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Book II

A second collection of memories of life as it was in the forties, fifties and sixties.


AS TIME GOES BY Book Two

A second collection of memories of life as it was in the forties, fifties and sixties. Written by members of the Life Story class tutored by Hugh Humphrey for the Scunthorpe Branch of the Workers’ Educational Association. © To the group.

Workers’ Educational Association. WEA Scunthorpe Learning Centre Clare House, 31 Wells Street Scunthorpe, North East Lincolnshire DN15 6HL Tel: 01724 844245 Email: yorkshumber@wea.org.uk Website: www.wea.org.uk/yh


Contents The Organ and the Milk Cart 5 by Shirley Piper

The Sandbank 10 by Anne Driver

Chumping 13 by Keith Woodcock Home from School 21 by Shirley Piper

To Do My Best And To Do My Duty 26 No Man’s Land 29 by Andrew Burnett

The Grand 30 by Derek Baxter We Knew them as The Quarry Men 32 by Brenda Jones

Blue Jeans and All That 35 by Penny Carr

Crepe Soles 37 by Keith Woodcock

Monday Washday, Tuesday Ironing 39 by Sylvia Bright

Moving On 42 by Brenda Jones


As Time Goes By

The Organ and the Milk Cart As I looked around the room my eyes came to rest on the organ standing near the wall. It was a bit shabby like the rest of the room but I loved it. I loved sitting on the piano stool but before I could do this, I would swipe the seat around trying to get it to the right height. Once I felt that I had achieved this, I would sit on the edge desperately trying to reach the pedals that worked the bellows hoping in vain that I could make wonderful music like my dad did when he played, but it was all to no avail. As I pulled put and pushed in the stoppers the only sound that could be heard was the rattle of the pedals with their worn tapestry surface and the off-key whining sound of dying bagpipes gasping their last breath. I heard mam rattling pots in the kitchen. Suddenly she shouted, “Shirley get off that organ, your dad will be home in a minute”. “Okay”, I replied reluctantly. I swung my legs round, fed up by now with the exertion of it all. I heaved myself back onto the stool, and swinging from side to side my gaze travelled around the room. I looked at the walls which were separated into panels by wooden slats and in each panel dad, an artist, had lovingly painted scenes of mermaids sitting bare-breasted (or baring their all, as some were want to say) on rocks surrounded by shells and seaweed. I thought of the day when I had overheard mam and dad whispering. Mam was telling him that Mrs Mosey had been in and was shocked by what she saw, crying “Oh My God”. She had spun round on her heels and marched straight back up the passage, her voice trailing behind her, “I’m never coming 5


As Time Goes By in here again.” As Mam related this story to him, Dad could be heard howling with laughter. The Moseys lived next door, a short stocky family with hearts of gold. Mr Mosey and his brother ran the local milk round. One morning as I jumped out of bed I could hear the milk churns banging and clashing in the yard next door. Running down the stairs into the kitchen I stopped dead. Mam was there getting things ready for breakfast. “Where do you think you are going,” she said. “Can I go and see Millie, mam please”. “Yes, but don’t be long and keep out of the way”, she replied. Our house was always full of a wonderful aroma of baking bread and cakes as the bakery was across the yard at the back of the house and the shop selling the goods at the front facing the road. As I went out into the passage the queue had already formed, as I squeezed past, one or two rubbed the top of my head, “Hello, Shirley” said one, “Where are you off too in such a hurry,” “To see Millie, I cried, as I forced my way through. My heart leapt as I finally squeezed past the queue, suddenly I was out in the early morning sunshine, my heart still racing as I ran around the corner hoping to put my plan into action. I stopped, and there was Mr Mosey and his brother, always smartly dressed in their flat caps, matching tweed suits and knee high leather brown boots. They were loading the cart with milk churns which were heavy when full of milk but they seemed to lift them with ease. Ladles of different sizes to measure the milk were hanging on hooks inside the cart, all spotlessly clean and gleaming in the sun. Millie was waiting patiently, harnessed to the cart with her 6


As Time Goes By head bowed deep into her feed bag. I went and stood close to Mr Mosey. “ Hello Shirley, you’re out early,” I nodded my heart by now was pounding. Dare I ask? “What is it lassie” He asked. It’s now or never. I thought. “Can I come with you please?” I asked in a whisper. He looked down at me for a second. “Well I shouldn’t really. If the other lot see you they will all want to come.” Seeing the disappointment on my face though, he said, “Alright then, but only round the Square mind, go on hop on the cart.” His round face wreathed in smiles as he saw my gleeful expression. Laughingly, he said, “Keep an eye on Millie. Make sure she doesn’t set off without me.” The wooden cart swayed gently as I scrambled on and I stood holding onto the side. I had finally plucked up the courage to ask and I was feeling very proud of myself. From where I was standing I could see groups of people dotted around the square waiting with their milk jugs at the ready. Mr Mosey suddenly climbed up behind me. “Now then watch how I hold the reins”, he said as he slotted them through his fingers. “This is going to be your job when we stop to make sure Millie doesn’t run off” I looked at him startled. He laughed again. “Don’t worry lass, I’ll be here. Now put your hands on top of mine and we’re off”. As I placed my hands on top of his, he gave a gentle shake of the reins, made a strange clicking sound with his mouth and we moved gently forward. As I watched the swaying of the horse’s rump, I listened to the steady clip clop of her 7


As Time Goes By hooves on the road, the gleaming brass-work on her harness sparkling in the sun. I felt my heart would burst with joy. After only a few yards we were up to the first group who surged forward, tightly clutching their jugs and basins. Most of the women wore turbans on their heads hiding their hair which had been curled around their fingers and fastened with hairgrips, and wrap-around pinafores kept dresses clean. Once all the scrubbing and polishing was done for the day, turbans would be whipped off and hair brushed into curls and waves, pinafores hung on the back of the kitchen door for future use, and they would be ready to go shopping or visiting friends and relatives. “Whoa”, shouted Mr Mosey pulling back on the reins which brought Millie to a halt. I felt very important as he handed me the rein “Now then you know what to do” he nodded solemnly. I nodded eagerly and took up my position with the reins. “Got a helper today, have we? Pint please”, said Mrs Green all the while smiling at me. Being painfully shy I felt my face going hot so I just smiled back, but inside I was elated to be included into this world. “Did you know Mary’s had her baby” Mrs Green asked. “No” came the reply. “Yes! 15hrs in labour she was poor lass, but they say she has a fine boy so that’ll take her mind off it”. 8


As Time Goes By Taking the money from her outstretched hand Mr Mosey nodded, and shouted, “Next!”. Taking another jug he said, “How much today, Rose?” “Well just half a pint,” she said hesitantly, “and can I pay you tomorrow when ‘e gets ‘is wages,” she asked. “Yes but only until tomorrow, otherwise.....He said meaningfully. She nodded grabbed the jug and hurried away. Overhearing what had been said, Mrs Green, who had been hanging back looked at Mr Mosey saying “Keeps her short he does,” nodding her head vigorously all the while looking at Mr Mosey hoping for a bit of gossip. Looking down at her, he said sharply, “You had better get that milk home before it goes off”. This was not the reply she wanted to hear and walked off muttering under her breath. “Next,” shouted Mr Mosey. As the sun shone, the brasses sparkled and the milk swished in its churns, I held on to the reins knowing I had a very important job to do. Of course I wasn’t aware that Millie would not have budged an inch without a command from Mr Mosey, but at that moment I was happy beyond belief.

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As Time Goes By

The Sandbank Living and growing up some few hundred yards from the River Trent at Burton-Stather, the river and a brick making plant situated further along the bank side were always considered as hazards and unsuitable for youngsters to frequent. When clay was removed for the making of bricks it left large, deep areas that very soon became filled with water. For safety’s sake we were brought up with the rule that on no account must we venture to either the river bank or the brick plant. On only two occasions did this ever occur. The first was when my two elder sisters had been enticed by their peers to amble down to ‘The Pits’. I am not quite sure how my parents became aware of this unless being late home my sisters quite innocently disclosed where they had been by way of an explanation for being late. I cannot remember there being any raised voices for long but can see very clearly, even now, Dad spanking each one in turn. I can only imagine the discomfort being that of embarrassment as they were both still wearing outdoor clothes that covered that part of their anatomy being afflicted. The mere fact that they were being chastised didn’t concern me; my real alarm was to see Dad actually performing the act. I was almost certain he had gone out of his mind. To speak firmly was always enough to control each one of us. Mum would be equally shocked at the misbehaviour but would leave Dad to deal with the matter. The next incident, and perhaps the more serious one, occurred some years later when my brother at the age of about eleven years had left home just after lunch and not returned for his evening meal. To do this was never considered alarming as children would often leave home after breakfast and spend most of the day wandering with friends along 10


As Time Goes By Burton Hills only to return home when they became hungry. On this occasion when steps were taken to find my brother’s whereabouts it was learnt just what had happened. He had gone with a teenager in a small rowing boat along the Trent in the vicinity of the joining of the three rivers - Trent, Ouse and Humber. Furthermore, the tide was low which caused them to be stranded on a sandbank. Eventually local residents became aware of their predicament and congregated at the front of the house. One neighbour who was familiar with the river’s tide times claimed that under no circumstances would the boat be able to move until nearer to mid-night. He also expressed the hope that the teenager was capable of handling the situation sensibly. Gradually the locals dispersed. This was no consolation to the family. It was obvious that Dad was anxious and somewhat annoyed whilst Mum although equally anxious about their doting only son, didn’t appear to show her alarm. No doubt she was being occupied with preparations for the family for the following day. My sisters were just as concerned as myself but obviously unable to make any calmingsuggestions. Watching the clock every minute seemed like an hour. Normally at such times of stress and anxiety a pot of tea would be recommended but not in this instance! Eventually mid-night arrived and the sound of the latch on the back gate was heard. I was standing by the living room window adjacent to the back door. Dad at this time was standing in front of the fire at the far side of the room from the rear entrance. Everyone else was spaced either around the dining table or seated tensely on an easy chair. Suddenly the back door opened and my brother, looking deathly white and shaking like a leaf, entered. Dad without hesitation made a direct dash across the room towards him. 11


As Time Goes By Being somewhat nearer I immediately stepped in front of my brother to prevent any blow that might be applied. Dad stood aghast and at this point my brother shot through the room making for the passage where the staircase would lead him to his bedroom. “What on earth made you do that” said Dad as he turned to me, “I could have struck you,” he continued. “I think that the whole incident has been as much as he can take,” I replied. “I guess you are right,” remarked Dad, breathing a sigh of relief. It was then that the tea was made, without any further comment. It flashed through my mind that Dad in spite of his anger didn’t intend plying a blow but had to show his disapproval and annoyance at the breaking of ground rules once again.

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As Time Goes By

Chumping As a young lad at primary school, lessons took up much of the day during the terms but there was always plenty of time for adventure. Even the walk to and from school could sometimes become a great exploration, a feature sadly missed by some of today’s chauffeured or accompanied children who are perhaps stifled by our “improved” society and miss the freedom we had we had back in the 1940s. A typically adventurous day started one Saturday morning as Mum was going through her usual ritual, straightening Dad’s tie and ensuring that his starched white breast pocket handkerchief was correctly positioned with the point absolutely in the centre. She would also check for any fluff on his coat, remove any small pieces of newspaper covering his shaving mishaps and hand him his indispensible trilby hat. He was on his way to work and, being an office manager, he had to wear a suit every day so Mum took it upon herself to see that he was, in today’s parlance, “fit for purpose”. Usually it was followed by a quick kiss before he rushed off to catch the bus. This morning though, he had the time to ask me what I planned to do that day. “I’m off chumping with Baz, Wardy and Greeny”. Male friends were never called by their correct Christian names, of course, only girls did that. “Chumping? It’s not even the middle of September and you’re already going chumping?” was Dad’s incredulous response to my Saturday plans to go off with my pals. “Anyway, you just be careful what you are doing and keep out of trouble”. With that he was down the steps from the front door, along the path and as he closed the gate behind him, waved to 13


As Time Goes By Mum, thus completing the daily ritual. Now “chumping” appears to be a local word only used in the West Riding area of Yorkshire, and describes the process of collecting and storing material for bonfire night. All young boys looked forward eagerly to November 5th with ever-increasing excitement but before plot night could be enjoyed there was much to do. Our own suburb of Bradford would generate many bonfires, each with its own gang of children scouring the surrounding district for anything which would burn. Nearby woodlands were an obvious magnet for chumpers, but the railway sidings also provided plentiful supplies of oily but very smelly creosote-soaked wood, although these were not popular with Mum due to the inevitable oil stains on my clothes. Back in those days before stain-removers and “Vanish” were invented I suppose she would have to resort to good old-fashioned bleach to get them clean. Reluctant fathers would often be pressed into helping with items which were either too large or too volatile for youngsters to handle; things such as tyres or furniture, whose toxic fumes on Bonfire Night would drift away, unfettered by rules and regulations in those glorious days of freedom. Plot night was a seriously important date on a young lad’s calendar and preparations were always started early. We usually scoured all the open land and woods, walking for miles looking for anything which would burn, but first of all we called on one of the local woollen mills to see if they had any damaged, and therefore redundant, skips. These were not the type of skip we know today, but were large wickerwork baskets with handles on the side approx. 4’ x 3’ x 3’, sometimes having a lid. These were used to collect the raw, oily wool and so made great bonfire fodder. If we were lucky enough to get one it would also have the added advantage of holding all the other items we might collect on our travels. 14


As Time Goes By No luck today though as we didn’t see the likeable young chap who was receptive to our pleas last year, but got one of the old grumpy ones instead. We did, however, manage to get plenty of millband which was absolutely essential. This was basically grease-soaked rope which you would light at one end, then blow out the flame once it had caught hold. You were then left with a smouldering ember which literally lasted until the end of the rope. It was the IDEAL way to light fireworks. The woods near Shelf village about a mile away were our prime area for collecting fallen branches and one of us would always bring along an axe and rope from his father’s tool shed (often without his knowledge) so that we could reduce the size of some of the larger ones we would come across. Strangely, I don’t remember any of us taking a saw of any kind, despite it being the obvious tool to use. Perhaps carrying an axe around was more macho in a young boy’s eyes but I’m not sure how the public would react to today’s youngsters walking along the road swinging such an implement! Although nowadays classed as an offensive weapon, the humble penknife was another essential piece of kit, occupying many a male pocket. Dad used one to scrape out the bowl of his pipe during the odd times when he chose to give up his vast consumption of cigarettes in favour of tobacco. He had given me one in my last year of primary school, in exchange for the customary coin, of course. Local superstition dictates that if you are given anything which cuts, you must give a coin in return lest the item “cuts the friendship”. He was keen to show me how to keep the 2 blades sharp but Dad was not known as a successful handyman – he languished in the lower reaches of a 1 to 10 scale of skill. He was never able to walk past a hardware shop and had this inner compulsion to go in and buy a tool of some description. 15


As Time Goes By We must have had at least 30 screwdrivers of all shapes and sizes. Whether he thought ability would come automatically to those with the most number of tools in their box, I’m not sure, but he had a tool for every eventuality, all virtually unused and in pristine condition. So he duly rummaged around and found an oilstone and oil can. I’m still uncertain if his instructions were correct but I always managed to keep my penknife sharp. Of course there was always rivalry between the boys as to who had the best knife, which usually meant the one with the most blades or tools. Some were huge with bottle openers, corkscrews, pliers, screwdrivers and even mini-scissors, but I was content with my little 2-blader because I knew it was SHARP. It was not long before my pals and I were testing our knives, which would inevitably mean carving initials on some large tree trunk in the woods. Smooth barked trees were a magnet for such vandalism from young lovers or children. At this point I suddenly realised how fortunate I was to have the initials KW as all lines were straight. Curves are very difficult to carve. Eventually we managed to collect a number of branches, dragging them along, completely oblivious to the amount of twigs, leaves and other debris left in our wake on the road and pavements. As we were hauling these down a farm track the old farmer came out and asked us if we were collecting for the bonfire. He had a large settee that he wanted rid of and did we want it? Those old pieces of upholstered furniture burned really well, so we duly left the branches at the side of the track and started our trek back home with the settee, a lad on each corner. Whilst stopping for a rest I had a thought. What if there was something between the cushion and the arm? At home I was regularly trying to find those loose coins 16


As Time Goes By which had slipped from the sitter’s trouser pockets and, as small hands can often get into areas where an adult’s can’t, I even had an arrangement with Mum that I could keep any small change I found to supplement my meagre pocket money. Needless to say if we ever had visitors I would be on the hunt as soon as they departed and the front door closed. So I slowly pushed my hand into the gap on the farmer’s settee but this time, however, there was nothing as I tentatively probed the dark recesses of the furniture. I say tentatively because I was not sure if it had been in his barn long enough to establish a colony of little furry residents, or worse. Once back home after all our exertions we were utterly shattered. Dad had forbidden me to use our own garden as a store as it would have interfered with his very, very serious business of pigeon racing. The loft was at the bottom of the garden and Saturday was when his birds were released each week from various points around the country to be “clocked in” on arrival sometime in the afternoon. I would never have been forgiven if we had all turned up with our bonfire fodder just as the first pigeon got back! However, Baz’s Grandad let us have the use of his allotment to store items until required. It was also good to get everything out of the way of other “chumpers”. There were many bonfires in our district and each had its own marauding bands looking for stuff and it was not unheard of to raid the others’ stores. The site for the actual bonfire had already been preselected and agreed by the parents involved, so the storage areas had to be reasonably close by. From the allotment we would only have to move the items about 150 yards on the actual day so it would be no hardship and we would have plenty of grownups to help us. The collecting went on every weekend, rain or shine. In fact we all had almost as much fun “chumping” as we did at 17


As Time Goes By the bonfire. The local girls didn’t take part in any of this but they would all get together and make the guy. We lads didn’t want to be involved in what was just basically a big doll so left it to them. Sexism was alive and well in every family back in the 40s. Of course yet more fun was had on mischief night, the eve of the great bonfire. For weeks we had all been using our pocket money to buy the odd bangers and rip-raps from the local newsagent and we were now allowed to use some of these just for mischief, the remainder being kept for November 5th. The favourite trick was to knock on someone’s door, light a banger on the step outside then run away. Timing was everything but we never seemed to get it right. The banger would either go off too soon giving the occupant time to work out that they really shouldn’t open the door to such pranksters, or they would open the door, see the firework fizzing and immediately close it before it went off. We never did achieve the ultimate triumph of a firework exploding just as the door opened, which is probably just as well really, although we did avoid vulnerable old ladies! Living on an estate where there were more than a hundred houses gave us the ideal opportunity for another bit of mischief. Each house had its own identical but differently coloured gate and all had lift-off hinges so it was a simple matter to swap these around, usually about six or so within the same area. The gas lamps were pretty sparse and not particularly efficient anyway so we were able to use the cover of darkness most of the time. Unfortunately, although I would have loved to have seen it, we never witnessed the outcome the next morning. What was quite strange though was that it took some people a week to notice that they had a different gate, but I think eventually all returned to normal. It was, in our minds, all within the bounds of acceptability 18


As Time Goes By and most victims, who of course knew all about mischief night, took it in good part. Nothing was ever vandalised or destroyed. Finally the big night arrived with the bonfire piled high with branches, crates, furniture, tyres, cardboard boxes, and even a piano. Another store of items awaited their fate after the first had died down. It was left to one of the parents to stuff plenty of newspapers into the base, dowse the branches with petrol and set it alight which raised a great cheer from everyone present, their breath misting in the cold night air. Food was always a big part of the festivities and many parents would turn up with home-made goodies – plot toffee, meat pies, mushy peas and of course plenty of sweets for the children. As the flames subsided and the embers started to give out some real heat, potatoes would be pushed to the edge of the fire. Those old long-handled toasting forks came in very handy to move them around, often to shouts of “Aren’t those spuds ready yet?” The fireworks were a bit of a free for all without the organised professional display demanded by today’s safety regulations, so there were numerous milk bottles scattered around for the use of anyone’s rockets. However, none of the children were allowed to keep their own box of fireworks and we all had to ask our parents for each one we wanted to set off, so I suppose there were some restrictions imposed on safety grounds. All the lads had mostly bangers or ripraps which we would light in our hand and then throw behind some poor unsuspecting girl, which usually caused a scream. But that’s what girls do. Eventually the fire died down, it’s final sparks drifting skyward into the night. The food was gone, as were the fireworks and all that remained was a warm glow, both inside and out. I remember feeling good about playing our part in 19


As Time Goes By something which all our local community enjoyed. All those cut knees, torn clothes and exhaustion had actually been well worth it and I dispensed with my usual plea to “stay up a bit later tonight� as I was ready for my bed, tired but happy. Next morning on the way to school we went to inspect the site of the bonfire. Would it still be alight? No, but standing in the middle of all the ash was a cast iron piano frame. I wonder who eventually took it away?

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As Time Goes By

Home from School It was cold and windy but at least the rain had stopped as I jumped off the bus. I crossed Spring Bank and ran down Stanley Street trying to avoid the many puddles and wobbly flag stones. I knew when I got in, that Grandma would be sitting on her bed waiting for me and a cosy fire would be blazing in the grate. “Hi, Grandma” I said as I burst through the front door. “Hello Shirley, did you have a nice day at school?” “Yes”, I lied, hoping she couldn’t tell that school was not my favourite place. I dashed round the table eager to get to the fire. “Do you want anything from Saunders, Grandma?” I asked as I stood warming the back of my legs. “Yes, the laundry will be back today and I want one or two more things as well. Here, I’ve written you a note,” Passing it to me, I looked at the small scrap of paper with it’s list written in pencil - laundry, small loaf, milk and ½ lb loose biscuits. “I don’t need a note for just these few things”, I said. “Don’t be cheeky, Shirley. Just take the note”. “Okay” I muttered. “Can I do some toast when I come back please,” I said as an afterthought. “Yes” she replied, “And don’t drop the laundry, its wet out there”. I flounced out of the door annoyed that she could think I was daft enough to drop the laundry. After all, we lived at 21


As Time Goes By number one and Saunders was the corner shop at the start of the terrace. As I pushed open the shop door the bell gave its usual loud pinging noise. The interior was small but packed from floor to ceiling with goods, leaving just enough room to walk to the counter which was sideways on to the door. This was because, straight opposite the counter, there was a small window into their living quarters so they could look through and see who was in the shop. There seemed to be everything you could possibly want in this shop. A bacon slicer stood on one part of the counter, milk crates stood on the floor so you could help yourself, and all manner of tinned stuff filled the shelves next to blue bags full of sugar. A tin of loose biscuits was also standing on the counter these were cheap because some of them were broken. Mrs Saunders came ambling through from her living room. Her arms folded to support her huge bosom as she rested on the counter. “Now then, what can I get you, Shirley?” I could feel myself blushing. Suddenly, pleased to have the note, I pushed it across the counter. Looking at it, she leaned sideways and picked up a brown paper parcel neatly tied up with string. She dropped it on the counter in front of me saying, “Well, here’s the laundry. Now let me see what else is on the list. How’s Grandma today? Is she walking any better?” she asked as she delved into the tin of biscuits and weighed them on the scales. “No” I mumbled as I stood fidgeting wanting to go. “Is your Mam home from work yet”, she quizzed. “No, not yet”. I could feel my cheeks getting hotter by the second and wished she wouldn’t ask so many questions. “Right, that’s everything. Have you got some money?” 22


As Time Goes By I pushed a ten shilling note across the counter. She gave me a few pennies change which I put it in my gymslip pocket and quickly collected the goods from the counter top. I struggled out of the door carrying the laundry by the string. “Ta-rah” Mrs Saunders called. “Ta-rah” I called back, happy to be outside again. By now it was getting darker and I noticed that the lamplighter was busy further down the street. Once the gas was lit, it cast an eerie cold light as far as it could reach and created dark scary shadows in doorways and down terraces. I shivered and dashed down the terrace. Back at Grandma’s, I pushed the front door open with my bottom and stepped inside out of the damp air. The blazing fire was always a welcome sight. “Pass me that laundry, Shirley”, said Grandma. As I gave it to her, I saw she had her list in her hand ready to check what was inside the parcel. She untied the string which she carefully wound up and put to one side for future use, followed by the same ritual with the brown wrapping paper. Inside, sheets, pillow cases, underwear and towels were all neatly pressed and folded and smelled gloriously fresh. Grandma carefully checked and counted each article and when satisfied she said,“Will you put these in the cupboard for me please, Shirley, and put the paper and string in the top drawer” “Once I’ve done that, can I have some toast please,” “Yes and be careful with that bread knife. It’s sharp today as the blade sharpeners been round and done the knives and scissors”. “Okay” I replied as I jumped up and unhooked the toasting fork from off the wall next to the range. The knife quickly cut through the bread. I put a slice on to the fork and, pulling 23


As Time Goes By a chair up to the glowing fire, I held it close to the burning coals. It was soon nice and brown on both sides. ”Do you want this first one, Grandma?” “No, you have it. You’ve been a good lass going for the shopping, but I’ll wait now until your Mam gets home.” I quickly buttered the toast and ate it with great relish feeling cosy and warm inside as I heard the rain starting to come down again. “Have you finished your toast yet?” asked Grandma. “Nearly” I replied. “Well, when you have, I want you to rub some camphorated oil on my back, it has been giving my gyp all day” With the toast gone, I quickly washed my hands and brought the bottle of oil from the kitchen. “Its cold, Grandma. Shall I put it near the fire for a bit?” “Yes please, and can you draw this curtain so that I can take my things off. I don’t want to be a peep show for the terrace”. There was a rattle of a backdoor latch outside and the sound of whistling. “That’s Ted Saunders home from work”, said Grandma. I nodded as I put some oil on my hands and held it until it was warm. I placed the bottle back onto the range and after a few seconds I started to rub it into her back. “Oh! That feels better. Rub it well in,” she said. I stopped, “Listen, Grandma, can you hear him? Can you hear those clogs outside?” “Yes”, she said exasperated that I had stopped. I carried on but I still listened to the clogs. They clack, clack, clacked as the steel rims hit the pavement. As I lay in bed early in the morning, I would hear him 24


As Time Goes By on his way to work, the sound echoing in the stillness. I would listen, entranced, until they faded away. Sometimes it would be dark, like tonight on his way back home. None of the kids in the street dared to speak to him. It was said that he was a German who had been in the war, and he was always dressed the same, all in black. With his flat black cap, long flowing coat and black clogs, he walked ramrod straight looking neither left or right, the rhythm of his long strides never changing, whatever the weather. Regular as clockwork, night and morning. Clack, clack, clack. “ Shirley, if you’ve finished daydreaming, that’s enough for now, thank you. Put the cork back in the bottle please. It feels a much better now” “Okay” I replied, as I went in the kitchen to wash the strong smelling oil off my hands. Suddenly the door opened and Mam and Patsy came in carrying shopping bags. Looking wet from the rain they dumped the bags on the table and both came round to be near the fire. Quickly taking their coats off, they bent over, holding their hands towards the fire and rubbed them together. “Have you been to Saunders, Shirley?” asked Mam. “Yes, she has.” interrupted Grandma. “And she’s rubbed my back, as well” she said smiling at me and nodding. “Oh, that’s good. Let’s have a cup of tea before I start dinner,” said Mam. 25


As Time Goes By

To Do My Best And To Do My Duty I joined 1st Burton-on-Stather Girl Guide Group during the late 1930’s, the Guide Leader being Miss Lilian Hall, Head Teacher of Flixborough Village School. We would meet each Monday evening in a barn adjacent to the Vicarage at the beginning of Darby Road. The pack was split evenly into Patrols and given the name of a flower in this instance - Cornflower - Daffodil - Pansy and Poppy. The weekly subscription of 1d was required from each guide who in return would receive a basic knowledge on subjects such as: First Aid - When the neckerchief was used as a sling. Knot tying - Here the lanyard was brought into use. To become conversant with clove hitch, reef and sheep shank was a great advantage during an organised guide camp. Cooking Knitting - Were all skills that were of benefit Sewing to a girl approaching adulthood. On reaching the required standard for each subject a guide would receive a badge that was eventually sewn to the sleeve of her tunic to signify the achievement. The Girl Guide Association was founded in 1910 and Agnes Baden-Powell became President. She was sister to Robert Baden-Powell who had previously formed the Boy Scout Movement. Later in 1918 his wife Olave was appointed Chief Guider. In 1952 Queen Elizabeth 11 became joint Patron of the 26


As Time Goes By Association alongside her mother and in 1994 the Girl Guide Association was renamed The Guide Association. Girls were eligible to enrol between the age of 10 – 14 years and at enrolment were required to make the vow as follows ; ‘I promise on my honour to do my best to do my duty to God and the King and to obey the Guide Law.’ The guide Law is A Guide’s honour is to be trusted to do one’s best at all times and to obey the Guide Law. A Girl Guide’s Motto is Be Prepared The standard uniform during this era consisted of a navy blue tunic, a felt hat with a wide brim and a leather belt with a steel buckle to be c lasped around the waist. To complete the outfit was a gold coloured neckerchief a white lanyard and a bronze brooch in the shape of a shamrock with the letters GG imprinted in the centre. The triangular neckerchief would befolded lengthwise to form a 2-3 inch strip, folded again in half with a knot placed further along to form a tie, allowing the remaining ends left long enough to be secured under the collar of the tunic. When suitably affixed 27


As Time Goes By the brooch couldthen be pinned on in a central position. The loop of the lanyard was then placed around the neck and secured to the belt at the waistline. During a fine summer evening a ‘treasure trail’ would be planned out with arrows and clues placed around the Village for patrols to detect. The first group back to base was deemed the winning team. The Guide pack would also attend St. Andrew’s Church to commemorate Anniversary Services through the year. The Parade would be led by a senior guide carrying the Girl Guide Flag and flanked by two more guides. The flag would be placed at the Alter and collected again when the Service ended and the guide troop was ready to leave. Camping holidays were also arranged during summer months at the Girl Guide official holiday camp at Holton-leMoor in Lincolnshire. This enabled guides to meet with other groups from around the County. Daily duties were scheduled to assist with catering preparation and domestic chores that became necessary around the camp site. For more pleasurable activities there would be games, walks and treasure trails organised. The high-light of each evening was always the sing-along around a blazing camp fire. Over the years changes have been made to the standard uniform worn and activities designed to interest the youth of today. Nevertheless, The Girl Guide Association is the UK’s largest voluntary organisation for girls and young women. It is also reputed that more than 50% of the female populations in the UK has been guiding at some time in their lives.

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As Time Goes By

No Man’s Land When I was around eight or nine years old my granddad would tell me about the Great War which was, of course, also known as World War One. He told me about the time he was shot in the front of his hip. He said, ‘Andrew, take your middle finger and place it above the right side of my hip. Now press down gently’. I could feel a hole there where the bullet had gone in. ‘Can you feel it?’ ‘Yes, I can’, I said. He then told me about what happened when he was fighting in the battle of the Somme. He said, ‘One day I and others had to over into ‘No Man’s Land’ to gain more land off the ‘Gerrys’. This is what Grandad called the Germans. When he went over the trench wall he started shooting towards enemy fire, as he had been ordered to do so they could gain territory. But suddenly he felt a burning sensation on the right side of his body and knew he had been shot. He told me all the hell he went through. He said,’ I knew I would go to sleep, I knew I would be going to hospital and that I would be in a warm bed rather than a wet and muddy trench.’ That’s what went through his mind, wounded in ‘No Man’s Land.

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As Time Goes By

The Grand The cinema in Brigg operated under the imposing title of “THE GRAND”, and grand it was to some extent. A brick facade which bore the legend “The Grand” in two foot high letters of red on a white back-ground gave a frontal appearance promising opulence of the extreme within. Mounting the step from the street to enter the foyer with its luxuriant red carpeted floor maintained this illusion. On the Box Office wall above the twin pay- booths was fixed a polished wooden aircraft propeller about eight feet across and suggestive of belonging to The Great War era. To one side of the foyer, so as not to impede the passage of the punters whilst at the same time allowing him to survey his clientele; stood Mr. Webster the manager. Of smart appearance, with a small and neatly trimmed moustache I felt that the propeller and Mr. Webster were in some way connected. After the purchase of our one and nine-penny tickets at the pay booth entrance to the auditorium was made by a door to the left. Entrance to the gallery above was made by similar means to the right and up a short flight of stairs. We teen-agers didn’t use that door, we didn’t have the means to access such loftiness. The auditorium was finished in the Art Deco style and with its concealed lighting and footlights playing on the magnificent curtains that covered the screen together with the sounds of Strauss music on the sound system to us country kids in town for a Saturday night out The Grand lived up to its name. Here the illusion ended for behind that front fagade the walls to the rear of the building were of ugly plain brick-work and the roof was of corrugated iron sheeting. 30


As Time Goes By At the top end of Wrawby Street and just across from the cinema was a general shop which was a regular port of call before our visit to the pictures. Sweet ration coupons were often in short supply or non-existent and so an alternative commodity had to be found to munch through the main film after the Movie-tone or Pathe -news had caught our attention and brought us up to date with world events; and after also being shown a few local traders adverts on the silver screen. We then settled down for the next hour and a half and the main feature film. In my case I spent some of my pocketmoney at the shop on a brown paper bag-full of peanuts in their shells and these I proceeded to devour at a steady rate whilst throwing the redundant shells on the floor, a practice not thought unusual in those days. What was unusual for the punters in the same row as me was to find Monkey nut shells under foot as they forfeited the last seconds of the film and shuffled noisily past me in their rush to get out before the National Anthem.

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As Time Goes By

We Knew Them as The Quarry Men As a child I wasn’t very interested in music. My Dad and his three brothers had learnt to play many instruments when young. Dad played the piano accordion and banjo. They formed a group called The Jones Boys and were popular at local clubs. We only had a few 78rpm records at home by Max Bygraves, Ruby Murray, Slim Whitman and a very scratched Harry Lime Theme, which my brother experimented on by soaking them in very hot water until they could be shaped into fruit bowls. It all changed in the late fifties when we got a Dansette record player which could play 45s. You could put six records on and they would drop in turn as the arm with a stylus lifted off. Sometimes the record would go off balance and would require a small weight, usually a two shilling piece to keep it even. There was a music shop in the village called Strothers which had a booth that we could stand in to listen to a record before we bought it. I used to take my Aunties dog for a walk every day after school to finance buying a record each week. Then came the Mersey Sound and living on Merseyside in the sixties became the best place ever for my friends and l. We would visit the clubs in 32


As Time Goes By New Brighton. Three of my friends would meet at my house and if my Dad wasn’t at work he would drive us there. As he had not yet passed his driving test his car was a three wheeled Reliant Robin which he could drive on his motorbike license. But until he passed his test he couldn’t have the reverse gear mechanism, so when he needed to reverse we had to jump out and push. There wasn’t much room so the ones in the back had to have someone on their knee. The clubs were all cellars but had a great atmosphere. There was The Witches Cauldron, The lron Door, and many others, but My favourite was The Kraal. lt was right on the seafront. We had to knock on the door and someone would look through a little hatch before allowing us inside down the steps to a dimly lit cellar with nowhere to sit down. When the groups arrived they would play amongst us as there wasn’t a stage. We had The Mersey Beats, Swinging Blue Jeans, The Undertakers to name a few. But our favourites were The Big Three who went on to have a hit with ‘Some Other Guy’ after signing with Decca. However, at the time none of these groups were famous. As the night went on it would get very hot as there wasn’t any ventilation. We could get a pass out card and would walk out across the sand barefoot with stiletto’s in hand to a fort on a sandstone mound. One night we were over at the fort just after midnight in the moonlight and forgot about what time the tide came in and it cut us off. Luckily there was a wall around the marina that we could reach and walk along. As the tide came in faster it got up to our knees and was very scary. But after reaching safety we put on our stiletto’s and resumed our dancing ! We never went to Liverpool at night because the streets weren’t safe. but we did go to The Cavern many times of an 33


As Time Goes By afternoon when all the groups were there. lt wasn’t licensed so we only had Fanta and Seven Up to drink. Cilla Black would be there quite often giving out tickets and serving drinks but we never heard her singing on the stage. All the up and coming groups were there including The Beatles, although we knew them as The Quarrymen. They were so excited when they cut their first record, and they told us “tell all your friends and families to buy our record and get us into the charts”. lt was ‘Love Me Do’ and we listened to it every night on our transistors as it climbed the charts to number one. Although we were pleased for them we were very disappointed when they went off to Germany as soon as they became famous.

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As Time Goes By

Blue Jeans and All That The youth club was a purpose built community centre on the outskirts of a council estate, just half a mile from my home. Sixties build, wooden floors, a juke box, pool table, a snack bar and a trampoline. And older boys. We had a great time but Carly’s dad wouldn’t let her go. I found another school friend there, Lorraine, so we arranged to go there together. We were in the same class at school but we’d never really hung around together before. She had blue eyes and black hair. On Saturday night there was a dance. The disc jockey played nothing but Motown. We were so happy, dancing Motown, on the wooden floor. When I was fourteen, Bob Dylan toured Britain and he brought blue jeans over the Atlantic. We had never worn blue jeans before Dylan arrived. They weren’t manufactured in women’s sizes, only men’s. Dad used to say, “Jeans are only for men for working in”. Mary wouldn’t buy me jeans but got me some beige corduroys. I was so excited I ran all the way to the youth club the first time I wore them. At the age of fifteen Lorraine, her boyfriend and I sampled the joys of adulthood when we got hold of some fags. Lighting up was quite exciting but the first puff was sickening. I felt unwell but being of a determined nature, I persevered until I got hooked. Then her boyfriend suggested, ‘Try some sherry’. I went all dizzy and happy but I had to be home by ten o’ clock. I was always careful not to be late. I popped my head round the living room door to say goodnight to my parents who were sat watching the telly. In my bedroom, as I laid down I felt as though I was on the waves of the sea. Ten ‘Number Six’ were two shillings, cider was three shillings and anyone who had a bit of extra money got QC sherry at six 35


As Time Goes By bob a bottle. All very cheap. There was fag smoke wherever you went. Even the doctor would have a fag burning away in his ashtray. Clouds of ash smoke everywhere. Kids liked to have a joke – pay for a child’s bus fare then sit upstairs and smoke. I never did that.On Sunday at five o’ clock I’d ask Mary if I could borrow the little radio she kept on top of the fridge. She’d graciously nod her head. I’d take the radio up to my bedroom and listen avidly to the top twenty. At the end I would switch it off quickly so I didn’t hear anything of ‘Sing Something Simple’ which was on next. It was so boring but I can still remember the opening tune.

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As Time Goes By

Crepe Soles What a fantastic invention. After years of being told about energetic young men who had a “spring in their step”, I could now achieve the same simply by having some new shoes! The honey-coloured crepe material was indeed very spongy and was glued to the actual shoe, which gave it yet another big advantage. I would no longer have to limp home from school with “a nail in my shoe”, where this had penetrated from the leather sole. The household cobbler’s last could therefore be confined to the coal shed for ever. The crepe-soled shoes varied in style from the neat to the outrageously thick and over-wide, to the point where they was a serious danger of tripping yourself up if you ran. It was the latter, the ones which looked as though the wearer had been trekking through thick mud for 3 hours, which were adopted by the Teddy Boys of that era. When seen at the end of their obligatory drainpipe trousers they looked truly enormous. Now I had a sneaking admiration for the Teddy Boys. They seemed to have an attitude of rebellion, a latent characteristic in the majority of both sexes in their early teens. They were showing they could be different from the rest. Sadly, many went too far and got into trouble but I have always suspected that there were just as many who were law-abiding. I was always brought up to think for myself and be different. “Don’t follow the herd”, “be individual” and “plough your own furrow in life” were sayings which were often recounted within our family. On more than one occasion I would plead with my parents to let me have something because all the other boys had them – an exaggeration of course. This was 37


As Time Goes By usually met with “all the more reason why you shouldn’t have one then”. This was always followed by “be a trend setter not a trend follower”. Being given this freedom of expression had boundaries, of course, and I was always taught to respect the law, family, elders, property, etc and to have a generally Christian attitude to my fellow man. However, testing the ground rules comes naturally to a young teenager but any transgression was usually met with severe punishment. The worst was at grammar school where humiliation in front of the whole class was a much more effective way of instilling discipline than the cane. Once was enough. So the Teddy Boy image seemed to me to be an ideal example of showing my family that I could be different. Big mistake! I was told in no uncertain terms that wearing that sort of clothing would not be tolerated and that I could expect punishment if I so much as came home wearing anything remotely like a Teddy Boy. On looking back I realise that the rock and roll years were a symptom of teenage rebellion and were seen as a challenge to the established family authority. In my case, the rebellion was short-lived, but I’m pleased about that and thankful that my mother, father and teachers had the right attitude towards discipline. I still try to adhere to those childhood rules but I also still try to think imaginatively. But what of my Teddy Boy dreams? Well I have to confess that the nearest I ever came to achieving them was wearing a pair of yellow socks to a church dance!

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As Time Goes By

Monday Wash Day, Tuesday Ironing... Like most women of her generation Mum had her routines and Monday was always washday. When she had come to Crowle as a new bride in 1935 the only source of water had been a pump in the yard shared between four houses but before I was born, ten years later, the house had been plumbed and connected to the mains so there was a tap in the kitchen sink and a bath and hand basin upstairs. The only toilet, however, was still outside and had to be emptied by the night soil men every week. I have a vague memory of a dolly tub in the middle of the kitchen floor but by the time my sister and brothers had arrived, five years later, this had long been replaced by a “new fangled” electric washing machine. The black iron range in the living room had also been replaced by a modern tiled fireplace and all the cooking moved to the calor gas stove which had joined the washer in the kitchen. Washday was an all day affair. The machine had to be pulled into place near the sink and filled from the tap then left to heat up while the washing was sorted. Whites went in first while the water was at it’s hottest and cleanest, followed by light colours then darker and very dirty items. Unlike its successor, the twin tub, this machine didn’t allow for rinsing so wet items had to be lifted into the sink and rinsed through by hand once they had been churned and paddled enough. A mangle completed the process, squeezing out the water as effectively as any spin dryer but with the added benefit that careful folding whilst feeding items through could reduce the need for ironing. 39


As Time Goes By Woollies and delicate clothes like the smocked organza dresses worn by my sister and myself had to be washed by hand as the twisting and tugging of the machine would have spoiled them. I hated Mondays, especially in winter when things had to be dried inside. At one time we had an overhead rack which was supplemented by two large, red painted, clothes horses which made excellent tents in summer, but were now festooned with clothes and placed around the fire in the living room, effectively blocking off the heat and causing condensation to run down the large metal framed bay window where the dining table was placed. As I grew older I was embarrassed by the sight of school bloomers and liberty bodices on display and hoped no-one would visit. Even when the weather was nice I would feel anxious about coming home on Mondays as sometimes Mum would have taken down all the chintz curtains to wash and eating tea in the bare bay window that faced onto a communal driveway was like being in a goldfish bowl. Tea on Mondays was a frugal affair, anything quick and easy like tinned spaghetti on toast. Thursdays were the best days because this was baking day and often there would be a meat and potato or egg and bacon pie, still warm when I got in from school. The washing had become ironing by Tuesday; piled up on the extended dining table which was covered with old blankets and sheets with the electric iron solid and heavy. Wednesday, the bedrooms had a good clean but there would often be a pile of mending to be done whenever Mum had a bit of spare time; socks to be darned, buttons to be sewn back on and occasionally sheets to be “topped to bottomed� to get a bit more life out of them. By Friday everything was put away and downstairs had 40


As Time Goes By been cleaned. Coming home to a tidy house, a pantry full with the previous days baking and the grocery order which had been delivered that afternoon, and our weekly order of comics and magazines waiting for us on the polished piano top was something I looked forward to; but for Mum Dad’s shirts and our discarded school uniforms were already piling up ready for the following Monday.

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As Time Goes By

Moving On After working for Woolworths for a year I felt I needed a change. Cadbury’s were opening a new factory near to the seafront where I lived, and the majority of the girls had applied for a place there. I didn’t want to work in a factory so I scanned the situations vacant in our local paper ‘The Liverpool Echo’. There was a bakery in Hoylake, just a short bus ride away that wanted someone to work in the shop. After nervously ringing I was told to go straightaway for an interview. They were a lovely old couple Mr and Mrs Johnson who owned the bakery and they made me very welcome. They offered me the job and I got the next bus home with a large box of cream cakes they had given me. The shop was called ‘The Busy Bee’ and it sold a selection of wine along with the cakes, bread and pies. There was a lady called Joyce who also worked in the shop, but she was always out shopping or off sick, so it didn’t make much difference when she left except I lost my dinner hour. There were five people working in the bakehouse including John who worked the furnace oven using a long wooden paddle to push the trays in. He had Parkinson’s Disease, but although he was continually shaking he would walk the four miles to work in the early hours each morning before the buses started running so he could be sure the furnace was up to the right temperature for the others coming in. It was a very busy shop in summer, mostly because of holidaymakers. In the winter it was quieter and I would sit in the little rest room at the side of the shop by the open fire. Mr Johnson would make endless cups of tea and tell lots of stories of his wartime adventures which I never tired of, occasionally being interrupted by the shop bell. 42


As Time Goes By Hoylake was a small village and all the lifeboat men worked locally. When the lifeboat was needed a cannon was fired and shops would shut as all the men raced down to launch the lifeboat. At the time John Lennon lived in there and would drive around in a purple Rolls Royce with psychedelic flowers painted on it. His wife Cynthia was a regular at our shop with their son Julian. There were always lovely smells coming from the bakery, with warm scones for tea-break and pies straight from the oven for our lunch. The girls in the bakery had Radio Caroline playing continuously and it was a happy place to work. Unfortunately Mr Johnson had a lot of trouble with his legs and they reluctantly decided to sell the business. We were taken over by Sayers who shut down the bakery. It was never the same after that.

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Workers’ Educational Association. WEA Scunthorpe Learning Centre Clare House, 31 Wells Street Scunthorpe, North East Lincolnshire DN15 6HL Tel: 01724 844245 Email: yorkshumber@wea.org.uk Website: www.wea.org.uk/yh The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is a charity registered in England and Wales (number 1112775) and in Scotland (number SC039239) and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (number 2806910). Registered Office: Workers’ Educational Association, 4 Luke Street, London, EC2A 4XW

As Time Goes By  

A second collection of memories of life as it was in the forties, fifties and sixties.

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