to our delight some chocolate, which I still believe to this day was Kit-Kat or something similar. This was supposed to be for emergency but most of it was consumed by one and all before we arrived at our destination – Ackworth, near Pontefract!!. I was one of the older evacuees and had the responsibility of counselling the younger ones, who were totally confused.  I found it hard to hide my own fears.  we were taken to the local C of E school, where prospective foster parents came to choose who they would like to have. My friend (Mary Pearson) and I lowered our heads if we thought we were going to be picked by anyone we didn’t like the look of. It must have been late in the afternoon when this warm looking man and his wife for us – the last two left. We were later to discover that, as they couldn’t get there until late and wanted two girls we had been held back for them.

Mr Taylor was the caretaker of Ackworth Quaker School and Mrs Taylor was the cleaner. They were kind and jovial and we loved to go the Quaker school to help out and pretended we were posh pupils there! Apart from missing my mother and brother I quite enjoyed the luxury of being billeted at a house with a bathroom, as our home, number 12. St Hilda’s Road didn’t have one. I very much enjoyed the country life, picking fruit etc. One downside of the evacuation was that my best friend, Audrey Smith was evacuated to South Africa, which was a closely kept secret at the time because a few weeks earlier the Germans had sunk a ship carrying evacuees to America. I stayed at Ackworth until the following Easter, most of the other evacuees had returned long before that, some only staying a week.  I never returned to St Hilda’s School, which had closed because of the war, but went to Cockburn High School in the following September.

Eileen’s Tale

October 1, 2009

Eileen’s tale is a delightful little tale of life in East Leeds in the 1940s, including time spent with her grandmother in Knostrop New Hall and as a pupil at St Hilda’s and Ellerby Lane Schools.

Eileen’s tale

Eileen’s Tale

Mrs Eileen Ramsey (nee Tootle) is the niece of the legendary George Tootle and sister of Barbara who has herself written her tale in these pages.

Until I read the pages of this book I thought Knostrop was just my magic place and never realised there were other children like myself who understood the magic of Knostrop and the way of life of the community as well as me. Although Knostrop New Hall was a wonderful place for me the owners had left the property to rot and decay instead of the upkeep it deserved. Every flat should have had a bathroom, toilet and even the electric light was late to arrive although there was the massive Skelton Grange Power Station just down the road.  Why do they call it progress to allow small communities like Knostrop to be wiped off the face of the earth to make way for concrete monoliths? Lord Halifax had long resisted building on his land on the north side of the Aire. Industry used to be in Hunslet on the south of the river and the fresh air that the people needed on the north. What happened?

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This is my story. I was born on the 27th of April 1932. My father was Roland Tootle, whose mother was Charlotte Wright before her marriage. My paternal grandfather’s name was Christopher Howard Tootle. My first memories are of being looked after by my maternal grandmother, Ellen Maud Smith, whilst my mam, Hannah Tootle, went out to work at J.W. Plant and son Ltd (flag and bunting manufacturer), Elsie Crescent, Upper Accommodation Road. Leeds 9.

            My gran lived with her second husband, Thomas Smith. They had two children, a boy Charles and a girl Ellen, or Nellie as my mother used to call her and who tragically died of a mastoid in the ear aged ten. This is what was told to us when we asked Mother if she had only brothers and no sisters. She said Nellie was her half sister – she died in 1928 the year before my eldest sister, Celia, was born.

My maternal granddad Thomas Byron Holmes and Grandma came from York to Leeds seeking employment as they had a young family of six to support. My granddad was from Southwark in London and served as a soldier in the 26th Scottish Borderers. My grandma Ellen Maud Holmes had a position of nanny, at which she was very good. Granddad (Thomas Byron Holmes) was tragically killed in a freak accident at Waterloo Pit on the 8th of January 1913 aged 36 years. He had been working with another man on the surface, loading and unloading when a sharp gust of wind suddenly arose as they were untying a tarpaulin cover from one of the wagons; it snagged my granddad and carried him up to the wheel of the gantry, which took him round and round. When they finally got to him he was left in just his socks and boots. The inquest was held at the Irwin Hotel, Halton, Leeds. Compensation amounted to just £157. 2/- and 3d to be paid to his widow (my granny) at the rate of £2 per month. 

My gran eventually re-married Thomas Smith, who was a widower twenty years her senior, they moved into the big mansion, Knostrop New Hall, as caretaker and wife. Among their duties were: the collection of rents, upkeep of the interior, cleaning the upstairs and downstairs toilets etc, also the wash-house, hen-house and stables.  

A pony trap was kept in the stables and a gentleman would arrive with a horse, which was stabled elsewhere, and ride around the countryside in the pony and trap. There was a large weeping willow tree, with initials carved upon its trunk on the front lawn facing the lodge (better known as The Round House). I used to climb the huge tree and sit reading my comics within its branches and leaves. I would follow with my eyes the flight of birds into the thick ivy that covered the ten foot high boundary walls and then I would head unerringly and find the nest with tiny eggs inside, usually about four of eggshell blue. They were very high walls to a child and it was only when I was older and more daring that I managed to scale those high surrounding walls of the New Hall Estate and stare over at St Saviour’s Orphanage, where the children would emerge in a long crocodile with one lady in front and another behind.

            I had a sister three years older than I her name was Celia and somehow we only really got together when I was about three years old. She must have stayed with a neighbour while my mother went to work as a sewing machinist. Celia had an accident as a child after coming downstairs very early one morning and playing with matches. She had climbed up on a buffet and reached up to the high mantelpiece for the matches and her pyjamas went up in flames. Her screams brought my dad running downstairs but the naughty girl had slid the bolt on the downstairs door and it took precious minutes before he could kick the door open. He wrapped her in the fireside rug to douse the flames but she had to be taken to the infirmary as she had sustained bad scaring on her chest and arms.

            I don’t know why but I had lived with my grandma for as long as it was possible and I couldn’t pronounce my sister’s name properly, it was nearer to ‘Ceeley’ than Celia. I must have been a two year old at the time for I can remember my gran wheeling me up and down Knostrop Lane in a pram and then through the ginnel into Easy Road and up to Archie Place.

            It was Knostrop Hall that I regarded as home along with Grandma and Granddad Smith. My uncle, Charlie Smith married Ivy who became my aunt. Their first child, Brian, arrived and I had a cousin. Gradually I was taken back to live with my sister Celia and Mam and Dad in Archie place and began to attend Ellerby Lane Infants School. It was a really bad winter and when we were sent out to play Mam came to the school railings in the snow to bring us hot drinks of cocoa from a flask. She was more than loving towards us; she would give me a ha’panny to ask at the grocer’s shop at the bottom of Easy Road for broken biscuits for my morning break to have with my little bottle of milk.

            Mrs Nelson used to take the infants class and around two of the walls were little linen bags that had embroidered animals on them for us children to pop in our biscuits. Unfortunately for me I always forgot which bag I had put my biscuits in but Mrs Nelson wouldn’t wait for me to find them, she would clap her hands and usher us all out of the room at playtime no matter how hard I protested. Well, in my little mind I thought that was most unfair and I was also fed up of having to lie on a hard camp bed with just one grey blanket in the afternoons. So I decided not to go to school at all. I hid away in the passages and only joined the kids when they were coming out of school at tea time. My sister, Celia, said the teachers had played pop with her because I had not turned up at school and it was her responsibility for taking me to school. So my mam sent me back to my gran’s down Knostrop – or Knowsthorpe – to give it its posh name.  My sister thought I was causing her trouble and upset her, so any explanation of mine was unacceptable. I did eventually begin to attend school again and happily they had started giving us things to do in the afternoons to keep us occupied.

            I remember going for walks in a crocodile down Knostrop to the big house at the entrance to Jawbone Yard to see the monkey on its little stand and the parrot of many coloured feathers that her sailor husband was supposed to have brought her. They also had had a grey/white/brown/black sheepdog or collie with a blue eye and a brown eye {Rex}. Just around the corner on Knostrop Lane was the petrol station yard where huge tankers full of petrol would come and go. Grandma always taught me to walk on the pathway and listen before crossing the road.

            When I was back in Archie Place my sister and I would make numerous trips to The Premier Picture House down South Accommodation Road on Saturday afternoons to see Flash Gordon. The friends my sister had were: Teresa Towning, May Beckwith, Audrey Smith and Margaret Headley and they attended Ellerby Lane School. Jean Clapham attended Mount St Mary’s. Celia being three years older than I didn’t want me around her and her friends so I played with their younger sisters and my own school friends: Sheila Thrush, Maisie Wilcox, Dorothy Jackson and Marion Eastman. We bought two comics a week each and then we swopped them so that we managed to read them all eventually.

            When I was seven years old war broke out. Dad said it would begin with air strikes so we ran out and looked up at the sky but all we saw was a large barrage balloon. Then we had to practice putting on our gas mask, which we carried in cardboard boxes suspended by string around our necks. They smelt horrible and I couldn’t breathe down or up my nostrils anyway because I was a mouth breather like my mate Maisie Wilcox.  

            My sister and I were evacuated to Market Rasen along with lots of others. Celia and I and another two sisters who lived in the Cavalier House Flats in East Street were sent to a posh house. We were allocated attic bedrooms and after being scrubbed down in hot baths and given dry cream crackers and cocoa, with no sugar, we were sent to bed.

The house was owned by the misses Kelly and had its own orchard and lawns and a cook and servants. It was like living in a dream world, far away from all we had known. But the older girls were rebels and they said it was like living in a jail. They caused trouble and the Miss Kellys wrote to both our parents asking if they could keep the youngest sister of each family because we were the quietest. We attended church twice on Sunday and travelled in luxury in a chauffeur driven car with one, or sometimes both of the Miss Kellys (I think now it was probably a taxi).

            But no! Our parents would not split us up and my dad said Celia and I would have to stay with a young couple who had a baby daughter. They were Mr and Mrs Saunders, they were a lovely couple and I used to rock their baby daughter to sleep on Saturday afternoons. I was seven years old and I still couldn’t read but I promised to try harder if the teacher would try to teach me how to read. It was hard for me as I had missed a lot of my early schooling. Gradually though it sank in and I was over the moon it was like solving a very hard puzzle. It didn’t come easy for me because the classes were so big as a result of the evacuees, and most of the village children could read already, so the teacher just wrote things up on the blackboard and expected us to understand. what was expected of us.

My mum came for us eventually and took us home to Archie Place, Leeds.           We then attended Richmond Hill School; that was a great school. They put on a pantomime at Christmas. In 1941 the German planes bombed Richmond Hill School while we were sleeping in the cellar at home. We were frightened and Mam started taking us to the Princess or the Easy Road cinema just to give us some light relief from the war which was going on around us. We then had to attend Ellerby Lane School and as I couldn’t sleep properly on a night I often fell asleep in school. Miss Gibbins was the teacher in that all girl’s class. Then in standard three we had an awful teacher (we shall call Miss W) who caused one girl to wet herself because she would only let us use the toilet at play-time. On one occasion she sent me to see Mr Dennis, the headmaster, because I had accidentally broken my wooden ruler. He was teaching a boy’s class next door and I was so terrified, not of being caned but of being shown up in front of all those boys. I broke down a sobbed, but surprise, surprise, Mr Dennis realized it had been an accident and how dreadfully I felt about it all so he sent me away with a stern caution.

            Thank Goodness my next class was standard four and the teacher was Mrs Darnell, her husband was in the armed forces and we were all given wool to knit scarves for our soldiers, sailors and airmen. Ellerby Lane School for me holds memories of lads waiting to snowball us as we went out of the big gate.

My mam said that now I was going to go to St Hilda’s School so that I could take Barbara to school and bring her home at dinner time. Barbara was two years old at the time and I was eleven. That was 1943 and the war seemed far away from us kids but by that time we had become used to eating ‘specky’ apples, raw carrots, ‘tusky’ (rhubarb) and liquorish twigs from the chemists, cough lozenges were treats

My granny had us climbing the trees within the New Hall grounds and shaking down the fruit so she could store it for the winter months. While we were at Ellerby Lane School we had cooking lessons one day a week, I enjoyed that. We also used to march down to Joseph Street baths. Although Maisie Wilcox and I used to enjoy Joseph Street Baths we learned to swim at York Road baths after school. Then we were sent to the Dispensary because the doctors were doing a mass cull of enlarged tonsils and adenoids. When we came round the pain and the blood we had swallowed was horrendous. Our swimming days were over after that, water used to go up our noses and straight down our throats, that was something that had not happened to us before, we were choking and spluttering if we let our heads go under the water. Both Maisie and I were devastated. Maisie came to live in Cross Green Lane, so she started to attend St Hilda’s School too. Our teacher was Mr North. He wore a cap and gown and sat on a high chair at an Edwardian desk. Behind him was a bookcase filled with books and I enjoyed reading many of them. We could borrow them to take home but we had to return them for others to enjoy. There was no one checking the books in and out but we were honest and our parents knew what we were up to most of the time so we had to accept their code of honour.

            The one thing I look back with in sorrow was that some of the other girls caused Maisie and I to quarrel and we never really sorted it out satisfactorily and that makes me sad. I had another friend, Joan Hitchen, who lived across Easy Road; we called for one another to go to school together. Then she moved to Blackpool with her parents and little brother john. We also visited Easy Road Picture House together, regularly. Frank Sinatra had just started out in films (1943) he had a nice singing voice but from what we saw of him he was thin as a skeleton. It was four pence for children on the front seats, even in front of these were about six wooden forms where kids could sit for a penny at the Saturday children’s matinee. My favourite star was Mickey Rooney he played in a saga which would now be described as a ‘soap opera’ on television. In these films Mickey’s father was called Judge Hardy and Mickey had many different girl friends, one was Judy Garland. The seats further back cost sixpence and those right at the back for adults, nine pence.

            My dad had started a large allotment off behind Knostrop New Hall with the help of Mam, Celia and me. He had made a hut, greenhouse, cold frame and a lean-to shed for the horse-muck we had to collect from the stables of a funeral director in Lavender Walk, Richmond Hill. He had huge black horses and we paid him five shillings for him to fill our wheel-barrow with horse-muck for us to wheel back down Knostrop. I wanted to go by way of the Long Causeway as I didn’t want my mates at St Hilda’s to see me wheeling a barrow load of horse-muck. I was ashamed in case they would laugh at me at school because unlike me they didn’t have to work at an allotment.

            We supplied quite a few of our neighbours with food produce. I had a list of customers to supply in summertime with: lettuce, radishes, potatoes, carrots, peas, beans, cabbages, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers. In winter it was Brussels sprouts before the first frost set in. And we grew beautiful chrysanthemums too. Dad had us working all the summer holidays clearing the land and double digging the soil. He said we had to carry the stones away in buckets and pile them up inside the twelve foot walls of the estate. There must have been a well because we moved so many stones they piled up to within three foot of the top of the twelve foot wall. We could then look over at Farmer Allison’s fine detached house and the little ‘Humbug House’ close by. We could also see the ABC Houses further down the road. When the farmer came home with his big shire horses he would let them out of the cart they had been pulling and into the field beyond the New Hall walls and they would kick they heels up and run about in a happy way because their work was over for the day.

My Uncle Charlie was a soldier who served in Burma during and after The Seconds World War. I stayed with my Aunt Ivy and Brian for a while after my tonsillectomy, while she was living in the Lodge or The Round House as we called it.

They had a tiny black, white and tan rough haired terrier called Paddy. Brian and I were sent into the Hall to live with Grandma when another baby was due.  I didn’t know any of Brian’s mates and Grandma would not allow me out of the gates of the grounds to seek new friends while I lived with her. When Grandma was busy cleaning she would often send me up to keep Mrs Barker company for an hour in her rooms upstairs. Mrs barker was a lovely lady who smelled of flowers and talked and talked about her family who had all died either in the First World War or later. The stories she told me about them meant she loved them and didn’t feel lonely talking about them it was as if they were still with her. She gave me a book to read, it was called ‘Little Women’. I really enjoyed reading that book: Mrs Barker was a grand lady, she died at Christmas 1952.

My father’s brother, George, lived in the Hall too. My dad told me George had      been brought up by his granny and his father made him chop up wood into chips and take them around the streets selling them to householders to start off their coal fires.  Later I was told he had been blinded by being repeatedly hit in bare knuckle fights. He took in stay dogs for company and he would walk them the front lawn every couple of hours. He was a giant of a man well known to all and always cheerful in spite of his blindness.

My grandfather’s name was Christopher Howard Tootle and he had a mule in a shed behind Ellerby Lane School. He would get wooden crates and chop them up for firewood then get an Ellerby Lane School lad, I think his name was Ginger Rhodes but I was never sure, to jump up on the cart and sell the chips to householders as they drove around the streets.

Life was full of people, some relatives that you didn’t really know and some you didn’t acknowledge as being related to you. It was very confusing to a child, especially if you were always sent out to play if mothers came to gossip together, ‘Hush! The kids are coming in.’

I had to go up and down Knostrop to collect the greens and potatoes from the allotment for the neighbours because Dad was working on the night shift and Mam said I would need my own bike as Dad needed his to go to work; he was head shunter at  Hunslet Goods Yard. On one occasion when I was about eleven or twelve I was sent to the allotment by my dad at dinnertime and I nearly ran down a string of children who were holding hands across the road just around the sharp bend on Knostrop Hill. I raised my head and prayed to anyone up there to help me for in the seconds that I saw them I realized I couldn’t stop the bike in time. Suddenly a gap appeared in the line of children and I managed to get through but I finished up down on the cross bar of my dad’s bike and crashed into the brick wall on the right hand side of the road. A panic attack or an adrenalin surge stopped my feeling the pain immediately and I ran back towards the little children who were only about six or seven years old, they were dazed too, apart from one little girl who had started to cry, with shock I suppose, because I examined her and there were no marks anywhere on her arms or legs and I didn’t see any marks on any of the other children either. They must have seen me, grazed and bleeding from the wall, and asked what they should do now. I told them to knock on the door of one of the little white cottages and someone might look after them for I still had to carry on to the allotment and get my dad the cabbages he was taking to work and I still had to get his bike back to him in time for his shift. If only I could have got the bike going again but the wheel was buckled and kept catching as the wheel went round. My arm, elbow and knee on my right side were hurting too but I carried on. Upon reaching home I was more worried about what my parents would say about the bike. They finished up arguing, Mam saying that Dad should have made the trip down Knostrop himself and not sent me. He said he would have to catch the bus now or he would be late for work and he would look at the bike wheel later. So Mam said to me, call at Benn’s shop and ask him to make you up a bicycle for ten shillings. I already knew Mr William Benn from Knostrop Old Hall and his sons, Alf and Bill. Bill had a shop at the bottom of Easy Road dealing with bicycles, batteries and tyres etc. So I called in and asked him about getting me a bike for ten shillings and he said he would see what he could do as he knew my granny and knew that if I had a bicycle I could do errands for her. Within weeks he had a bicycle for me; it was a light blue man’s bike with drop handlebars. I thought it was a beauty and I didn’t mind it having a crossbar as I was used to riding my dad’s bike anyway.

I started working full time on my fourteenth birthday. My mam got me a position at Lewis’s on the Headrow in the town centre. Monday to Saturday with a half day off on Wednesday for the sum of twenty two shillings and six pence. I thought I was in prison! I had to pay my own bus fares, for my dinners and still give Mam fifteen shillings. When I found out that I could leave at two minutes notice I took the chance after working for three months there just taking money out of the little containers and putting in the change then putting them back into the tubes that used to shoot them back up to the shop counters. I told my mam that I had been working in the cellars, where they took all the money and at first we used to get a break in the morning and an afternoon break as well as a dinner break but the adults conveniently forgot about the breaks and we were too young to speak up for ourselves so I left there at two minutes notice. My mam was furious with me and took me down to Great George Street Junior Employment Exchange and I landed a job at Joseph Kay and Son, Accommodation Road, as a junior clerk 9 am to 5 pm with one and a half hours for lunch, five and a half days a week. They also paid for me to go to Osmondthorpe Night-School to learn typing.

At St Hilda’s School Vera Wood and Joan Dobson were in the same class as me and the twin sisters, Sheila and Shirley and the greengrocer’s daughter, Pat. As for the others I can’t recall their names only their faces. We were all in Mr Child’s classin1945/46. I recall a party at school when the war was over. Our mothers had been baking and spending their precious food coupons, there were jellies and custard trifles as well as sandwiches but I was appalled when the boys starting a bun fight after they had scoffed everything else. I thought what a waste of food after all that effort our mothers had put in and how they had deprived themselves of their precious coupons. I came away disgusted. I suppose boys will be boys but we girls couldn’t understand them at all and I thought it would be a long time before I looked at them in a different light.

About this time coloured plastic wire became popular at school. The girls would thread different colours into designs and made them into bangles for themselves. And I remember going to the St Hilda’s playing fields to play near the tennis courts.

Happy days!

It was disappointing to me when I returned to the site of Knostrop New Hall in 2008. I had hoped to take a photograph of that lovely old weeping willow tree but it had long gone beneath the concrete jungle.

So sad! 

Knostrop New Hall.

Drawn by Eileen from memory. On the left of the picture can be seen the northern servants entrance, carriage house, wash house, inner yard and backdoor entrance,

My Life Between the Wars by Stan Pickles

January 2, 2008

My Life Between the Wars in East Leeds,This is an account of Mr Stan Pickles’ life in East Leeds between the wars. (Mr Pickles was born in 1913) 

This Was My Life Between the Wars

 (A Selection of the Memories of Mr Stan Pickles born 1913)

 

Ellerby  Lane School and Local Football

 

I was taken to Ellerby Lanne School by a neighbour’s children at the age of three, from there to the infant’s school and so to Standard One, where I was first introduced to our headmaster, Mr J.H. Bazley – the famous England fisherman, who we soon found out was a hard but fair disciplinarian. Nobody who was a persistent trouble-maker was keen on making Mr Bazley’s acquaintance as his cane was expertly delivered. Other teachers were: the brilliant and dedicated Mr Archibald Gordon, who held our interest with his keenest desire to do his best for his pupils. He too used the cane and would remark, ‘Well, boy, you asked for it.’ Mr Calverley another teacher, was aged but active in his desire to help his class, many of whom he knew existed below the poverty lines: he spent his free time on cold mornings running us around in the play-ground and keeping us in good shape.

 

We did not have a team of our own at Ellerby Lane during my days there, but a lot of my pals played for Richmond Hill and I was a regular supporter. Matches against Mount St. Mary’s were always an attraction and the touchlines were crowded to watch the ‘derby’ games between the lads in blue and white and green and white. The vocal support was tremendous as the two rivals battled it out. The four pitches on the bandstand field were almost always taken up with the local school’s football teams.

 

Richmond Hill and Mount St Mary’ formed the nucleus of the first Schoolboy’s International team to visit Denmark in 1912. (Stan Atkinson, Tom Hammill, Cliff Miller, from Richmond Hill and ‘Daddy’ Melia, Billy Joy, and Tubber Whitfield from Mount St Mary’s.  The School’s Cup competitions were always the big attractions. The highlight of my season was in 1923-24 when Richmond Hill won all the honours – beating Armley Park for the Meadow Cup, School’s Cup and Samuel Cup in three finals at Oldfield Lane (the schoolboy’s Wembley).

I wonder if any old boys living today still recall waiting for the lower Wortley tram at Bertha Grove, then clambering up the stairs to the open front and cheering and singing  all the way through town: ‘We are the Richmond…The bony, bony Richmond… and we play on East End Park’.  I remember it well, with a grand set of lads, such as: Walter Slicer, Billy Crossland, Clifford Morgan. Billy Watson, Jim Healey, Jim Schofield, and others and always on the touchline at every match was that gentleman headmaster: Mr Wilkinson, encouraging us and giving advice at half time. A lot of these footballers went on to play for local teams in the Red Triangle League on Saturday afternoons.

Childhood Days

In those far off days, people found it hard to ‘make ends meet’. Being the eldest, it fell to me in our back-to-back house to be the errand boy and to see to things generally. Mondays started quietly – it was school bank day and I always called at the houses of two of Mam’s friends, to take 1/- (5p) each to save in the old Yorkshire Penny Bank.

Dad worked at Kitson’s (Engineering) in Hunslet and came home to lunch every day at noon. Monday was ‘cold meat’ day. By this time, there were three children to care for. Mother seemed to be always in the washtub trying to earn extra money and it was my job to deliver huge baskets of neatly ironed clothes to her clients. My cousin, Ernest shared the load: each of us taking one handle – we usually got a penny each from the ladies to whom we delivered. Once a week I took my Dad’s and my uncle’s lodge money and got a halfpenny from each of them, which added up to 2p.

Tuesday and Thursday mornings, before school, I went to the butchers in Dial Street for a half pound of stewing steak, a half pound of liver and one pennyworth of melt – used for flavouring and thickening the gravy. With lovely Yorkshire puddings (my favourite- and still is), along with two vegetables it made a nice dinner for us. Sometimes we had rice pudding but Wednesday and Friday were fish and chip days and I placed the order at Westnedge’s, outside the school in East Street. Fish, chips, and three fish cakes was my order (9d). We were allowed to leave school five minutes early in order to collect our orders for our father’s dinner.

Twice a week I went to Davy’s pork butchers for polony or a pork pie for tea. It was lovely with Yorkshire relish and Mam’s new cake. Friday morning was grocery day at Chadwick’s in Upper Accommodation Road. Even at 8.15 a.m. before I went to school, the shop would be full of people waiting to be served. I would put my hand up when old Charlie or his daughter shouted: ‘Who’s next?’ Then I was on my way home with my basket of groceries, carefully placing the bag of biscuits on the top to help myself on the way home (I felt that I had earned it). All this is so very different, from today’s super market procedure.

On Saturday mornings, there were always one or two ‘tick’ bills to be paid and I took 1/- (5p) to the doctors (no National Health Service, then), the footwear shop and to the clothiers in Dial Street. A visit to the butcher’s shop for a small joint of beef for Sunday dinner just about wrapped up my weekly duties at home. My pet hate was coming home from school to see steam belching out of the window and afterwards seeing my Mam hanging out the washing across the street to dry and hoping it wasn’t going to rain. Our house did not posses a scullery where the clothes could have dried.

 

After my home duties, I had a little errand job for Mrs Marsh, the draper. She gave me six pence a week for which I was grateful for it meant I could go to the pictures two or three times a week. Another chore was going to the Leeds abattoir for Mr Davy to buy blood, which he used in making black pudding and once again, Ernest and I carried a milk churn with a stick through the top, which we held with one hand each. Even then, I still found time to fill in games with my pals on the ‘top hollows’ or on East End Park. My life was all activity and I seemed to thrive on being involved in almost everything.

I remember going to Hutton’s, the druggist, in Dial Street for one pennyworth of gunpowder for Mother to clear the flues under the set-pot. I liked this operation – Mother would wrap the gunpowder in a big wad of newspaper and place it in the fireplace under the set-pot and after lighting the ends of the paper she would put the long brush pressed tightly against the door and wait for the big bang, accompanied by a cloud of smoke from the fireplace. That was exciting for us kids.

Another job, was for Dad to change the flimsy gas mantles after one of us had knocked them off. They were very flimsy after they had been in use and easily broke. The little corner shop (Gozzard’s) sold them in a tubular box and it was a masterpiece to fit them into position. I can see Dad now, standing on the table with his tongue partly out, placing the flimsy fibre over the stick and fitting it gently into position. Then the moment we kids had waited for. A light was placed at the foot and the mantle blazed nearly up to the ceiling. Then the glass was put back into position and all was ready for use again, with a warning from Dad to be careful in future.

The Sporting ’Bank’

We had some popular rugby players living on the Bank. Dolly Dawson, Harry Beverley and George Tootles all played rugby for Hunslet. Afterwards Dolly Dawson was ‘Mine Host’ at the Hampton and the coach at Headingley. I can still see his face burst into a smile when we sang: ‘Get along Dolly Dawson, get along, get along.’ To the tune of the popular song, ‘I’m Heading for the Last Round up’. Dolly of course knew how to deal with the odd awkward customer or troublemaker.

Harry Beverley who helped in his father’s coal business, played cricket at East Leeds and had the great honour of playing rugby for England on tour in Australia. I think Dolly was very unlucky not to be picked for England. George Tootles, who was also a boxer, had a short career with Hunslet, finishing up almost blind due to boxing.

Doris Storey, the Olympic swimmer, was born and bred: a ‘York Road lass’. She learned her swimming at York Road Baths and came fourth in the 200 metres final. In that final, the three in front of her were using the new breast-stroke, which had just been officially accepted, while she was still swimming in the old manner. She would have had the Olympic gold if all things had been equal. 

 

Easy Road picture House and East End Park

These two places keep cropping up in my mind and in my writing and for along time my life revolved around them. The picture-house had a fireman we called ‘Old Gridiron’ because he sold tin lids and cooking dishes of all sizes during the day. The cinema pianist was a Mrs Scott, whose family kept the pastry shop opposite the ‘top hollows’. Then of course there was Abe, the Jewish roly-poly character: the jovial manager who was everyone’s friend. He always had a word for you about the films and a ‘Good-night, hope you enjoyed the show’ when you were leaving. He knew us all from being lads in our ‘penny rush’ days to the time we started courting and took our girls with us. Now and again he would give us trade passes, which my cousin and I were delighted to have and were able to see previews of coming films and to attend the shows at the Majestic or the Scala. 

 

The Easy Road Picture House always closed the show with a serial, generally in fifteen weekly parts, with its tag line…to be continued next week’ after a nail biting finish. The big night was the coming of the ‘talkies’ The Broadway Melody packed the cinema to capacity each show for a week (in fact we packed in like sardines).

The local lamplighter Was Mr Kendall and next door to the cinema was Mr Smallie’s blacksmith’s where we used to watch him shoe the horses and where we could take small household goods to be welded. East End Park had a little duck pond with railing around it, which was so attractive with mothers and young children throwing titbits for the swans and ducks to dart after. The flower gardens, the grass with its neatly cut verges and the lovely landscaped floral arrangements all combined to make the park a delight for everyone. All presided over by Dolphus, the ‘Parkie’ who kept a lookout for any mischief-makers and woe betide any trouble-makers.  You will note I didn’t say ‘vandals’. There were no such people in that day and age.

Ho! Those Trams

There were very few cars then and the working classes depended on the tramcars for

almost all occasions, from early morning until almost midnight they took us to work and back and then  were ready to take us out for enjoyment. The workpeople’s 2d and 3d returns always carried full loads across the city. My tram was the South Accommodation Road one, which carried workers to Hunslet Road for the big engineering works and to Armley and Wortley for those who worked in the mills. What would we have done without them?  On Saturday afternoons, they dispatched huge crowds waiting in Briggate and Swinegate to Headingley and Elland Road and were there waiting outside the grounds to bring them back at the end of the game. It was a sight to see the poor conductor trying to get up the stairs to collect the fairs, with the stairs looking like escalators in a big store. Then it was back to town and returning for another load.

Yes, we were very dependent on them right from our young days when Mam and  Dad took us out on our school holidays to places like: Roundhay Park and Kirkstall Abbey.  Otley Chevin, also featured in our tramcar rides, where they were engaged in carrying lots of visitors to the famous hill. There we enjoyed the day out, furnished with potted-meat sandwiches put up by Mother and pots of tea bought from the tea-hut at the hilltop.

It is no wonder the tramcar is remembered with affection, when it could be relied on never to let you down. I wish today I could once again catch a tram and see the cheerful conductor, always at our service. Thanks for the memories!

Those Back-street Bookies

Looking back I see those dismal small huts up some dark ally or a house in a back yard, which were almost the only places where one could place a bet in those far-away days in the 20s and 30s (and it was illegal of course). There were no brightly lit offices in the main streets where smiling girls were ready to take you bets and pay you out if you were lucky. It is good now to be provided with a neat betting slip and a pencil instead of the grubby bits of paper, which used to be the norm. It is good also to be able to watch your selection running on the TV. In those days between the wars the latest thing was the ticker-tape machine which tapped the results through. Our main bookie was, Charlie Tobin, up a passage in a little shack off East Street or Willie Haselgrave in an old yard in Easy Road.

The bookie’s clerk took your bets through a square hole in the wooden wall and gsave you a numbered ticket to identify your bets. Many the time we had to scamper off in all directions when the lookout gave the warning that the police were raiding. We generally had time to run through the streets to take refuge in a friendly house. I wonder how many living today remember those raids and the ‘Black Maria’ taking the punters away to Meadow Lane Police Station? The police had decoys in overalls posing as engineers or painters and then pouncing a day or two later with evidence of accepting bets.

On one such occasion a blank slip was placed in front of Willie and looking up Willie said, ‘What’s tha ‘aving?’

       ‘I’m ‘aving thee,’ was the reply.

       Willie retorted: ‘Tha’s nor big enough for a copper!’

       But back came the answer, ‘I’m big enough to cop thee!’

Yes, the luxurious betting offices of today make it a pleasure for the punters. Even a

snack and a cuppa is available. What changes indeed!

The Monkey Walks

 

Recollections of the ‘monkey walks’ in the 20s and 30s when young men and girls paraded up and down in innocent flirtation come to mind. Our walks began in East End Park on Sunday afternoons, when we paraded up and down the main drive past the little duck pond and beautiful landscaped flower gardens. The park was always a picture with its newly painted forms in a lovely green and the lawns a ‘sight to behold’. Always on the lookout for our favourite girls strolling by, we would sit around talking of the films we had seen the previous night at the Shaftsbury, Princess or Regent cinemas, or in noisy argument about the rugby match at Headingley on Saturday afternoon. Of course, when the girls came round the conversation changed and there were other things on our minds.

Often we would make for the big area of grass near the bandstand to join the crowd lounging about and listening to the band rendering overtures from: The Maid Of The Mountains, The Desert Song, The Merry Widow and all the rest of the popular music of the times. Just before we left to go home for tea we would have the last half-hour enjoying an ice cream or a bottle of pop with the girls and our last chat. On leaving the park our parting words were usually: ‘See you up the Beck tonight.’ For the ‘Monkey Walk up Killingbeck was our Sunday night rendezvous. It was always well packed on the paths between the Melbourne and the Lion and Lamb, boys and girls chatting up within the range of the old gas lamps. All though our teenage years we looked forward to being: ‘Up the Beck’.

A little later, we were old enough to have a few drinks in the Melbourne, where we had many a happy night. Our host, Jim Greenwood, provided a most friendly atmosphere with his walk around and his chats to the customers and would often give us his version of  ‘The Girl in the Alice Blue Gown,’ which brought special applause to Jim’s delight.

Captain Miller, our Shaftsbury host, with his adopted stance of his regimental days, took a bit of stick fro the lads regarding the two race horses he owned: Shaftsbury Lad and Shaftsbury Lass (They couldn’t have beaten me!), just about sums up their ability on the track, although I saw ‘the Lass’ win a three horse race at Pontefract.