Chapter4

 

Junior School

 

I started the Juniors in 1948 and by now was becoming involved in all sorts of outside activities with my pals such as bonfire building, camp building and going for endless walks with our dog Roy and armed to the teeth with catapults, Bows and arrows, air rifles, spears and knives, we were obviously still living in a fantasy world of medieval times, we didnít know any different. Roy was my Brother Winstonís dog he got him as a pup in1944 from one of the neighbours, Mr Milburn. Mother and Father at first said he couldnít have a dog, but after tantrums and kicking the back of the settee in and a long drawn out argument about who was going to pay the licence fee they finally gave in.

Roy became the darling pet of the house and his 7shillings and 6pence dog licence was well worth it. Roy was my constant companion, togetherwith my close friendstook him for long walks at weekends around the Quarries, Its a Nature reserve now, he always ran loose and regularly caught rabbits which were taken home and made up into lovely stews and crusty topped pies. Mr Milburn, Ned as he was known had two Daughters and one day Joyce the eldest said come and see what dadís got behind the back door, so off I went to have a look and what a shock it was to see a whole goat nailed up on the back of the door which heíd just killed.

 

Ration books were still in operation during the post war years and I had coupons for sweets but no money to buy, so I usually sold my coupons, Iíve still got my own teeth at age 67, and that canít be bad. I remember on one occasion a next door neighbour buying chocolate laxative which was readily available without coupons and passing it around as a treat among the kids, we didnít know any better, never mind the consequences live for the moment, having only one toilet didnít enter our minds.

 

†††††††††† My older brothers Frank and Winston along with a couple of our close friends would also go on hunting trips with ferrets and nets to catch rabbits. It was the done thing in those days to try and make a few bob {shillings] selling the rabbits to neighbours.

Our Frank was an entrepreneur, catching lots of rabbits and selling them on to neighbours

Mother didnít know what to expect from him, he seemed to be able to wheel and deal and mother didnít know what he was going to turn up with next? One day a dozen day old chicks arrived in a box and mother said what are you going to do with them? Theyíll die over night.

My father came to the rescue and put them in the warm cupboard next to the fire place, 6 out of the dozen chicks survived .He built a pen and cree in the back garden and 2 of the chicks turned into Cockerels one very large black one and one smaller white they used to chase anyone who came anywhere near them and were adept at flying over the top of the pen to attack. My father put up with them through the first few months but informed us that they wouldnít be attacking anyone else after next Christmas. Sure as shot he killed them the following Christmas; I witnessed the killing and then helped in the plucking and cleaning.

We kept pigeons, rabbits, hens and of course ferrets

Snowy winter nights were spent playing with our home made sledges made from 1 inch steel bar runners supplied by the colliery blacksmiths, bolted onto timber bearers with cross timbers nailed on and a piece of rope nailed on to pull it with, the garden fences were targeted for timber and many holes appeared during sledging season. We sledged down Cain Terrace which was very steep, there was very little traffic on the roads and we used to play turns keeping a look-out at the bottom of the bank. for motor vehicles, which were few and far between.

The long summer nights were spent playing at the top of the street; games included Mount a kitty, Tallyho and pitching glass marbles into a small hole. These games were also played at school, the girls used to like playing kiss, cuddle or torture and like any self respecting man, I would always opt for torture.

I recall my brother Winston and some of his pals being fined 5 shillings each for playing football in the street this was a lot of money. There were very few cars around in those days and it seemed to be quite harsh at the time. Could you even imagine anyone trying to play any sort of game in the streets these days.

 

In the weeks leading up to November 5th making a bonfire was the priority, raiding and robbing other bonfires was very exciting. Bonfire Night was a great spectacle and an opportunity to get rid of unwanted rubbish. Coal fires in the homes were also used to burn all sorts of rubbish, who would have thought that future generations would be generating so much rubbish that land fill sites would be at a premium.†††††

 

Bedtime on very cold freezing winter nights, wasnít something to look forward to, mother or father would take burning coals from the livingroom fire and carry them on a shoveland place them in the bedroom fire-places to warm the rooms, oven shelves were lifted out and wrapped in old woollen blankets and were much prized as bed warmers, Father used to say get up to bed ďnet cake, pittle a piece and good nightĒ central heating wasnít as yet the norm for working classes and even hot water bottles were a luxury, we sat around a large coal fire in the living room and sent endless written messages to Santa Clause from early December onwards, throwing them up the chimney,[More dangerous practices].Requests to Santa fell on deaf ears but we never gave up, year after year. Iíve hung many a stocking at the foot of the bed on Christmas Eve and being amazed to find a small present with an apple and some nuts in the morning, surely? That huge sack of Santaís had more things than that in it? What about all those messages or was it because we hadnít been very well behaved over the past year and thatís the reason why we didnít get more. After all only good children have their wishes come true, or so itís said.

I hit the jackpot Christmas 1949, a pair of real leather football boots and a pair of Wolverhampton Wanderers football stockings[black and amber] I still donít know to this day why those socks?. After all every in our area seemed to talk about and support Sunderland , and Iíd even been taken to see Sunderland play that year for the one and only time as a child, they played Blackburn Rovers Johnny Mapson played in goal for Sunderland. I occasionally went to visit my sister Sylvia who lived in the Colliery houses across the line at Thornley and used to love seeing the model aeroplanes that had been made by her husband George and his brother Charlie when they were young. Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancaster Bombers, all beautifully made to scale. These two brothers were very clever at making things. Such as a canoe they used to take to the river wear. Charlie was particularly clever and built his own television set. He had a very high aerial which he had fastened to the wall of his house to get the signal from crystal palace. He became a jig and toolmaker in an aircraft factory and lived in the south of England. George had a motor cycle which he kept in beautiful condition, he also used to mend clocks and watches and it was always George whom my mother relied upon for running repairs to household appliances, such as the radio and electric iron. He was a clever and lovely natured man.

 

I grew to like my football boots and stockings and even wore them the following year at the Chapel Eisteddfod in Thornley. I won a prize for reciting poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Left to right Joan Curry, Lilly Rutherford, Brian Mather, Frank Harper Enid Poulson, John Worthington.

 

I appeared in school plays which were performed upstairs in the Welfare Hall concert room which had a stage, our tutor was one of the junior school teachers, a Miss Hutchinson [known as Granny Hutchinson] I was a Roman soldier in a biblical play and in another a top hat and tailed gentleman in a story about a well to do family, my wife in the play was Enid Poulson. The Farmer was Frank Harper, Lily Rutherford, Joan Curry and Brian Mather were also in the play. The suit I wore was made especially for me and the top hat belonged to Dr Ryan a G.P.who ran a practice and lived in a large white painted house in the front street which is now being used as sheltered housing. The hat was suitably filled with tissue paper to make it fit. I remember being terrified when I was sent to the Doctors house to pick it up. The loan of the hat had been pre arranged and I neednít to have worried as he was very kind. I returned the hat in its case the day after the play. In 1950 the school received boxes of apples sent by the Canadian Government as a goodwill gesture on behalf of their children, each child in the school got two apples. The same year I stood in a Queue for two bananas at Burlisons shop at the top of Cain Terr. Fruit was in short supply in working class areas for a while until distribution was brought back to normality.

 

I went potato picking for the first time and couldnít resist bringing home a couple of field mice as pets, they escaped in the house, .my mother let out a scream when she realised what Iíd done, my Father clipped me across the ears and I was sent to buy a mouse trap. The first time he tried to set the trap it went off just as he was putting it in position in the cupboard he jumped up quickly and bumped his head on a shelf, and I got wrong again.He persevered and was delighted when he caught them over the next couple of days and warned me not to do anything stupid like that again.

 

The 11 plus exams were a very trying time for all of the children in our year, this exam was supposed to sort out the children who were to go to Grammar school as opposed to the Secondary School, 3 children in our class who werenít expected to pass were given places because they were the youngest in the class, much to the surprise of everyone, including the headmaster Mr Willans, whilst 3of us including myself who had been expected to pass failed .I was deeply shocked and hurt and for a short while developed a stammer which took some getting rid of, I believe an inferiority complex was setting in. Its ironic that the following year the 3 of us Jenifer Atkinson, Tom Simpson and myself after spending one year at the local senior schools were all given places at the Grammar school after passing an occasional scholarship.