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Catapulted to Purdition and Dead and Buried

September 1, 2014

This month another great double header from Eric Sanderson:
Catapulted to Perdition
&
Dead and Buried.

CATAPULTED TO PERDITION

Home made catapults were a popular weapon amongst boys in that era. Made from a carefully selected forked branch, usually cut from a nearby convenient tree and fitted with two strands of 3mm square rubber made for a powerful device, easily capable of firing a stone 40 or 50 metres at high speed. A key design feature, learned from bitter experience, ensured that the forks were made long enough to avoid hitting your upright, steadying thumb when firing the projectile. Those ignorant of this crucial requirement, frequently ended up with a blackened thumb nail from which it took several weeks to recover
One summer day, a few of us had manufactured new catapults and, armed with pockets full of pebbles ( their spherical shape having better aerodynamics and so flying further & faster), decided to venture into Knostrop looking for exciting targets.
Near the top of Knostrop Lane, a small tin shack was located on the railway embankment and seemed a good candidate for target practice, having a couple of small windows and a roof which would rattle when struck. What we didn’t realise was that this was the retreat for the Railway Police and, at the time, a member of the said constabulary was in residence, probably enjoying a well earned break with a mug of hot sweet tea, a cheese butty and the Daily Mirror.
His tranquillity was brutally shattered by a fusillade of high velocity projectiles, peppering the outside with an ear splitting racket , smashing the windows and ricocheting around the inside like a swarm of angry hornets.
During a brief reloading pause, the officer emerged , helmet askew , ( he’d probably dived to the floor when the bombardment had started) roaring his anger at our intrusion into his reveries.
My guess is that he’d probably initially thought it was an assault by an abandoned German Commando group , unaware that the war was long over. Their objective being to close the valves to the Knostrop sewage works, causing a huge backup and inundating Leeds in a deep layer of S***, bringing the City to a standstill & thereby delivering a major blow for the war effort.
I could be wrong with this explanation, there could have been a more devious one.
Anyway, as he descended the embankment, no doubt intent on inflicting savage retribution upon his tormentors, we dashed off down the lane, easily outpacing the hapless constable.
After a couple of hours roaming the plantations, unsuccessfully trying to target a few squirrels, back we trudged up the lane towards Cross Green. BUT, we hadn’t counted on the cunning of the wily police officer because as we wandered back , with the earlier attack now completely forgotten by us, PC Plod was waiting and , unseen by us ,surprised us by promptly grabbing one of us with his ham sized fist.
By this time his anger had all but disappeared and, as we all owned up to the misdemeanour, a good telling off was the limit of his immediate retribution, but not before putting the fear of god into us all and confiscating our fearsome weaponry.
He further demanded our names & addresses in order to inform our parents which happened a few weeks later, just when we’d convinced ourselves that we’d got away with it.
This time, the consequences were much more severe, commencing with a regimental b*******g from my father, followed by a couple of weeks in disgrace and suspension of my weekly pocket money ‘til it was deemed I was sufficiently contrite.
A kind of suspension between a normally happy existence and everlasting misery. Perdition indeed.

DEAD and BURIED

jug

Don’t be alarmed, this is not a lurid, macabre, Bram Stoker inspired tale, it’s simply recollections of a few occupations which were around in our youth (and before) but which have now disappeared altogether or at least, have become an endangered species.

One which comes to mind is the “Knocker Up”. This was a person who, for a small sum would, at an agreed time, rap on the bedroom window with a long pole. Why on earth people would use this service instead of an alarm clock, which were readily & cheaply available, baffles me, but then so does most things. What’s more, the loud rapping noise used to waken not only their clients, but half the surrounding neighbours as well.
Which reprises an old joke, about someone boasting he didn’t need a clock to tell the time, his trumpet always did the trick. Asked how that worked he replied he would simply stick his head out of the window & start playing his bugle. Without fail, someone would shout “what idiot is playing the trumpet at 3.30 in the morning”. !!
This peculiar activity ( the knocker up, not the bugler) seemed to disappear in the late 40’s or early 50’s and nowadays , being “knocked up” has an entirely different construct, not to be confused with being raised from your slumbers with a sharp rap on the bedroom window pane .

The Chimney Sweep was a common or garden sight in those days, walking around from job to job with his bundle of poles and soot collection bag, but whose occupation quickly passed into history with the introduction of the Clean Air Acts.
He was quite possibly a close neighbour but you could never tell the true identity of the man because his face was always blackened with soot.
Failure to have your chimney periodically swept could create a “chimney fire”, requiring the services of the fire brigade (as it was then called), resulting in a sorry mess as they pumped water down the chimney to quench the glowing soot.
It was always a wonder to me just how the sweep managed to contain the falling soot and preventing it from forming a dense cloud of soot inside the house and yet not keep it from covering his face, but I suppose that’s one of the tricks and mysteries of the trade. I do recollect though, a close neighbour once attempting the job himself , thinking he’d save a few bob but with disastrous results, a soot laden fog billowing from the house and a thick layer covering every surface, nook and cranny which took an age to properly clean up, and which he never lived down. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first (or the last) of this person’s DIY disasters.
Another thing always puzzled me. How was the soot disposed of ?. I don’t recollect ever seeing any signs of fly tipping but perhaps there was some by-product such as black-lead polish or a colouring agent for Black Pudding.

Even the ubiquitous Milkman is now a rare sight but which used to be an almost continuous presence on the landscape. The rattle of metallic milk crates and clatter of empties being collected and deposited into those crates was a familiar sound and probably used to wake up as many as the “Knocker Up”.
They also used to carry on their vans & trucks, large conical shaped urns from which they ladled milk into customers own jugs. I don’t remember if this was a different sort of milk or just a draught (and cheaper ?) version of the bottled variety.
The Co op milkmen though , used an electric trolley cart, travelling at walking speed , being much quieter and with less rattling than the stop start jerking of the vans and trucks . I think they also started using plastic crates to deaden the noise.
The growing presence of ’fridges and supermarkets with their long life varieties of milk put the traditional milkman under a lot of pressure requiring them to diversify into supplying eggs & other dairy food in an attempt to survive. Unfortunately for them, many didn’t survive such that here’s another everyday occupation serving the local community which has largely disappeared.

Then there’s the Lamplighter, who used to go round carrying his short triangulated ladder, checking the street gas lamps, replacing the elements and firing up the lamps at lighting up time.

The Coalman who delivered coal to almost every household , humping hessian sackloads of coal is no longer with us, nor is the mobile Knife Grinder who made periodic visits to sharpen up your kitchen hardware, although why people didn’t use a simple “Butcher’s Steel” is a bit of a mystery.

Even the local Butcher, Fishmonger & Tripeshop no longer remain in the numbers they once did, if at all, once again put under great pressure by the supermarkets. Although it could be that the local butcher is making a bit of a comeback and even the supermarkets are offering a similar service as an alternative to the pre packaged product.
Many of these had their own delivery boys who’d trundle their round on a heavy ‘bike fitted with a large wicker basket over the front wheel. They must have been a beast to control and it wouldn’t be surprising if many a tumble took place, especially in wet/icy weather.
The horse drawn carts which toured the streets offering fruit & veg, pots & pans and other hardware have become extinct along with so called Rag & Bone Men who collected old clothing and other types of unwanted goods in exchange for a few coppers.

Street entertainers, Ice Cream vendors , that is the ones, usually old Italians, with the highly decorated hand pushed carts and a big block of ice in the bottom to keep the ice cream from melting, not the Mr Whippy type of today, were to be seen regularly.

Ringtons horse drawn tea wagons were regulars , although they’ve recently been seen again (this time in small vans), along with all the other street vendors, all long since gone. But in their day , many of these tradesmen were often very persuasive salesmen and people had to learn to immunise themselves from the wiles of the wafflers and peddlers of snake oil or finish up forking out for something they didn’t want or need.

All of these absent or “dead& buried” occupations , and there’s probably many more, helped form the rich pattern of the communal life with the individuals knowing and being known by large numbers of the community.
Nowadays, very few would probably want to do some of those jobs but can their disappearance be said to have enriched the landscape ?. But that may just be “Grumpy Old Man” syndrome, thinking that things are never as good as they once were and by continuing to view a world of more than 50 years ago the same as we did when we were much younger, could mean we’ve wasted many years of our lives.

Great tales, Eric : I can picture you catapulting that railway policemen’s hut and a constable emerging with his hat askew, brilliant.

I had a walk around Manston Park at Cross Gates this week and I was delighted to see they had erected a memorial plaque and pictures of the ‘Barnbow Lasses’ 35 of them lost their lives in an explosion when they were filling shells on the 5th of December 1916.

Please see pictures remember to ‘click’ on them to make them bigger.

barnbow lasses black

barnbow lasses white

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June 1, 2010

blog butcher’s shop

Next East Leeds reunion

May 1, 2010

The next East Leeds reuniun will be held at the Edmund House Club at noon onwards on Wednesday the 12th of May 2010 all will be welcome

The Sound of Music

May 1, 2010

The Sound of MusicThe Sound of Music is another of Eric Sanderson’s great tale0w of old East Leeds and how he, and his friends, decided to form a skiffle group.

                          THE  SOUND  OF  MUSIC

For our group, the mid fifties saw our interest in music begin to burgeon, starting with our regular Saturday night record session. One of our friend’s parents had acquired a magnificent Radiogram with a stackable autochange mechanism which would hold about ten or twelve singles, 78’s at that. It also had a stylus which lasted for hundreds of plays, saving the excruciating need to change the needle after each record. Real progress ,where a half hour of uninterrupted music could be enjoyed.

            In those days , just before the era of R&R burst onto the scene here, we used to listen to , and believe it or not, even like modern jazz, the likes of Humphrey Littleton, Stan Kenton, Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong as well as the big bands of the day such as Duke Ellington & Ted Heath.

            Many a Saturday night was enjoyed with endless repetitions of “Bad Penny Blues” ,“Peanut Vendor” and Eric Delaney’s “Oranges & Lemons” along with a shared bottle of beer between about 5 or 6 of us.

            Then came the explosion of R&R to be followed by an offshoot known as Skiffle, one of the characteristics of which was that to form a group, only basic instruments were needed along with some improvised equipment equipment in order to attain  the required sound .

            So, we decided to form our own Skiffle group with Dave Carncross on lead guitar, myself on rhythm, Bryan on Tea Chest Base , Tony  on Washboard and Ronnie  on Glockenspiel.

Our practice sessions took place in Dave’s basement which was a ideal, away from prying ears and complaining neighbours.

Only Dave had any musical nous , which I think he’d inherited from his father, and in addition to guitar, could also play the drums.

            Without having any musical talent or cadence whatsoever, I managed to master a few basic chords whilst Bryan & Tony  seemed to just do their own thing. And the Glockenspiel ?. This may have been ok for a Tyrolean Oompah band but didn’t fit too well with the sound we were hoping to achieve.

            Anyway, we practised most days during the school holidays and managed to achieve what to us sounded a like a half decent result – with the exception of the Glockenspiel. Unfortunately, we had to retire Ronnie, much to his chagrin. He would sit there muttering obscenities at his ill treatment until we hit upon the idea of letting Ronnie become our MC, introducing us to the public in glowing terms & providing him with an important place in the band.

            At first he wasn’t too keen on this but, finally relenting made his first introduction :-

“Ladeez and Genelmun, I would like to introduce to you, the worst ******* band your ever likely to here in the whole of your miserable ******* lives. If you’ve paid to listen to this load of ****, you must be out of your tiny ******* minds and my advice is to leave now, before you’re carried out screaming “ – or words to that effect.

            At this, we were all in stitches and thought that Ronnie had found his true vocation. In fact he took to the task with relish and developed ever more lurid  intros as the days went by. He must have devoted time to studying and rehearsing them because he became ever more imaginative and proficient and of course, we all enjoyed them immensely  .

There was only one occasion when we fell foul of our activities and this was when we’d overlooked that Dave’s father was upstairs sleeping , following his working a late shift on the buses.

Down he stormed into the basement , startling us with his wrath ,as he was invariably an easy going and friendly man. “What’s all this racket ( racket ?? – we thought it was sweet music) , pack up & get out, NOW.” This nearly put paid to our aspirations but , a few days later after having calmed down and true to form and his better nature, he encouraged us back into our “studio” provided we respect his sleeping pattern. I seem to remember that he actually joined in once or twice, playing the snare drum ,at which he seemed very adept.

            Came the day when we thought we might be ready to go public for the first time and decided the venue would be Dave’s basement, which was big enough to hold a decent sized audience.

We never dreamed of asking for Dave’s parent’s consent and what they would have made of strangers wandering through their home & down into the basement, goodness only knows.

            Undeterred, we concocted a few hand made posters, calling ourselves “The Easy Riders” ( long before Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper hit the scene) and placing them on the gable ends of nearby streets, confident that a free “concert” would bring the punters in.

            As curtain up time approached, we waited nervously in our dressing room (the kitchen), wondering if this might be the start of something big.

            The clock ticked on, no sign of any takers and nor did any turn up, even though we waited patiently for what seemed an eternity. What more did people expect than the promise of a free concert and (possibly) light refreshment ( a glass of water was the plan). 

            It was at this point when I think the penny dropped that we really didn’t posses much talent and that our big break wasn’t going to happen.

            We reluctantly decided there and then to abandon our musical ambitions but, for a few weeks in the summer of ‘55, hope sprang eternal and we had lots of fun to boot.

Around this time, some of the local pubs began to employ live music which was, for young people , a welcome break away from the dead hand of the lone pianist and the WM Clubs which had little appeal for many. This was probably a result of changes in the licensing laws but local pubs such as the “Slip”, White Horse, The Shaftsbury, The Prospect etc all benefited from a huge surge in popularity with young people from miles around flocking to a night of cheap beer and free entertainment where early doors was essential if you were to get a good seat with room for a few friends.

Who knows, this may have been the dawn of “binge drinking”.

            One favoured Saturday night venue for us was the Beckett Arms at Meanwood, close by the Capitol Ballroom. This was one of the first pubs in Leeds to boast a live band ( and rotten beer) and was always full to the gunnels up until closing time, which in those days was 10pm within Leeds.

By this time, the buses had stopped running and so we had to walk all the back into town , calling at a couple of fish & chip shops en route, before heading home.

Towards the bottom end of Meanwood Rd was an area known as Camp Road which had a notorious reputation and through which we had to pass.

This was mostly uneventful as we used to give other groups a wide berth except on one occasion when we were stopped by a large group of “Teddy Boys”, resplendent in their knee length, velvet trimmed jackets and suede “brothel creepers”.

            Heavily outnumbered, we were held at knife point whilst they tried to relieve us of our meagre funds, there being not much left after a good Sat night. None of us were any means cowards but this was frightening experience and a refusal to submit was met by one of us being battered about the head with a heavy piece of timber, with much bloodshed resulting and threats of even worse unless we coughed up.

One weasel faced thug held a long, stiletto like blade close to my stomach whilst another searched my pockets. Strangely, they didn’t have the brains to remove anyone’s wrist watch which was probably the only things of any value most of us had on us.

At that time, the Public Dispensary on North Street was operative & so we promptly took our friend there who, by this time seemed to have lost a lot of blood , his clothing being soaked in it.

Several stitches later, he emerged with a huge head bandage and threatening retribution on the perpetrators.

Fortunately, he sensibly dropped the idea once he’d recovered but it put paid to our enjoyable Sat night sojourns at the Beckett Arms

The Bank

April 1, 2010

Bank pairRonnie Fisher has adapted this fabulouse early aerial picture of the famous ‘Bank’ in East Leeds, the home of many Irish imigrants after the 19th century potato famine.

More Memories of Dave Carncross

March 1, 2010

Blog Memories of Dave CarncrossMore of Dave’s dilightful memories, particularly: ice cream matters, Richmond Hill and Ellerby Lane Schools, the street May Grove, Emmett’s news agents and sledging

 

 

                            THE MEMORIES OF DAVE CARNCROSS

 

 

ICE CREAM MATTERS

Ice-cream usually took the form of a cornet, a twist or a sandwich.  Big Lena from Granelli`s used to push a handcart with two tubs of ice-cream -vanilla and strawberry – well, they were white and pink anyway – up and down Easy Road. She would station herself outside the Easy Road Picture House in time for the punters going in and out between the first and second `houses`. She had a peculiar accent and a very deep, resonant, hog-calling voice which could be heard for miles. It was only years afterwards that I realised she was Italian.

Walls` Ice Creams came into the picture around 1949 sold through the local sweet shops. Even so, initially they were only available on Fridays and over the weekends because of restricted availability.

Then came that marvellous Saturday afternoon when we found “The Box“ lying on the unmade road between Red Road and Black Road. The box was right in the middle of the path and Brian Cox first aimed a kick at it expecting it to be empty but, when we heard the dull thud,  we were all over it like hyenas. It was a very big, plain brown cardboard box and we were amazed to find it full of ice creams of all kinds and flavour – most of them being family sized cartons. Reasoning that it must have fallen out of the back of a van (vehicles would use this road as a shortcut to the Osmondthorpe estate because Red Road was blocked off to traffic) and that somebody would soon come back looking for it, we partly hid it and went back a bit later to find it still there. This time, we carried it back in triumph to Easy Road and shared it out. It all had to be eaten quickly because it was already going soft and none of us had refrigerators. I sat on our step eating my share from a baking bowl with a big spoon. That was the only time in my life that I ate ice cream in truly industrial quantities. I had very little interest in it for quite some time afterwards.

SCHOOLS

 

RICHMOND HILL SCHOOL

I went there to Infant’s School along with my pal, George Hargreaves. My Mam says I went quite willingly as long as she promised to sit outside on the wall and wait there all day until I came out after school. Well, you always believe what your Mam says, don’t  you ?? Apparently, George was a different matter, however. His mother had to be dragging him there every day for quite a while until he got used to it. He would walk normally until they got to the Yorkshire Penny Bank and then dig his heels in. My Mam said it was easiest for her to take us both because he didn’t play her up as much and being with me also distracted him a bit.  The only clear memory I have of Richmond Hill is of lying on my back on a folding type cot in the hall looking up through the windows at the clouds going by and wondering why the grown-ups wanted me to go to sleep during the day. The cots were on caster wheels and George remembers that we would propel them around the wooden floor while we were laid face down using our hands as paddles.

ELLERBY LANE SCHOOL

 

We all migrated to Ellerby Lane from Richmond Hill but I can’t remember the transition itself. It was a seamless operation somehow. I remember Miss Sheridan very well. She always seemed nice to us. One day when we would be about eight or nine years old, she was talking to us about the wartime and we got onto the subject of bombs and explosives. She asked us if we knew any of the different names and one of the kids said `dynamite`. Any more she asked?? I think she was hoping for TNT but not many of us could say `trinitrotoluene`. Anyway, I had a vague idea of another name which was `gelignite`. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember it properly and came up with `gelatine`. She fought valiantly not to laugh, God bless her, but she had to give in and leave us on our own. I can still hear her howling uncontrollably in the corridor to this day – no doubt visualising the Luftwaffe trying to subjugate the natives of East Leeds by carpet-bombing us with pink blancmange and incendiary jelly. “Tonight ve vill use ze  strawberry and if zat does not do zer job zen tomorrow ve vill finish zem off mit der orange und apricot  !!!  “

Chuck Holmes was a stern taskmaster who firmly believed in getting his retaliation in first. He wouldn’t take an ounce of cheek from anybody – most of the lads got caned at one time or another and I was no exception. I got it lots of times before concluding after much deep thought that my best strategy was to stop being an idiot. There was an unspoken acceptance that being caned was a rite of passage for the lads and it was not the done thing to show you had been hurt. There was an unusual, multi-coloured form of stone freely available in vast quantities down the navvy which was reputed to possess magical, pain-barrier qualities if rubbed vigorously on the palm of the hand. The kids all called it  `Cane-Snap`. With enthusiastic co-operation from Old Chuck, I conducted controlled experiments with this rock and I can conclusively state that it didn’t work.

Chuck remains a hero to me though because he decided that he was going to teach us Spanish which, in 1948/9 was astoundingly inspired forward thinking. We didn’t get very far through our text book (which we had to buy and which I still have) “Primeras Lecciones D`Espagnol“, but he awakened in me an interest in foreign languages which served me very well in later years.  He had taught my older brother and sister before me and many, many years later, he would sometimes bump into my parents in Crossgates and ask after us and he remembered all of our names as well.

I remember Mr. Consterdine very well as, I should imagine, does every lad who went to Ellerby around that time. His fearsome reputation preceded him by a considerable distance – about the length of Easy Road, I’d say. He frightened me into being a model pupil from minute one. I definitely did not want the cane from him – he was said to use a drumstick rather than a cane but it looked more like half of a billiard cue to me. There was another teacher whose name I can’t clearly remember (Conway??) who used a rubber soled gym shoe or runner as we called them then to belt you across the backside and the backs of the bare legs (we all wore short pants then). That hurt far more than the cane and called upon one’s last reserves of determination not to be `soft`. I copped for a couple of breath-taking, eye-watering doses of that and found them to be more than sufficient.

The Headmaster, Mr. Wood was a lofty figure who didn’t have much to do with us on a day-to- day basis. I was taken into his office one afternoon for first aid treatment when my left thumb was smashed between two brass-bound swing doors and came out with the injured digit bandaged to about the size of a Zeppelin. Somebody took me to the dreaded Dispensary in a Morris Eight and left me there awaiting the anaesthetic-free insertion of seven stitches and the eventual arrival of my Mam. It seemed a long way home on the bus counting my heartbeats through my thudding thumb.

One year our class teacher was youthful Mr. Bacon. His nickname was “Egbert` (egg but no bacon).  In that classroom was a tropical fishtank and I remember being very envious of the monitor who came in periodically to clean the tank out, He used to drain the water off into large buckets by sucking the rubber drain tube to promote the down-flow siphon effect. My mental processes could not at that time reason out how this worked and I thought he was a genius unsung. The thought that getting a mouthful of dirty, fishy water might be a dubious privilege never occurred to me at all. I thought that that job was a really desirable one – maybe even on a par with ringing the dinner gong or being the milk monitor.  `Egbert` once tried to explain to us how sucking the air from the rubber pipe was able to induce the water upwards first of all and then downwards into the bucket. Since this involved variations in volumetric pressures, he might as well have been speaking in Urdu and eventually he gave up.

I used to feel aggrieved that I never got a free daily dose of malt and cod liver oil. There was a perception that the kids who got it were a favoured few – certainly not that they were deemed to be poorer and more in need of it than the rest of us. I used to ask my Mam to get some for me and she always said she couldn’t afford it either ??  At this distance, however, I do wonder at the wisdom of giving them it all from the same spoon which remained unwashed from one day to the next as far as I can remember.

Immunisations were a terrible trial. Word would get round that “The Nurses“ had come. We couldn’t have been more terror-stricken if Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes had ridden up East Street astride prancing, coal-black stallions looking to press-gang child soldiers. The medics would set up shop in one class-room. We would sit in class feverishly trying to persuade ourselves that they hadn’t actually come for us but they always had and we would be called out, ashen faced, in twittering twos and threes to receive our injections. The hypodermic syringes then were gleaming; fearsome tools with finger-holes for leverage big enough to accept pork sausages. No attempt was ever made to hide them from our view – far from it; they were joyfully wielded in front of us in all their functional, stainless steel and glassy glory.  The same two needles were used on everyone and would be pretty blunt after a while. A perfunctory swish in surgical spirit and then a refill with one while the other was being drilled into someone’s arm. You could fair hear the skin pop under the pressure.  There was one occasion when they gave us two injections at the same time – one in each arm. We were outraged – that was cheating, that was. Not a Christian thing to do at all. The other thing I noticed was that the nurses always seemed to be amused and that didn’t sit very well with me.

The only thing I was ever afraid of at Ellerby was being put `in the locks`. Occasionally, a marauding gang of seniors would chase some poor unfortunate kid around the playground until they caught him and threaded his arms in and out of the iron railings and held him there.  Once in that position, he would be helpless and the ensuing indignities went from being rib-tickled until you cried to being de-bagged in front of the girls who, I must say, always took a keen interest in the procedures.  It didn’t do to just stand and watch because, if the original quarry proved to be elusive, the gang were quite happy to swap targets. Somehow, I always managed to escape selection as a victim but it was literally a near-run thing sometimes.

We got full use out of Ellerby because we even used to go during the school holidays and ride our

bikes around the yard to our hearts` content. We never did any damage and nobody ever sent us out.

I left Ellerby Lane in 1951 at 11 years old having passed my `Scholarship` along with what was then a record number of schoolmates apparently. From memory, there were about eight or nine of us (boys and girls).   I do dimly remember having previously been taken out of our normal classes for different lessons but only a few times. Nobody gave us a reason for this so perhaps it was extra preparation. I don’t really know but, if it was, it worked.  When we got the official `pass` documents, our parents were asked what preferences they had i.e. technical or grammar school. I wanted to go to Central High Tech because it was where I sat my exam and was the only High School name I knew. My parents were summoned to see Mr. Wood, however, and he told them I would be best off at grammar school and they took his advice. He was right because I always struggled and just got by at science subjects. He must have given the same advice to all the parents because all the lads ended up at Leeds Modern and the girls went to Lawnswood Girls next door.

It did occur to me vaguely that I might come in for some stick locally when wearing my red and black Leeds Modern blazer and cap and carrying a satchel but, in the event, it didn`t make the slightest difference. To get to Lawnswood on time, we had to catch a bus down to Town at around eight a.m. and were later home also because of the travelling time so we rarely saw the kids from Ellerby at either end of the day. I kept all my Easy Road pals just the same and had another set of mates at Lawnswood as well.

MAY GROVE

We lived at number 4. It was a short street with five houses on one side and four on our side which included Rockets` greengrocers` shop on the corner next door to us. They were old terrace houses and ours was back to back with my Aunt Minnie’s, my Mam`s sister at 3 May Terrace. This was a very handy arrangement because if they wanted each other for anything they could knock on the wall and shout through to each other. We had two bedrooms and an attic upstairs. Downstairs there was a scullery (kitchen) and one multi-function living room. We also had two cellars – one for coal and the other which again was used pretty intensively to keep food cool, keep mice, chop firewood, mend shoes, bikes etc etc. The only source of heat in the whole house was the old coal fired cast-iron oven range in the living room.

There was a set-pot boiler for washing in the corner of the kitchen. We never used that and it had a board over the top of it which was a work-top of sorts. Eventually, this was knocked out and we had a bit more useful space then. We graduated from a tin bath to one which was fixed in the kitchen. Fixed meant that it was plumbed into the drains. We didn’t have a fireback boiler so no hot water on tap but we had a free-standing gas boiler and when it was bath time (once or at most twice a week) the hot water had to be bucketed from the boiler into the bath. We had a rubber pipe which joined onto the cold tap in the sink. I was lucky in that my brother and sister were much older than me and had both got married and left home by the time I was eleven. I was always the last into the bath but at least there was only Mam and Dad preceding me. When not in use, the bath was covered by another oil clothed board so an extra work-surface was available albeit one which was custom-built for those under 4ft. in height or anybody else who was prepared to kneel down to butter the bread. We had three shelves on the wall at the back and these were quite sufficient to hold the few foodstuffs and condiments which we had in hand at any one time. That was the nearest we ever got to a fitted kitchen.

 In the mid- fifties most people had the old cast iron, black-leaded oven range fireplaces taken out and installed a tiled fireplace. Eventually a gas-fire would replace coal and that was a major step forward in easy living. This was contemporary with having the old panelled interior doors flushed with hardboard which was stained, varnished and extravagantly grained to resemble the finest walnut. Throw in a bit of painting and decorating and a hearthrug which wasn’t “pricked“ and you were acknowledged as being a social climber.

No home was complete in summer without a couple of sticky, scented fly-papers hanging in strategic positions. These quickly became encrusted in flies and it was usually my job to take them down and hang new ones up. I think most of our bluebottles and flies came from the Quarry where there were myriad piggeries and hen runs. Maybe they flew further afield to where there was less competition. Rolled-up newspapers formed part of our armoury against them as well. In those days, I was quick and accurate enough to knock them down in mid-flight although, it has to be acknowledged, that if you missed the one you were aiming at, there was usually another in the same area.

By choice, I slept in the attic for most of my younger life because it was more private and much bigger than the little bedroom. It was boiling hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. What we would have given for a high Tog rating duvet then. I had an ancient eiderdown and several old Army blankets which were incredibly heavy – I sometimes think they were the reason I am a bit pincer-toed. In the coldest weather, we used to take one of the cast iron ovenplates from the fireside range wrapped up in an old sheet to pre-warm the bed. This was luxury indeed but it was as well to move it to one side before going to sleep otherwise you woke up in the middle of the night with your feet resting on cold metal. The other bedroom windows would ice up with Jack Frost patterns on the inside in the winters.

Our street was off Easy Road and directly opposite the end of Dial Street.  We had every shop you needed within a few minutes walk which was handy because nobody had a car. A motor bike was a rarety. The top of the street was fenced off to a good height by “The Boards“. Behind them was the railway track for the coal train which plied between Temple Newsam pit and the coal staith at the end of Easy Road. I always thought it was called the coal “stay“ until I was in my early twenties and found out the real name.  We used to sometimes climb over the boards and cross the track to climb over the boards at the other side to save walking right around through the ginnel down Easy Road. This must have startled the neighbours at the other side to see us suddenly appear over their “boards“but nobody ever said anything to us.

All the local shopkeepers and trades people were characters. None more so than Barber Nelson whose shop was just a few yards down Easy Road from our street. Young lads only had one hair-style then. My Dad’s standard instruction was “ ask for a short back and sides and a lot off the top`. This was just as well because it was the only style Mr. Nelson could do. He used hand-operated clippers for the sides and back of the neck. These were invariably blunt and he also had the habit of finishing each cutting motion with the blades closed together instead of released. This meant that, every time he did it, he rived out a clump of shortened hair. This was extremely painful and every tortured visit seemed to last about a day. I don’t know which was the worst – actually having your hair cut or waiting your turn for what seemed like hours while trying not to be unnerved by the stifled, pitiful  whimpers of the preceding customers.  When you had survived this ordeal, he used to ask if you wanted any hair lotion on. I think it cost a penny extra. By that time, I would have let him anoint my head with Yorkshire pudding batter and/or boiling chip fat as long as it got me out of the chair. This lotion was like liquid soap and used to set rock hard so the trick was to run home and comb the hair into a semblance of good order before it did. When I was a bad `un, my Mam used to threaten me with a visit to Barber Nelson rather than say she’d tell my Dad. Came the day when we started to go through the ginnel to Fletchers` Barbers. This was a father and son business and they used electric clippers. Mr. Fletcher Senior, however, was a bit old school and preferred the dreaded hand clippers sometimes so, even though his clippers were better than Barber Nelson`s, for me it was always a bit of a lottery going there as well.

Emmett’s Newsagents

It paid to be polite to Mr. Emmett if you fancied a paper round.  I did and I got one eventually which covered a fair area including the streets over the Princess bridge and right up to the `Slip Inn` pub.  I used to leave my bike at the shop and do all the local stuff thus lightening my bag and then ride up to do the top area. My time-and-motion re-organisation of the round didn’t sit well with Mr. Emmett because he liked everything to be done his way and his way was to do the top end first. He used to grumble a bit but couldn’t actually rollick me for it because everyone always got their papers and nobody complained. I did the round for about a couple of years but gave it up when my homework demands from Leeds Modern School became heavier.

Emmett’s used to have an agency for Wallace Arnolds coach travel and I remember going en masse to Butlins for a week’s holiday when we were seventeen years old. There would be just about a full coach load of us and the bus actually picked us up and brought us back to the shop itself. Looking back, that was a pretty enterprising idea for a local shopkeeper and bus company.

SLEDGING

We used to start off from home all wrapped up warm and with our woollen scarves turned part-way inside out and pulled down over our ears. If you were lucky, you had some long fishing / football socks which were pulled up and folded back down over the top of your wellies. This was recognised as being a good `look` but was not very practical. By the time we’d been up and down the run two or three times, the head would be at volcanic temperature and prickling with sweat while the feet were going numb with the cold because your wellies would be half full of ice and snow.

Our favourite sledge run was “Ducky Hill“ just below Mount St, Mary’s Church. It started off above the old recreation ground and there was a long, slope down to a sharpish left hand bend and then the gradient increased very quickly going all the way down to East Street. There was no traffic on an evening there and, apart from the risk of being hit by another sledge, it was pretty safe.

The favoured sledging position was lying down head-first and the best sledges attained very high speeds on Ducky Hill. Braking and steering was done by shifting your weight about, spragging the feet out at the back and pushing your toes down into the snow. If it was hardened ice, this had little effect and sometimes you had to literally roll off the sledge sideways to make certain you didn’t end up in East Street.

Billy Rocket who ran the green-grocers shop next door to us had a monster sledge which had been professionally purpose-built for delivering his  `orders` on in 1947 and subsequent hard winters. It would have been at least six feet long and could comfortably seat four of us in a line or any two of us laid face down side by side. We used to borrow it from him sometimes but even we weren’t daft enough to go down `Ducky` on it. It was very heavy, rode high off the ground on beautifully bevelled steel runners and was virtually uncontrollable at speed. Fully loaded down Ducky, we could possibly have been the first to break the sound barrier on a sledge. The only place we used it was on East End Park where there was sufficient room and more gentle slopes to use it in comparative safely. It would set off slowly but gathered pace at an alarming rate and then it was best to just shut your eyes and wait for it to stop. I once went solo on it in the macho head-first position down through the trees -a still, small voice inside my head speculating that this might not have been such a good idea as it reached terminal velocity. On the final slope there was just one tree well away to the right but the sledge aimed at it like a wood-seeking missile, dismissing my puny attempts to steer it and rammed it head on. I shot down the sledge and hit the tree with the side of my face and shoulder. My facial grazes formed an interesting wood-cut type pattern from which an arboriculturist could have identified the genus of the tree itself. 

Gordon “Baggy“ Carrier decided one year that he would improve his sledge by fitting a front extension carrying a pivoting axle complete with short metal runners . He confidently anticipated that this “bogey“ inspired modification would mean that his sledge would then be fully steerable without recourse to spragging one’s feet out sideways. The prototype trials took place on a short but vicious slope leading down from the `Quarry` towards Easy Road. Gordon naturally claimed his rights as the designer and insisted on being the first to try it out. Rick Chappelow was allowed to sit behind Gordon. The chosen route aimed directly at the boiler room at the rear of the East Leeds Club and Gordon reasoned that, at the last moment, he would steer off to the left onto the short street adjacent to the Club. His calculated coefficients of weight distribution, friction and tractive forces were somewhat adrift, however, and the sledge plus occupants did not divert one millimetre from its original path. A crescendo of strangled cries and oaths rang out but were swiftly stifled by mouthfuls of snow and the coke which was piled at the back of the building for use in the boiler.  Pilot and co-pilot rose painfully slowly from the snow and splintered wreckage, brushing off pieces of smokeless fuel from their clothes, hands and foreheads. Rick was his usual sanguine self with regard to bodily injury but Baggy was pretty incoherent for a while – his visions of executing effortless figures of eight at speed on Hill Sixty at Roundhay Park condensing wraithlike into the cold night air.

The Winter of 1947

February 1, 2010

blog 1947

The recent cold snap brings back memories of a ‘real winter’, 1947. Snow underlain with icelay hard from just after Christmas to almost Easter. But of course we were kids than and it was great! 

1947

1947 was the best or worst winter possible depending if you were a child or a grown up. The snow lay thick on the ground from just after Christmas until well into March. It was underlain by two to three inches of solid ice, which never shifted for the whole three months. The German and Italian prisoners were still incarcerated in the camps down Black Road and they could be seen daily breaking up the blocks of ice on Cross Green Lane and piling them at the side of the road where it lay in a blackened state until Easter. Many of the cars and buses, which had managed to keep on running, were fitted with chains around their tires, which made a ‘clanking’ noise as they passed.

            After school we would run home, gulp down our teas and out with the sledges. There were sledging runs all over East Leeds and especially on East End Park but we were lucky we had ‘Nozzy Hill’ on our doorstep. It was the longest run in the district, almost traffic free and had a left hand bend at its steepest part, which was fun to negotiate, laid on our stomachs and steering around the bend by trailing our left wellies. Night sledging was a magical world of indigo skies and crisp white snow. I can still hear the cries of excited kids, still hear the ‘swish’ of the runners in the snow the occasional bump as the sledge hit an ice ridge; feel the adrenalin rush of speed close to the ground and see the white faces emerge momentarily in front of you before being swallowed up in the darkness behind. As the night wore on the run got faster and faster as the runners polished the ice to glass and quieter too as younger kids drifted off home and you were left to speed alone into the blackness. Heaven help the poor folk who had to negotiate that hill on their way to work next morning but that was never our consideration. Older lads, who were too big to argue with would sometimes make late arrivals, they would wait for you to drag your sledge up the hill and then pinch a free ride by diving on your back as you passed on your downward run.

Sledges were usually home made; hammered together from boxes by your dad in the cellar. I had an aunt who was a great sledge maker she even managed to incorporate strip metal runners, which made my sledge a Rolls Royce of the day. In the wake of that great 1947 winter some of us kids asked our parents to buy us proper tubular steel sledges for our Christmas present the following year but alas we never got our money’s worth for we never had another winter like 1947 while we were of an age to enjoy it.

‘Cleggy’

January 1, 2010

Continuing the Victoria School Theme the author – remembers the trials and tribulations of attending Victoria woodworking classes from St Hilda’s School on Friday afternoons under their woodwork teacher: the redoubtable ‘Cleggy’.cleggy 

Cleggy, the woodwork teacher at Victoria School was a legend. Victoria was a large school for its day and had its own woodworking department; our school didn’t, so we attended theirs every Friday afternoon from about the age of twelve or thirteen onwards.

 Before you embarked upon this adventure for the first time you would be painted a picture of Cleggy by the lads who were already attending the woodwork class. ‘He’s about six feet four – with eyes like saucers,’ one would say. ‘He’s a little weedy bloke with hands like shovels,’ another would say. ‘He hits you across the head with pieces of

two by one,’ would say another. Each one altered the tale a bit so you didn’t know exactly what to expect – but you had an idea you weren’t going to like him.

 Tales of him abounded, ‘If you spoil a piece of wood,’ they would say, ‘he’ll ask you what you want – the mallet or the chisel? If you say mallet he lays your head on the bench and whacks it with the mallet about an inch from your head so that your head bounces up and down on the boards, if you say chisel, he lays your hand on the bench and goes in and out of your fingers in quick succession with the chisel. If you move your hand you’ve lost a finger.’ You can image that with all this build-up we lined the stone steps up to the Victoria Woodworking Department on our first Friday, prim in our new white aprons but filled with trepidation.

 ‘Be quiet!’ boomed a voice from aloft.    You could have heard a pin drop.  After an eternity of complete silence came the order, ‘Come!’ We marched up in single file and lined up to attention in front of several rows of benches and there saw for ourselves the redoubtable ‘Cleggy’. He was a man in his sixties, not tall but barrel chested beneath a brown dustcoat, his bulging eyes had beady centres and nestled beneath huge bushy white eyebrows, which were by far his most prominent feature. So this was the famous ‘Cleggy’.

 You could tell he was held in awe for some of the lads in attendance were absolute villains back at our school but here they weren’t making a whimper.  Proceedings began with a reading of the register. Cleggy would read out your name and you answered, ‘Here sir’, he’d make a stroke for ‘here’ and a naught for ‘absent’.    Woe betide anyone arriving this week who had a naught entered against his name last week – Cleggy would pause upon such an name for an inordinate period allowing tension to build up, then very slowly he would lift his head and scan the line beneath those bushy eyebrows – when he located the unfortunate culprit he’d rip him apart with verbal ridicule. This charade ensured that one turned up for woodwork by hook or by crook in order to avoid this public humiliation.  There was one lad however, Geoff Mellish, who had a long string of noughts after his name, he’d been off that long he daren’t come back.  When Cleggy reached his name in the register he’d just make rude noises with his mouth, ‘Mellish – braarp’ and move on.

 Once this initial ordeal was out of the way we’d begin work on our particular pieces and Cleggy was OK – he’d persevere with you if he thought you were trying and there was no doubt that he really knew his stuff. If he thought you hadn’t tried though he’d call everyone round your bench with a piercing whistle, then he would put your piece in a vice and proceed to tighten it until the piece disintegrated and you were left red faced. 

If he caught your messing about or watching the girls playing netball out of the window – they had some big lasses at Victoria – then the pieces of 2” x 1” would fly, a  woodworking room is no place for larking around. Of course he never actually aimed to hit anyone.  Not that any of us lads minded so much being punished for a ‘clean cop’. Especially back at our school the cane was the natural order of the day. Corporal punishment is frowned upon today but for us it was no big thing, it stung for a moment then it was over, you bit your lip and showed the rest you weren’t hurt. If you managed to do that then you had taken another step on the road to manhood.  A teacher would often congratulate a lad who took his punishment without rancour. Now if the punishment was to miss a sports lesson, then that was really the bad news. (Girls didn’t have the cane).

About five minutes before home time Cleggy would give one of his famous whistles, when we heard this we had to stop dead in our tracks like statues. This was the signals that all tools had to be returned to their racks, we had one stand for pencils and another for rubbers – if a pencil or rubber was missing we stayed until it was found, sometimes we were still looking twenty minutes after we should have been going home but the item had to be found before we could go and always was, nothing went missing permanently.

 The day came which is indelibly etched on my memory, out of the blue Melish turned up, some frightful consequence must have been threatened by the headmaster back at our school to warrant such a suicidal mission. We lined up in the usual fashion, Cleggy began to read out the register with his normal wry comments and rude noises for anyone who had been missing the previous week, we waited in electric anticipation for him to reach Mellish’s name. ‘Mellish – bruurp’. Cleggy prepared to move on as a matter of course when from somewhere in the line was heard a timorous ‘Here sir’.    The ensuing silence was the longest yet it seemed to go on forever. Finally the teacher’s head began to rise, ever so slowly – up came those bushy eyebrows, up came the bulging eyes with the beady centres and began to scan the line, he didn’t know all of us as individuals as we only came to Victoria for half a day a week and he had several other schools who came too.‘Mellish’ he said again, in incredulous tone.  ‘Here sir’, answered Geoff, the tallest lad amongst us but now shrunk to half his size, ‘Here sir’.  Cleggy slowly rose to his feet and pointed towards the door, ‘Go back to your own school’ he said, ‘and ask them to give you some knitting to do.’

Geoff left the room and was never to be seen in Cleggy’s woodworking section again. Undaunted it seems he became an international con man, for the last time I heard of him he was residing at ‘Her Majesty’s Pleasure’ having been caught masquerading as ‘Red’ – someone or other, Texas millionaire, and conning some rich widow out of her brass.

Cleggy retired during our stint in his class, which would have been around 1950, so we can assume he was born in Victoria’s reign, his values were those of the ‘old school’ he demanded respect and he got it and I bet you couldn’t count the number of craftsmen joiners and carpenters he’d turned out during his long teaching career. He lived in hope of receiving a decent delivery of timber for us to work upon, but with the war recently over materials still were scarce, timber was needed for post-war recovery and our stools, teapot stands and bathroom cabinets had a low priority.  The timber we did have through was pine and pine gives off the sweetest of scents when worked, even today when I catch the sweet smell of pine I’m pleasantly transported back to Cleggy’s woodwork room and reminded of the ever absent Mellish.

Doing a ‘Yorkie’

December 1, 2009

Blog Yorkie

Dave Carnross remembers his adventures at YokRoad Baths and York Road Library in East leeds, especially having to get changed in full view on the balcony and searching for ‘Biggles’ books in York Road Library

 

  YORK ROAD BATHS

“Going to Yorkie“ meant going swimming. Before we’d ever even been to the swimming baths for the first time at around eight years old,  we used to brag about how far we could swim – “I can do a breadth  – so what, I can do half a length etc etc“. Came the day, however, it was an altogether different matter. There was a line of darker tiles on the bottom of the pool at the shallow end. The first objective was to stand on the line and lunge forward at the `pipes` – hands out in front, feet off the bottom. It suddenly seemed a very long way and there was many a sneaky underwater, creeping step forward before committing yourself.

For myself, the burning desire to be able to swim soon overcame the nerves and before long I was doing my own frantic version of the breast-stroke, arms going like a bee’s wings No wonder we were thin – it must have used up 50 calories a breadth. The progression from that point was well understood by all of us – first of all – lung-bursting, head-back breadths across the shallow end with feet occasionally hitting the floor. Then gradually going further and further up the pool and out of our depth as our technique improved and confidence grew. Swimming lengthways meant starting off from the deep end to make sure you were in shallower water when you were tired and breathless.

I progressed very well until the day Titch Isotta accidentally jumped on my head from the top board and drove me to the bottom of the deep end like a depth charge. Whilst that wasn’t a source of great amusement, I reasoned that nothing much worse than that could happen to me and my confidence was boosted as a result. Eventually, we all became strong swimmers and went on to become proficient divers, graduating to jumping off the balcony and generally showing off. I could never make my mind up whether we wanted to impress the girls or each other.

Other memories of Yorkie include having to get changed on the balcony or in the boiler passage because all the cubicles had been taken. Modesty was not allowed – not that we had much to see because the passage was always cold and draughty even in summer.

 The showers comprised two fittings and they were only occasionally warm never mind hot. We used to stand shivering shoulder to shivering shoulder like Emperor penguins huddling in the Antarctic winters gradually shuffling and manoeuvring around until we were in the warm. We were in and out of the pool all the time and occasionally using our towels to keep warm. It has to be said that towels in those austere days left a lot to be desired in size and quality, so when the time came to get dressed, the towel wouldn’t have dried one foot never mind your whole body. Pulling invariably holed, woollen socks back on to wet feet was a real problem and often resulted in them being twice as long as they were when you set off from home and with bigger holes. If you were in funds, there was a window high up on the wall near the cash desk where you could buy a cup of scalding hot Oxo or Bovril which was usually drunk too quickly and left you with a sand-papered tongue for hours afterwards.

When we came out. I always seemed to have water locked in my ears and the outside world would be strangely muffled and uncomfortable. My cure for this was to hop on one leg with my head on one side until the water came out now heated to body temperature. Others used to bang the sides of their heads with the flat of the hand or blow their noses violently. We must have looked a real motley crew hopping and snorting our way home.

 When we were teenagers and if we could afford it, we took to going to the slipper baths to wallow in a full bath of hot water which, for a change, hadn’t been used by anyone else before you got into it.  That was real luxury then.

YORK ROAD LIBRARY

Many were the happy hours we spent in there. All for free as well. I must have read every Biggles book ever written. I used to scour the shelves for them and, if there weren’t any there, I would have a look on the little cart which the librarians used to carry the returned books back to the shelves and sneak them straight off the pile. The `Just William `books were also favourites even though their characters inhabited a world which was light years removed from our own. I still find that a bit odd really. We also used to leaf through the bound versions of National Geographic magazines searching for pictures of semi-naked native ladies. I think this must have been a favourite pastime for most of the young local lads because, nearly always, the books would automatically open at the desired pages. Silence protocol was enforced and observed. The Library always felt like an extension of school to me and none the worse for that.

Victoria School York Rd Leeds

November 1, 2009

Eric Sanderson relates his memories of Victoria School, York Road Leeds and remembers, fondly, his teachers and the layout of the buildings Blog Victoria School

                              VICTORIA SCHOOL in the 40’s and 50’s

When I first moved into the senior school in the late 40’s, the large playground was surrounded by a high, wrought iron fence which served both to keep the pupils in (and safe) as well as others out. This fence was later taken down , said to be because of a shortage of raw materials for the burgeoning post war steel industry.

Victoria was a physically large establishment with separate junior and senior schools as well as a further building for both woodwork and domestic science, the latter two also serving other schools in the area, with the “notorious” Mr. Clegg being the arch villain to many visiting (and resident) woodwork students. There was also a separate toilet block between the Vinery St and Vinery Grove exits – goodness knows how the residents of the houses adjacent to this revolting facility managed to live with the nauseating miasma , It‘s malign odours can still easily be recollected even after all those years. 

The imposing Victorian, almost Palladian, senior school building, built around 1904 was a two story affair with boys inhabiting the ground floor and girls the upper floor.

All in all, the total area of the school grounds must have been of the order of  2 to 3 acres making it one of the largest schools in the district.

In addition, a new build annexe was opened  around 1950 ,on Londsboro Terrace ( just behind the Special Needs School) on East Park Parade. This housed one year’s class of both boys and girls and had an adjoining, newly built refectory providing cooked meals for the whole school. Until that time, school meals had been served in the main hall which must have been an enormous daily disruption to the smooth running of the school.

The class sizes were, by today’s standards quite large, I counted 43 in my particular year in 1949 and where pupils were seated in groups of approximately similar academic ability.

In 1951, the class was dramatically reduced in size by about 20% because of good results at the 11 Plus, but, this did have a downside consequence, more of which later.

In common with other school stories, Victoria had it’s “character” teachers who each seemed to us at the time to possess some idiosyncratic tendency or other, ranging from a volcanic temper to a near sadistic personality, visited upon us pupils for the most trifling of peccadilloes. Today, any teacher practicing even a fraction of such disciplinary procedures as were then common, would be shown the door in double quick time.

The senior school teachers in my recollection included messrs Ratcliffe, Thompson, (Johnny) Jackson, Brown, Hetherington & Cox. They all taught virtually the whole curriculum with no specialist teachers, which was a major and significant between the primary and higher schools. The headmaster at the time being, Mr. Hunter, a quietly spoken, strict, but kindly man.

“Johnny” Jackson was my teacher one year and although he was a no nonsense type, very capable of administering stiff corporal punishment, he was generally well regarded by most.

I managed to play a trick on him one time when I’d obtained some fake £ notes which looked just like the real thing when left peeping from the paper wallet. However, when pulled from the wallet, printed in big red letters was the message – “HARD LINES – BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME”.

I managed to slip these between some exercise books he was marking at the time , just nicely protruding out so that he couldn’t miss them.

His reaction was a classic, a quick glance when spotting the plant, followed by a disbelieving stare with eyeballs bulging like a long past it’s “sell by date” kipper. Making a febrile  grab for the wallet, naturally thinking this was his lucky day, they disappeared into his jacket pocket quicker than the proverbial rat down the drain, obviously hoping nobody had seen him slip the booty out of site as he clearly had no intention of sharing or establishing it’s provenance

Unable to contain himself any longer, he quickly disappeared, undoubtedly to count his exciting find, returning a couple of minutes later with a thunderous look on his face.

Oh dear (or something similar) I thought as he demanded to know the culprit who’d pulled the stunt on him.

Admitting my misdemeanour, he called me to the front where I expected a whack from the slipper but, bursting into a huge laugh gave me a gentle clip on the ear saying how much he’d enjoyed the joke. (I’ll bet !!)

He also devoted a lot of his (spare) time to coaching the junior school football team and, along with that provided by one lad’s father, an ex professional, contributed much to the success of that side, so for that alone, he merits great credit.

I left the school before reaching the classes of Messrs Brown & Cox & I must say it was a great relief to me as they both had fearsome reputations and epitomised the dour, unfriendly tutors of my nightmares. However, talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire, my new school was run like a boot camp, making me yearn for the old days, but that’s for another time.

The Victoria of the post war years was well known for it’s football teams, their skills being honed in twice daily schoolyard games as well as the weekly, full afternoon, school run sessions.

The well known Willie Knott preceded me by 3 or 4 years but there were many other good players as well. I recollect one, part of the Willie Knott era, whose life was tragically cut short in about 1948 whilst he was still at school. His name was , I think, John Firsbrook, another outstanding footballer and I  remember his death casting a pall over the whole school as he was almost as famous as Willie.         

The junior team of 1950/51 had a very successful season, winning every game except one of the two finals it appeared in, as well as the league championship. Unfortunately for the team, seven of the team regulars ( including the best player and captain – Nev Kaye) left the school after passing their 11 Plus, thereby reducing the chance of the side going on to become as big a success at senior level as some of it’s predecessors , which it very probably would have done. 

All manner of games took place in the schoolyard, frequently resulting in bumps and bruises as a result of high speed collisions between pupils often playing different games in different directions. One occasion saw a lad from my year run straight through one of the two sets of glass front entrance doors. They’d obviously had one of their infrequent cleanups that day and the lad (I think it was a Mike Uttley) thought they were wide open, with pretty nasty consequences for him and yet further restrictions on schoolyard behaviour.

The natural slopes, smooth surfaces and large uninterrupted areas of the schoolyard made for ideal roller skating and was a regular summer evening pastime for much of the local youth with some developing very impressive acrobatic skills – as well as a few battered limbs into the bargain.

Regrettably, the school is no longer there (although the name continues at another site near the Skelton Rd football ground) and the lovely old building has been demolished. No doubt the new school’s facilities are much superior but, will it be held in the same widespread regard, pride and affection as the grand old “Vicky” of the 40’s and 50’s ?