The Liverpool of 1948 was an entirely different Liverpool to the Liverpool of today and this was especially so for the young people, no TV, Ipods or Computers they weren’t even on the radar as far as we were concerned, young lads & lasses were content to amuse ourselves with street games and listening to the radio; Dick Barton Special Agent was a special favourite who, with his side kicks Snowy and Jock, would sort out the villains and we lapped it up, chewing on our sticky-lice with not a drug in sight.
Yes! It was possible for kids to play in the street in those days, they weren’t cluttered with parked cars, even main roads such as Queens Drive and East Prescott Road had limited traffic perhaps forty vehicles an hour; in fact anyone who owned a car was considered to be posh, I lived in Dovecot and our milkman Willy Wilson used a horse & cart and Ken Dodd delivered our coal.
Dovecot, Huyton, Norris Green and Kirkby were the new suburbs, the planning concept was ultra modern compared with the terraces of the city dwellers. Dovecot consisted of neat red brick, pebble-dashed, three bedroom houses with bathroom and inside toilet. It was a big difference from the city where most had a tin bath hanging from a nail in the back yard, it was brought in inside on a Saturday evening, filled with hot water via kettle so the kids could take our weekly bath. Almost all city dwellings had outside toilets with newspaper, cut into usable size, threaded on string and left hanging on the wall as toilet paper. In the new suburbs we had back and a front gardens surrounded by a neat Privet hedges, I thought it was all so posh, so you were never short of reading material.
Kirby was the sleeper suburb for the hundreds of workers who were employed on the Kirby Trading Estate; colloquially it was known as Apache Territory but that was a bit unfair as the residents were no different from any other scousers, in fact the suburb spurned a Knight who just happens to be my first cousin Sir Joe.
The Liverpool Corporation was the local government body and apart from owning most of the new housing estates they also ran the transport system of cream & green busses and trams which ran like clockwork, there was a bus or tram into the city every fifteen or twenty minutes. Fares were very cheap, school children could get a scholars ticket for a penny that would take them all the way from Huyton to the Pier Head, if they needed to change trams to get to their destination they could get a Scholars Penny Transfer.
I loved the tram ride to the Pier Head, downstairs was for the ladies and kids, upstairs for the smokers, a mixture of men and women who didn’t realize the harm we were doing to themselves and others by smoking.
Downstairs it was not uncommon for Mothers to breast feed their babies, it was accepted for what it was, most of us were used to seeing our Mothers feeding the baby at home, it was the most natural thing in the world and nobody took any notice; how times have changed, there have been cases here in Australia where breast feeding mothers have been reprimanded and told not to do it in public? There is none so blind as the ignorant!
Riding the tram into town would take you past much of the scarring from the war. The May ’41 blitz was particularly bad for Liverpool, Hitler’s bombers were supposed to be attacking the docks and shipping but most of the damage occurred in residential areas. I remember the air-raid siren would see families scurrying to the shelters and they would remain there until morning. During the May blitz this was a nightly occurrence, an estimated six thousand people were killed and many hundreds wounded during this period of the war.
In 1948 riding the tram from Dovecot to the city you would pass many bomb sites, once into the city there was a lot more evidence of the bombing with damaged buildings everywhere. Lewis’s department store was still badly wounded from the blitz, the famous statue was not yet there, that would come in the early 50’s, Chapel Street through to Paradise Street buildings was missing everywhere.
The smell of roasting coffee teased the senses as you passed Coopers in the city, a city still licking its wounds with a pride that was evident on the faces of its citizens who went about their business as though nothing had ever happened.
Apart from the Pier Head one of the favourite destinations for young people, especially young lads, was the Wizards Den, which was in Moorfields off Dale Street; it was a place of wonderment, an Aldins Cave for school boys, it was full of magic. Here you could buy stink bombs, false Noses with attached moustache connected to a pair of spectacles, rubber masks, imitation dog turds and magic kits for aspiring magicians … the kids would spend hours inspecting the stuff on display in the window; it was a magical place in more ways than one.
Across the road was another magical shop which attracted lots of young boys, it was a book shop with Health & Efficiency magazines on display showing pictures of naked ladies on the cover; it was good but not as good as the Wizards Den.
Towards the end of the 40’s young people would find their entertainment standing in the record department of Lewis’s Department Store asking the sales girl to play their favourite song, Country music was a huge hit in Liverpool especially Hank William’s senior, Patsy Cline, Kay Starr, Johnny Ray or Frankie Laine; they along with Guy Mitchell and Patti page were the new crop of post war singers, Rock & Roll was yet to arrive in 1956 with Elvis singing “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Post war 40’s Liverpool was a new awaking, all those kids born in the 30’s were joining the work force, fathers were home from the war and families were beginning to find financial stability, life was still simple; for those of my generation it was a renaissance, the new beginning that would soon morph into the Mersey Beat driven by the Beatles, The Swinging’ Blue Jeans, The Hollies, Gerry and Pacemakers and many more Merseyside Bands.
For those who visited the Cavern we mustn’t forget the Big Man, jazz singer and master of ceremonies, George Melly … RIP big fella!