David’s Bookshelf Issue 2 – Cup of Tea Tales
- David’s Bookshelf Issue 2
- David’s Bookshelf – Issue One
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Lifetime of Global Successes, Disasters and Wonders! Space the Final Frontier.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hetchell Woods (Bardsey) and Crags – A Special Piece of God’s Own Country or County! One of my Favourite Places to Visit.
- ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Wonderful Yorkshire Dales. Trollers Gill, a Place with a Mysterious Legend and the Hell Hole where I Diced with Death.
When I cast my mind back to my earliest days, the memories come pouring out. It is a little like taking the top off a pop bottle that had been shaken, and it comes frothing out uncontrollably. The interesting thing is that one memory leads to others that you had long forgotten. Some feedback will mention something I had forgotten and the tastes, sounds, and smells come back and take you to those times of youth and innocence. Oh, how the world has changed in one lifetime! My father used to tell me he wrote on a slate at primary school in Scotland. I thought he must have lived in the Stone Age and here I am doing the same. My children and grandchildren will think similar things about me.
I was born in 1954. I can’t remember that, but I clearly remember my first house. My earliest memories were before I started school, so must have been from the age of two or three. We lived at, 36 Lawrence Avenue, which was on the right as you reached the top of Easterley Road, just before the roundabout at Oakwood Lane. The street comprised small semi-detached houses and ours was two bedroomed. It backed onto the large council housing estate of Gipton. Our family at that time consisted of my parents, older brother and me.
I have memories of sitting with my mother when ‘Listen With Mother’ was on the radio. The stories and songs used to entertain me, and my mother would have a few minutes’ quiet time. Afterwards, I would sit playing with toy cars, soldiers or something similar. My older brother would have been at school. My mum told my wife that when I was little that all I needed was a cardboard box and I was happy for hours. These were pre-school times, and I started Stainbeck Preparatory School at four years old.
At the top of Easterley Road, at the junction with Arlington Road, were shops on both sides of the road. I remember going with my mother to the greengrocer’s and she would ask for two pounds of potatoes and the shopkeeper would scoop them out of a sack , or sometimes out of a box arrangement which was open at the bottom. A little like a giant bird feeder, so when potatoes were removed from the bottom, they were replaced by those stored above. The scoop was a silver bowl, and the keeper estimated the order, placed them on the scales, added weights and maybe added or removed a potato or two. He would then pour them directly into my mother’s shopping bag. Carrots might be next, and the same procedure took place, and the vegetables were all loose in the bag. There were no fridges and so shopping was an everyday occurrence, and as we walked to the shops, you could only buy what you could carry.
Other shops that were there were two butchers, one on either side of the road. I remember they were Dewhurst’s on the left side as you looked away from Harehills and Dyson’s on the right. Dewhurst’s was the bigger of the two. Both had large wooden chopping boards, and I was fascinated to see the butcher chop meat whilst we waited. Sometimes, they wore a chain-mail gauntlet, and they sliced and cut the meat with razor-sharp knives. They both had bacon slicers and I am not sure which of these caused Mr Dyson to lose a finger, but he had certainly lost most of one. As a young lad, I used to listen with interest to the banter between the butchers and the women shopping. It was always good-humoured and probably, looking back with adult eyes, a little cheeky.
There was also a fish and chip shop, Youngmans. It was like the one at Oakwood because it had the art déco style. There were highly polished finishes and counters. I remember the one in Youngmans depicting the tale of the Pied Piper in bright colours. Looking back, it seemed an odd tale for a fish shop, but it also had brightly coloured tiles, windows and mirrors, most of which had fish or fish scenes. I remember people would queue out of the door when it was open, as it had an excellent reputation and was very popular. Who could resist haddock or cod and chips with scraps? Our arteries must have loved it, but there was nothing better than the aroma of warm newspaper, grease, fish, chips, scraps and vinegar. It is so evocative and I don’t think fish and chips ever taste better than when served in such a way.
There was a Post Office, and it was here that my mum would wait to collect her family allowance, have her book stamped and then be given the cash. I would often be allowed a Lucky Bag, if I was good, and I remember the excitement of opening it up to see what mysteries were inside, usually a couple of tattoo transfers, skull and crossbones, heart with a knife through it, a few sweets and a gobstopper. I can’t remember there ever being much, but they were a treat.
On the same parade of shops was a grocer and here biscuits were bought out of large biscuit boxes and again they were spooned into the silver scale dish, weighed and then poured into large brown paper bags. The shopkeeper would skilfully hold the corners of the bags, swing the contents around to fasten them, and then add them to the growing collection of purchases in the shopping bag. There was no plastic of any sort at these times. There was also a bakery and on special occasions, mum would go in a buy me a gingerbread pig. I loved them. She would also buy a fresh cream cake, and that would carefully be carried home to share out later.
Where we lived was probably an area for up-and-coming families. The houses were privately owned and my father was an engineer. He worked at Cattons in Black Bull Street, Hunslet, and he was then the Chief Inspector of Steel Castings. He was doing well and I remember that when we got our first car, it was one of very few in the street and I believe that when we got our first black and white television, it was the first and neighbours would come around to have a look at it. The picture quality would be laughable now, as it would flicker, and you would need to adjust the vertical and horizontal hold on the cathode ray tube. What it brought into my and my older brother’s world was children’s programmes. Who could forget Muffin the Mule, Rag Tag and Bobtail, The Woodentops and the spottiest dog you ever saw, Andy Pandy, and Sooty with Harry Corbett? What joys! Parents must have loved it! We would sit and watch Children’s Hour and there would not be a sound from us.
TV was very different in those days. The voices of the presenters were so posh it was unbelievable. I never knew anyone who spoke in such a way. There were intermissions, and test cards and sometimes services would break down and you were informed they would be resumed shortly. Variety shows were the main adult entertainment and there were quiz shows, such as Double Your Money and Take Your Pick. Fillers were the Westerns. Roy Rogers and Trigger, Champion the Wonder Horse and The Lone Ranger fulfilled our boyish dreams of excitement. Robin Hood with Richard Greene and William Tell gave another angle to the American influence. Who could resist booing at the Sheriff of Nottingham or Gessler?
In 1957, Pinky and Perky was one of the early puppet shows and it linked popular music with comedy. Other delights were: Torchy the Battery Boy, 1960, where Gerry Anderson was the producer, Four Feather Falls ran until 1960 again with Gerry Anderson, Supercar 1961-62, and Later Thunderbirds. Limited cartoons such as Noggin the Nog 1959-65 and Captain Pugwash 1957were performed live with cardboard cutouts and then filmed. “Coddling catfish!” it was good.
There were the joys and frustration of getting a stable picture on the TV. Indoor aerials would have to be repositioned to try and get a good picture on the screen, but we didn’t care and we watched the tiny grey and ghostly pictures with wonder.
When I started at Harehills County Primary School, things were changing and one of these was that I sometimes had a little pocket money and I could go after school to spend it. The sweetshop across the road from the school was Ashworths, and a reader reminded me of frozen Jubblies, so I thought I’d better delve into the wonderful world of sweets, or lollies, as they are called here in Perth, Western Australia.
The shop across from Harehills C.P. School was a treasure trove for a young boy with a few pennies to spend. The shop bell would sound as you entered a world that childhood dreams were made of. In those days, there was little that you could pick up and handle. Sweets were kept behind the counter in glass jars with screw tops. They offered a cornucopia of tantalising tastes for young palates. The whole process of asking for two ounces of aniseed balls and then standing, whilst the shopkeeper found the correct jar, screwed the lid off, poured an amount into the silver pan of the scales, made adjustments and then poured the contents into a cone bag, or later a square white-paper bag, was magical.
Just a little of the range was Black Jacks, Fruit Salads, liquorice root, liquorice pipes, flying saucers, Hubba Bubba bubble gum, Little Imps, Cherry Lips, Love Hearts, Victory V Lozenges, aniseed balls, Sports Mixture, sweet cigarettes, Camel brand chocolate cigarettes, gob-stoppers, sherbet dips, Lucky Bags. Riley’s Chocolate Toffee Rolls, Refreshers, parma violets, bananas, shrimps, sherbert fountains, walnut whips, cinder toffee, treacle toffee lollies in silver tart trays, toffee apples, Smith’s crisps with little blue twisted bags of salt, Sunpat raisins, pear drops, lemon drops, acid drops, cough candy, mint humbugs, rock, sherbet lemons, dolly mixtures, liquorice all-sorts and jelly babies. I am sure that I have probably missed out on your favourites.
You left the shop with your little bag, and all was right with the world. Apparently, there was ether and chloroform in the Victory V lozenges and there was an enforced change to the recipe, and they were never the same again. For those who are uninitiated, liquorice root was the actual root of a plant. It was a yellow colour and when chewed, it gave off a strong liquorice flavour, mixed with woody splinters. It was definitely an acquired taste and the woody residue had to be spat into the bins.
The shop also sold comics and there were Superhero ones from the USA. I enjoyed the stories, but what always fascinated me were the adverts. I remember X-Ray glasses, sea monkeys. Apparently, sea monkeys were some sort of brine shrimp that were in suspended animation when dried, but came back to life when poured into a jar of water. The fact that we couldn’t buy what American children could, made them even more desirable. When you were really flush with money, you may have left with lollies and a comic.
If, for some reason, the shop was closed, there were a couple of coin-operated dispensing machines outside. One would dispense Arrowmint chewing gum in packets and another bubble gumballs. You put your penny in, waited for it to drop, turned the handle and listened for the gum to drop. If you were really lucky, you may find two when you opened the door to the drawer. When that happened, you were indeed blessed and the day could get no better.