Posts Tagged ‘Richmond Hill School’

The Night they Bombed our old Richmond Hill School Down

February 1, 2019

THE NIGHT THEY BOMBED OLD RICHMOND HILL SCHOOL DOWN

 

 

Events of the landmark night for East Leeds March 14/151941 when Richmond Hill School was bombed is remembered by Barbara Blakeney (nee Reynard) and Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins) Eric Sanderson winds the entry up with a humorous finale.
At a recent East Leeds Reunion I spoke to Mrs Barbara Blackeny (Barbara) Her amazing memory can take us right back to the ‘blitz’ and that iconic night for East Leeds of the 14/15 th March 1941 when bombs hit our Richmond Hill School and the next morning the pupils of Richmond Hill School were transferred to other local school – mainly Ellerby Lane School or evacuation out of the city to places of greater safety. Betty Nevard, another of our contributors who has a story on the site was actually a pupil at Richmond Hill School says the bombing brought to an end her time as a school girl there she includes a picture of her classroom that took a direct hit. As it was though the night the school was empty and there was no loss of life. The next morning I visited the site, we girls were knitting socks and Balaclavas for the troops and remember seeing my knitting amongst the rubble my efforts looked so pitiful a khaki Balaclava on broken blue knitting pins I recall the same air raid resulted in the dropping of bombs on Butterfield Street. From then until I left school at the age of fourteen years of age I attended Ellerby Lane School.

Brian Monk who lived just off Lavender Walk remembers that night of the bombs the blast blew a sleeper right out of the deep railway cutting that hit the gable end of their house. Afterwards his dad cut it up and made part of it into an air raid shelter. Another of the stick of bombs hit the Woodpecker pub.
Note: as a result of bombing in Leeds 77 people died (65 on the night of the 14th March), 327 injured 197 buildings destroyed and a further 7,623 damaged.

Here is Barbara’s story
I remember the night Richmond Hill School and Butterfield Street were bombed during the blitz of 14/15 March 1941. My dad used to be a fire watcher and was based at Wardle’s in Butterfield Street at the top end going into Lavender Walk. Wardle’s did stabling and the business included hiring out carriages and horse drawn hearses. Dad was in World War One so he was too old for war service in 1939. Fortunately he was not on duty in Butterflied Street the night of the bombing. Many streets had their own fire watching equipment. St Hilda’s Mount where I lived included. The equipment consisted of: ladders buckets, stirrup pumps, shovels and sand, all to deal with incendiary bombs. Drills were often organised but no incendiary bombs were ever dropped in our street. There was a club to witch residents contributed three pence per week towards their cost at the end of the war when I was about twelve the residue of the money provided a street party and each child received a brass three penny bit. Tables chairs and benches and believe it or not pianos were carried out of people’s homes into the street and a bonfire was lit. I have one of the old stirrup pumps but the rubber tubing perished years ago. I have some shrapnel too from the blitz part of an exploding shell probably fired from the guns at Knostrop. St Hilda’s School was closed at the beginning of the war and some children and their mothers were evacuated to Ackworth School near Pontefract. I don’t know when they all returned but my cousin, Eunice Johnson and I were taken to Lincolnshire to stay with my grandmother’s relations in the small village of Swinstead twelve miles from Grantham and nine miles from Bourne, We arrived there on Sunday 3rd of September (The day war broke out) and only stayed there until the end of January 1940. I think we were home sick.

Other childhood memories are of the pleasure we had walking or cycling down Red Road to the lovely blue bell woods near Temple Newsam Golf Course and up to the mansion or down Black Road to have a paddle in the Wyke Beck at Red Walls. Sometimes we cycled further afield to Leventhorpe Hall and then onto Swillington; my weren’t we in the country! Seeing the billets where the German POWs were and the big guns at Knostrop in the encampment during the war, it was another world away. Eddie and Edna Pawson lived in a farm down black road and at the side of the farm was a derelict little cottage that Edna professed had a ghost to try and frighten us. Nowadays places like that would be out of bounds due to health and safety, there was no compensation culture then. I must have been about three and a half when I saw a German airship flying over the Copperfields in a north westerly direction . From reports it was June 1936 when I started in the babies’ class at St Hilda’s School under a Miss Williamson. Until I was nearly four we had to sleep in the afternoons in camp beds with a blanket over us ( I remember those camp beds too but I could never get to sleep it seemed unnatural) There was a flat sheet with corner ties underneath which our mothers had to take home and wash every weekend. Miss Powell had standards one and two Miss Duckworth standards three and four and Miss Fewster standards four and five.
Eric Sanderson rounds up with imaginary letters to the editor
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (from East Leeds)

Letters sent to the newspapers are often a huge & important source of local information, often reflecting the metrics of the time. These might include comments on local affairs, complaints, compliments , information, responses to others & in fact, almost any other reason you can think of.
A tongue in cheek selection of a few from the archives might just jog a few memories about the matters which occupied our minds at the time.

9th Sept 1943
Dear Editor
Kept awake again by those damned Luftwaffe types dropping their incendiary bombs. They’re so indiscriminate, dropping them anywhere & not seeming to have any concern for the damage they cause. Last week, one fell bang on top of our rabbit hutch but, thankful for small mercies in these times of austerity, the roast rabbit was delicious, even if slightly overdone. Hope you can write to Mr. Hitler requesting him to be less careless
Yours etc – Al. E. Looya – York Rd, Leeds 9
Reply
Dear Mr. Looya
Believe it or not, we’ve had lots of similar complaints. We’re going to start a petition requesting Mr. Hitler to train his pilots to be less careless & to try & drop them where they cause no damage
Yours – Ed

25th Dec 1944
Dear Editor
Why do the lights keep going out? It’s as though there’s a war going on. My Xmas lunch was ruined due to the loss of power; the squirrel casserole was almost inedible. Surely the odd bomb can’t interrupt the power supply, especially when it’s dropped without notice. Damned ungentlemanly if you ask me
Yours – B. Uggeritt – Cross Green Lane, Leeds 9
Reply
Dear Mr. Uggeritt
Great shame. Why not try hedgehog next time. If you’re caught out with a power cut, don’t worry, it tastes better cooked rare – Yours etc – Ed

May 1945
Dear Ed
Thank goodness the war’s over but when can we expect rationing to end now that we don’t have to send all that food to our troops overseas? It’s like giving foreign aid when we’re skint ourselves & I don’t wish to sound ungrateful to our glorious soldiers but why can’t they scrounge it from those ungrateful Frogs?
Yours etc. – G. Reedy – Easy Rd, Leeds 9
Reply
Dear Mr. Reedy
I think dried eggs, POM dried potato, hen’s foot soup etc. can be delicious & wholesome, especially with a cup of lukewarm Acorn coffee
Yours – Ed

Sept 1945
Dear Editor
I’m trying to fatten my pigs in time for Xmas but there’s a huge shortage of potato peelings, cabbage leaves & fish heads on which my hogs thrive. It seems some are being selfish & keeping them to make soup & blaming rationing. So to those people, don’t blame me if Pigs in Blankets are in short supply this yuletide
Yours etc. – (Mr.) Ed Bangor – Pontefract Lane – Leeds 9
Reply
Dear Mr. Bangor – Have you tried killing off a few of your pigs to feed the others. After all, pigs are cannibals you know

June 1948
Dear Ed
At last, an end to rationing. I’m sick of those darned PASHA fags. Why can the Turks get their hands on so much tobacco & we can only get dog ends
Yours etc. – M. Fiseema – Temple View Rd – Leeds9

Reply – Dried cabbage mixed with used tea leaves aren’t a bad substitute – at least it’s much better than smoking those dreadful Pashas – Ed

April 1949
Dear Ed
My war time pre-fab is damp & draughty in spite of stuffing old newspapers into all the gaps. What can I do to get out of this hellhole?
Yours etc. – Y. Bother – Ellerby Lane – Leeds 9

Reply – Dear Mr. Bother, You could become a £10 POM & get yourself to Australia. You might get bitten by poisonous snakes & spiders, swelter for 9 months of the year & contract all sorts of horrible tropical diseases – but at least , that’s preferable to living in a pre-fab – Yours – ED

June 1950
Dear Ed
I wrote to you in 1945 about my pigs. Well here I am again with yet another porcine problem. Someone left the front door open & all my pigs escaped from where I keep them in the bathroom. By the time I managed to recapture most of them, they’d run off much of their bulk that I’m now going to have to fatten them up again. As well, I’m sure one or two are missing & I suspect strongly that they’ve been “accidentally” , captured, slaughtered ,butchered & turned into bacon & ham shanks. I would be grateful if those people would own up & at least send me a couple of pork pies – Yours etc. – Ed Bangor – Pontefract Lane – Leeds 9

Reply – Dear Mr. Bangor – I’m informed on the very best authority that you shouldn’t keep pigs in the bathroom. Try the front room, it’s much warmer & cosier and besides , pigs don’t like running up & down stairs – Yours etc. Ed

April 1960
Dear Editor
An establishment calling itself a “supermarket” has recently opened in our area. How can my small corner shop be expected to compete when they open all day, every day, even on Saturdays & don’t even have a mid week half day closing. They don’t even do “tick”, run a slate & their prices are ridiculously lower than mine. They even open up at 7am & go on ‘til 8pm instead of keeping sensible hours like I do, 9am to 4.30pm. Something must be done
Yours etc. – Hugh Shury – St Hilda’s Way – Leeds 9

Reply – Don’t worry Mr. Shury , it’s just a flash in the pan from America , they’ll never replace the much loved high street & corner shops – Ed

June 1970
Dear Editor
What on earth is happening to our precious local pubs? It’s becoming harder to find a decent pint of creamy, room temperature bitter these days. I thought we’d won the war but they’re all flogging some fizzy German stuff called Luger or Logger or something. I wouldn’t mind but it looks like a pint of p**s
& quite frankly, tastes like it too. It’s so cold, it nearly fractured my dentures. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.
Yours etc. – Al Kerhollick

Reply
Dear sir
We get hundreds of letters on this subject but don’t worry, it’s a passing fad. I feel confident we’ll not see the end of our Tetley’s, Melbourne’s, John Smiths, Ramsdens etc. They’ll be with us for years to come , just as will our local pubs. They’re part of our heritage & will never disappear.

June 2000
Dear Editor
Why are our libraries devoid of any serious literature? All I see on the shelves are fictional thrillers, romantic novels & rows & rows about someone called Harry Nutter.
Where can I find Proust, Nietzsche, Kafke, Solzenhitsyn, or even Tolstoy?
Yours etc. Hugh Jeego

Reply
Dear Mr. Jeego
You must be one in 10 billion who has a clue what any of those are on about and where each page doesn’t feel like having a pre frontal lobotomy.
If you like, I could lend you my well-thumbed copy of Rimbaud’s classic – “ My Week Long Pissup in the tap rooms of Middlesboro with my mate Horace“. That may fill the vacuum

Dear Reader
Letters to the Editor continue to this day, providing a window on current & locals affairs, giving a public voice to anyone who cares to participate & long may it continue.
Although the foregoing are obviously the (spoiled?) fruit of a tortured mind, some of the themes do reflect what were, & still are, concerns for some, then and now.
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The Magic of Aeroplanes

December 1, 2016

This month’s tale is about aeroplanes but there will be special Christmas tale by Eric Sanderson concerning dastardly deeds at the Slip Inn .

Look out for it on Christmas Eve

THE MAGIC OF AEROPLANES
We have all spent our lives under the sounds of aeroplanes and I Say ‘aeroplanes’ not aircraft for that is what we called them in the 1940s and they landed on ‘aerodromes’ not ‘airports’, ‘Yeadon Aerodrome’ not ‘Leeds Bradford Airport’. Somehow the name ‘aeroplane’ seems to carry the magic better.
When we were young, in the 1940s, the air would be full of piston engine aeroplanes droning above us, there were so many and we were so used to seeing them we hardly bothered to look up. If we did look up we would see, Spitfires and hear their beautiful Rolls Royce Merlin engine note, Hurricanes, Mosquitoes with their snub noses, Blenheim’s, Lancaster’s, Halifax’s, Sterling’s, Wellington’s the American ‘Flying Fortress’s with its many gun blisters and the work horse Dakotas’ with one engine hidden behind the fuselage so it looked as though it had and engine missing. These were to name but a few. We recognised them by their wing tip arrangement some clipped some curved and by their tail fins. We were spoilt, we observed these beautiful aeroplanes oblivious that this was a unique experience which would not be repeated for future generations.  The German planes only came by night but you could recognise them by their sinister, irregular engine note. When an air raid was on and we were in the shelter and the drone of a plane could be heard overhead someone would say, ‘Is it one of ours or one of theirs’ even as a child I could always tell them.
There was an ack ack battery further down Knostrop in the middle of the woods. When they opened up they made a ‘pom pom’ sound so we called them the ‘pom poms’ the night sky would be filled with searchlights trying to light up the intruders. The raid would begin with the wail of the sirens and the boats on the river would blow their hooters too. My dad would say, ‘the mussel boats are going off it’s time to go to the shelter!’ When the guns went off they would rattle the door of the shelter and I, being child, was once heard to say, ‘Someone’s knocking at the door.’ Seemingly that lightened the situation but the dog we had, Bobby, ‘took his hook, and we never saw him again. When the ‘all clear’ sounded it was welcome and had a far pleasanter note, then we could return to the houses and bed.
In the mornings after a raid we kids would hunt for shrapnel for souvenirs. The Germans were dropping anti-personnel mines so Mam would say, ‘Don’t pick anything nasty up’; with her saying ‘something nasty’ I expected the mines would look something like dog droppings. A sea change event occurred on Friday night the 14th of March 1941 when a German Bomb hit Richmond Hill School. As it was at night no one was injured but the pupils of Richmond Hill School were scattered among the other local schools in the area or in some cases evacuated to places like Ackworth and to Lincolnshire. Betty Nevard (nee Gibbins) in her tale on this site, see Aug 2007, tells of how next morning she could see her poor little knitting on pins (the girls were knitting socks, gloves and Balaclavas for our soldiers) among the debris.

richmond-hill-bomb-damagen

At one point I was sent off to stay with my aunt in the country as seemingly being safer than Leeds but the first night there the Germans dropped a flare right outside her cottage, evidently searching for the massive Avro munitions factory
Towards the end of the war I recall a full week when nearing dusk the sky would be filled from northern horizon to southern horizon with endless formations of bombers their red and green lights winking. We were used to seeing a lot of aircraft but this was obviously something quite special. I wonder now, looking back if they were the 1,000 bomber raids or perhaps the build up to the invasion. It was such a sight I have never forgotten it. When the RAF lads came home on leave in their blue uniforms they were the celebrities, especially if they had wings above their left breast pocket, one wing for aircrew and a double wing for a pilot and a god.
Sometimes there would be an exhibition on a spare space in the centre of Leeds and there might be a Lancaster bomber and you would be allowed, as a child, to clamber in and wonder at how tight the space was inside and the marvellous array of dials and gadgetry and the smell that went with them, there seemed to be so much that could go wrong.
After the war we saw the first of the jets: the Gloster Meteor, De Havilland Vampire, with its twin fuselage, The Hawker Hunter and the English Electric lightening. All were beautiful aeroplanes getting faster and faster – the goal was to break the ‘sound barrier’ which at the time appeared to be some sort of a mysterious barrier where the plane would be buffeted about, some thought bizarrely that the controls would become reversed. We went to the cinema to see films such as Test Pilot and The Sound Barrier. 762 mph at sea level was the sound barrier but I remember 606 mph being the record at one time. Test pilots were now the new heroes; it was a dangerous job De Havilland lost three of their family testing planes
I would regularly take on the congested traffic around tiny roads to watch the air shows at Church Fenton. There’s a pub there still, The Fenton Flier, filled with photos of wartime aircrew and general memorabilia you can get the feel of the RAF guys piling into there for a few pints after sorties, having survived another day in the skies. On one occasion there was a Harrier vertical take of plane practicing the day before the show, it hovered about for a bit then it put on full power and climbed nose first vertically the back draught from its engines was so powerful caused huge mature trees to bow as if they were twigs.
Along came national service for me in 1959, I was drafted into the REME attached the Army Air Corps The Army Air Corps function was primarily to act as eyes for the Royal Artillery to help them target their guns but we also had a liaison duty, which entailed ferrying VIPs around. It did get a bit over the top on occasions. For instance, sometimes we would pick up a general and fly him for hundreds of miles to attend a meeting but then we would have to drive a petrol-tanker to the same destination to ensure the helicopter could be filled up with the correct fuel for the journey home. I recall going along for a ride with the bowser driver all the way from Detmold, in Germany all the way into France to complete such an operation.
At 652 Squadron we had fixed wing aircraft: Austers and Chipmunks and rotary wing aircraft in the form of the tiny Skeeter helicopter which could just hold the pilot and one passenger; later we acquired the larger French Allouette helicopter. The Auster actually had its tail wheel attached by means of a thick rubber band – this was the correct monoculture for the job but it enabled the RAF lads to have a laugh at us and our ‘toy planes’. In theory, the lightweight Austers could actually fly backwards. It is air passing over the wings of an aircraft, which actually keeps it in the air. So if the if the wind speed is 50 knots per hour and the engine is only making 40 knots per hour, then the plane is losing distance at the rate of 10 knots per hour but can still stay in the air. The advantage of the Auster, was it could land on a sixpence. When we went on schemes, any old field could present a landing strip. One had to take care around aircraft: if a plane came into contact with a solid object there was hell to play. Everything had then to be checked out with a fine toothcomb before it could fly again. There was danger too. The main rotors blades of the tiny helicopters dropped to below head high as they were slowing down so you had to keep well clear and the tail rotors were lethal, they revolved so fast that you didn’t actually notice they were there at all. On one occasion, walking blindly into a spinning tail rotor decapitated an unfortunate Alsatian. The method of starting the light aircraft was to ‘swing the prop’ but you had to make sure you arm was out of the way before the engine fired or there was a danger of losing it. That was not a job trusted to a humble clerk.
After a major servicing had been carried out on an aircraft the mechanic who had been responsible for the servicing was supposed to make the first flight with the pilot. This was a safety precaution to encourage him to carry out the job correctly but as long as someone went up with the pilot they were not too fussy as to whom it was. The safety procedure was quite rigorous though, loads of forms had to be signed and counter signed before the aircraft was released back into service. If the mechanic didn’t feel like flying I would often volunteer to take his place, I loved flying; couldn’t get enough of it. Sometimes they wouldn’t have even have bothered putting the doors back on yet, when the pilot banked you were looking out into nothingness but we were strapped in and somehow looking out of an aircraft is not so frightening as looking down from a high tower or a bridge. Once in the air the noise from the engine was terrific, you were sat next to the pilot but you could only speak to him over the radio.
Flying was so exhilarating, especial when you went above the clouds after a dreary period of weather and saw the sun which might have had been missing for days: the sun always shines above the clouds in daytime of course. The servicing would likely have been carried out by one of my airframe, engine or electronic fitter mates from the billet, who might well be complete ‘nutters’ in their off duty periods but I never worried, I knew they would be spot on when aircraft safety was at stake.
Helicopter rides were my favourite, I recall a particular helicopter flight when the pilot followed a herd of deer running through the fire breaks of a forest at tree top height, and it was a sight you don’t easily forget. Helicopters sometimes have to encounter a phenomenon known as a ‘vortex ring’; these are pockets in the sky where the air will not support a helicopter. Apparently there is no warning when you are about hit one of these things

allouette-helicopter

and the ‘copter drops like a stone. The pilot would practice the procedure for dealing with a vortex ring or indeed for engine failure should it ever arise: you cannot glide down a plane without wings. The method employed to prevent a helicopter from actually hitting the ground was to disengage the rotor blades and let the machine fall. The action of falling through the air causes the blades to rotate faster and faster, and then just before the ground arrived the pilot would re-engage the clutch that would alter the pitch of the blades, which hopefully would be just enough to hold the machine for a soft landing. Of course, when carrying out these exercises, it was the pilot’s game was not to warn you what he was about to do in advance, so when the plane dropped you turned green and left your stomach a few hundred feet above. The lads always had a laugh at my expense when I took a helicopter flight in the tiny Skeeters. These small aircraft were not advised to take off vertically, except in emergency when carrying more than twenty-five stone. As few pilots were under ten stones, our flights fell into such a category, to compensate for the extra weight the helicopter would take off along the runway like a normal aircraft, generating much laughter from the lads. We didn’t get much pay on national Service, If I recall it was about £2 10 shilling per week but the c/o helped us out by giving us an extra 7 shillings and six pence a week if we could become ‘observers’ for this we had to be able to recognise aircraft silhouettes from a card, which was a ‘piece of cake’.
Originally I had been posted to a small airfield in Detmold, West Germany but eventually I was posted with our flight to RAF Wildenrath, still in Germany. Here we were part of a huge RAF station. It stretched for three or four miles in every direction. One would have been talking about ten miles plus, to walk around the perimeter fence. It seemed a bit of an extravagance that our little Austers, which only needed thirty yards to take off, used their giant runway. The fact that the RAF did all the guards was a bonus too, as it meant we did not have to do any ourselves. The station was equipped with Canberra bombers they were bombers but handled like fighters and were flying somewhere in the world for almost fifty years.

v-bomber
All the three ‘V’ bombers: The Avro Vulcan, Handley Page Victor and The Vickers Valiant, would drop in from time to time. It was the time of The Cold war and all three aircraft producing companies had been commissioned to come up with a plane that had the ability to carry a nuclear bomb to Russia and return. It was a marvellous sight to see them landing and taking off. In my spare time, I would enjoy just sitting on the grass and watching them: there is an exciting smell and a sort of magic just to be around aeroplanes. There were regular open days at the station, when all sorts of exotic aircraft would arrive to take part and we saw it all for free. I recall one day prior to an open day air show two jets arrived one coming from the east and the other from the west and they crossed right over my head it was a memorable occasion another memorable sight and one I have never forgotten to this day because the odds against it happening were so great happened a night with a lovely silver full moon,

I looked up and a Vulcan bomber passed exactly over the moon and for a brief second its delta wins and the moon fitted perfectly together.
On one of these open day occasions I remember having the doubtful pleasure of sitting astride a nuclear bomb. From time to time, the RAF had to practice night flying, which could be quite noisy. It kept you awake the first few times then you got used to it and never seemed to hear it at all.
I would have loved to win a flight in a Canberra sometimes as a money raising effort the RAF would raffle a flight in the nose of a Canberra bomber they would whisk you out across the North Sea and back. Alas I was never lucky enough to win a ticket. That would have been something special for me.
The mighty Vulcan bomber made its finest and farewell flight – in fact its only flight in anger – in 1982 when it was already out of service making its daring flight from Ascension Island to the Falkland island to put the airstrip at Port Stanley, held by the Argentineans, out of commission. The flight was far beyond its range but a planned series of thirteen Victor Tankers continually refuelled it and had to be refuelled themselves to achieve the objective. It must have been a morale lifting sight for the subjected Falklanders to hear the mighty roar of the Vulcan delivering its pay load over runway and know that although Britain was 8,000 miles away they were not abandoned. After being refuelled by the last Victor it became apparent to the crew of the Vulcan the fuel load to complete the mission was inadequate they could carry on and complete the mission but not have enough fuel to return or they could abort the mission altogether. They decided to a man to complete the mission whatever. Only one bomb hit the runway, the first, but it was enough it put the airstrip out of action and could not be used for the duration of the war by the Argentineans. On the way back they met our fleet on the way out to the Falklands who thought the Vulcan to be an enemy aircraft and nearly shot it down. It would seem the Vulcan was out of fuel and out of tankers and they were preparing to ditch in the sea, then in the nick of time a Victor turned up out of the clouds to refuel the Vulcan and save the day. What a welcome sight it must have been for the brave crew of the Vulcan; surely a tale fit for a ‘Biggles’ adventure.

Today, faced with the enormous cost of producing a new plane from scratch it is beyond the scope of individual companies to produce their own new aircraft, it’s even beyond most countries and the European countries pitch in to produce a new plane between them. We have The Typhoon and The tornado fighters but you hardly ever see them in the sky and unless you are taking a trip on a faceless commercial airliner plane spotters are restricted to watching vapour trails in the sky and wondering how the bodies of tiny sea creatures produced so much oil to fuel them all.

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.