Archive for the ‘Wartime’ Category

Memories of Brian Conoby

June 1, 2008

blog-brian-conoby Brian relates his early life in East Leeds, particularly: air raids, trips down Black Road to Red Walls, the Princess cinema and the local pubs. And local characters: Charlie Athe and his bike shop and Bog Earnie ‘chucker out’ at the Princess Cinema. 

The East Leeds Memories of Brian Conoby

I was brought up at 65, Charlton Road from the age of two years until we left in 1950. My grandma Mrs Bridget Conoby lived at 3, East Park View. Near to the ‘Slip Inn’. Near to my grandma’s house was a flat roofed house on the corner of Temple View and the Grove. It was more like a farm than a house, a Mr Sowery kept hens and there were some stables too. There were some flat roofed houses in Temple View known as the ‘Sharp and Thornton’s’. Times laundry was just across the way in Glensdale Mount, next was Wrigglesworth’s shop, which sold bags of coal. At the junction of Glensdale Road and East Park Road near to the railway there was a vinegar works called U.L.Y.C.U.M.

East End Park before the war had a small lake where the playground is now and there was a café near to the bowling green. The park was locked up on a night. The park ranger also looked after the ‘Rec’ located near Welbeck Road.

Black Road 

I fished at ‘Red Walls’ in the Wykebeck. Black Road was a good road in the 50s. I achieved 75 mph on a 350cc BSA down there! During the war, the army camp was equipped with big guns and searchlights. On a moonlit night, ‘Jerry’ would follow the river Aire up to bomb Leeds. Then the guns would start up. In the 60s, the TA used the camp for a few years.             You could sit out at the back of the Bridgefield pub on summer evenings. Opposite the Bridgefield, miners would catch the train down to the Waterloo Pit. The track followed Black Road past the Red Walls.

            I recall prisoners of war clearing the snow on East Park Parade. They had a big patch on their overalls. This would have been the very bad winter of 1947 when 12 inches of snow fell.




Charlie Atha

Charlie Atha had a cycle shop at the junction of Pontefract Lane and Lavender Walk. He lived in a house next door to the shop. He would build cycle wheels in the window of the shop on a jig – he could do anything with a bike! When I left St Charles’s School I started work at Bellow Machine Tool Company in Ellerby Lane, as an electrician’s mate. On one occasion a sewing mechanic who worked at the firm came off his bike in the wet tramlines, he was OK but the tram went over the back end of his bike and tore the backstays to bits. He gave the bike to Charlie who fitted new stays and re-sprayed it; it finished up ‘just like new’.  I have often gone to his shop about 2.00 p.m. and there would be a note on the door: ‘Gone to the Shepherd pub, back at 3.00p.m!  Before he moved to Pontefract Lane I was told he had a shop on ‘The Bank’ where he would hire out cycles.

            Bellow Machine Tool Company made sewing machines and steam presses for clothing firms. When I worked there, Ronnie Hilton, the singer worked there too before he made singing a full time career.

            For many years there was a small engineering firm at the junction of East Park View and Charlton Street we called ‘Tippingsis’ I still have some tools from there, a spanner bears the name ‘Tipco’ on its side.

           Mr. Jim Stanton lived next door in Charlton Road. He was just too old for service so he became our local ARP man. I remember him coming round with small incendiary bombs, lighting them against the toilet walls and then showing folk how to put them out with the aid of sand and a stirrup pump. I often wondered how we would put them out if they became wedged in a gutter?  I had been told that in time they could burn right through slates. At the end of many streets there was a square, brick water tank. One was at the end of Charlton Road and another across from the Bridgefield pub – a steel one, which remained long after the war had finished. Houses with gardens were usually issued with ‘Anderson’ type shelters, which had to be sunk half way into the soil, with the extracted earth heaped on top.  My uncle, Mr Frank Muntage, an Irish Man, was a foreman for Mary Harrison, the building company. As Harrisons were extending the munitions factory at Barnbow he was exempt from front line service: he drove a Harrison’s lorry (which were always red). One Saturday morning he arrived with four other Irish men and dug out the Anderson shelter and built a proper bunker below ground level placing the actual Anderson shelter at the back. I don’t know where they got all the sand and cement from but they were at it all day Saturday and Sunday and the next weekend too. It was so strong other folk preferred to use it as being safer than their own shelters. Later my uncle had to work up the East Coast, near to Hartlepool, where Harrisons were building the Mulberry Harbours ready for the invasion. After the war my dad put two feet of soil on top of the shelter and grew vegetables on it. As far as I know the shelter may still be there!

Big Ernie, commissionaire at the Princess cinema, lived three doors up from the junction of Welbeck Road and Everleigh Street, facing the Rec. When I visited my grandma at number 3 East Park View I would see him about to go on duty at the Princess.   When he was on duty he would sit on a chair at the front, near to the screen. If you went more than once to the toilet he would shout: ‘that’s twice you have been to the toilet. If you go again I will throw you out!’ I recall there was a passageway down the side of the Shepherd pub, where you would queue for the cheapest seats.

                                                                                                Brian Conoby


No Mod Cons at Knostrop

December 1, 2007

No Mod Cons at Knostrop,Life in Knostrop East Leeds in World War Two in a house without electricity and an outside toilet 

No Mod Cons in Knostrop             

      (Pete Wood)

The houses of Knostrop were all bereft of electricity. The ones like ours would have gas downstairs and upstairs, nothing. When you went to bed you took a candlestick with you like ‘Wee Willie Winky’. The gaslight went up and down; sometimes it would be a bright greeny white at other times a sickly yellow, which made reading difficult. People would remark, ‘The pressure’s down tonight!’ Tall people who visited and were unused to the problems of gas would be forever knocking the mantels off with their heads; this would spark off much light-hearted hissing and booing at the culprit. Should you not have a spare mantle on hand the rest of the night would be spent in candlelight.

We didn’t have TV yet but without electricity even the radio; or rather the ‘wireless’ as we called it, still needed a source of power – to achieve this we used a system of batteries, a wet battery known as ‘the accumulator’ and another huge battery about a foot square which we referred to as, the ‘dry battery’. People would try to have two accumulators on the go if they could so that while one battery was working the set they could have another on charge. There was a shop at the top of Knostrop Hill that specialised in the charging up ‘flat’ accumulators (Burley’s).  The makeup of an accumulator was: a glass outer casing, with acid covered electrodes inside. When taking them to be charged you had to carry them with a flimsy detachable handle that located in a couple of half moon ridges moulded into the glass. One day while taking an accumulator for charging I was swinging it a bit too violently and I swung the handle right out of the half moon sockets and the thing crashed down onto the road smashing into a dozen pieces. Replacements were quite expensive so I thought I’d be ‘in for it’ but evidently I must have looked so scared I was let off lightly.     

With such a wide choice of entertainment available today those who did not experience wireless first hand would no doubt have believed it to have been, music apart, a most primitive form of entertainment but in the days before TV we would look forward to listening to plays and comedy programmes as well as music. For the older folk even wireless was a luxury for they had only just moved on from the scratchy crystal sets, commonly known as the ‘cat’s whisker’. A couple of my favourite programmes, which I couldn’t wait to come around each week, were: ITMA, (It’s That Man Again) staring the comedian Tommy Handley. This programme brimmed with early catch phrases like: ‘Can I do you now sir?’ spoken by the charlady, Mrs Mop, ‘Don’t forget the diver’ and ‘I don’t mind if I do’ by old Colonel Chinstrap bumming another drink. Appointment With Fear, a weekly horror story read by Valentine Dial – ‘the man in black’, had me gripping the chair, ‘what delicious fright’. TV has, not in my opinion bettered the pictures one conjured up in the imagination while listening to those weird stories. And those images didn’t seem to fade so fast either when the programme ended.

After listening to ‘An Appointment of Fear’ it became ‘an appointment of fear’ in actuality if one found it necessary to use the outside toilet in the middle of the night.

Every household will no doubt have evolved its own particular arrangement to deal with this event.  The rigmarole in our house was: first you had to feel your way downstairs, in pitch blackness (I wasn’t allowed to light a candle) and into the kitchen where you would try, if you could, to coax the dog out of his nice warm corner in order to accompany you. He wouldn’t be well pleased at this. Then you had to proceed through a stone pantry, up three steps and outside into the garden – all in complete darkness. By this time you felt a long way from the safety of civilisation. The toilet itself was a large brick affair in the garden, built in a veritable tunnel where the wind would whistle through the trees on a winter’s night. On one occasion I can remember the dog, which I’d managed to cajole along with me that time and was sat by my side, suddenly leaping up with his hair bristling and howling at something I couldn’t see. I thought Dracula and all his mates were after me.    

In winter the toilets, being outside, would likely freeze up and you had to take a bucket of water with you to compensate for the lack of a flush. In cold weathers an oil lamp would be placed alongside the pipes in an effort to offset this problem, usually without a great deal of success. ‘Its an ill wind that blows nobody any good’, goes the old saying however and being wartime there was little proper toilet paper around so you would find newspaper cut into squares in its place providing many a good read. I didn’t like it on two accounts though when it was The Woman’s Own; first the texture was dodgy and secondly, the stories were not for me