Archive for the ‘Easy Road’ Category

The Easy Road Taws pitch

June 1, 2013

The Easy Road Taws pitch

By Dave Carncross

There was an open space at the end of one of the streets between us and the Easy Road Picture House. We knew there had been a house there at one time … the reasons it wasn`t there any longer ranged from being bombed, to gas explosion to , somebody being murdered there and nobody would rent it so it was pulled down. In fact I think it was that it simply became unsafe for some reason or other and had been demolished accordingly. So the next house in the terrace acquired a gable end and became the end one instead. The cellars had been filled in and the earth there was ideal for several taws pitches and became a handy meeting point for the local likely lads.

During one hot summer – they were all hot then, weren`t they ?? – somebody got the idea of grassing the whole area over and gangs of youths diligently scoured the immediate area and the quarry uprooting clods of grass from between the cobbles and wherever they could be found. Unbelievably, we actually managed to cover virtually the whole of the packed earth thus creating a new green “ lawn“. It wasn`t cricket square standard but nevertheless unique at our end of Easy Road. Much stripping to the waist and lounging about then ensued and we went home as brown as berries – not sunburnt, just covered in all the dust which had stuck to our sweaty bodies. All the grass had died within a couple of days of course and we were soon back to the plain old surface.

When we were about fourteen it was the site of an unfortunate accident for me personally. A few of us were speeding home down Easy Road on our bikes and I spied a trio of girls leaning against the end wall chatting. One was my mate Jenny Chappelow but the other two were `foreigners` and therefore of considerable interest to me. In the juvenile equivalent of screeching to a stop in an E type Jaguar, I swerved as nimbly as I could at the last minute and ended up skidding along the paving immediately next to the wall. Unfortunately, the knuckles of my right hand clutching the drop-handlebars scraped along the pebble dashed wall for a considerable distance removing the skin neatly and efficiently in the process. Somehow, I managed to quell the howl of anguish this provoked, managed what must have been a ghastly, crooked attempt at a smile, contrived a few merry quips through gritted teeth and went home to inspect the damage which, for once, was actually much worse than I`d thought it would be. This being the summer holidays, there was no one home but me and my Dad who was upstairs asleep in bed (permanent nights on bus service) and I thought it would be prudent to disinfect the area with Dettol. Using this neat from the bottle and pouring with my left hand was probably not the right thing to do so, yet again, I was in a position where I couldn`t unleash the screams of pain which would I thought have been entirely justifiable. I bandaged it as best I could and later told my Mam how it had happened judicially leaving out the girls bit. She looked at me through narrowed, all-seeing eyes and said “Showing off, were you ?? Serves you right !!” She always did have a way with words.

Not many folk came through with the answer to last month’s pic. It was of course Victoria School on York Road

Who is going to offer a name for these old iconic school –alas no longer with us.

 

Ellerby Lane School pic

 

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Audrey’s Wedding Tales.

July 1, 2011

Audrey’s Wedding Tales.

By popular demand another great tale from Audrey – formally of East Leeds but now of Queensland, Australia. Audrey tells her tales superbly – I’m standing on the step with her reviewing the bride and her family in the back streets of East Leeds

Weddings were major events in our childhood.  Any wedding of neighbours, they didn’t have to be related to you was a cause for excitement.  Not so much if it was a male member of the family but if the bride was leaving from the family home we hung around outside the house early to watch all the coming and goings.  Relatives, friends, neighbours in and out of the house hours before the bride left to go to the church added to the excitement.  Mum, Auntie Maggie and Martha who lived next door to Maggie started out with the pretence of cleaning the outside window,  sweeping the pavement and then scrubbing the stone step outside the door.  It just happened they were all in the mood to add sparkle to the house, nothing at all to do with watching the procession of people at the brides house.  No one owned a car so everyone arrived on foot and most had to pass our house to get to the brides home.  Before the relatives started arriving friends and neighbours of the brides mother were running between their own place and the brides every few minutes.  Some with tea pots, others with a plate covered with a tea towel, children of these neighbours dispatched to run errands to the small shops for sugar, tea, bread as the supplies ran out.  Important things like nylon stockings, mens black socks, dress making straight pins the ladies took upon themselves.  Everyone forgot they had to have pins for the buttonhole carnations or the brides mothers ‘spray ’of flowers, usually two carnations and a bit of green fern.  This was wedding stuff important to the day so had to be right.  Mum, Maggie and Martha would say hello as the lady made to walk past.  She was on an important mission so a curt ‘hello’ back was all they got.  They waylaid her on the way back though.  “Everything going all right at number ???  She getting a bit jittery now?  Have you seen the dress yet?”  She couldn’t resist.  After all she was in the know and the rest of the neighbours wasn’t.

 “Mrs. ???? has just come back from the hair dressers, she looks smart. Mr. ???? hasn’t started to get ready yet and she’s going mad at him.  They’ll be lucky if they’re ready on time.”  Have you seen the dress?  “No, not yet, but by all accounts it’s lovely and everyone will be talking about it for ages.”  Off she goes at breakneck speed only to pass another neighbour on another mission to the corner shop.  Aspirin and sticking plasters (Band-Aids) New shoes had rubbed blisters, somebody else had a headache.  She also got waylaid on the way back.  Shop keepers didn’t put packaged items in paper bags so the 3 musketeers saw what was in her hand.  “O I hope nobody is poorly love.  What’s wrong with them?”  Important neighbour on mercy mission. “It’s nowt much.  Two of thum ‘ave got blisters wi’ new shoes an’ t’other got an ‘angover.  ‘Servers ‘im right, the silly beggar.  ‘is wife’s tol’ im if e spews she’ll kick is arse oll way ‘ome.’  Eager musketeers “Is it Mr.??? who’s got an ‘angover??”  They were informed it wasn’t Mr. ??? with the hangover because Mrs.??? would have killed him, it was his brother.   After she dashed off to administer relief of blistered feet and a thumping headache the 3 women with the cleanest pavement and doorsteps in the street passed comment.  The complete history of the bride’s family was discussed.  It’s been said often and it is really true the people who lived in terraced back to back houses were the salt of the earth.  Always, always someone to give a hand to absolutely anyone who needed it.  It made no difference if you’d spent most of your life rowing with your neighbours if they were in desperate need of help you gave it.  It also meant that everyone knew about everyone’s family history as well.

 From the cradle to the grave lots of people never lived anywhere else but the house they were born in.  My own Father was adopted by Grandma Coley as a baby.  Lived his entire life in the same house.  When Grandma died Dad took over and had his name put on the rent book.   He married mum and they lived there until his death in 1987.

The time for the approaching wedding was getting closer.  People were now running in and out of the house.  More relatives in their best clothes were arriving.  Auntie Maggie wanted to know if all of them were going to the church in the hired cars.  Mum said it would cost a fortune, Martha said they’d need a corporation bus.  Lots of laughing at the thought of a big green double decker bus coming into the street and everyone scrambling for a seat.  No more running to the corner shop.  Mum said it must be just about time for them to leave and we’d better get closer if we wanted to see anything.  As if someone had flicked a switch suddenly the street was filled with women and small children.  They gathered in small groups near the bridal home.  Out came various people dressed in their Sunday best.  The men in dark 3 piece suits; trousers, jacket and waistcoat all matching.  A gold fob watch in one waistcoat pocket with a gold chain fastened to a pocket on the other side of the waistcoat.  White shirt and dark coloured tie and a carnation button hole.  All wore black shoes and black socks.  The ladies all wore hats and gloves, flowery dresses, matching dress and coat or a 2 piece.  The 2 piece was a skirt and jacket of the same material and colour.  New shoes and handbags and carried in the crook of the arm like the Queen did.  They didn’t acknowledge anyone who’d come to gawk.  Noses tilted in the air, hand threaded through their husbands arm off they walked out of the street.  For all their airs and graces they were the ones who were not going in the hired cars and had to walk to All Saints Church,Richmond HillMethodistChurchor Mt. Saint Mary’s if they were catholic.  Relating all what happened is not because I was a child who took too much notice of what people were wearing it was the running commentary issued by Mum and all the other women scrutinising every thread, every style from top to toe of every wedding guest.  Plus more family history from the onlookers;  I remember when that one ran around with the yanks during the war; I remember her uncle getting carted away in the Black Mariah when he belted his wife; When they were little poor little buggers never got new clothes at Whitsuntide.  If these women had been invited to the nuptials none of this would have been mentioned of course.  None of us had any money; everyone of us had skeletons in the cupboard.  I found it very entertaining listening to all this information.  Of course when I asked questions later I was told to mind my own business I shouldn’t have been listening.  Lots of it was very funny.  Things that were related to blackouts, fire watching, rationing and pawn shops.  Uncle Walter, Maggie’s husband, had died years before.  At every wedding we went to watch she always said the same thing “It’s to be hoped the wedding ring is 24 carat gold.  You get more at the pawn shop if it is.  Mine spent more time behind the counter than it did on my finger.  Walter never knew the brass curtain ring I wore was not the ring he’d married me with.  Mind you he didn’t know his best boots spent all week in there as well and only came out Friday afternoons and was back in again Monday morning.”  Mum tried to ignore her but Maggie thought she was offering good advice.

We got a little bit closer when Billie Roberts big black Rolls Royce pulled into the street.  He was the undertaker but hired the cars out for weddings.  Everyone said sooner or later you got to ride in one of Billie Robert’s cars.  No one looked forward to riding in the first one which was longer than the rest, had windows down both sides and only room for one passenger.

The Roll’s stopped outside the house.  Out jumped the groomsman and knocked on the door.  The house door was opened.  Out stepped Mrs ??? with a regal smile and a nod to the onlookers.  Joining her in the car were other adults named by those in the know as Mrs.??? brother, married sister and husband and grand parents.  That car left with lots of waving from the gawkers and a Queen like wave from Mrs.????  The next car pulled into the street.  Same procedure by groomsman.  This time out comes 2 small little girls dressed in pink long dresses, yards of pink ribbons on their heads and carrying a small bunch of flowers with a silver paper doily round them which my Mum called a posy.  Two older, taller girls came out next with identical style dresses as the smaller girls wore only larger. They had a broad band of pink material like anAliceband holding their long dark hair off their faces and carried a posy of flowers. Two adult girls were next same style dresses but deeper shade of pink.  They both had short hair which was half covered with a pink feathered head dress my mother called it.  It wasn’t a hat as we knew hat’s to be, it sat very tightly across the crown and looked as if it wouldn’t be long before they had a thumping headache.  They carried a proper bouquet of flowers.  Lots of oooos and aaaahs from the crowd as they climbed into the waiting car.  As it moved away the car that had taken Mrs.??? and relatives came back.  We were all ready for the big finale.   Seemed ages for the bride to appear as we all moved to get a close look.  The door opened and a cry of, “Here she comes” from the crowd.  But she didn’t, the door closed again. Lot’s of, “What’s up” from the waiting throng.  A few comments of a bit late to change her mind now.  The door opened again, the groomsman came out.  Silence from the crowd.  Then the bride appeared minus flowers.  A lot of oooos and aaahs isn’t she lovely from everyone.  Couldn’t see her face as it was covered by the white veil.  She didn’t seem to want to leave the house.  A loud voice from the back yelled out “ Oi!  She can’t see the steps.  Give her a hand you useless lump.”  The groomsman, brick red in the face held out his hand.  She still didn’t move.  Voice from the back again “Lift the hem of the frock you big ninny.  Were going to be here all day.”  He moved the bottom of the dress so she could see the steps and rousing cheer from the crowd she got into the car with a smile on her face.  She waved enthusiastically to everyone and her Father got a big cheer as he held the brides bouquet in one hand and locked the house door with a large key in his other hand.  A big smile from him too and a relieved, “Thank God! I didn’t think we were going to get out of the house.  Better put your foot down mate or he’ll think she’s changed her mind and her mother will kill me.”  Lots of laughing, lots of cheering and kids running behind the car as it moved out of the street.

The crowd dispersed and we went back to Aunt Maggie’s house for a cup of tea.  Lots more discussion of who wore what and who was married to who and where were the newly weds going to live.  It didn’t take long before other weddings were discussed.

Grandma’s house inDevon Streetwas called a through terrace house.  She had a proper room and a proper kitchen at the back of the house.  Outside the kitchen door was a small concrete square with clothes lines strung across, the outside toilet and a coal cellar.  You could get into the coal cellar through a door on the inside of the kitchen.  Had to be kept locked at all times as anyone lifting the metal grate where the coal man tipped the coal into the cellar could slide it up and climb in.  All my life I never heard of anyone gaining access in that manner.  If anyone was intent of stealing anything they knew it would have to be in another area.  We were all in the same boat, nobody had anything worth pinching.  If ever I see green or maroon velvet now I think of my Gran’s scrubbed wooden table on Sunday afternoon with it’s velvet cloth.  I have no idea where they bought these prized possessions.  Probably given to her by her own mother.  Round the edges of the cloth was a lace type cord with either a tassel or a pom-pom every few inches, very ornate.  In the centre of the table was a glass bowl.  I think it was a fruit bowl but it was always empty. She also had the same type of velvet 12 inch wide cloth fixed to a brass rail under the mantel shelf over the black fireplace.   Gran didn’t believe in ‘new fangled’ things and wouldn’t have electric installed in the house.  She had a gas mantel for light in only the one room, a gas boiler in the kitchen for boiling the white clothes on Monday’s (washing day) in later years she also acquired a gas cooking stove.  The pantry was under the bedroom steps which led to 2 bedrooms.  Under the steps that led up to the attic in the front bedroom was a single bed.  Which ever one of us kids slept in it had to remember not to clout your head getting in or out of it.  I was scared if I had to sleep at Gran’s house.  You had to have a candle for any light and it cast shadows over everything.  A stern warning of not to touch the candle or holder or you’d tip it over and set fire to the house and we’d all die.  Can you imagine what child psychologists would do to any parent who uttered those words today?  You’d be in court before you drew your next breath.  Worked for us.  You wouldn’t dare touch a lighted candle.

The best thing about Grandma’s house was when there was a wedding in the street.  She lived halfway up the street .  Directly opposite was a street with only a few houses.  I never knew what it was called, everyone called it the short street and it led intoAscot Street.  We had a grand stand view of all the weddings amongst all those houses.  We sat at the front bedroom window and didn’t miss a thing.  Mr. & Mrs. Edwards lived directly opposite, they had 3 daughters and 2 sons.  The girls had lavish wedding dresses and was the talk of the neighbourhood for ages.  All the little girls wanted a dress like they had when they got married. 

We were so entwined with everyone’s lives in the 40s.  One family called Olbison lived 6 houses up from Gran.  They had sons, no daughters.  My eldest brother used to knock around with them and Mum was always questioning Alan what they got up to.  Same answer as kids today give “ Nuthin ”  If groups of kids were laughing she said they were getting up to no good.  Didn’t stop Alan from running around with a wild bunch as my Mum called them.  Years later after Alan was married he said all they ever got up to was playing in bombed out houses, playing near the quarry and getting thrown out of the Princess picture house for yelling too much.  They literally got chased out of theEasy Roadpicture house before they got inside.  At the pay box one of them asked for a ticket and a bug hammer.  The whole lot of them got chased upEasy Road.

As we grew older we didn’t see much of our cousins who didn’t live in and aroundEast EndPark.  They were working and only came to visit Gran a few times a year.  Uncle Dick, mum’s brother, and his wife Gladys had 3 daughters.  Absolute stunning looking girls.  All had flaming red curly hair.  American movies were all the rage and Mavis, the eldest fashioned herself on Rita Hayworth.  She was about 18 and the Olbison boys used every trick in the book to get her attention.  She called them juvenile delinquents, tossed her head and all that long red hair and walked away from them.  The boys hung round Grandma’s front door talking loud waiting for her to go outside.  What they got was Uncle Joe telling them to clear off.  Half an hour later they were back.  Mavis of course loving every minute.  Gran told Mum to go out through the back door and tell their father to call the boys home because the next time Joe went out he’d leather them.  Uncle Joe, also a red head, had a short fuse.  A few minutes later Mr. Olbison bellowed from his front door and the boys disappeared.  One by one the Olbison boys married except for Kenny.  He joined the army and wore a red beret.  As far as I knew he was in the army and that was that.  I had no idea about regiments, badges or coloured berets.  Home on leave Kenny pursued Mavis, they became engaged.  All my older cousins were getting married and at one of the weddings which was the only time the entire family met up as Kenny was almost a member he was invited too.  Goodness knows what happened but towards the end of the evening a fight broke out.  Mavis threw her engagement ring at him and stalked off.  I think she’d seen too many American movies.  Lots of family discussions of why it had happened.  Ken wasn’t involved with the fight but they thought some of the opposition male wedding guests had made a pass at Mavis.  Some of our family said she was a flirt, others said she was just a good looking girl.  Looking back now WAS she ever a good looking girl!  Never daunted, Kenny didn’t give up.  Twelve months later he became engaged to my cousin Norma.  A very attractive girl but quieter than Mavis.  Kenny was very handsome and loved the army life.  Norma expected him to give it up when they got married.  He was used to making decisions, telling other people what to do, exit engagement number two and he didn’t bother trying to marry into our family again.

One of the funniest wedding tales I heard was related by Auntie Maggie.  As I said Dad and his sister Maggie had lived all their lives inCharlton Place.  The particular wedding must have been in the early 1920s.   I’m not certain but I think the name was Booth.  Their daughter was getting married and Mr. & Mrs. Booth, like all parents wanted it to be a spectacular event.  As after the Second World War money was tight after the 1914-18 war.  All the neighbours helped out as best they could. 

Beryl, the bride-to-be wanted a white lace dress, bridesmaids, bouquets, a fancy wedding cake, wine and all the guests to wear their best clothes.  Wasn’t as if many of them had a choice.  They counted themselves lucky if they had a warm coat for the winter and shoes or boots for their feet.  Ingenuity, make do, beg, borrow or steal Mrs. Booth was going to do her upmost for her daughter. 

Maggie jumped the tale forward.

“It was a lovely wedding.  Beryl had the white lace, bridesmaids in pink, beautiful flowers, a big wedding cake on them little pillar things, even had wine and all them that was invited had nice clothes.”

I asked if no one had any money how did they manage to get all this lovely stuff.

“You’re not listening love.  I told you we had nowt and we had to make do with what we ‘ad so everybody helped and we made stuff ourselves.”

“I know you could make the clothes and the cake but it still takes money to buy material and flour, sugar eggs and stuff for the cake.  What about flowers, you can’t make them.”

“Didn’t have to, we borrowed them.”

“You mean borrow?  as in you stole them?”

“We didn’t steal anything!  I said borrow and Borrow them we did.  One of the neighbour’s daughters worked in a florists shop.  They had to make bouquets for a 4’o’clock wedding and as Beryl was getting married at 2 she said they could borrow them but make sure they were back in the shop before half past 3.”

“Did they borrow the wedding dress?”

“No Mrs. Booth made it out of lace curtains.  She took the curtains from the windows and made a frock.”

“What did they do at night time?  Everybody would be able to see into their house.”

“Used newspapers taped to the windows.  And before you ask the bridesmaid frocks were made the same way.”

“But you said they were pink. Did she have lots of curtains to be able to make everything?”

“She didn’t have lots of lace curtains but she had relatives and they all did the same as her, put paper on the windows.  She dyed them pink using the water she’d boiled beetroots in.”

“What about all the guests?  Where did they get clothes from?”

“Everybody lent them things.  If it didn’t fit it was pinned up or held in with a belt.  They were only going to wear them for a few hours it didn’t have to be perfect.  Mrs. Booth wore a lovely hat covered in flowers.”

“Who lent her that?”

“Not listening again.  She made it.  She used Mr. Booth’s bowler hat and made flowers out of the tissue paper that comes round oranges.  The man from the fruit shop gave them to her.  At the wedding one of the grooms relatives said she could smell oranges.  Mrs. Booth, quick as a flash said it was orange blossom in the brides bouquet she could smell.”  Mr. Booth wasn’t too happy; it took a long time before his bowler lost the smell of oranges.

I laughed like mad. Maggie could tell a good story.  It was like seeing it all in my mind.

I asked about the tiered wedding cake “She couldn’t have borrowed that.  They’d have all wanted to see them cut the cake and have a taste.”

She made the tale spin out but what they actually did was make a small fruit cake, put plain icing on it and slid it under the bottom tier of the “cake”. The 3 tiered wonderful effort on the sideboard was made out of stiff paper painted white.  The decorations were glued on white lace doilies.  A slit had been made in the bottom tier for the knife to go in and cut the small cake underneath. It had then been taken into the scullery to be cut into small pieces and handed round.  The small buns, tarts and sandwiches had been made by the neighbours and Mrs. Chester had provided the wine.  It was rhubarb and had been in her cellar for a long time.  Maggie said it must have been a good drop because they were all drunk by 8 ‘o’clock.

“So they all had a good time then?  It sounded as if everything went off like they planned.”

Maggie started laughing until tears ran down her face.  It would have been perfect if it hadn’t rained when they were walking back from the church.  The dye from the bridesmaid frocks started to run and they looked like melting ice creams by the time they got back here. 

My own wedding!!!  On the actual day it run pretty much true to form as all the previous weddings in the street had done.  Everyone made an excuse to pop in and out asking if we needed anything.  Remembering these houses were very small, packed with furniture, anymore than 4 people in the room at the same time and there was nowhere to move.   When it did happened at times Uncle Walt said somebody had to breathe in so others could breathe out. 

Weeks before Mum made countless lists.  Dictated what everyone had to do.  No one had telephones so lots of bus rides organising all the relations.   Not only our family but the grooms as well.  I didn’t want all the razzmatazz.  My youngest brother had got married 8 months before and we’d been through all this.  I wanted a register office wedding with just the immediate families having a nice meal at a hotel.  Explosion time!  For one thing I was marrying a catholic.  He was an only child.  His mother nearly fainted and I got a lecture on Catholicism.  My own Mother yelled and carried on “What would people think if you don’t get married in church?”  And God forbid if I got married in anything but a long white gown.  So what does a good daughter do?  If she wants to still speak to her family and not have it thrown in her face for evermore she gives in for peace and quiet.  John’s Mother insisted we get married in a catholic church or we wouldn’t be married in the eyes of the church and we’d be damned for ever.  Come hell or high water him and his family would crawl over broken glass to go to mass every Sunday morning.  Annie, his mother, wanted the ceremony at St. Anthony’s at Beeston.  Mum wanted it at All Saints onPontefract Lane.  The two mothers wouldn’t meet to discuss it.  It was a series of “Tell John’s mother this, this and this “ from my mum.  Annie said virtually the same only “Explain to your mother this, this and this.”  I suggested to John we elope and let them argue amongst themselves.  He didn’t see the funny side.  Mum said we could have two ceremonies.  The first at All Saints so all our neighbours could come and watch and then all go over to Beeston so Annie’s neighbours could come and gawk.  Both Father and future Father-in -law said it was ridicules; it would be like a travelling circus.  Mum was in a black mood, she didn’t get her own way.  Mum made the wedding gown and 4 bridesmaid dresses.   I don’t have a sister, neither did John.  Annie asked one of his cousins if she wanted to be a bridesmaid, she jumped at the chance.  I’d never met her.  My eldest brother’s daughter was 4 years old Mum said she could be a bridesmaid.  I said I wanted my friend Brenda.  Brenda was married and just fallen pregnant with her second child Mum said it wouldn’t be right having a pregnant bridesmaid.  I said I’d known a lot of pregnant brides and got a clip round the ear.  More dramas making the dresses.  Mum said it would look silly having an 18 year old bridesmaid and a 4 year old trailing behind me so asked the daughter of her friend who was a tall 14 year old.  Not to be outdone Annie said the 4 year old daughter of her niece would match my 4 year old niece and everything would balance for the photographs. 

The day arrived.  The last Saturday in February.  Had to have that date, the following Saturday was in lent and if we waited until after Easter we would miss out on the income tax rebate. 

I woke up at 7 a.m. with my mother’s voice telling Dad everything was going to be a disaster.  That’s a good start to what was going to be a long day.  Forever the drama queen, knowing Mum it wouldn’t have been anything we couldn’t cope with.  As I opened the door at the bottom of the bedroom steps she was going out the door “You’ll have to get a move on and help your Dad sweep up this mess” and she left.  Not being a morning person I didn’t answer back.  Dad was leaning over the fireplace “Give us a hand love.  We’ve got to clean this up before she brings the frocks from your Grandma’s “Eyes wide open now I saw the hearth covered in soot.  If the chimney wasn’t swept on a regular basis sooner or later great clumps came crashing into the fire grate and sent clouds of soot over everything.  Told Dad to put the kettle on while I plugged in the vacuum cleaner.  Everything had to be vacuumed, dusted and wiped over with a cloth even the slightest speck of soot left behind and it would have been a disaster.  The blushing bride?  I felt more like Cinderella.  Maggie and Martha came in asking if we needed anything.  Not to be outdone the neighbours across the road came in as well.  I said I was going to sell tickets if anybody else came.  The women left in a huff saying they hoped the fog would lift before 3’o’clock.   Dad told me not to be cranky and I wished we had eloped.  Dad lit a fire in the grate and we both had a cup of tea and a smoke.  Mum came in asking what the hell we thought we were doing sitting down there was too much to do to be sitting around.  I said I was going to have a bath to get rid of the soot I was covered in.  Not something I was looking forward to as the tin bath was in the cellar.  Dad said we hadn’t had anything to eat.  Mum said she didn’t have time; he’d have to have a slice of bread with something on it.  She had a list of things for us to do after the tin bath was emptied.  I said she’d have to do it herself I was going to the hairdressers.   Thank God the fog had lifted but it was freezing cold.  Lovely and warm in the hairdressers though.  All hopes of peace and quiet went out of the window because the 4 ladies with curlers in their hair under the hair dryer domes wanted to know everything about the wedding.  The dryers were noisy things and they shouted above them.  I left the shop with enough hair lacquer holding my hair in place to withstand an atomic bomb.  As I walked up the street a neighbour’s door opened.  Esther, who was always dolled up as Mum called wearing lipstick and face powder said she had something for me.  “Come in out of the cold love.  Sit tha sen down.  Av made a spot of summat for tha t’ eat.  Tha’l be too busy at your ‘ouse.”  A nice little plate of sandwiches, a mug of tea and Dad sat at the table opposite me.  I nearly choked.  Mum would kill the pair of us if she found out we were in Esther’s house.  I thanked her and said nothing.  Esther was always laughing but Mum had her in the category of ‘a lass who had American boy friends during the war.’  I gulped everything down and said I’d better be going before Mum came looking for me.  Dad said he would be home in 5 minutes.  My brother, wife and small niece plus John’s cousin and her small niece were in the house when I arrived.  Hardly enough air  to breathe.  The coal fire was glowing.  Mum asked if I’d seen Dad.  I said he wasn’t in the hairdressers.  Got a black look from her.  Alan and his wife said they’d take the two little ones next door to Aunt Mag’s to get them dressed.  By 2 p.m. everyone was ready.  More instructions from Mum telling Dad not to forget to lock the door when we left.  More biting of her finger nails as she said she thought she’d better travel in the car with me and Dad so she’d be sure the door had been locked.  My Dad was a very placid man but he yelled “For Christ sake get into the car with the rest of them and get going.  God knows how long it will take to get to Beeston Leeds United are playing at home today.”  A look of horror on her face ” Why didn’t somebody tell me before now.  We should have set off earlier, were never going to get there.”  Mum, Alan & wife, Mum’s 2 brothers and Maggie piled into the car and left.  Peace and quiet at last.  One of Billie Roberts Rolls Royce’s pulled up outside and the 4 bridesmaids got in.  Very quiet, just me and Dad.  “EE you look a picture lass.  I’ve been dreading this day since the day you were born.”  I can cope with the yelling but not this.  “Do me a favour…lift this bloody veil up so I can have a smoke or I’ll set fire to myself.”  We both had a smoke before the other Rolls Royce pulled up outside.  We were both calm and I said I was only going to live at Halton, not the other side of the world.  He opened the door and it was snowing.  No crowds of neighbours hanging round the door to wave me off just 2 neighbours huddled in overcoats wished us Good Luck and hurried back indoors.  Half way across Leeds Dad said Mum would smell cigarette smoke on us and go mad.  I said she would be too busy bossing the priest around and between her and Annie it would be something to see.  Shivering with the cold we waited for the organist to play the wedding march.  I daren’t look at Dad but gripped his arm and he squeezed me tighter to him.  Dad was wounded in the First World War and had to use a walking stick so it was a slow walk down the aisle.  Everyone was in place and the church was packed.  Mum was very superstitious, she had one for every occasion; weddings had top priority.  Farther down the aisle I could see Annie.  I nearly laughed out loud.  I’d asked her countless times what she would be wearing and got a smug look and told it was going to be a surprise.  She always mimicked the Queen Mother’s style of dressing.  The hat sort of to one side with a big fluffy type feather in it.  A skirt and longish jacket, the long gloves, shoes and handbag all in the same shade of pale green.  I dare not look at my mother’s face.  GREEN at a wedding!!! The marriage would be lucky to survive to the end of the day. 

All went smoothly during the ceremony and then off to the vestry to sign the papers.  As it had performed in a catholic church we had to go through the civil service again before we signed.  Years before a registrar had to perform the civil ceremony in the vestry.  As more and more rules of the Catholic Church relaxed and ‘ mixed marriages ‘ more prevalent there wasn’t enough qualified registrars to go every church wedding.  The young priest had explained all this to us stating lots of priest had taken the course to become qualified registrars.  We were doing the I Do and I Will bit again with my mother’s voice in the back ground “Where’s the registrar?  The registrar should be doing this.  It’s not legal.  She’s not married.  The priest can’t do it; it’s got to be a registrar.  When our Eva married Eddie they had a registrar.  Bert! Do something I tell you she’s not married.”  No one took any notice and Mum had a face like thunder in all the photos.  We had the reception at the local working mans club.  The in-laws were well known there and Annie swanned around imitating the Queen Mother for the rest of the evening. 

The evening for the happy couple came to a close about 7 p.m.  We were driving to North Wales for our honeymoon but staying the night inManchester.  We got toManchestercity about 9 p.m.  Into a big hotel we go only to be told they were full up.  Back in the car and another hotel, same answer.  We must have tried every hotel in the city.  Someone told us there was a T.V and radio convention all weekend and everyone had booked rooms weeks before.  We did eventually find a hotel, miles out ofManchesteraround 11 p.m. This was a time long before the permissive society. We got very funny looks from the manager at that hour on a Saturday night.

Audrey’s Tales.

June 1, 2011

                                                Audrey’s Tales.

 

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

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

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

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

           

                                                The Homecoming

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

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

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

East Leeds Teenager

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

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

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

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

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

“You mean John?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watching the Coronation on Black and White TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

YET MORE MEMORIES OF DAVE CARNCROSS

April 1, 2011