Archive for the ‘Queensland’ Category

Tales from the Other Side of the World

February 1, 2012

        TALES FROM THE OTHER SIDE  ( of the world )

                       By Audrey Sanderson.

 

Audrey, East Leeds lass now settled 40 years in Australia, relives for us the traumatic upheaval of uprooting her young family from the familiarity, family and friends of East Leeds to start a new life in Australia.

A ten pound tourist is one of the nicknames for English immigrants.  A tourist implies a holiday.  While some       ‘ poms ‘ did treat it like a 2 yr. holiday thousands liked the place so much they decided to stay in this place calledAustralia.

It’s over 40 years since we stepped off The Castel Felice Ocean Liner owned by The Sitmar Line.

Why did we emigrate?  My husband was working 7 days a week and after paying tax on overtime we were ₤2 10/- better off than if he’d worked 5 days a week.  With 2 toddlers and a mortgage we never seemed to be getting any further forward than we were when we first married.  No child minding centres in the 60s.  If mother wanted to return to work a neighbour/ friend or grandma looked after the children.  My parents were elderly, husband’s parents lived too far away and all our friends were in the same financial position as us.  In the freezing winter commercial T.V. bombarded us with what a great life anyone could have inAustralia.  A neighbour of my mother-in-law had lived inSydneyfor 30 years.  She’d taken her 25 yr. old son back toEnglandto live to show him what her life had been like many years ago.  About the same age as my husband he and Les became friends before I met him.  The idea had always been at the back of his mind after hearing Les’s tales of growing up in a beach front house, easy going life style and couldn’t wait for his mother to get fed up with living in a tiny house and freezing winters so they could go back.

At first I wasn’t keen on the idea of leaving.  I had my life planned out or so I thought.  We had a semi detached house with big bay windows, 2 apple trees and flowering shrubs in the back garden with a creek running along the back fence line.  The front garden was typical of its day with a square of lawn edged by small flowering plants and a privet hedge.  We’d built a carport at the side of the house and had pink roses climbing up a trellis along the fence dividing us from the house next door.  We loved the house and the neighbours, shops, schools, a church and an excellent bus service a short walk away on theSelby Road.  We had lots of aunts, uncles and cousins and close friends.  I had visions of living in that house well into old age.  Never did like the freezing cold winters even as a child I didn’t particularly enjoy playing in the snow.  Great fun the first day when the snow was white and fluffy but not when it froze into a dingy grey icy blob.  It took ages to dress two toddlers in warm leggings, overcoats, thick socks and fur lined boots just to go to the shop at the end of the road for a loaf of bread.  When I could still put both of them in the pram it was like pushing a truck uphill trying to push it through thick snow.  Forget trying to dry the washing outside.  Within half an hour it froze on the line and when brought indoors again it thawed and was just as wet as when it came out of the washing machine.  The clothes airer became a fixture in the kitchen/ dining room.

The thought of permanent warm sunny weather was appealing sitting in front of a fire listening to the wind howling outside.  “It wouldn’t harm to go to Australia House and ask a few questions “said my husband.  So with the two children one Saturday afternoon we did just that.  Lots of friendly staff and lots of people like ourselves asking them questions.  We came home with lots of information and coloured brochures.  My husband wanted to leave on the next ship.  I had lots of ‘ what if ‘ questions.  After months of deliberating and frequent visits to Australia House we decided to put in an application for a £10 trip to the other side of the world.  After we’d been notified we had been accepted we started making plans to sell up.  We’d never mentioned any of this to parents or relatives.  My husband said his mother would say it was a good idea.  He never did see any farther than the end of his nose.  His mother always had an excuse if he did anything wrong, it was always someone else’s fault or told him not to worry everything would work out fine.  My mother I knew would rant and rave and say I was ungrateful for all the sacrifices she’d made since the day I was born.  Nothing new there I heard it all a million times.  I didn’t want to tell my Dad though I didn’t want to leave him behind.  The first sailing date we got was sometime in May.  We didn’t tell anyone until after New Year 1969.  As predicted the balloon went up with my mother screaming at me.  Dad and me both in tears, my two children crying also, they didn’t know what was going on but didn’t like everyone crying.  My husband said it was better for me to tell my parents and he’d pick me up from their house on his way home from work.  He was met with a stony silence and we went home.  I told him he could tell his mother on his own because I was sure she wasn’t going to be impressed either.  Used to getting his own way he said she would realise we had a better future inAustraliaand think it was a great idea he’d had.   Of course she would agree with him.  The following night he told her.  The children were in bed when he came in, very subdued.  “Does your mother still think you’re the best thing since sliced bread?”  He said she thoroughly agreed there was no future here for us but Australia is such a long way away and wondered how you are going to cope on your own not knowing anyone while I am out at work.  Same as I do now.  I organised, I made sure the bills were paid on time, I looked after the kids, I washed, ironed, cooked and cleaned, and he went to work.  “She said she’s got a few questions to ask you.  She’s going to ring you tomorrow.”  Of course she will…..after she’s phoned every living relative and told them she is being abandoned and things are not the same since she became a widow.  I’d heard all that a million times before as well.  She phoned when she thought I’d put the kids to bed for their afternoon nap.

What mad game did I think I was playing putting a mad idea like that into her son’s head.  I was never satisfied with anything, her son works his fingers to the bone, and I was taking away the only person she cared about and leaving her on her own.  I told her she was not on her own, she had a sister and 3 brothers and a heap of nephews and nieces constantly visiting.  It had been John’s idea and he talked me into it.  She didn’t believe me.  He would never abandon her if I hadn’t put the idea in his head.  What’s the point?  No matter what I say I’m always going to be in the wrong.

The house was put up for sale.  Plenty wanted it but couldn’t get finance.  We had to ask for a deferment of our sailing date.  Australia House wasn’t thrilled.  They’d advised us not to tell the real estate agent we were emigrating because they would keep dropping the price hoping for a quick sale.  We told the agent we were moving in with my mother-in-law.  We would have to if the house had sold quickly, she had 3 spare bedrooms.  I would have hated it but beggars can’t be choosers.  We got another sailing date in late June, the 24th I think.  We had 2 months to sell the house.  My mother-in-law was barely civil toward me my own mother constantly told me we’d hateAustralia.  I think she scoured the neighbourhood asking if anyone knew people who’d emigrated and didn’t like the new country.  Made no difference, Australia, Canada, South Africa she knew someone who knew someone who’d come back home because they couldn’t be to be parted from family and friends.  Too late.  The house was sold with one week to spare.  It was one of the worst weeks of my 27 years.  No fond farewells.  All the relatives said we should have visited them to say goodbye.  I had too much to organise to bother about what they thought.  We’d been married for over 4 years and never seen most of them since the wedding day.  My mother cried all the time she wasn’t calling me a traitor.  Mother-in-law ignored me completely.  The night we left on the sleeper train toSouthamptoncouldn’t come fast enough.

My mother-in-law and her neighbour came in the big black cab with us to the train station inLeedscity square.  She wouldn’t let the kids go, they were getting frightened with Grandma crying.  My husband was pushing the luggage into the sleeper compartment and I was holding onto my children’s hands trying to prise them away from Grandma.  The neighbour told her to let us get onto the train and we would all have a marvellous time inAustralia, it was a great country.  The guard started closing the doors.  Annie loved being drama queen and started wailing  ” My son, my son I’ll never see him again.”  Husband and two kids on the train, Annie blocking the doorway, I’m on the platform.  The guard told her to stand back and took hold of the door.  She wouldn’t move, I’m trying to tell the guard I had to get on the train.  He told her she was holding up the train and to get on or stand back.  More wailing from her as I’m trying to push past and managed to get a hand on the door.  The guard yelled at me to let go.  I yelled back ” It isn’t going without me ” and pushed with all my might.  Bang went the door, he waved his green flag, blew the whistle and the train started to move.  I never looked back.  I had two little kids to get ready for bed.  They’d never been on a train before so I told them we were going on holiday and going to have a big adventure.  They were fascinated by everything and soon settled down thank goodness.  My husband never had a problem sleeping and snored all night long.  The two kids were restless, tossing and turning in the cramped bunks.  I sat on the floor and cried my eyes out.  I could still feel my Dad’s arms hugging the life out of me and wished he was with us.  Mother and mother-in-law drama queens would wring all the sympathy in the world from everyone who cared to listen how we had taken their grand children away from them.  Was it really going to be everything the people at Australia House had told us it was going to be.  What if the kids can’t settle.  What will happen to us if he can’t get a job straight away.  How long will our savings last.  There had been a last minute hitch with the bank releasing the cheque for the sale of the house.  We’d had to leave the details with a solicitor and the address of the bank inBrisbanewhere to send the money.  He assured us the sale had gone through it was a minor detail and the money would be in our account when we got off the ship.  What if something happens to the buyers and their finance falls through.  Like a lot of other things we’d never done we had no experience of selling a house or dealing with solicitors.  We were very naive and very trusting.  These day I would say too stupid to be let out on my own.  I made damn sure my kids knew how to handle money, contracts, hire purchase agreements, and credit cards long before they left school.  All night these things occupied my brain.  I mentally gave myself a good talking to.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Dad will always be with me in my mind.  The money will be in the bank when we get there.  Must be plenty of jobs otherwise they wouldn’t need so many people to fill the positions.  John will have to take any job and not be picky.  So long as money is coming in at first he can get choosy afterwards.  Please let my kids stay healthy.  No National Health, the man said we had to join a health fund as soon as we arrive as medical things and doctors are very expensive.

Dawn came slowly.  My head throbbed as if I had a massive hangover.  I washed the children’s hands and face and got them dressed.  A steward brought us tea, toast and cereal with a jug of milk for the children.  Sleeping beauty wanted a cooked breakfast.  I told him to stay in the bunk until the kids had eaten as there was no room for him to strut about.  ” The tea will be cold by then”  Tough, it’s not the Ritz.  I got dressed and took the kids into the corridor.  I was in no mood to listen to him whinging.  After 10 minutes back into the compartment we went.  He still wasn’t dressed.  ” If I was you I’d get wriggle on.  You have 15 minute before we pull into the station and unless you want to board the train to the quay side in your underpants and singlet I suggest you move quick bloody smart.”  Of course it was my fault because I’d made him stay in the bunk while the kids had been fed and dressed.  ” I’m not arguing, get dressed, shove everything into the overnight bags and be ready in 5 minutes.”  I made a last check we hadn’t left anything behind as the train pulled into the station.  I always did the organising but did expect him to help with the bags.  He gets off the train, started walking down the platform.  The steward helped lift the kids to the platform, took the two overnight bags and helped me to the platform too.  He looked around ” Are you on your own?  I’ll try to get a porter to help you ”  I thanked him for his help but said my husband would be coming to help as I had the tickets and he wasn’t going anywhere without us.  He came blustering down the platform telling me to hurry up.  The steward shook his head.  Right! New life style.  New beginning. Let’s get one thing straight.  I grabbed the lapel of his jacket ” You have humiliated me in front of the entire train full of people.  Pick up a bag, hold Martin’s hand, walk at his pace and head for the ticket barrier.  I presume you know where it is seeing as they wouldn’t let you through without a ticket.”  He wanted the tickets.  Not on your life.  He’d lose them.  No need to worry about the rest of the luggage it was all labelled and would be taken care of.  The platform for the train to the quay side was jammed packed.  We had to pick the kids up and carry them.  No reserved seats, you sat where you could get a seat.  We got two together and had to sit the kids on our knees.  Sat opposite was a lady and man with their chid sat on the husband’s knee.  My head was still throbbing and I wanted to go to sleep.  The lady asked if we wereAustraliabound.  I said we were and were they going too.  Her husband said he thought to entire train load wasAustraliabound.  She asked if we knew anyone inAustraliaand where was our final destination.  I said we didn’t know a soul and we were going toBrisbane.  She said they also were going toBrisbaneand she had a brother and sister-in-law who’d lived there for 3 years.  Very nice at least they would have someone to ask things if they didn’t understand anything.  We didn’t see them again once the train stopped.  Another mad scramble and queues a mile long.  We were English we were used to queuing.  Eventually we stepped onto the quay.  The ship was enormous.  A brass band was playing.  Hundreds of people waving to friends already on board, officials everywhere directing us where to go.  I made John carry the overnight bags while I held onto both kids’ hands.  Martin clutched his black and white panda, Linda a pink fluffy bunny rabbit, they wouldn’t sleep without them. I had a child on each hand, a large handbag over my shoulder and a fist full of papers, tickets and documents.  Still not bothering to make sure we kept together off strode the new £10 tourist towards the gangplank.  Same as at the train station, no ticket, no admittance.  I took my time.  There were hundreds of people behind me the ship wasn’t going to leave for ages.  I had to walk slow 2 and 3 year olds don’t have long legs.  They were not used to large crowds and lots of noise.  So long as I held onto them they weren’t scared.  The man in uniform at the gang plank kept looking at John as if he expected him to try boarding again.  Maybe with relief at getting us all to this point and knowing in a few minutes I wouldn’t have to check and re-check anything a dozen times making sure we had everything I started to smile.  The brass band helped too.  Both children were smiling and I thought ‘ It’s all been worthwhile ‘  reaching the gangplank John started to take the paperwork from my hand.  The uniformed man grabbed his arm and gripped it tight.  He let out a yelp.  I said quickly he was my husband.  The man scrutinised the thick papered travel document we’d been issued with.  We had to use that instead of passports.  He told John in no uncertain terms to stay with his wife and family and not create anymore problems we weren’t the only ones getting on the ship.  Gang planks aren’t made for toddlers and again we made slow progress.  Half way there two crew members came and asked if they could carry the children.  The kids loved it, they could see a lot more than other passenger’s legs they’d been looking at before.  I spoke to John over my shoulder   ” In future you’d better behave like Prince Phillip and walk two paces behind me and that way you won’t get lost or into anymore trouble.”  He didn’t answer but stuck to me like glue.

We were shown to a cabin on B deck.  Very compact with 4 bunk beds, a baby cot and a small sink with a mirror above it.  The young man said the cabin was for the lady and two bambinos, the gentleman had to follow him.  We were told this may happen if the ship was full.  Our suitcases were in the cabin so I pushed them under one of the bunk beds.  A knock on the door, another steward with a lady a few years older than me.  She introduced herself said she had a husband and 2 teenage sons who had had to join the deck with men only cabins.  Another knock on the door yet another stewed and a pretty girl of about 19.  She was very shy explaining she was travelling with her parents who had a cabin for 2 so she was in with us.  We all wanted to go up on deck to see the ship cast off.  Lots and lots of noise, people shouting and waving to friends on the quay, streams thrown from every direction and the band still playing.  It was all very exciting, like something out of a movie.  Until……The gap between quayside and ship grew wider, the noise of the engines louder, the band music got fainter and the sounds from the people on deck was a lot of muffled crying, not very many smiling faces as we watched the shore getting farther and farther away from us.

The Australians returning home were a jovial lot  ” Come on sport cheer up.  You’re going to the land of plenty.  You won’t recognise us 6 months from now.”  It wasn’t said to anyone in particular, just a general comment.  I tried to smile, they meant well trying to cheer everyone up but their cheerfulness made some women cry more.   We had to free ourselves of millions of streamers and try to find our way back to the cabin.  John had to get his clothes and towels to take to his own accommodation.  He was not thrilled at all having to share a large cabin below the waterline with  5 other men.  I told him not to complain we had been told it could happen.  I then had to sort out our sleeping arrangements.  The baby cot was supposed to be for Linda.  A new born would have been hard pushed to sleep in it.  When I asked the steward if there was a larger cot he said it was a standard size for children under 2 yrs. of age.  She was 1 yr. 11 months.  I asked if I could have another pillow and I would put Martin at one end of the bunk and Linda at the other.  Like every other mother with small children hoping they didn’t start crying in the middle of the night and keep everyone awake.  All the children adapted far quicker to their new surroundings than any of the adults.  After 2 days we were getting used to the regulations of the ship and made friends with the people we shared a dining table with.  I still swap Christmas cards with one couple who shared our table and we now write about our grand children.  They didn’t stay inAustralia.   On the voyage we bumped into the couple who had sat opposite us on the train on our way to join the ship.  They were friendly with the other couple who shared our dining table.  We kept in touch after we got toBrisbaneand although we don’t live near each other now we still phone and of course now we are smart old ducks we email each other.

We missed seeing the first man walk on the moon surface.  I think we were in theIndian Oceanwhen it happened.  it was like being in our own little world.  Nothing to see but water in any direction.  It made me stop and think what it must have been like for all those brave men who had sailed in uncharted waters hundreds of years before in smaller ships than the one we were on not knowing what to expect.  We had as much food as we could eat, hot showers, lots of crew to look after us, a movie theatre, swimming pools, lots and lots of entertainment.  Not a lot of privacy but Hey we were receiving 5 star treatment and it had cost us £20 for a family of 4.

Linda had her 2nd. birthday on the ship just before we arrived inAustralia.  Sitmar the Italian shipping line looked after all the passengers very well.  They made a birthday party for her and all the kids at the table received big presents.  I’d asked the purser if I could pay for a birthday cake and have it served at the evening meal.  Children under 12 had separate meal times and all the kids on their table were about 3 to 7 years old.  After the main meal, just before desserts were served all the lights were dimmed and the happy birthday tune came over the loud speakers.  The maître d’ held a cake with lit sparklers and walked the entire length of the dining room followed by 10 waiters all carrying brightly covered large packages and all singing ‘ Happy Birthday ‘  The parents loved it.  Some of the real little kids were scared because it was dark.  Linda was one of the scared ones and I had to hold her in my arms.  We didn’t realise it was for her until they stopped at the table.  The crew, being Italian adored all the kids.  My eyes were popping out of my head I hadn’t expected anything like this.  I thought a simple sponge cake with two candles for which I was more than happy to pay for but all this!!!  How was I going to afford it.   The dining room lights went up and the rest of the kids with help from the waiters started opening presents.  I think the crew enjoyed it more than the kids.  The next day I went to see the purser again.  I thanked him for the party and embarrassed asked how much it was going to cost me.  Not a sophisticated ocean traveller was I.  Big smile ” Madam, Madam, we treat all our passengers like family.  Your little girl had a birthday we gave her a party.”  Still embarrassed I said ” We are immigrants not full paying passengers.”  ” No Madam.  You are a passenger like all the others.  We do not have personal details, everyone is treated the same. Only on this voyage are you an immigrant.  I too was once an immigrant.  You will do very well inAustralialots of others have.  It was our pleasure to see all the children having a good time.” I could have kissed him.

On August the 5th. We disembarked onHamiltonWharfunder a cloudless bright blue sky inBrisbane.   This is it, our new country.  Very excited to see what it looked like we’d been on deck since 5 a.m. watching as the liner edged its way into the mouth of theBrisbaneRiver.  Couldn’t see much as it was still dark.  As we’d stopped in all the major cities sincePerththere was only about 200 immigrants left to disembark.  The rest of the passengers were either Australians returning to Brisbane or passengers going back to Southampton who had joined the ship at the various ports we’d called at on our way round Australia.  Some were immigrants returning and wanted to tell the new comers they wouldn’t like Oz as Aussies didn’t like poms.  We had been warned this would happen but it was up to ourselves whether we made a go of it or not.  You can’t please everybody and we’d had plenty of time to change our minds long before we put our house up for sale.

Once we’d arrived I knew why some were called whingers.  ” It’s not like it was back home ” I heard lots of times on the immigration camp where we were housed.  From the wharf to the camp we travelled by coach.  Granted the bus was not exactly modern but it got us to where we were going.  The houses? were certainly an eye opener.  Not a house at all but army huts as used by the Australian army.  Not the Ritz but clean and a roof over our heads.  All the packing cases and cabin trunks with our worldly possessions were stored in a locked building.  We were shown to our house? and told where the facilities were.  The canteen, shower block, toilets and laundry room a short walk from our little wooden house.  From the outside I thought our accommodation was small.  Smaller still when I realised it was for two families.  Our neighbours in this little semi were German.  They didn’t speak English, we didn’t speak German.  We smiled and nodded a lot to each other.  My son was 3, my daughter 2 yrs. old.  We had lived in a quiet cul-de-sac inLeeds.  The house we sold was a semi but of the big bay windows, nice garden with apple trees and a creek running along the back fence variety.  Our new semi had paper thin walls.  I’m not exaggerating you could hear the people next door breathing during the night.  The first night none of us slept.  We’d had lots of information from the people at Australia House inLeedsbefore we left.  What they didn’t tell us was there is no twilight inQueensland.  August was still winter time and the sun sets around 5:15 – 5:30 p.m. By 6 p.m. total blackness.  We’d packed our entire household belongs into crates etc. the only thing not packed was a torch or a flashlight.  All meals were plentiful and free but had to be taken in the canteen.  Daylight when we went into the canteen at 5 p.m. pitch black when we came out.  We got lost on the short walk back home.  We also found out immediately the sun goes down the mosquitoes come out to feast.  We were getting eaten alive.  One moaning husband carrying small son, one scared wife carrying crying small daughter.  We did find our abode then had to venture out again to the shower blocks to bath the kids and dress them in pyjamas.  Showers of course, no baths.  My little girl screamed the place down.  She didn’t want to go in the room where it was raining.  Great.  We’d been inBrisbane6 hours and already had got lost, eaten alive by insects, living in the back of beyond and surrounded by all nationalities who couldn’t speak English.  I turned the shower off and tried to quieten her down.  She’s stopped screaming but was now sobbing.  Of course with all the noise other women had come running.  Lots of sympathetic looks but no conversation.  A young woman with a Scottish accent asked what was wrong with the bairn, was she ill?  In my thickYorkshireaccent I said she was used to having a bath, not a shower and thought it was rainwater.

” Come with me hen.  I’ll show you what I did with mine when we first arrived.”  She took me to the laundry room.  All those years ago it was common practice to have deep concrete trough like sinks in laundries.  So Linda had her first bath inAustraliastood up in a concrete tub.  Her mother had a quick wash as I couldn’t leave her with a complete stranger while I had a shower.  She really would have screamed the place down.  No entertainment on the camp.  It wasn’t Butlins of the outback.  No radios, no T.V.  Everything was silent by 8 p.m.  Everything that is except for the nocturnal wild life.  Something else the people at Australia House forgot to mention.  Wacol, the name of the suburb was way-out on the fringes of the city back in 1969.  Nothing but trees.  In this day and age Mr. and Mrs. Average couldn’t afford to buy in a suburb like that.  Back then I wished I could have heard a corporation bus or a train passing by on a main road like we had when we lived inDunhill Crescent.   Too late now, you’ve burned your bridges.  I seemed to be waking every few minutes of that long first night.  Owls hooting, fruit bats screeching, possums landing on the roof and when it was silent I could hear the family adjoining our wall breathing and snoring.  I didn’t know what the furry or feathered nocturnal visitors were until I asked someone in the canteen the next morning.  That’s also when the whinging poms introduced themselves.  The idea of the immigration plan was to get people working as soon as possible.  Every day for a few hours there was qualified people to answer your questions.  Employment being top priority, then houses, schools and transport.  Only one parent went to the hall where the professionals were, usually the husband and Mum stayed around the camp looking after their children.  My husband armed with references etc. went to the hall and I with the other women and children.  I was like an avalanche.  I don’t know where they lived in the camp but they all seemed to know who was English, French, German, Italian or Greek.  Little groups of them singled out the new arrivals.  First question ” Where did you live inEngland?  What does your husband do for a living.  How many children do you have.”  When I’d answered them first one then another told me how we could stay on the camp for 2 years, not pay anything and then go back toEnglandwhen you’d saved enough for the fares.  I hadn’t been here 24 hours yet.  Some had been there on the camp for nearly 2 years.  I asked if they didn’t want to move out and get a place of their own.  Why? they said ” The government is giving us board and lodgings.  Why would we want of go to work when we can have a nice long holiday?”  I asked what they did all day and did their children go to school.  Because they said they had no money the government paid for the schooling and all kids went on the school bus, again provided by the Australian tax payer.  It was nudge, nudge, and wink, wink “Once your husband gets out and about there are heaps of casual jobs he can pick up for cash in hand wages.”  I felt like reporting them to the authorities.  I wasn’t a banner waving, jump on a soapbox kind of person but they’d come here for next to nothing, their children were getting educated, they’d lived rent free and 3 meals a day for nearly 2 years and thought it smart to cheat by not declaring wages.  I couldn’t get away fast enough.  These people had cars.  Didn’t the authorities wonder where they got the money to buy petrol or new clothes?   One very naive little woman grew up very fast.  My husband got a job in the city but had to travel by train.  The nearest train station was 1 mile from the entrance to the camp.  As new comers we were on the outer limits of the camp, another half mile for him to walk.  Not a happy chappy at all.  We stayed on the camp 2 weeks before getting a flat in the city.  There again the immigration department was very good to us.  They stored all our packing cases etc. until we were established.  I couldn’t leave the camp fast enough.  My two littlies couldn’t handle the noisy canteen and were not eating at all.  Plenty of food for everyone but no chef.  Anyone who said they could cook got the job.  Very conventional when it comes to breakfast and still am.  Bacon, eggs, beans on toast type of fare not stewed up mincemeat on toast or fried fish or savoury boiled rice to start the day.  We had cereal and fresh fruit but hardly a staple diet for two toddlers.  You never knew from one meal to the next what was going to be dished up.  Greek and Italian food is very nice in moderation and also we were not talking haute cuisine.

The big move.

The daughter of my mother-in-laws neighbour had lived inLondon.  My husband had met her long before I met him. We didn’t know they had returned to OZ until they managed to find us.  We were still on the camp when I met them for the first time.  Originally fromSidneythey decided to try living inBrisbaneand were renting a house close to the city.  They were a sociable couple and made friends easily.  They knew an elderly couple who had an enormous house they’d converted into flats.  They didn’t object to small children so long as we didn’t have any pets.  We moved into a fully furnished 2 bedroom flat with a big lounge, small kitchen and joy of joy a bathroom with a bath and a shower.

Brisbaneis a very hilly city and two ways of getting to the local shops.  The owners who lived on the premises told me the quickest way was straight down the long street and I would be there.  They of course had a car.  I had two toddlers with short legs not used to walking in the heat of the day.  Down this long steep hill, up the other side and we were amongst lots of small shops.  No big shopping centres back then.  I bought milk, bread, a few veg and meat.  I walked back the same way and we all had a sleep once we got inside the flat.  When my husband came home from work I said we would have to do a big shop on the weekend and catch taxis.  There was no way I could make two little kids walk that distance every day to buy bread and milk.  Margaret and Eddie came to see if we had moved in O.K.  Eddie called me a numbskull and showed me the other street to walk to the shops.  Flat as a pancake and the top end of the street with more small shops.  We were all very relieved and I had the best nights sleep since arriving inBrisbane.  Then the real living in a new country started.  I had to learn to call food by different names, know what cut of meat to ask for, what kind of fish to order in a snack bar.  And yes, the shops were not like they were inEngland.  No good asking for a piece of beef for roasting, blank look from butcher.  In the snack bar you don’t ask for fish’n’chips.  There is a list of all the fish they sell and it’s all warm water fish.  Beautiful once you know what to order but for a lass who only got cod or hake from the local chippy not much bloody good.  What the hell was sweet lip, snapper, golden perch and prawns the size of a small crab.  Didn’t take me long to sort out what was what in the fish department, yummy, yummy.  The meat was something else.  Apart from a Greek fruit shop owner all the other shop keepers were very friendly and patient with me.  The first ‘ joint ‘ of beef I roasted was as tough as old boots.  No idea where on the animal it had come from.  It looked very lean and smelt delicious while cooking.  The roast potatoes and carrots were done to perfection as was theYorkshirepuddings.  Didn’t know any other way to make a roast dinner so did it the way I’d always done it.  Could not work out why the meat was so tough.  Couldn’t afford to throw it out so chopped it up and made a stew with it the next day.  Everyone enjoyed it.  I tried a different butcher shop hoping for better meat.  One of the first things that made my eyes pop was fruit and butchers shop windows packed to the maximum in every city the ship had stopped at on our way round Australia before getting to Brisbane.  Before selling up and leaving my local shops had a few joints of meat, a tray of sausages, and plenty of plastic parsley decorating their windows.  The Green Grocers window had a small amount of apples, oranges, tomatoes and a few veg on white cardboard trays.  The fruit shops here were like an Aladdin’s cave with lots of bright coloured fruit I’d never seen before.  Veggies with strange names, giant sized pineapples and coconuts.  I’d only seen proper coconuts at fair grounds where you tried to knock them off their perches with a wooden ball.  I looked in the butcher’s window and thought I saw a piece of beef similar to the one I’d bought before.  The name of it meant nothing to me.  I could tell the difference between pork, lamb and beef but not the names of the cuts.  I asked the friendly butcher why two pieces of beef looked the same but had different names.  He smiled ” I married a lass fromYorkshire, she didn’t know either.  Which one have you tried?”  I pointed to one.  ” How did it turn out?”  I could tell he knew I’d done something wrong.  No good getting huffy I’m never going to find out if I don’t ask.  I don’t think the immigration people cover questions on how to shop.  ” That’s called silverside and the one next to it is topside.  You boil one and roast the other ”  I could feel myself going crimson.

” Never mind dear.  Never be afraid to ask.  Us butchers are a friendly lot.  Only too happy to show off and tell you how to cook what you buy from us.”  He gave me little booklets that were on the counter.  All the cuts of meat for lamb, beef and pork with diagrams where on the beast they came from and what was suitable for roasting, grilling, stewing and of course barbecuing.  I studied those little books as though they were a life line.  You could also buy a complete side of an animal.  All butchers advertised it on their windows.  The most economical way to buy meat but you needed a large ‘fridge or a large family to buy it that way.  In the flat we had an old fashioned ‘fridge with no storage space in the door.  Buying meat in bulk would have to wait.  I did ponder on how I would chop it up if I did purchase a whole side of a beast.  I didn’t ask the man, I’d save that for when we moved into our own place and could afford a large ‘fridge.  We’d lived in the flat a few weeks and I’d bought groceries I was familiar with.  Longing to try some of the bright coloured fruit I ventured into the Greek fruit shop.  The shop keeper was Greek not the fruit.  His accent was difficult for me to understand, he was a man without much patience.  I knew how to cut up a pineapple but no idea what a rock melon or paw paw was.  The butcher had said I had to ask, so I did.  ” What is this yellow thing with black seeds?”  All smiles he said it was a paw paw.  My fault, I should have asked if it was fruit or veg I asked ” What is it?”  He gave me a funny look ” Mad’ am ’tis a paw paw.  Look it say paw paw, that’s what is… paw paw.”  Trying a different tack ” What do you do with it?” meaning do you cook it. peel it or what?  ” Mad’ am You Eat it.  You wanna buy or leave my shop.”  Charming I’d never been asked to leave a shop or shouted at because I didn’t understand.  An elderly lady customer yelled at him ” Pull yer neck in.  When you first came here you couldn’t spell paw paw and I showed you how to cut it open for display.  Stupid bastard cut it across instead of down.  Give the girl a chance.”  My God!  It sure isn’t like this back home.  I thought he was going to throw everyone out of his shop but they all started laughing, the owner included.  She took me in hand ” Anything else you want to know?” and started telling me what various fruits tasted like and if they needed cooking, sugar added and how to serve them.  She asked how long I’d lived here.  I coloured up again ” Is it that obvious? I’ve been here two months but only recently dared to try new fruit and veggies.” She laughed ” Your accent is as thick as Yorkshire pudding, only she called itYorkshirewith emphasis on the I.  You’re as white as a lily and your beautiful children are dressed all wrong.”  I bristled, have a dig at me. Leave my kids alone.  She said they had lovely clothes and looked very sweet but to get rid of the Crimpaleen  material  because in the summer it holds the heat and they’d sweat like pigs.  Me, in all my innocence ” Does it get hotter than this in the summer then?”  She laughed until tears ran down her face ” O you poor cow, you don’t know what your in for ” and laughed her head off again.  She was right.  I did buy the paw paw.  Peeled it, discarded the black seeds, chopped it up and sprinkled sugar on it.  Me and the kids loved it.  The husband didn’t like anything unfamiliar so I told him a was a new kind of peach.  He didn’t like the smell of it so I told him parmesan cheese smells as if something has died but it tastes lovely at least give it a try.  He was never over fond of paw paw but it was years before he found out it wasn’t a kind of peach.  My biggest disaster was in the new veg department.  I’d heard of pumpkins being fed to cattle inEnglandand only ever seen one in the Cinderella pantomime when it was turned into a coach by magic dust and a drum roll.  I did ask Margaret and Eddie the friends of my husband how to roast it.  Margaret said ” You can roast jacket potatoes can’t you?  Just roast pumpkin the same way.  It doesn’t take as long but there’s nothing to it.”   I bought one about the size of a soccer ball.  So far so good.  As I was going to bake it whole I put it in the oven first.  Only a small oven so I cooked the rest of the veg on top of the stove.  Grilled lamb chops, steamed veggie, mashed potato and the pumpkin for dinner.  Everything else was cooked, the pumpkin wasn’t.  It had been in the oven an hour and was still as hard as when I’d first put it in.  We finished the meal, the pumpkin still rock hard.  I left it in the oven and switched it off.  Margaret came round the next day ” How did the pumpkin go?”  I said I must have done something wrong it was still rock hard and had been in the oven for about 3 hours.  She started smiling ” Tell me exactly what you did.  Nobody can ruin pumpkin unless it’s burnt to a crisp.”

” I scrubbed it clean, then dried it, then smeared cooking oil over it and put it in the oven.”  Prolonging the agony ” Are you sure that’s all you did?” and starting to laugh.  ” Yes, that’s what you told me to do, cook it like a jacket potato and that’s how I cook them.”  She slid out of the lounge chair, was holding her sides screaming laughing on the floor ” Gee you’re priceless.  Been here 2 minutes and found a way of ruining a pumpkin first go.  Didn’t you think to take the top off and scoop out all the seeds an fibres before sticking it in the oven?”  What seeds? What fibres?  ” You told me to do it like jacket potatoes.  I don’t chop tops off and there are no seeds in potatoes.”  She screamed laughing for ages and re-told the tale for years.  It’s a good job I have a sense of humour the amount of times that tale has been told.

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Well done Audrey. Perhaps we will revel in more of her memories later. In the meantime over 3,000 of you Australians accessed the site last year surely there must be some other £10 poms with memories to share with us on this site? Why not leave a comment on the site or contact me personally on:

peter_wood@talktalk.net

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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.

Audrey’s Tales.

June 1, 2011

                                                Audrey’s Tales.

 

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

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

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

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

           

                                                The Homecoming

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

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

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

East Leeds Teenager

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

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

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

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

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

“You mean John?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watching the Coronation on Black and White TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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