Archive for the ‘Charlton Place’ Category

THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY

December 1, 2012

THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY

Another great tale from Audrey Sanderson

Formally:  Audrey Tyres Ellerby Lane School

1947-57

Now living in Australia

She’s a star

Many, many British films and television shows have been shown throughout the world over and over again.  Some are splendid costume dramas, some are send ups of classic’s courtesy of the Carry On crew.  Lot’s of movies with fine acting, spectacular scenery but I think above all the British sense of humour and ability to laugh at themselves is the most popular of all.

Ordinary stories of families going about their day to day lives have made marvellous entertainment for the rest of the world.  When Albert Steptoe and his son Harold was first shown on T.V. I thought we were going to have to call for an ambulance for my Dad.  He laughed so much he went purple in the face and couldn’t breath.  Who would have thought a story about a rag and bone man could be so funny?  Many years and a thousand movies later the humorous shows are still being produced.

Constantly being repeated on Australian T.V. are episodes of Hyacinth Bucket (Bouquet) and her misfit family and Frank Spencer’s many exploits.  I think my family fits somewhere in-between those two T.V. shows.

I had recently become engaged to be married.  As in most families about 20 years elapses with each generation.  One stage it’s all weddings, then lots of babies.  Big excitement over leaving school and getting the first job and before you know it more weddings again.  Mum and Dad came from large families so we went to plenty of weddings as all the cousins took the matrimonial path.  The man I was engaged to was an only child but had plenty of cousins around the same age as him so it was inevitable engagements and weddings would be in abundance.   No big parties for getting engaged in East End Park back in the 60s.  As I have said before it’s a long time since I lived in England and maybe people do make a big fuss and have all the trimmings of cards, presents, parties now as they do here in Australia.  Big events like weddings etc. are more like a Hollywood production with wedding planners, entertainers, everyone on the planet invited instead of a family gathering with your nearest and dearest.  Our engagement party consisted of myself and the intended, his Mum & Dad.  My parents, my two brothers and their wives, the best lace table cloth, best china, all squashed round the table in our tiny house in Charlton Place.  Once you were seated you didn’t move, there was no place to move to.  Not so for the engagement party two weeks later of a cousin from my futures in-laws family.

My own family tried to out do all our relatives when it came to weddings.  My future in-laws did the same I soon found out.  I only knew a few members of his family and had never met Aunty Madge and Uncle Wilf or their son and daughter.  My soon to be mother-in-law was a Hyacinth Bucket type.  Her husband was the kindest man, quiet spoken and gave in to her all the time.  Every time she left the house she wore a hat, leather gloves, matching shoes and handbag and a coloured chiffon scarf round her neck tucked into her coat and fastened it with a brooch at the throat.  Except on the occasions where she wanted to Lord it over someone and then out came the fur coat.  Not only how she dressed but how she spoke changed too.  We are all aware Yorkshire people clip the endings of words, notorious for not pronouncing aitches and any word with the letters U or OO in them are the brunt of many a joke.    I still don’t sound aitches or t’s at the end of words when I speak.   Annie felt inferior with her accent, unfortunately she put aitches where there shouldn’t have been one and sounded like a bad comedian doing an impersonation of the Queen with the high pitched voice she used.  Frequently in this mode she mispronounced words too. No matter how many times you told her the right pronunciation she insisted she was right and you wasn’t.  I used to get embarrassed but after a couple of years it didn’t bother me at all.  I couldn’t forget it though and even now if I hear the word obituary I always think Orbit-uri. A privet hedge she called a pivot hedge, ravenous became ravishing, champagne was shampagni.  Sean Connery  had just made the first James Bond movie Dr. No.  She got well and truly mad because people laughed at her when she called him SEEN.  Everybody else was wrong why couldn’t they see she was right and listen to her?

My fiancé had a flash car.  I think it was called a Ford Capri.  It was a turquoise colour, large and more trouble than you can poke a stick at.  He was totally useless as a mechanic, probably didn’t know how to put petrol in it either.  Back then the man at the garage filled the car, checked the oil, water, put air in the tyres and washed the windscreen while you sat in the car.  You payed him from the car seat and waited ’til he brought back your change and green shield stamps.  It was a very nice looking car, his pride and joy and his mother’s delight.  He’d bought the car just before he’d met me.  She asked if I could drive the first time I met her.  I said I knew how to but hadn’t got a licence.  She grabbed hold of me ” You must never drive that car!  Promise me you won’t drive it!  I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to it.”  I should have been warned then shouldn’t I?  Just like Hyacinth’s Sheridan, Annie’s son could do nothing wrong either.

Comes the day of his cousins engagement party our next door neighbour came knocking on the door.  She’d had a phone call from Audrey’s boy friend.  The car had broken down so he would be picking me up on the Vespa scooter he still owned.  Great!  I’d made myself a new dress for this party.  Annie’s instructions ” We’ve got to wear our best bib and tucker as there will be lots of people who we’ve never met.”  Namely the girls parents and her family.  I was a skinny 7 stone nothing in them days, dress to impress frocks were skin tight and just above the knee.  Although the middle of November this dress was a sleeveless green velvet with a high neck.  In my simple mind I’d thought I would be lovely and warm in the car with the heater going full blast.  Annie of course would be wearing the fur coat and his Dad in his best charcoal grey 3 piece suit.  Too late to change the dress so had to hoist the skirt up practically to my waist to get on the back of the Vespa.  I wore a thick wool coat trying to tuck it round my knees, a headscarf on my head and froze as we drove to the Gipton estate.  His Mum & Dad had had to travel on two buses to get there.  There was no way Annie would miss showing off the fur coat.

Madge and Wilf’s semi detached council house was very nice and near The Oak Tree pub I think it was called.  Quite a number of people were packed into the sitting room, some perched on chair arms, leaning on the sideboard, leaning on the backs of the lounge suite anywhere they could find a space.  Madge flitting in and out of the kitchen with large oval plates filled with tiny triangle sandwiches.  She gave them to the nearest person and told them to help themselves and pass the plate to the next one.  Back she went to the kitchen for more plates calling out to her son and daughter to help her.  Uncle Wilf was supposed to be handing out the drinks.  He did more talking and drinking than looking after the guests.  Being new to this family I didn’t know anyone and tried vainly to remember who was a family member and which ones had married into it.  I couldn’t work out who the girl’s parent were.  Hadn’t I listened properly when I’d been introduced to a sea of new faces?  Please don’t let me get the parents mixed up.  The young ones would think it great laugh, the older ones would never forget and remind me of it every time they had a family gathering.  I whispered to Annie asking which ones were the girls parents.  She whispered back ” They’re not here.  Madge told me the father is an alcoholic and spends his time in The Oak Tree.  His brother is the barman and they say he’s tea-total  but I find that hard to believe.  I don’t think this is going to be a marriage made in heaven marrying a girl who comes from a family like that.”  Charming,  I’m here not knowing a soul and she’s pulling the family through to pieces with the ring barely out of the box and the intending marriage doomed before it’s got to the planning stage.  I felt like warning the girl what she was letting herself in for before the ring got too comfortable on her finger.  Then I thought maybe she knew already if she agreed to have an engagement party to which her parents hadn’t been invited.  All too much for me to understand how other families sorted out their problems so I sat there and smiled.

Annie had taken off the fur coat of course, sat next to me on the couch she kept urging me to show off my engagement ring.  Mine was a solitaire diamond on a gold band.  Shirley, the newly engaged girl’s ring had 3 small diamonds on a gold band.  I wouldn’t have cared if her ring had been the size of a hens egg or one out of a christmas cracker it was her engagement party so let her enjoy herself.  Annie was a large bosomed lady with a small waist.  She never wore tight clothes and leaned more to the Queen mother look.   Her dress was navy blue with three quarter sleeves.  Very plain but very nice fine wool material.  She wore her 3 rows pearl necklace with pearl drop earrings, a gold watch on her wrist, wedding ring, engagement and eternity ring on her third finger.  There we all were being extra polite to each other, making small talk, saying how nice everything was and how Madge had gone to a lot of trouble making all the food.  Tray after tray of sandwiches, sausage rolls, wedges of pork pie, cubes of cheese, lots of food.  With a flourish Madge came back into the room with an enormous glass bowl of trifle.  Struggling with the weight of it asking someone to clear a space on the long coffee table in the middle of the room.  We were squashed in so tightly on the couch I had no idea how we were going to be able to serve ourselves as Madge was urging us to do.  Small glass dishes and spoons were distributed and still no one made a move to be first to disturb the pattern on top of the trifle.  Suddenly Madge’s voice from the kitchen yelling for Wilf to help her.  A glass halfway to his lips he took no notice.  Her voice wasn’t friendly as once more she yelled Wilf’s name.  Wilf’s brother said he’d better go and see what she wanted before she got mad at him.  Wilf still didn’t make a move until the booming voice yelled ” Wilf! Get yourself in here this minute.”  All the men started laughing with calls of ‘ Her Majesty’s voice, Now your for it, Watch out for the rolling pin.’  Everything in the sitting room went quiet.  Loud murmuring from the kitchen, lots of voices.  Annie told her husband to go and see what was going on.  He’d been perched on the arm of the couch and stood up.  The couch was on the far side of the room there was no way for him to get to the kitchen door without standing on dozens of feet so he sat down again.  The voices on the other side of the door were getting louder.  No one knew what to do.  A young man nearest to the outside door said he would go down the outside path round to the back door.  An icy blast as he went out and another young man said he’d go too as they might need a hand.  Seconds later the kitchen door opened and Mage’s voice clear as a bell ” No, no, don’t go in there.  There’s no more room in there you’ll stand on someones feet.”  All eyes were fixed on the kitchen door as it opened and closed then opened again.  A new male voice said ” It’s all right.  I just want to say hello to everyone.”  Panic in Madge’s voice ” Wilf! for God sake do something.  Don’t let him go in there.”  Not a sound from the sitting room as the kitchen door opened once more and in stepped a man wearing a long gaberdine raincoat.  He had a big beaming smile and said “Hello everyone I’m Shirley’s father”  Annie nudged me and whispered ” He’s the future in-law.”  O God that’s all we need.  Another man came behind him trying to get hold of his arm and pull him back to the kitchen ” Come on Bill, time to go home, we’ll say hello another day.”

Bill not having any of it shook off his hand ” No it’s right,  They look like nice people.  It’s lovely and warm in here isn’t it?” he said to the nearest lady to him.  She smiled and nodded, he moved on to the next lady ” I’m Bill, Shirley’s Dad pleased to meet you ” and stuck out his hand.  You knew damn well refusing to shake his hand would have caused a fight so she shook hands with him.  He came toward us who were sat on the couch.  Now unsteady on his feet the heat of the room affecting his boozy balance I felt for sure he was going to fall on top of someone.  Thank goodness he had to negotiate two arm chairs and get passed the coffee table before he reached us.  Still with the beaming smile he shook hands with the ladies sitting in the arm chairs and those on the arms of the chairs.  By now he was opposite us on the other side of the coffee table.  If only Annie hadn’t started tut tutting and saying he was disgusting turning up in that state he wouldn’t have turned round to look at us.  I don’t think he actually heard what she said because he still had the beaming smile on his face.  He looked directly at Annie, his smile got wider ” Don’t tell me.  This lovely lady here is the Grandma.”  She nearly burst a blood vessel.  In her best royal tone ” I,  you stupid drunken idiot am THE AUNT    Not, the Grandmother.”  He started swaying.  O No, he’s going to fall backwards onto those ladies in the chairs or forward onto the coffee table.  He swayed a bit then righted himself. Annie bristled with indignation at being thought old enough to have a 25 year old grand son.  He leaned forward hand outstretched toward her ” I’m very pleased to meet you Grandma.”  I dug her in the ribs ” For God sake shake his hand before there’s a fight.’  She barely let him touch her finger tips.  Any minute I thought he was going to topple over.  He kept his balance and started to stand upright again.  Most unfortunately when he’d lent forward to shake her hand his raincoat had also dipped forward.  He’d managed to stand on the hem of his coat.  In his rapid movement to remain erect causing the neck at the back of the coat to smack him on the back of his head and pitch him forward.  It was like watching a train wreck.  You know it’s going to happen and there’s not a thing you can do to stop it.  Arms outstretched trying to save himself he hit the bowl of trifle full pelt.   I have never seen custard, jelly, cream and soggy cake travel so far, so fast and cover so many people.  It didn’t miss anyone. It hit me full in the face.  I could feel it seeping through my dress.  Couldn’t see a thing, custard and cream sliding down my glasses.  Still wedged in by Annie one side and another large lady on the other I could feel her struggling to stand up and heard her call him a bloody drunken old fool who should be ashamed of himself.  I managed to get my glasses off at the same time Madge came in from the kitchen.  She stood stock still, took one look and started screaming.  The man who had tried to get Bill to leave grabbed hold of his raincoat and dragged him out through the kitchen.  We could hear him yelling as he was dragged outside ” Nice to have met you all.  You’re all nice people ” as the back door slammed with a loud bang.  The place erupted.  Most of the women were in tears.  The men were fighting mad charging off outside threatening to beat him to a pulp.  Madge still screaming and everyone trying to remove custard, cream or jelly from clothes and out of their hair.  I eventually managed to wriggle to the edge of the couch holding the hem of my brand new dress and emptying everything that was still on it back into the large glass bowl.  I couldn’t stand up and let it all fall onto the carpet.  My shoes were the only things that had missed out getting decorated.  Annie hadn’t faired much better than me.  The front of her dress was covered in a fast melting gooey mess but all she was worried about was her pearls.  Someone offered to rinse them under the tap and she called them bloody idiots as well.  Absolutely everyone knows genuine pearls are not cleaned by submerging them in water she informed the young man in her best hoity toity manner.  Boy was she mad.  Lots of people tried to help her but she gave them a look that would have frozen hell over as men tried using their very clean white hankies  to mop up her chest.  As I said she was very well endowed so they all backed off.  Some one took me into the kitchen and tried cleaning my dress.  All I wanted to do was go home.  I did borrow a couple of towels to place under the dress so the wet material wasn’t touching me but that was about all anyone could do.  I had to go home on the back of the Vespa in my soggy dress which by then was starting to smell sickly sweet.  I was freezing cold and couldn’t get into the house fast enough as soon as we stopped outside. Mr. Scooter driver with a smart car in for repair again was peeved because he didn’t get a good night kiss.  The mood I was in I could have cheerfully punched him in the head.  Nothing like giving the neighbours something to talk about I banged the door shut and nearly woke up the entire street.  My mother of course was waiting.  She started yelling at me for banging the door.  I told her to shut up and took off my coat.  ” What the hell have you been up to your frocks wet through?”  I unzipped it and pulled off the two wet towels.  She nearly had a pink fit.  God knows what she was thinking and I didn’t care.  I got into my nightgown and dressing gown and got Dad’s bottle of rum.  I hate rum but Dad didn’t like scotch.  Mum thought all liqueur was was the way to ruin.  I drank a small glass neat as mum said I was on the road to becoming an alcoholic.  One small glass of rum was the best thing that had happened to me all night.  Guess which dessert I get asked to make the most when we have large parties?  People rave about it but I just cannot eat trifles.  I’ve made thousands and every time while making them I see that green velvet dress and feel it soggy cold and clinging to my skin.

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Great tale as ever, Audrey.

Last month’s mystery picture was of course the old Coop building on Pontefract Lane near to the bridge.

Now for this month’s picture. I tried to take the picture from the other side of the road but it was too busy to get across.

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Audrey’s Tales.

June 1, 2011

                                                Audrey’s Tales.

 

Mrs Audrey Sanderson (nee Tyers) now lives a sunny life out in Queensland, Australia but she still remembers her roots, especially in the Charlton Streets near to East End Park in East Leeds. We are to be regaled this month by three of Audrey’s great tales (more in later months) told in the colloquial as only she can. Audrey’s first tale The Homecoming tells of how very quaint Audrey’s children found the back to back houses of East End Park after the wide open spaces of Australia.  The Teenager tells of Audrey’s introduction to a working life at the huge Burton’s tailoring factory and finally: Watching the Coronation on Black and White TV How many of us remember that?  I have another one of Audrey’s tales The Wedding but you will have to wait a bit for that one.

            In the meantime come on you Queenslanders I have seen you having a peep at the East Leeds Memories blog (and very welcome you are) out there in:

Brisbane, Deception Bay, Burpengary, Fairneyview Geelong, Gold Coast, Gatton, Upper Brookfield, Toowoomba, Weatcourt, Mackay, Glamorgan Vale, Nambour, Caloundra, Churchill, Caboolture, Torquay, Moggill, Nering, Morayfield, Port Vernon, Ipswich, Pullen Vale, Point Vernon, Nerang, Moggill  and Mount Whitestone.

I’m sure you must have a tale of the old days to share with us my e-mail address is     peter_wood@talktalk.net   Come on send us a tale and it might appear on here.

           

                                                The Homecoming

In 1977 I took my two children to visit Mum and Dad who still lived in the same house I had spent my childhood atEast EndPark.  They’d never seen terrace houses before and loved going down stone steps into the cellar and climbing two sets of stairs to the attic with a sloping roof.  At the time Linda was 9, Martin 11 and both inquisitive children.  When they had climbed from the cellar to the attic they asked where all the other rooms were.   Disbelief when I said there were no other rooms, a cellar, lounge, bedroom, attic, that’s it.  Insisting there was more rooms they started looking for doors to get into them.  Martin asked where all the other people were.  “There are no other people.  Only Grandma and Granddad live here.”  Puzzled looks on their faces “Listen! I can hear someone speaking.  There is someone in the next room.  Is there a secret door?  Come on Martin we’ll find it.”  Dad who was nearly 80 years old and partially blind asked what the kids were looking for.  I laughed and said they thought there was a secret door and they were looking for it.  “What secret door?  What you on about?  We could do with elastic walls with all of you here.  Tell them to sit down and be quiet.”  O dear, a long time since young children had visited. Linda had her ear pressed to the adjoining wall near the large ornate polished sideboard.  “Listen! Listen! I can hear a man” dragging me by the arm and told to press my ear onto the wall she was excited. Martin was at the other side of the house, “There’s someone over here as well.  Come and listen, there’s a lady shouting.”  Dad muttered “Who needs a wireless when you live in a mad house?”   Mum told Dad to stop whinging and tried to explain to the children there were no secret doors and the voices were from the people who lived next door and the house in the next street.  Confused them more than ever.  To solve the mystery of the secret people we had to put on overcoats, scarves, gloves and go out into the street.  The neighbours either side of Mum & Dad’s house was easier to explain than the one that was on the other side of the wall Linda had been listening at.  Both kids thought it was an adventure going into the next street anticipating what they were going to see.  Disappointment when it was practically the same house as Grandma’s.  The next question was ‘How did you find you way home when all the houses looked so much alike?’  They said it was too cold to stay outside and wanted to go back to Grandma’s.  Linda said they could both stand near a wall and listen to what the neighbours were talking about.  Martin thought it was a good idea too.  I squashed that idea but wondered how I was going to keep two lively kids entertained so they didn’t annoy Dad.  Old photographs were the answer. Lot’s of laughing and lots of explaining who aunts, uncles and cousins were and where they all fit into the family.  Dad’s sister Maggie had lived next door to us so easy to explain.  Back to the dividing wall again.  Maggie was a lot older than Dad and as she got older if she didn’t feel well would knock on the wall and Mum would go into her house.   The kids began to see the advantages of living in a back to back house.  Dad said it was a bloody nuisance at times as well.  The inevitable question was asked ‘WHY Granddad?’  He said a long time ago every one had coal fires.  The kids had a lesson from Mum on how to build a fire in an old black fireplace and how to cook a meal.  ‘Why did Granddad not like them?’  It wasn’t the fireplace he objected to it was the nightly ritual of the neighbours.  Aunty Maggie didn’t sleep well so around 9 p.m. she started getting ready for bed.  First trip up the uncarpeted bedroom stairs she took a thermos flask.  The next trip was with a cup with milk and sugar in it.   The third trip her magazines.  This took about half an hour.  On completion Dad always said “That’s our Mag settled for the night.”  At 10 p.m. Mr. & Mrs. Hodgeson, neighbours on the other side started raking the embers of the fire before going to bed.  They were both stone deaf and had a fear of fire and not being able to hear anyone calling out if their house caught on fire.  As our fireplace was at the back of theirs the noise was deafening as the steel poker banged and rattled in the fire grate ending with a triumphant swish across the grate to knock the ash off and a final clatter as the poker was dropped onto the hearth.  Dad said one of these days Mr. Hodgeson would brake through the back of the fireplace and could rake our fire out at the same time.  At 11 p.m. we heard the door to the cellar open from the house at the back.  Dad groaned.  Clump, clump, clump down the stone steps into the cellar.  Seconds later the floor vibrated and loud chopping of wood.  It seemed to go on forever.  More clumping back up the stone steps and a loud bang as the cellar door was closed.  Dad heaved a sigh “Thank the Lord for that.  Maggie’s got her picnic, Hodgesons have the cleanest fire grate in the street and the midnight joiner has chopped another oak tree up into chips so now we can all go to bed.”  The kids roared laughing.  Dragging more photos out of the box Dad spent the entire afternoon making them laugh at the clothes and the hair styles on small black and white glossy photos.  The kids loved them all.  They’d seen old photos of me as an 18 year old with a bee hive hairdo but not any school photos.  They laughed ’til they fell out of the chair.  Me at 6 yrs. old with masses of long curly hair, a yard of ribbon in multiple bows perched on the top of my head and those tiny round National Health glasses, I was hardly a candidate for the Pears Soap posters.  The wool cardigan I wore in the photo had aFair Islepattern.  Mum had learnt how to knit and she knit sweaters for everyone under the sun.  Mum was also the worst housekeeper on the planet.  Her excuse for doing nothing but knit was she’d promised Mrs. Somebody or other she would knit jumpers for Mrs. Somebodies entire family. Lot’s of photos at various ages of me and 2 brothers on our annual holiday to Cleethorpes.  On the first week in September from me being 6 years old until I was 16 the suitcases were packed a tram ride to Leeds Central train station and what seemed like all day the train ride to Cleethorpes.  The first few years we were in Mr. and Mrs. Mason’s boarding house and later years Mrs. Herbert’s boarding house. Mrs. Mason’s house was large with big bay windows and slap bang facing the sea.  Mum thought it was heaven.  We kids had been warned to be on our best behaviour or we’d get what for.  Usually meant dare step out of line and you’d get a clip round your ear, lots of glaring, lots of threats what would happen if we dared step out of line again.  We were in an age where we were frequently told to shut up and sit down and stop annoying the grown ups.

I thought Mrs. Mason was very nice.  She had bright yellow curly hair, always had make up on and wore pretty dresses with flowers on the material.  Mr. Mason was entirely different.  He served the meals from a large silver tray and he wore a small apron tied round his waist. Lincolnshirewas another world to us kids.  They had a different accent than ours so it didn’t bother us that Mr. Mason wore an apron and had a silly giggle in his voice.  All the Uncles and male cousins in our family were down to earth coal miners, builders, plumbers, engineers. My younger brother and I were fascinated seeing a man in an apron.  It was an apron Mum told us not a piny.  A piny wrapped all the way round you like my Gran’s did or bib and brace like Mum wore.  Mr. Mason’s was an apron.  Dad was not impressed and although he replied good morning back to him he did not spend much time in conversation with Mr. Mason.  Building sand castles and making sand pies on the beach only we called it The Sands all morning, back to the boarding house for dinner (lunch) a change of clothes and a walk along the promenade to the putting green and then walked back in time for High Tea.  Mum loved the sound of high tea when all it consisted of was a thin slice of boiled ham, 1 lettuce leaf, 2 slices of cucumber and half a tomato.  But the buttered bread was shop bought and thinly sliced.  The china was beautiful.  In this day and age it would only be used on special occasions if at all.  One small cake each was presented on a tiered cake stand and everything was so refined.  I loved it.

 Mr. and Mrs. Mason sold their big house and it was made into a hotel.  Too expensive for us so we started going to Mrs. Herbert.  Pretty much the same set up but the china wasn’t anywhere near as good as The Mason’s.  Still the same routine of building with sand, long walks in the afternoon and a stroll in the opposite direction early evening.  Dad liked a drink and went to the pub for an hour.   Mum complained all the time about anyone who enjoyed a drink or smoked.  I grew up terrified of walking past a pub.  I really don’t know what I expected to happen only that Mum had gone on and on about them not being decent places to go.  So what happens when you get to 15-17 and fed up with being told you can’t do this or that and you can’t go there.  No explanation given.  Well the times sure were a changing.  Bill Haley rocked around the clock and so did everyone else.  Suddenly anyone who could hum a tune made a record.  The swinging 60s started in the 50s. 

East Leeds Teenager

The Easter of 1957 I leftEllerbyLaneSchool.  Was grown up, knew all the answers and ready to make my way into the big adult world.  Mum, who dictated every aspect of our lives told me I wasn’t smart enough to work in an office and she was going to take me toBurtonstailoring factory onHudson Roadand put my name down for a job.  Thank the Lord by then she’d let me stop wearing yards of hair ribbon and because I was going for a job interview I was allowed to wear nylon stockings and not white ankle socks.  Classed as sexy lingerie these days garter belts were to hold the nylon stockings up only we called them suspender belts.  This was before sheer tights had been invented and Mum still thought 15 denier stockings were decadent, a reminder of American soldiers during the was no doubt.  Mum was very scathing of women who’d had American boy friends.  Mum was also a gossip as were most of our neighbours.  I can’t remember much of the interview but was told to report on a given day and about 20 young girls sat an entrance exam.  More exams, I thought I’d finished with all that.  Simple arithmetic, simple English, general knowledge history and geography, I had it finished in less than 10 minutes.  The young lady in charge asked if I was having trouble answering the questions as I gazed around.  I said no I’d answered them all.  She looked at the paper, looked at me and asked why I hadn’t applied for a job in the office.  Never been allowed to think for myself I answered “‘Cos Mam said I had to get a job on a sewing machine making trousers.”  She asked why “Cos Mam said I wasn’t smart enough to learn shorthand and typing and I had to get a job here.” She asked if I knew any people who worked at the factory.  Did I ever?  Everyone inLeedsknew someone who worked atHudson Road.  Some of my Aunties and cousins worked there.  She patted my arm and said “I see” before moving to the next girl.   The next paper to be filled in was for a list of relatives past and present who worked or had worked atHudson Road.  Back came the lady. There were lots of female names on my list and two males.  She asked if John was a cutter or engineer.  All I knew was John mended sewing machines.  She asked which “Room” he worked in.  Blank look from me.  She told me there were 2 coat rooms, 1 trouser and vest room and a cutting room.  Didn’t mean a thing to me.  Females outnumbered males by about 1000 to 1 in the factory.  The other male on my list was Uncle Billy, he was a commissionaire. She wasn’t interested in him.  She asked how old John was.  I didn’t think it strange she asked.  It was like a school room situation, the teacher asked a question you answered.  John had just finished doing National Service in the R.A.F. and was 21.  She then asked me if he was the mechanic everyone called Big John.  I said I didn’t know we just called him John.   Lots of my cousins lived close by and we were all brought up like brothers and sisters.  At the end of the tests we were told what day to arrive for work and which “Room” we had to go to and the name of the person we had to report to.

 The day arrived.  What an eye opener!!!  The doors opened at 7:45 and the few early birds walked in.  Definitely a fish out of water I stood just inside the door.  The large commissionaire in a uniform full of gold braid and ribbons on his chest asked my name.  I was told to stand where I was, not to get in anyone’s way and Mrs. Oakley would be along presently.  Feeling very nervous but a little bit grown up as well for I’d worn my best going out red coat and nylon stockings.  Shortly I was joined by 5 other girls who were told to stand and wait for Mrs. Oakley.  One girl was very confident, my goodness she actually wore face powder and lipstick.  One girl was as nervous as I wore ankle socks and her hair in plaits with ribbons on the ends.  Mrs. Oakley arrived.  I’m only 5ft. tall and towered over her.  She was the lady in charge of the training school and was going to teach us how to sew a pair of trousers together.  Suddenly a deep rumbling noise started up. There were wide eyed looks from us 6 girls.  Nothing to be frightened of said Mrs. Oakley “It’s only the power being switched on.  Follow me to the training room.”  We didn’t even know we were going to a training room when we were told we had a job.  Within an hour I had a headache with the noise of the factory in full swing.  I had a headache for a solid week and we didn’t even get paid at the end of it.  We had to wait for another week for our first every pay packet.  I was very disappointed on pay day.  We didn’t get our money in a paper packet.  Round about 3 p.m. Friday afternoon we lined up near the time clocks.  A big cheer went up when young men pushing trolleys holding lots of trays with tiny metal boxes in them arrived.  Depending on what number was on the card you placed in the time clock every morning determined which queue you had to be in.  You gave your ‘clock number’ to the young man he gave you a tin box the size of a mustard box with your wages stuffed inside it.  My £3.10/- was inside with a thin strip of paper called a pay slip.  Mrs. Oakley told us how to check the pay slip and what all the deductions meant.  Mum was waiting at the door Friday night when I got home.  I gave her the money.  Glaring she asked where my pay packet was.  I said we didn’t get one she didn’t believe me.  Straight round to Auntie Mary’s she went, 10 minutes later came back and handed me 10/-    Obviously checked with Mary to see if I was telling the truth.  WOW! My first ever pocket money.  I was told I had to put it into the bank.  Dad said “Leave the lass alone.  Let her spend it how she wants.”  Mum said I’d only squander it and she’d put it into the bank for me.  I’d only had it in my hand 5 minutes and she was going to take it off me.  I said I was grown up now I was capable of taking it to the Yorkshire Penny Bank on my own.  Dad grinned, Mum said I’d been working 2 weeks and already had a lip on me.  Dad said it was her fault she’d made me go to work at the factory and I’d have to stand up for myself or get bullied. 

The girl who had worn the pigtails and white ankle socks on the first day of work was called Brenda.  The other girls giggled behind her back pointing at her socks.  It was only 2 weeks before I’d still been wearing socks just like them.  I guessed she had a mother like mine and had to do as she was told.  She looked close to tears I asked what was wrong.  She said she knew the others were making fun of her but if she didn’t do as she was told she’d get a good hiding.  I knew exactly how she felt.  I suggested on the bus trip she took every morning why didn’t she take off the ribbons and brush her hair out and take off the socks and go bare legged, braid her hair again and put on the socks on the return trip home.  At first she was scared her Mum would find out but a few days later she arrived with long hair and no socks.

We got on like a house on fire.  That was 54 years since and we are still friends.

After 3 months of training we all knew how to make a pair of trousers.  From undoing the tightly rolled bundle of cloth and all the small bits and pieces rolled up inside it to the final pressing of an immaculate pair of trousers with knife edge creases.  And then we were shoved into the main factory.  It was like starting all over again, only noisier.  The noise was deafening.  A room as long as a football pitch, 3000 sewing machines whirring none stop, steam presses, Hoffman presses banging and hissing steam, people yelling above the noise.  It was a nightmare.  There weren’t enough machines for all of us 6 girls to make trousers from beginning to end so Brenda and I were put into the section with conveyor belts.  There were 44 women on one conveyor belt.  The first lady opened the rolled up bundle and place the bits and pieces into a sectioned box then it was put onto the conveyor belt.  Each box was placed on a painted line on the canvas belt.  Each procedure of making trousers took 1 minute to complete.  The boxes had brass hooks at the back which rested on the wooden structure of the conveyor belt next to a sewing machine.  Standing next to the belt watching women doing their particular job it looked very easy.  In the training school we’d been taught to do an expert job, checking every detail as we went.  On ‘the Belt’ you didn’t have time to blink.  From starting time at 8 a.m. until finishing time at 6 p.m. we had to make 450 pairs of trousers each day to earn 1shilling and sixpence per hour on top of our basic wage of £3.10/- per week.  Fast! No wonder everything we did outside of working hours we did fast.  We couldn’t switch off thinking or talking fast and loud.  Jean and Margaret on the sewing machines in front of mine put the side pockets in trousers, I sewed the white linen bits together to make the pocket and Brenda sat behind me putting in the cash pockets.  Once you got the hang of it and could keep up to the boxes coming down the belt you worked like a robot.  Had to watch you didn’t sew your fingers together but didn’t have to think too much.  The monotony was relieved by the characters who worked there.  Brenda and I were still naive and a lot of the jokes went over our heads.  All the married women laughed, we kept quiet.  I had an older cousin I could talk to so asked Norma about things that had been said at work.  We learned a lot about life in 12 months.  Norma was cousin John’s sister.  She worked in one of the coat rooms making silk linings for jackets.  She told John which part of the factory I worked and 6 months after being there this large shadow came over my sewing machine.    Working at the pace we did you never lifted your head up from the machine.  I was aware everyone near me had stopped talking.  That was strange, there was always somebody talking about something.  I looked up John was grinning down at me.  “It’s taken me months to find you.  Our Norma told me where you were or I’d still been looking.  I’d get into trouble if I walked up and down every aisle looking at the girls.”  I carried on working of course and everyone round about me could hear what was said.  He only stayed 2 minutes and had to go back to where he was supposed to be.  I carried on working and so did everyone else.  Changing the boxes over, the girl on the other side of the belt tapped the wheel of her machine with her tailoring shears.  We did that to get someone’s attention.  It made a piercing noise if given a sharp tap.  She had a dreamy look and a breathless “Do you know him?”  Stupidly I asked “Who?”  Everyone close by was looking.  “You actually know him?  How did YOU get to meet him?” 

“You mean John?”

“No you bloody fool.  I mean the man in the moon.  Of course I meant Big John, who else?”

I laughed “So he’s Big John?”  All the time I’d worked there I’d heard them talking about Big John and how gorgeous he was.  All the time I’d been on the lookout for some handsome, film star looks, 6ft. 2in. black curly haired, deep brown eyes, lovely smile specimen who had all the girls week at the knees and it was only ‘ Our John ’   What a disappointment.  I’d known him all my life so never thought of him any different to other male cousins or my brothers.  I was the most popular girl in the trouser room when everyone got to know Big John was my cousin.  I don’t know what they expected me to do about it, introduce them to him?  He’d have run a mile.  He was tongue tied round girls.  He liked girls but he said they always stared at him.  Listening to all the lunatics near me going on how gorgeous looking he was I realised why he was scared of them.  They’d have frightened me if all they wanted was to gaze.  I was asked a million questions of where he lived, does he have a girlfriend? What’s he really like?  Not a cat in hells chance would I tell them where he lived or what a great sense of humour he had.  I tried inventing a girl friend thinking it would put them off. It made them worse.  They knew they’d be a better girl for him.  When he did become engaged to Eileen I thought the whole factory was going to go under with the tears.  Absolutely crazy!  I told my Dad I thought if these idiots found out who Eileen was they may try to hurt her.  Dad said I was stupid.  It only happens to film and pop stars not anybody like us.  Maybe John was the reason handsome, drop dead gorgeous looking guys never impressed me.  They are men just like any other men and if they have nothing but a handsome face what you going to talk about?  All his life he was my best friend.  Years after his death, just before his 66th birthday I still miss him.

Something else factory life taught me was how to smoke a cigarette.  Working at top speed all the time ‘the belt’ was switched off for 5 minute every hour.  If the call of nature called you barely had time to race down the room to the toilets and be back on your chair when it was switched back on again.  It was the only time away from your sewing machine so whether you wanted to use the loo or not you went to the toilet area.  It was a long narrow white tiled corridor with about 20-30 toilet doors facing you and 2 wash basins.  No one was allowed outside the building unless you had a pass from the forewoman in charge of you.  That included the times when the machine needle went straight through your finger.   Try to get out of the door without a pass and the commissionaire would have you shot at dawn.  Standing there with a broken needle hanging off your finger, blood dripping and he’d ask  “Where’s your pass.  You’re not getting out of here without one.”  And he wouldn’t unlock the door.  Thank God there was never a fire.  None of us would have got out if we didn’t have a pass.  The toilets were the only place allowed for smoking too.  Smoking cigarettes was soooo sophisticated.  Long red nails, a burning cigarette and a sultry look on your face worked very well for Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, and Jane Russell.  Not too well on someone with a round face, lots of curly hair and glasses.  I thought I looked pretty good and with it anyhow.  With it, was the phrase before fab, cool cat and man which all the hippies called everyone. I was never a hippie.  They looked scruffy.  I was the tight skirt, stiletto shoes, and beehive hairdo type.  My God didn’t I think I was the height of fashion. And of course smoking made me more elegant.  Also made you dizzy the first time you tried it.  Why couldn’t I have been 12 years old when I first tried it, got sick, had a headache, threw up and cured me for life never to try it again.  No, I had to wait until I was old enough.  “You’ve got to keep practicing Audrey.  You’ll soon get the hang of it.  O it makes you feel so good.”

A lot of years have gone by and I’m still trying to give them up.

 I also decided I wanted to try colouring my hair as well.  A big, big no- no in our house.  According to Mum any female who coloured her hair, painted her nails, wore lots of makeup was in the class of hanging around street corners swinging a handbag.  I had to work atBurtonsto find out what she really was implying.  Some of the girls who worked near us had lovely coloured hair and told us the colour was out of a bottle.  Both Brenda and I had mousey coloured hair.   We talked about it for weeks, looked at endless colour charts on the backs of bottles of hair colour in the chemist shops.  The main concern was: what our mothers would do to us are we every got around to changing the colour.  A very attractive girl called Kathleen Emmett worked near us.  She later married a rugby player called Trevor Whitehead.  I think he was an Australian.   She egged Brenda and me on to buy a colour and said to try a pale shade at first.  We both had long hair, mine curly, hers straight.  Monday morning arrives Brenda bounces in all smiles tossing her hair back.  I said I’d do mine the following weekend.  The brand name was called Colour Glow and we’d chosen Honey Gold.  It looked lovely on the packet.  To be quite honest you couldn’t tell any difference in the colour at all.  We asked Kathleen what had gone wrong.  “You have a lot of hair you should have used 2 bottles, maybe you didn’t leave it on long enough.”  We were scared so we’d only left the solution on 5 minute before rinsing it off.  Kathleen said she left hers on for half an hour.  The next time Brenda said she wasn’t going to play about anymore she was dying her hair red.  She coloured it auburn and WOW what a difference it made.  I asked what her parents had said.  She said her dad was too drunk to notice and her mum said she’d got beyond caring.  I still wasn’t that brave.  My Dad never got drunk; it was Mum we were all scared of.

Sunday morning everyone was out of the house.  Still apprehensive, I must have read the instructions on the bottle a dozen times.  It was a darker colour this time.  When the content of the bottle was on my hair it was dark brown: instant panic.  My hair might fall out, Mam will kill me, wash it off.  It had only been on my hair a minute.  Read the label again; when first applied colour may appear darker than colour chart.  I left it on for 15 minutes.  I couldn’t rinse it off fast enough.  I used an old clean duster to dry it in case any of the colours got onto a towel.  No home dryers then so had to wait until it dried.  Thank goodness the label on the bottle had been right.  I was not a dark brunette just slightly darker than my normal colour.  No one at home noticed any change.  The girls at work did and everyone liked it.  I felt good all day.  Returning home from work Monday night the electric light was on.  A summons of “Come here I want to look at you” from Mum.  Quaking in my shoes I stood near her.  Both hands on my shoulders twisting me this was and that “What have you got on your hair?”  Meek and mild “Nothing”    I hadn’t anything on my hair I’d washed it off.  More twisting from side to side “There’s something different.  If you’ve been wasting money on fancy stuff you’re going to get what-for” A what-for was usually a thump in the middle of the back or a smack round the ear.  Not wanting either I said I’d used a new shampoo.  A look of approval. “Mmm, it’s made your hair shiny.  I might use it, what’s it called?”  My God! What am I going to say?  Simple…. lie.  “It was one Brenda lent me and I’ve given it back to her.”  Something else Mum didn’t approve of was borrowing anything from anybody.  You had to laugh really because Auntie Maggie next door didn’t believe in wasting money so she was forever in our house ‘borrowing’ sugar, milk, eggs, potatoes, bread.  Dad’s wages must have been keeping Maggie in food as well as us.  Of course Mam found the empty Colour Glo bottle in the dust bin when she emptied the ashes from the coal fire.  I managed to keep out of the way of her hand as she ranted at me. My hair was going to fall out or turn green.  How dare I lie to her?  I was going to end up swinging my handbag on street corners and the final

“Don’t you bring trouble here or you’ll be out on your ear.”  By trouble she meant being pregnant.  No one ever used the correct names for body parts or any operations below the waist.  If an unmarried woman got pregnant she’d got herself in trouble, a shot gun wedding meant the day before the wedding the girl was a slut, the day after she was a happily married woman.  No blame what-so-ever attached to the male.  In fact he was praised for ‘doing the right thing and marrying the girl.’    Fat chance I had of having a boyfriend.  I worked amongst thousands of women.  I only had to smile at someone anywhere near home and every person fromCharlton PlacetoDevon Streetwhere Grandma lived who’d seen me would tell Mum.  Mum should have had a job with M I5 she was always interrogating me. 

The magic age of 18 arrived in 1960.  I could go into a pub……legally.  I’d been working for 3 years and joined in with other girls when they went on nights out for someone’s birthday, Christmas, New Year parties or any other nights out someone organized.  Didn’t tell Mum or Dad and stayed at Cousin Norma’s house overnight.  Mum and Dad thought Norma was sensible so it was alright for me to go.  I told them we were going to a picture house near where she lived.  She lived on the Gipton Estate and the nearest cinemas were The Shaftsbury or The Clock.  The White Horse onYork Roadwas a lively place in the 60s.  The Fforde Green was opposite the Clock cinema.  Had to be careful whatever pub I went to.  We had lots of Aunts and Uncles all overLeeds.  Mum had 8 brothers and sisters Dad had 5.  Norma used to have a look inside the pub checking for relatives before I went in.  She was 4 years older than me and more confident.  I wasn’t keen on The Fforde Greene.  The few times we’d been there had been a brawl outside at closing time. It scared the living daylights out of me.  I was scared of the men who wanted to buy drinks for us as well.  The only men I knew were family members and these men were nothing like them.

Watching the Coronation on Black and White TV

Television!  The magic of watching pictures in your own house.  What a wonderful invention.  Crowds used to gather outside electrical shop windows to watch the one television set that was switched on.  I didn’t know anyone who actually owned a set until a few weeks before Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.  Big excitement anyhow as we got a day off school but to be invited to watch it on television WOW.

One of Mum’s brothers lived 4 streets from us in Glensdale Grove, just round the corner from George Henson’s butcher shop on ‘ The Drive ‘   George owned the house, Mary and Tom paid rent to him.  Both Tom and Mary worked full time, Mary at the laundry onEllerby Laneand Tom at the coal yard at the bottom ofEasy RoadoppositeEllerbyLaneSchool.  Dorothy, their only child spent all her time at our house.  She arrived at 7:30 a.m. went toVictoriaschool and came back to our place at 4 p.m. and waited until her parents came home.  We all went to Grandma’s house at lunch time for dinner then back to school for the afternoon.  Along with myself, my two brothers and Dorothy there were two other cousins John and Norma who also had dinner at Grandma’s.  Mum’s sister Eva and her husband Eddie were ill people and frequently in hospital so John and Norma lived at Grandma’s at this time.  We all went to different schools.  My youngest brother Norman and myself at Ellerby Lane, Alan my elder brother at All Saints, Dorothy at Victoria, Norma at St. Bridget’s and John at St. Charles.  Uncle Eddie was catholic so the kids went to catholic schools.  Mum could never remember holy days, days of obligation, fast days or any saint’s days.  She only knew no meat on Fridays and mass on Sunday morning.  Money being tight and food scarce we had plenty of stews at lunch time.  One which Grandma called tatty hash was a favourite.  More potato than anything else.  Everything was on ration and had to stretch as far as possible.  Dad had got his allotments by then and we had onions and cabbage a lot.  Thank God Grandma could cook, Mum was hopeless. 

Two wages coming in at Uncle Tom and Auntie Mary’s meant they could buy stuff from the big shops in town and had a sofa and two armchairs that matched, a polished dining table and chairs,  nice curtains and proper carpet.  Not the clip rugs like the rest of us had.  They also had a proper bathroom upstairs as well.  No indoor toilet just a bath and wash basin.  Of course they got a television before anyone else we knew.  Mary came home from work about 5 p.m. Norman and I were allowed to watch their television from 5 until 6 p.m. then we had to go home.  We had to take our shoes off as soon as we got through the door and sit on the floor in front of the T.V.  Mary was very strict with Tom and Dorothy too.  Tom had to have a bath as soon as he came home.  Working in the coal yard he looked as though he had been down a coal mine.  Like most terrace houses the bedroom steps were opposite the door to the house.  Tom never came into the room; he took his boots off at the door, hung his coat on a peg and went straight to the bathroom.  We kids were always having our hands checked and told to wash them.  Dorothy was taught how to embroider and embroidered linen cloths were over everything, the arms and backs of chairs, table cloth over the polished table, cushions.  If it had a cloth on or over it Mary and Dorothy had embroidered it.  We never ever had anything to eat in their house.  My Dad said Dorothy only went home to sleep.  The neighbourhood kids thought she was my sister.  We looked very much alike and she was always at our place. 

A few days before the coronation Mary told us we could watch the event on their T.V.  We were over the moon and told all the kids at school.  The actual day dawned and my young brother, myself and Mum were dressed in our best clothes to go and watch the T.V.  As always strict instructions from Mum to behave ourselves, speak when you’re spoken to etc.etc.  When Norman and me watched Muffin the Mule on children’s T.V. we were not allowed to move.  If we were told to wash our hands we had to tip toe past the T.V. so we didn’t jar it and send it wobbly.  Tom was the only one allowed to adjust it if it did go wobbly.  He knew as much about it as we did.  He kept mentioning the horizontal hold and we sat there watching wavy lines.  We’d watch anything.  In the early days we watched a lot of ‘ Normal Service will be resumed as soon as possible ‘ and the potter’s wheel going round and round until the problem was fixed at the studio.  Mary was not allowed to dust the set, Tom did it with the corner of a clean men’s handkerchief.  It was a 12 inch black and white set and the centre of attention.

We had to be at Glensdale Grove early Mum said or we wouldn’t get a seat.  Mary had invited all the neighbours.  She must have started making sandwiches and little buns in paper cases at dawn, there were lots of them on the best china plates.  Norman and I took our customary place on the floor.  Mum told us to get off the floor, what did we think we were doing sitting down there in our best clothes.  Heading the warning to behave ourselves we looked toward Mary.  All smiles Mary said   ” What are you doing down there?  You’ll be in the way when everyone arrives.”  We sat in the easy chairs, a treat indeed.  Mum asked who else was coming to watch the coronation.  More smiles Mary ran off a list of names.  Mum’s eyebrows shot up “Where are they all going to sit?”

Mary said everyone would fit in.  Mum mumbled something and the word shoehorn were mentioned.  We giggled and got a punch on the arm from Mum.  Dorothy was dressed in her taffeta party dress arranging cups and saucers in rows on the table.  The neighbour who lived opposite arrived followed quickly by another two ladies, then an elderly couple.  A big fuss was made over them.  Mum squashed Norman and me into the easy chair with her.  There was a never ending stream of people.  People sitting on chair arms. leaning over the backs of easy chairs and sofa, standing near the wall.  It got to the stage where people standing at the door couldn’t get in.  Then Mary said she’d make a pot of tea and told Dorothy to hand round the sandwiches.  Dorothy was nearly in tears she couldn’t get out of the corner of the room to reach the table.  Someone near the plates started handing them over the heads of those lucky or unlucky to have a seat.  We were getting squashed from all angles.  You could only move your hands.  Those standing were shoulder to shoulder and no one dare move their feet ‘cos they’d stand on someone’s foot.   Mary never did get to show off the fancy china cups and saucers as some one would have got scalded with the hot tea and as for passing the tiny milk jug, sugar bowl filled with sugar cubes and tiny sugar tongs they stayed on the table in all their pristine glory.  The plates of sandwiches and small cakes were empty in minutes.  Tiny triangles of bread with the crusts cut off were gone in two bites.  Mary had to push her way through to switch on the set.  No one said a word, all eyes on the T.V.  A man dressed in the ancient uniform read out the proclamation I think it was outside10 Downing Street.  For some reason the national anthem was played. Rugbyscrum time a No. 30 Glensdale Grove.  I have no idea how someone didn’t get seriously injured or suffocated as we all stood up.  You couldn’t breathe.  And of course we kids sang God Save the King.  We were so used to singing it at school.  I can’t remember a lot of what we saw at the time.  It went on for ages and we didn’t have a clue what it was really about.  We wanted to see the crown put on her head. As soon as that happened the national anthem was played again and we were on our feet once more this time remembering to sing God Save the Queen.  It was years later when I saw the coloured version at the cinema I understood it more.  When it was over we escaped into the street grateful to be able to move and breathe fresh air once more.  Mary never did invite all the neighbours to view anything else on her T.V.

 I wonder what happened to that film of the potter’s wheel.