Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Atha’

A Seasonal Tale 1948’49

December 1, 2017

A Seasonal Tale 1948/49.
By Eddie Blackwell
When I was 10/11 years old before my voice broke, I was in the school choir and I had a reasonable voice, although a bit tone deaf, but I enjoyed singing. It was December 1948, Christmas was nearly here and I decided to go carol singing in the local area in which I lived. I knew all the traditional carols, Good King Wenceslas, Once in Royal David’s City, Away in a Manger, The Holly and the Ivy, O Little Town of Bethlehem, We three Kings, I could go on and on and I’m sure you would still say do you remember this one.
They were great times the war was over your Dad was back home, respect to those that did not return, but all was well with the World. The carol singing was going OK I was hitting the high notes sweet as a bell and the money was rolling in. I must have spent two or three hours doing the rounds, I’d finish off with “A little bit of spice cake, a little bit of cheese, a glass of cold-water, a penny if you please, if you haven’t got a penny then a halfpenny will do if you haven’t got a halfpenny then God bless you.
I did get a glass of cold-water, some sweets, and lots of money. I remember going into Lavender Walk, there was a small courtyard behind the Shepard Pub, Adjacent to where Charlie Atha lived, a row of Cottages can’t remember what they were called. The Cottages were arranged in the shape of a crescent which must have had an amplifying effect on my voice because one by one all the doors opened and people were listening to me singing the carols. Usually I was quite nervous when I had an audience, yet on this occasion I didn’t have butterflies in my tummy it was great. I got a small round of applause after I had finished, and some contributions, so I wished them all a Merry Christmas and was on my way.
I did have some close family who lived in the area, my Gran lived in Ascot street, Mums youngest sister Aunty Eileen lived at No. 144 Devon Street, it was a back to back terraced house which had been subjected to mining subsidence and looked as though it was about to fall-down, the window sills were all crooked and the door was skew whiff, but it was quite safe, and the rent had been reduced, which was an added incentive to live there, then there was Aunty Margaret she lived in Ascot place, which was the street joining Devon Street to Ascot Street, it was a tiny through terraced house with a small front room just big enough to take a half size billiard table, if you can imagine that small. You couldn’t open the front door fully so you had to be slim to get in and out. Well I’d done the rounds and by this time I was getting hungry, so I made my way home.
How did you go on asked my big Sister, I bet you didn’t get anything with your scrawny voice, I didn’t do that bad I said, and I emptied my pockets onto the table and there was well over a pound in coppers and tanners. That’s a lot Dad said the church will be very pleased with your donation. Ups I hadn’t thought about that and after all, the people were giving for Christmas Carols. Well my face must have dropped and Dad was on it straight away, he said I don’t suppose they’ll notice five shillings is missing but the balance goes as a contribution to the church, there’s the Centenary Restoration coming up shortly and they need every penny to repoint the steeple and make it last for another hundred years. Now I had the princely sum of five shillings in my pocket plus my weekly pocket money of a shilling.
Wow six bob I was rich and it was burning a hole in my pocket as it does when your young. The following morning I met up with my friend Kenny Walker and we wandered over the Saville Green wreck down past the Regent Cinema and onto Green Lane looking in shop windows at toys and saying I bags that for Christmas, people were rushing about as they do when Christmas is almost upon us. There was a little sweet shop on the corner of a street facing onto Green lane it was a funny shape almost triangular in the corner there was a hard backed book on display called “The History of the Motor Car” it was expensive five shillings and six pence, I picked it up to have a look inside, and a voice boomed out you’re going to take the print off those pages if you’re not going to buy it put it back. I put it down, I wanted the book but I didn’t have enough money to buy it, and that would mean no money for sweets or anything. Yet Christmas was just around the corner and you always got sweets and things in those days for Christmas. I’d already spent a shilling, and needed sixpence to buy it, but it may as well have been a trip to the moon, I’d no chance of buying it, I’d had my pocket money. Then a thought crossed my mind, what if I could borrow sixpence from next week’s pocket money, I’d have lots of sweets from Christmas which would tide me through and I’d still have sixpence, sounded like a good plan and I really wanted that book, it would be very educational, I’m sure Dad would approve.
Well would you believe Dad said he was skint, Christmas was coming on and he’d been spending his money on this and that for Christmas treats. But Mum came to the rescue, OK she said but I want it back I’m not made of money you know. Off I went and came back with the book. Dad had a look at it and said make sure you read it don’t just look at the pictures, and I don’t suppose you’ll want your Christmas presents now. What had I done, but it was a terrific book, it detailed the types of powered vehicles and their history, Steam, Electric, Gas Turbine and of course the Internal Combustion Engine, giving details of Speed records, and performance. The names of Famous Drivers and their achievements. The illustrations were great, and it was full of technical details, with an artist’s impressions of the Jet Car. It fired my imagination and I’d dream I was a Racing Driver winning lots of cups and medals. The book was a gem well worth the 5/6d I’d spent on it.
The tempo was increasing as it got nearer and nearer to the celebration, excitement and tension was in the air, people didn’t have a lot of money, and made what they could for special treats on Christmas day. Dad had made the Christmas Cakes several weeks before, he always said they needed to stand for a few weeks to mature and settle to be just right on the day, and he was right, and always served the cake with White Cheshire Cheese delicious. Mum would make those minced tarts and pies, and we’d sit around the coal fire with Horse-Chestnuts and Chocolate Brazils, with the radio in the background broadcasting Christmas carols. It doesn’t get much better than that. Although I do remember in later years after I’d returned from National Service. When Christmas Eve was upon us. Mum Dad and I would sit down in the living room, and empty our pockets on to the floor, (I always made sure I’d got plenty of cash on me because Dad was always skint), and then we’d share out equally the money we’d got, and I think for me that was the true spirit of Christmas. To share with each other what you’ve got, even though it may not be a lot, means more than you can ever imagine.
Oddly enough I had this book together with a full collection of Eagle comics from the first issue, in the roof loft at Mum and Dad’s house before I went to do National Service.
When I returned home in 1961, I asked where my collection was. Dad said that whilst I was away Mum had had a clear out and thrown them all away. They’d be worth a fortune now, you never miss what you’ve never had as my Granddad used to say.
I’ve tried to find a copy of the book since Mum had her clear out, but to no avail, obviously without the publishers name it’s very difficult. I’ll keep trying, who knows when my old pal Kenneth Walker makes contact after 65 years you must never give up hope.
Well I hope your all getting ready for the forthcoming festivities, we’ll be having our Nativity scene on display and all the traditional things associated with Christmas trimmings, and were thinking what’s wrong with Egg and Chips for Christmas Dinner.
We were grateful for what we could get years ago.
Christmas was different in those days there was more emphasis on the reason for the celebration rather than today’s commercialization of the event.
We were lucky to get sweets and fruit things that weren’t readily available in the shops in those days unless you had coupons, or connections with the black market, but for that you needed money. I think we had Chicken for Christmas Dinner that year, stuffed with sage and onion, and thought ourselves very lucky. Never the less they were happy days filled with enthusiasm, the war was over and the future was ours for the taking.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

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Electricity and Football at Elland Road

May 1, 2016

Here are more great memories of East Leeds
Electricity and football at Elland Road and East End Park
By Eddie Blackwell

The Terraced House I was born in was serviced by Coal and by Gas. In simple terms the heating, oven and set pot, were part of a Coal fired Range, and the lighting and the cooking ring were powered by Gas.
This was producer gas made from Coal in Coke Ovens then using the Water Gas Process to make producer gas which was pumped into Gasometers, (which still exist today) for storage, and supplied to your house for your domestic needs.
The gas that flows to your needs today, is usually Natural Gas formed over Millions of years by layers of decomposing animal and vegetable matter being subject to high pressures and high temperatures deep within the bowels of the Earth and is usually odourless and has to have a smell added to make it detectable and therefore less dangerous for domestic use. The Producer Water Gas to which I refer needs no such treatment and has a horrible sulphurous smell.
In our house our lighting was provided by gas, each room had a gas mantle which was ignited at night to give light to enable us to see. If the mantle was damaged the light did not provide sufficient luminosity, and the mantle had to be replaced. This was a delicate operation and required a steady hand and an understanding of what needed to be done. The mantle was a silky mesh bag that had to be tied to the ceramic collar through which the gas passed, once this had been completed then the silky bag was ignited and shrunk to form a delicate mantle, when the gas was turned on and ignited the mantle glowed giving off a white luminous light, not dissimilar to the famed Limelight of the Music Halls of years ago, if you touched the mantle then it would disintegrate and become a white powder and the process would have to be repeated, so Mum always had a supply of candles handy as a reserve..
At this time Electricity was in its infancy and although the Trams were powered by this unseen power, domestic distribution was still only for the rich, however we did have a wireless powered by electricity, and the electricity entered the house from an external source.
The wireless although very posh looking with its highly polished wood exterior, did not work. Dad had left to fight in the War, and looking into the back of the wireless we could see valves and wires and solder, it was much more complicated than a Crystal Set, so there was no way we could repair it. At the bottom of our Street across the other side of Pontefract Lane next to the Sheppard Pub, Mr Charlie Atha had his bicycle shop, he also charged batteries and accumulators, and repaired electrical things, he was a strange man whenever I went into his shop I would always see odd pennies and coppers on the floor, I used to pick them up and put them on the counter and when he appeared I would say I’ve found these pennies on the floor Mr Atha I think someone has dropped their change, and he would smile knowingly tapping the side of his nose and say Good Lad what can I do for you today.. Mum called in to see him and asked if he could repair a wireless, what make is it he asked, and Mum said I don’t know that’s my husband’s department and he’s away helping to fight the war, bring it down Lass and I’ll see what I can do..
So off we went home to get the Wireless Set, well I knew nothing about electricity, and my sister who was older than me had no knowledge of it either, everything to us was powered by coal or gas, Mum didn’t know because technology was Dads department, so she got a knife from the kitchen, Stainless Steel blade with a bone handle made in Sheffield, and decided to cut through the wire attached to the Wireless, well it was a live connection, there was a huge bang and sparks were flying every and Mum fainted, run and get Aunty Margaret (she only lived across the way in Ascot place) my sister said as she tended to Mum who was on the floor, by the time Aunty Margaret and I got back, Mum was sat on a chair and my sister was making her a cup of tea, and a flood of relief come over me I thought Mum was seriously hurt. I picked up the knife from the floor and the blade was almost completely destroyed, go and get Mr Atha to come down this needs to be made safe Aunty Margaret said, and off I went like a rocket, I related what had happened to Mr Atha, and he said you run home and tell them that nobody must touch anything , I’ll get some tools and then I’m on my way..
When he arrived he sized up the situation and said you’ve been very lucky you could have been electrocuted, but you were holding the bone handle of the knife and that insulated you against the electrical current, there’s 240 volts going through there, then he walked over to where the wire came through the wall and said this is called a switch, and switch it off, and this is called a plug and pulled it out, now it’s disconnected and safe..
Well I was only a boy not yet old enough to be a member of the library, and I wasn’t an exceptionally good reader, but I said to my sister I need a book about electricity from the library, I just have to find out what electricity is. The following morning off we went to York Road Library and I found this book called “The Boy Electrician”, in the children’s section, the lady said but you’re not old enough to join yet, and my sister said I’ll take it out for him, then looked at me and said don’t damage it and make sure you return it on time otherwise I’ll kill you, she loved me really and had carried me many, many miles on her back when I was very small and my legs were tired, I recall some years later she said to me you see how my bum sticks out at the back, that’s from carrying you on my back when you were little…
This book turned out to be a gem it was full of pictures and drawings of magnets and armatures and windings and things and names like volts, currents and amps and watts, it described how electricity was produced, and how powerful it was, and all sorts of things you must never do, and there were rules and laws about circuits, Watts = Volts x Amps I seem to recall, and parallel and series circuits, a lot of it I couldn’t understand Dynamos and Alternators, but I’d put my foot on the first rung of the ladder, if in doubt find out..

Football at Elland Road and East End Park.

I recall in the mid 1940’s I think the war had just finished, I had a school friend called Kenny Walker, he lived in Bickerdyke Street which started in York Road almost opposite the Library and ran all the way down to the ‘oller in Saville Green that was adjacent to Torre Road. He was a fanatical Leeds United fan, he wore the Blue and Old Gold scarf, and his Dad took him to all the games both home and away. he also had a Collie Dog called Lassie just like the Lassie in the films at the cinema.
Well one day when Leeds United were playing at home, Kenny said shall we go and watch them play, I said I’ve only got twopence halfpenny, Kenny said well we don’t have to buy tickets I know where we can sneak in, “famous last words” so we walked into town and caught a tram that dropped us off at the ground.
It was nothing like the ground is today and there was a large flat cindered area around the back there was a high solid fence as I recall and at the end of the fence a large Wrought Iron Double Gate with a chain and padlock holding it closed, Kenny said it’s locked, I’ve never seen it locked before, so we went up and looked through the gate and a voice said you can’t come in here without a ticket, but you can watch for 10 minutes through the gate then be on your way, so much for sneaking in, but I was relieved really because I didn’t like that idea anyway.. We watched for a while and I must say I wasn’t impressed at all, they were playing an Irish winger called David Cochrane that day, and he was a good ball player and dribbler, but all he did was go back and beat the same man again and again he never crossed the ball into the penalty box which I thought he should have done, but in fairness we only had a limited view of what was happening, but I said to Kenny we can play better than that, well that got his backup and he said I’m getting some football boots and a football for Christmas and I’ll play you down on East End Park, I’ll race you to the end of the fence…ready steady go.. But he could never beat me, and would always have an excuse like ahh! I’ve got a stone in my shoe, or I’ll have to stop I’ve got a stitch, they were great times when we were lads..
Well I put football boots down on my Christmas list that year, and true to his word on Christmas morning there was a knock on the door, and It was Kenny football boots round his neck hung from the laces, football in his hands and a big smile on his face, are we on then he said, did you get your football boots, yes I said and produced these Light Buff coloured all leather football boots, shall we go to East End Park then and have a game, Mum chimed in but it’s snowing you can’t play football in this, we’ll be all right Mum it’s not going to lay it’s melting as soon as it touches the ground, “again famous last words”..
Off we went down to the park, by this time the snow was starting to lay, but this was a game of honour and the reputation of Leeds United was there for the taking, well it was hopeless you couldn’t do anything in the snow which by now was about 2/3″ deep, we finished up just kicking the ball to each other for about 1/2 an hour and packed it in, but the worst was yet to come..
You lads look frozen to death I told you it was a silly idea here’s a towel each, get your selves dry and I’ll make you some Bovril, and what have you done to your boots, well we lads had never heard of Dubbing and when the label said real leather what they meant was compressed cardboard the football and our boots had just expanded as the snow had melted turned to water and saturated the surfaces, Kenny was almost in tears when he realized, he said my Dad will kill me he spent a full weeks wages on these and he said I had to look after them.. well we placed them near the fire and they dried, and Kenny’s were probably leather because they were not that bad, Mum got some brown polish out and polished them for him and they looked OK, but my boots were unbelievable, so I said well they were hurting my feet anyway Mum, trying to offload a bit of the blame…
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Thanks Eddie for sharing your great memories with us.

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