Monday, 2 May 2011

Delivering the milk.

Some of the Dawson family out for a stroll on a cold day!
These fields are now built upon, and the old farm in the background a heap of rubble.
As children we knew every inch of this walk. The streets of our small community being to the left of the photo, back down the hill.
The farm belonged to the Pickles family, and they and another farmer, who also had a dairy herd, called Mr Clarke, provided us with milk.
Mr Clarke had a horse and cart, which he loaded with two large milk churns and he would clatter along the cobbles at the bottom of the streets, and leave the horse waiting whilst he filled a smaller churn which he would then carry to each house, where he poured out the fresh milk into the jugs, or small metal cans, waiting sometimes on the yard steps or walls. Each jug had a cover. Some of these were of material which was beaded around the edges, to stop it from slipping off or being blown about. Also good to keep out the flies! I do remember him coming up our back street with his larger "billycan".
Then if we were not at school we would ask him if we could have a ride in the small cart back to his farm.
It was situated in the distance, as the crow flies, of this photo.
I liked the feel of the pull of the cart, as the old cart horse wound his way back up the farm lane. There was a rhythm to the movement.
The old lane is long gone but I did manage to find the entrance on my trip there 2 years ago. All overgrown and only the impressions remain. The old stone walls which lined the route are able to be seen if you look carefully enough. The lane is called Reeds Lane, and in the 1940's my mum's brother and his wife and baby daughter lived in a cottage at the top, next to the
farm. It was called Reeds Cottage, and adjoined the barn where the horse was stabled.
If the horse got restless, they could hear him. His great hooves shifting on the stone floor.
And Auntie Lily would say, so the story goes,
" Not to worry, it's only t'orse"
Once the horse and cart reached the farm we would get down and then wend our way home down the lane and on through the fields.
Happy times.

Earliest memories. 1950's East Street............. Coal men

Here I am outside the front door of number 12 East Street when I was about 4 years old. The tiny front garden was flanked by a low stone wall. On top of the walls in each street were regularly spaced circular iron knobbly remains of the railings which had all been sawn off and donated to the 1939-45 war effort.They were noticeable when you sat on one! We did have a small iron gate.

In the recent picture below, of number 14, which is now for sale, the walls are still the original ones, and retain their old character.
The old front door was a wooden one with a heavy iron door-knocker, and a circular doorknob.
In between the gate and the front door, as you will be able to picture here, there was a square manhole cover. This led directly to the cellar via a small chute, and was used for the coal men to tip in their delivery bags. If you happened to be standing in the passage between the front door and the back room when they began to pour in the coal it was a frightening experience when you were young! To me it sounded like the low rumbles of thunder under the floor!
Dad had to go down the cellar to shovel the coal along or else when he came home from work, the last few bags would sometimes not be able to shunt down the chute as it was all backed up. And before you could enter by the front door the pile of remaining black nuggets had to be shifted. It had a name.........................." Best nutty slack"
The coal men had leather backed jerkins, and used to shoulder the bags, and then have to carry them up the steep streets, having left their delivery flatbed truck at the bottom of the hill. They were always covered in coal dust. And looked as though their faces peered out of blackness, the whites of their eyes standing out. Of course this necessitated a thorough cleaning of the flags by the door afterwards, and then the usual bar of " donkey stone" came out to whiten the edges of the front step. It was like a small bar of hard biscuit coloured chalk, and the women folk got them from the rag and bone man, in exchange for the old clothes. As one of the old sayings goes, "Tha con allus afooard sooap!" Translated...................... "You can always afford soap"

Thursday, 21 April 2011

" I have often walked down this street before"!!

Peter Fisher has a superb set of old photos which you can see on the web. As I browse through them, all my early childhood comes alive.
Our world was in these streets, which you can see here on the Land registry plan. (click on the photo to see the larger version).
East Street, where I was born, and in the first picture, (the house on the left with the wooden fence and small conifer),Thorn Street, Woodcroft Street, Rosedale Street and Terrace, Burnley Road, and Westwood Terrace were bounded by the main road running along the valley, and in the east by fields and beyond the fields the hills.
On the map the plans for the first new houses can be seen, to be built on the fields in which we played. The factory lodge is visible at the top, with the stream which fed it with water from the hillsides.
As you look down each street from the top, you look out over to the hillside opposite and the woods which belonged to Cicely Brooks, and always known as Brooks' Woods.
Of course we used to go and play in there, keeping well away from the big Hall and its owner! It was a magical place then, in the days when we used to make our own fantasy world.
Each street aside from those by the main road, was very steep, but the gradient became less challenging as you progress towards Woodcroft Street from East Street.
Brilliant for sledging in the winter, but as you can see, extremely challenging when sledging down our back!! Olympic Bob sleigh teams had nothing on us!!
We had to make a hair-raising stop at the bottom, or cannon into the brick walls of the yards of the houses on Westwood terrace.
But I can you condense so much history into a small space!!
As I had my trip down memory lane in June 2008, I wondered how on earth the dustbin men ever managed to collect the bins from our street! Let alone the wheelie ones which now have taken over............I lived at No 12, but we couldn't see a bin with that number on to have the statutory photo!
And after all these years from the early '5o's when my childhood began, to this day, those of us who lived there still talk about it with great affection, and still share our history together. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished DVD being made by Ken Stott.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Childhood friends of the 50's and 60's

In June 2008 I spent several days staying with my dad in Rawtenstall, and managed to arrange to see 3 of my old childhood friends.
We all used to live in the area called Woodcroft, a community of several streets bordered by a factory to the north and a playing field to the south. It was situated in a narrow valley on the the main road between
Rawtenstall and Burnley. Bounded by fields and hills.
The old streets are still there.
And every time I have been there to visit I usually pay it a sentimental call.
We had a childhood that most children couldn't even dream of today. Such freedom to roam the hills, catch sticklebacks in the stream, climb trees, play out in the streets, or in one another's homes.
My sister, Shirley is writing her own blog about the special times we all spent as children in that neighbourhood.
It was such a close community that a reunion was mooted in 2001 September and around 130+ people came along.
Lots of laughter, meeting up with folk we hadn't seen for years, or those with whom we had kept in touch.
In the photos I took, are the 4 of us. Left to right:
Susan, (née Bartlett), me, Maureen (née Fisher) and Val (née Hollows).
The picture was taken in front of the same window where the Coronation group was assembled in 1953.

See if you can possibly spot us all in the picture above!
We all went for a walk tracing our favourite haunts, trying to pinpoint their locations, and some of them have not changed. The first picture is more or less as it was then. The view is timeless. Cribden and Little Cribden hills in the background. We knew every inch. I loved climbing to the top, looking out over the valley of Rossendale. The feel of the spiky grass when you sat down for a break.

The sound of the skylark in spring. There was always a cuckoo, and I knew that summer was on its way. Spring carpeted the fields and hills in buttercups, daisies, mayflowers, kingcups by the streams, bluebells in the woods across the road, sweet smelling purple and white clover.......... the rhythm of the seasons had a pattern we followed. Our games matched the time of year, sledging in the winter down the steep streets and hillsides, "swealing" grass in spring.
The farmers sometimes burned off the old pasture, to let the new grass grow. In that area it was known as swealing. It had a very distinctive smell. And we from time to time helped the process along! Then had fun stamping it out!! Health and Safety eat your hearts out!! Paddling in the nearby stream everyone knew as Little Blackpool, community bonfire, courtesy of Mr Pickles the farmer. Church "Walking Days" very much a feature of the North I always felt. These were at Whitsuntide and were known also as "Whit Walks". The church congregation adults at the back, and the Sunday School girls' classes wearing special dresses and the lads in white shirts and dark trousers, usually with white pumps on their feet, at the front. Some of them designated to carry the church banners. It was quite a sight when the brass bands processing in front of each church converged on the town centre for a united service on the spare ground. Other churches had "Rose Queens" who rode on a decorated float with whitewashed tyres, garlanded with flowers.

The next photo is an old friend of mine Janet, in the lane to Pickles farm. I used to go with my dad at times to get some more milk if we had run out. If we went at night he took a torch and it made a pool of light around our feet when it was particularly dark. In moonlight everything was bathed in silver. The trees looked so different. Sound seemed to be
magnified...................the swish of the wind through the grass and the leaves rustling, as we crunched along the stony lane. Lights twinkling behind us from the houses we had left behind.
So many, many memories, so many stories! And now it is proposed to make a kind of Living History DVD, with Vox Pop's interviews and old photos, interspersed with a commentary.
So, I hope that it does our childhood proud. It is absolutely worth the effort.

The picture below is of the Sunnyside Baptist Church Rose Queen float in 1960.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

More Childhood memories.

St Paul's C of E Church, Constable Lee, Rawtenstall, Rossendale, Lancashire.

After I was born in 1948, I was taken to this church to be christened. There are old photos of my parents standing on the church drive, holding me in their arms. It was my first introduction to St Paul's. I grew to love the church, as it stands on a steep bank, leading up to the fields and hillsides behind.
It was just behind the C of E Primary school, where eventually I would begin my education. The church and school being linked.
My memories of the church are coloured by the seasons of the year.

At Christmas time, I would step inside and feel the warmth and musty smell generated by the old coke-burning boilers. It came up through vents in the tiled floor.
The large Christmas tree at the front sent out a wonderful pine scent, and with the organ softly playing before the beginning of the service, it was an oasis of tranquility. The lights on the tree twinkling and reflecting in the few delicate glass ornaments with which it was decorated.

The timelessness of singing carols,

The sense of excitement that Christmas Day was approaching

And even now, for me, Christmas always begins with the Children's service in the morning, and the Carol service at night.
The Sunday School which I attended there when I was older, rehearsed in time honoured fashion, unitl we all found ourselves in the front pews, (in my case a bit nervous!), ready to say or sing our pieces.
Eventually, I graduated to singing in the choir when I was 8 years old, until I was 15 years old. It was then began to learn how to sing the traditional anthems, and the Christmas oratorios. We only sang parts of them, but it introduced me to a love of singing in four part harmony.
We were very fortunate to have a wonderful choir master, called George Allen, who was well known in our area, for his sonorous bass baritone voice.He sang solos for productions of Handel's "Messiah" and listening to him sing was a delight.

The Stained Glass Window.

One thing I did love very much was the stained glass window. It seemed to me to evoke a distant land, one which was far away, and the depiction of the shepherd and the sheep was not a wishy washy sentimental thing but something which stirred in me a feeling that there was a bigger story to be told.
Each week I would walk up the curving drive as it wound it's way up to the top of the small hill where the church was situated.
And each season was different.

In the spring the budding trees were just beginning to get ready to burst open and unfurl their new leaves. In the picture of the drive you can see the gatepost at the bottom and the end of the row of houses which bordered the schoolyard. I find myself remembering the scent of the early flowering redcurrant, or "ribes" to give it its name. It had a distinctive pungent scent and to this day when I smell it, it takes me back down memory lane. There are one or two small bushes in the picture, with the daffodils. A pinky red splash by the path. On warm summer days we could walk home by going through a small gate at the back of the church into the field paths and I absolutely adored the view of the hills opposite. Cribden and Little Cribden as they are called. They had and still do have, a distinctive shape.

The sun went down just behind them and in November it sometimes looked like a huge, flaming, deep red ball, resting for a while at the summit before slipping out of sight.
There was a richness in my childhood, which surfaces in images and impressions like tapping into a huge underground vein of valuable ore. Those of us who lived as children in that neighbourhood still talk about it and some of us are still in touch, 50 or so years on. We tramped the hills, played out in the streets, and fields, and made up our own entertainment, indoors and out. We were very privileged.
A lasting legacy of parents, teachers, church, and a more simple way of life.

(In the last picture the shape of Cribden Hill can just about be seen through the foliage of the trees and bushes.)

Saturday, 19 December 2009

More Childhood memories!!

Childhood memories

This is my mum, Ethel Smith. I have been writing a lot about my dad, now 91, and as he has now moved it has stirred a lot of memories.

My mum died aged just 70 in 1990, so dad has been a widower for 20 years in 2010.

The photo was taken at Rawtenstall market, when the local paper was doing a shopper's survey.
It's how I remember my mum, smiling.
Last night was so cold that I thought of one of her sayings " It's cold when you move."
We had no central heating in the house where I was born, and dad stoked up the coal fire ready to be lit each morning downstairs.

Here is a photo of the back of the street in which I lived until I was 13 years old.
Once we were all snugly ensconsed in front of the blazing coals in the grate, in the winter months, in the evening, or indeed anytime, when you moved into the small out-kitchen you did feel the drop in temperature!!
Going to bed in the winter was challenging in our two up two down small terraced home.
There were no carpets upstairs, just what we called oilcloth on the floor. It was a forerunner of linoleum or vinyl covering.
If you did not wear your slippers, your feet hit the icy cold of its smooth surface.
My sister and I shared a room at the back, looking over the factory roof, towards the big woods on the hillside opposite.
Commonly known as "Brook's Woods" as a landowner named Cicely Brooks lived in Crawshaw Hall, and the grounds
included the wood.
In the mornings of the depths of winter time,the bedroom window could be covered on the inside with a beautiful frost pattern. A whole world of filigree and fronds, a veritable forest of ice. I would make a hole in the pattern with the end of one of my fingers, and the ice would melt slowly around it, slipping downwards making a trail as it moved.
My mum would make breakfast porridge to stoke me up before I walked to school a half mile or so away.
I watched it bubbling in the pan making miniature volcanoes! Then she poured it into our bowls and laced it with milk and syrup!! And out I went in the cold.My sister being 5 years younger than myself did not begin school until I was 10 years old. We moved house when I was 13 and she was 8 years old to the home which has now been sold.

I realised that I have a very visual memory, which is probably why from an early age I loved to draw and paint. I used to paint pictures using poster paint on the plaster of the attic walls at the first house where I was born, in February 1848.
At school I loved the art lessons. At Primary school in the 1950's these consisted of little more than painting using powered paint mixed in old jam jars, on fairly cheap paper.

Or making papier maché plates which we then painted and took home.
I also remember basket making using supple canes, and weaving.
I guess just after the war years it was difficult to find funding for more exotic pastimes!! But we didn't know any difference.
But it is the winter of which I now write.
It always seemed to snow..........but there again maybe that's how I remember it. We had two yards at the school in the picture, one for the girls and one for the boys. When it was particulary cold and snowy, and the frost had frozen the snow, we were allowed to play outside at breaktimes, and more often than not constructed what we called "bottle ice" slides. These were such fun and exhilarating to use.
We made them by charging at a terrific pace and then began to slide along the top of the frozen snow, and as we continually repeated this action the result was a long shiny slide of ice along the playground flags, which were covered by freezing cold whiteness!!
Health and Safety would have banned them completely now!! Spoil sports!!
We did not come to any harm save for the occasional tumble if we overbalanced and it was great exercise outdoors making our feet and fingers tingle and our cheeks glow.
And the subzero temperatures here last night brought these memories to mind.
More to come.............................................