‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Winter Chill Before Central Heating. The Frozen Piano and Pipes Saga. – Cup of Tea Tales
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Winter Chill Before Central Heating. The Frozen Piano and Pipes Saga.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Adventures in Gipton Wood Crescent, Leeds. Rag-and-Bone Men, Knife Grinders and Peg Selling Gypsies.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Mixed Bag! School Excursions, Sport, Short Back and Sides and Other Primary School Memories – Harehills C.P. School Adventures.
- Cup of Tea Tales – Harehills County Primary School in the Early 1960s. Milk, School Dinners, Marbles, Gym and the School Song!
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Adventures With My Grandmother: Sunken Ships, Buried Treasure, Crooked Spires and Locked In Kenilworth Castle!
This is a bit of an eclectic collection of primary school memories, but I am sure many of us at school at the time would have enjoyed similar experiences.
I was trying to remember if we had school excursions at Harehills C.P. School and I recalled trips to York and Fountain’s Abbey. My York memories are clearer, as I was naughty and bought something I thought I was not supposed to do. I can only think that one outing a year, in the older classes, was the norm and probably the Fountain’s Abbey one was in Year 3 and York in Year 4.
On the trip to York, we were taken by coach. I can remember the smell of the plastic on the bus and being over-excited, and it didn’t take long for me to feel a little sick. We were told to sit down, remain in our seats and not to leave a mess. The journey wasn’t long, fortunately, and I managed without incident, but I remember at least one child had to have a bin to be sick in. They were too excited, had too many sweets, or suffered from travel sickness. The visit to fabulous York included a walk around Clifford’s Tower, just the outside of course. I used to look up the motte to the keep with envy as fortunate people could be seen on the battlements. As it required an additional fee, we never experienced it. Next was the Castle Museum, and this we did venture into. Some parts of the museum were wonderful. I loved the armour and weapons and the visit to Dick Turpin’s cell. The highwayman was executed there, I believe, which added to my interest. The cell was small and I could only wonder how the man felt during the time he was there. The worst part of the museum was the room after rooms of costumes and uniforms. They seemed to go on forever. I liked the Victorian streets. In the street were shops and you could walk into a sweet shop, a chemist shop and a pub. The shelves and furniture were just as they would have been, the street cobbled, and there were carts and even an old fire engine. The ceiling was black and there was a genuine feeling of being back in time, which I loved. It made a great impression on me. As we left, we went through a mill outside and the enormous millstones were a magnificent sight for a young boy. I have been back many times since then and it is still an amazing museum.
After the museum visit, we went on a walk along a section of the medieval city walls, then off to the Shambles and a walk through the Shambles and old shops to the Minster. In those days, there was no charge to enter the Minster, and the building was a truly magnificent sight. We were allowed to do a little shopping and I remember buying a paperback book on English Castles. It is possible that I still have it somewhere. We ate our packed lunch near the river Ouse in the York Museum Gardens and then went on a boat ride past the Bishop’s Palace and Rowntree Park. Having been to York many times since I can’t remember if we went to the Railway Museum or not. Someone else may have a clearer memory. I do remember going into a gift shop just before we boarded the coach and there several of us spent the last of our money and bought sheath knives. They were poorly made ones, with a York crest transferred onto the handle. We had to keep them hidden so as not to attract the attention of the teachers. When I got mine home, I was worried my mother would be cross, but she hardly reacted at all and just told me to be careful with it.
Another outing was to Fountains Abbey. This old Cistercian monastery, near Ripon, is a truly beautiful spot. The coach journey was quite long, but we were all relieved to get off and stretch our legs. I loved the majestic ruins and gardens. It was living history and even at a young age, I couldn’t help but wonder about the people who had stood in the same spot a thousand years ago. The size of the buildings was striking, and we walked amongst the ruins and learned about how life would have been. Afterwards, we went on a long walk through the Studley Royal water gardens. These lakes and gardens were of less interest to me at this age than the abbey ruins, but now I appreciate how truly magnificent they are. I don’t remember any other Harehills C.P. School trips, but again I could be wrong.
Another lasting memory from these times was having my hair cut. My mother would regularly give me money and tell me to get my hair cut on the way home after school. On the other side of the road from the school, there were a couple of barbers’ shops. There was a definite atmosphere about them. As you entered, you were hit by the smell of Brylcreem and aftershave. There were chairs in front of the window where you waited in turn and the linoleum floor had a carpet of hair that was occasionally swept. If there were men in the shop, the air would have the additional aroma of smoke. Whilst waiting, you would look at the magazines and sometimes find some racy pictures to keep you occupied. The shelves were supplied with all sorts of things for sale that I had no idea about. What were styptic pencils, condoms and why would I want Wilkinson Sword safety razors? It was all an adult male mystery to me.
I used to watch the barber in action. Hair was combed, raised between two fingers, and trimmed with a sharp pair of scissors. This process was continuous, and the fingers were a blur. Somehow, in just a few minutes, an unruly mop of hair would become a well-managed work of art. Water was sprayed from a bottle, a cut-throat razor would appear, sharpened on a leather strop, and the back of the neck would be expertly shaved and cleared of unwanted hair. A soft brush appeared and with a few flicks of the wrist any cut hair was swept away, a mirror was held up, an approval sought and then the covering protecting the customer was whisked off, like a matador at a bullfight, money exchanged and then the barber would turn around and say, ‘Next?’
If I was next, then a plank of wood was laid between the two arms of the chair so that the smaller customers were at a height that meant the barber didn’t have to bend. ‘What will it be?’ To this, there didn’t seem a lot of choice. It was usually short back and sides, or short back and sides with a square neck. I did once try a crew cut, but with my fine hair it wouldn’t stand up like my older brother’s. Anyway, the magic of the comb and scissors was utilised and then the clippers came out. I believe it had the subtlety of a New South Wales sheep shearer, but within a few moments, a mirror was held up for approval. I have no idea what would have happened if I had said I wasn’t happy with something and I wasn’t game to find out. He would ask if you wanted lacquer and if you said yes, you were sprayed with some highly scented liquid that set with a crusty finish to your hair. Out came the brush, two swift flicks and then the apron was unfastened, additional swishes to ensure some hair went down the back of the neck to itch for an eternity, and then a hand reached out to receive payment.
I would leave the shop a squirming mess, but I would look in the shop window reflection to see what sort of fashion statement I made. My mother would check to see that I have been shorn as I entered through our door and nodded her approval, whilst I would still be unable to stop gyrating and removed my shirt and shook it vigorously to remove any remaining hair. Now I would be grateful to have that hair back, but such is the experience of youth that we don’t appreciate what we have until it is gone.
I always enjoyed sport at Harehills. I think it was mainly on a Wednesday afternoon, but I could be wrong. Maybe that was just when I was in Mr Kelly’s Yr. 4A class. Anyway, as the school was devoid of any green space to play, we would wait for two double-decker buses to ferry a host of excited and noisy children to the Soldiers’ Field sports ground. The journey wasn’t more than about ten minutes at most.
As I was thinking about this, I could picture the ride and what we passed on the way. On the City side of the school was the family doctors, Drs. Black, Freeman, Novis and at least one other. Dr Black was a definite first choice. My mother thought the young doctor was lovely and so he became ours whenever possible. It was strange, but many years later, when she had retired, she would babysit for his son’s children. His children then were teenagers and really didn’t require care. Dr Black also makes an appearance as the doctor in Wickergate, my first novel.
As the bus left the school, there was a zebra crossing, and directly on the other side of the road was a sweet shop/tobacconist. This was the source of a range of lollies that will form another blog and the source of whip ‘n’ tops, yoyos, skipping ropes and marbles. On the school side, I remember an old-fashioned clothing shop. It ran a little way along the side road and sold Clark’s Shoes and Ladybird children’s clothes. Next to this was the Conservative Club, and above it was Olga Shear’s ballroom. I only went once for dancing lessons when I was about eleven. It seemed very formal and frightening and I never returned after that first go. That probably saved a lot of toes from being trodden on. I remember a large net suspended over the dance floor that was full of balloons. I supposed they released them towards the end of an evening dance, but I never experienced that. Further along on the other side, there was an antique/junk shop, and it was there that my first and only violin was purchased. I believe there was an electrical shop and, back towards the school, a gent’s barbershop.
There originally were three cinemas in Harehills. The Clock Cinema was the biggest and the newest and the building still remains, but there was one in the centre of Harehills, I think where the supermarket was built, called The Harehills and one on the school side, but nearer to the city, called The Gaiety Kinema, but that closed in 1958. It was replaced by a modern, large pub that developed a bad reputation and was later closed down.
On the junction with Harehills Road, there were shops I remembered well. One I believe, was called Frew’s and sold sports gear, and a couple of shops further up was Varley’s, the toy shop where I bought Airfix Kits. Across from these was a pet shop. I loved looking in the window at the animals and next to that was a café that my mum would occasionally take me and my two brothers to.
The bus ride to sport took us past the roundabout that had Easterley Road running off up the hill, but we carried straight on and passed the Astoria Ballroom, then Turnways Garage and next to it was the Olympia Works. Originally, this was an aircraft factory and the Soldiers Field was a landing strip, although when I was a boy it was no longer a factory, but the buildings housed several small workshops and businesses. Behind it up the hill, hidden in the woods, were aircraft shelters, and I explored these with friends. I am sure they have been removed now for safety reasons. The works are now the TESCO supermarket building but there is a blue plaque there.
On our short journey, we passed Gipton Wood on the right and the tram lines ran all along the route, before their removal in the mid-1950s. We passed through Oakwood and turned up by the Oakwood Clock. The road ran next to it then. Just beyond were the Soldiers’ Fields, where the buses stopped and we poured out. Here we played soccer, cricket and I think we did some athletics, but I can’t remember much about it. I do remember one or two cricket matches with other schools, but I don’t think we did a great deal of inter-school sports.
Soccer meant hordes of us chasing a ball around a pitch. The balls were heavy leather, and when wet, weighed a ton. Woe betides anyone who was unlucky, either by design or error, to head a wet ball. If the skull wasn’t fractured, severe concussion was the likely outcome. Soccer boots, for those fortunate to have them, were heavy, solid leather affairs, with leather studs nailed into the sole. The toe caps were large and rounded and allowed little or no control as to the destination of the ball. If you enjoyed running and playing, it was great, but for those less inclined to play sport, it must have been agony, standing, freezing in the cold. When the games session had finished, we all piled back onto the buses and headed back to school, all with different versions of whether it had been an enjoyable experience or not.
Such innocent, happy times.
If you are interested in the paperback versions of my tales then they are available from Amazon and Kindle and in paperback, hardback and eBook formats. The link can be made by clicking on the pictures below.