Archive for the ‘East Leeds’ Category

Don’t Let Our East Leeds Memories Pass Beyond Living Memory

May 1, 2018

DON’T LET OUR OLD EAST LEEDS LEGENDS PASSBEYOND LIVING MEMORY
The East Leeds I fondly remember includes a few folk notorious for their good works or perhaps their eccentricity that brought them to the attention of the rest of us. I take the liberty of including a few iconic events and places, including some from the greater Leeds area This is not scholarly research but just from my own memories or heresy. Please forgive my mistakes or omissions. These must be written down and remembered, many are about to pass from living memory and will be lost. Embrace them while you can.
*Means other tales on the site have reference to the entry.

Remember to ‘Click’ on pictures to enlarge
In no particular order:
*BIG ERNIE: Was commissionaire/chucker out at the Princess Cinema. Who does not remember Big Ernie in his green uniform standing outside the Princess organising the queues or sat besides the screen eating his sandwiches and balling out miscreants who went to the toilet too many times or for general quiet. As everyone in the forties and fifties surely attended the Princess Cinema his voice must have been heard by more East Leedsers than anyone else’s.

DORIS STOREY: Doris was a great local, international, swimmer who trained at York Road Baths. She won the breast stroke gold at that which was then called The Empire Games and it was said she would have won the Olympics if they had not changed the technicalities of the breast stroke. She later ran the family fish and chip shop near the Star Cinema.

14th  of MARCH 1941: Big date in East Leeds history: Richmond Hill School hit by German bomb. It was during the night so no casualties but the pupils were scattered about around other schools and some evacuated.

*WILLIE KNOTT: Willie was a school boy champion in everything he attempted. He was a giant of a lad at school complete with moustache and legs like tree trunks already at a time when we left school at fourteen. Attended Victoria School but he was a hero to East Leeds lads in general He represented Leeds City Boys and Yorkshire at football, cricket, and Swimming. He was the best at everything he attempted including fighting, which ranks highly among schoolboys – when Willie walked past we stood aside in awe. He ran in the English School Championship sprints, some say he won others say he came third but whatever, the school bought him a bike. When he left school he signed for Leeds United but ironically, as he had been so huge at school he must have had his growth spurt early and he did not in the end grow tall enough for centre forward or centre half and he drifted out of the professional game. But which of us would not have taken that to have lived Willie’s school days as a tiger?

Willie is in the centre of the back row
*JILL ROBINSON MBE: Jill launched a group of amateur artists: The Show stoppers who raised a shed full of money for good causes.

*EAST LEEDS CRICKET CLUB: still going strong after all these years when the fabric of old East Leeds in general falls away.

*ABE WHITE: Genial, Jewish, roly poly proprietor of the Easy Road Picture House. He was always attired in his dress suit and greeted patrons with ‘I hope you enjoy the show tonight’. He was strict on miscreants but always a gentleman. His two sisters looked after the pay box and the interior. The Easy Road Picture house was not the most salubrious of cinemas but always claimed it had the best ‘Talkie’ in Leeds.

PAUL REANEY: Attended St Hilda’s, Ellerby Lane and perhaps Parkside Schools? He played for Don Revie’s great Leeds United team of the sixties and seventies. He could run like a stag and went on to play for England.

*‘CLEGGY’: Woodwork teacher at Victoria School and absolute legend for creating fear amongst the pupils. I didn’t attend Victoria Day School but attended his woodwork class on Friday afternoons along with lads from other schools. If you misbehaved he let fly with the pieces of ‘two by ones’. Before you met ‘Cleggy’ you would be painted a picture by those already attending they would say he lays you hand on the desk and asks, what do you want the chisel or the mallet. If you say mallet he lays you head on the bench and hits the bench with the mallet a few inches from your head so your head bounces up and down, if you say chisel he lays your hand on the bench and goes in and out the fingers with the chisel if you move your hand you’ve lost a finger. I have to say I never saw him do that trick but we were all terrified of him even the usual villians. The upside was: if you really tried he’d help to make you into a good carpenter.

*THE PADDY ENGINES: Kitchener, Jubilee, Dora and Antwerp In their green livery and later Silvia.

*MARY/VAL MILNER: Director of the famous film ‘Brought to Justice’ made entirely by the children of Ellerby Lane School in 1953.

LEEDS RHINOS: won 16 trophies in 13 years: eight Super League Championships, three World Club Championships, two Challenge Cups, and three League Leader’s Shields. In 2015, their finest year they won all three trophies – the Treble.

*HARRY BENDON: Who, who lived in our area in the forties and fifties will not have memories if Harry? He was a character and a half. He was a good singer around the local pubs and clubs but often could not resist blotting his copy book with vulgarity. I remember Harry in a smart camel coat with his a concertina. He is once said to have put his window cleaning ladder up against a bus standing outside the Corn Exchange and while whistling away started to clean the upstairs windows. I recall a night in the Scotsman Pub, a fracas was going on and the police were called, things were beginning to look really nasty. I expected fists to fly and arrests to be made when out of nowhere Harry turned up the middle of them all and started playing his concertina. The whole melee erupted into laughter and the situation was saved.

*TUSKY: (rhubarb). Our staple diet.

The 61,62,63,64 bus routes.

ROCKING HORSE: Rocking Horse was a bit before my time but those older than I remember him as a policeman with a rocking gate who had his beat in our area. This was at a time when gambling was frowned upon. ‘Pitch and toss schools’ of which there were many in the area were illegal. Rocking Horse would try to catch the culprits but the neighbourhood was friendly and would allow culprits to run into their houses and out the back door, if there was one. He was old school policeman and warmed to the locals by administrating a cuff behind the ear rather than to arrest.

REG PARKS: (Mr Universe) lived in the Saville’s.

*SOUTH ACCOMMODATION ROAD SUSPENSION BRIDGE: with its great, bowed, green, parapet that Jimmy Thrush daringly crossed on his bogey.

MR SHAW: Scary manager at York Road Baths.

DOLPHUS: The park ranger on east End Park in the 1940s.

MULLIGAN’S MANSIONS:  (Bridgefield Place)

*THE OLD PRIMAY SCHOOLS; Hilda’s, Mary’s Vicky, Ellerby, South Accomm, All Saints Saville Green, Charles’s, East End Park Special School. York Road board School, the Bombed out Richmond Hill School. All with their teachers good and bad.

*THE NAVVY: our dangerous playground

*THE PUBS: Gone but not forgotten: Cross Green, Bridgefield, Black Dog, Fish Hut, Waterloo, Prospect, Slip, Hampton, Shepherd, Yew Tree, Spring Close, Cavalier, Shaftsbury and Dog and Gun.

*HARRY: Waiter extraordinaire at the slip, He would come waltzing through a busy concert room balancing a tray of seven or eight pint glasses on a tray above his head without spilling a drop and he would have already calculated the note you were going to give him and have the correct change already worked out and ready in his top pocket.

*AGNES LOGAN STEWART: (Mother Agnes) opened St Saviour’s Institute a school and home for girls from dysfunctional families in Knostrop in 1872 and staffed it with sisters in holy orders. She wasn’t in holy orders herself but wore the dress of one. She was a woman of private means and boundless energy and also opened the St Hilda’s School for boys in Cross Green Lane, all from her own funds.

RED ROAD AND BLACK ROAD: Portals to adventure.

*EAST END PARK: Happily spruced up and still with us

*SNAKEY LANE: One pitch now instead of the two we had but it’s a good ‘un.

CHARLIE ATHA: Had a bicycle repair shop near the Princess Cinema. He could just about build your bike up from a single spoke but you had to catch him when he wasn’t in the Shepherd pub.

THE CHURCHES AND CHAPELS: St Hilda’s, St Mary’s, All Saints, St Saviours, St Patricks, New Bourne Chapel, Richmond Hill Chapel, Zion Chapel and others long time closed with their great incumbents that looked after our wellbeing and tried to keep us on the straight and narrow. Lots attended then, few now.

*THE KNOSTROP EXPERIENCE: Knostrop House, Knostrop Old Hall, Knostrop New Hall Knostrop Institute, Thorpe Stapleton Hall, The Humbug House, The ABC Houses. Most of them stood for hundreds of years but all sadly demolished during our watch.

*STOURTON SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM: a tiny school by modern standards but one year in the 1930s they became school football champions of all England.

*THE BASINS AND THE BLUEBELL WOOD: Pleasant features on the walk from Cross Green to Temple Newsam.


*ATKINSON GRIMSHAW: a bit before our time – born in 1836 but he lived in Knostrop Old Hall and was a wonderful moonscape painter – The way he deals with artificial light passing through windows onto wet pavements makes him my particular favourite painter. His pictures of Leeds, Liverpool and Whitby in particular hang in Leeds and national galleries and now sell for ‘telephone number’ prices.

WOODBINE LIZZIE: Lizzie was not particularly an East Leeds woman but probably the best known lady in Leeds in the 1940s. She would stand in the entrance to the Whip Public House In Duncan Street – near the three stumps – in a moth eaten fur coat and hat and ask you for a Woodbine when you passed , if she didn’t get one she’d let you have a barrage of obscenities not usually heard from the mouth of a lady.

JOHN CHARLES: John was not an East Leeds lad not even a Leeds lad he was Welsh but he played for Leeds United in the 1950s and his standing was so high amongst we East Leeds youngsters I feel he warrants and entry. He was 6ft 2ins when, not like today, when 6ft 5s are not abnormal. He was a giant on the field. A sight not to be forgotten was John dropping the ball down from his chest and accelerating up the field tacklers more or less melted away rather than getting a tackle in and there would be john tucking the ball into the corner of the net and walking back and he was impervious in the air – one season he scored 40 goals. When he was transferred to Juventus lads cried openly In the street. The £65,000 we got for his transfer (what would he have brought today?) helped us build the new West Stand He was always a gentleman into the bargain. Big John, the Gentle Giant.

ALMA: Genial conductress on the 61/62 bus and member of the Showstoppers troop

*THE CINEMAS: The Picture House Easy Road, Princess, Star, Regent Shaftsbury, Hillcrest, Victoria, Premier, Strand and Regal. (The Shaftsbury had double seats at the back for courting couples)

*THE QUARRY: Located at the back of the Easy Road Picture House. Dirty, but An adventurous playground for the Easy Road gangs.

*DAVID WILSON: He jumped all the way down the navvy for a bet, five comics and six pence. He didn’t get the comics or the six pence; he did get a broken arm but also legendary status for the feat – look he’s mentioned here sixty years later.

BOB BATES: Ran Mount St Mary’s football teams for years and years and better years and the boy’s club too. He could be seen marking the Snake Lane football pitch out before a match all on his own with little thanks, the lime we used to use for the job blowing all over his good suite. Sometimes his best players let him down and didn’t turn up but he just got on with the job. To me he was a prince among men.
NEVILLE HILL HOPPER AND SHED WITH CLOCK:

RED WALLS: Where we would paddle and fish for tiddlers, and sometimes get glass in our feet..

*THE ARMY AND POW CAMPS DOWN BLACK ROAD/KNOSROP: With their ack ack guns an barrage balloons.

*CHUMPING: They only seem to have communal bonfires today.

*THE GREAT WINTER SNOW SPORTS OF 1947.

AIR RAID SHELTERS.

THE CANE FROM THE TEACHER.

LEEDS UNITED : THE REVIE YEARS: We won the cup in 1972 and the league championship in 1969, 74. And two European trophies. We won the championship again in 1992 but not under Revie.

TRAMS:

*THE MARKET DISTRICT BOY’S CLUB: It was supposed to have been opened by The Parish Church to keep us lads of the streets but it became much more than that.

THE RICMOND HILL WHIT WALK: Disappeared with the demise of the pubs but before that it was run from The Cavalier and later The Prospect pubs. It went down Dial Street and on to a couple of circuits of East End Park. Crowds would turn out to cheer the walkers. There was a money prize and I can remember Jimmy Croll won it on a couple of occasions.

DOLLY DAWSON: legendary Hunslet rugby League player and genial ‘mine host’ of the Hampton Hotel.

THE PREFABS: Much better accommodation than the properties they replaced.

THE MONKEY BRIDGE: Iron bridge where dare devils would trapeze hanging above the navvy.

GEORGE TOOTLE: George was blinded by his time in the boxing ring, he too was an old Hunslet ruby league player’ He was a popular figure who lived in Knostrop Old Hall during the war. Knostrop was very dark during the ‘black out’ and George endeared himself to the folk of Knostrop by singing in a low rumble when he came home in the dark with his three littler guide dogs. so that females of the area knew it was only old George and not to be afraid.

THE GINNEL: Spooky little tunnel between Fewston  Avenue and Easy Road to allow the paddy train to pass overhead on its way to the coal staithe.

THE RED HILLS and the THE BLACK HILLS: The Red Hills at Knostrop the Black Hills near the Shaftsbury.

EDGAR STREET CLINIC: ‘Our own Little place of horrors.’

:

YORK ROAD LIBRARY AND SWIMMING BATHS: Have been closed for a long time and I thought we were going to lose them but they have put the clock back up and they say it’s going to be a gym

I’m sure there are more that deserve a mention if you can think of any please send them on a comment

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Joan’s Tale

April 1, 2018

JOAN’S TALE

Recently, we have sadly lost one of our stalwart story tellers: Mrs Joan Elliot (nee Dobson). Joan was a lovely lady and enjoyed a long life. She wrote one of the first tales on this site, and I feel one of the best, back in 2007: The Pantomime.
It tells of a time of great camaraderie. On the 14th of March 1941 Richmond Hill School had been bombed out, the sound of those bombs dropping was about my earliest memory. In the same year the local children put on a pantomime in an opening in St Hilda’s Crescent to help raise money towards the City of Leeds war effort, specifically to pay for the production of the aircraft carrier, H.M.S. Ark Royal. All across the city were boards pointing to the progress of the fund.
A few houses have been demolished in St Hilda’s Crescent and the opening is somewhat wider than when I took the photograph in 2007 but Joan’s house is still there. I often have a nostalgic trip around the area and if I see any of the present inhabitants of St Hilda’s Crescent about I try to tell them of the provenance of the opening and the pantomime put on here in 1941 to raise money for the Ark Royal, but unfortunately, although it is hard to imagine any other event in the history of the street as being so magnificent it would appear that today historical provenance counts for nothing and they look at me as though I’m some lunatic dropped in from the planet Zog. In deference to Joan and because it was put on the site so long ago and I don’t think many of you will have read it I’m going to give you another chance to read it now: The Pantomime: see what you think

THE PANTOMIME
By Joan Elliot
My life in 1941 revolved around: going to school (St Hilda’s) and to the Easy Road Picture house on Monday and Thursday nights; these were the days when the programme changed. If we went with an adult the cost of admission was 7 ½ pence. We were very lucky in that my life long school and after school friend was Vera Wood; she had a sister older than us called Mary. Mary was a very lovely young lady and talented in many ways, she was particularly good for us for she could take us into the pictures and act as our chaperone.
School at that time was quite boring, Johnny North, our teacher, had been one of the teachers brought back from retirement to take the place of the teachers who had been called up for the war; he was far too old, must have been in his seventies and to us young ten year olds that seemed absolutely ancient. Then we got the ‘call to arms’ as the saying goes. The city of Leeds had decided to buy an aircraft carrier: ‘The Ark Royal’. It was think time! What could we do to help raise the money; Save jam jars? Collect rags? Neither of these seemed an option, we didn’t get enough jam to make saving the jars worthwhile and we had lots of uses for rags ourselves; rag rugs was one (if you don’t know what rag rugs were ask one of your elders). Then one of the gang came up with an idea: we’d have a concert.
At that time Frances Ladler, was producing the pantomime, Cinderella, at the Theatre Royal. That was the answer; we would do a copy of that wonderful show. Fortunately for us, the mother of one of the girls in our class was a cleaner at the theatre and she brought us home some old programmes left behind by theatre goers. At the back of Mr Wood’s garden in St Hilda’s Crescent, there stood a big shed, this was our property, or so we thought at the time – I think it really belonged to the railway, which ran along the bottom of the gardens {The Navvy}. We spent hours in that shed, always busy doing something or other. From now on it was to be our pantomime workshop.
First of all we had to get a cast together; there were plenty of willing girls but the boys were another ‘kettle of fish’. We managed to get Peter Dunhill to play Baron-de Broke and Keith Hobson was Buttons, Vera Atkinson played Cinderella and Vera Wood Prince Charming. I played Dandini. I can’t remember who played the ugly sisters but I remember that half our class at school were in there playing some part or other. From that very first day our lives were taken up with: planning, begging, sewing and borrowing old frocks to cut up and make into other things. At this point it should be remembered that at the time the war was in full swing and not a lot was left; clothes and food were on coupons, plus anything of any use was taken up for the war effort but we were given lots of help by our parents and relatives. After a lot of fun and planning we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The next worry was: where to hold this magnificent production as the shed was certainly not big enough? The houses in St Hilda’s Crescent were in pairs and between each pair of houses there was a yard were the back doors of the houses faced each other. We decided that one of these yards was to be our theatre. We borrowed draw curtains for the bottom of the yard and draw curtains for the top. The scenery was painted on old rolls of wallpaper out of a neighbour’s attic. The stage at the top end near to the gardens was made higher by wood lent to us by another kind soul. I must say at this point that the generosity and kindness of all our parents, relatives and neighbours could not have been better, everyone by now wanted to help.
On the night of the show chairs came out of every house. Mrs Wood’s piano was put under the window and Mary Wood was the pianist. In the shed all the costumes made by the girls taking part in the show were ready.
The show opened and ran every night for a full week at two pence for an adult and a penny per child. We played to a full house every night for a week and raised a grand total of £20 for Ark Royal.

Great tale, Joan and there are still a dwindling few around who can remember that special week over 75 years ago!

 

A Camping We Shall Go

March 1, 2018

A camping we shall go.
By Eddie Blackwell

It’s 1953 I’ve just turned 15 years old and the Summer Holidays from school have started. I’d only had three holidays since I was born in 1938. The first holiday was in 1947 the year Dad was demobbed. We went to Scarborough and spent Dad’s gratuity pay. We stayed at a boarding house over a Fish and Chip shop it was on a hill in Eastborough in Scarborough, which was not far from the Foreshore Road, and that beautiful sandy beach, there were Punch and Judy shows, Donkey rides and of course the old bucket and spade to make Sand Castles and Fortresses, we had Ice cream, candy floss and peppermint rock the weather was good. There were the Amusement Arcades and the penny slot machines, and the laughing Policeman, Dad and I spent ages watching and laughing at him it was a kind of infectious laugh that just came out and all your worries and problems just seemed to evaporate with the laughter, and you were happy that war was over your Dad was home and the future was before you. I remember one of these roadside photographers took a snap shot of me walking along by the lagoon in the Harbour that the rowing boats were hired from. Dad paid the man and the picture was posted onto you, I wish I could find it, black and white of course, but he’d caught me in the air, both feet were off the ground I was still in short trousers and I was loping along, I’d made a friend at the boarding house a young Lady called Shirley, she was in the background but she couldn’t keep up with me I was literally walking on air.
Food rationing was still on and the Men that were staying at the boarding house decided to go on an early morning fishing trip, so they hired a boat and off they went. They had a wonderful catch, Dad said the fish were jumping into the boat and they handed the catch over to the Lady of the house to cook for tea. The fish and chips that evening were delicious everyone enjoyed them, and one of the men said that was so good I could eat it again, (They knew they had caught far more than the fish that had been served for tea) and he said could I have seconds please, well that was it the Lady came in and said you’ve all had more than sufficient and she stormed out. Turned out they’d sold the rest in the Fish and Chip Shop. Every Family left the following day it was a matter of principle. Dad said we’d almost spent up anyway it was the Thursday of that week, and we packed up and came home. I remember carrying the case after we got off the Tram in York Road to walk up Pontefract Lane, passed the Princess Cinema, The Sheppard Pub, Charlie Atha’s Cycle Shop, then turning at Woolstons Chemist into Devon Street and home to number 29.
The next holiday was with the School to Interlaken in Switzerland and I’ll never forget that, it was a life changing experience. It was June 1949 I was in my 11th year Mum and Dad had scrimped and saved to finance it for me. We travelled over land by train across the Channel by Ferry onto Paris then through by train to Bern then by coach to Interlaken.
Interlaken is situated between two lakes Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. It’s a fantastic place and from the Hotel we were staying at you could see the Jungfrau and its snow covered peak. To wake up in the morning and see those mountainous peaks as you looked through the window is something you can never forget, it imprints itself in your mind and fills you with awe and amazement that such beauty can exist to lift your spirit out of your everyday life into another world where the Mountains are touching Heaven itself, we had a great time, Each day your Eiderdown was fluffed on your bed like an inflatable balloon, we’d never seen anything like it, we’d never had such luxury, and the food you could eat as much as you liked, and if you wanted something different to what was being served because you didn’t like it they would cook it specially for you. They were very spicy meals that were being served, and our Teacher Mr Child said he would give a prize at the end of the week to the one who ate the most.
Guess who won, well it had to be me, my Gran always said I had hollow legs so nobody else had a chance.
Each day we went on an excursion to a different location either by coach or by ferry We went across the lake then by road to Lucerne, saw the Bear pits in Bern, had snowball fights in the Mountains in brilliant Sunshine, went on the chairlift rides up the Mountains, up and down the Fenicular Railways all powered by clean Hydro Electricity then one night we were all awoken by a buzzing and were told not to open the windows it was the night of the June Bug, never did find out what kind of bug it was, but they were crashing into the windows making a heck of a racket then it all stopped as suddenly as it had started, peace and tranquillity had returned, except for Jack McAndrew’s snoring everything was quiet, then tap, tap, tap, on the Big French Widow, Mr Child and one of the Lady teachers had been out for a Drink and had been caught up in the chaos of the June Bug and got themselves locked out, so we opened the windows and let them in by this time Jack had woke up, and he said this is going to cost you Miss, we were told we would get a thousand lines if we were locked out. That’s only if you call out the Hotel Staff She replied, and I’ll speak to you tomorrow, now go to sleep like a good boy, a busy day ahead of us were going to the Jungfrau, and it’s an early start we leave at 9 am prompt.
The Jungfrau the highest mountain in Switzerland it has a cog railway that takes you to 11,332 feet, and they have what they call a snow blower that keeps the railway operating throughout the year. This snow blower was an old machine the cladding was made from wood, its powered by electricity and runs on the track it has two ginormous metal impellers at the front they fragment the snow and ice and blow it out to the sides of the track clearing the way ahead for the train to run on the track, we never saw it in action but you could imagine it tunnelling its way through. We were not very rich in those days and there were no mobile phones, so I didn’t have a camera to take pictures or anything, but it’s imprinted in my memory. I’m fortunate that there’s a Lady who lives at the end of our street was in the same class as me at school and she went on the same trip and has pictures of the waterfalls and the trips we went on. Happy days when you were young and innocent and the future was before you.
Oh I’m forgetting I did go camping with the Scouts to Low Water Farm near Clapham, in the shadow of Ingleborough. The first night we were raided by two Shire Horses who were in the field but our tents were those Ex-Army Bell Tents with thick guy ropes and deep wooden pegs, so they kept away from those, but the kitchen area was just about destroyed. The second day it started raining and we got washed out, a disastrous experience everything was wet through, so the Camp site was abandoned.
As I recall we marched from the Farm to Clapham and where housed in a Church Hall overnight, with palliasses and blankets to keep us warm. It was a strange place with huge carved wooden trusses that supported the roof but it was dry. We stuck it out then on the following day, we were given the option of staying on or going home but most of us decided to returned home. All in all I suppose I was very fortunate, many children of my age never had any holidays at all.
I had a friend called Harry Sharpe who lived in the next street which was Wykebeck Avenue running parallel with Halton Moor Avenue and we decided to go camping during the Summer Holidays of 1953, and we chose Malham Cove as the Ideal spot to spend our Summer break.
Frankie Laine was the top of the Hit Parade with “Girl in the Wood”, we had two Kit Bags full of tinned food a little 6ft-6in. tent that needed reproofing a primus stove and the other essentials and we were off, we went by train to Skipton then waved down a United Red Bus to take us to Malham, then we walked through the fields with our kit to Malham Cove.
We had no previous knowledge of camping, apart from my disastrous Scouting experience, so we were playing it by ear. The Cove was a formidable sight and a shallow stream meandered from the bottom which was reputed to be the source of the River Air, there was a small island in the stream and we decided that this was an ideal spot to pitch the tent, which we were to regret in the early hours of the following morning. We got the primus stove working, filled the kettle and made a pot of tea we agreed to take turns with the chores. Then we walked to the road and into Malham to get some bits and pieces, the Lady in the shop said we should go and see the Farmer and let him know we were camping in the cove, which we did. He asked where we had pitched the tent and we told him, be careful there he said the sheep climb in that area looking for feed, and they can dislodge rocks so keep well back from the face of the cove, I’ll look in on you when I’m passing but be careful and don’t do anything silly. It can be quite dangerous round there particularly at weekends when the Rock Climbers are about. Now go and see the Mrs she’ll probably have some cake or tarts on the go. Wow it was like home from home lemon curd tarts, still warm from the oven the Farmers wife was a lovely Lady and she wanted to know where we lived, and what were we going to do when we left school, she said she was born and bred in Malham and had lived there all her life, she had two young children a boy and a girl, one was in the infants school the other in the junior school, in the village, if you have any problems come back and we’ll help you sort them out, but be careful in the cove the waters can rise suddenly and the rock face is unstable.
We said we’d be careful and left with a bagful of goodies, the day was creeping on and Harry said I think we’ll have Irish stew tonight, and he set about opening a few tins. I primed and started the stove and away we went, would you like some rice pudding for afters Harry said… “I met a Maiden in the Wood and she said to me child” he was singing the song from the top of the hit parade and I joined in…“Remember me Oh Remember me. Remember for the rest of your life”… We were having a great time all was well with the World, we could shout and sing to our hearts content and nobody was saying be quiet. We had our Irish Stew and our Rice Pudding it was great, then I washed the pans and plates in the stream, the sheep were coming around to see what we were doing and the light was fading, so we decided to get ready for bed, we had inflatable lillo’s and sleeping bags and we settled down for the night. My feet were stuck out of the bottom of the tent but I was tired and I didn’t care I was comfortable and off to sleep we went, happy dreams.
In the early hours of the morning I woke up, and Harry was awake as well. My feet are wet I said, and Harry said I’m wet through, it had started raining during the night and the Island was no longer an island we were completely flooded out, it had been raining hard up on the Tarn and the meandering stream was now a torrent fortunately the rise was in the early stages so we recovered what we could and found higher ground, but a lot of our tinned reserves had gone, we made ourselves as comfortable as we could and dosed until it was light, by this time the stream was a raging torrent, and Harry said I can’t swim, don’t worry I said I have a Bronze Medallion for life saving and I’m a very strong swimmer. Eventually dawn broke and we made an evaluation of our situation, the tent and basics we’d managed to recover, so we re-pitched the tent on the higher ground above the water level, set up and lit the primus stove and made a cup of tea…. “She moved her tiny hands, and she made a little turn, she swayed in the wind, just like a graceful fern”… We were not deterred, but we did need some breakfast.
You OK Lads, I like the song, it was the Farmer I thought about you last night when it started raining, get yourselves over to the Farm and dry out the Wife will make you some breakfast, it won’t rise higher than that so your safe pitching there. The Wife loves music and that hit parade, but don’t go spoiling her I’ve got her just right, and off he went with his dogs, checking on the sheep and looking for eggs from his free ranging Hens. We were dressed and off like a shot across to the farm. I thought he’d be checking on you this morning the Lady said, he was worried about you last night when it started raining hard, the water rises unexpectedly when it rains up over the Tarn, I can see you got wet through, go warm yourselves by the fire, and I’ll make you some breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day you know…“I vowed as she vanished, that when I was full grown, I’d have a girl just like her, to call my very own”…Bacon and eggs with beans tomatoes and Sausage, tea bread and butter you just could not fault it. I’m talking 1953 commercialization had not penetrated those rural areas and we were just two townies out of our environment
who needed help.
I’ve been hearing some singing coming from the Cove it acts like an amphitheatre, and echoes the sound down to the village, I love this modern music and that Hit Parade have you been playing music over there. Yes, we have a little radio and Harry took it from his pocket and turned it on, IT was a transistor radio his Dad worked in the Electronics Industry and this was the latest thing. Oh we’ve never seen anything like that around here it’s so small, and she pointed to the big box radio she had in the Corner of the kitchen, Harry said these will be all the rage next year, my Dad got it for me, but there not on the market yet, we asked if we owed her for the breakfast, but she said no it’s just nice to talk to someone from a big City and to hear what’s going out there. There was no power to the farm but they had a generator and a huge gas tank which provided for their needs, the roads were in good condition, but they did get cut off from time to time during the winter.
Off we went back to the tent, things were drying out slowly, but the sheep had been sniffing around in our absence, and we had to chase them off. We were amazed at the places they got to on the face of the Cove, we certainly couldn’t have climbed up there without ropes and harnesses, although we did try but deemed it was too dangerous and if you lost your footing and fell who knows
where you’d end up. We were still in good spirits the sun was shining and we had plenty to do, I was tidying around and making the tent ship shape Harry was sorting the rations and seeing to the kitchen, Harry said we’ve lost a lot of tins in the flooding we’ll have to go and walk down the bank and see if we can recover them, if we find any that’ll be your job because I can’t swim and you’re a strong swimmer, but the waters flowing quite fast now it could be a bit dodgy even for a strong swimmer like you, did I detect a note of sarcasm in that remark, no It was flowing fast and looked deep. We’ll take a rope with us Harry I’ll tie it on with a bowline knot, and if I get into difficulty you can pull me out, can you remember how to tie it
Harry said, yes you form a loop put the end through the loop around the back and through the loop again sorted I said it’s easy to tie and untie and it won’t slip. Mm was all he could say, then added well don’t blame me if it goes wrong. It won’t go wrong I said, and we may not need it anyway. I love this camping there’s always a new challenge, so your never bored.
Lunch was a sardine sandwich, we’d been lucky to have stored the bread in a sealed plastic bag which had protected it and kept it dry, we’d had a good breakfast and we were still quite full, afterwards we set off on our quest to recover any tins we could see in the river, I’d got my rope on just in case and Harry was hold of the loose end, come on boy he shouted pretending that I was a dog on a lead, so I growled back at him showing my teeth he laughed but took the hint, and didn’t do it again as we meandered along the banks of the river it started to widen out and form a stream which calmed it down and it became shallow, there’s one Harry was pointing and I went in a tin of Pears none the worse for wear in all we found several tins but the corned beef and Irish Stew were nowhere to be found and by this time we were approaching a little footbridge that crossed the river before it entered the village. We stopped there and returned to camp with our recoveries Harry said it’s not bad but it’s not good we’ve enough grub for tomorrow but then it’s tinned fruit with condensed milk, so we decided to stay another night then make our way home. We called at the farm and said we would be leaving tomorrow and thanked them for their help and kindness.
We arrived home the following day which was the Thursday, Mum said I thought you were stating for a week, yes Mum we were but we ran out of food. Did you enjoy it, yes it was great, what’s for tea I’m starving.
“and now I am a grown Man, and I’d marry if I could, but I can’t forget the memory of, that girl in the wood.
Remember me oh remember me. (big finish)
REMEMBER FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE…
********************************************
Thanks for another great tale, Eddie.

Down the Navvy

February 17, 2018

From: John Holloway (Stronsay) [johnfholloway363@btinternet.com]
Sent: Saturday, February 17, 2018 1:34 PM
To: peter wood
Subject: Down the Navvy

‘Down the Navvy’
I’m making an exception to our one tale a month rule to allow John Holloway to return to last month’s tale and tell us of his adventures ‘Down the Navvy’

It was Friday evening in 1953, just a few months before my family and I moved to Kent. I was 8 or 9 years old and it was ‘bath night’. Mum said so. I climbed into the bath and mother picked up the clean flannel and went straight to the back of my neck where she said most of the dirt collected. Of course I couldn’t see it myself.
‘Funny’ I thought, there was no ‘Look at the colour of your neck!!’ this Friday evening, just a surprised: ‘How did you get that bruise on your back?’. (Apparently it was a beauty – but I couldn’t see it myself). Mum sounded a bit worried – but not as worried as me. ‘Oh…….er…. I fell backwards onto a stone’ I blurted out.
If only she had known. But I had no intention of telling her what had really happened. I would have been in serious trouble if I had. I dreaded what punishment might follow – my entire cigarette-card collection being given away to Freddie Dubber across the road, all my precious taws (marbles) being given to Ronnie Harvey three houses down, and worst of all, a ban on train-spotting at Neville Hill shed for at least a month! And anyway, it didn’t hurt that much. I didn’t know what all the fuss was about.
I never really knew how lucky I was regarding my ‘bruise’ until my visit to East Leeds in November 2017 – over 64 years later, and – not surprisingly – as I gazed down to the railway line at the bottom, I could recall the event in full detail.
It was a lovely warm day, and one of my pals and I had gone to the top of Copperfield Avenue, through the gap between the houses in Courtley Road, across the ‘top hollers’ – as we called the area – and climbed over the low fence in order to begin one of our favourite pass-times: making land-slides of stone and dust ‘down the Navvy’, the deep ravine which had been cut to take the railway line from Neville Hill to Hunslet. This had been going on for generations – kids with poles and sticks sat on the 45 degree sloping area above the cliff-face – but on this occasion disaster struck. One of the stones I had prised out had gone over the cliff-face, rolled onto the track – and was now laying right across the nearside rail! ‘You’ve had it now’ said my pal. I had no option and off I shot to the ‘Town Hall Steps’ about thirty yards away to the left, the easiest – but still vertical – part of the cliff-face for climbing down. I was soon at the spot below our ‘scree-slope’ and had just slid the large rock off the rail when suddenly a train-whistle blew from the Neville Hill end of the Navvy. A train! That was bad luck with just 2-3 a day. I rushed to a small Buddleia bush just a few feet from the railway lines and crouched down, hoping the driver would not see me. What a relief – mission accomplished!
I stood up and looked up. It didn’t seem all that far to the top from where I was standing and it didn’t look all that hard to climb – vertical as it was. I remember weighing it up: do I walk back to the Town Hall Steps and go back that way, or do I….? No contest, my mind was made up – I’m going up here, even though I had some doubts as to how I was going to lift myself up onto the scree-slope at the top of the vertical cliff-face where it was smooth with no real hand-holds. I took my chance. ‘Work it out when you get to it’ I thought.
The vertical part of the climb was not that hard, but just as I was about to raise my head above the cliff-face, my pal, who – in mitigation – could not see me, had just prised out a real beauty of a stone and pushed it towards the cliff edge. It hit me right in the middle of the chest.
To this day I can remember falling backwards in mid-air, not in the least bit concerned, and a few seconds later – after a bit of a ‘thump’ – sliding down on my back towards the rail. My only concern was being run over by another train if one came by! My back hurt a bit and I sat on the nearside rail until my pal came down the Town Hall Steps to see how I was. I had been saved by the scree-slope at the bottom of the cliff, created by generations of children prising out rocks and dust from the area above.
And that was it. I was soon back up on the ‘Top Hollers’ heading for home with nothing more than a sore back, and to this day I am eternally grateful to the generations of children who created that scree-slope. It clearly saved my life. It must have been at the perfect angle for my fall as I didn’t even have a bump on the head.
Looking back on the incident, I ‘missed out’! Ronnie Harvey fractured his leg around the same time and had it in plaster for several weeks – a kind of ‘Badge of Valour’ after heroically jumping from the school roof after collecting a tennis ball from the gutter prior to a Cubs meeting. And there had been one or two bandaged/plastered broken wrists etc around the neighbourhood, all giving the ‘owners’ a sense of pride for ‘pulling through’. The bruise on my back was surely a notch up on them but I never saw it myself of course and nobody ever asked me to lift up the back of my shirt to show them what was after all just an ‘ordinary’ bruise!
Fast forward to November 2017 and our guided tour of the area by Peter Wood and Eric Allen. Panic sets in when my wife Sue and I look down The Navvy. ‘For crying out loud!’………. ‘My life!’…… etc etc. I had no idea it was so deep and to this day have no idea how I survived that fall – I had imagined a 15ft or so vertical drop but it was clearly far more.
So, looking back to that ‘bath night’ in 1953, I couldn’t really be called dishonest – I had ‘fallen backwards onto a stone, just like I had said to my mother. I just didn’t mention the huge vertical drop in-between! I’m glad I ‘kept mum’ – for Mum’s sake!

PS Does anyone know just how deep the navvy is at that point? I’m not sure whether ‘delayed shock’ can set in after such a long time but if anyone does know please break it to me gently. John Holloway, Castle, Stronsay, Orkney February 2018.

Great adventure John and you lived to tell the tale!

Saturday Night Fever in Downtown 1950s Leeds

February 1, 2018

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER IN DOWNTOWN 1950s LEEDS
Those who have been lucky enough to travel the seven ages of man (and woman of course) will have no doubt encountered pleasure and sadly pain at every stage. We Have: The pre-school age, the school age, the teenage years, the age of responsibility – marriage kids etc, the comfortable late middle age, and the geriatric age. Unfortunately some folk fall off their perch at every stage but if you stay the course you can sit back in your arm chair and contemplate your seven ages and which of them shines out like a beacon? Why the teenage years of course, especially if you lived in 50s East Leeds and experienced ‘Saturday night fever.’
Let me set the scene for a typical 50s Saturday For we lucky teenagers.
Saturday afternoon would see us embroiled in sport, either playing football or rugby ourselves or at Elland Road, Parkside or Headingley. The girls probably engaged in retail therapy, haunting the records shops or perhaps a Saturday job? How would I know? You’d have to ask a girl – but of course there was a bouffant hair style to attend to for the evening. Around tea time we’d watch ‘The Six Five Special’ or ‘Oh Boy’ on the other side – perhaps an early episode of Dr Who – he seems to have been going on forever. Then it was time to get togged up for the evening: slick back the hair Tony Curtis Point at the front D.A. at the rear, crisp white shirt and slim Jim tie, drain pipe pants and long colourful drape back jacket and slip into the thick crape soled shoes. When you hit the town in a rig like that your heart soared as high as the town hall clock.
You would meet up with your special mates in your favoured city centre pub; ours was The Vine on the Headrow other favourites were: The King Charles, Ship, Pack Horse, Horse and Trumpet, Piccadilly Bar, General Elliot or the Guildford. I’m sure others can add to these. Gradually you became acquainted with like minded individuals from other areas of Leeds and beyond who were of an age and a disposition to enjoy Saturday night fever; you would bump into them regularly for a few years and then probably never again.
Then in semi-inebriated state we would drift into our favourite dance halls. You had to be in by ten o’clock and disguise the extent of your inebriation or you would not get in at all. Some would go to the Mecca, the 101, Mark Altman’s, The Central School of Dancing (near the Corn exchange), The Majestic, or our particular favourite The Scala. For us, while ever it remained open it was The Scala for us. The dance hall was located over a furniture shop at the top of a grand flight of stairs. Here we would be met by the sound of wonderful fifties music and the scent of gyrating bodies. There we would meet up with our friendly gang of teenage girls. They had much to put up with, what with our beery breath and clumsy steps but we can’t have been that bad they would be here again next week.
Charlie Marcos was the resident band. He was OK old Charlie he would play requests and a bit of ‘Dixieland Jazz’ to let us waggle our legs a bit. We would Rock ‘n Roll, jive, Be-Bop whatever was popular at the moment. Dance halls seemed to generate their own styles of Jiving, The Mecca had a neat style which was less frantic than that we preferred at the Scala.

 

In the intervals when Charlie’s band was having a rest They would play records – wonderful fifties ballads, this was the music I liked best of all it epitomised the age: A Blossom Fell, Little Things Mean a Lot, Teen Angel, Oh! Carol, Donna, Hold my Hand. Even today when I hear that wonderfully mellow tone of a fifties ballad: low key harmonisation with ‘do-whahs’ and then a higher harmonisation chiming in, I’m transported back to those wonderful fifties nights at the Scala dancing beneath the great silver glitter ball. Sometimes I swear I’m really there. I wish I could give you an example of that wonderful sound here – of course I can’t. We looked it up; technically it’s called ‘Oldstep Progressive’ I – VI – IV – V. No, that means nothing to me either but ask Alexa to play you ‘Earth Angel’. Alexa’s great, she’ll play it for you and you’ll get the message.
Of course there might be a few skirmishes, it was a rite of passage, only handbags at twenty paces, no knives no drugs. It was essential you were up to dance with your favourite girl before someone else got her for the ‘last dance’ which was always a waltz. ‘Can I walk you home? Perhaps a good night kiss and then the long walk home on your own in a pleasant haze, no taxis for fifties teenagers. But if you didn’t manage a girl to walk home the night was not over, all the East Leeds contingent would wander home together up York Road, Railway Street or East Street full of good natured pushing and shoving and good natured banter ready for next week’s Saturday night fever.
Postscript: The Scala closed its doors before we were ready to reach the next ‘age’ of our lives and none of the other dance halls seemed to quite fit the bill. A friend recently had business to visit that old furniture shop and he was directed to the upstairs room, the one that used to be the dance hall. He said it was dusty and empty except for odds and ends of stored furniture and looked all forlorn. If dance halls have a heart I wonder when everything is locked up on a Saturday night fifties music can be heard playing softly?

Don’t forget: somehow manage to listen to Earth Angel, preferably by Jonnie Tillitson or The Penguins, It’ll waft you back to 50s heaven!

If you shared those magical times please leave a comment.

The Infamous ‘Navvy’

January 1, 2018

The infamous navvy
The three areas that formed our ‘Old East Leeds’ (and still do) are: Cross Green, Richmond Hill and East End Park. These three areas are neatly divided into three by two great gashes of railway cuttings. To the north dividing East End Park from the other two is the main Leeds/Selby railway line.

‘click’ on pictures to enlarge.


Built originally as long ago as the 1840s it was so deep that it was firstly built into a tunnel – one of the first tunnels to admit passenger traffic. Later it was opened up to an eighty foot plus cutting with six bridges of varying types. When you look over the retaining walls you see a 60 degree slope followed by a fifty foot vertical drop, with express trains shooting along the bottom. This was far too dangerous for even our notorious local nutters to contemplate a descent. But it did not deter them racing across the bridge parapets on the way to the Princess Cinema, one on one parapet at one side of the road and another on the parapet at the other side, when a fall would have surely meant certain death. The thought of it makes you cringe. Sensibly they have now put pointed top stones on the wall to render this practice impracticable.
I have been told, although I cannot authenticate this, that a guy being pursued thought vaulting over the bridge wall – thinking it was just a common or garden wall – would facilitate his escape. Some say his fall was fatal others that he only broke his legs and his back (only!)

The other cutting built in 1899, which spurred off the main line at Neville Hill and ran on between the Glencoe’s and the Fewston’s on one side and the Copperfield’s, Cross Green’s and St Hilda’s on the other side, on to Hunslet Goods Yard and then over the hills and far away to join the main London line. This cutting was colloquially and affectionately known as ‘The Navvy’. The Navvy at about fifty feet deep was still dangerous but not as deadly as the Selby line cutting, you would be maimed rather than killed should you fall all the way down unless you fell from a bridge, then you would be surely killed. But like all dangerous places it attracted us lads like a magnet and provided an adventure playground for us. It had five bridges with brick parapets and one – the one that allowed the paddy train to traverse across The Navvy to disgorge its coal at the coal staithe in Easy Road – this bridge had metal, horizontal, rail barriers that daredevils including sometimes girls, would dangle over and use as a trapeze. Not unnaturally, this acquired the name ‘The Monkey Bridge’
It became a sort of badge of courage to at least once descend the Navvy and stand on the lines (not many trains came along this cutting). Yes, I have my own virtual badge. The beauty of The Navvy was they were a number of quite easy descents that had developed names, Ginner Rock, The Town Hall Steps if you could get down the first vertical twenty feet in some places you could hurtle down the last part on screed. One descent, a bit more dangerous, was ‘The Devils Drop’ on the Glencoe side of The Navvy. This one meant you had to descend with your back to one wall and your legs to the other side like descending a chimney. Some got into more mischief by pinching the wooden blocks that secured the rails for their bonfires. The Glencoe kids had a game where they set a can on the line and then fished for it from a bridge with a magnet on a long string. Of course there were many cases of broken arms, shoulders and legs; lads would usually tell their mams they had done it in some other way as nobody was allowed to officially play in ‘The Navvy’.
The construction of these two great gashes into East Leeds has long past living memory and all is calm again but can you imagine the disruption to life in the area when they were under constructed, the deep cuttings being dug out by hundreds of navvies (I suppose that’s how our navvy got its name?) and carted away by horse and cart. Where did they all live for those years while the digging was going on and where did all the spoil go? I suppose it’s lucky that with railways no sooner is a cutting completed than they come to a place where the railway needs the spoil to construct an embankment.

The Devil’s Drop


There is a famous tale – which I know to be true – that one daring but foolhardy lad, David Wilson, jumped all the way down The Navvy for a bet – I think it was near to the old Bridgefield Hotel – for a bet, six pence and some comics. He broke his arm and to add to the chagrin it is said that he didn’t get the sixpence or the comics but he got much more, he is remembered as a legend – look I am writing about him here although David is long gone from this world, how much is that worth, to be a legend? If you’re looking down, Dave, congratulations you jumped the navvy, you’re a legend!
The Navvy is still there, old East Leedsers come back to look down and remember their daring doo’s. The ‘Town Hall Steps and Ginner Rock’ are overgrown now; no lads climb down there today. ‘elf and safety have now totally encased the Navvy and the bridge parapets with great pointed metal railings that would probably damage a lad more than the Navvy itself.
But this only emphasises the great freedoms we had in the forties and fifties that are denied to our counterparts today. Now they have only virtual adventures on iPods and Xboxes!

See also March 2014 ‘The Glencoe Railway Children’.

Happy New Year to all our readers.

.

A Seasonal Tale 1948’49

December 1, 2017

A Seasonal Tale 1948/49.
By Eddie Blackwell
When I was 10/11 years old before my voice broke, I was in the school choir and I had a reasonable voice, although a bit tone deaf, but I enjoyed singing. It was December 1948, Christmas was nearly here and I decided to go carol singing in the local area in which I lived. I knew all the traditional carols, Good King Wenceslas, Once in Royal David’s City, Away in a Manger, The Holly and the Ivy, O Little Town of Bethlehem, We three Kings, I could go on and on and I’m sure you would still say do you remember this one.
They were great times the war was over your Dad was back home, respect to those that did not return, but all was well with the World. The carol singing was going OK I was hitting the high notes sweet as a bell and the money was rolling in. I must have spent two or three hours doing the rounds, I’d finish off with “A little bit of spice cake, a little bit of cheese, a glass of cold-water, a penny if you please, if you haven’t got a penny then a halfpenny will do if you haven’t got a halfpenny then God bless you.
I did get a glass of cold-water, some sweets, and lots of money. I remember going into Lavender Walk, there was a small courtyard behind the Shepard Pub, Adjacent to where Charlie Atha lived, a row of Cottages can’t remember what they were called. The Cottages were arranged in the shape of a crescent which must have had an amplifying effect on my voice because one by one all the doors opened and people were listening to me singing the carols. Usually I was quite nervous when I had an audience, yet on this occasion I didn’t have butterflies in my tummy it was great. I got a small round of applause after I had finished, and some contributions, so I wished them all a Merry Christmas and was on my way.
I did have some close family who lived in the area, my Gran lived in Ascot street, Mums youngest sister Aunty Eileen lived at No. 144 Devon Street, it was a back to back terraced house which had been subjected to mining subsidence and looked as though it was about to fall-down, the window sills were all crooked and the door was skew whiff, but it was quite safe, and the rent had been reduced, which was an added incentive to live there, then there was Aunty Margaret she lived in Ascot place, which was the street joining Devon Street to Ascot Street, it was a tiny through terraced house with a small front room just big enough to take a half size billiard table, if you can imagine that small. You couldn’t open the front door fully so you had to be slim to get in and out. Well I’d done the rounds and by this time I was getting hungry, so I made my way home.
How did you go on asked my big Sister, I bet you didn’t get anything with your scrawny voice, I didn’t do that bad I said, and I emptied my pockets onto the table and there was well over a pound in coppers and tanners. That’s a lot Dad said the church will be very pleased with your donation. Ups I hadn’t thought about that and after all, the people were giving for Christmas Carols. Well my face must have dropped and Dad was on it straight away, he said I don’t suppose they’ll notice five shillings is missing but the balance goes as a contribution to the church, there’s the Centenary Restoration coming up shortly and they need every penny to repoint the steeple and make it last for another hundred years. Now I had the princely sum of five shillings in my pocket plus my weekly pocket money of a shilling.
Wow six bob I was rich and it was burning a hole in my pocket as it does when your young. The following morning I met up with my friend Kenny Walker and we wandered over the Saville Green wreck down past the Regent Cinema and onto Green Lane looking in shop windows at toys and saying I bags that for Christmas, people were rushing about as they do when Christmas is almost upon us. There was a little sweet shop on the corner of a street facing onto Green lane it was a funny shape almost triangular in the corner there was a hard backed book on display called “The History of the Motor Car” it was expensive five shillings and six pence, I picked it up to have a look inside, and a voice boomed out you’re going to take the print off those pages if you’re not going to buy it put it back. I put it down, I wanted the book but I didn’t have enough money to buy it, and that would mean no money for sweets or anything. Yet Christmas was just around the corner and you always got sweets and things in those days for Christmas. I’d already spent a shilling, and needed sixpence to buy it, but it may as well have been a trip to the moon, I’d no chance of buying it, I’d had my pocket money. Then a thought crossed my mind, what if I could borrow sixpence from next week’s pocket money, I’d have lots of sweets from Christmas which would tide me through and I’d still have sixpence, sounded like a good plan and I really wanted that book, it would be very educational, I’m sure Dad would approve.
Well would you believe Dad said he was skint, Christmas was coming on and he’d been spending his money on this and that for Christmas treats. But Mum came to the rescue, OK she said but I want it back I’m not made of money you know. Off I went and came back with the book. Dad had a look at it and said make sure you read it don’t just look at the pictures, and I don’t suppose you’ll want your Christmas presents now. What had I done, but it was a terrific book, it detailed the types of powered vehicles and their history, Steam, Electric, Gas Turbine and of course the Internal Combustion Engine, giving details of Speed records, and performance. The names of Famous Drivers and their achievements. The illustrations were great, and it was full of technical details, with an artist’s impressions of the Jet Car. It fired my imagination and I’d dream I was a Racing Driver winning lots of cups and medals. The book was a gem well worth the 5/6d I’d spent on it.
The tempo was increasing as it got nearer and nearer to the celebration, excitement and tension was in the air, people didn’t have a lot of money, and made what they could for special treats on Christmas day. Dad had made the Christmas Cakes several weeks before, he always said they needed to stand for a few weeks to mature and settle to be just right on the day, and he was right, and always served the cake with White Cheshire Cheese delicious. Mum would make those minced tarts and pies, and we’d sit around the coal fire with Horse-Chestnuts and Chocolate Brazils, with the radio in the background broadcasting Christmas carols. It doesn’t get much better than that. Although I do remember in later years after I’d returned from National Service. When Christmas Eve was upon us. Mum Dad and I would sit down in the living room, and empty our pockets on to the floor, (I always made sure I’d got plenty of cash on me because Dad was always skint), and then we’d share out equally the money we’d got, and I think for me that was the true spirit of Christmas. To share with each other what you’ve got, even though it may not be a lot, means more than you can ever imagine.
Oddly enough I had this book together with a full collection of Eagle comics from the first issue, in the roof loft at Mum and Dad’s house before I went to do National Service.
When I returned home in 1961, I asked where my collection was. Dad said that whilst I was away Mum had had a clear out and thrown them all away. They’d be worth a fortune now, you never miss what you’ve never had as my Granddad used to say.
I’ve tried to find a copy of the book since Mum had her clear out, but to no avail, obviously without the publishers name it’s very difficult. I’ll keep trying, who knows when my old pal Kenneth Walker makes contact after 65 years you must never give up hope.
Well I hope your all getting ready for the forthcoming festivities, we’ll be having our Nativity scene on display and all the traditional things associated with Christmas trimmings, and were thinking what’s wrong with Egg and Chips for Christmas Dinner.
We were grateful for what we could get years ago.
Christmas was different in those days there was more emphasis on the reason for the celebration rather than today’s commercialization of the event.
We were lucky to get sweets and fruit things that weren’t readily available in the shops in those days unless you had coupons, or connections with the black market, but for that you needed money. I think we had Chicken for Christmas Dinner that year, stuffed with sage and onion, and thought ourselves very lucky. Never the less they were happy days filled with enthusiasm, the war was over and the future was ours for the taking.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

JEAN’S TALE

November 1, 2017

Just a reminder before Jean’s Tale that The East Leeds Old Codger’s Reunion for 2017is to be held at the Edmund House Club, Pontefract Lane Leeds 9 on Tuesday 7th November from around noon onward all welcome.
St Hilda’s School Cross Green Lane, Leeds, was a grand little school in the 1940s/50s. Unless you were of the elite and passed your eleven plus and off to high school you stayed at the same school with those same class mates all the way from five years old until you left school at fifteen. In those ten years we got to know each other pretty well and had a great affinity with each other. Of course we didn’t always appreciate it at the time. So imagine what a treat it is to meet up with old class mates, hale and hearty, from that old school seventy five years after the day we all started school together. I recently had that pleasure when I bumped into a couple of old mates from that class; the twins; Joyce and Jean (nee Burrows). Jean has a tale to entertain you with from that old school
JEAN’S TALE.

I was eight years old when attended St Hilda’s Church of England School. It was December 1945 and Mrs Duckworth was our teacher in class 2b, and it was the day of our school Christmas party, I still remember the day well. My twin sister, Joyce, and I shared an attic bedroom and as soon as I awoke that morning remembered it was the Christmas party. It was so cold in the attic that morning that the window was covered in ice. I crawled out of bed and felt the shock of my feet on the cold attic floor. Quickly I pulled the large hand pricked rug from the bed onto the floor and sank my toes into the warmth.

Mam had made the rug last winter on a large frame in front of the living room fire. Within the rug could make out the vestiges of the red material from our lovely red coats which had too been made by Mam, this time on her treadle sewing machine. How Joyce and I loved those coats, but alas they were now too small for us, at least now, along with some of our other old clothes they were having an afterlife here in the rug.

I walked over to the large mahogany washstand beneath the window and scraped away the ice from the pink and blue patterned jug, and poured water into the bowl. When my ablutions were completed and I had fully dressed in my school clothes I pulled Joyce out of bed too, reminding her it was the day of the school Christmas party. Downstairs Dad had lit the fire but it had barely caught hold yet and was throwing smoke into the living room. I remembered we were awaiting the chimney sweep and hoped he would arrive to do his job while we were away at school. Mam was stirring the porridge in the kitchen and, Pauline, my other sister, was busy setting the table Mam had washed our socks and gloves for school so I checked the coal oven which was alongside the fireplace to make sure they were dry. Joyce came thundering down from the attic and we all sat down for breakfast. Mam poured the porridge into the bowls and in no time at all we had polished it all off.

The morning lessons dragged on, nobody seemed to want to work, even our teacher, Mrs Duckworth, seemed to lack enthusiasm. At twelve noon Joyce and I rushed home for dinner. Mam had just cooked us egg and chips as she knew soon we would be starting the Christmas party. The parents had all donated various types of delicious party foods for their children to take to school. Mam had prepared jelly, custard and iced buns for us to take.

At 1.00 p.m. the kids trooped into the classroom but we were to do little work before the big event. Eventually we were told to make our way into the big hall where we all sat on mats laid out in rows on the floor, the sandwiches, buns, cakes and various fancies were brought round on large trays. Everyone was allowed a choice and when it was my turn I greedily chose a Swiss roll from the centre of the tray, which I had decided to take home and share with my family. I put the Swiss roll on my lap and was busy talking to my sister and our friends when all of a sudden the Swiss roll was grabbed from my lap by a group of boys who started breaking it into pieces and throwing it about the hall. Pieces were going everywhere, children were screaming and teachers were all over the place trying to sort out the chaos. Eventually when, everything had calmed down Mrs. Duckworth dragged me from my position on the floor and took me into her classroom: I was trembling with fear wondering what she was going to do to me. She started shouting at me – demanding that I tell her why I had started throwing the Swiss roll about. I tried to explain what had happened and how I was not to blame but she wouldn’t listen, she called me a liar and pushed me into a corner of the classroom closing the door behind her. She then left the room herself closing the door behind her. I had felt so happy that morning now I felt so miserable and frightened: I could hear all the happy children enjoying themselves and wondered what would happen to me. Time passed and I could hear everyone leaving the hall to go home. Eventually Mrs Duckworth came back into the classroom and told me that when I returned in the morning I was to be severely reprimanded.

The dreaded morning arrived and I dragged myself to school feeling sick with fright. I hid in the cloakroom until the religious study period was over and then crept out to be confronted by adversary; she grabbed me by the jumper and marched me into the hall where she said I must stand until I admitted throwing the Swiss roll.

To cut a long story short I stood in that bloody hall for two and a half days. I was so bored and so cold as each day went by that I finally decided I would admit to the dirty deed but the injustice of the situation still infuriates me, even after seventy years. All through my life I have regretted my decision to actually LIE about the event. It was such a tiny episode but to an eight year old child it felt quite monumental. I realize now it was just a childish prank by the lads, but if anyone remembers who threw that Swiss roll I’d still like to know.
**********************************************
WOW Jean! Anyone know who threw the Swiss roll?
I was at that Christmas party all those years ago I don’t remember the Swiss roll but I remember my mam sent a blancmange in a fancy glass mould and I was worried it might get lost. A lot of water has run under the bridge since then Jean. Sigh!

Terraced houses et al

October 1, 2017

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

Terraced Houses the Winter of Discontent and Sliding Sash Windows.

By Eddie Blackwell

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

THE TEA CUP READER

September 1, 2017

Here’s another great tale from our favourite Aussie pom our East Leeds lass in Australia
Audrey Sanderson (nee Tyres).
Hit ’em with it Aud!

THE TEA CUP READER

By Audrey Sanderson

Reading Eric’s recent stories of poltergeist and all things ghostly set me remembering when I and two friends used to go to the tea cup readers. At that time there was lots of tea rooms in and around Brisbane. Predicting the future through reading tea leaves and tarot cards was illegal so they called it tea and entertainment. They were as thinly disguised as the brothels of the time were. The tea rooms were not as blazenly advertised as the other form of entertainment was. Most were what is now called Mum and Pop cafés. The only cooking done was toasted sandwiches; no deep fried anything or vast menus to choose from. Simple sandwiches of ham and cheese, plain ham, canned salmon, chicken. No gourmet cakes but scones with jam and proper cream, sponge cakes, fruit cake, shortbread biscuits, all homemade and delicious.
You usually found these small establishments by word of mouth. All the sign outside the establishments said was Tea Room and opening hours. Some were tucked away in shopping arcades, some up a flight of steps and over the shops on street level. All of them were very discrete and very quiet when you walked inside. There were only about 6 small tables with 2-3 chairs at each one. Tables have pretty cloths with a very small vase of flowers in the centre and an ash tray.
Everyone spoke in whispers as you gave your order to the waitress. They served coffee but of course if you were having tea leaves read you obviously ordered tea. I got a fit of the giggles every time I went in to one of those places. All the secrecy and whispering when everybody from miles around knew what you were going to a tea room for.
One of my friends was a staunch catholic and was having doubt if she should be there or not. We told her she could wait outside on the footpath if she felt that way about being there and we’d tell her all about it when we came out. She got huffy and said that would be worse as she’d feel like a lady of the night. We were acting like adolescent kids. I said she could stand on the other side of the street on the corner and swing her handbag; she might be able to earn a few dollars and only charge half price because it was in the middle of the day. She didn’t see the funny side at all. She didn’t leave though and said she wasn’t going to confess where she’d been as like the sign said it wasn’t fortune telling it was entertainment.
So we sat and ate the sandwiches and cake, drank the coffee and waited for our turn with Mystic Meg or whoever was the soothsayer that day. When the tea or coffee was served you were given a small ticket, about as big as a raffle ticket at the local pub for a meat tray prize. You had to give the ticket to the mysterious one for him/her to get paid for the day’s work. It wasn’t actually a full day they opened around 10 a.m. and closed at 3 p.m.

Waiting was like waiting in a doctor’s surgery when I was a kid. You looked around at faces and calculated when it would be your turn. My catholic friend thought the ticket was the number they called out when it was your turn. My other friend, a seasoned tea room visitor told her to be civilised as it was not like a queue at the local delicatessen.
She told me to stop laughing or I’d get the lot of us thrown out. Have you ever tried to stop laughing when you have a fit of the giggles? It makes me want to laugh more. I had to keep looking at the table cloth and try not to laugh. When I looked up to take a quick scan of the room I nearly had convulsions. The others in waiting were all women with dead set serious faces. I thought any minute John Cleese was going to walk in.
Discretion was the thing at these places. You weren’t meant to listen in to anyone else’s readings and being a novice I assumed there would be another room used for revealing the future. We’d sat at the only vacant table and didn’t know the folding screen next to us was where the actual entertainment was. It wasn’t until a lady left the cafe´ and one of the ladies in waiting moved behind the screen that it dawned on me that am where the action took place. My first thought was My God! Could they hear what we’d been saying? What a bunch of idiots thinking no one could hear us. It stopped me from laughing anyhow. You couldn’t hear what was beginning said behind the screen so hopefully the previous lady hadn’t heard us.
Eventually after what felt like hours it was our turn. My catholic friend didn’t want to go first the other friend said she always went last if she goes with anyone else. Looks like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t feel like laughing as I went behind the screen and sat down at the small table. The man sat opposite me was on the large side and asked if WE were having our cards read today. I didn’t play up by looking round to see if there was anyone else with me so I just said yes and handed him my ticket. He put it in a very nice beaded drawstring bag that was on the table. Talk about surprised. I thought card reading would be from an ordinary deck of card with Kings, Queens and Aces.
I had an aunt who used to say she could read cards when you chose one but it was from a deck of playing cards. These cards were enormous and had medieval pictures on them. What have I got myself into!! Wait ’til I get outside, that lunatic who talked us into going had said nothing about weird stuff. The man asked me to shuffle the cards. I’m no good at shuffling normal sized ones these went all over the table when I tried to mix them up. The man wasn’t impressed, gathered them up saying he would give them a good shuffle but I must handle the cards before he could read what was in store for me. I could see my immediate future as a quick exit and not embarrass myself anymore than what I had done. The cards whizzed through his hands and he handed them back to me telling me to do the best I could and not to drop them again. Great, being chastised by card shuffler and owner of a classy evening bag. I managed to shove some cards into spaces without dropping any and handed them back to him. He did a lot of hmmming as he looked over them and said they were pretty good. He was enjoying himself playing with the cards and pictures; he could have told me anything I hadn’t a clue what any of the pictures represented. He made a big t’do as he told me what it all meant. Can’t remember word for word what he said but it was about getting news from overseas. This happened ages before the internet and airmail letters took 6 days to arrive from England. He was on pretty safe ground as my Yorkshire accent is as strong today as it was when I lived in Leeds. I’d drawn a money card he said I told him it was probably bills that needed paying. He said no, it was money coming to me. As I don’t enjoy losing I don’t gamble so couldn’t see that happening. My love life was on the up and up and a man was coming into my life that was going to disperse all of my problems. O Goody can’t wait for him to arrive. A bit more about me and how I got on well with people and he could see an aura surrounding me which was very favourable as it was purple and that meant royalty. More Goody Goody, Prince Charming at last going to solve all my problems.
I went back to the others at the table and my catholic friend nervously went behind the screen. My other friend excitedly asked what he’d seen in the cards for me. I pulled a face, “News from my mother surprise surprise, a money gain and Prince Charming on a white horse is going to sweep me off my feet.” She clapped her hands together and said she hoped he told her the same. O Good. I get a man and she wants him, that’s no surprise at all she’s man mad.
Back comes my guilt ridden friend saying the man was a nut case and said he could see a wedding looming on the horizon. She was as mad as hell saying it had been a waste of money. I said not a complete waste she’s had some lovely toasted sandwiches, melt in the mouth cake and a great cup of coffee. It wasn’t listed you paid for the card reading as the cops would have raided them you just paid a little extra than other cafés charged for the eats and drinks.
When the 3rd. of our little group came out from behind the screen she hurried us out onto the footpath. “What’s the hurry? Are you babysitting and got to pick up the child from school?”
“No, hurry up and get in the car I’m going out tonight”
“Why didn’t you say beforehand we could have gone tea cup reading on another day”
“It’s because of the cards I’m going out tonight. Can’t you go any faster I’ve got to iron a dress?”
We asked what the soothsayer had told her. One of her cards was cupid or whatever the love card was and he said today was exceptionally good for her to meet people and it might mean a romance for her. Green lights all the way as far as she was concerned. I’d hardly stopped the car outside my place before she hopped out and got into her own car and sped off.
Us two went into my kitchen where I put the jug on for more coffee and asked if she was feeling any better than she was half an hour ago. She said not much as she was sure it would be her ex-husband getting married to the woman he’d left her for. I said she was well rid of him and could now sleep nights without wondering who he was philandering with and to forget the card reader. She said it was etched into her brain. I said nothing he told me was going to make a penny worth of difference and asked if she could see a purple light behind me. She asked what the hell I was talking about so I told her how the mystic one had seen a purple aura around me and said it meant royalty so in future she’d better brush up on her curtsies in case I got lucky.
She laughed a bit and said “Shall I tell you exactly what he said?” I said not if it was going to upset her. She said she wasn’t going to cry but if she told me maybe I could make better sense of it. I told her I knew absolutely nothing about fortune telling. The farthest I’d ever been into it was to read the stars in the morning paper and that was one size fits all.
Again can’t remember word for word but the card reader hadn’t said anyone was getting married he said what he could see was a lot of people celebrating a happy occasion and it could be a wedding. He’d put the idea into her mind and she’d assumed it was her ex that was taking the plunge. We talked about it for a while, could mean this, could mean that. I asked if he’d told her anything else. “The idiot asked if I was thinking of buying a new car as he could see something metal on four wheels “I said it might be a billy cart and laughed…she didn’t. I told her not to take it serious; it was good for a laugh and got us out of the house for an afternoon. Still serious “There’s something else. He said he saw a female who might cause a problem. It will be the new woman in the old fart’s life, she’ll try to cut my kids out of his will ” I said I’d be the female causing trouble if she didn’t stop being a pain in the neck ” Look on the bright side, you might get an invite to a party in the next week or two. If you do, ask if I can go too “She shrugged I’ve already got an invite to the twins birthday party. They are 8 next week, you can come along if you want, and you like entertaining kids “I said I’d give it a miss. They were holy terrors and always fighting with each other. She started smiling “You know what; I think I’ve solved what the tea cup reader meant. I’ve bought Josh a model of a racing car for his birthday and Rhonda a bride doll. He has such funny sayings and makes me laugh and she can be a little madam when she wants” Thank God for that. No more mention of ex husband and his paramour, weddings or new man in her life and no more guilty feelings of having her fortune told.

I got frequent mail from overseas I wrote to a lot of people. I never got any surprise money just my fortnightly pension and the only guy who takes away something I don’t need is the garbage man who comes every Monday. It’s a good job I didn’t hold my breath waiting for Prince Charming or any other form of royalty. Maybe the purple hue he saw round me was the sun reflecting on something outside and I was stood in the way.
The man mad one had a string of guys and the last time I saw her she was still looking for Mr Right. She did continue going weekly to tea cup readers, sometimes to different ones in a week until she found one that told her what she wanted to hear. She also had a dabble with séances and oiuja boards. I cried off going to them. I’m not that interested what the future holds. I didn’t fancy being in a dark room holding hands with a bunch of strangers waiting for something to happen. I’d been in an amateur theatre group for years and found out how to make illusions happen on stage. I enjoyed that as I knew all the people well. They had big egos but they wasn’t that weird.
She used to tell me things that had happened at séances and kept asking me to go with her. She was O. K. with the oiuja board when she first started going to the group that had one. She swore she never moved the upturned glass as it spelt out the names of the people round the table. It didn’t stay that friendly after a short time. When she told me it had whizzed all over the board spelling out Knives, Maim and Kill she said she was scared. I told her to stop going and her problem would be solved. She’s definitely not into violence she’s more the Mills & Boon type of person and happy endings. She continued with the séances for quite a while before she said she was fed up listening to dead people she wanted a man with some life in him.
The funniest one of all she told me about was one of the earliest gatherings she’d been to. She’d mentioned others of candles flickering when a spirit was present, smelling perfume or burning wood, mist floating around and cigarette smoke drifting by. Real amateur theatrics making that happen in a dark room.
But the one I remember most was the one which she went to where the Clairvoyant had managed to call up the spirit of a lady’s dead husband. He asked her if she was looking after the rose trees he’d planted and she said she did exactly how he’d showed what to do. An older man’s grandmother said she’d met some of the other relatives and they were all fine and at peace with everything. Then the woman went into a trance and started talking like a parrot. It squawked out a man’s name and a man at the table said he was there. More squawking and the parrot said how he wished he was back with the man and the man close to tears saying how much he missed him.

Tears were running down my face too I couldn’t stop laughing. She said I was rotten for laughing and didn’t I believe her. I said I believed what she’d told me but didn’t believe the Clairvoyant.
She said I should go with her sometime and see for myself. “Any how I believed it. You know how much I like pets I’m telling you Audrey it really was the parrots voice. It was lovely to hear it say he missed the man and he thought so too or he wouldn’t have been nearly crying. Why don’t you come with me? Is there someone from your past you’d like to talk to?”
I said I could ask Cary Grant if he was coming back.
“You actually knew Cary Grant!!!!” Sure, along with Errol Flynn, Robert Mitchum and Clark Gable. I asked if the Clairvoyant had found anyone for her to chat with.
“No you don’t ask her to find someone. You have to wait until she goes into a trance and then she asks if there’s anyone in the room called ???? And if there is she tells them what the spirit wants them to know”
“O.K. That’s how it works is it… How come the parrot got to talk for its self?”
“Sometimes that’s how it happens and I think that’s when she becomes a medium and they talk through her “I was finding it very difficult not to scream laughing. Years later I was reminded of what she’d said when I saw the movie Ghost. I also asked if they got a cup of tea and biscuits afterwards. She said no, as soon as the overhead lights go on everyone goes home. She said the woman was exhausted after going into a trance
” It must take a lot out of her doing all that Audrey I wonder if it’s hard to learn how to do it ” She was always getting crack pot ideas so I told her she was crackers enough without going into a trance and floating around the room. Told her she’d be floating around forever as she’d forget how to get out of the trance. She was always losing her glasses, car keys, and looking round car parks at shopping centres for her car.

Time moved on after World Exppo ’88 came to Brisbane. Countries from all over the world brought the best of their countries to show to everyone and also for them to see Australia. Brisbane changed forever. Not only Aussies going overseas to see other countries the rest of the world wanted to see us. Tourists poured into the country and multi story hotels popped up like mushrooms. Sacrifices had to be made and lots of the older small building was replaced with flash new ones. The end of the tea rooms which were replaced by side walk cafés and the word alfresco became trendy. Glitzy, glamorous but not half as much fun as the quaint discrete old fashioned tea rooms.