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Thread: Memories of Liverpool Past.

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    Member phill's Avatar
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    Default Memories of Liverpool Past.

    If you come from Liverpool chances are you have passed the pub, in Low Hill, on the corner of Holborn Street, the Coach & Horses an old Victorian establishment, now closed and showing its age, windows boarded up the, whole building looking very tired and down at heel but to me it is an icon of a time long ago when as a four year old I sat outside, on the newly tarred forecourt bursting tar bubbles with a discarded match stick while I waited for my dad, a Merchant seaman home on leave. It was Liverpool during the great depression of the 30’s when most people were dirt poor; knowing nothing better the kids never gave their situation a second thought, like their parents they ignored the poverty and just got on enjoying the life they had.

    I lived in Holborn Street with me Mam and two sisters, I was second eldest, a four year old, my eldest sister two years older and the youngest two years younger; our family was my world, I loved my sisters and adored me Mam. Being away at sea, most of the time, my dad was a vague recollection of some one in my past but what I knew of him I loved, he smelt of cigarettes and beer but in my innocence it could have been after shave lotion, he was strong and he had tattoos, he was really my hero at the time and remained so until the day he died fifty six years later.


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    Holborn Street was a different place to the Holborn street of today, the modern houses are palaces compared to those two up two down Victorian houses of sixty seven years ago. The street was cobbled and very narrow, just wide enough to allow a horse and cart to pass through; with houses on either side it seemed crowded and overcast but that could have been an illusion, after all I was just four years old and those slum houses seemed to rise like the walls of a canyon on either side. The houses weren’t really that big, very narrow with three stone steps leading to the front door, a living room and small kitchen on the ground floor and two bedrooms, one atop of the other, there was also a tiny coal cellar with access via an iron grid on the footpath, where the coalman would dump his sacks of coal, it also had a small internal door, giving us access to the black gold, it was a scarce commodity at the time. We also had a small backyard surrounded by a wall which was kept white washed, not forgetting the tin bath hanging on a nail and the outside toilet that backed on to the neighbours next door, so it wasn’t unusual to hear some strange sounds which made me giggle insanely.

    My formative years, a very interesting time when everything was a new experience for me, the rickety trams rattling along heading to the outskirts of Liverpool at the new housing development of Dovecot; I never went there but the Carbury boys, from up the street, once took me to Woolton Woods, the earliest tram ride I can remember … We took a bottle of diluted orange juice, it was meant to be used if one of us fainted, as you can imagine one of our gang would go into a faint every couple of minutes, the orange juice didn’t last long.
    I remember one of the Carbury boys was old; he must have been about eight years and that was really old to me, we all played together in the street and parents weren’t concerned about stranger danger as parents are today … They mustn’t have been because we went to Woolton Woods alone and I clearly remember playing on the fountain opposite the Museum, the one with the statues of ladies with big naked bosom’s … I even remember walking down to the Pier Head with the Carbury boys, I particularly remember the boys lifting me so I could put my head into mouth of a bronze lion head that adorned the door of a building opposite the old Town Hall in Dale Street, that memory returned whenever I passed those doors, even now when I return to Liverpool for a holiday, only now I am in my seventies and no chance of getting my head in the lions mouth. The rag & bone man was a delight for this young scally, he had the horse and cart that came down Holborn Street, on the cart he had merry-go-round of about three horses, he would put you on for a spin if you brought him some rags, it was turned with a big round handle on the side of the cart that had come of a cloths mangle, the sort that was used for wringing the water out of the washing. Another interesting character was the knife sharpener, he had bike with a grind stone above the front wheel, he would jack the wheel off the ground, sit on the bike and peddle away spinning the front wheel that had a sprocket and chain attached to a sprocket on the grind stone, it was quite ingenious and fascinated us scally's. They were care free happy days and happy memories with the Carbury boys, me Mam and me sisters but it was nearing the end of 1939 and I would be turning five in December, soon to start school. I still have a strong memory of me Mam holding me in her arms, she was standing by the window telling me the bombers and Germans would soon be coming but she assured me I would be safe because I had fair hair and blue eyes … I had no idea what the bombers were, or the Germans but I was soon to find out.
    To Be Continued

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    What a fantastic post Phill . Lovely memories shared with us. Many thanks.

    Welcome by the way,

    Kev <<Phill in Perth
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    Senior Member shytalk's Avatar
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    Nice story, wish I could be as descriptive as that.
    You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.
    Winston Churchill

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    Default Memories of Liverpool Past ... Continued

    I was about to turn five and living in Holborn Street, Low Hill with me Mam and two sisters, like the majority of families in Liverpool we were poor but didn’t realize it, we were too busy, too young and too happy, we had no memory of any other life so we just made the best of the one we had. Me Mam had told me the bombers were coming but that was way outside my sphere of understanding, I knew some man name Adolph Hitler was trying to harm us because me and me mates, the Carbury brothers, used to sing a ditty;
    Hitler went up in an aeroplane pale voux
    Hitler went up in an aeroplane pale voux
    Hitler went up in an aeroplane
    I hope he never comes down again
    Inky pinkie pale voux


    I didn’t even know what an aeroplane was let alone Hitler. The war really came home to me when me Mam came home with these funny masks, one for me Mam, one for me, one for my big sister and really big one for my baby sister, they were gas masks and we had to carry them everywhere; the one for my baby sister was big because she had to be placed inside and me Mam had to pump air into it … I hated my gas-mask, it smelled of rubber, was difficult to breath and the Perspex eye piece used to fog up and you couldn’t see, there was going to be many more things I disliked on account of this war. Everything was rationed petrol, clothes, all food and sweets but the food rationing was by far the worst and the most noticeable. I never saw or tasted a banana until the end of the war and the only pineapple I ever tasted came out of a tin, the eggs we had were mostly powdered, for us littlies breakfast was usually pobs (Bread & Milk) and sweets didn’t come off the ration until the fifties but in spite of that we survived, very seldom did you see an obese person.
    There was very few cars or few buses, you could safely play in the street and that’s exactly what kids did, if you see pictures of roads, such as the East Prescott Road, that were take in the war years there is a noticeable lack of traffic; the most common type of transport down to the docks was horse drawn carts.

    Children left to their own devices are quite creative; improvising comes naturally, when we played Cowboys & Indians we would put a long stick of wood in an old tin-can and flatten the can with a brick and that would become a Tomahawk, an old bike wheel, without a tyre, would be rolled around the street guided and propelled with a stick and it would keep us entertained for hours, steering carts were another joy, we didn’t need expensive computers, MP3 players or electronic gizmos to entertain us, a Macintosh slung across the shoulders, the top button fastened at the neck, became a cloak and when we wanted a horse it was there, we just needed to slap ourselves on the bum and gallop away.

    I’d turned five on December 30th, so it was after the Christmas holiday that I was enrolled in the infants’ class at the Sacred Heart School which was diagonally opposite the Coach & Horses. I clearly remember my first day, my teacher was Miss Green, we were all a little apprehensive this was a totally different experience to anything we’d ever had before; to reassure and settle us we were each given a musical instrument made of tin, tin whistles, tin tambourines, tin drums, tin cymbals and triangles … I finished up with a triangle, however I can’t recall any directive from Miss Green, the only thing I can remember was this incredible cacophony of sound, tin on tin … poor Miss Green!
    My memory of school ends there, I don’t think there was a second day, later I discovered the school had been evacuated to North Wales.

    My next memory is when me Mam, me older sister and I were in the back of a lorry driving around all over the place.
    The back of the lorry was full with mothers and kids, my mother would have been about twenty nine years old and I suppose the rest of the women were around the same age, as we drove from place to place the women would sing, “Lay That Pistol Down Babe” “You Are my Sunshine” and a bawdy song that was popular at the time, “Roll Me Over In The Clover” … they were trying to make light of difficult times.

    We seemed to go from church hall to church hall and at each we were met by Boy Scouts who gave us sandwiches, cake and other goodies, at one place we were each given a brown paper shopping bag that contained all sorts of good stuff but the only thing I remember was a small flat bar of Fry’s Chocolate, I could hardly believe my luck, a whole bar of chocolate all to myself … riding in the back of the lorry was good! We stopped at one place, I think it was a farm, I know there was a huge pigeon loft because the man gave me a pigeon which I cupped in my little hands … I was delighted, I’d never been this close to a bird let alone holding one in my hands but suddenly the bird flapped its wings and flew away, I was beside myself, the man had given me a pigeon and I had let it escape … I was very distressed but the farmer was very kind and told me not to worry, he said the bird would return … Of course it would, it was a bloody homing pigeon but I didn’t know that, it wasn’t until much later in my life that I learnt about pigeons.

    After a while we stopped in a little village where again we alighted from the back of the lorry, me Mam took my hand and my big sister’s, and we all went into a house where the lady being very kind, gave me some cake but then it was time to go only this time the lady of the house held my sister’s hand, me Mam hugged bent forward and hugged and kissed my sister Elizabeth, then she took me in her arms and hurried down the path back towards the lorry, tears were streaming down her cheeks and this caused me to cry… why was she leaving Elizabeth here, why, I just didn’t understand?

    Soon we stopped in a little cul-de-sac outside a row of semi-detached houses with neat little gardens and lots of flowers, this time me Mam took me in her arms and we walked up to the front door of a house and it was opened by a kindly looking woman wearing a pinafore, her greying hair tied back in a bun. Again I was given a piece of cake and a class of milk, I could hardly believe it, this was all so extravagant, we could never afford luxuries like this at home in Holborn Street. Me Mam stood by the door talking with aunt Ginny for that was what me Mam had told me to call the lady. .. I was still confused by the loss of Elizabeth and feeling quite apprehensive, I really had no idea what was going on … Suddenly I was in my mothers arms, she was crushing me to her breast and kissing me, once again the tears were rolling down her cheeks, the next thing I was standing next to aunt Ginny and me Mam was out of the door, I started screaming for her to come back but it was all to no avail, she’d gone … I was an evacuee.

    I was extremely lucky, the Edgar’s, the family I was billeted with, took me to their hearts and treated me like the son they never had. Uncle Len was a veteran of the First World War and worked on the railway as a signal man, aunt Ginny really was the kind loving lady I’d imagined her to be when I first saw her, then there was Doreen, the same name as my baby sister back in Holborn Street, she was eleven years old, red hair and she loved me as if I really was her little brother.
    Things got better when I first attended the school, it was the Sacred Heart, same name as my first school, in the playground I got the surprise of my life when my big sister Elizabeth appeared, she was also enrolled at this school but the biggest surprise was when we got inside… It was a hall divided into classrooms with Black boards and my teacher was none other than Miss Green, even some of the kids from the infant class at the Low Hill, Sacred Heart School were there, I soon discovered this was the same school and it had been evacuated to Gresford, my concerns were diluted, I was among friends.
    The ten months I spent in Gresford were happy days, I got a taste of country life, saw my first cows and sheep and had my first ride on horse, it really was a delight, far different to the life I’d come to know in the city … Then one day my hero, my Dad came for me, he missed me and wanted me home, it was just wonderful to be with him, we travelled home to Liverpool on the bus. There was a lot of old car bodies lying around in the fields and I asked my Dad what they were for, he told me they were for the cows and sheep to shelter in when it rained, talk about misinformation, I later discovered they were there to prevent glider born forces from landing in the fields … An invasion was expected any day! My Dad got me back to Liverpool just in time for the May blitz of 1941.

    I never did forget the Edgar’s, I cycled to Gresford many times in my youth but was always to unsure to knock on their door … I took my Australian daughter and granddaughter there in 2001 but uncle Len and aunt Ginny had long passed on, later I did manage to track down Doreen Edgar, she is living in Tasmania a long way from me, we did correspond via e-mail for a while but eventually I lost her address… I spoke to her on the telephone and the first thing she said to me was, “Are you really my little brother from all those years ago.” I had to wipe a tear from my eye when she said that.

    To Be Continued

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    Member phill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shytalk View Post
    Nice story, wish I could be as descriptive as that.

    Thanks ar Shy and thanks for telling me about YoLiverpool, I'll catch you at The Sailor's Home

  6. #6
    PhilipG
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    Very well told, Phill.
    It's just like being there.

    I wish my memory was so good.

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