Archive for the ‘red walls’ Category

The Pocket Watch and Route Noir

July 19, 2015

THIS MONTH TWO MORE GREAT TALES FROM ERIC SANDERSON

THE POCKET WATCH & ROUTE NOIR

 

 

THE POCKET WATCH

By Eric Sanderson

Long summer evenings in the fifties would find a group of us, anywhere between four and seven, on the playing field at the top of Snake lane. Very rarely had anyone any money, not a single penny, we mostly went out with nothing in our pockets.

Games of 3-a-side football, shots in, touch and pass or even cricket was played in fiercely competitive spirit for an hour or so. We then flopped onto the grass to recover and shoot the breeze over any and all subjects – most of which we knew very little about. The comparative merits of bikes was a favourite topic – Claude Butler; JRJ; Dawes etc’ We would argue over the minutiae such as the frame tubing, diameter of the rear stays, tires and (especially) the width of the wheel rims as well as the lustre of the paintwork. I hasten to add that none of us had the slightest chance of owning such a magnificent machine, but you could dream.

One evening Ronnie Cockill told us he had acquired a Smiths pocket watch from his brother Stan and that this model was regarded as the “toughest in the world”. This outrageous boost was widely scoffed at and the evidence, nay, the incontrovertible proof was demanded. Ronnie was extremely indignant at our scepticism and showed us his admittedly fine and robust looking example of horology. With some remaining unconvinced, Ron volunteered to demonstrate the watch’s credentials by hurling it as high as he could into the air and letting it fall to the ground – which he duly did. Sure enough it looked undamaged and continued ticking away like a time bomb. Fairly impressive but it was pointed out that its impact had been cushioned by falling into thick grass. The discussion continued to consider other ways for a more rigorous test, dispensing with placing it on the rail line for the “Paddy” train to run over it or throwing it against a brick wall as being perhaps too severe. A solution was finally agreed upon which, if passed, would satisfy all doubts, the following evening one of our group turned up with a Webley air pistol which belonged to his brother. It was a fearsome looking weapon obviously capable of bringing down a charging rhinoceros. The gun was tested against a nearby goal post, chipping the paintwork as well as burying the slug deeply into a nearby wooden post. We all felt this was going to provide a suitable examination of Ron’s claims. The agreed procedure was that the watch would be hung from a nearby sapping and we would each have two shots at it, one to the front face and one to the back of the case. All shots would be taken before the final examination so that if any damage resulted no individual could be blamed.

With great anticipation the test took place from a distance of about ten yards from the suspended watch. During the test the slugs pinged loudly when they struck the watch but there was no obvious damage from our distant vantage point and at the end the watch was solemnly passed around for detailed inspection by everyone. Remarkably, the watch continued to tick away merrily without a single mark, scratch or indentation to be seen. Honour was satisfied and Ronnie was justifiably triumphant. Secretly, we were all slightly envious of him owning such a remarkable timepiece which would surely last forever.

However, Ronnie’s joy didn’t last long because a few days later he lost his prized possession, probably when we were scrambling up and down the embankment to the “navvy” which we always used to access from the Bridgefield car park because under the bridge there was a small pond which was home to a number of attractive red bellied newts.

So if anybody happens to find a grime encrusted Smith’s pocket watch from the East End Park navvy, still ticking away, it may just belong to Ronnie Cockill.

ROUTE NOIR

Inevitable, after 50/60 years some of the fine detail in such memories can be a little hazy, certainly with my stories. Nonetheless, the thread and the main content remain faithful to the events at the time but apologies in advance to any whose recollections may be slightly different.

The Bridgefield Hotel was the origin of three roads running in a southerly direction from there. Cross Green Lane ran approximately south west with a sweeping left hand bend past St Hilda’s and terminated in those days at the Cross Green pub and the junction of South Accomm, East Street and Easy Road.

Halton Moor Road, always known as ‘Red Road’ because of its red shale surface (at least as far as the ‘basins’ more of those later) than roughly south east parallel to Neville Hill railway sidings and gradually petering out and terminating at Temple Newsam Road near the now defunct athletic track.

There was also another road called ‘Red Road’ by some. This ran along the bottom of the Snake Lane playing fields to Knostrop lane. I always considered this to be part of Snake Lane (but this may not have been strictly correct) and Halton Moor Road to be the ‘proper’ Red Road.

The third road was known colloquially as ‘Black Road’ probably because of the contrast of its Tarmac surface with the red shale of the adjacent Red Road. Black Road is more correctly a continuation of Pontefract Lane which started at the Hope Inn on York Road but this section was never called any other name than Back Road or ‘Blackie’ as in ‘we’re going down Blackie.

For young boys Black Road offered by far the most opportunities for adventure and so the following few yarns will focus on the East Leeds version of the iconic Route 66. It ran roughly south east forming the southern boundary of Halton Moor and Temple Newsam Country Park. terminating at the junction with Bullerthorpe Lane near Woodlesford. Little traffic traversed this road other than the leviathans carrying the excavated material from Parkinson’s strip mining site, located between Temple Newsam and Woodlesford. They would thunder up the road discharging billowing clouds of dust and fine soil which is why, after rain, the road below Blue Bell Wood was covered in a thin film of treacherous sludge, hazardous to any bike rider and, I dare say any other means of transport. The open cast mining site is now completely landscaped and there are very few obvious traces of mining activity.

The Snake Lane playing fields at the top of the road and Cross Green Lane were the source of great pleasure to many with its football pitches, bowling Greens and tennis courts. We spent many hundreds of hours there, as was the picturesque East Leeds Cricket Club (what a gem that was) the site of many keenly fought cricket matches and pleasant afternoons.

The ‘Basins’ were further down and located between Red Road and Black Road. I’ve no idea how they came to be there but suspect they were some kind of ancient soaking pits. Perhaps others may know. Anyway, they were a series of partly spherical depressions in the ground about 25/30 yards in diameter and about 3 or 4 yards deep and they were great fun to whizz around on your bike at breakneck speed – just like the Wall of Death (almost) before skimming over the rim, wheels leaving the ground and into the next basin. Of course it didn’t always happen as smoothly as described, especially after rain and the surface was very slippery, often resulting in a tangle in the cusp of the basin. I guess these were early versions of BMX parks but without the manoeuvrability of modern stunt bikes.

Bike races down Black Road were a popular pastime for us and one summer evening, a few of us were at the top of Snakey where it met Black Road and participating in a few bike races down towards the Woodlesford end. One of the group was a lad called George Dawson who lived somewhere in the Glencoe’s during the early fifties and drifted in and out of our regular group. George had a top quality bike with a fixed wheel arrangement whilst I had bike with a derailleur type gear change and we challenged each other to a race, exchanging bikes with each other. Off we went fairly evenly matched down to ‘Red Walls’ or was it ‘Black Walls’? the bridge over the Wyke beck which then ran along from Halton Moor and beyond On the return run I hit a large pot hole (probably caused by the huge trucks mentioned earlier) at speed, which sent me spinning from his bike and skidding along the road for what seemed about 50 yards. My clothes were torn and I suffered considerable gazing, still carrying the scars to this day and it didn’t do George’s bike much good either. When I see bike crashes in today’s Tour de France it makes me shudder, bringing back unpleasant memories of that day. George’s first thought was to make sure I was OK and even through his bike was badly damaged. He was completely unconcerned, ensuring that I got home safely if somewhat painfully. He absolutely refused to accept any payment for repairs as it had been his ‘challenge’ but it must have cost a small fortune to put his bike back into shape. Unfortunately, we shortly lost contact with George because I believe he went to live in Australia. Bike racing also disappeared from my routine activities for a long time.

Another time we thought we had discovered a highly efficient way of collecting blackberries which grew in profusion further down Black Road. At the time it was possible to buy fireworks long before bonfire night and there was a particular vicious little banger called ‘The Little Demon’. Armed with a few of these we thought that tossing a few into the blackberry bush just a fraction of a second before the explosion, would blow bucket loads of berries from the bush and become much easier to gather. I have to tell you that this idea was a total failure, resulting in not a single berry being dislodged and a total waste of a week’s pocket money. Still nothing ventured, nothing gained.

About three quarters of a mile down the road from the Bridgefield, a rail spur ran from the ‘Paddy line’ to Neville Hill and a track on the RHS lead to an army camp which was used during WW2 to house POW’s and I think the local defence and Home Guard. There was also an Ack Ack battery stationed there. It was later used by the TA. The prisoners, which I believe were mainly Italians seemed to roam freely and a number of them stayed after the war, merging with the Italian contingent in the community. Part of the army camp was an armoured car testing circuit, which consisted of several deep water filled troughs with intervening humps and hillocks. These troughs teeming with frogs, newts and small fish were a magnet for young boys with fishing nets. On occasions a team of TA soldiers would bring a couple of tanks and put them through their paces around the circuit and once or twice they even allowed us onto the turret for a thrilling ride. However, I dread to think what happened to the wildlife in the water troughs as these armoured beasts splashed through them, churning up anything in their path with their powerful crawler tracks.

‘The Gorge’ was a cutting through a granite or sandstone outcrop near to the Woodlesford end of the road, about 10/15 foot high and about 100 yards long and topped by a line of trees, some of which were horse chestnuts. The sandstone rocks provided many a good hand and foot hold for clambering up for the ‘conker’ trees in September, when the conkers trees came into their prime. As it was a couple of miles from the top of Black Road it was a very long round trip to walk and as such meant that the conker crop would be pretty much intact, enabling a good harvest.

Just around the corner, up Bullerthorpe Lane, the rear entrance into Temple Newsam Park lead into through fairly dense woods. Within them was a pond which was absolutely stuffed with fish which would fight to jump out onto a simple fishing rod or line. Fishing competitions would often yield 30 to 40 catches EACH of fish measuring up to three or four inches long. They were all returned of course to ensure sport for another day.

That which we knew as the Bluebell Wood was in fact properly called Bell Wood and bordered the southern edge of the Temple Newsam golf course. I seem to remember that access to it from Black Road meant crossing private farmland patrolled by a warden who seemed to find the presence of young boys inimitable to peace and harmony. So it was a bit of sport to scamper across the farmland and dodge the bad tempered warden in order to meander up Dog Kennel Hill to the mansion house at the top, taking the short cut home via Halton Moor Road (Red Road)

The final little yarn of this story concerns the illegal and dangerous practice of what we called Paddy Hopping. At times when we were trudging back up the road, the Paddy would often pass by, usually slowing down and sometimes enabling us to jump up and cling to the back of the last wagon. We would dismount quite easily as it approached Cross Green Lane as it had to stop there prior to discharge the passengers or to cross the road when going to the coal staithe. Makes you shudder just to think of it these days but then, what a laugh!

Roaming far and wide was an everyday occurrence for many, just think what today’s youngsters are missing.

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The Basins

December 23, 2011

The following is an article by the late great Keith Waterhouse in the Daily Mirror of Thursday 13th September 1984. The original newspaper lovingly preserved and cherished over the years by Roy Gibbins and merely retyped here for legibility. Well done Roy. At the conclusion is a reminder of our own adventures in the basins.

 

KEITH WATERHOUSE

Those old basin blues

There used to be a little periodical, a monthly ragbag of jokes and cartoons with the extraordinary title of a Basinful of Fun.

 

            I was reminded of it by a letter from Mrs Annie Fenn of Leeds this week, conveying the mournful intelligence that, they have filled in the basins.

            The basins were a series of shallow quarries in the middle of an enchanted forest – well more a little wood, really – which was the training-ground for my boyhood apprenticeship as cowboy, outlaw, smuggler, ape-man, castaway, detective, engine driver and such like career opportunities.

            Where A Basinful of Fun comes into it is that it never occurred to me that there was anything unusual about such a title. The basins were such enormous fun that it seemed altogether natural and proper that someone should want to name a joke book about them.

            How these four or five craters came into being I had and have no idea, though theories were legion. One was that they were old mine workings, another that they had been caused by a stray bomb from a Zeppelin in World War One, another that they concealed hidden gold looted from a treasure ship that had foundered on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

            By far the most plausible or anyway the most popular, explanation was that they had been formed by rockets landing from Jupiter.

***

            Sometimes when the August sun filtered through the trees, we would catch the glint of metal in one of these basins and would dig feverishly for the concealed spacecraft. In this way we unearthed many rare objects such as old sardine tins, and once, what was either a time worn Abyssinian coin or a tap washer.

            The basins were all things to all boys. To the bike riders they were the speedway track or the Wall of Death. To the owners of chariots in the form of a plank on four pram wheels, they were the Roman Coliseum. To the underprivileged, deprived of any form of transport accept an imaginary bucking bronco they were the foothills of Arizona.

            My own special delight, as a wounded colonel in command of the First Leeds Mounted Aerial Marine Infantry, was to find the basins occupied by kids from the local Catholic school. If our council school platoon were present and correct in sufficient numbers, we would fight the Battle of Mons.

                                                 ***   

            (No doubt my correspondent, Mrs Fenn, being of the younger generation, took part in the D-Day landings on the basins where she would have been allowed to be a nurse.)

            In winter the basins filled up with water when they became the Atlantic or the Mississippi River. In high summer when the clay surrounding the basins became baked hard and stippled with little cracks, they were the    Sahara Desert on the moon.

There was never any single moment when any of us saw them for what they were – a few small depressions in the middle of a wood.

            Back to Mrs Finn and her letter: ‘My friend and I (both in our thirties with assortment of kids) make our annual pilgrimage every July to where we – and you – were brought up. Always we hear the call of the basins. We swoop down into them making the ancient animal noises known only by our tribe, watched by the younger generation who stand in wonder. Once this ancient ritual is accomplished we are refreshed and invigorated enough to face another year. 

          Anyway imagine our surprise this year when we turned the corner where the basins should be in sight and saw a ploughed field there instead. I thought I had better write and inform you of their passing

            Indeed, yes. It is depressing news, but it had to be broken, otherwise I should have had an even nastier shock. For by coincidence I was up in Leeds myself this week where someone wanted to take my photograph in some of the old haunts, and I as near as dammit headed for the basins. Heart attack material that could have been, to find crops growing where Mars, the Grand Canyon and Lake Geneva used to be.

            I did, however, drive past a deserted adventure playground. It didn’t look anything like the foothills of Arizonato to  me.   

And finally, just a reminder, by Eric Allen, of how we used come across the basins, which I suppose were in Halton, on our walks or bike rides, from East End Park on our ‘Route 66’ to Temple Newsam

            The Basins   

                                                                                            The Basins  

 By Eric Allen

Who remembers ‘The Basins?  The Basins were to be found on the Red Road edge of Temple Newsam. They were to be reached along Black Road and through Austin’s farm and were a site of great adventure for young ‘dare devil’ bicycle riders.  The basins had originally been mine workings and their spoil heaps. Some had paths going around the sides making them like the fair ground ‘wall of death’ The largest basin had a path going down one side into the bottom and up the other side, this was the best run for the young ‘dare devil’. Unfortunately on many occasions the rider did not have enough speed to carry them up the other side, which ended up with a quick dismount and a hard push to get the boy and bike up the other side before it toppled back on him.

Red Walls

August 1, 2011

 

 Red Walls

 Not much to see is there? But Red Walls was an iconic play ground for East Leeds lads and lasses. It was reached down the equally iconic Black Road. We would set off on our walking expeditions to Temple Newsam equipped with our liquorish water and perhaps jam sandwiches – we could always pinch some ‘tuskey’ on the way. We would be off down Black Road, perhaps a paddle in the beck at Red Walls and on via ‘The Basins’ to Temple Newsam. Special days on that route are so memorable they are with us for the rest of our lives.

Roy Marriot remembers an illicit day playing truant and going fishing ‘Tom Sawyer’ type to Red Walls; Eric Sanderson sets the scene for bike rides down Black Road; Muriel Parking (nee Bailey) fondly paddles in memories with her dog, Queenie; Janet Elliott (nee Lawler) gets butted by a nanny goat and Eric Allen dares to ride the ‘Wall of Death Basins.’ Plus a map of the location of Red Walls.

 (Next month more Audrey)

   GONE FISHING

  By Roy Marriott

I was in Mr, Holmes’ class (Chuck) atEllerbyLaneSchoolfrom Sept 1945 to Sept 1946. As many of the lads will remember, who were fortunate to be taught by him, he would often end the afternoon lesson by reading from a story, maybe just from 3-45 to 4-00 p.m. I certainly enjoyed it, I’m sure the rest of the class did too.

            I well remember him reading ‘Tom Sawyer’ the part about Tom and his friend Huckleberry Finn playing truant and going fishing was especially enjoyable. A very good friend of mine was Brian Helley, his father was a regular in the forces – I can’t remember which branch, though I remember Brian had to leave Leeds because his dad was posted somewhere near Driffield. I think he left in late ’46. Anyway Brian and I had been enthralled with the idea of playing truant and going fishing. That morning the weather was glorious and as Brian, Frank McGann – another good friend – and I walked home from school we were hatching out a plan. Brian lived quite near to Eddie Purdy’s shop onPontefract Lane in one of theClark streets – I cannot remember which one. Anyway after he’d had his dinner Brian came round to our house and said, ‘Come on then – let’s go fishing!’

            I didn’t need asking twice. I got an empty dried milk tin from the kitchen, punched a couple of holes in the rim, added string and managed to secrete my fishing net. I don’t think my mother even realised what was going on. Off we went, just as we got to the top ofClark Lanewe met Frank coming along Pontefract lane. He was not interested in joining us but he did agree to tell Mr. Holmes we had been sick on the way home and that was the reason for our absence. Our destination – where else of course but down Black road to Red Walls. 

            We had no way of telling what time it was – but we just about filled the tin with tiddlers, sticklebacks and bomb-bellies when our tummy clocks told us it must be just about tea time. So off we set for home. Brian managed to get hold of a jam jar and we transferred a few fish into it.

            When I got home I smuggled my tin upstairs into my bedroom (which was in the attic) fortunately my mother did not come into my bedroom that night. The evening was very warm, the poor fish didn’t stand a chance; there were far too many for the size of the tin. The result being that the next morning there was this awful smell. My Mam thought it was coming from the quarry. The first chance I got I took the can outside and emptied it down the drain. I felt really upset for ages afterwards because I had caused the death of so many fishes.  While you are catching fish it’s great – but you do really have to know how to take care of them. Playing truant – Never again!

            One thing that was amazing, we got back home, around the time we would have if we had been at school. The next morning Mr Holmes asked how we were, I wonder if he knew what we had been up to – he really was a great teacher.    

                                  Eric Sanderson Remembers  Red Walls.

I spent many happy hours down there at the Red Walls. Isn’t the stream in fact nearly the end of Wyke Beck before it finally tumbles into the river? During the long summer days and before we had bikes, we’d often meander down towards there, sometimes down Red Road, past the Basins and cut across Halton Moor but more often than not, down Black Rd with a few distractions like Oxley’s field or even Knostrop Army camp with it’s water filled tank obstacles, brim full of wildlife ready to be caught with a few basic implements.

In those days, the stream was very clear, especially a little further upstream as it ran over Halton Moor, and many’s the time when we’ve drunk the cool, clear water on a hot summer day. We’re still here and I never remember anyone suffering any ill effects, so it can’t have been too bad.

It must have been fairly well unpolluted because it had lots of Sticklebacks & Red-bellies in those days.

It was also a good way to cool off by stripping off shoes & socks, sit on the bank down by the Red Walls and let the lovely cool water do its work by refreshing our red hot and aching feet. 

When we were a little older, we used to use it as a turning point for bike races from the top ofBlack Rd, down there and back, it was a good test. A problem we had to avoid however was the huge potholes, created by the Leviathans from the open cast coal mine and the cause of more than a few tumbles.

I’m sure many others will say the same but, as the Paddy ran close by, it was occasionally a relief for our weary legs after a tiring day and to save trudging back to the top of Black Road, to hop onto the back of the slow moving Paddy Train for a quick ride to the top, dropping off just before Cross Green Lane

 OUR QUEENIE

By Muriel Parkin (nee Bailey)

It was coming to the end of the summer holidays: soon we would be back at school. The family decided that if the weather kept fine we would have a walk downBlack Roadto the blue bell wood. We often went to the blue bell wood but only with Mam and Dad. When Sunday arrived the weather was fine, Mam got on with the dinner early and Dad decided we should give Queenie, our dog, a bath as she had been confined to the house for a number of weeks. After dinner my sister and I did our usual job of washing up and clearing away the dinner crockery and then we were ready for off: Mam, Dad, Brenda, Baby Andrea, Queenie and of course me.

            Queenie was my dog she had been bought for me when she was weaned at six weeks old; she was a white bundle of fluff with just the two patches of brown in her coat. Anyway I had her on her lead until we reached ‘Red Bricks’ (Red Walls).

            There had been another occasion at Red Walls when I had ventured into the stream and stood on some glass, it cut my foot quite badly and I had to walk ‘tip toe’ all the way upBlack Roadhome. The glass was in fast and Dad had to remove it with pliers. Anyway on this particular day we didn’t venture into the water  but there were plenty of other boys and girls playing in there who all wanted to stroke her. I was so proud to be her owner. Unfortunately she had no tail to wag for them as she had been ‘docked’ by the man we bought her from; she just had a stub for a tail and a long ringlet at the end which was soft and wavy like her coat.

            Dad wanted us to push on or we would lose the day and that is when everything went wrong. I let Queenie off the lead as we approachedAustin’s Farm and she bolted. Straight into the duck pond she went as we looked on in horror. Our lovely white and tan dog came out a horrible shade of green and dripping with slime.

 We finally arrived at our usual place to find Mam and Dad’s friends were already there. We had a lovely day playing hide and seek in the farm yard and Queenie was allowed to romp around to her heart’s content and as blackberries were in season and we had taken a basin with us we were able to collect blackberries too.

            Eventually the evening sun began to show, telling us that it was time to go home. By the time we got to the end of our street people were taking advantage of the warm evening to sit around in the street talking. I ran up the street as fast as my legs would carry me with Queenie on the end of the leash looking like and old rag. She had dried but oh did she smell! This meant she was not allowed to go into the house until she had another bath. Two baths in a day for Queenie. We had to use the ‘Peggy tub’ for our own bath. We had some sandwiches and off to bed ourselves. What a wonderful day!

Now Mam and Dad are long gone and we three sisters are in our old age but we still talk about those childhood days and laugh, we couldn’t have had better days, they were fantastic. 

The Nanny Goat

By Mrs Janet Elliot (nee Lawler)

(What a lovely little tale)

When I was twelve years old me and Brenda Johnson, Beryl Morgan and Pat York, all fromVictoriaSchool, went off down to Red Walls to catch tadpoles in a jam jar. We used to take with us: jam sandwiches and a bottle of liquorish water. We were very happy in those days. On the way back we climbed over a fence and took some rhubarb to eat on the way home. As we were walking away a nanny goat escaped out of a field and chased us upRed Road, it ran straight past Beryl and chassed Brenda, Pat and me. It caught me and butted me up the backside. I suppose it served my right for pinching the rhubarb! 

And finally

The Basins

   By Eric Allen

Who remembers ‘The Basins?  The Basins were to be found on the Red Roadedge of Temple Newsam. They were to be reached along Black Road and through Austin’s farm and were a site of great adventure for young ‘dare devil’ bicycle riders.  The basins had originally been mine workings and their spoil heaps. Some had paths going around the sides making them like the fair ground ‘wall of death’ The largest basin had a path going down one side into the bottom and up the other side, this was the best run for the young ‘dare devil’. Unfortunately on many occasions the rider did not have enough speed to carry them up the other side, which ended up with a quick dismount and a hard push to get the boy and bike up the other side before it toppled back on him.

And by popular demand a map showing location of Red Walls.

.

 

Memories of Growing up in East Leeds by Frank Shires

November 14, 2010

Memories of Growing up in East Leeds (Frank Shires)

Frank remembers his early life in East Leeds in the 1930s/40s: the street games, the ‘black-out’ the ‘knocker-ups’ and particularly the air raids. I love his great little tale of – how, when the sirens went off for the first time, one father soaked all the bed clothes in the bath to seal up the doors and windows in case of a gas attack. When the all-clear sounded there were no dry clothes to put back on the beds.

                              Of course no one really knew what to expect from  an air raid.

                                                                 *************

When you think back to life in those back-to-back streets of East Leeds it makes you appreciate how the quality of life has changed since the days of the 1930s and 1940s. Television, DVDs, ‘fridges, family cars, mobile and even hand held telephones were unheard of. However I am not sure that the luxuries enjoyed by the youth of today contributes to a happier life! Certainly my early memories are full of fun and good times when we largely made out own entertainment.

Playing marbles or ‘taws’ as we called them on the ‘oller’. The oller was a small rectangle of rough ground facing onto Easy Road at the end of Archie Place and Dial Terrace. Legend said that at one time it had been a builder’s yard.

Having mischievous ‘doggie’ nights when, along with a group of contemporaries, we played practical jokes on the houses in the area. The blackout was a great help. During the war years (1939-1945) there were no streetlights and houses were banned from showing any light after dark. The resulting blackness was a great aid to our nefarious activities. Unlike modern times our pranks were never malicious.

In the warm weather we made gas tar balls from the sticky black substance, which oozed up between the cobblestones of our streets. There was always trouble when you went home with it sticking to your clothes. Then there was playing football, cricket, French cricket, kick out ball and rounders in the street ‘openings. Yes, happy times indeed. To understand what ‘openings’ were you have to understand the topography of the back-to-back streets of houses. They were usually arranged in blocks of eight or four. Between each block there was a small block of toilets – 1 toilet to each 2 houses. The toilet blacks were separated from the houses by ‘passages’, which also gave access to the dustbins, stored between 2 blocks of 4 toilets – toilets and dustbins under one roof. At the other end of each block of 8 houses and before the next block started was an opening, which occupied the same area as 2 passages and the small toilet/dustbin block. Sometimes the openings had 1 or 2 upright posts in the centre.

Way back in my memory I can recall the dustbin areas being ‘middens’. All the refuse was thrown through window into the space behind. When this was to be cleared the refuse collectors or ‘midden men’ had to climb through the window and shovel out the refuse. When this arrangement was modernised the windows were made into open doorways, the space behind was cement rendered and dustbins placed inside. Progress!’ 

’ 

We used to amuse ourselves by fishing for ‘tiddlers’ or sticklebacks at Red Walls in Black Road. I believe the official name for Black Road was Pontefract Lane and the Red Walls was a bridge, which spanned a small beck. Other sources of amusement was doing ‘duffs’ or dares around Black Road and Knostrop areas and exploring the ‘Quarry’. The quarry was what seemed a vast area with numerous  tables,pigsties,sheds,garages,ect.between the Easy Road Picture House and Clark Lane Methodist Church. It had a variety of pathways running between the ramshackle buildings.It was wise to be familiar with these pathways in case a fast exit was called for.

One of my earliest memories must be the local ‘knocker up’ I presume alarm clocks  had been invented but probable couldn’t be afforded by the proletariat who lived in the back-to-back houses in my street, Dial Terrace. Our local knocker-up was Mrs Connor who lived at number six and for four pence a week she who would rise early and using a long bamboo pole tap on the bedroom window of each of her customers until they responded. Good timekeeping was obviously more important in those days       

   

                             Air Raids

AIR RAIDS

There is a tale about a family (Who will remain nameless).  The first time the sirens went off, and bearing in mind no one knew exactly what to expect, the father of the family ripped all the bed clothes from the beds and soaked them in the bath. Then he covered all the windows with the wet blankets to stop gas from entering. When the ‘all clear’ went, they had no dry blankets to put back on the beds.

            I have many memories of the war years. The ‘black-out’ brings probably the most vivid memories. After dark no lights could be shown and when the air raid sirens sounded local volunteers who had not been called up into the armed forces would patrol the streets to ensure the ‘black-out’ was maintained. These men were known as ‘air raid’ wardens and wore a broad armband with lettering to denote their position. Most houses had a thick curtain to seal off the entrance door from the rest of the house; this was to facilitate entering or exiting the premises without showing a light. If a light was allowed there would be an immediate cry of: ‘Put that b…. light out!’ from the air raid wardens, this was to avoid guiding enemy aircraft to the area.

         Moving vehicles had covers on their lights to dim the beam and point it to the ground. Gas lamps, which at the start of the war were the main street lighting, were turned off. It is difficult to imagine how eerie it was walking out after dark – a good knowledge of the area was essential as everywhere was pitch-black, you literally could not see your hand in front of your face.  Any shops which were open after dark (fish and chip shops for instance) had to have a suitable curtain to allow entry without displaying light. There were many black eyes and bloody noses etc. from walking into lamp posts.

            The public transport- trams and buses – had lace curtains glued to their insides to prevent injure to passengers from flying glass should the vehicle be caught up in a bombing raid. It was compulsory to carry gas masks at all times even when at school or visiting the ‘pictures’ as we called the cinema in those days. Thankfully, we never had to use the gas masks in earnest. Certain equipment was distributed amongst the houses in the area, such houses were identified externally. For instance, if a house had a stirrup pump left for emergency use, the letters: SP was pained on the outside of the wall. I have my doubts as to how effective the stirrup pump would have been in a dangerous situation as they were had operated to pump water from a bucket or similar vessel

            The cellars in our back-to-back houses were reinforced by building a brick pillar in the centre to support a RSJ across the ceiling. This was to make the cellar safer to use as a shelter in the event of an enemy air raid, in fact when the alert sirens sounded we invariably sat, suitably padded on the steps that led down to the cellar. That is all except my father, a veteran of the First World War, I’m sure he said he would only get out of bed when it was necessary. The only night he joined us on the cellar steps was the night bombs were dropped on our neighbourhood. I remember seeing the damage caused in Debt Street (Richmond Hill) and a large crater in the ground behind the Prospect Public House. And of course one of the bombs damaged and eventually closed Richmond Hill School. It was believed the bombs were intended for the nearby Marsh Lane Goods Yard. I can still picture the searchlights scanning the skies and the exploding shells from the anti-aircraft barrage attempting to destroy the enemy aircraft. For its size and concentration of industry Leeds suffered comparatively little damage from air raids during the war. I was once told this was due to its position in the air Valley. The resultant fog made it hard to detect from the air. Presumably the navigational instruments were not too sophisticated in those days.