Chapter 2


Early Years


My father became very ill in late 1941 and into 1942 suffering from a duodenal ulcer, he had a major operation in Brierton Hospital, Hartlepool, complications set in and he was in a very serious life threatening condition. Iím told my fatherís sister, aunt Alice and mother visited him. Alice who was outspoken told him that he had better get himself well again. ďJohn Willie does tha hear meĒ ďYa darnít ganan dee an leave that lass with arl those bairnsĒ This was a very distressing time for my mother and the family, I can vaguely remember her crying and I would only be just over 1 year old and our Frank 3 while the rest of the children would either be at school or working.

Aunt Aliceís pep talk had the desired effect; he made a full recovery and lived another 23 years.

Iím told that at 1 year old I had very long blonde hair, my sisters used to cut it and screw my eyebrows at the ends and call me the little devil .Alice and Olive used to push me around in an old battered pram and Iím told one day decided to let me and the pram go down Henderson Avenue to see what would happen, luckily for me it ran down the foot path and rammed into a gate post and stopped, I hadnít yet passed my driving test so itís just as well they didnít send me down the road.


At 2 years I pulled a full boiling hot tea pot off the table over my head and I can remember being very poorly and lay around on the settee for days and being visited by the district nurse. I was lucky that the water had just gone off the boil but the scalding took several weeks to heal.


At the outset of the war, air raid shelters had been built in the streets which restricted movement of traffic which was mainly horse and cart traders with an occasional motor vehicle and I can remember some of the traders in the early to late 40ís

Milk being delivered to the door by horse drawn cart and being ladled from a churn into a jug by the co-op dairyman, who after the war began delivering milk in bottlesexchanged for milk tokens which were left on the door step with the empty bottles, the milk tokens were bought from the co-op at the same time as the order was placed for other essentials which were delivered to the door.


Dickie Dido (Richard Thompson) a well known character in the village used to sell fresh herring which he sold by the scoop. Mother used to gut, cut and roll them and cook them in the coal fired oven until they were golden brown. They were lovely, theyíre rarely eaten nowadays.

The Co-op store butcher was a big jolly red faced man who mother used to say always looked well oiled driving his horse drawn meat cart on Friday afternoons, being stalked by our mongrel dog Roy who loved the scraps he threw but waited patiently for the occasional bone.

The paraffin oil and firewood cart owned by Mr Shutt who lived down in the keyhole (cul-de- sac) in Jack Lawson Terrace came around once a fortnight; paraffin oil was sold by the pint, using a measuring beaker, mother used it in her oil lamp [Kelly Lamp] to go to bed with, to see the alarm clock. And she often said it was a comfort at night and had been using one since she was a child. In her later years when she was about 80 her eyesight began to fail, so the Kelly lamp had to go.

Dickie Dido when he wasnít selling fish would come around collecting rags, woollens or scrap in exchange for white wash or balloons. [The pantry was white washed regularly] I donít recall having many balloons.

As kids when we were hungry between meals we used to go into the pantry and cut a slice of bread and spread margarine on it and top it off with jam or sugar.

People moved house using horse and cart. Their belongings tied on precariously with rope. Insurance? I donít think so

Lots of other sellers came around and it was the norm to run out and shovel up the horse manure left behind for use on the gardens, which now when I look back I cant think why, because there werenít many tidy gardens in those days.


Nearly every-one in the village was a member of the Sherburn Hill Co-op society which sold almost everything under one roof, all your needs from the cradle to the grave. Super stores are not a new idea but you had to queue for everything. The co-op had a Lamson Tube vacuum system in operation, men pushing trolleys, who would have thought that would happen in the future, Iím one of the men who go regularly to the super markets and shops with their wives and push the trolleys.

Families had the benefit of short term credit facilities and a much welcomed store dividend, paid out on a Quarterly basis our credit reference number was 7660. We also shopped at the Meadow Dairy which was in the front street. Hannah Robson had a small shop in the front room of her house in the front street. People who took advantage of her and got credit from her and then conveniently forgot to pay her back used to have their names displayed in the shop window. Iím delighted to know that we didnít fall into that category.

I spent a lot of my time in my early years playing outside in the garden or in the large field behind the houses which was a playground for all the kids on the block in Wheatley Terrace, close bonding and friendships were made there. The field as it was known to everyone in the terrace became my furthest travel apart from going to the shops with mother until I went to school in1945.

I shared a bedroom with brothers Winston and Frank and on the wall of the bedroom was a large coloured portrait photograph of Joseph Kell my mothers brother who was killed in the first World War. His blue eyes always seemed to follow you around the room, but that can be said about any large portrait photograph hanging on a wall. As my father always said itís not the dead thatíll harm you itís the living that will.




















We also had a large oval shaped framed coloured portrait photograph of my grandmother in the living room and when my father died in 1964 his younger brother Edward asked my mother if he could have it and she gave it to him. Iíve since been given a copy of the photo from my cousin Edward who inherited it from his father. For some unknown reason that portrait fell off the wall making a loud bang in the middle of the night. My mother shouted whoís there as my father went to investigate and found the picture on the floor undamaged. Shortly after there was a knock on the front door and aunt Alice came in to break the news, that aunt Beatrice had just died in the early hours of that morning. My mother told her about the picture falling off the wall and this was interpreted as a forewarning of the death. We didnít sleep very well for quite a time after that.

James Worthington who was my fatherís younger brother was killed at the Battle of Venray in Holland in 1944; he was a regular soldier who had seen service in India before the outbreak of war with Germany.