Archive for the ‘Kirkstall’ Category

The Leaving of England

May 1, 2012

The Leaving of England. 1965

By Mrs Wendy Carew (nee Parker)


Wendy, originally an East Leeds girl from the Charltons, relates to us her great, if heart rending story of being plucked, somewhat against her will, and transported with her two small children from a successful business in Kirkstall to a new life in Australia.

In the 1960’s Tired of trying to make ends meet I decided to run my own little business from home and to do that I needed a larger house and a contract to boardLeedsUniversitygirls.

My father had died suddenly, my mother remarried, and I was living miles away from the district I knew from childhood. Bored, and wanting more from life I started to look at expanding my horizons.

I had a husband (from the West coast ofIreland), two little children and a yearning ambition to have plenty of money and my own career.

 I managed to persuade my “better half” to consider buying an old, but very well maintained, three-storey house onVesper Road, Kirkstall nr the Abbey.

This house had its own name carved on the stone columns at the entrance of the driveway, it was called ‘Hazelwood. . ‘So what’ you would say in today’s world but in the early 60’s this was a huge achievement, a huge step up from my childhood in Charlton Road and Rookwood Avenue.

I had done my research and with university girls as boarders I could afford to pay off the mortgage on this grand home and have the house empty for us during the holidays. I have always loved old buildings, romantic stories from the past, visiting stately homes. In this house I could be living the dream.

I was very persuasive (great sex always did it in those days) and my house was bought and ready for business.


The ground floor consisted of large rooms with high ceilings, bow windows and bell pushes, to summon the servants.

These bells were meant to tinkle away in the kitchen but the only time I answered a bell when it was someone at the front door.

The kitchen was where I cooked on an old magnificent black leaded stove which we fed with wood and coal finely judging the temperature needed to bake, cook, dry wet clothes and heat the water piped to taps and bulky central heating radiators which my husband had placed in every room.

On cold nights I would sit in front of this stove knitting new socks on four needles and darning old ones that had worn through. I also knitted pullovers, cardigans, beanies, gloves and winter bonnets for my children and string vests  (these were in vogue at the time) for my husband. The bread dough had been mixed and was in place by the fire to gently rise throughout the night so I could re- kneed and bake it into the large loaves I needed for each day. This was the room of exotic aromas. Eggs and bacon at breakfast time, roasts andYorkshirepuddings with thick onion gravy at weekends, suet puddings and fruit pies, custard and fruitcakes. Clothes steaming dry and the smell of bleach as I scrubbed and bleached the large kitchen white- wood table standing in the middle of the room.

Off the kitchen was my walk-in pantry with a ten-foot long marble waist high shelf. It was very cold in there all year long and when we went blackberry picking along the country hedgerows I made and stored my jams and preserves in this cool interior.

I always cooked a goose at Xmas time, just as my mother had done, and skimmed the fat into an earthenware jar to store in my pantry. At the sign of a cough or chest cold I would mix with a little Vic’s (the mentholated fumes would clear the nose) and rub into the chest knowing the victim would soon be better.

Leading on from the pantry was the laundry. A dark room with stonewalls containing a large built- in copper boiler and freestanding Iron mangle. I had an Easy-Twin top loading washing machine my husband bought in 1962 but whether it spun dry I cannot remember. I have the ‘Hire Purchase’ papers that tell me the full cash price was 80pounds. 80pounds in 1962 was a huge amount of money and not many of us could pay cash. We bought it on ‘Hire Purchase” meaning 16 pound deposit and 36 monthly payments of two pounds, five shillings and three pence. The whole cost at the end of thirty-six months was ninety-seven pounds and nine shillings.

I think the average wage for men at that time was Fifteen to Twenty pounds a week.

My Working Week.

When the weather was bad important items were place on wooden rods, which were on a pulley high over the fireplace in the kitchen (clothes-airier) or a fireguard close to the fire during a night. I can still conjure up the warm toasty feeling of undergarments first thing on a snowy morning, as I would place them up to my cheek to check if they were dry enough for my children to put on.

When the weather was bad important items were place on wooden rods, which were on a pulley high over the fireplace in the kitchen (clothes airer) or a fireguard close to the fire during a night. I can still conjure up the warm toasty feeling of undergarments first thing on a snowy morning, as I would place them up to my cheek to check if they were dry enough for my children to put on.

Sheets, pillowcases, shirts, handkerchiefs, everything was ironed. We killed so many germs and viruses by starching and ironing everything; drip-dry clothes were just beginning to enter our world.

Fresh fish was delivered every week. A small van filled with fish and ice would arrive late in the afternoon once a week. I was one of the last on the fishmongers round.

He would be up before dawn in his hometown ofHulland would drive down to the docks waiting for the trawlers to arrive back from their fishing grounds with the daily catch. He knew what his customer wanted so he stocked his van and set off on his rounds. He called at all the villages on the way toLeeds, knocking at our back door about dusk. I knew it was fish day and would have my money and list ready.

Now that is fresh produce, fresh from Ocean to a suburban house inLeedson the same day. I didn’t realise how spoilt I was.

Let me describe the rest of the house.

There was a long hallway with a marble tiled floor stretching from kitchen to front door. A wooden carved staircase led to extra roomy bedrooms on the next floor.

There was one bathroom but it was the largest I had ever seen.

The iron bath, standing on four claw feet was huge and the centrepiece of the room. This bath, when full, would allow you the luxury of floating down to the end and back again. To me this was luxury – plus. Coming fromCharlton Roadwere the bath was in the kitchen doubling, as a counter top to prepare vegetables, this bathroom was my delight.

On the third floor were two attic rooms reached by walking up another staircase and opening a door in the ceiling. These two delightful room situated under the pitched roof had windows which looked out across the garden and surrounding rooftops.

The garden was very well established and masses of flowers automatically emerged throughout the year. It would start with crocuses pushing their way through the snow covered earth, then Jonquils followed by a carpet of daffodils and tulips forcing their way through the lawn creating a mass display declaring spring had now arrive. An apple and a cherry tree blossomed and gave fruit and rhododendrons were very generous in their colourful display. Rhubarb, blackberry’s and gooseberries grew in the bottom of the garden giving me fruit for pies and desserts.

I washed, cooked and cleaned for my husband, two little children and eightLeedsUniversitygirls. Good money was coming in and was much needed because my husband had a window cleaning business and his income depended on the English weather.

I was young and in love with my house and my life. I had all the energy of a woman in her twenty’s. I was on my way, I was carving a career, and life was sweet.

There was a downside though.  I lost friends and family, I had stepped above my station. Some visited once complaining it was too far to travel and never returned. The majority of women didn’t drive in those days and if a family had one car their budget certainly didn’t run to having the luxury of two cars. Buses were the only way to get to visit and after a while I began not to worry about the complaining and lack of phone calls.

“EE! Have you heard about our Wendy, gone to live up by t’abbey. Big house. Who does she think she is, Princess Margaret or someone! She’ll get her come-uppence one day.”

Signs of discontent.

I didn’t realise my success had became a bone of contention with my husband. I was free of his ‘housekeeping money’ as I was earning more than he was. Our income was pooled but his pride, as the man of the house, was at stake. He became more and more quiet and very sullen but I was happy keeping myself very busy washing, cooking and chatting to these young girls only a few years younger than my self.

One winters day he brought forms home for me to sign, he had decided to take us all to New Zealand. My world became fragile and I could sense it crashing down.

I refused, cried and went round to my mothers for back up. She was horrified but reminded me ‘I had made my bed and had to lie on it’ in other words my husband was boss and I had to obey. Besides, she said, he would sell the house and where would I live? Not with her! was the unspoken message.

In those days women were not allowed to have a mortgage and rental places were few and far between especially if you were a single women with children. My mother now lived in a small council house and kept saying ‘it was her turn to enjoy herself” and she definitely wouldn’t entertain small children messing it up.

As luck would have it New Zealand was out of our reach being fifty pounds a family. This was way beyond our budget and I relaxed thinking ‘well, that was the end of that’! Not to be deterred my husband arrived home with the forms for Australia.

“More within our budget” he announced, “ adults only ten pounds each, kiddies free”.  Refusing again to sign he just placed the house on the market and cancelled the university contract and I began to realised I was beaten. Husbands had the last say in those days and if they refused to sign or pay for anything, a wife could not have it (unless she could pay full price) and she had to go without.

Australia here we come.

Tearful packing commenced. Australia house allowed us quite a few wooden storage crates and I threw as much as I could into these crates, not having the slightest idea what I would need in the far away country of Australia.

Departure day arrived. My mother and her second husband had gone to Bridlington on holiday so only my brother was there to say good-bye. He collected and drove us down to Leeds City Station in the very early hours and we boarded the steam train to Southampton. We leaned out of the window waving good-bye and my little daughter 3 years old, vomited and wailed all the way to Southampton Docks.




The immigrant ship Fairstar July 12th 1965 till August ?


When we arrived at Southampton docks it was organised chaos, Hundreds of families trying not to loose sight of each other or misplace a child were labelled, crossed of a list and herded to their correct gangplank.

Our ship was the Fairstar belonging to the Sitmar line of Ocean Liners. Italian crew and Asian cooks and cleaners.

We were given our cabin numbers and a map on how to get there. I was horrified we were to be separated. The men in a 4-berth cabin away from the women and women sharing a 4 berth cabin somewhere in the labyrinth of decks and corridors of this huge liner away from our husbands. My young son 5years old went with his father and I searched for my cabin. My daughter’s bed was a drawer, which pulled out, next to my bed, a bottom bunk. Three other women, all strangers, found this was their cabin also.

The ship pulled away from the dock side sounding its load horn and we threw customary streamers from the ship’s rail. This is ok I thought, treat it like a holiday a two-year holiday and then, within 24hours, we hit the huge waves of the Atlantic as we entered the Bay of Bisque. 

Oh My God I just wanted to die. We rocked and rolled alarmingly and my two little ones were as sick as I was. I lay them outside on a wooden bench, holding them close while it seemed the whole ship was throwing up around me. My husband, of course found he had sea legs and off he strode to discover the ship and get something to eat. 

He occasionally remembered us and would take the trouble to see if we were still alive and then when he saw we were dull company would march off in another direction to find what the people with sea legs were doing.

When we entered The Mediterranean through the straights of Gibraltar we were in calm seas. Life became bearable and we began to eat, play deck games and make friends.

Port Said at the entrance to the Suez Canal was an eye opener. Very young boys swam around the ship yelling for money, which they dove down into the murky waters to retrieve. We had a few hours on shore and Arabs selling trinkets stood in our way and pestered us while men on bicycles with baskets of bread covered in hundreds of flies weaved in and out of the crowd. The best of the hawkers were men selling dirty pictures to our husbands. “Hey, McGregor” they would shout ‘want to buy dirty pictures of women.’ We laughed and they tried another tack, ‘”look, look, dirty pictures of men” or “McGregor, you need women – ten minutes, half an hour”.

I didn’t see any men dare leave the side of their wives to go for a look at the pictures offered but what an education for the women, including myself who had never seen or heard anything like this.

Aden when we arrived was under British curfew. Our ship anchored out at sea and floating pontoons ferried us in to shore. You must stay together we were told and stay on the main thoroughfare in full view. My husband, of course, ignored this advice and down a side road he went to bargain for something he had his eye on.

Told white blond children were prized and could be stolen for sale the majority of parents cheerfully left their children on board ship in the nursery so they could bravely meander through this strange alien bazaar. I kept close to the friends I had made and made feeble attempts at trying to out-bargain the natives. Men in their long robes would walk too close to us and would pinch our bottoms and tweak our suspenders. We giggled and laughed and thought it was all a bit of fun after all we were British and lords over everything we could see. We ruled the world – yeh!

Arriving at the dockside to be ferried back to the ship my husband was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t worry until back on board and the last ferry passenger had been crossed off the list. The empty box at the side of his name showed he was still on shore.

The captain made numerous loud announcements for him to come forward but as dusk was falling the British authorities in Aden had to be informed and a search party sent to find him.

A British policeman had glimpsed a disturbance down one of the back streets. He blew on his whistle and the crowd dispersed leaving a very angry Irishman, my husband, in the gutter. He was escorted, by special ferry, to the Fairstar and caught a telling off by the ships captain. We had been booked to disembark at Melbourne but were now told enough was enough and we would be put off the ship at Fremantle. It went over my husbands head of course and as I was used to his antics by now I just accepted it as part of our life.

The Indian Ocean in July.

Within days of leaving Aden we entered the Indian Ocean and cyclonic weather. I made sure my children had life jackets on constantly, as did I. The dinning room became more and more deserted and people were throwing up everywhere. We looked like green tinged zombies wondering aimlessly around the decks not caring if we were put out of our misery by being washed overboard with the next humongous dark green wave. .

The sea’s calmed as we grew closer to Western Australia and one day we heard the cry ‘land, land over there’.

We rushed to the starboard side excitedly pointing and taking photo’s only to find it was a tiny island called Rottenest and Fremantle the Port city of Western Australia where we were due to disembark, was on the port side. Like a Monty Python movie we rushed on- mass through the ship or galloped around the decks to point and shout again ‘land, land over there’.


Nissan Huts


Checked off the list we were crowded onto small buses and driven through streets of small weatherboard houses with tin roofs. WE arrived at Greylands Hostel and my heart sank. Row upon row of Nissan huts. 31 D. was to be our home until we could afford to move out.

Toilets, showers and laundry facilities were situated outside and we queued for canteen meals. A very sharp contrast from the life I had begun to create for myself in England.

Within three weeks my husband had bought a car, thank goodness, and had scored a job in the ‘bush’. It was a thousand miles up a deserted coastline and belonged, funnily enough, to the Americans. He worked for a company called Coppers-Klough building a Navel Base for America, the majority of Western Australians never knew it existed.

When he left on his big adventure it was the last time I set eyes on him for over a year.  I wrote almost every day to keep him in touch with our lives but I eventually become homesick and lonely finding little kinship with the people I had been grouped with.

My mother decided, in her council house in Leeds, to cash in her insurance policy and fly to Australia. This would have been a huge step for her to take. She had her passport because of trips to Jersey with her second husband Eddie but the story goes she left a note for Eddy that read ‘gone to Australia to see our Wendy, dinner in the oven, back soon’. This was so typical of my mum.

When she arrived we found out she couldn’t stay at the hostel with me, I now had to leave and find accommodation for us all.

The cheap rent of the hostel became a dear rent in Nollamara. Suddenly I was in ‘the sticks’. I was in an outer suburb on the border of a city, which was and still is ‘the most isolated city in the world’

My landlord was Italian, spoke little English, and my mother hated it. It was like living in the country for us. There was no one walking up and down the streets, because the weather was beginning to warm up as we neared summer and most people had cars and they drove to the shops and beach or catch the bus to town.

Mother would not go out the door in case a snake or humongous spider would attack and she was always on the look-out for marauding kangaroos. New to the country I was beginning to catch her fear but within two months she decided to return home. A few days before Christmas I drove her to Perth Airport, waved her good-bye and with tears of loneliness running down my cheeks drove my children back to my rental house feeling deserted and very alone.

Of course, once back in Leeds just before Christmas and in freezing cold weather she wanted to return remembering sunshine, sandy beaches and blue gentle seas.

My first 6 months.

I tried to make the best of it.

Catching a bus into town I was surprised at how the ladies dressed in their best clothes. Going to town was a dress-up event even to wearing a hat and gloves.

My children and I looked very summer casual and stood out like sore thumbs. When the conductress walked down to ask for our fares our accents pointed us out as ‘new chums’.

We were then openly and loudly discussed with the view we should go home and how we had cost the country a great deal of money to bring us out.

I learnt to be very quiet and just offered the right money for the fare.

In the big stores in town ( Cox Brothers on the corner of Hay and William St., Boans in Murrey street, Aherns in Hay through to Murrey, David Jones in upper Hay street through to St.Georges Terrace) I was often overlooked in preference for an Aussie accent. A year later when I had toughened up I could fervently argue Australians received more than their moneys worth because we were all vaccinated, far superior educated and had to have skills needed to be allowed to emigrate. In fact within weeks of landing we ( emigrants) had to have x-rays for T.B and had to ‘keep our nose clean’ for two years.

When I had enough of this Pommy bashing I began to snap back and realised the Aussies loved it when you gave as good as you got.  I became cheeky, told them off, called them convicts, I was embraced as ‘one of them’ and invited to party’s and Bar-B-Q’s    —

I had cracked the code, I had arrived.!

Well Done Wendy. We love your tale

Audrey: Schoolgirl and Teenager

September 1, 2011

Audrey: Schoolgirl and Teenager

Once again Audrey (ex pat East End Parker – now living in Queensland) allows us to peep into her life at Ellerby Lane School, Leeds, where she particularly remembers the tattoo at Roundhay Park in the early 1950s. (I’m sure a few more of us remember that tattoo, too.)  Later we are regaled by her tales of the type of magical nights you can only experience as a teenager. Well done Audrey! We’re right there with you.

Anything out of the ordinary routine of day to day living was cause for enthusiasm, eagerness to know what was going on.  Be the first one to know so you could tell others.  In other words, being a nosy parker.  A motor car stopping outside anyone house brought neighbours to their doors on the flimsiest of excuses; checking to see if it was raining; asking if anyone had seen the postman, milkman, and the paper boy.  Just an excuse to be out in the street and not being nosey at all.  They just happened to be outside at the same time a car stopped at number???  If it was a small Grey Ford Prefect or a Black Morris Minor you could almost guarantee it was the midwife.  That was to be expected really as Mrs. Whoever was due to give birth.  A dark coloured sleek car was usually a doctor’s car.  Although an ambulance meant someone was seriously ill it still caused excitement in the street.  Any other type of car had tongues wagging and speculation of which it was that was rich enough to own a car.  As soon as the car departed suddenly Mrs. Somebody had to immediately tell Mrs. Who-knows-a-car owner something important.  The rest of the onlookers waited until she came outside again.  She didn’t say anything at all but went into her own house and closed the door.  Seconds later one of the ladies remembered she too had something important to tell Mrs. Who’d just found out who owned the car.

The first time I had a ride in a private car I was about 10 years old. EllerbyLaneSchoolhad organised an excursion to a Tattoo inRoundhayPark.  I’d no idea what it was but I wanted to go.  I was very surprised when I told Mum about it and she knew what a Tattoo was all about.  Seemingly they’d had them before the war and Mum thought they were great.  But the cost of it!  Uncle Joe and Uncle Walt said they’d give me the money so I could see what a Tattoo was.  I paid the money and was given a paper to take home that gave details of date and time and I had to have someone waiting for me when the bus returned us to school after the event because it would be 10 p.m.  Mum said I couldn’t go.  It would be too late at night, too dark, too cold.  None of the other kids who were going lived near us.  I cried.  Uncle Walt saved the day and said he would be waiting at the school.  The day arrived or I should say the night arrived.  Mum took me to school, instructing me all the way not to get lost or they’d never find me, not to talk to anyone, do as I was told and not to walk home on my own if Uncle Walter wasn’t there to pick me up.  Instant panic “What am I to do if he forgets?”      “You stay there and wait for someone to come ”   ” Mr Holmes said we can’t go if there’s no one to bring us home.”  I had visions of being left on my own in an empty playground at midnight because Uncle Walter had forgotten me.  Mum said she’s sure he’d be there and shoved me on the bus.  None of the kids I was friendly with at school went on the trip.  I knew the kids but wasn’t in their groups.  Only the boys had gangs, we girls had groups.  I can’t remember too much about the Tattoo.  As anyYorkshirelass I loved brass bands, the louder the better.  There was a lot of marching in lines, Navy as well as Army uniforms then the pipe bands and men in kilts.  I remember them having to dismantle a gun on wheels then move the bits to the other side of the floodlit arena with rope and pulleys and put it back together again.  After it finished we were told to hold the hand of the kid next to you and follow Mr. Holmes.  I was a quiet kid at school, mostly because I was small and had to watch out my younger brother didn’t get bullied.  Yes, instructions from Mum again.  That was another reason for me wanting to go on the trip;Normanwas too young to go.  The girl next to me was Valerie Kay, another quiet girl.  We were both so quiet and shy we didn’t know each other was on the same bus.  She only lived 4 streets from my street so I thought if Uncle Walt wasn’t there I’d go home with her.  It was pitch black of course at that time of the night and no idea where we were until we arrived back atEllerby Lane.  Lots of parents were there but I couldn’t see Uncle Walter.  Valerie’s father had her by the hand walking away.  Close to tears I daren’t move.  I don’t know if I was more scared of being left on my own or of Mr. Holmes going mad at me because no one was there to take me home.  Mr. Holmes had a fierce temper if you stepped out of line.  A deep voice from behind me “Come on lass.  Let’s be getting thee ‘ome afore tha mam chews ‘re nails down t’  knuckles.”  Uncle Walt was a gate keeper on the locks on the river Aire.  He spoke very broad old fashionedYorkshirelanguage with lots of thee’s and thou’s and as strong as an ox.  

God! Was I glad to see him.  We started to walk.  Mr Kay, Valerie’s Dad asked if we would like a lift home.  Uncle Walt thanked him but said it wouldn’t take us long to walk.  Mr. Kay said we had to walk past the end of their street so why not get in the car.  I was so excited.  Me and Walt climbed in the back.  The interior light was on and I was so thrilled, everyone could see me in Valerie Kay’s father’s car.  As soon as we started moving I was disappointed Mr. Kay turned off the interior light, no one could see us inside.  We stopped outside their house in Glensdale Grove, thanked Mr. Kay very much for giving us a ride and Walt took me home.  He asked if I’d liked the Tattoo.  I said I had and I’d liked all the brass bands and seeing them marching.  He asked what the best thing had been.  I said without a doubt ” The very bestist thing was us having a ride in Valerie Kay’s car.”  He roared laughing and said maybe Mr. Kay could have a side line and make some pocket money charging 2d. a go giving rides round the streets. 

When I was 17 Auntie Maggie next door was constantly asking when I was going to get myself a chap.  Her grand children were either going steady, engaged or married.  It wasn’t uncommon for girls of 18 to be married and by age 22-24 have 2 or 3 babies.  Mum ruled with an iron fist.  I was only allowed to go to the youth club at Richmond Hill Methodist church.  Only because my cousin Dorothy was allowed to go there too and we went together.  She was 2 years older than me and liked playing the general knowledge quiz games they had,  a lady tried to teach the girls a thing called tatting.  It’s something like crocheting but a shuttle is used instead of a crochet hook.  The lady was so damn fast at doing it everything was just a blur.  The boys had the use of a dart board.  I was bored out of my brain.  A boy who went to our school turned up one evening and started playing the piano.  His name was Desmond and he could play like Winifred Attwell.  It was honky tonk lively music, the kids loved it and gathered round the piano.  The person in charge told him to stop and locked the piano lid.  He said we were not at the youth club to be entertained we had to join in.  Desmond went home and that was the last time I went to the youth club.  Auntie Mary, Dorothy’s Mum, told my Mum she should make me go back to the club as it was very nice and I wouldn’t meet any rough boys there.  I didn’t want to meet any rough boys anywhere but it would have been nice to meet some who were allowed to talk and laugh and not to have to sit in a circle and answer general knowledge questions.  Dorothy continued going and was happy with the crowd of people her own age.  Working in a factory broadens your outlook on life so when one of my workmates suggested we went dancing at the Majestic Ballroom my eyes lit up.  No use telling my Mum where I was going she’d have chained me to the table leg.  She lived at Cross Gates and said I could stay over night at her place as the dance hall didn’t close until 11:30 p.m.  My mother would have had a pink fit if she’d known.  I’d never been to a ballroom and imagined girls in long gowns and boys in dark suits waltzing around.  She said it was nothing like that but I had to wear a nice dress.  Mum’s idea of a nice dress was a pale blue or pink with puff sleeves, Peter Pan collar and a flared skirt.  Jean said I could make one.  We worked on a sewing machine we could make anything. Couldn’t use the sewing machine at home so had to sneak it into work and make it in the tea break.  Had to watch out that the forewoman didn’t catch me so sewed like a demon.  At that time some magazines offered cut out material with instructions how to sew it together.  I sent for a tailored dress and jacket.  Had it sent to Jean’s address of course.  It was a simple straight dress with no sleeves and a round neck.  The jacket had three quarter sleeves, a round neck with a collar, and three buttons and barely came to the waist.  The picture in the magazine was a silver grey colour.  Jean said it looked elegant and not to bother making the jacket up because I’d only need the dress to go dancing.  What it didn’t show in the magazine was the top of the dress had to be fitted to the bottom half.  We thought it would be just 2 pieces of material, front and back, with facings for the neck and arm holes.  Couldn’t send it back so I had to make it.  I’d been so devious, told lies, so much planning I was going to go to the Majestic Ballroom if it was the last thing I did.  It took 2 days for me to make it as we only had two 15 minute tea breaks each day.  The material was not a silver grey but a dark grey colour.  Jean said it would be more elegant than silver grey when it was made up.  It was the word elegant that got me.  That, plus the magical world of ballroom dancing.  My head was filled with romantic notions of meeting my Prince Charming.  In my haste to finish the dress before Friday I attached the top of dress to the skirt part but had the back of the dress top to the front part of the skirt.  Not until it was finished did I realise what I’d done.  Couldn’t burst into tears at work everyone would want to know what was wrong.  Rolled it up, shoved it in my bag and thought I was doomed to be an old maid forever.  No one had asked what I was sewing in the tea breaks as the dark grey colour was similar to suit material.  In the lunch break I took my bag into the ladies toilets with my friend Jean in tow.  Nearly in tears told her I’d made the dress back to front.  She told me to try it on and she’d see if she could do anything with it.  We were in the canteen toilets so there wasn’t the usual crowd of women smoking like chimneys.  When I had the dress on she said it fitted me like a glove.  I said she was lying, it was back to front.  ” It’s only the top bit that’s the wrong way round but look at it you’ve made yourself an empire line dress.  Look in the mirror.  It looks lovely.”  Instead of fitting on the waist line it was just under the bust line.  It didn’t look too bad ” But what’s it like at the back?”  She gave a wolf whistle ” Smashing.  If you’d put both front bits together you would have had to fill in the gap with some lace.  It would have been too low on your chest.”  I still wasn’t convinced.  The rest of the week I was thinking up excuse not to go on Friday night.  Friday dawned, more doo’s and dont’s  from Mum before I left for work.  I’d told her Jean and me were going to the Regal cinema at Crossgates.  Lucky me.  I’d already seen the film so could answer her questions on Saturday when I came home.  She only went to see musical films, singing and dancing pictures as she called them.  I knew she would ask the neighbours if they had seen ‘ Interlude ‘ I think it was called.  It had Rossino Brazzi in the lead role and was so romantic.  I knew the answers before she asked the questions.  Nervous as a kitten but excited as well we joined the ticket queue at the Majestic Ballroom inLeeds City Square.  All my Christmas’s had come at once.  Large men at the entrance dressed in tuxedos, white shirts and BOW TIES.  WOW! Just like they are in the films.  They said ” Good Evening ” as we walked passed.  We smiled and said good evening back to them.  In the cloakroom I asked Jean who those men were.  A one word reply Bouncers.  ” What’s a bouncer?”  In case there’s any trouble they sort the fellas out and throw them out on the street she told me.  My God! My mother was right.  I should never have come.  There’s going to be a fight.  She then told me they never have any trouble at the Majestic it’s a nice crowd they have in there.  After putting on more lipstick Jean had given me out into the ballroom we went.  She knew some girls who were already there and we joined them.  The band was playing a slow tune and only a few couples were dancing.  More of a shuffle than a dance.  Suddenly she whispered ” You do know how to dance don’t you?”  I said I did.  Uncle Billie had won medals for dancing and loved to teach all the girl cousins to dance.  Uncle Billie taught us Victor Sylvester style dancing.  A group of young men in nice suits, white shirts and ties came nearer to us.  One by one they asked the girls if they’d like to dance.  Then came my turn.  He was only as tall as me so he’d be about 5’4″ as I had high heels shoes on.  He didn’t dance like Uncle Billie at all.  I could hardly breathe.  I pushed him away, he pulled me back.  We were still in the same spot, we hadn’t moved an inch.  I asked if he didn’t know how to dance.  He put his face along side my cheek ” Sure I do honey ” in a broadYorkshireaccent.  I nearly laughed, who does he think he is? Clark Gable?  I turned my head sharply and caught him on the side of his head with the frame of my glasses.  That made him jump and moreYorkshireaccent ” Bloody hell, what did you do that for ”  Sweetly I said ” Sorry. I wanted to look where we were going you don’t seem to know.”  He stood still, moved back a little ” I haven’t seen you here before ”  All I said was haven’t you?  Maybe it was the dim lights, the music, excitement who knows.  I was a different person.  I wasn’t the shy timid young girl. I was in a dance hall with a real live band and bouncers outside in tuxedos.  I was a grown up. I had my elegant dress on. I had face powder and lipstick on my face. I knew how to dance and dancing is what I was determined to do. He mumbled ” Do you want to finish this dance or what?”  I said I was waiting for him to start.  He left me on the dance floor on my own and walked off.  So much for my dreams of a knight in shining armour sweeping me off my feet. 

I was asked to dance by someone else and he didn’t try to squeeze the life out of me but he couldn’t dance either.  Not many of them could.  A man who Jean knew tapped her on the shoulder.  Smiles all round as she and the other girls said hello to Charlie.  Jean introduced us, we shook hands and Charlie said ” A new face.  Fancy a twirl round the dance floor?”  I had no idea who he was and he was a lot older than us.  Married man screamed in my head.  He held out his hand ” Come on then before the band stops playing.”  So I did.  Just as Uncle Billie had taught me.  He was a terrific dancer.  No squashing, no sweaty hands, no trying to nibble my ear, we danced round and round the floor.  He said ‘ Your really enjoying this aren’t you?”  I said I was and he was the first man that night who knew how to dance.  He laughed ” Did you really think all these blokes come here for the dancing?”  Very naive I asked why else would they be there if not to dance.  He shook his head ” Did your mother not tell you?”  Tell me what?  Still dancing ” What did your mother say as you left the house?”  I mumbled.         ” What’s that you said?”  Feeling guilty and caught out ” She doesn’t know I’m here.  I told her I was going to the pictures.”  I felt sure he was going to tell me to go home on the next bus.   He asked what would Mum say when I didn’t get home until after midnight.  I told him I was staying at Jeans house.  He squeezed my hand, twirled me round, big smile on his face ” That’s all right then.  I live near Jean and give her a ride home if we’re both here on the same night” and twirled me around again.  He brought me back to Jean and her friends when the music stopped playing he’d seen someone he knew and he would see us later.  I asked her who he was.  ” He’s nice isn’t he, lovely dancer, he lives near me, often gives me a ride home.”  Hesitatingly ” He’s a bit old for you isn’t he?”  She laughed out loud ” Charlie’s married.  He makes no secret of it.  His wife’s lovely she just doesn’t like dancing and Charlie adores it.  You’re quite safe with him.  He’ll give us both a ride home tonight so we can stay to the very end and not have to run to catch the last bus.  Well I never did find my Prince Charming on any dance floor.  I had some good times though and plenty of laughs, some sore feet at times as well.  A lot of the times caused by young men standing on them and other times by wearing stiletto heeled shoes with pointy toes.  Ah! The fashions as well as the times we’re a changing.

The first time a ‘ chap ‘ brought me home in a car I’ll swear the whole street knew before he stopped outside our house.  I said thank you for the ride home and opened the door to get out.  He gave a mournful ” Aw don’t I get a kiss goodnight?”  I gave him a smile ” Only if you want a description of your car, licence plate, an exaggerated account of kissing and canoodling at this time of the night to be all overEast EndParktomorrow morning.  I value my reputation too much to be classed as a scarlet woman ” and got out of the car.  His window was wound down and his parting shot was ” I’ll tell all my mates you’re madam freeze ”   I said he could suit himself what he said, making a mental note to tell all my friends to steer well clear of him.  Mum of course was waiting up for me. Who was that? What have  told you about letting boys bring you home?  You’ll be getting a reputation.  I don’t know what I’m going to say to the neighbours.  I told her to tell them to mind their own business and went to bed.  If it had been either of my brothers that would have been an end to it.  Saturday morning she dragged it up again.  Sunday morning once more because I’d gone out dancing on Saturday night as well.   I was doomed to be the object of the neighbourhood gossips she didn’t know how she was going to hold her head up.  I laughed and said if I could weather the storm as I had done nothing wrong I’m sure she’d manage too.  That got me clip round the ear and one of our many shouting matches erupted.  It never entered my mother’s head the entire street could hear us yelling.  The neighbours who hadn’t been behind twitching lace curtains when the car had pulled up were soon informed by those who had.  Auntie Maggie wanted to know about my ‘ chap ‘ practically had the banns read out at the church.  I told her he wasn’t a boy friend just someone who’d given me a ride home.  Instantly from ‘ nice chap ‘ to Jack the Ripper ” Oh you gotta be careful our Audrey.  You shouldn’t be getting in cars with fellas.”  She was the only one who called me Audrey and it grated on my nerves.  Mum thoroughly agreed with Maggie and they spoke about me as if I wasn’t there:  I keep on telling her Mag but does she take any notice?  She’s going to end up like that lass in the next street.  I don’t know what’s got into her but if she doesn’t mend her ways she’s going to get whatfor.”  Maggie tut tutting and nodding her head.  I knew as soon as Maggie left she’d be straight into Martha’s house telling her poor Nellie’s daughter is leading her a merry dance.  They’d be shaking their heads with lots of sympathy for poor Nellie and who’s have thought her daughter would turn out like that ……and enjoying every single minute.  It was me this week it would be somebody else next week. 

By then I was not the timid young girl who never answers back to an adult.  I worked with women older than my mother and we were all on an equal footing in the factory.  Someone yells at you, you yell back.  I’d got friendly with a lively girl called Sandra.  She made everyone laugh, knew all the latest fashions, pop singers, film stars.  I bought vinyl records of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams and she bought records of Elvis, The Beatles and we both loved Aker Bilk and Kenny Ball.  We were both old enough to go into pubs, the pair of us barely 18.  She’d got in with a group of girls who used to go to the Compton Arms on a Saturday lunch time.  Drinking in the middle of the afternoon!  The height of decadence!  She said I aught to join them they had a great time.  My mother WOULD have thrown me out if she’d smelt beer on me in the middle of the day.  One Monday morning at work Sandra said it had been Fab at theComptonon Saturday they’re had been a jazz band playing..  Everyone wanted to hear about it.  She said they didn’t play there regular it just happened their car had broken down so they’d gone into the pub until a mate picked them up in his van.  They were Uni students and had formed their own jazz band and they had a regular paid job to play every Friday night at a jazz club over a pub atKirkstall Road.  Boy O Boy did I want to go???  We worked out how to get there for the following Friday.  Sandra lived at Halton Moor and could get on a number 14 bus that would take her to city square where she would wait for me to catch a number 4 bus that would take us as far as Kirkstall Abbey.  The pub we wanted was across the road from the Abbey.  I had to walk toYork Roadto catch almost any bus that would take me to city square.  I was beside myself with excitement.  We danced to live bands at the Majestic but this was Jazz music.  We got off the bus before the Abbey and crossed the road into a small pub.  She was greeted by all and sundry, old as well as young people wanted her to sit with them.  Back then all pubs were smokey places, didn’t bother us as along with everyone else we smoked cigarettes as well.  We were sophisticated we smoked Peter Stuyvesant king size cigarettes.  Everyone else smoked Players or Senior Service unfiltered cigarettes.  I kept asking where the band was. Every time I asked she stood on my foot under the table.  Eventually as girls do we went to the ladies.  Don’t ask me why, girls go in pairs to the loo.  As soon as the door was shut she said ” Will you stop asking about the band.  It’s not at this pub.  I come in here because I’ve got to know people and they think I go home when this place closes but I go over the road to the jazz club.”  I asked why we couldn’t go to the pub where the Jazz band was over the top.  A startled ” Are YOU kidding?  It’s The Star and Garter there’s a fight outside there every night the pub closes.”  She’d brought me to a pub where they fight every night?  I could almost see my picture on the front of the Yorkshire Post.  My mother would kill me before she slung me out into the street.  Sandra said it would be O.K.  We’d stay where we were until closing time, stay on the same side of the road until the cops had cleared the drunks and brawlers away in the Black Mariah and then we’d join the queue.    There were crowds of people hanging around.  Cop cars and the black van, cops shoving men into the back of the van and eventually they all drove away.  Sandra grabbed my hand ” Come on hurry up, elbows out, they only let a certain amount in.”  We ran and pushed our way towards the front.  We were all jammed together as we moved up a narrow wooden staircase.  A small window at the top of the steps was where we paid our entrance fee.  I think it cost half a crown to get in.  Could not see a thing once we were inside.  Sandra gripped my wrist and yelled not to let anyone separate us as she pushed herself further into the room.  We were making our way toward the only light in the place as she’d said that’s where the band played.  Light?  It was a single red light bulb.  My eyes were getting accustomed to the dark and I could see figures slightly higher than us under the dim red light.  There was a drum roll and a cheer went up from the crowd, then silence.  Suddenly a male voice ” Sandra you made it?  Is that your friend with you?  Come on gents give the ladies a bit of room, let them through.”  There was a small gap and Sandra dragged us both through to the front.  There we were, right at the front.  The drummer crashed the cymbal, a male voice said one, two, and…away they went.  The crowd cheered, the music was loud, and the atmosphere was electric.  We were packed in like sardines and we all had a wonderful time.  They must have played none stop for an hour before they had a break.  There was a makeshift bar near us that only sold cider.  We drank it.  You couldn’t move far in any direction so the band joined us two and introductions all round.  I cannot remember any of their names but I do remember the trombone player.  He was 6ft. tall, bright blue eyes, red hair and a big red moustache.  He was the larrikin of the group.  When Sandra introduced me he took my hand and kissed the back of it.  He wouldn’t let it go ” Come along darling.  Can you play the trombone?”  I said I didn’t have a clue how to play any musical instrument.  ” Lesson number one darling.  This is the bit you blow into.  Take a big breath and blow, I’ll handle the notes.”  I did as I was told.  I can’t remember who’d told me but at some time someone had said you place the mouth piece flat against you lips and blow like hell.  They were all surprised when I got a note out of it.  He picked me up and planted a big kiss on my lips ” You’re the first girl whose every known how to blow a note.  Can you play the trumpet?”  I couldn’t play anything.  They gave me the trumpet.  I did it again.  Johnny one note, that’s me.  They got back on the stage and played for another hour and then it was time to go home.  When we got outside the last bus had gone.  No idea what we were going to do.  If you missed the last bus at the Majestic there was a taxi rank down one of the side streets.  No taxis where we were.  We weren’t scared to walk in the dark but it would have taken us until dawn to walk home in high heeled shoes.  The band saved the day.  We were feeling sorry for ourselves when they came out of the small narrow door at the side of the pub.  They realised we’d missed the last bus so offered us a lift in their van.  We said we lived on the other side of town.  They said they lived at Crossgates, Seacroft, Halton Moor, Harehills andRoundhay Road.  Only a slight detour toEast EndParkso we piled in.  No safety belts back then.  The drummer owned the van so he drove.  I sat on the trombone players lap in the passenger seat.  Sandra was sat on a cushion in the back with the drum kit, a double base, the base player, the trumpeter and clarinet player.  We laughed and sang all the way to my house.  Going upEast Park DriveI said they would all have to be quiet as my Mother would go raving mad as it was with me being so late.   They wanted to take me to my door but I said dropping me off at the end of the street would be fine.  Our house was only the third one from the end of the street.  We were giggling at we drove upEast Park Drivewith lots of telling each other to shush so as not to wake the neighbours.   I got out of the van with lots of whispered ‘ good nights see you next week, hope you don’t get into trouble ‘ and a giggling Sandra ” See you on Monday with the rest of the slaves.”  High heels clicking on the pavement I took 3 steps, turned and waved as the van door closed quietly.  Then they laughed, a blare from the trumpet echoed down the street, much revving of the engine and tooting of the van horn and they roared off with trumpet still playing. 

My Mother threw the door back on its hinges ” What time do you call this?”  she bellowed.  I said I’d no idea but I was sure all the neighbours would be able to tell her in the morning what time I’d got home.  She was so flabbergasted she didn’t say a word, just stood there holding the door open.  I went straight to bed.  I knew I’d have to pay for being cheeky the next morning but tonight I was on cloud nine.  We’d had a fabulous time.  The music was still ringing in my ears, the young men in the band were great fun and I’d had my first kiss by a man with a moustache.  The next morning there wasn’t the ranting and raving from Mum as I was expecting.  She unnerved me asking in a quiet voice where I had been the night before and who’d brought me home.  No more lies.  I’m not a good liar and knew sooner or later I’d trip myself up and she would have shackled me with a ball and chain, mentally if not physically.  On my guard as I was sure it was the lull before the storm ” We went to a jazz club onKirkstall Road.  Sandra knows the people who play in the band.”  Getting ready to dodge the clip round the ear I was certain was going to be delivered Mum yelled “Kirkstall Road!  Why the hell did you go all the way out there?”  Obvious answer

” Because that’s where the club is and these fella’s get paid for playing there.”  She quietened down ” They’re proper musicians then?  They get paid for doing it?”  I said yes wondering what was coming next.  She chewed the inside of her mouth and a lot of hmmm and a sigh.  Still quiet voice ” Well the next time they bring you home tell them not to kick up such a noise at that hour of the morning.”  My God!!! What’s come over her?  I didn’t question it.  Coming home from work Monday night a couple of neighbours called out Hello to me as I walked passed their houses.  Big smiles on their faces.  As soon as I went indoors I asked what was wrong with Mrs. Simpson and Miss Smith.  Mum said she didn’t know and smiled to herself.  I said the were cooking something up and I knew it had something to do with me.  The neighbours were friendly saying Hello, Good Morning when they passed in the street but not usually with beaming smiles for no reason at all.  Dad came in a few minutes later ” What’s up with Mrs. Simpson and old Alice grinning likeCheshirecats.  They said your Audrey knows how to have a good time.  What are they on about?”  He looked directly at me waiting for an answer.  I shrugged my shoulders and glared at Mum.  Dad looked at Mum who was chewing the inside of her mouth again ” What the hell’s going on?  If those two old gossip mongers are saying stuff about her I’ll soon sort them out.”  Mum said they’d wanted to know who had brought me home Friday night as they could have woken the dead with the racket they kicked up yelling and blowing trumpets.  Dad slept like a log and hadn’t heard a thing.  Dad was still waiting for an explanation.  ” So I told them she has a boy friend that has his own band but they won’t be making a noise again because she’s told them not to.”  A few weeks I reigned as the girl who was going out with a band leader.  The tale grew with each telling.  From a bunch of Uni. students to the likes of Joe Loss, Ted Heath and almost Count Basie and Duke Ellington fame I had big smiles from everyone.