Archive for the ‘Princess Cinema’ Category

Arthur and the Divebomber

July 1, 2012

   ARTHUR and THE DIVEBOMBER

By Eric Sanderson

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phew Eric! I wonder what th (more…)

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Kenneth’s Tale

June 1, 2012

Kenneth’s Tale

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

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

 

                          The Memories of Kenneth (Hawkins) Heptinstall

                                                 ***********

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the things I remember

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

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

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

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

From Rags to Riches

April 1, 2012

                              FROM  RAGS  TO  RICHES

 

          Another great tale of East Leeds by Eric Sanderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a great tale, Eric!

                                      Next month look out for another £10 Pom tale

My Hero

December 1, 2011

Dave Carncross has kindly allowed us to peep with respect into his epitaph of a true East Leeds Legend – Richard Chappelow.  In our old East Leeds society the virtues we admired most of all were to be brave and to be tough. Rick had both in abundance.  That he was a little injury prone only added to his charisma and made us love him the more

My Hero

By Dave Carncross

By the time we were ten years old or so, we were all veteran cinema-goers – the main venues being the Easy Road Picture House, the Star and the Princess. We liked anything which involved soldiers, cowboys, cartoons and comic book characters. We all had our own favourite film heroes but I had a real one much nearer home – next door but one to be precise. His name was Richard Chappelow.

The Chappelows were a lovely family. Jenny was like an extra sister. She was the same age as me but always seemed older. She was fiercely intelligent and always seemed to regard me with an amused tolerance and affection – as though I was a big, daft dog or something. David was the eldest and a really nice lad. Richard was, well, just Richard. Their Dad, Alf, left them when Richard would have been about thirteen years old and I never heard any of them mention his name again. May, their mother, had an uncanny resemblance to the film star June Allison and was just as nice. She went on in later life to write a few romantic novels and got them published. Jenny married another good local lad, Jim Croll, had a family and found the time to get a BA degree in her thirties through the Open University. David married and ended up inAustraliaalthough I think he had a spell inSouth Africafirst.

Richard was without doubt the toughest, most resilient lad I ever met in my entire life. This is not to say he was a hard case, far from it, he was a gentle, good natured, easy-going sort and universally popular. We junior males in East Leeds at that time always set great store by not being perceived as being `soft` and tried to take the knocks as they came without any outward show of being hurt. This was not always easy even for kids who only had to endure their own fair or average share of misfortune. The difference with Richard was that, if there was an accident waiting to happen, it would invariably be waiting for him. Whatever occurred, he would always behave the same, never cried or whinged and had seemingly bottomless reserves of mental fortitude. When anything happened to him and bear in mind that I had plenty of practice, I would closely watch his face for any sign of normal frailty but never saw any.  Perhaps a tightening of the jaw muscles or a momentary closing of the eyes would be all that escaped his iron control. I was always amazed and mightily impressed by how he dealt with the `slings and arrows` which were constantly besieging him and I always knew for an absolute certainty that I would be found badly wanting in similar circumstances.

The first time I ever visited the dreaded `Dispensary` on North Street it was just to keep Richard company while the medics reassembled whatever part of his anatomy had been damaged that particular day. We were greeted by a groan from the Sister of `Oh no, not you again Richard !! ` He was a regular client there and was probably on first name terms with most of the practitioners there as he was at the LGI and St. James` casualty departments as well.  If we’d had such things then, it might have proved cost-effective to assign a personal paramedic to follow him around at all times. Perhaps a prescription for a full-body suit made of Kevlar for protection against impacts of all kinds, fully wired to afford insulation against electric shocks and corrosive chemicals would have come in handy. There must be many doctors who served their apprenticeship repairing bits of Richard. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had been invited to their graduation ceremonies, been made Godfather to their children and attended the odd retirement party or two.

We decided to paddle in the small lake atRoundhayParkone hot summer’s day just next to the sign forbidding us to do exactly that. Nothing happened to any of us except Rick. He stood on a broken milk bottle which cut deep into his foot damaging a tendon in the process. He had an operation and finished up with a plaster cast right up to his knee to hold his foot in a downward direction. To have to wear a `plaster` was like being the given a Queen’s Medal for Gallantry and all the lads were deeply envious. He kindly allowed us to draw on it and sign our names. Rick had always been very fleet of foot and, although the operation left him slightly flat-footed for a while, it didn’t seem to affect his running speed at all. He was still quicker than me even flat-footed. Mind you, he was quicker than virtually everyone else inEast Leedsat that time. I even tried running in a similar manner just to see if my sprinting improved but it didn’t.

Once, during a stone fight on t`ollers, we were sheltering behind our brick barricade sorting out fresh ammunition. I ventured a quick look over the parapet and saw a roofing slate scissoring through the air towards me and ducked instinctively as you would do. The slate sliced a neat furrow along my scalp but Richard had bobbed up behind me and it hit him dead centre in the forehead with a dull thud. I had a very satisfactory, showy but superficial cut which bled impressively but didn’t hurt really. Richard, however, went off to renew acquaintances with his old contacts at the Dispensary and added further to his ever-expanding stitch collection.

One dark winter’s night, we were engaged with loads of the lads in a vigorous game of Relieve –Oh when he took a bad fall on the cobbles. He got up holding his arm and immediately asked me to go home with him.  For him to ask for any sort of help was a first so I asked him why and he said “ I’ve dislocated my elbow“. I asked how he knew and he said “ I’ve done it before“. We walked back to his house but his Mam and Dad were at the pictures and his brother David didn’t believe him. We went to our house and my Mam took one look at his ashen face and told my Dad to ring for an ambulance. The ringing had to be done from the local call-box so we all went down together and waited for what turned out to be a car driven by an ambulance driver. Dad had to go to work (on nights) so I went to the LGI with Richard by myself. Bear in mind that I was about twelve, he was a year or so older and it was about 10pm by this time. The doctor in Casualty had a quick feel through his jacket and said `X Rays – wait here`. Rick said `Carny, quick get me shirt off! ` I asked why and he said `cos me vest’s black bright`. I managed to get his shirt and vest off and nearly fainted when I saw his arm at the elbow. It looked as though the bones had been moulded into a figure of eight and it was grossly swollen. I think by then that I must have looked as bad as he did. The doctor reappeared and ushered him off into the next room leaving me profoundly glad to follow his instructions to sit there and wait while they put the arm back into place. I heard the odd muffled, stifled whimper and they came back about 20 minutes later and Rick’s arm was in a sling. He already looked better and we were just deciding what to do next when Rick’s Mam arrived so we all went home together – me with the offending vest still stuffed up my jumper.

During the school holidays us kids were more or less free agents because our parents were all at work. In some ways I think we very quickly became aware that we were responsible for ourselves and the independence from virtually constant supervision that prevails in these days made us better at risk assessment in general. From the age of about eleven, we used to go all over on our bikes – Otley. Ilkley, Wetherby, Collingham and the like and never gave it a second thought. I often wonder if my Mam and Dad ever really realised just how far afield we wandered.

Collingham was a favourite venue for swimming. We used to go to one of our secret places which was reached by much fence climbing and running crouched down like Indian trackers alongside hedges, all the while dragging our bikes along. It just occurred to me now to wonder how we knew how to get there? Perhaps it was received knowledge passed down from generation to generation of East Leedsers. We used to sneak our swimming trunks out from home and, if we were lucky, a towel as well. If no towel, it was get dried the best way you could – usually on your shirt or wait until the sun did the job for you. Fate decreed one day that it was time for Rick’s next accident. He told me he would show me his newly acquired racing dive technique and prepared to launch himself off the bank. Now, swimming and diving were the only athletic pursuits at which I was definitely better than him so I stopped him, pointing out that the water was far too shallow at that point. He wouldn’t have it, argued that a racing dive only took you just under the surface and launched himself out energetically almost parallel with the surface. He seemed to stop dead as soon as he hit the water and I heard an unearthly, gargling underwater shriek at the same time. He stood up slowly, turning towards me with the water lapping gently just under his knees. He looked as if he had just been wrestling a wolverine or had had a lively encounter with a honey badger which was particularly out of sorts that day. All down the front, from forehead to feet, he was one giant graze – spitting out a mouthful of bloody gravel through busted lips with small stones dropping at intervals into the water from his numerous lacerations. In a very matter-of-fact voice he said `You were right about that, Carny` and retired to lick his wounds. We always thought it was best to leave him alone at these times as long as we were sure he hadn’t actually broken anything again. Later on he came to the conclusion that the water should have been deep enough but that he’d made a minor miscalculation on his angle of entry.  I felt that `minor miscalculation` didn’t quite cover it – a bit like setting off due west fromLiverpooland somehow managing to miss Ireland but we didn’t fall out about it.

In brief, there were the times …………………

When he was wrestling with his elder brother David and brought his head up sharply so that David’s top teeth cut a perfect semi-circle into his forehead.  He explored that wound with expert fingers and pronounced conclusively that it didn’t need stitches.

When, in our early 20`s, we were both playing for one of the Leeds and District rugby league open age teams. He was a marvellous player and completely fearless as always. He was at full back and came weaving through at pace after collecting the ball from a kick through. Suddenly, without being tackled, he hopped to a stop and put the ball down carefully. He sat down on the pitch, rolled down his elastic knee bandage and there was a clean cut right across his kneecap. We had no idea how it had happened but, of course, stitches were involved again. The following Thursday night at training he turned up complete with his bag containing his playing kit. I said there was no way he could train with the stitches still in but he said he was having them out on the Friday and wanted me to take his bag home with me so that he could play on the Saturday without his wife knowing. As it happened, there was no game because the ground was too hard due to frost.

We decided to make some toffee. It was his idea and we were in his house alone during the school holidays. I didn’t know how this was done but he said he’d seen his Mam make it and produced a jar of treacle and a bottle of vinegar. I liked treacle and was all for eating it straight out of the tin with a spoon but he went ahead and mixed it with vinegar into a stiff paste somehow. This was spread into an old enamel baking dish. Their old black cast iron range oven had a gas element at the back and he tried to light it with a taper made from newspaper. The time lapse between turning the gas on and reaching in with the lit taper was too long however and there was an almighty bang and rattling of the cast iron oven plates as it exploded. It blew Rick backwards clean over the sofa. He scrambled up and shocked though I was I remembered to turn the gas off. His eyebrows, eyelashes and the front of his quiff had disappeared and his face was studded with grime and tiny pieces of rusty cast iron but he was still clutching the taper. He had a good swill in the sink and, after tidying up as best we could, he felt that we might have gotten away with it. Looking at his new bland, featureless face with its faintly curious expression and unique hairstyle to say nothing of the remains of the treacle mixture here and there on the wallpaper, I wouldn’t have put money on it but kept my thoughts to myself.

I was stung on the index finger of my right hand by a wasp in 1997. I remember it quite clearly because it was the first time in my life it had happened and was very painful. Being 57 years old at the time, I managed not to cry (well, not much anyway). During the summers of our childhood, it was a daily, sometimes hourly occurrence for Richard to be attacked by wasps, bees or any other insect which liked biting or stinging people. The cure then was to apply a dolly-blue bag or a dock leaf. I personally thought a mainline injection of morphine might have been more effective but the stings didn’t seem to bother Richard much or indeed at all so maybe he had developed some level of immunity over the years.

Richard’s brother, David, had a beautiful J.T. Rodgers` racing bike. Metallic blue with chromed forks. Richard was under a permanent but ineffective instruction never to ride it. Came the time when we crashed together at speed attempting some intricate manoeuvre and the lightweight alloy front wheel of Dave’s bike was buckled into an `S` shape. As usual, Richard was impervious to the cuts and miscellaneous contusions which he and I had suffered but we both realised the enormity of the problem we now had with the wheel. I had a spoke key at home but had no idea how to use it. By trial, many errors and intense concentration we virtually dismantled the wheel and rebuilt it. Few things in my life have given me as much satisfaction as seeing it spin straight again when we put it back on the bike. Dave never found out (unless he ever reads this).

There was a time when he had his chest heavily strapped to the point where it was difficult for him to breathe. I can’t remember now how he had broken his ribs and I’m tempted to invent some bizarre set of circumstances which brought this about such as being run over by the cricket pitch roller or a chance meeting with a water buffalo which had escaped from a private zoo somewhere. It was probably something more mundane such as being head-butted by the Co-op milkman’s horse.

I have dismissed the assortment of broken fingers, cuts, bruises, torn ligaments, broken noses which adorned Richard’s daily existence as being too trivial and numerous to mention. Falling in rivers, out of trees, trapping toes; fingers etc were just an everyday thing for him and not worth recording here. These things happened to all of us but not as frequently as they did to Richard.

Richard left school at fifteen. I had another two years to do because I was about eighteen months younger than him and also at grammar school leaving at sixteen. He joined Andrews Flooring and Tiling as an apprentice. I did think that entering a trade which inevitably involved working with sharp, pointy metal tools, glassy materials and powerful abrasive machinery might just be tempting fate a bit too far but, as far as I know, he stayed at that company which is still on the go for the rest of his working life. Perhaps he used up all his accident quotas in his earlier days. We lost touch completely by our mid-twenties. In those days, National Service, moving to another area ofLeedsand employment or social patterns could mean you would just never bump into each other again.

Rick died a good while ago from a lung complaint, I believe. Jim Croll, his brother-in-law, told me that the doctors never seemed entirely certain what the illness actually was. With Rick’s luck it would have been a unique alien ailment brought to Earth from the Andromeda galaxy by a speeding speck of meteoric dust which managed to travel for 2.5 million light years just to hit him and him only. Mind you, I don’t think he would have been much help to the Doctors in that he wouldn’t have allowed himself to tell them just how rough he felt. There was a marvellous series of comedy TV programmes many years ago called “Ripping Yarns“ and Michael Palin was the star. In one episode his character caught bubonic plague and was covered in running sores and scabs. He passed it off as “Nothing to worry about – just a touch of the bubos“. Through my laughter I thought of Rick immediately. That was him to a T. My hero.

 

 

 

                      And anyone who knew Rick would concur with that!

My (very) small part in the Downfall of Adolf Hitler

May 1, 2011

                                My (very) small part in the Downfall of Adolf Hitler

Eric Sanderson this time entertains us with his war time memories.

Coming on to this mortal coil in the very same month that WW2 broke out – September 1939, in fact, war commenced just a couple of weeks prior to my arrival and being fair to myself, although I can be blamed for many things, I can’t be held accountable for the outbreak of hostilities between ourselves and Germany.

  Naturally, I don’t have full recall of those fateful years but some incidents and circumstances  are still quite vivid whilst the general background has been filled over the years by chatter amongst family & friends , mainly, my dear departed mother.

Many will have experience of very similar events and these few reminiscences (out of many) may just trigger, hopefully pleasant, memories of those long ago and soon to be forgotten days.

 My father was “called up” within a very few weeks of my coming onto the scene and spent the next five years or so away from home, mainly overseas. Consequently, the first time I remember him was when he came home on demobilisation leave in mid 1945 by which time I was nearly 6 years old. Who was this stranger coming into our lives after all these years with a settled and comfortable existence, telling me what to do and how to behave?. It was a difficult period of adjustment and speaking to others, years later, many had much the same experience.

 My mother always had sympathy for many of today’s single mums because she said that she was, along with many others , in effect, a single mother for over 5 years, struggling to survive on meagre means and raise a young child whilst at the same time, living in constant fear  for loved ones away from home and, of attack or even invasion at home.

In addition to my father, three other close family members were involved, two in the Royal Navy and another  a Lancaster rear gunner . So, plenty to worry over there.

 Several of our near neighbours also had father, sons & even daughters involved as sailors paratrooper, submariner and so on. Others includes firemen , train drivers (how I wished I could have been one) and everyone  involved in a variety of other occupations, including the local alcoholic who thought battery acid was a soft drink . Thinking back, I can’t recall a single man who was unemployed .That’s not too surprising during the war years but even long afterwards I can’t recollect anyone being unemployed or “on the dole” – somewhat different to today!.

 Although food was obviously much scarcer than today, I never remember having to go without. Rations didn’t go far but people were perhaps more resourceful, baking and eking out every possible scrap into something tasty, soups, stews, meat & potato pies and the like. My mother used to pick blackberries and make blackberry & apple pie with a delicious short pastry and it remains a favourite of mine to this day. The exception being school meals which, even to hungry young boys, were sometimes inedible. I’m sure I remember seeing the cockroaches knocking the top from a bottle of Gaviscon on a couple of occasions

My father , as did most soldiers, used to receive a (Black Cat) cigarette allocation and being a non smoker, would send them home  to be traded for butter, eggs, sugar and so on .Smokers at home were often happy to trade because cigarettes were difficult to come by, other than the much detested “Pasha” which consisted of dark, Turkish tobacco rather than the milder Virginia tobacco favoured by most.

I clearly remember seeing my first banana, some years after the war though and although sweets were rationed until well after the war, my Grandfather had a neighbour who worked at a local sweet factory and was able to obtain a few extra dainties for us from time to time. Goodness knows what he had to sacrifice for those treats.

Remember the ration books ?. You’d take these along to the shop where they would clip out a tiny coupon, god knows what they did with those minute scraps of paper and although many items were rationed, there was a range of goods known as “Utility” which could be purchased without ration coupons but they were generally of poor quality and shoddy nature. A friend recently recalled that her father, until he died,  still had a piece of “Utility” furniture surviving from the early post war years and which carried a large brand or stamp mark to distinguish it from the real article – perhaps not so shoddy after all?.

 Also, some food products such as sausages & offal were (I think) off ration and fairly plentiful. That may explain why sausages became a lifelong staple for many.

 It’s true to say that communities were more considerate & helpful towards each other than today, for example, neighbours would come into the house, prepare & light a fire so that the home was warm for those returning home from work. Sometimes, even preparing food and taking on laundry to help the hard pressed “single” mums who needed to work long hours in order to make ends meet.

My father used to send home seven shillings (35p in todays money) per week which, even in those days, was totally inadequate, albeit given that house rent in our streets was reduced for families with members in the services. Whether this was a regulatory matter or the benevolence of the local landlord, I’m not sure but in any event, many housewives had to work, often doing factory jobs previously done by men  such as turning, drilling, crane, truck driving and other heavy manual labour.

My own mother took a job at Burtons whilst I was despatched  to a day nursery for a very early start & late collection and so we were very much beneficiaries of the kind, neighbourly acts mentioned earlier.

During the war years, Burtons, who employed many “war wives” had a reputation as a  good employer, as well as providing good welfare facilities they even allowing paid, short term absence when their men returned home on leave.

Those living in the area will remember the crowds of workers ,flooding out of the likes of Burton’s, Sumrie, Hepton’s  and others at finishing time – just like going to a football match so dense was the crowd for a brief period. The buses & trams were all full, and crowded, such that two or three would often pass before you could scramble on, usually to standing room only.

Father’s employer was also generous, often sending gifts of money and food parcels with precious commodities like tea, sugar & eggs – coffee being unknown to us in those days.

Andersen shelters were provided in the gardens of every 5th or 6th  house, in our case next door and I clearly remember climbing into my siren suit, a warm, cosy maroon one piece suit  with enclosed leggings and  a large hood, prior to going down into the air raid shelter along with the much dreaded gas mask. Some of these shelters were prone to flooding but ours always seemed to be warm ,dry and , as I recall, very neighbourly.

 Although we were never bombed directly, some incendiaries were dropped nearby and the men, with only one exception, went out from the shelter armed only with dustbin lids in order to douse the flames.

Oddly enough, the “exception” in later years used to boast about being “over there” when in fact the extent of his military experience was a short spell in the Home Guard, based at Knostrop where POW’s were held and an Ack Ack gun emplacement was active .The POW’s, which I believe were mainly Italian, seemed to have comparative freedom to the area, particularly East End Park where they could often be seen wandering around in groups and speaking in what to us was a very strange language. However, they never seemed to cause any problems and some of them integrated into the local community after the war. 

Neither my father nor other family members ever spoke of the dark side of their war years but would, from time to time ,regale us with the often hilarious capers and scrapes they managed to get themselves into , a not uncommon pastime for many families.

 My father’s final homecoming was a strange affair. Mother told me that she’d collected me from school and on the way home, I said to her ,”Dad’s coming home today”. “No” she said, “he’s not coming home for a while yet”. When we reached home, who was sitting there, waiting for us to come home but my father, having been demobbed a few days early – something that my mother remained fascinated by and frequently recalled for the remainder of her life.

Massive street parties abounded all around & I remember at least two in our street , I think VE and VJ days which in my memory were gloriously sunny days, where tables were laid in the street, groaning with tempting delicacies and everyone having a good time after 5 or so years of being unable to do so.

 My family was lucky, all returned home unscathed, unlike some and a striking thing, looking back, is that most seemed to go about their lives with stoicism , optimism and good humour. I suppose the prevailing opinion was that the certainty of misery was preferable to the misery of uncertainty.

I don’t remember it being a depressing time , given the hardship and worry attached to most people’s lives, often the only relief being provided by the occasional visit to the cinema, in our case usually the “Star” or the “Princess” – where the celebrated Big Ernie presided.

 However, as I slide down the bannister of life , one of the remaining splinters in my a**e, is the concern that the life & spirit which was experienced & endured  during the war & early post war years will, very shortly, be outside the experience of anyone alive and even worse, be forgotten.

Of all the thing in life to despise, such as pestilence, famine, Bruce Forsyth etc, my recollections of those years isn’t one of them

 So, whilst I cannot claim that Hitler trembled in his shoes at the thought of my existence, neither did he roll his Panzer divisions up to our front door and so my claim to have played a small part may not therefore be too far fetched after all.

YET MORE MEMORIES OF DAVE CARNCROSS

April 1, 2011