Archive for the ‘East End Park’ Category

Jackie’s Tale

August 1, 2014

Jackie’s Tale

By Mrs Jacqueline Hainsworth (nee Ormiston)

Well, it’s a long time since I played on East End Park, but I remember happy days with our bottle of water and jam butties going up into the hills to watch the trains. I lived in Clark Avenue from birth to 23yrs with my Mam, Gran, and Grandad (who died when I was 11yrs). I remember happy days with our Auntie Nora who also lived with us until she married sometime in the 1940s. It was a real house full but a happy house with good neighbours. My Auntie Flo and her daughter, Margaret, lived next door to us. We would get home from school and skip with an old washing line across the street and all the rest of the kids would come and join in. Then there was bonfire night everybody helped, we went chumping (collecting wood) and Eddie Purdy’s Shop always gave us boxes to burn. Each mam made something: toffee, roast chestnuts, chips from Robinson’s, parkin (I seem to recall my Mam did the parkin) such joy from the simple things. (No health & Safety just caring parents watching over us). Mr Craddock lived opposite, he was the lamp lighter, and we had a lamp at top of street. We went to the pictures a lot; Easy Road (bug hutch) beginning of week, Princess midweek, Star at weekend, it was the best of times only we didn’t know it.
While at Ellerby Lane in 1955 we made a film does anyone remember? You can view the film at Yfa York Yo31 7Ex. It’s very good lots of familiar faces: Jean Fawcett, Moira Kelly are a couple I recognized can anyone help?
Netball at Ellerby Lane: I remember the day we had to play our ‘thorn in the side’ Coldcotes, we never seem to be able to beat them so this was going to be a real grudge match, I loved the game! Marlene Senior and I played in defence position we were also very good friends. Some of the other girls in the team were: Brenda Bradbury, Jean McConnell, Lesley Beverly and Anne Parkin. The whistle went and play began we all played really well and went into the lead, then we fell behind, such a blow, but we didn’t give in. It was a very hard game for Marlene and me, as we had to stop the goals going in. We went back into the lead. What joy! Then Marlene went over on her foot Oh no! We had to play on as together we were a team, so I made Marlene play on I told her not to be so soft, she was in a lot of pain but carried on, my fault entirely. We won the game but not the cup, that didn’t matter we beat Coldcotes! But poor Marlene she had to go to hospital and arrived back at school in pot up to her knee a broken foot. But she forgave me and we remained good friends we still have a giggle about the game and how determined we were to beat that school they were such a good team. They got the cup but our team had the glory!
On a recent visit to Leeds we had a run round East End Park, it brought back to mind the way Clark Ave used to be, the street was so different only the cobbles remain. I went back in time to 1953 the year of the Coronation it was full of excitement, street parties, all the neighbours getting together to make it special we had hanging baskets outside each house and a long table down the street and our mam’s baking & making jelly, trifles, sandwiches. We all got a crown money box (which I still have hidden away somewhere). There was music, playing games, lots of fun and laughter. Time for the Coronation to begin we all piled into Mrs Bernisconi’s we all thought them very rich they had the first and only T.V in the street – it had a magnifying glass on the front of the screen so we could see the New Queen being crowned. Oh the excitement of the day! I don’t know which was best the Coronation or that we had watched telly. Back to the party and the fun and games, it went on all day the weather was kind to us for the best part of the day but the good old English weather let us down for then came the rain! That didn’t stop the festivities we carried on indoors all crammed into Mrs Abbott’s house at the top of the street (her house was really big with a back room and a front room) how posh was that? Finally the day had to end, but it was a good day the street looked so pretty and very colourful with all the flags and bunting, every house had made a great effort to make it into such a special and memorable day, and I think our parents would hope that as I have kept in mind the wonderful day we all had so should everyone else. It was wonderful back there in that street, there was always a good happy feel to it.
The one thing I couldn’t understand on my latest visit to the Clarks is the street seems to have shrunk. Is that possible, or is it the age thing?
JACKIE G (nee Ormiston)

Clark Avenue

Clark Avenue today

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Great Tale Jackie
I don’t suppose there was anything so special about our old East Leeds habitat but it just seemed that it was. Jackie’s tale and Carole’s tale for June epitomises a golden age which makes us long to return there. An old mate tells of how he was playing in the school yard one playtime and a guy mending the road came over with whimsical eye and said to him, ‘Do you know lad these are the happiest days of your life.’ And the mate said I think he was right at that.
I often wander through the old streets where we used to run to school as kids. We at St Hilda’s School would run through the Copperfield’s, the Cross Green’s and the St Hilda’s streets to school. The Ellerby lane kids would run through the Clark’s, the Archie’s and the Easy’s etc and I suppose the Victoria former pupils would run through the East Parks, the Glensdales and Charltons etc. Now those streets seem so bereft. Going back into those streets remind me of the old song: Once upon a time there was a tavern where I would sink a pint or too. It’s about a lonely old woman returning to a tavern of her youth which had been such a fun part of her life but now it was alas, all changed. Once or twice while perambulating St Hilda’s Crescent I have waxed lyrical to present incumbents of the area about its provenance regarding the iconic pantomime Cinderella which was performed by local kids in 1941 in a yard between the houses to raise money for a spitfire. But invariably it falls on stony ground. So forgive me I have penned this poem. I have called it
The Copperfields

Once through these Copperfield’s streets they came,
Laughing and chattering in sun and in rain,
More joined the throng along the way,
Futures bright and hearts so gay,
Others came from different paths
To face English tests and study maths.

Now these streets seem so forlorn
as I wander through them all alone
Fresher fields called all away,
The time had passed to skip and play.
Where they have flown it’s not mine to know
Have their lives been fulfilled?
I’d like to think so.
Indulge me a bit more.
Once in school we had assembly and then off to our individual class rooms. We sat in rows from the front of the room to the back two to a desk, two boys two girls, two boys, two girls etc. We didn’t have homework so we didn’t need to carry anything to school. The school books we kept in the desks which had lift up tops and ink wells. When you got a new exercise book it was a joy and you would try to keep it pristine clean at the start but then your mate that shared the desk with you would lift the desk lid up while you were writing and your book would be spoiled with dirty great blot from the brown powdered ink which filled up the ink wells. No ball pens in those days; it was years later that I saw my first Biro. At 10.30 we would gurgle a gill of milk and then onto playtime and those wonderful playground games.
As I flunked my eleven plus I stayed at the same school, St Hilda’s, with the same kids all way from five to fifteen years. In those ten years we got to know each other very well and became firm friends. But now we are mostly lost to one another: where are they all now? How have they faired? It’s hard enough to keep track of the boys but even harder to keep track of the girls as most have changed their names upon marriage. I hate to think of us drifting out of life without further contact so, next time I catch a leprechaun by the toe I’ll make him reveal how all those good mates faired, before I let him go!

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Finally, Dave Carncross asks if anyone recognises themselves on this picture – he is on there somewhere. He thinks it’s a Bourne Chapel outing in a farmer’s field near Snake Lane. Probably sometime in the late 1940s?

dave's bourne chapel group

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The Chimney Sweep

May 1, 2014

Here’s another great tale from our favourite Aussie Pom,
Audrey Sanderson, (nee Tyres)
Our own East Leeds lass, loving life in Australia, but still has a place in her heart for old East Leeds

THE CHIMNEY SWEEP
I never saw a sweep arrive at anyone’s house with a clean face. Did they deliberately smear soot on themselves to look authentic no matter how early they started work?
Old sheets and curtains were draped over furniture before he arrived. He then unrolled his bundle of poles and the big flat headed brush on the pavement outside the door and put one of his soot stained sheets over the fire grate, anchoring it down around the old black fireplace. The neighbourhood kids gathered outside waiting for the brush to appear out of the chimney on the roof. If there were kids living the house paying for the sweeps services they got a grandstand view of watching him fit the poles together as he pushed the brush up inside the chimney. This procedure seemed to go on a long time to us kids before he told us to go outside and yell when we saw the brush pop up out of the chimney. The kids of the house plus about 20 other kids stood in the middle of the road and yelled their heads off at the sight of the brush. Most of the sweeps would jiggle the brush and twirl it round to amuse the kids.
We were never allowed back in the house until all the poles and brush had been dragged back down the chimney and the bag of soot removed outside.
The entertainment over all the other kids went off to play. We had to go back inside the house to help clean the fine soot that had escaped when the sweep was packing up his gear.
It happened quite frequently but the kids never tired of waiting to see the big brush pop out of the chimney and jiggle about. ,It was a Mary Poppins and Bert antic without the music.
There’s nothing remarkable about the little tale above. Nearly everyone had seen a chimney sweep at work sometime in their childhood. But there wasn’t too many kids in our area who had a mother who took Do-It-Yourself Chimney Sweeping literally.
Nellie was always on the lookout to save a bob or two and said it looked simple enough to fit the poles together, push it up the chimney, twiddle it around a bit to make the kids laugh and pull brush and poles back down again.
When she told Dad what she was going to do he said it was a silly idea and what would she do if the brush got stuck inside the chimney. Both me and my older brother said we could push Norman, our youngest brother, up the chimney as he was small enough to fit. Mum was horrified that me and Alan could think of such a thing and the DIY sweep kit wasn’t mentioned for a while.
When Mum got a bee in her bonnet she never let it rest until someone convinced her her ideas wouldn’t work or she’d do it anyhow and get herself in a hell of a mess and someone had to rectify the problem.
I can’t remember where she had seen the ad. for the DIY sweep kit. Probably a newspaper, it wasn’t the type of ad. you’d see in a woman’s magazine.
We came home from school to find mum on her hands and knees on the floor surrounded by heaps of poles and a large flat headed pristine clean brush all laid out on the brown paper it had been delivered in.
Like a kid with a new toy she screwed the brush to a pole. If you had never been inside one of those small terraced house you can’t imagine how small an area we had to move around in a room with a couch and two easy chairs, an old fashioned sideboard with the big shield shaped 3 mirrors on the back and taking up the space of one wall, a drop leaf table, 2 dining chairs and Dad’s pride and joy an electric radiogram that was a piece of furniture in it’s self and highly polished. We had a space of not much bigger than a hearth rug to walk around in. We 3 kids couldn’t walk anywhere with all the poles littering the floor. We all wanted to have a go fitting the poles together. Mum said we’d bugger up the metal threads at each end of each pole and to leave them alone. Dad wasn’t thrilled when he came home from work, said it was a waste of money and IF she ever did get around to using it she’d have to call the fire brigade to get the brush out of the chimney.
Nellie! Defeated? Not on your life. Can’t keep anything quiet in them little streets. Auntie Maggie, next door told Martha, she told Mrs Toohey who lived opposite, she told Mrs Simpson next door and so it went on down both sides of the street. By the next day the entire East End Park area had heard of the woman who was going into business as a chimney sweep. Mum got cold feet. She didn’t want an audience on her maiden voyage up the chimney. It’s not a kind of job you can do in the middle of the night while everyone is asleep. The big black fireplace not only provided heat from the coal fire in the grate but it also heated up the oven at the side of it and had a trivet that swung over the burning coals to heat the kettle for hot water. All our cooking was done on the fireplace plus it had a big brass fireguard surrounding it to prevent us kids falling onto the open fire and came in very handy for drying the washing when it was raining.
Eventually the morning came when operation sooty became an event. Mum followed the instructions. The brush head had to be fitted first, so far so good, then a pole, then another pole. All had to be turned in a clockwise direction and anti-clockwise when it was being dismantled. Sounds simple enough? All instructions sound simple when you first read them. Same as watching an expert do a job, it looks so easy, anybody can do it.
We 3 kids were told to stand back and not get in the way. We stood near the door, well out of the way of getting legs and ankles clouted by metal poles. Not so far away that we couldn’t see what mum was doing. When there was no more space left to fit anymore poles the brush had to go up the chimney. Alan, who was always cheeky cleared his throat and said ” I name this brush Sweep. God bless it and all who go with it ” Norman and me clapped our hands and Mum with a face like thunder yelled at us to get outside and watch for the brush coming out of the chimney. Outside we went. We waited and waited and waited some more. Alan yelled out ” Can’t see it yet ” Aunt Maggie came out asking what he was looking for. You answered politely when adults spoke to you so he told he he was waiting for the brush to pop out of the chimney. In a flash Maggie was inside our house giving Mum advice. Didn’t hear what she said but heard her yelling at Maggie. Maggie joined us in the middle of the road with faces looking up to the roof.
It didn’t take long before other neighbours came outside to have a look. We went inside to tell mum no need for us to stay outside all the neighbours were looking to see when the brush came out. The sweat was pouring out of her and she was frantically tugging on one of the poles. She told Alan to help her. He’s pushing, she’s pulling, he gets a punch on the arm and she tells him she’s trying to get the bloody thing out not push it up.
Neither of them could budge it one way or the other. The sheets that had been draped over the fireplace had fallen down and soot was falling onto the hearth and billowing out at every fall of more soot.
Nothing worked so Mum said she’d go and get her brother who lived a couple of streets from us. She didn’t react kindly to the smart Alec comments from the neighbours as she marched off to Uncle Tom’s house.
Within minutes they both returned Mum looking relieved and Tom with his shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Uncle Tom along with Mum’s other brothers was a bit of a know all. They were all experts at everything until it came to the crunch then they reverted to if it doesn’t fit give it a thump and it soon will.
We stayed outside in the street with the neighbours having witnessed lots of previous verbal battles between Mum and Tom. Lots of banging from inside the house, Mum yelling at Tom not to twist the poles as he’d unscrew them and the brush would be stuck forever. He yelled back telling her to shut up he knew what he was doing. There was a rumbling noise from within and Mum yelling louder, ” You stupid bloody fool. Look at the mess you’ve made!” Tom yelled back she was ungrateful and he’d got the brush out hadn’t he. She said he’d brought half the chimney down with it as well.
We had visions of a ton of soot covered bricks littering the carpet so we stayed outside. Tom came to the door covered in soot and glared at Martha as she asked if he was going to sing a chorus of, ” Mammy ” It was a song made popular by the singer Al Jolson who wore black face makeup when he sang many songs. No sign of Mum so Maggie went inside the house. She soon came back to the door, hands on hips she said in a raised voice ” Well, don’t just stand there gawking. You’ve had the entertainment, now get buckets and mops and get yourselves in here. She’ll never get it cleaned up on her own before Bert gets home from work.”
No kids allowed as the women brought brooms, mops and buckets and plenty of dusters.
You’d think that would have been the first and last time Mum tried to be the first lady chimney sweep. You didn’t know my mother. Could not stand the humiliation of everyone saying, ” Told you so ” and was more determined to make it work right the next time.
Grandma wasn’t enthusiastic on being told her chimney needed sweeping and Mum was going to do it. Uncle Tom of course had told all the rellies Mum was a lunatic for attempting to do a man’s job. That was like a red rag to a bull as far as Mum was concerned. Grandma’s chimney was going to be swept even if she’d had to climb up inside it and clean it with a hand brush. I’m glad to say the event at Grandma’s went off without a hitch. Of course there was only Mum and Gran to witness how successful it was. The Aunts and Uncles didn’t believe it had gone off smoothly and said Grandma was covering up for the mess Mum had made. None of them took up Mum’s offer to sweep their chimneys so she smugly cleaned our and Grandma’s chimneys on a regular basis. She took great delight in telling them to buy their own sweep kits when they whinged how much the Sweep had charged them to perform the task.
Many years later when the old black fireplace had been replaced with a modern tiled fireplace and a modern gas fire instead of using coal Dad was very pleased. He had the job of getting rid of the soot from the chimney. He had an allotment at the end of Red Road opposite the Bridgefield pub and dumped it on his veggie patch. I don’t know if it improved the structure of the soil but Dad said he could smell the soot for days after dumping it.
The tiled fireplace was easier to clean than the mammoth job of black leading and polishing the old one but not as entertaining.

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Certainly not as entertaining as your great tale, Audrey. Thanks for entertaining us!

Remember the ‘Bug Hutch?’ (The Picture House Easy Road) poster supplied by Mr Gibbins
Of course posters don’t give the year – they’d think we knew what year we were in but Dave ‘googled’ the film and it was released in 1931.’Click’ on picture to make bigger
Just look at those prices!easy rd2

Trainspotting and Washday Blues

April 1, 2014

This month we are treated to a ‘double header’ along with great
‘clip art’ from Eric Sanderson.
Trainspotting and Washing the Blues Away

TRAINSPOTTING
Capture.PNG trainspottin1

This yarn is not a potted summary of Irvine Walsh’s 1993 black comedy, far from it.
It’s more about a youthful hobby which was prevalent in the 40’s & 50’s among young boys (I never knew or saw any girls following this pastime – perhaps they were more sensible) but which now seems to have disappeared, except amongst more serious, adult watchers.
Unfortunately, for those people, the pastime has now acquired a few unpleasant soubriquets such as “Anoraks” , “boring” and even more insulting ones.
But for us, in those times, it was a perfectly acceptable hobby and we were particularly fortunate in East Leeds in being close to not only a main line express track, but also the maintenance & repair sheds at Neville Hill close by the south side of East End Park and so providing lots of activity and adding to your spotting record.

Small pocket books were produced listing all the locomotives belonging to that particular rail company, L.N.E.R ; L.M.S.; G.W. etc as each locomotive had it’s own unique number and many also had names. I think also the booklets separated the locos into different types , but I’m a little hazy on that one.
Our favourite spotting place was at the top of the little ginnel which ran from the bridge on East Park Parade right along the southern boundary of East End Park, all the way to the sheds at Neville Hill. It was there for use by the railwaymen in order to get to work but it was a good vantage point for spotting as it was elevated and easy to spot the express trains were emerging from the cutting which ran down towards Marsh Lane.
Certain locomotives were prized sightings such as Mallard ; Sir Nigel Gresley ; Flying Scotsman & so on and once spotted , they were happily ticked off in your pocket book.

The main line running by EEP was the LNER line, running up the East side of the country to York, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen etc and the express trains would be running at fairly high speed by the time they reached EEP. & often featured some well known names
However, the considerable sidings leading up to the round house sheds saw the locomotives in for servicing or repair trundling by more slowly and many of the “famous “ engines made their appearance from time to time at Neville Hill enabling a good sighting and ticking off lots in you pocket book.

A separate pocket book for L.M.S. was necessary and used for those generally running up the West side of the country and to “spot” those, a visit to the old Leeds Central Station, now no longer there, was needed. I think there was also a maintenance/ repair sheds for LMS locos at Copley Hill in Wortley where sightings were also possible
A train driver was highly regarded in those days but it was also usually resulted in a dirty visage. We had a train driver neighbour ( and a footplate man) and I remember they both used to come home covered in coal dust – hardly surprising given the nature of the combustion system.

At one time, I was the proud owner of a Hornby Dublo trainset , the locomotive being the Duchess of Athol. It had a reasonably good layout which needed the table extensions to accommodate the track & sidings. The problem was that it took so long to set up that by the time you were ready to go, you’re enthusiasm was already all used up.
It had one neat section of track which by flicking a lever, would uncouple a coach whilst on the move , saving you having to stop the set to lift off the coach which could derail the whole train, It was then easy to shunt the decoupled coach into a siding where it could be easily recoupled automatically. See what I mean about boring?.

So although today, trainspotting is the butt of many a cynical jibe, it passed many hours of summertime holiday pleasure for some of us young lads , perched on the buttress of the East Park Parade bridge, excitedly waiting for “the big one”.
I doubt if today’s youngsters would find this pastime attractive when they can spend their time crashing fast cars and exterminating whole civilisations without leaving their armchair.

Capture.PNG trainspotting 2

WASHING THE BLUES AWAY

Capture.PNG new washday clip1

Way back when, washdays were usually restricted to one day a week and were often frantic, hectic times where housewives had to put in a lot of extra work in addition to their normal daily chores. At least that’s how I remember it and sometimes, a little inaccuracy can save a ton of explanation.
I forget now just which day it was for us but everyone seemed to do the weekly wash on the same day and weather played an important part too, as getting the stuff dry, before the days of home driers, was just as important & difficult if the weather was bad.
Several techniques were in use ,ranging from laundries to hand effected washes with rudimentary equipment and sometimes combinations of methods.
The area was served by two laundries, the Times Laundry just opposite the Slip Inn and the Easy Laundry just off Easy Road, both quite large establishments and so must have been popular and widely used as they’d been operating there for many years They both had collection and delivery services and survived ( I think) well into the fifties.
Another popular method was the Wash-house. These Victorian facilities were provided by the local bath houses and resembled an inferno like scene where huge steam heated wash tubs and driers trembled and throbbed away, emitting clouds of steam and condensate . Even so, it was popular as the whole process , except for ironing, could be done in one go, without any mess and steam condensation streaming down the house walls. A problem was the limited number of people that could be accommodated at any one time and such bookings were highly prized and jealously guarded. The usual pattern and a common sight was an old pram , piled high with the weeks washing being trundled along to the wash-house, very often being pushed along by youngsters as a means of earning a little pocket money.
Another very common method was the use of a cauldron of boiling water, either in the kitchen or basement with the washing being agitated by means of a copper or zinc bell shaped device on the end of a pole, called a “posser”, poking and stirring the wash in the cauldron or otherwise the “peggy tub”.
This always resulted in billowing clouds of steam and streaming walls, scalding by the boiling water being not unknown. The finished wash then had to be wrung out, usually by means of a huge hand cranked wringer, passing through several times with increasing pressure being applied to the wringer rollers, at least until the advent of a powered wringer. This was a major labour saving device which was clamped to the sink but did have the hazard of trapping fingers from time to time. The resulting smell of damp & washing powder though, often hung about for days.
More often than not, the washing was then hung out to dry on lines slung across the garden or street. Line after line of drying washing, flapping in the breeze, meant it was a “no go” area for most as if you happened to brush anyone’s washing, a torrent of abuse quickly followed. A collapsing line, trailing the washing on the ground was cause for national disaster.
Some homes had a “clothes horse” suspended from the ceiling on a rope & pulley system , usually close to an open fireplace, which was lowered down to drape the washing over it & then raised to catch the rising warm air to help the drying process.
Starch always seemed to be shovelled in by the spadeful and I still shudder at the over stiff shirt collars which rubbed your neck so sore that fastening your tie was nothing short of torture, especially in hot weather. I couldn’t even imagine the discomfort of men’s detachable , highly starched collars, it always looked like purgatory to me. Even to this day, the use of any other than minimal starch makes me cringe.
Progress came with the gradual introduction of domestic washing machines with debate over the merits of agitator versus spin type ,which had the advantage of partial drying with the high speed spinning drum. Plumbed in washing machines were a real step forward and saw the demise of the more traditional methods.
Then came the ultimate convenience, Laundrettes. The first I remember was in the York Road, on the parade of shops adjacent to Victoria school. They often combined the ability to get the wash done by fully automatic machines whilst at the same time being able do the shopping .
Nowadays, the washing and drying is much less labour intensive and time consuming but so far as I can see, the one aspect which has changed little is the ironing. Apart from the development in the irons themselves, ironing seems to remain the most irksome task for most.
Although at times, it may seem tempting to turn back the hands of time but I doubt if anyone would want to go back to the wash day blues.

 

i capture roning board

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Thanks for those great memories, Eric.

Neville Hill hopper

WENDY’S TALE

October 1, 2013

                                                      WENDY’S TALE

 

                                           East Street Day Nursery.  1956

 

Wendy Carew is our East Leeds lass now living in Perth Western Australia.

Wendy in this tale remembers her days as a helper at the East Street day nursery

 

I was, again, causing a palaver at home. A decision had to be made about my future. Dad thought I should try for University but Mam wanted me to leave and find work .To be fair to my mother she had worked all her life as a seamstress and constantly tried really hard to make ends meet. The thought of supporting me through more years of education was not her idea of the future.  What a thorough waste of time, my mother kept repeating, for a girl to have “ideas above her station” after all marriage and motherhood, for me, was just around the corner and a University degree wouldn’t help bringing up the kids.

So, to keep the peace, I left my prestigious High School (Lawnswood) at fifteen. Facing the stern Headmistress, Miss Holden, on my own was daunting. She was extremely angry and had hoped I would ‘go on to do great things’ but what could I do? Trapped by my mother’s expectations and my father’s constant quiet surrender I left being a schoolgirl and went to look for work. Thank – goodness I was hopeless on a sewing machine or I would have been accompanying my mother to the huge Montague Burton’s clothing factory down York Road.

I applied to Leeds Corporation for work as a Nursery Nurse. To day it would be called a Kindergarten Helper.

Leeds Corporation had opened a few child-minding nurseries for working mothers and the nearest one for me was along East Street on the outskirts of the city.

Children, as young as babies and up to pre school could be left to be cared for five or perhaps six days a week (I cannot remember if we opened on weekends). I was accepted and began my first job at the East Street Day Nursery.

This Day Nursery was operated from a beautiful old house quite out of place in the surrounding location. Because of its close proximity to the city centre this area had absorbed a huge influx of Irish and Russian immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century and therefore had become extremely overcrowded and very unhygienic. I think the area was called The Bank.

I never enquired but just assumed the house had been the ‘manse’ (the vicarage) for St. Saviours Church situated on Ellerby Road in the suburb of Richmond Hill. Behind the church, on a downhill slope, was the church graveyard and further down beyond the graveyard was this beautiful house, which fronted onto East Street.

Let me describe my workplace, this grand detached house.

It was red brick and three stories high with lots of chimneys. The third story being two attic rooms under the tile-covered roof where, in the ‘hay day’ of the house, servants would have slept.

The front entrance had bay windows each side. Each window and the glass in the door contained beautiful coloured lead panels, which threw a rainbow glow into the interior hall when the sun shone through.

A Large central staircase with polished carved wooden banisters swept upwards in the foyer splitting to left and right when half way to the first floor. To me, growing up in the Charlton’s and on the Rookwood council estate this was a grand old house. I didn’t pretend I owned the place I just thought I was privileged to work there.

A concealed back corridor and stairs allowed movement from the ground floor kitchen and washhouse along to the large dining room and up to the 1st landing door to service bedrooms and further up to the servants small attic rooms. These stairs allowed the maids to bring food, linen and coal to each room without disturbing the owners of the house. Of course when I worked there these stairs were a quick way to take ashes and dirty clothes down to the laundry and clean linen and coal up to where they were needed.

I was accepted as a trainee and began my first job. Used to criticism at home I was like a young puppy when praised and would cheerfully try to do my very best the next time around.

We worked a forty plus hour week and in shifts. Early morning ‘starts’ (7-30am) or late night ‘finishes’ (8pm). My wage was three pound five shillings handed to me in a small manila envelope, which I eagerly accepted each week. I would hide my wage in a pocket in my navy blue bloomers so no one could pinch it.

When arriving home my sealed wage packet was immediately handed over to my mother, as was the custom at that time.

She allowed five shilling for myself, enough money if I was careful, to buy a lipstick, pair of nylon stockings and tram fare for the week. Any left over pennies were placed into savings for shoes, clothes and pocket money.

Now I was working and earning my own money I had thoughts of leaving home and going to swinging London. My father, horrified, announced “only BAD girls went to London” and “no daughter of his….etc…etc.”

So here I was in Leeds, either catching a tram to the city to work or walking through the streets to work. In Spring and summer if I had a 10am start I would walk from Rookwood Avenue down Osmonthorpe Lane, cut along Ings Road and skirt along the perimeter of East End Park cut down Accommodation Road to St. Saviours Church and then down to East Street.

We thought nothing of walking miles in those days. When I attended Osmonthorpe Primary School I would walk home to Rookwood Ave, have tea and then walk up to my library at Cross Gates change my books and walk home again.

Cutting through the streets to work, if the weather was good, I would walk through row upon row of sooty black ‘back to back’ terrace houses with their cobbled roads, maze of dark alleyways, ginnel’s, outside lavatory’s and smelly overflowing middens.

I was never afraid, alert but not afraid. If I felt danger and screamed many doors would open and whoever threatened me would feel the wrath of a street full of residents ready to come to my aid. Besides, because of overcrowding in the majority of homes, the streets were always full of kids playing, washing being pegged out, neighbours gossiping and men going to and from work or the Pub.

If my shift started at 7-30am in the morning, especially in late autumn or early winter when the mornings were dark, or full of snow I would rise early to catch a tram to town. Alighting at Marsh Lane (other side of York Road to that of Quarry Hill flats) I would trudge under the railway bridge towards Leeds Parish Church. Keeping left along Crown Point Road I would again turn left when I came to East Street.

East Street, before the war consisted of factories and small workplaces but because of bombing during the 2nd world war the houses and run down business’s now lay on open ground in a heap of rusted tin, broken glass and scattered piles of smashed brick and rubble.

A fair way along East Street was my place of work, East Street Day Nursery.

In winter, with snow boots, thick coat, hand knitted woollen scarf, gloves, and knitted bonnet I would trek, head down against the blizzard of snow, passing grim soot covered factory’s, scrap heaps and bomb damaged buildings, eager to get inside this welcoming house. I would leave my outdoor clothes in the attic bedroom and because the heat hadn’t yet reached the attic I would very quickly put on my uniform and rush downstairs to the warmth of the kitchen.

A quick cup of tea toast and jam, and I was ready for my working day.

Five days a week the busy kitchen would have the aroma of food being prepared. Vegetables and Meat cooking, biscuits, bread and scones baking. A large black kettle was forever bubbling away on a humongous black-leaded stove.

Tea was brewed in those days. Tea leaves were spooned into a large teapot ‘One for each person and one for the pot’ was the saying when we made a fresh brew.

Coffee was not the drink of choice with the working class in those days being a new fangled drink and more expensive. Tea leaves could be brewed and brewed again and again until they were tasteless. At this point they were place in a bucket and used to dampen fires to a glow if the rooms became too hot or could be used to reduce a fire to a glowing ember overnight at home leaving it ready to rekindle into flame when the first early riser in the house came downstairs.

The Tweenies.

I was only working there a couple of months when my diligence was dually noticed and I was placed in charge of the ‘tweenies’.

The children in my care were between nine months and eighteen months old. They were considered too old for the baby nursery, and too young for the rough and tumble play amongst the two to five year olds.

Remember I was only fifteen with no experience of young children but it was thought, because I was female, it was a skill I had been born with.

When, in cold weather, I was rostered on early morning shifts, my job was to light a coal fire in my small ‘tweenies’ room before the mothers arrived.

I had prepared the fireplace the night before by raking out the hot cinders, removing the build up of ash under the grate making sure the fire grate was now empty and clean. We had to be so careful there was nothing in the grate in case anything caught fire during the night.

Placing ash and cinders in the coal shuttle I would take it down the back stairs and out to a cinder patch in a safe corner of the garden.

I would then fill the coal shuttle with coal and coke (similar to coal) from the cellar, gather chipped wood and rolled newspapers and carry this up the back stairs to my ‘tweenies’ nursery and leave ready by the fireplace for the start of a brand new day.

Our nursery was situated in a very poor area and only working mothers could afford to place their child in our council subsidised care.

Many of the children arrived covered in lice and nits. I would spend time each day washing each child and running a nit comb through its hair.

With nits in those days a foul smelling solution went on first to kill the eggs and the ‘fine tooth comb’ was to comb the eggs out, which we would crack between our thumbnails. It was difficult to remove eggs from the eyelashes. The children would squirm and wriggle around but I would persist wanting to surprise the mothers, when they arrived in the late evening, with a clean child to take home.  Next day of course they would turn up reinfested and dirty and the process started again.

I loved my job even though it was very long hours. I loved it because the mothers complimented me when they came to collect their clean happy well-fed children. Always criticised for what ever I did at home I was yearning and needy for a compliment and a ‘pat on the back’.

In the winter, night descended around four pm.

When the last mother had collected her child around eight pm we (I say we because there had to be two staff rostered on an evening for safety) would lock up the nursery would quickly walk in the dark, past silent factories and pitch-black waste ground, all the way into town.

Gas street lamps were on at night but they delivered very little illumination. Going home in the dark in that area and towards town when the factories were deserted was very frightening and we would walk very close to each other. Sometimes a ‘bobby’ would be doing his rounds on foot and would walk with us until we reached city lights.

Remember, by now I had just turned sixteen but it was a different era and if working we were expected to be adults.

Looking back and looking at photo’s of East Street in the nineteen fifties, I think of that young lass walking up East Street to work eager to earn three pounds five shillings a week.

My heart goes out to her and I smile because I’ve survived, prospered and have led such an interesting life.

I have a lot to thank Leeds for. It gave me tenacity; ambition and the ability to get straight back up when the many tragedies and defeats knocked me to the ground. Leeds trained me with tough love and then sent me into the world and with those skills I survived.

Wendy Carew's pic of nursary

 

Wendy, with children at the East Street Nursery. Behind them is the boundary wall of St Saviour’s grave yard.

*************************************************************

Great tale Wendy – thanks for sharing it with us. Can we help Wendy? She would love to know more about the history of the building which housed the East Street Day Nursery in the 1950s/60s. It was a detached red brick house, not a plain building. It had once been a grand family built house with attics for servants and quite grand for its day, especially in the area it was situated. Wendy believes the Toch H organisation owned the building in the 1950s and they leased it to the Leeds Corporation who in turn used it as a child minding centre. It would be wonderful if it triggers anyone’s memory. Come on ask around for Wendy.

 

Last month’s pic was of course the iconic Richmond Hill School

 

How about The pic for this month. Where was it? red walls picture

 

 

Good Old Snakey

July 1, 2013

Good Old Snakey

A love affair with two tatty old football pitches.

By Pete Wood

‘Snakey’ is a field but not just any old field Snakey is the field for generations of East Leeds lads. What with the football and cricket not to mention the courting we probably spent more happy hours on that pair of scruffy pitches than any other piece of ‘God’s good earth’

My early recollection recall ‘Snakey’ – proper name ‘Snake Lane’ – as being bounded by: Black Road, Red Road, Cross Green Lane and the winding track which was Snake Lane itself and from whence came its name. My own introduction to ‘The beautiful game’ was when my mam finally allowed me to walk up the tiny ‘Red Road’ from Knostrop to watch those great giants of the late forties who graced its pitches. St Hilda’s in their claret and blue squares and Mount St Mary’s in their white and green squares shared the bottom pitch Saturdays about. Bob Bates ran the St Mary’s teams for years, years and more years. Bob was ‘a prince among men’ I can see him now marking the pitch out in lime before a Saturday match – they didn’t play on Sundays in the forties. Bob was a tailor by trade and always well turned out. On windy days the lime would be blowing back into his eyes and a white residue would cover his good suit. He was the type of guy who really deserved the MBE.

The ‘Yew Tree’ in their blue and white vertical strips and the ‘Bridgefield’ shared the top pitch followed in the nineteen fifties/early sixties by teams from the East Leeds Working Men’s Club’s teams who did old Snakey proud in their black and white. Their lads lovingly christened it; ‘The Snake Pit’, not many teams took points away from the Snake Pit.

Rhubarb fields covered the areas later dominated by the school (that too now gone) and the industrial estate. This left just enough room for the two football pitches and beyond them the ‘Paddy line’? The bottom field was my own personal favourite, our school played its matches on there and on sports day we ran our races on there. Some older folk even referred to Snakey as; ‘St Hilda’s field’. I believe at one time the field had probably been under church ownership and they had held a big ‘Whitsuntide’ field day on there, annually.

I can still remember some of the names of that St Hilda’s open age team of the immediate post war period: Denis Wardle, Bill Sedgewick, Alfie Duckworth, Freddie Earnshaw, Chic Reynard, Kenny Cope and Jewel in goal. Sometimes the team sheet would be put up in the sweet shop window opposite the school. These guys were giants without shin pads and had to wear huge boots in order to propel the rock hard leather footballs, often stretched far too large by over inflation and a potential health hazard to the poor centre halves whose job was to head them away from goal. Do I just image that everything was so much bigger then? Certainly those huge leather balls made a mighty ‘thwack’ when they hit the woodwork. When you watched them play on very cold days your toes took an electric shock if the ball came your way and you took the opportunity to kick it back into play. On very cold days it was not unknown for the ball to sprout icicles. One particular day a tiny little chap in a flat cap was standing on the touchline – the poor old lad was only about five foot tall and must have been quite as cold as us kids, someone took a swipe at the ball and it caught him full in the clock eclipsing his head altogether, such was the power of the kick that it spun him right over like a Catharine Wheel. It’s an awful long time ago now but the sight of it has stayed with me all this time it looked so painful.

That forties side looked so big they made the pitch look small and how powerful and hard tackling they were! The lads who play on Snakey today look big and powerful too. The strange thing is, that in between when our generation were custodians of old Snakey – and I played for six different teams on there – we didn’t seem to be big or the tackles hard at all! I suppose when you are actually playing you don’t notice the ferocity of the game.

Back to the forties – Snakey had two dressing rooms – one in the bottom corner and another at the top near to the prize-winning bowling green – infamously churned up one night by Peter Smith’s greyhounds. Both dressing rooms were made out of pink terra cotta tiles and inside a bucket of water provided the extent of the first aid kit and a half time drink. There was a drinking fountain springing out of the wall on the top dressing room, it had an iron cup chained to the wall, everyone and his dog drank out of that iron cup – can you imagine the germs? But I don’t think anyone ever went down with the plague. Without light the insides of the dressing rooms were as black as Hades. Three or four grass tennis courts ran parallel with the ‘Paddy line’ at the top but they were at the tag end of their lives as early as I can recall. The bowling green and the putting green are of course long gone as is the sigtht of the puffing Paddies: Kitchener, Dora, Jubilee and later Antwerp and Sylvia. Where are they now? The line of trees which shielded the bowling-green from the south-westerly winds are all but gone, the exposed ring system on their stumps hark back to the early fifties when the whole recreation ground was a thriving piece of paradise.

In early spring we had the odd special day for school sports day and Whitsuntide finery but for us Snakey was more than just an occasional day; it was the staple diet of our lives broken only by the odd intrusion for things like; The War for older lads and National Service for us, otherwise we played on consistently throughout the years from the age of about ten years old until well into our thirties.

We would play fifteen/twenty a side and more, if you turned up you were always sure of a game. It didn’t matter how good or bad you were nobody was ever turned away from old Snakey. We would begin by a couple of lads electing themselves as captains. They would toss a coin for first pick and then take it turns to select the rest. It made way for good equal and competitive sides and you got to know how good you were on account of how early on in the selection process you were picked; there was no hiding place for big egos with this selection process, especially when those who thought they were the ‘bees knees’ were left until nearly the last to be chosen. Lads turning up after we’d started would be paired up one for each side. Of course those turning up late had to deal with the fact that as all the players were atired in a rag, tag and bobtale aray of gear  it took quite a while to suss out who was on your side and who was the enemy. There was often a great gulf of difference in ability and often a full generation gap in ages. If you were a young ‘un you were likely to get ‘flattened’ but you didn’t worry and it was all good therapy and although we hadn’t benefit of a referee it was engineered that anyone who was consistently dirty would meet a sticky end. In the event of a foul we’d likely have a committee meeting. The score would begin to mount until it got into the late teens or twenties when it became easy to loose count of the score, someone would say, ‘What score is it?’ If you had a convincing voice you might say, ‘Twenty three – twenty two to us’, at which the outraged reply might go, ‘How did it get to that score, we were winning nineteen eighteen a minute ago?’ If it got too one-sided someone on the losing side would say, ‘Swap us so-and–so for so and-so, we’ve got a real load of old rubbish on our side.

We never knew when to pack in; we’d play until it was too dark to see the ball. Someone on the winning side might say, ‘We’ll finish when the paddy train gets to the goal posts’. Someone on the losing side wanting more time to draw level might disagree and they’d almost come to blows, we were very competitive about the score. I was daft enough to try to think up methods of how we could play on after it got dark (no floodlights then of course) like putting a light inside the ball. How sad is that. We were gutted when the ‘dark nights’ came along.

Occasionally we would have an ‘away day’ and play on Oxley’s pitch which was down Black Road or on The Railway’s pitch at Knostrop or perhaps on East End Park. There was as many playing on East End Park on Sundays as on Snakey. They had a similar set-up to ours; sometimes you would get professionals joining in, like Jackie Overfield or Mike O’grady. I’m sure their clubs would have been aghast at the injuries they risked for they were offered no special consideration and were just as likely to be kicked up in the air as anyone else – but after all we all know how hard it is to resist joining in when you hear the ‘thud’ of a football and see a group of guys kicking a ball around.

Periodically we would have phases were certain lads would get a team together and if you were lucky they might ask you to play for them. I recall Ron Ellis’s team, Eddy Pawson’s team, Vic Wilson’s team etc. You had to keep well in with these lads to ensure you were picked. The Falmouth and Bridgewater streets ran their own team called ‘The Buildings’. One Sunday afternoon that I particularly remember we had an away fixture – I think we were playing for Ron Ellis’s eleven that day and we had arranged to play a scratch team miles away up at Adel on the pitches called ‘The Bedquilts’. We must have been daft attempting to go all that way in mid-winter, it necessitated two bus rides and at that time of year it was dark by four o’clock! It was nearly dark by the time we arrived there. Anyway, we made a start, we didn’t have any proper kit just boots and socks pulled over the bottom of our trousers. I bet we hadn’t had more than a dozen kicks at the tatty old football when it burst and not having a spare we had to turn round and make the long journey home again.

When the school team had a match we’d get changed behind one of the goals. They didn’t even bother to open the dressing rooms for us and as for showers; they were things of the future. If it rained our own clothes got wet upon the ground but we didn’t care you were just so proud to be playing for the school. There was an extra bonus if you were picked for the school team; you were allowed to wear the team jersey to school on the day of the match, some lads managed to extend the time they wore the jersey to a week before they got told off. The first match I ever played for the school team was against Mount St Mary’s, it was in the intermediate age group; I’d be about ten. All the previous week I’d dreamt about us winning and me having a great game, when the day itself arrived we lost six nil and I was rubbish – I usually was. There were no cars to take us to away games – we had to go by public transport.

I suppose everyone who ever played on old Snakey has at least one magic moment, mine was scoring a freak goal from my own penalty area, I saw the ball comingCapture.PNG paddy

towards me and I just hoofed it back up in the air and it dropped over the head of the little schoolboy goalie in the bottom goal. In the professional game the pundits go wild if someone scores a goal kicked from their own half but even a school boy can get lucky with a kick like that, a really skilful goal is when a guy dribbles past half the team like Sedgwick, Monk and Whitehead could do on old Snakey and Eddie Gray did for Leeds United against Burnley in the 19760s. But I digress; this account is to be in praise of old Snakey.

In summer we played cricket on the same pitch as we’d played football, in fact we pitched the wickets on the bald patch in front of the bottom goal – it was the only level bit on the whole field. Such was the state of the ground the ball could either fly in any direction or just ‘grub’ – grub means when the ball sticks tight to the ground. You usually had ‘em with a fast straight ‘grubber’. We once won the School’s Cricket Cup playing on Snakey as our home ground. Ellerby Lane School were our main rivals that season and their lads were so confident they were going to beat us (they usually did at everything) that they didn’t even bother to pad up, but we managed win on that occasion in a low scoring game and managed to bruise a few shins in the process for their audacity in not wearing pads. There were a few really low scoring games on Snakey; like the time St Charles’s were put out for three runs and another time when Kenny Holmes of Ellerby Lane took four wickets in four balls – all bowled – I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d were all ‘grubbers’.

One of the stranger rules of school cricket at our level was: if a team managed to score fifty runs they would ‘suspend’ their innings and let the other team go in. In the unlikely event of the other team passing their score the first batting side could resume their innings at the end. If the game dragged on one could observe the bizarre sight of lads having to leave the field of play in order to satisfy their paper round. Anyway winning the cricket league entitled us to receive the Livingston Cricket Cup. When the trophy finally arrived at the school we were all excited and readied ourselves to have the team photo taken with the trophy. We were expecting a huge cup for our efforts and couldn’t believe it when the headmaster laughingly produced it from his inside pocket. It was about the size of an eggcup. To be fair; cricket never held the same magic in our lives as did soccer but it just about managed to occupy us on old Snakey between football seasons.

One game of football which stands out in my memory, was a game played for St Hilda’s in the open age of the Church League. It was the last match of the season and if we won we won the league. The league officials were there with the shield in order to present it to us in the event of our victory. I always thought parading a trophy before it was won was tempting fate and there was a good chance of that happening on that occasion for if we failed to win then it would be Methley who would win the league and their lads had turned up in force to cheer on our opponents, who happened to be Pudsey. Anyway kick off time arrived and only seven of their players had turned up, you could start a game with seven so naturally we were eager to get started and crack in a couple of goals before the rest of their lads arrived. This would surely have happened if it were not for the league officials becoming involved. ‘We’re sure St Hilda’s, sportsmen that they are, would not want to take advantage of this situation, so we’ll ask them to hold the kick off until the rest of the Pudsey team arrives’, said their spokesman. So we had to bite our tongues and wait for the rest of their team to turn up. This was not what we had in mind at all! Worse was to follow, when their team was at last up to strength we realised that they were about to play their first team who didn’t have a match and normally played in a higher league than ours. This change in our fortunes delighted the observing Methley lads who could now see the trophy coming in their direction. In the event it all ended happily for we managed to beat them anyway and had a great booze up in the ‘Bridgefield’ that night to celebrate our victory. Later we were presented with a further trophy for being ‘the most sporting team of the season’ on account of our willingness to wait for the opposition to arrive in such an important match. It’s a good job they didn’t know what we really had in mind.

So we progressed from being young lads who had to leave Snakey and go home when the church bells rang at half past seven into young men turning up in motor cars, still to play twenty a side on old Snakey but then retiring to the pub. I seem to remember ‘The Prospect’ being a favourite watering hole after training for many a year. By the time the sixties arrived Sunday morning football was in full swing. Playing on a morning usually meant the weather would be brighter than Saturday afternoon football, but occasionally there would be morning fog, we were so keen that the game wouldn’t be cancelled that I can recall running around waving my arms about trying to disperse the fog. Being Sunday morning it obviously followed on from Saturday night. Lads would turn up after having a heavy night on the town, there were certain lads who could spew their hearts up at the side of the pitch before the game began and still turn in a performance that I couldn’t have matched even if I hadn’t had a drink for a month. These are just a few of my personal memories, I bet every lad who played on old Snakey has his own nostalgic ‘Boy’s Own’ accounts.

As the years went by and I moved away from the district I imagined my love affair with Snakey had finally run its course until joy of joys by a stroke of luck my lad started playing for a club whose home pitch was Snakey. Quite a coincidence, I’d go along there and enjoy watching him play sometimes. Trouble was I became a bit outraged when they complained about the state of the pitch. ‘Pitch is rubbish’ they would say. Well bloody hell! They’re out of order. If Snakey was good enough for us and for those heroes who came before us then it was certainly good enough for them and the tripe they turned out. Anyway I would regularly go along and enjoy watching their matches, sheltering when it was a wild day behind the trees that still bowed away from the southwesterly wind. Sometimes I’d be seeing the game being played in front of me and sometimes my mind would wander off and I’d be watching those twenty a side games played a long time ago between lads whose worlds were still young and their futures still an adventure in prospect and I would ponder where were they now and did they too, spare a thought now an then for old Snakey?

The bottom pitch has gone completely now, sacrificed to the new East Leeds Express way but there is a beautiful new rugby pitch on the site of the ‘top pitch’ – all levelled off and complete with a barrier to keep spectators at bay. I’m still regaled to watch sport on there, occasionally, as the East Leeds Amateur Rugby League Club plays its matches on there and I watch in wonderment, along with my peers, at the size and fitness of the present generation. They are bigger and fitter than ever and the game is played at such a ferocious pace you wonder how you ever managed to play the game yourself – albeit a long time ago – and take all those knocks!

snakey today

Last month’s picture? Ellerby Lane School of course.

How about this building? Did anyone else meet their life’s partner here?brenda majestic

I’m sadened to announce the passing of Gerry Thrussell – he was a great guy. His tale is on here on february 2011

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.

******************************

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.

Arthur and the Divebomber

July 1, 2012

   ARTHUR and THE DIVEBOMBER

By Eric Sanderson

 

Eric’s tales always entertain us and this is one of his best

 

Arthur Crabbe was a good friend of ours (but is sadly no longer with us) & lived lower down East Park View, quite close to the park. Arthur’s family were stout Roman Catholics & one of his daily tasks was to fetch a bottle of holy water for his elderly neighbour, Mrs Orbell who was an even more devoted worshipper and always dressed in black from head to foot.

Now St Patrick’s was a fair old walk from where Arthur lived & as he became older, grew increasingly exasperated with this chore. The solution came to him one day, – he decided to call at our house in Charlton Rd (which was a couple of hundred yards away from Mrs Orbell, far enough to avoid detection) & fill his holy water bottle from the tap .This practice of his continued for some time, Mrs Orbell was none the wiser and remained very happy with her daily replenishment of “holy water” , frequently blessing Arthur for his devoted unselfishness. However, his ruse was discovered & he had to face the music from his strict parents. He was made to do penance by “volunteering” his services to the church for quite some time but I don’t think Mrs Orbell ever did find out that she’d been using common or garden tap water instead of the blessed variety.

Arthur was a little older than most of us & started work some time in 1953/4.The week he drew his first wage packet also coincided with the York Road Fair which was held at the top of Torre Rd. Like all of us, he never had much money & this was the first time ever that he was “flush” & couldn’t wait to get out & spend.

That evening, a few of us, waiting for him outside his front door narrowly avoided death or worse when their attic window frame (which his older brother was replacing), slid from the roof & crashed to the floor literally inches away from us. Whew, a number of East End Park’s finest nearly wiped out at a single stroke.

Undeterred, off we all went to the fair & Arthur headed for the divebomber, the ride with the huge, windmill style rotating arm with a spinning “cockpit” at each end, He climbed in & his cockpit slowly rotated to the top so that the other one could be filled. Unfortunately, when he was at the top, he was also upside down and his newly acquired wealth began to fall from his pockets, dropping to the ground in the “flight path” of the divebomber. Arthur was distraught but had to endure a few more minutes of being hurled around on this fearsome ride before being able to do anything about it.

On disembarking Arthur rushed to the operator, asking him to stop the ride for several minutes so that he could scavenge for his lost fortune. The ride operator had little sympathy but said that he could crawl on his hands & knees to look for his money, at his own risk, whilst the ride continued to operate. Arthur decided he had little option & taking a huge risk, did just that. I don’t think he realised just how dangerous it was, had the braces holding up his trousers caught on any of the divebomber’s projecting parts, he would have been hurled into lunar orbit, never to return.

Amazingly, he recovered most if not all of his cash but his enthusiasm for the fair had disappeared, so he & a couple of us decided to go to the cinema instead. The Princess in Pontefract Lane was the favoured venue & to celebrate his rite of passage to manhood, he purchased 10 Capstan Full Strength for we three to share whilst enjoying the film from the cheap seats.

There we sat, luxuriating in the pungent aroma and managed to finish off the whole packet before the end of the film.

Walking home, conversation became increasingly less animated & eventually petered out as we became greener around the gills by the minute. Close to home, we passed Mrs Jones’ house at the corner of Welbeck Rd & East Park View. She had a wide, farm style gate at the bottom of her path, convenient for us all to hang over it and begin synchronised projectile vomiting. It must have been funny to see three youths, throwing up the contents of their stomachs firstly together & then in sequence like a well rehearsed orchestra, the sight of one encouraging the others to continue ‘til there was nothing left to bring up.

But, salvation came in the form of Mrs Jones mongrel dog,Roy, coming to our rescue by trotting down the path & lapping up the whole sorry mess.

The following day,Roysuffered a severe bout of febrile convulsions & Mrs Jones said “it was probably something he’d eaten”. Curiously,Roy never came anywhere near us after that.

As for the three of us, well, we were certainly cured us of the smoking habit but I think Arthur did return to it later in life.

The episode of my new shoes will bring this yarn to a close.

I’d just acquired a new pair of shoes that day,  shiny, fake leather light brown affairs which makes me shudder to think of now, I’d purchased them from Stylo inYork Rd for about 7/6d.

They were splashed by the aforementioned acidic expulsions from our stomachs and developed a scabrous appearance, not at all what you’d want to see on a brand new pair of shoes.

My mother asked what had happened & I told her that I thought it had been caused by rain.

She immediately returned to Stylo with them explaining what had happened. “But“, said the shop assistant,” it hasn’t rained for over a week”.

“There you are then” said mum, “they’ve must be faulty because they’ve developed this rash without even being rained on “

Faced with such unassailable logic, what option did the hapless assistant have except to exchange the shoes for a new pair?

Phew Eric! I wonder what th (more…)

Kenneth’s Tale

June 1, 2012

Kenneth’s Tale

I saw a gentleman looking reverently at St Savour’s Church. He looked the age of one who could have enjoyed good old East Leeds in its heyday. I unashamedly mugged him for his memories and he was kind enough to send me this account 

Kenneth, who attended St Saviour’s school wishes to point out that any old school mates will know him as: Kenneth Hawkins, as he only took on the name: Heptinstall, after he had tragically lost both parents and been legally adopted by his grandparents close to the time he left school.

 

                          The Memories of Kenneth (Hawkins) Heptinstall

                                                 ***********

I was a pupil at St Saviour’s School and I would walk to school along the Low Fold, which was a path that ran alongside the river from the old Suspension Bridge whereSouth Accommodation Roadcrossed the river, to come out inEast Streetclose to school. In the early days I would enjoy watching the horses towing the barges along the river by means of a long rope Later the horse gave way to tugs which pulled several barges loaded with goods of one kind or another.

            The part of East Leeds where I lived in from 1924 to circa 1936 seemed vast to me as a child. It included the Bank area, Cross Green,Richmond Hill,East EndParkand other areas in the vicinity. There was much poverty about but to us children the streets, yards, ginnels, and bits of spare ground were there for our enjoyment, we used them to the full. The area had lots of small shops and a few large ones such as the Co-op, Gallons and the Maypole but nothing like today’s supermarkets etc. Churches seemed to dominate the area: St Hilda’s, St Saviour’s, Mount St Mary’s, All Saints as well as the chapels. There were schools to all the churches, some other schools were non-church schools such asRichmond HillandEllerby Lane. Scouts and Girl Guides were part of the churches, with Boy’s Brigades belonged to the chapels. One of my memories was of the Boy’s Brigade marching from the chapel to the bottom ofEllerby Laneon a Sunday after the service and we children would march alongside them on the pavement.

            There were also lots of pubs: The Black Dog, fisherman’s Hut, Cross Green, Spring Close, The Hampton, Prospect and Yew Tree. The landlord of theHamptonat one time was Dolly Dawson who was a member of the famous Hunslet Rugby League team. There were several cinemas in the area: Easy Road, Princess, Victoria inYork Road, and the Premier inSouth Accommodation Road– the Victoria later became: The Star.

            I was christened at St Hilda’s but I attended St Saviour’s school. It was a good school and I thought the teachers to be strict but dedicated. Being a mixed school there were separate classes for girls and boys but being a church school we started together for assembly, prayers, hymns and scripture lessons. Mister Ridley was the headmaster; we did plays under his guidance. He was in amateur dramatics and I think he thought doing plays would give us the confidence to speak out. Other teachers also became involved. There was one gentleman called Mr Smith who was a top man at Ringtons Tea and he too had been a pupil at St saviours School. He knew that children that attended the school were from poor backgrounds and twice a year: Christmas Day and Empire Day (which was celebrated in those days) he would send round sweets and on Empire Day a medal bearing the king’s head. In one of the plays we did we were Sikhs and all in Indian dress. The girls helped with the costumes and the boys with the scenery. When Children’s Day came along a van was hired, the scenery from the play was erected and placed on the vehicle then we dressed in the costumes and a sign advertising Ringtons Tea was displayed around the sides of the vehicle. We then joined the parade from the city centre up toRoundhayPark.   

            When St saviours Church was built the tower was left off, we were left to believe that his was due to the ground being on a hill making the foundations risky. We were also told it was due to lack of money, which I think was more likely. However the tower was added in the thirties. I was told it was Mr Smith of Rintons who provided the money. When the church was built it would have been in grey stone but due to fogs and industry it became dark, the tower stood out after being added as it was in the original grey but as can now be seen, due to air conditions over the years this now looks no different.

Some of the things I remember

People putting bread cakes on the windowsill to cool, lines of washing hung across the street that was hauled up when horse and carts came along the street, men walking up the streets cap in hand singing, a man with a tingaleri who sometimes let us wind the handle while he went and knocked on doors for donations, Walls ice cream carried on a three wheel bike. Sometimes if we helped push him up the hill he would cut one of his triangular ice creams in two for helping. Some of the lads had bogeys made of a short plank and four wheels, the front held on by a vertical bolt which enabled it to be steered. Also a steel ring like a large wheel which we rolled along pushed by a steel rod shaped like a hook which fitted round the rim and enabled it to be pushed and steered whilst running alongside it. Marbles or ‘tors’ as we called the game  played ideally on cobbled streets, along with football, kick out can and numerous other games – hide and seek known locally as ‘hiddy’ and ‘tig’ around the streets sometimes dividing into two teams. The girls had their own games: skipping and hopscotch being just two.

            If we managed to go toEast EndParkthere were football pitches. The first one inside the park was a cinder pitch which didn’t do the legs much good! There were policemen patrolling the area. One had the name ‘Bobby Rocking-Horse’ because of the way he walked, rocking from side to side!  Men in the area used to gamble – tossing coins – as it was illegal the police used to raid and the men used to run through passages and into people’s houses. Those who were caught were taken to the police station in a van known as the ‘Black Maria’

            In the mid thirties we had slum clearances when we were moved on to new housing estates. It was nice to have hot water, bathrooms and gardens. I still had a couple of years to go until I finished school so I used to travel so far on the tram and walk the rest.

Great tale, Kenneth. Times were not always easy but how many of us would not want to be back there if we could?

From Rags to Riches

April 1, 2012

                              FROM  RAGS  TO  RICHES

 

          Another great tale of East Leeds by Eric Sanderson

Did I say “ Riches “ ?.  Well hardly , that must have been a daydream – a “senior” moment.

When we were young, most things were scarce, especially money. So we had to find ways of trying to earn the odd shilling and these are just a few of the ways that some of my friends and I tried out.

The days I refer to are now over 60 years since so the memory might just be a little hazy – but never mind, a little inaccuracy can often save an awful lot of explanation

Sometime in the late 40’s , probably following the drain on resources of WW2, there was a shortage of most raw materials and people were encouraged to recycle, often by way of a financial incentive to do so.

The most obvious of these was the couple of coppers paid for the return of some types of bottle which for young people who were mostly skint , could be a useful way of garnering enough to fund a trip to the front end of the Princess Cinema, which at that time was six old pence,  two & a half pence in today’s money.

Trawling the neighbourhood for such bounty could only be done at infrequent intervals without making a nuisance of yourself and most people in any case wanted to take advantage of the benefit themselves. There was also a practical problem to overcome. Most shops would only accept returns if they were purchased originally from them, especially if they were being returned by an urchin who’d simply scavenged them, and so trying to sort the empties that way was a bit of a nightmare, but usually worthwhile

            Glass itself must have been in short supply because a small sum was also paid for a collection of clean jamjars which were much more plentiful as there was no refund for returning these to the shop. But, the returns were pitiful and often meant a nasty job of having to clean out unwashed jars so this was money spinning of last resort.

            Even wrought iron railings which normally surrounded schoolyards were in demand and were removed from many schoolyards, even those fronting onto busy roads, such was the need for iron & steel for the post war boom, but this was a job for the serious scrap dealer, not your common or garden youth opportunist.

            The best opportunities, we thought at the time, lay in the collection of waste paper and old clothes. Paper, usually old newspaper, was freely available but was a filthy activity and required a place to keep the paper dry and store the large quantities needed to justify the effort to generate even a modest return.

            Three of us decided one time that we’d try this out and worked our way round the area, knocking on doors for weeks on end , coaxing reluctant householders and storing the harvest in a disused garden air raid shelter. The day came when we decided we had a sufficient haul to cash in but the problem was, we had to get the stuff to a yard some way from where we lived. I seem to remember the depot was somewhere in Hunslet.

It was far too heavy and bulky to carry but we managed to salvage the sub frame from an old pram onto which we piled all the paper. The pram base wasn’t too sturdy to begin with and when we stacked it up to a height about up to our heads, it began to look distinctly creaky. What’s more, it was top heavy and difficult to maneouvre, having a mind of it’s own much like the nightmarish supermarket trolley we’ve all experienced.

Nonetheless, one of our crew , (JT), was of good Yeoman stock – very strong in the back , and put himself forward as driver whilst the other two of us would navigate.

            Off we set and the first part of our journey wasdown EastParkView, a not inconsiderable incline and the laden pram began take on a cussed life of it’s own, rocking and rolling almost to the point of instability on it’s way down the hill.

JT struggled manfully but even he couldn’t prevent the overladen wheels from starting to buckle and throw the whole carriage around , developing an alarming lurch as it began to run out of control down the hill.

Fortunately, the road levelled out towards East Park Parade and so the transport began to slow down much to our relief but, in the process of gathering speed, the stacked up newspapers had begun to blow off in increasing numbers. Whilst JT was wrestling with the control of the bogie, the other two of us were scrambling to retrieve the rapidly disappearing pile of newspaper, with only a limited amount of success.

Coming to rest near East Park Parade and having recovered as much of the newspaper we could (much of it was still blowing around in the wind several days later !), we had to take stock of our position. One solution, to sit on top of the paper pile was tried, but the wheels took on an even more threatening warp and bearing in mind we had some way to go, dispensed with this idea.

We finally settled for tying the paper bundles down with string and rigging up a set of “reins” so that we could all help control the downhill charge of our rickety old carriage.

            Eventually making it to our destination and weighing in our motherload , we came away with the princely sum of about 2 shillings, to be split three ways. Not much for all that effort. So we decided that would be the end of waste paper collection because one form of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and yet expecting a different outcome and the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has it’s limits.

            Nevertheless, undeterred by our unprofitable wastepaper project, we thought collecting old clothes might work better. It would be much lighter work ,not so filthy and we’d learned a lot about securing the load and controlling the transport from our previous escapade.

            So off we set once again, all around the district, collecting discarded clothing and “rags”. Of course we didn’t have the faintest idea about sorting them into material types, they were all the same to us. This time, the depot was somewhere along Dewsbury Road, not too far from Leeds Bridge and the journey there went without too much mishap even though the pram was  decidedly on it’s last legs by now and only just made it before expiring beyond repair.

            On arrival at the depot, a stinking dark hole in the wall type of place, we had to “negotiate” with an ageing harridan weighing  at least 25stone and sporting a  moustache that any self respecting Mexican Bandit would have been proud of. She also had a fag with about 2 inches of drooping fag ash hanging from the corner of her mouth which was probably responsible for her hacking cough and deep baritone voice.

            Digressing slightly but on a similar theme, writing this reminded me of an occasion when , many years later, we were taking our 3 or 4 year old grandson for a bus ride. He was between us , kneeling on the seat and facing backwards. He was unusually silent, staring straight behind us for a while and then said in the loud voice young children use – “ Grandpa, why has this lady behind us got a moustache?”. I hastily tried to deflect attention away by saying “oh, do you mean that one on the pavement there?” . “No” he said, “this one right behind us”. I turned and sure enough, the lady in question did have a somewhat luxuriant upper lip growth . Apologies only seemed to make matters worse, drawing attention to the fact and so embarrassed were we that we dropped off at the next stop, miles from our destination to await the next bus home.

            Anyway, back to the rag merchant. She contemptuously tipped our cargo onto the floor, tossing aside much of it and growling that it was of no use. I think that she was interested in only woollen articles and much of ours was probably cotton, rayon and the like. Our haul was soon reduced to a fraction of what we’d collected and we were once again heading for a reality check, finishing up with even less the we’d coined from the wastepaper collection.

            Downcast, we trudged home with a few coppers in our pocket, not even enough to finance a visit to the Princess, which in itself would have been a disappointing return.

            Our spirits soon recovered though, as young people’s do, whilst we thought up our next moneymaking enterprise, which turned out to be offering ourselves as odd job boys , from shopping to garden tidying. Oddly enough, that didn’t work out either but, had we three failed entrepreneurs realised it, there was a valuable business lesson to be learned as a result of those escapades – never put more into a venture that you can reasonably expect to get in return, that is only a certain route to failure.

On the other hand, if you don’t succeed – you can always redefine success !.

What a great tale, Eric!

                                      Next month look out for another £10 Pom tale

East Leeds Champions replying to Bernard Hare’s Derogatory book on East Leeds

November 1, 2011

Comments from the ‘Champions of East End Park’ replying to the book: Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew.

In October’s blog the question of the publication: Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew was raised and a few old East Leedsers across the world were sent copies for their comments. Of course if you haven’t read the book you may wonder what all the fuss is about. The author of the book, Bernard Hare, purports to be an ‘Eastie’ himself, born in East Park View in 1958. Returning to the area in the 1990s he finds: feral children, car stealing joy riders, drink and drugs, underage public sex, lawlessness and living standards of absolute squalor. Unfortunately, this book is finding its way into the hands of folk new to the area that are unaware of its provenance and think the area was ‘ever thus’

            I think Mr Hare’s book strikes us so violently because he is so detailed in naming the streets and places that were dear to our hearts hence giving  credence to his story: Mount St MaryEast Street, Batty’s Brush Works, Mount St Mary’s Church and Steps, (we used to train for football running up and down those steps), Richmond Hill, East Park Drive, Glensdale Terrace, East Park View, Accommodation Road, Londesborough Grove, East End Park Bowling Green, and the Slip Inn are all mentioned and his finely detailed description of his walk back from the Royal Armouries crossing  over that which can only be our dear old ‘Paddy’s Park’ to finally arrive in Glensdale Terrace.

            Perhaps we shouldn’t shoot the messenger but rather accept that we, who were lucky enough to be born in East Leeds in the 30s 40s and 50s, have probably created a utopian vision of the area when really it was just that we were young at the zenith of the generations and it has been down hill for everyone ever since?

 Here is what our old champions – all born within a stones throw of East Park –   have had to say about the book:

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Wendy, East Leeds Lass, born in the Charltons, who now lives in Perth, Australia, has this to say:

Sorry, I just can’t read anymore of this book, ‘Urban Grimshaw,’ I was in conflict about the authenticity of the author’s story. I lived in the Charltons in the 1940s and my grandmother lived in the Ecclestone’s. I would cut through the streets mentioned in the book while walking to work at East Street Day Nursery in the 50s and I can honestly say I never witnessed anything Bernard Hare describes. Good writers should entice you into their story not turn you off at the very beginning.

I found the writing alienated me in the very first chapter and my mind was closed and resistant through the next chapters. I think the author needs to be seen as valuable. Perhaps he was overlooked as a child, and saving others gives him a ‘feel –good’ appreciation.

Sorry not interested in reading anymore.

Wendy said after that she had to put the book down and have a glass of wine.

The Slip

Eric, born in East End Park – travelled the world, says:

I have to say that I barely recognise the portrait described in this book and there is very little resemblance to the East End Park that I knew.

I lived slap bang in the middle of Bernard Hare’s described boundary and roamed its highways and byways for over 20 years. I can therefore claim to know the area pretty well

I would differ from his boundary description, it was much less defined than that and in some parts I would not go so far and in others extend further. For example I would consider the true EEP to be roughly bounded on the west side by the railway cutting so far as Ascot Avenue, then a line across Ascot Avenue, Vinery Terrace, Ivy Avenue Street to Skelton Terrace Road then down to Ings Road along to Osmondthorpe Lane cutting south to Neville hill Railway Sidings. People either side may consider themselves to be in or out of the EEP area but it’s a matter of opinion and there was certainly no rigid defined boundary.

It was never described or considered to be an ‘estate’. An estate was generally characterised by several features which distinguished it from the mix of housing which even today prevails in the area. An estate almost always comprised:

(1) Council/Social housing all of a similar style and construction (although   now there are a few private estates).

(2) All had medium to large gardens (mostly neglected)

(3) More structured layout with wider streets, grass verges and some tree lined avenues

(4) In general better facilities than many EEP residences, such as indoor toilets, H & C running water, indoor toilets, bathrooms etc.

The EEP area was never an homogenous area such as this with it’s mix of 19th century terrace housing, some back to back along with more modern housing, preceding any general understood notion of an ‘estate’ in Leeds.

I’ve never, ever heard the soubriquet ‘Easties’ applied to the residents or the artefacts (he refers to Eastie Curtains when describing shutters) {or perhaps could he be referring to boarded windows?}

The author clearly knows the area in general, most of his descriptions of the streets are quite accurate but some are not. For example he describes Londesborough Grove as tree lined. It never was and still isn’t. It was as he also describes, too narrow for street trees and even today has no garden trees. Even the lower part, which runs on to East Park Parade was wider but still devoid of trees ‘till well into the 60s but now has the odd garden tree on the east side. Nor was East Park View blocked off by the Slip Inn. True it was diverted but not blocked off

So much for the geographic content but it is the anthropogenic theme of the novel which is dour and depressing and portrays a community which is alien to that I remember through the 40s, 50,s and early 60s.

My clear memory of the area and community was one of vibrant, friendly, safe and relatively crime free environment. There was little anti-social behaviour and the streets were generally free from the litter and detritus. Indeed most houses took particular pride in keeping their own stretch of pavement and road well swept. The pavements were periodically swilled with water, brushed clean and the doorsteps ‘donkey-stoned’ on a weekly basis. Some rented houses were granted 6d a week reduction in their rent just for keeping the flags and doorsteps in a clean state.

Of course there was the odd bit of drunkenness and punch up in the pubs etc, but rarely, if ever the extreme violence which is so common today for the most trivial of reasons, nor the gratuitous profanity that seems to be everyday language by almost everyone. ‘Bad’ language was usually reserved for the tap room or the workplace and never in front of ladies or children. Drug taking was unheard of .

The appalling feral behaviour described in the book just wouldn’t have happened in those days. The parents would have brought the miscreants to heel and failing that so would the community. Although EEP is now described as an inner city area with crime rate attracting the priority of the West Yorkshire Police, it is the Glensdales, Templeviews and the Charltons which has the majority of the  crime. The bulk of the remainder is still a respectable working class community.

It’s difficult to believe the accuracy of the depth and range of the behaviour, it seems extreme. So much so, that I wonder if the author has used the technique of many authors. They take scenes of unconnected events and people, weaving them into a composite picture to try and portray a reality. It may well be that contemporary residents have created their own ‘turf’ boundaries and glossary of terms but I think he has used his knowledge of the area to create a contrived and sensationalised urban story of decay, crime and social breakdown. Although it’s a novel, it’s presumably intended to portray life in the real but its gratuitous use of profanity, lewd and lascivious behaviour is, in my opinion, the only thing that sustains the ‘plot’ i.e. it’s junk.

Whilst parts of the area are now undoubtedly dreadful and unpleasant places to live, unlike the days of yore I can’t help feeling it’s an exaggerated perspective, designed to sell a few books.

I’m only grateful the EEP I knew and remain intensely fond of is light years away from the Hogarthian nightmare described in this book.

Something else has just occurred to me that should have been blindingly obvious. Londesboro GroveThe book claims ‘the shed’ was located between Londesborough Grove and East Park View and that was where the chicken coop of my friend, JT’s grandparents lived. Those houses had quite big gardens and the coop was big enough to hold a few of us from time to time.

 

John: an East Leeds lad who had a career spanning the continents before retuning to Leeds has this to say:

It wasn’t the easiest of reads – I could only manage a chapter at a time: drugs, thieving, car burning, glue sniffing were never part of my life – or my peers. What a sheltered lot we were.

I’m not sure if this makes sense but the reading of it gave me a feeling of claustrophobia, hemmed in and uncomfortable, hence one chapter at a time.

I left East End Park in 1964 and returned toYorkshire in November 2001.

I cannot equate with the people or portrait of lifestyles. The Svengali/Fagin character, who I assume was the author, was unrealistic in that context. He writes well but unconvincing. It’s not theEast Leeds I recognise.

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Audrey Lived in Charlton Place – now long time removed to Brisbane. She observed a general deterioration of the district when she returned for her father’s funeral in 1987. Audrey concurs nearest to Bernard Hare’s description of the old district.

          Unfortunately, I can relate to how some kids have been abandoned, Not abandoned as in left on the road side but left to their own devices with no structure whatsoever. In our day neighbours would step in and give kids a bath and a meal or take them in when their parents were having a fight. Charlton PlaceThere are so many ‘do-gooders’ quoting rules but not prepared to roll up their sleeves and take charge and the kids are left to flounder along spiralling out of control. No matter where you live there is an area of survival of the fittest which turns into ghettos of squalor. In 1987 my mam still lived in Charlton Place. I was there for Dad’s funeral. Only about three houses had the same long term occupants I remembered when I lived there.  I don’t know how much rent Mother paid but it must have been cheaper than most areas as almost everyone was on the dole or some welfare payment. I was upset at the state of the houses with their grimy appearance. Mum had a window cleaner who came once a week she was the only one in the street he cleaned for

If the area had been in BrisbaneI would have avoided it like the plague. Strangely I didn’t feel any fear at all. At that stage I had to use a walking stick to get around but I still didn’t feel vulnerable but I wouldn’t have left a car parked outside overnight as I fear it wouldn’t have had its wheels in the morning.

All the shops were still operating but had wooden padlocked shutters over the windows after closing up.  The streets were extremely quiet after dark, no sound of people walking home from the pub or chip shop. I found it eerie. About twelve months later my brothers got Mum a unit down near Upper Accommodation Road, somewhere round about The Yorkshire Penny bank and The Hampton Pub. It was units for elderly people. My brothers said it was safer as the Charltons had become like a war zone. What is the answer to the problem? EDUCATION, its no good blaming society. Everyone is responsible. Don’t be afraid to stand up and have a say. Make those who have the power to alter things take notice of what you have to say.

Doug: born in the Glensdale Terrace in the 1930s and now lives near Adelaide, Australia

As for Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew I don’t know where my feelings end up.Glensdale Terrace It seems to pretend to be autobiographical, with Bernard Hare talking about himself. But, while he certainly writes as an insider to that culture, it doesn’t seem credible to me that a grown man in his thirties would join such a young bunch as the shed crewers. If it is really true, it is equally incomprehensible that he wasn’t lynched somewhere along the line for being a ‘nonce’. Whether he was innocent or not it would have been hard for him to avoid accusation.

But even as fiction from an insider it paints a depressing picture. I can believe there are pockets of such deprivation and sub-culture, but it’s harder to believe that it would be widespread over an entire district. We have pockets of extreme ‘delinquency’ here in some suburbs ofAdelaide. The gang of 49 is currently at war with society, with car thefts and ram raids, only the other day there was an abduction if a mother and child. The police know them, the courts have put them away in prison for periods but as soon as they have served their time they repeat the offences. Sadly they are mostly drop outs from school, from families absent of parents, and no hope of future other than what stunts they can pull and where they can get their next fix. So I can fully believe there are such pockets in Leeds and in East End Park.

Again I link back to your memoir. We were lucky to be part of a social class that had a positive culture. Though lowish in the social pecking order we were encouraged to finish school and do apprenticeships. As a youth I really cared about the impressions that the good citizens of Glensdale Terrace had about me. We were poor but decent. How awful that the whole fabric of socialisation has crashed for these young people.

Whether it is appropriate to blame Maggie Thatcher and those she represents, I do not know. But something essential has been stripped from society. People have to have a sense of future. If they are continually belted byBabylonthey will sink to the depths of this poor bunch unactualised kids, who in the postscript are not doing too well as adults either.

There is a sense of approval that the author seems to bestow on his own efforts and on the kind of integrity and loyalty to each other that these kids have. I’m sorry I can’t endorse that approval. Sigmund Freud (whose views I do not always subscribe to) once wrote that each new generation of children is like an invasion of the barbarians and it is the duty of parents and societies to socialise them and bring them under control Somehow, socialisation has failed. Somehow the id has to be brought under the control of the ego and superego.

Authoritative parents, good education, and prospects of some kind of respectable work, have to be reinstated.

Well at least Mr Hare has given us a talking point. Perhaps he will reply with a comment on this site?

East End Park