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The Flicks

July 31, 2009

The Flicks is another of Eric Sanderson’s great tales this time about the cinemas of East Leeds in the 1940s/50s. And also the characters who ran them. Particularly Abe White at the Easy Road Picture House and Big Ernie at the Princess. Was Big Ernie’s the best known voice in East Leeds? Blog Flicks 

The Flicks

By Eric Sanderson

Cinemas (picture Houses – or even more colloquially ‘the Flicks’) were numerous right throughout the city and East Leeds had its fair share. During the 40s and 50s my favourite establishments were: The Shaftsbury and The Star, both on York Road; The Regent in lower Torre Road; The Princess in Pontefract Lane and The Easy Road cinema.

            They all followed a similar schedule, having a programme Mon to Wed, a different one Thurs to Saturday and a further change for a single house on Sunday evening (after Sunday opening started in the early fifties) They were without exception, well supported, often necessitating queuing outside and gaining access only after the show had begun such that you had to stay for the ‘second half’ to see the beginning of the film – seeing it back to front so to speak. Who would stand such nonsense today? They were also heavily smoke laden to the equivalent of a ten fag inhalation; you’d only to look at the beam from the projection room to see a swirling nicotine mist of eye watering density. The modern day elf ‘n safety Nazis would have a fit of vapours if confronted with such conditions.

            THE  SHAFTSBURY, known as ‘The Shaffs’ was the northern boundary of my cinematic circuit at the junction of York Road and Harehills Lane boasted a magnificent marble frontage (which in fact remains) atop several steps and leading to an impressive gilded vestibule and ticket office. It was probably the most modern cinema in the area, also the most expensive, but usually had the most recent films. The seating was red plush upholstery, many double seated but it suffered from the unpleasant characteristic of an absolutely scorching temperature. The building must have had its own uncontrolled nuclear reactor because by the interval, many had discarded their outer clothing and would dash for one of the several queues for ice creams and drinks, sold by strategically placed attendants from trays hung around their necks. The first ten minutes of the resumption of the film was drowned my the sucking and slurping of Kia Ora and orange flavoured lollipops, every last drop being siphoned up to quell the raging thirst induced by the tropical temperatures.

            The STAR (which had been built in the late 20s on the site of an earlier cinema called The Victoria), further down York Road, opposite Victoria School was also a fairly modern art deco style building. It had a peculiar feature in that while most cinemas sloped downwards from the rear towards the front, the Star reversed direction and began to slope up towards the screen. I suppose this was to reduce neck strain on those in the wooden, unupholstered cheap seats at the front when staring up at the screen. A very modern innovation or a cunning way to save building costs? It also boasted a balcony with very plush seating for its wealthier clientele but I only visited the balcony once and only then because my favourite aunt took me there for a birthday treat.

                        The staff were magnificently attired in maroon uniforms, the usherettes sporting little pillbox hats, strictly tilted to one side whilst the ‘fireman’ with his peaked cap boasted enough gold braid to impress an Admiral of the Fleet his chest was adorned with so many medal ribbons that he must have campaigned in: The Crimea, Rorkes Drift, The relief of Mafeking and all major encounters since. However, the manager was the man. He was always to be seen in black tuxedo with silk face lapels, had a tiny clipped moustache and gleaming slicked back hair with central parting, resembling a silent movie star. Now I come to think of it I believe that all the cinema managers possessed these handsome, sultry movie style features. maybe they went into the job believing it was just the first step on the road to Hollywood stardom! The manager also had a magnificent furnished office to one side of the entrance vestibule. Oh yes a cinema manager was indeed as job to aspire to in those days. In fact many years later (about 1965) I came across an old school friend who’d become manager of the Pavilion, near Stanningley. Sure enough, the black tuxedo and hairstyle were all there and the icing on the cake was the complimentary passes to the best seats. I was still convinced this was a job to die for 

The Star also started around 1950 a Saturday morning children’s matinee. The programme was invariably, a cartoon, a serial of Flash Gordon (not the same Gordon as our revered leader whom I’m sure history will treat favourably – if only because he intends to write it), followed by the main feature which was usually a western staring, Hopalong Cassidy or Roy Rogers, These matinees were often so rowdy that the film would be interrupted, lights thrown up and the manager (still in his black tuxedo) would clamber onto the stage and threaten to suspend the programme and expel all and sundry unless the racket was terminated. It never worked and I never remember wholesale expulsions. The Star also had an integral sweet and tobacco shop (as did the Shaftsbury) encouraging you to stock up on the necessities so as to maximise your enjoyment of the evening.

               The Regent was at the lower end of Torre Road and for us always a slightly intimidating journey because we had to go to it via Saville Green. This was an area at the lower end of York Road opposite the swimming baths and had a notorious reputation as a cross between Hogarth’s Gin Lane and New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. Between Saville Green and Torre Road was an old quarry, local legend had it that unwanted or inquisitive visitors were disposed of by being tossed into its slimy green water filled depths. Until you were much older this horror story sustained the fear that most young people had of this district and was a good reason to give it a wide birth.

Digressing slightly, I once had to retrieve a football nicked from my younger brother by some Saville Green urchins. I had been informed just who and where the culprits were and so I fearfully entered the amphitheatre deciding that ‘boldness be my friend’ was the best approach. I was convinced that I would be beaten up and thrown to the swine in the nearby piggery, but completely unexpectedly they handed over the football without a murmur. Saville Green was never such a fearful place for me after that.

Back to the Regent, it never became my favourite venue as it always had a peculiar aroma inside the building. It may have been the product of the industrial strength insecticide in use coupled with boiled pigswill from the nearby pigsties and, it was always a chilly place. Not a good combination for an evening’s light entertainment.

The PRINCESS in Pontefract Lane was probably my favourite venue. It was older and smaller than the others so far mentioned but it always seemed a cosy place and as far as I know free of anything nasty. The cheap seats at the front were accessed from an ally down the side of the cinema. After paying you entrance fee you were greeted by ‘Big Ernie’ who would allocate your seat, often starting on the front row towards the side. This location resulted in a very distorted view of the screen with elongated characters and severe eye strain, but as the evening wore on you could usually move further inward and towards a more comfortable viewing position, hoping that your recently induced swivel eye condition would improve before the end of the film.

           Big Ernie who in fact lived quite close to me, was a dustbin man by day and a fairly quit person to boot- nothing like the fearsome character maintaining order in the cheap seat area by bellowing, ‘QUIET’ if the background murmur became too loud for his taste. Otherwise he would sit under the screen noisily munching his sandwiches and slurping his tea until it was necessary to evict anyone who offended his code of behaviour, which only happened about six times a night.

The Princess had a much steeper gradient back to front  the most other cinemas which meant you still had a good chance of seeing the screen even if sat behind a trilby toting man or lady with large feather trimmed headwear. The more expensive seats at the rear usually encountered children when accompanied by adults, otherwise it was the cheapies at the front which cost, if I remember correctly sixpence. Money well spent.

        The final cinema on my circuit was The EASY ROAD venue. I never knew its correct name (if it had one) but I guess at some time it had been called something like The Palace or Rialto but which had now fallen into disuse.   [In fact it was just called The Picture House, Easy Road and claimed to have the best ‘talkie’ in Leeds].

                This was, I believe the oldest cinema on my circuit and usually showed the oldest films, only after they had been shown everywhere else. It may have been privately owned because I always understood it to be run by a man [Abe] and his two sisters. The entry price was also the lowest which in itself was a considerable attraction when scraping up the entrance fee was a challenging proposition. Behind the cinema was some derelict land and nearby pigsties so it doesn’t need a quantum leap in imagination to guess the probability of local wildlife just there. Rumour had it that feral cats were allowed to roam the cinema so at to control the uninvited guests from across the way and I never felt too comfortable here because an involuntary itch often accompanied each visit, on a couple of occasions something furry brushed against my legs. I always hoped it was one of the feline species and not the long tailed, buck toothed, Rattus Norvegicus. For this reason many sat with their feet on the seat in front.

            During and just after the war, the local cinema was, for many, a heaven sent escape for a couple of hours from the hardship and worries of those years. The entertainment was by today’s standards often corny but this is exactly what people wanted. To spend a couple of hours in the fantasy of a Hollywood musical with a bag of liquorish allsorts and maybe five Woodbines was a welcome and necessary break from reality.

The Market District Boys Club

July 1, 2009

blog The Market 

The author remembers wonderful teenage years at The Market District Boy’s Club Marsh Lane, Leeds. The football, the camaraderie, The preparation for life that we were unaware of at the time. 

                              The Market District Boy’s Club

During the last few years at school, East Leeds lads in particular, would become aware of the name ‘Market District’ or more commonly ‘The Market’. ‘He plays for the Market’, they would say with no small measure of respect. This was a club recognised for regularly winning football honours – or at least being in the final of things. You would notice that the pick of the school team and a fair smattering of the Leeds City Schoolboys team would migrate to either, ‘The Market’, or their great rivals, Ashley Road Methodists and Leeds Catholics upon leaving school.

My first close encounter with ‘The Market’ came about while actually playing against them in the under 16’s Minor League during 1952. The Market in their red and black squared shirts thrashed us six nil on our pitch and ten nil on theirs. Such was the magic of their football these scores seemed no disgrace. I can remember being particularly impressed by receiving a rollicking for hoofing the ball up the field instead of trying to play it out of defence. The reason I was so impressed was that the criticism came from not one of our players but one of theirs! These are the true aristocrats of football I thought and it became a growing ambition to wear one of those black and red shirts and what a thrill it was when I finally got to pull one on the following season – even, if by this time, they had become faded to pink and grey.

In the early fifties the club used two of the three Shaftsbury pitches on York Road; evidently this had not always been the case as older members recall playing on East End Park, Snake Lane and even the ‘cindery’ but handy ‘Paddy’s Park’. Pre-season we would train on the Shaftsbury pitches and change at the side of the field but on match days we would change at the club and without benefit of our own transport catch a tram from the club up to the Shaftsbury pitches already attired in our football gear. This was alright on the journey up there when we were clean but if the day had been wet there would likely be forty muddy lads ‘cheek by jowl’ with city centre shoppers doing their best to avoid muddy contact with us in the swinging tram gangways.

Back at the club, this was all made worthwhile by a wallow in the splendour of the huge sunken bath, which was a real luxury for the time. The bath was big enough to swallow twenty/thirty mucky lads with ease into its steamy depths. There is a the legendary tale of the occasion when a lady councillor was conducting a group of female councillors on a grand tour of the club (much later I became aware that the club was used as a model for keeping us lads from potentially deprived backgrounds on the straight and narrow but we were unaware of that at the time). Anyway, this lady proudly waltzed into the bathroom in order to show her colleagues what luxuries they had provided for us but to her horror as the steam cleared they were confronted by a bath full of whistling footballers in the ‘nuddy’. She is reported to have said: ‘and here is the big bath. Oh dear! I fear it is occupied.’ With that they made a hurried retreat.

At a recent reunion of old ‘Market’ members a great old sepia photograph of lads in the bath came to light. It showed that bath full to the brim with laughing little urchins, climbing over one another to get on the picture while a member of the clergy (the club was attached to Leeds Parish Church) complete in cassock held out a packet of ‘Lux’ soapflakes. What a great advert it would have made for Lux soapflakes. 

            If you looked back at the results of the various ‘Market’ teams playing normal run of the mill teams on a Saturday afternoon – there would be four or five football teams and a rugby team on the go at any one time – it would not be unusual to see scores of twenty goals to nil. Our team once won thirty eight nil and we had our goalkeeper sent off for sitting down by the posts, he got bored as he never got to touch the ball. This, the referee deemed was ‘ungentlemanly conduct’ and he had to go. Not all teams were ‘pushovers’ though. Every season there would be one or two teams who were able to give you a hard game. In our time these were, Ashley Road and Leeds Catholics. These two always managed to attract their share of last years Leeds City Boy’s team. In other eras, the Market’s main rivals had been Carlton Stormcocks, Leeds Wanderers, St Pat’s, Osmondthorpe YMCA and Pudsey Juniors etc. If you lost a match against one of these great rivals, it would be shear misery for a full week.

Gradually a mighty camaraderie developed within our team, there were times when the whole of our team plus non-playing members would socialise together on Saturday nights as a group. First we would visit the city centre pubs; the Vine, the King Charles seem to be the favourites and then onto the Scala Ballroom where we would ‘smooch’ beneath a revolving glass ball that threw shards of light across us. Magic. Sometimes we would have a change and visit the Mecca or Mark Altman’s or perhaps the Central School of Dancing which was opposite the Corn Exchange, there to indulge in our ‘bopping’ or waltzing,  to magical fifties ballads like; Mobile: ‘I saw a Sparrow Building its nest…….’  Alternatively, we might catch a couple of buses to the ‘Bull’ at Pudsey, then on to dancing at the Pudsey Baths. We often ‘kopt’ for a black eye and regularly had to walk all the way home but it didn’t matter that was all part of a great Saturday night out. All in all I think the Scala became our staple favourite venue.

Soon it became apparent that ‘The Market’ was far more than just a series of football teams, it was a club in the truest sense of the word. There was a thriving boxing section, a rugby league section, table tennis, billiards, girls section, canteen and chapel but most of all there was a sense of belonging.

Rapidly one’s teenage week became centred around the club. Tuesdays and Thursdays were football-training nights; Wednesday was for the rugby league lads, Monday for the girls. We all came together for dancing on Fridays and Saturdays in the basement. We decorated that basement ourselves to suit the ‘rock and roll’ era and we dimmed the lights for those dreamy waltzes:  Blow me a kiss from Across the Room, A blossom Fell. Hold my Hand’. They don’t make songs like that anymore!

The Sunday dances included a mandatory visit to the chapel midway through the evening. This may have seemed a little strange to newcomers but personally I found that chapel a powerhouse you could sense an aura in there. Sometimes I wondered, perhaps hoped, there was a residue clinging in there of members no longer with us who had congregated here, perhaps before going off and being lost in the War. Maybe their young hopes and aspirations remained encapsulated in here. The concept was quite humbling.

Lifelong relationships were being forged within these walls fortified by a whole host of leaders, clergy and voluntary helpers who gave up their time to keep us on the straight and narrow, just as their predecessors had done for the generations who came before. Without doubt, this was the real work of the club and far more important than the production of a few decent football teams. That was just the carrot to attract us in, then the real work began, although we did not realise it at the time we were being prepared for life and what a debt of gratitude we owe to those who made it possible. I’ll not mention any by name lest I should inadvertently omit anyone – enough to say: in my eyes they were all great.   

Around 1954 our gang went on a club trip to Blankemberghe in Belgium. There would be about thirty or forty of us, most travelling abroad for the first time. There is a tale of how one of the lads put a coin into one of those machines you could ask a question and it spat out a ticket with the answer. It was the night before we were due to travel, he asked. ‘Will I ever go abroad?’ the machine answered, ‘No!’ Luckily the machine was proved wrong the very next day. Of course continental travel was not so prevalent at that time as it is today, then it was all a great adventure for us: cars coming towards us, seemingly on the wrong side of the road, shops open all hours, nightclub – we’d never seen nightclubs in Leeds. It was all very strange.

Among our particular difficulties was deciding what alcoholic beverages to drink – really we shouldn’t have been drinking at all it was not good for the image of the club and we were all under age anyway but try telling that to us at the time. Undaunted, about fifteen of us went out one night intent on getting ‘well oiled’ regardless that we didn’t know what was safe to drink. We entered that which  we believed to be their equivalent of an off licence and each of us bought a bottle of that we thought would be alcohol – we couldn’t read the labels we just guessed. So stocked we transported the bottles from the shop to the beach where we all stood in a circle and taking a swig of our bottle, passed it on so that everyone had a swig of every bottle. Some of the tastes were quite diabolical – one in particular must have been undiluted coffee essence it made you jip every time it came round – I can still taste it. As you can imagine in no time at all we were all completely legless and falling about in the sand dunes – the whole issue. Those who weren’t so bad made an attempt to drag the ‘stiffs’ back to the hotel. One of the worst affected had the hotel key but he was coherent enough to know not to surrender it, saying: ‘I’m keeping tight hold of this; it’s my ticket back to the hotel’. We finally managed to deliver the worst to their beds. We had four of them laid out on two double beds in just their underpants, a couple were suffering from what were evidently ‘ delirium shivers’, when Duncan Gibson, the club leader arrived in the room, when he saw the state of them he went wild. He went on as how we’d let the club down and we would be sent home the next day, he was very serious. Then to our grate relief good fortune smiled upon us: in the midst of his ravings one of the ‘shiverers’ ceased his shivering for a moment and with his eyes still shut, began picking his nose. The sight was so funny Duncan could not remain serious and once he had burst out laughing the situation was saved.

Another night we blundered into a posh nightclub where the leaders were having a well-earned respite away from us, they had booked a table and had a fancy burette of wine – the lot. Their pained expressions should have told us they were not best pleased to see us but we, being thick skinned, were not easily put off. Instead of leaving with good grace to allow them to enjoy themselves, we messed about and the situation deteriorated, especially when a piano was espied and quickly manned by the pianist in our ranks who also happened, at the time, to be a smoker and who proceeded to park his cigarette on top of the piano. Unfortunately, the piano lid was open and the cig dropped into the interior igniting years of accumulated dust and causing a fire. Black smoke billowed everywhere. Thereafter the question of us leaving the nightclub was no longer open to debater we were unceremoniously escorted from the premises in quick time and banned from ever returning.

Around the age of twenty there was a tendency to drift away from the club – some of the better players joined top amateur open age clubs, some were good enough to turn professional. Some stayed on to become helpers themselves and to play for the Market District open age team which, having lost the cream of its talent was not generally up to the standard of the underage teams, others were off to get married or due for National Service. Those wonderful teenage years were over, eventually the grand old building in Brussels Street became outdated and demolished – but thankfully, never to be forgotten by those generations who drew inspiration from within its walls. This was confirmed by the way old members flocked to recent reunions.

Prior to the reunions my thoughts of the ‘Market’ tended to be parochial, centred on our times and circle of friends at the club. The reunions were complete ‘eye-openers’ the enthusiasm being generated was brilliant. The ages of folk who attended spanned almost the whole of the twentieth century.  Some old members could remember a time in the 1940s when the building had been requisitioned by the War Office and the club had to function in accommodation nearer to the Parish Church itself. Pre war photographs surfaced of happy camping expeditions and pantomime productions.  Nostalgic tales stretched right back to the founding of the club by the Rev Mackie. The oldest member to make contact was a lady already well into her eighties, though unfortunately, she was unable to attend the reunion in person as she lived in the North East. Those who were able to attend seemed to enjoy the experience. There was a tendency to migrate into groups of peers and pour over old team photographs. An eves-dropper was quoted as saying, “Each group I passed could be heard saying things like: ‘We should have won that match, we were robbed’ and the like”.

Time has obviously taken its toll on us all physically of course but what magic to see lads enter the door that you hadn’t seen since you played alongside them in the final match of a season perhaps: forty, fifty even sixty years ago. How wonderful that within minutes we were back into the same old routine of camaraderie and nicknames, probably the first time they had been brushed off and used in all that while. Our old comradeship was still apparent; seemingly, teenager friendships are able to transcend the passage of time.



July 1, 2009

blog The Market

Delivering the Sunday papers in 1950s East Leeds

June 2, 2009

blog eric sand del papersEric Sanderson tells of his trials and tribulations and some of the benefits od delivering the Sunday papers to East Leeds and Knostrop   

Sunday Morning Papers in East Leeds

By Eric Sanderson

For a couple of years in the 50s, I did the Sunday morning paper round for Oldcorn’s newsagents, which was on the short parade on Cross Green Lane between the church billiard hall and Easy Road Coal Staithe. It is no longer there having been replaced by a modern housing development. The only other establishment I remember on that parade was Fletcher’s barber shop.

            I took over from a lad called Wilfred Pickles who left to become a police cadet. Wilfred was a tall, fair haired good natured boy: I guess he made an excellent Bobby. The weekday deliveries were done in my time, if I remember correctly, by two girls called: Jennifer Chappelow and Beryl Morley.

            My job started early, around 6 a.m. summer and winter and often having had to awaken Mr Oldcorn. My first task was to lug in the huge bundles of newspapers, unpack and sort them and place them in rows on the shop counter. There was no paper or magazine racks in those days. I would then put the papers I had to deliver into two bags which finished up enormously heavy, leaving me at the end of my round with an aching back, shoulders and neck, but I usually slipped two or three ‘spares’ into bag number two – more of them later.

            The first part of the round covered: the St Hilda’s, the Copperfields and Cautley Road, which was covered on foot and largely uneventful apart from the odd man eating dog. The second bag didn’t have so many deliveries but covered a much larger area including right down to Skelton Grange and had to be done on my bike. This section started at a couple of rows of cottages on South Accomm, just before the river bridge [Falmouth’s and Bridgewater’s]. Without exception every house had a letter box with the strength of a rat trap and barely large enough to let a mouse in, let alone bulky (sometimes several) Sunday papers. Trying to push the paper through usually shredded it, especially if wet from the regular Sunday morning shower of rain. Tucking them behind the door knobs had equally unfortunate consequences and my only solution was to roll the paper up tight and jam the first few inches into the letter box, leaving them stuck out like sore fingers. This was far from the perfect solution as the newspapers would become soaked if it rained, Complaints were not unheard of but there was no practical solution. At the end with knuckles bleeding from the gin trap letterboxes, I could look down the row and see what looked like a line of sentinels with a fag in each mouth. Today I suppose they would have been rolled up and placed in plastic sleeves but no such high tech solution existed in those days.

            It was then up South Accomm, onto the Long Causeway and down Knostrop Lane. I had long been impressed by seeing at the cinema, American newspaper boys tossing rolled up papers from their bikes up to the customer’s front doors. My first wheeze was to try this but there were a couple of critical errors on my part. First my aim was not so accurate as theirs and my papers often finished up in the wrong garden or in a cabbage patch. Secondly, they didn’t have the waterproof wrapping that the US boys had. Legions of complaints quickly followed so my experiments at improving efficiency had to be abandoned.

            Next calls were the Old Hall and the New Hall, these were two fine if fading Jacobean and Georgian houses. One, the New Hall, with a round house feature was converted into what today would be called ‘apartments’. Winding marble staircases,  intricate wrought iron balustrades with floor to ceiling doors characterised the place – along with a horrible stench. Walking along the balconies, dropping papers by the doors (there were no letterboxes) usually whistling (the place was like an echo chamber), I was often shouted at from behind closed doors—“SHARRUP” – do you know what time it is?”  Consulting my one inch thick Newmark watch (with luminous dial I might add) I would shout back, “Yes, it’s seven o’clock” Then colourful ripostes shocked my innocent schoolboy’s ears and couldn’t possibly be repeated here.  Nonetheless, it was good sport and a bit of fun on an often dreary and lonely job. One resident of the New Hall, an elderly, kind lady who seemed to be living her life in a slightly shabby and fading elegance, would always eagerly await her Scottish Sunday Post. She kept about 1,000 cats and had a very impressive collection of antique firearms which she enjoyed showing and explaining the provenance of.

            On to the next call, round the double bend and onto the straight towards a row of cottages, which I think were called the ABC Houses (but I never knew why) adjacent to the water treatment plant. On the way my wheeze number two came into play. I invariably crossed with a van carrying workers from Skelton Grange Power Station. They would always stop me and ask me if I had any extra copies. Remember the few ‘spares’ I mentioned earlier? These were always profitably disposed of which earned me a bob or two extra with sometimes a tip thrown in.

            Next stop was the row of ABC cottages where I had to collect the money for the week’s papers as well as deliver the Sundays. The residents were always somewhat grumpy. Even though they wanted their papers early they didn’t relish getting up to pay the bill. They even had the temerity to suggest I come back later in the day for the money. Not a good idea.   

            Wheeze number three came into operation here, I used to keep a very small amount of change in one pocket and when proffered payment, said I had very little change. The residents would then often round up the payment which translated into another few bob or so for me. Of course, I couldn’t operate the scam on all of the people, all of the time but it was an occasional nice little earner.

            Just after the cottages a narrow gauge railway line crossed the road at a very acute angle. In wet weather this was quite a tricky hazard to negotiate on a bike and many is the time a tumble resulted in muttered profanities, bringing down curses on anyone who happened to be in my bad books at the time.

            Onwards to Skelton Grange and here was a short row of terraced houses in the shadow of the cooling towers. What a depressing windblown place this was but after avoiding the usual combination of scary dogs aggressive geese and deep potholes, I had finally arrived at my furthest point. One resident, a huge man, always in bib and brace overalls and hob nailed boots, had massive hands, a bald head and a mouth full of rotten teeth – he could easily have starred in the film – ‘DELIVERENCE’. Nonetheless he was a very nice man.

            Then turning for home, head down, peddling furiously, spirits rising, back past Old and New Halls and turning right into Snake Lane (some called this part of the lane which ran up to Black Road – Red Road but rightly or wrongly I always considered this part of Snake Lane). Up, the hill, turn left into the part of Snakey that ran into Cross Green Lane and stop at the farm (which later became the school but even that has now gone), my last call, parking the bike and walking up to the house which was about a hundred yards away, I first had to get past the snarling, slavering Hound of the Baskervilles, which was (thankfully) chained to a stout post. The chain was just about long enough to allow me to sidle past without having the brute sink its fangs into me and once past I approached the house deliberately looking dishevelled, forlorn and a bit of play acting came into play here for wheeze number four. The lady of the house was always very kind, enquiring after my wellbeing and my play acting stood me in good stead here, feigning cold and hunger, she would sometimes invite me in for a bacon sandwich and a steaming cup of cocoa, especially on cold winter mornings.

            Suitably refreshed and often with a nice tip (one shilling), I tripped back down the path past the dog, which strangely never bothered me on the way out. Feeling warm, replete and with spirits soaring, my round was complete and I headed back to the newsagents. Oh, bliss and joy, did bacon sandwiches ever taste so good? Back there, the good old Mr Oldcorn would give me my five bob and sometimes an extra shilling if the weather was bad (because I never let him down) and I would set of for home with nearly ten bob in my pocket, to 68 Charlton Road where I lived until I was eighteen.

My dear Mam would be waiting for me with a hot bath to warm me up and sooth away my aches and pains to be followed by a full breakfast, THE FULL MONTY.   

I never did tell her (until many years later) about my ‘early starter’ at Snake Lane Farm. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have got the extra sausage with my breakfast.

June 2, 2009

blog eric sand del papers

More Tales of Between the Wars byStan Picklesl

May 1, 2009

blog-stan-pickles-22Stan tells of te custom of ‘britching’ when a lad got his first pair of long ‘uns. And of his first delightful holiday provided by th village of Barmby Moor for the ‘poor children of Leeds’. Stan completes with two sporting moments: The RL Cup Semi Final of 1936 between Leeds RL and Huddersfield and the 1928 Hepworth Cricket Cup Final between East Leeds and Hunslet 

At Last the Britching day Arrives

Another big day in our lives was the day we got our ‘long ‘uns’. In those far off days until we were about sixteen years old we showed our knees in short pants and sported a fancy pair of socks with coloured tops turned down at the knees. It was usually a Sunday morning when you would be given our last inspection by Mother and with neighbours at the ready you stepped out into the street. As you passed they would call, ‘You do look nice! You’re a man now! How does it feel?’ of course then you would have to stand a real rigging. Yes we fellows have come a long way since those ‘britching days’.

Until we were about three years old in fact we were dressed like girls then all at once you were changed into a little boy, at first with short trousers, coloured jerseys with a fancy collars and a tie to match. It was a big day for you when at last you got your ‘long ‘uns’

            Sundays were very different between the wars, the older folk would be seen taking bunches of flowers to the cemetery whilst teenagers would gather in the lovely parks and do a little ‘flirting’. After tea we would listen to gramophone records playing the latest tunes, play cards or perhaps dominos with a little flutter of a halfpenny a game.




My First Holiday


A memorable school holiday in the depressed year of 1924 is still treasured in my life. Recently as I was returning from a holiday in Whitby with my twin eleven year old grandsons, my mind went back to that holiday many years ago. I was thirteen years old and Silverdale had been providing holidays for Leeds school children for a number of years but a new venture had just got underway. Yorkshire villages such as Nun Munkton, Barmby Moor and Bishop Wilton opened their doors to many under privileged poor children of Leeds, who throughout the hard times never had a holiday from one year to the next.

            Along with two other boys from my class I was chosen to have two weeks at the delightful Barmby Moor. You can just imagine our excitement as the wonderful day in August arrived. Children from various schools in the city grouped on the station platform for their big adventure, what a scene it was with about a hundred boys and girls all carrying pillow cases packed with a change of clothing and the other essentials for our holiday. Many of them had never been on a train, let alone a holiday. Eventually, the train pulled in to the excited chatter of our party, with our parents waving us goodbye and a last word from the officials we were on our way to Pocklington station where four or five farmers with horse-drawn flat carts took us to our village about a mile and a half down a lovely country road, where the local children greeted us and took us to our ‘digs’ for our stay.

Barmby Moor was beautiful; we stayed in a cottage by a stream with an elderly couple who were so kind to us. The three of us shared a bedroom with a big double bed and we soon made ourselves feel at home with the nice couple. Each morning we came down to breakfast at 8.30 to the smell of fresh baked bread in the neat kitchen where a pot of tea, a boiled egg with bread butter and jam awaited us. Then it was outside to walk around and explore, sometimes accompanied by the village children who had become our friends. Each day a very nice lunch and tea were ready for us and always there was a glass of milk at bedtime.

Each Sunday we went to church and on the first Sunday the vicar gave a special welcome to the ‘Leeds children’ and wished us all to have a happy holiday. An optional pleasure was a ride in the cart to our host’s hayfield to pitch haystacks. It was all new and interesting to us – quite a novelty – and I learned something I had never known before and what an appetite it gave us! Our kindly hosts gave us an apple each during the rest periods. On the two Saturdays we were there we were taken to the pictures in Pocklington which made a change

I can still see the little stream rippling its clear water through the village. Yes! and the walks on the moors, trips into Pocklington, services in the beautiful church, our work in the hayfields and the welcome we received. To have it all and to be blessed with good weather made this a holiday always to be remembered.

However, all good times have to end and the day of our departure arrived and after we had been given a bunch of flowers each for our mums we said goodbye to all the friends we had made and we were on our way back to Leeds. It had been indeed a special treat for us in those hard times. 

My First Girl

                                       (A Little Love Story)

I met Elsie on that lovely Barmby Moor holiday. We hit it of right from the start when we stood side by side on that farmer’s cart taking us to that lovely village for those lovely two weeks. ‘Which school do you go to? Where’s that? What’s your name?’ etc. We had made our first tentative efforts to be acquainted. Although there were about thirty boys and girls in our party we were always in each other’s company. We even managed to go to the two Saturday picture matinees in Pocklington together.

            Elsie lived in Hunslet and I knew it well as I often went to the rugby matches at Parkside and to Hunslet feast on the moor. During our holiday a few kisses and cuddles passed between us  and on our return to Leeds we said goodbye at the station and Elsie ran off ran off to greet her mother who had come to meet her and I was met by Father. What an excited crowd was on that platform as we went off in all directions to our homes

            I never thought I would meet Elsie again but a few days later as I was leaving the street with my pals to play football on the park a voice called out, ‘Hello Stanley.’ I looked around and there was Elsie looking very smart. She told me she was on her way to visit her aunt and after a few words with her I rushed off to catch up with my pals, nothing but sport was on my mind at the time. Alas, I never saw Elsie again. We were both thirteen years old at the time.

Two Sporting Events

I would like to record here two memorable matches: one rugby and one cricket that gave me lasting memories.

The Rugby League Cup Semi Final at Wakefield 1936

Leeds v Huddersfield

On a sunny March afternoon before a large crowd of 30,000 Leeds and Huddersfield turned out in their smart amber and blue and claret and gold to a great reception in that which was to be the greatest game of rugby I ever saw. Here are the details:

The game commenced with booth teams coming close to scoring, then on fifteen minutes, after some clever back play, Huddersfield took the lead with a good try between the posts. It came after a brilliant passing movement left Leeds bewildered and allowed Fiddes to race over to score. Scourfield added the goal to make it 5 points to nil. Leeds fought back with good moves but could not get the final touch.  Play continued to thrill us with forwards and backs alike giving everything. Then five minutes before half-time it all happened – a quick break from the scrum by Williams saw Fred Harris take the ball on the half-way line and into his stride with Eric Harris in support. As on many previous occasions before Fred showed the ball and Eric went inside then with opponents all hesitating Fred went inside himself with Eric switching to the wing, Fred still showing the ball made a sudden dart and Huddersfield at last realising what was happening went to tackle Fred who slipped the ball to Eric ten yards out and he made no mistake with a clear run to the corner. Williams levelled the score with a fine touchline goal and both teams held out for the next five minutes to half time to make it 5-5 at the interval. It had been a great first half with more to come.

            The second half started just as thrillingly – both teams throwing the ball about with forwards all linking up and tackling their hearts out. On and on it went and just when it looked like being a replay Leeds scored the vital try ten minutes before time: a kicking dual between the full backs: Eaton and Scourfield  saw both sets of forwards waiting to pounce. A huge kick by Eaton made Scourfield lose the ball and John Hall the Leeds hooker was on it like a flash but not having much time he threw out a long pass to Eric Harris’s wing and Eric ran onto it and went over a few yards from the corner, Williams obliged again and despite Huddersfield’s pressure Leeds held out to win a thrilling game ten points to five. At last Leeds were Wembley bound. It was a pity there had to be a loser. For me it was the greatest game I ever saw.

Now for the best game of cricket I ever saw.

The Hepworth Cup Final at Burmantofts 1928



The picturesque little ground behind The Dog and Gun public house, York Road, was the setting between for the Hepworth Cup Final between two great rivals: East Leeds and Hunslet. A lovely August afternoon saw Hunslet win the toss and decide to bat. Billy Newton and Wilkinson opened for Hunslet to the bowling of Fisher and Beverley. It was a steady start that had the big crowd watching every detail. At 17 the first wicket fell, Wilkinson bowled by Fisher for 7. That was quickly followed by Bill Newton – 25 for 2. Les Philips went around the 40 mark and with Shuttleworth soon out Hunslet were 55 for 4. Fisher, taking two wickets, Beverley one wicket and one run out. Hunslet found runs hard to get and continued to struggle against Fisher who was taking wickets and keeping the batsmen quiet. Eventually after a thrilling three hours of play Hunslet were all out for 115. Horace Fisher taking 6 for 31.

            Now it came to East Leeds turn to bat, the openers Walt Maskill and Herbert Brooks made a steady start but lost Maskill at 20. Number three went with the score on 22 – Billy Newton claiming both wickets. Fisher came in to join Brooks and the pair gradually took the score along into the fifties but good Hunslet bowling made East Leeds fight for every run. Watched intently by the thrilled crowd the pair took the score to 90 before Fisher fell, LBW to Newton, who had just come back, on for a score of 29 and then another blow, probable the biggest for East Leeds, Herbert Brooks was caught behind for 45 after a really good innings – 92 for 4. By now Billy Newton was bowling like a man inspired and those 24 runs to win were going to be hard going when two more wickets fell on the 100 mark. Alf Reynolds and Wade were scratching and scraping, Reynolds getting a lucky edge for four and a single here and there saw the score creeping along until a quick taken run by Wade, the stumper, saw East Leeds home by four wickets – what a thrilling match enjoyed by all and a more exciting game of cricket would be hard to find. Well done East Leeds and congratulation to Hunslet for making it such and enjoyable game.


more tales of between the wars

May 1, 2009


May 1, 2009


Baths and Bladders

April 1, 2009

blog-baths-and-bladersThe author remembers school swimming lessons at Joseph Street Baths at Hunlet, Leeds and School Football training on Snake Lane in East Leeds 



                                                 Pete Wood

In the Course of the week we had two sports lessons at St Hilda’s. The first was swimming on Monday mornings. Pupils of Ellerby Lane and Victoria schools tell that they attended York Road Baths but we had our swimming lessons at Joseph Street Baths in Hunslet.  We didn’t set off until after playtime, so it would be approaching eleven o’clock already and we had to be in and out of the bath by twelve! Note: I said ‘playtime’ not break or recess – good old playtime – that’s what we had. How often have you heard someone say: ‘You’ve had it now – I’ll get you at playtime!’ Anyway we’d set off walking in a crocodile, no school buses for us. We had our trunks rolled inside towels and under our arms – you were a ‘geek’ if you had a shoulder bag! Then we were off down South Accomm, Atkinson Street, Goodman Street, across Hunslet lane and so the baths. You changed two to a tiny cubicle, it was a bit of a tight squeeze, and you were lucky if you managed to get your own socks on at the end of the lesson. Then we were through the slipper baths and lined up along the side of the pool.

Those who were training for certificates were allowed in first – first class certificate candidates had to execute life saving procedures, diving for the brick and a neat dive in addition to the actual swimming. Then it was the turn of those taking the second-class certificate – three lengths breaststroke and one length backstoke. Finally, the last of the certificate takers had their chance – those who were going for the third class certificate, which was just the one length of the bath. There was also the advanced ‘bronze medallion’ but I cannot remember any of our lot attempting that one although Pat Brown who lived next-door to us and attended Mount St Mary’s was successful in achieving such a medallion.

There was also a seldom attempted fourth certificate, if my memory serves me correctly this was a speed certificate which necessitated completing four lengths of the bath (100 yards) in under 110 seconds. There was just one lad at our school capable of achieving this: Norman Gibbs. Norman was a great lad but somehow or other he always seemed to have a note from his mother excusing him from the swimming lesson, which meant we hardly ever saw him at Joseph Street, making it all the more extraordinary that he was an absolute fish when he actually managed to get into the water. I can only remember being privileged to see him swim a couple of times in all the years we attended swimming lessons but when we did it was an absolute treat, he would churn up and down that pool – over arm crawl – just like a motor boat. As he hardly ever seemed to go to the baths it was a puzzle as to how he managed to be the best swimmer among us!

By the time we ‘gash hands’ were allowed to have our thrash about in the pool it was time to come out and make the long crocodile trip back to school. 

            Our other physical training lesson – the one we all liked – was football practice on Wednesday afternoons. We didn’t get set free on Snake Lane until after ‘playtime’ for that either. But as the footballs needed to be prepared – they had invariably deflated from the previous week – a couple of lucky lads would be given the task of making sure the balls were ready for action; it was a bit of a ‘skive’ that we carried out in a cloakroom away from the classroom. The leather footballs we had then could not be re-inflated, merely by sticking in an adaptor and blowing them up, for us it was a work of art. First the lace had to be removed and the neck of the bladder fished out from under its protective piece of leather. The neck had then to be untied and the ball re-inflated, then the neck had to be doubled over and retied with string, this completed the neck of the bladder had to be tucked back in beneath its leather protection and the ball re-laced. There was a special tool to facilitate the re-lacing of the ball, which had to be carried with the expertise of a surgeon as the ball had to remain perfectly spherical even though it had a neck and the lace must be so neat that it did not pose a danger when the ball was headed. The whole ball then had to be covered in ‘Dubbin’ to protect the leather.  With a bit of guile you could make the job spin out for the whole of the first period if it were a lesson you didn’t fancy. School footballs were only supposed to be size four (normal men’s footballs are size five) but we had to make our footballs last and as they were leather they tended to stretch and get bigger, so by the time we had worn them out they were probably size six! There was as bonus with our footballs though: if they sustained a puncture you could pull out the bladder and mend it like a bike inner tube and you were up and running again. Today if they burst they have to be sent away for a panel removing the puncture mending and than the panel stitched up again, as you can imagine it all costs a bob or two and you can be without a ball for weeks; plus the balls cost twenty times more to buy in the first place! I see them kicking those modern plastic balls they can tickle them in from the corner flag or to the half way line from a goal kick and they bend and swerve all over the place, you had to give our footballs a real ‘thwack’ to get them moving but if you hit one right they went as straight as a canon ball; when Alfie Duckworth hit the woodwork with one of his shots on Snake Lane you could hear the noise Easy Road!

More Memories of Brian Conoby

March 1, 2009

blog-bian-conoby-21These are the final offerings of Brian Conoby who lived his life in East Leeds and has contributed hugely to our little tales. Brian sadly passed away shortly after Christmas after a short illness In this offering Brian writes of the legendary race horse trainer, Mick Berry who was his early neighbour and his tale of the ‘The enduring flag stone’ a charming little tale of the 1930s 


Jack Berry MBE – Racehorse Trainer.

I grew up at 65 Charlton Road and just around the corner was Glensdale Road and at the end house lived the ‘Berry’ family; they had a small garden. Their father, who worked for Wildblood, the butcher would come home by horse and cart and put the horse in the small garden. One of Mr Berry’s sons emerged as the legendry   racehorse trainer, ‘Mick Berry MBE’.  Mick also wrote the books: One to Go, It’s Tough at the Bottom and A year in the Red Shirt. The red shirts being the late Queen’s Mother’s colours. Mick was a former pupil at Victoria School. I made myself known to him and he sent me a signed copy of one of his books.


My father grew up in the houses which were eventually to be replaced by the Quarry Hill Flats. When he was about ten years of age, which would be 1920, he and his mate chiselled their names into the kerb stone outside their house. When their house had to be pulled down to make way for the Quarry Hill flats they moved to the East End Park area’  One day Mother and Father decided to have a walk to Whitkirk, with me in the pram.  New houses were being built at Whitkirk at the time and they were just about to lay the kerb stones, when dad looked closely at the flag they were about to lay he saw his initials; it was the very same kerb stone he and his mate had chiselled their names into from the old house pre-Quarry Hill! What were the chances of Dad seeing that flag, a thousand to one? Dad wrote to the highway Department and they said they would take it up and they could have it in their garden but we never followed through but the Yorkshire Evening News gave him half a guinea for printing the tale.

I Remember: The water tank being built at the top of Snake Lane, and a road block at the far end of Black Road. (There was another one half way up John-O-Gaunt’s Hill; they were big concrete bocks intended slowdown any German advance in the case of an invasion – it sobering to reflect how serious that threat was taken at that time) There was also another ‘paddy’ engine not previously mentioned, ‘Blenkinsop’

Before the Second World War there was a gatehouse at the start of Red Road near the Bridgefield pub. Sometimes the gateman would turn us back, if he didn’t see me I got through. If he turned us back we would go down Black Road and cut across back to Red Road past Thorne’s farm.

                                           Brian’s map of Black Road and Knostrop (part)