Dovecot was a wonderful concept in public housing, built during the great depression of the thirties, mainly three bedroom houses with bathroom and inside toilet; a big change from two up two down terrace houses of the city from whence most of the tenants came.
Many of the families knew each other from their previous city existence and the authority’s experiment in social engineering paid off by maintaining the familiarity of old neighbours and neighborhoods.
Those first families took pride in their new houses and it wasn’t long before Dovecot got that homey, comfortable feel of a much loved suburb. The red brick houses with their bay windows, gardens bordered by privet hedges and tree lined streets … I always saw Dovie as a new age village, it certainly had the atmosphere of a village, and as you walked from whichever road you lived in to the Dovecot arches you would be able to greet by name almost everyone you passed.
Growing up in Dovecot was a pleasure, young people were brought up to respect older people and the property of others … there was no such thing as graffiti, boys and girls took pride in the neatness of their suburb and never did anything to spoil it.
Most of the older children who were reaching the end of their academic life, prior to leaving the city, finished off their school years at Grant Road Senior School and those just starting school enrolled at Winstone Road Primary school.
In many respects Dovie was a self contained suburb, catering for people right across the board. For the movie lovers there was the Granada Cinema, the sport minded people had lots of open space in which to play football, also the “Dovecot Baths”, a very modern swimming complex at the time, for others there was the Dovecot Park with its pond and Lawn Bowles and of course there were plenty of shops, the main centre being under the arches but there more shops on Dinas Lane , the top of Grant road, the Co-op on Pagemoss Lane and many more centers stretching from the junction of Pagemoss Lane and Piltch Lane down to Campbell Drive.
My personal experience was enrolling at Dovecot Modern Secondary School in 1946. Having moved from the city with my family I found Grant Road School quite awe-inspiring … I thought it was so posh and even more so when I got my school uniform of black blazer, gray flannel pants and the colourful, sky blue badge emblazoned with a dark blue ‘D’ enclosing an open book and a Dove-cote …… I almost considered myself a college pudding’.
Grant Road was segregated, girls on one side and boys on the other … the classrooms for both boys and girls surrounded well tended quadrangles … for a young fellow who previously only saw grass in Woolton Woods this was really the icing on the cake, as far as I was concerned I had finally made it. “Dovie was the place to be.”
For the young people is was a haven, plenty of space to move around, a half hour walk would see you in the countryside where Conkers, Bird eggs and other such things, that were treasures to little boys, could be found. In the evenings we would be home with the family listening to the radio, reading a book or doing school homework; one enduring memory I have is sitting around the radio with my Mam and sisters listening to a radio adaptation of the H, Rider Haggard story of “King Solomon’s Mine.” It was so exciting, each episode ending at a crucial part of the story; from memory I think the play was stretched over a period of six weeks … it kept this young fellows mind occupied and introduced him to the medium of radio as a source of entertainment.
In the late 1940’s the war had ended and for my generation it opened a whole new way of life. My peers and I had been born during times of great financial hardship, the Great Depression of the 30’s, the majority of families were dirt poor but we didn’t realize it because we were too busy living, and that Liverpool sense humour kept us going, we were just too happy to allow poverty to dim our spirits … we never ever considered that we might be poor; we had our Mam and siblings and we knew no other life so things could only get better.
Moving to Dovecot things did get better; we made new friends and acquired new interests. The road was our playground, the motor vehicle was yet to dominate our existence, anyone who owned a car was considered posh … we had only two cars in Grant Road, so the roads belonged to the kids.
In the summer our evenings were taken up playing Cricket, Football or Re-alleyo. In this game sides were picked, usually by one of the street hero’s (boys with leadership potential) and a ‘Den’ would be marked out on the footpath with a piece of chalk. The team that was “it” would run in a bounded area and the other team would try to catch them, once caught the prisoner would be taken to the den which was guarded by a an opposing team member … it would then become the aim, of the prisoners team mates, to run through the den crying, “Re-alleyo” an action that released any prisoners in the den … the game would continue until all of the opposing team were caught and put in the den. It was a fun game and kept us all fit and healthy.
Sometime in the late 40’s the radio serial, “D*ick Barton Special Agent” began.
The broadcast with its recognizable theme tune would start every evening for five nights commencing at 6-45PM and run for thirty minutes … it would have all the kids abandoning play to run home, in eager anticipation, to see what adventure D*ick Barton and his side kicks Snowy & Jock were up to. It was a real adventure that saw our hero’s getting out of all sorts of difficult situations … the sound affects consisted of grunts, slaps and punches as D*ick, Snowy and Jock sorted out the villains, the roads remained empty of kids until this program was finished.
Another venue of great excitement for the young people was the Saturday Matinee at the Granada cinema. Most of us became members of the ABC Minors and on Saturday we kids would form a queue stretching around the Granada and wait noisily for the doors to open a 11AM … once inside the noise would become deafening as kids shouted to each other and stamped their feet as a signal to management to get on with the show, then it would start. A member of the cinema staff would act as compare as the screen came alive with the words of the ABC Minors anthem … all the little rascals would follow the bouncing ball screaming the words of the song:
We are the boy’s and girl’s well known as
The minors of the ABC
And every Saturday we line up to see the films we like
And shout aloud with glee
We like to laugh and have a sing-song
Just a happy band are we
We’re all pals together the minors of the ABC
The ABC was the name of the cinema chain. Once the song was out of the way we would watch a comedy short such as “The Three Stooges” it was then time for this weeks episode of the serial that in last week’s episode had left someone in dire threat from the “Clutching Hand”… somehow the person being threatened always managed to escape.
The kids would stamp there feet and jeer when the baddy made an appearance and cheer for the good guys …. It was heaps of fun and if the movie happened to be a western arms would be taken out of coat sleeves and the coat thrown over the shoulders and secured with one button at the neck to represent a cape; the would be cowboys would then gallop off down the Dovecot Arches slapping their bottoms as they went on the pretext of slapping a horse … young imaginations are magical, kids could be what ever they wanted to be … pity we relinquished that talent.
The winter months would see the kids in the street making ice slides, invariably under a lamp light so the slide could be used in the dark. Once the sliders were confident with their balance you would see all sorts acrobatic stances as they sped down the ice, it was really quite remarkable to see some of these young sliders in action.
Not everyone liked the slides, especially the more senior citizens who could quite easily fall and sustain serious injury, it wasn’t uncommon for some adult to destroy the slide by covering it with salt when all of the kids had gone in to bed; if this did happen the children would be respectful enough to make a new slide on the road itself.
Yes, growing up in Dovecot was wonderful … if I had to do it all again it would be just as pleasurable. Those young people of my generation went on to become responsible citizens and many visit the suburb of youthful memories, quite a few come from far off countries that they have adopted and now call home but I am certain, that like me, they will never forget those wonderful far off days of long ago.
If you live in Dovecot, on some balmy summer evening take the time to sit quietly and perhaps you will hear the echo of childish voices, from the past, crying out “Re-alleyo” as they run through the den releasing their pals to the freedom of the wind.