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Thread: A J's Liverpool Childhood 1916 ?

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    Exclamation A J's Liverpool Childhood 1916 ?

    It's with pleasure and I feel somewhat privileged that I'm able to provide the memories of a man called A. J. It recounts his experiences of growing up in Liverpool at the time.

    Unfortunately A.J. died in 2001. His son has had his memories printed in a booklet form and has made it available for friends and family.

    Ian has kindly allowed Yo! Liverpool and Talk Liverpool access to this booklet and I shall be posting extracts/ sections over a period of time to allow us time to read, reflect and comment appropriately.

    A.J. would be chuffed....My dad always had that strong love and yearning for Liverpool and re-visited the extended family and friends.
    Enjoy


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    Default Salt of the Earth

    Salt of the Earth

    As the weapons of Europe (1916) destroyed the lives and limbs of the flower of Europe?s manhood in an attempt to satisfy the politicians, moguls and financial vultures, the thoughts of Johnny Kane were concentrated on a drama more close to his heart and mind as he and his trusted assistant Jim Donnelly, a free state Irishman who enjoyed neutrality, prepared the numerous rums and coffee so much in demand at *6 AM by the hardworking dockers and carters of Liverpool?s docklands. Johnny?s thoughts were with Cissie his wife, who was in an advanced stage of labour in the room upstairs, and about to give birth to her third child. He knew she was in good hands, Dr Sheridan had arrived, and her mother-in-law Sarah Bennet was the most experienced unqualified midwife to be found. Grandma Bennet, as she was affectionately called, had delivered all her many grandchildren, and was completely competent. Johnny had faith, the good Lord had arranged that he would be on leave when the *There would be a queue of drays outside the pub at 6 AM. The drivers or draymen would drop off the cart and go into the door on one side of the pub for their morning shot of rums and coffee which would be lined up along the bar. While the drivers were doing this the driverless carts and horses would slowly shunt their way from one door round the corner of the building to the next where the drayman would come out of the building and again climb aboard.

    Baby was due, and Jim Donnelly vowed that come what may he would be loyal to the Kane family until the hostilities finished.

    The drama was soon to be over, the child arrived and was found to be as normal as could be ascertained under the circumstances, and the relief could be felt by all. Cissie?s previous birth had been difficult; Irene, the first, had been a weak child and had barely survived. Wilfred, the second, had been a five month premature baby whose survival had been nothing short of miraculous. It was an act of genuine thanksgiving when four days later the family presented the baby at St Sylvesters to be baptised Albert Joseph; Liverpool had another son.

    The first twelve months were uneventful as far as we know. I was a good feeder and put on the usual three or four ounces, my faculties developing as was desired and hoped for.

    Johnnie Kane returned to the front to be engulfed in the carnage of war. Little did he know how ill-equipped he was and how unprepared he would be when disaster struck. The genius of man?s inhumanity to man was unleashed when the German army struck with the first gas attack. As the gas clouds drifted towards and into the British lines, Johnny Kane and his comrades in arms were as helpless as the new born baby he had left behind. As they retreated in an attempt to avoid an enemy they couldn?t see and didn?t understand, the comrades of the ?Liverpool pals? as they were affectionately known did what they could for each other; some with weaker chests died on the spot, others where the gas was thinner managed to survive only to be affected later in life. Johnny Kane had the presence of mind to place a wet cloth over his nose and mouth as he stumbled out of the holocaust but the damage was done; he like many thousands would pay the price of an early and at times very painful death, his lungs eventually disintegrated as a result of the mustard gas. He was invalided out of the army and returned to the Athol Vaults, to his wife Cissie, his family and loyal Jim who was true to his vow.
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    Exclamation The Family

    The Family

    Johnny knew he had not many years to live and set about consolidating his assets in order to provide for his family after his death. He decided he would leave the Athol Vaults and buy a newsagents, thus ensuring that his family would be provided with an income. He himself was confined to bed and ran the business from there. Cissie meanwhile was proving herself to be no mean business woman. But problems are never far away with children, and at the age of eighteen months I developed cataracts in the eyes and to all intents and purposes went blind. This was a body blow, medical science was not as it is today, and that which was available was only for the rich, but the Kane and Bennet family were a united bunch; the money was found for an operation at the Myrtle Street infirmary and I was returned to full health, for which I am truly grateful.

    At the age of three I was an alert child who could already recall events, and today quite clearly recall my first contact with the police. It happened like this. The social life of Cissie was non-existent, and what there was involved visiting her family and relations after the business had closed after 9.30 PM.

    On this occasion Johnny was in hospital and the children were asleep in bed when Cissie decided to visit her mother in Shaw Street about 10 minutes walk from Great Homer Street where we lived. Cissie set off, it being normal in those days to leave the children for half an hour or so (no baby sitters in those days). No sooner had Cissie set off than Wilfred (who had developed into a foxy little blighter) got up out of bed and woke me, saying that we were going to Grandma?s to see mum. I remember he dressed me, putting my clothes on top of my pyjamas; he also put on my overcoat and hat. Going down the stairs he got the step ladder from behind the front door where it was always kept, climbed up the ladder, unbolted and unlocked the front door and we were out. We walked along Great Homer Street up Prince Edwin Street to Everton Brow when the law pounced. A policeman saw us. He knew we should not be out, saw how we were dressed, and took us to Islington Police station. Wilfred told the story; a policeman went to Grandma?s, who came to the Bridewell with mother to pick us up. I can remember them coming in; I was quite happy, the policeman had given me a cake and a cup of milk and I was sitting in front of a large blazing coal fire. Nothing
    was said to me but I imagine Wilf came in for a few harsh words after that.

    Dad was back from hospital and Wilfred, now about seven, was enrolled at St Francis Xaviours College, a Jesuit school; dad said that the Jesuits would sort him out. Each morning mum would put me in a high perambulator and walk Wilfred to school about twenty minutes? walk from our shop. This went on for a long time, and eventually the time came for me to be enrolled for school. Then the balloon went up. The Jesuits refused to take me. They said that they wouldn?t waste their time with another one like Wilfred, who was absent from school more often than he attended. What had happened was that for a long time Wilfred had been saying to mum that there was no need for her to go all the way to the school gates and that he could run the last few hundred yards on his own. Mum being in a hurry to get back to the shop had been happy to let him do so, but instead of going to school Wilfred had run past the school to Shaw Street Park and Gardens where he had played all day with others doing the same thing. The outcome was that Wilfred was kicked out of St Francis, and both of us enrolled at all Souls RC Elementary school about 150 yards from where we lived. Wilf and I were at school regularly and punctually for the next nine years.

    I can clearly recall my first day at school. We stood with the other parents until the children in the playground had gone into school, then we all went into the playground and eventually a woman in a nun?s habit came out and spoke to the parents. She introduced herself as Sister Margaret, head of the infant?s department. We were enrolled and then we were introduced to two of the happiest women I have ever known, Miss Maxwell and Miss Joyce. I remember they seemed to be old, they were probably about fifty but as teachers of infants they were perfect. I remember being given a slate and slate pencil and encouraged to draw and write, copying what the teacher wrote on the blackboard. For reading there was a large loose leaf folder of objects and letters relating to each other. The system worked for me. In no time at all I was coping with books, and by the age of seven could read almost anything; reading became a regular pastime. I was developing in size and character; it was soon apparent that I was afraid of very little or anybody. I never shirked a fight and was quite adept at football. In 1920 a further brother arrived named John Douglas, he was born at Nurse Brett?s nursing home in Sackville Street.
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    Keep it coming Kev! It makes very interesting reading.

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    Default Tragedy

    Tragedy

    Grandma and Grandpa Bennett came to stay at the shop to look after both the shop and the children. Tragedy struck the family soon after. Irene, who had never been a strong child, died from fever, and a few years later their father died though he had lived longer than expected. Credit for this must go to the nursing care of both his wife and Grandma Bennett who always seemed to be available in a crisis. She was a wonderful person who never spared herself where her family were concerned. On the morning our dad died, it was early and we boys had known the night before that our dad was extremely ill. We were still in bed when mum came in and told us that dad had gone to heaven and that from now on there would only be her and us. I remember her crying. After this mum qualified for a widow?s pension for which the moguls granted her the princely sum of half a crown for each child and half a crown for herself which was paid weekly, what a reward for the loss of the breadwinner and the promise of a Britain fit for heroes to live in. After his death life was very different; mum concentrated on the business and we were introduced to the privilege of having a live-in-servant. This came about because mum was overworked. She set a high standard of keeping her home clean and comfortable and was determined that we would not be disadvantaged by the death of dad. One of the customers who had a large family was worried about the future of her 14 year old daughter who had just left school with no prospects at all of getting work. Mother suggested it would be mutually beneficial if the girl came to live with us as a sort of adopted daughter; the girl would receive a payment, her keep, and above all a good training in all aspects of domestic work. Annie Watkins entered our lives as our new big sister, (poor Annie), we ran rings round her; we were far sharper than her, she was always second best in a battle of wits, she was a good sport. One night mother had gone to visit grandma, and Wilf and I started to play Annie up, she could not handle it so we tied her to the settee; we really bound her up like we had seen people do on the pictures.

    What we didn?t realise was that the people on the films were loosely tied, and Annie wasn?t, so we nearly strangled her by tying the ropes so tight that we cut off her blood supply. Fortunately mum returned before it was too late. It took an awful long time for her to recover; both Wilf and I got our just rewards. Annie was very nice really and we began to like and respect her. We accepted her as a big sister, and mother trained her well and found her a tremendous help. In another incident mother had shown Annie how to iron and starch sheets, pillow cases etc, which was something she had not experienced in her own home. On this occasion Annie was holding the flat iron behind her back after removing it from the gas stove where it had been getting hot. I came running in from the yard and without looking or thinking grabbed Annie from behind, a trick I was in the habit of doing; the hot iron went full on the side of my face, what a scream, what a fuss, I was lucky I didn?t lose the sight of one eye, the skin peeled off and once again I was visiting hospital. Poor Annie was distraught and blamed herself for not being more careful, she really did become one of the family. She grew up to be an attractive young woman and married very comfortably thanks in no small measure to mother?s training. I was nearly seven and the school and the district were beginning to know that I was around. At seven we left infant school and were segregated into either the boys or girls school (a system of which I heartily approve). The ?big boys? as our new school was called was an entirely new world, discipline was the name of the game. We were considered to be entering a man?s world and must start to behave like men, and learning became a serious preoccupation, the intricacies of the English language unfolded as punctuation marks and grammar were drummed into us and sums became arithmetic. Poetry and the introduction to Shakespeare were a new world. Many are the Liverpudlian children who took their first faltering steps to the stage through spouting Portia?s plea with a gusto that would have thrilled Sir Lawrence Olivier. Mind you, we were also very quick at learning the fruity rhymes we continually made up and for which Liverpool?s wit is famous. All children are natural actors, and as the stage and theatre world are well aware Liverpool has produced an enormous amount of theatrical genius. Needless to say I trod the footlights performing at St Martin?s Hall in Scotland Road and on two famous occasions sang in Picton Hall. This resulted in being chosen to perform in the church choir. I was a natural, church Latin proved no difficulty; I did everything well.

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    Default Sports

    Sports

    At eight I was given a trial in the school junior eleven and immediately won a place at inside left, a position I held until I was promoted to the first eleven.

    By now I was recognised among the gang as one who would have a go at any daredevil stunt. I remember the occasion when after a game outside the church where we regularly played, the idea was put forward that we should try to ring the church bell from outside the church. This meant climbing up the church steeple from the outside right to the top and then reaching up to get hold of the bell hammer and bang it to make a sound. Kaney (my nickname) was the only one to succeed. We nearly always met outside the church and the school. The road which ran alongside it had been covered with a tarred surface to deaden the sound of the horses and carts as they passed by. This piece of road was known as the tar pitch and was recognised as our home ground, when we challenged other streets to play us. It was also recognised by the parish priest, who knew that he could always get a group of boys to do a job for him whenever he needed. Father Joyce the parish priest was a very decent man, he often gave us the money to buy a rubber ball as a reward for helping him.

    At nine I was also playing cricket in the street. Lancashire were the cream and all the players my idols, but Dick and Ernie Tyldesley were the ones whom I tried to emulate; the intricacies of finger and wrist spin to right and left had to be learned, and until one had scored a century one was a rookie.

    Such were the Liverpool sports mad kids, and we were quick to learn anything given the chance. I was also a fast sprinter, generally the first picked in the street games. At 11 the games master entered me into the inter school contest. I was a regular winner of awards at Polly Jays in County Road with vouchers for prizes won at various sports. My biggest disappointment was in the sprint final on Liverpool?s football ground. To reach the final I had to win area finals, zone finals and a semi final. In the final I was away to a flier, but sensed that I was on my own and thinking that I had jumped the gun I hesitated and in a split second someone had passed me, I recovered but only managed to come third. Mr Kirby the games master was furious as it was my last chance before I left school.

    Swimming was a must in the area; many children were drowned in the river, docks and canals. Liverpool City opened a free swimming pool, and there was also a baths in Bevington Bush. I swam a mile.
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    Default Liverpool

    Liverpool

    Liverpool is a great city, its people are a unique blend of Celt and Saxon blood.

    Their sense of humour and sentimentality have to be experienced to be appreciated, the salt of the earth, super mates in tight corners, generous to the extreme, but they make bad enemies with a very deep feeling of injustice towards their part of the world. No one anywhere can find a reason for a party as readily as a Liverpool family; if the cat has kittens it's down to the pub for a sing-along, and everyone has a party piece.
    Last edited by Kev; 08-16-2015 at 11:38 AM.
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    Exclamation LOCKFIELDS

    Lockfields

    Gambling is another peculiarity. Scousers love a gamble, and as a newsagent my mother loved and understood horse racing along with the rest of the family. The family had interests in bookmaking, and had a number of street corner runners from whom my elder brother and I would collect the clock bag at the appointed times. Attempts were made by the runners to delay giving the bags on time, hoping of course to push in a couple of bets for which they already had the result; this was a continual battle of wits as one trick after another was tried to beat the book. It was part of our education and helped us to become wide awake. When it comes to a gamble, Liverpool was unique in having the lock fields. These so-called fields are the areas of land that lie between the various locks and docks. They were a Mecca for gamblers. On Sunday afternoons you could gamble on almost anything except the stock exchange. There were football matches at half a crown a man, there were bare fist fighters, boys swimming races in the docks, card games of all types, pitch and toss, picture and blank, but best of all for the boys was the rat catcher. For a penny he would sell a live rat from his leather bag which contained many rats. Many men had dogs on leashes, and the dogs were paired off for the purpose of killing the rat when it was released. The men formed a ring and the dogs were held at an equal distance from the centre, where the rat catcher would release the rat, the dogs would be freed, and the dog which caught the rat was the winner. Bets of course were placed on the dogs. If the boys? mothers had known they would have skinned them. It had to be experienced, it was super entertainment.

    Another source of entertainment was Pitt Street, Chinatown, this was always fun but the night before Lock Ah Tam was hung was particularly special. Loch Ah Tam was a Chinese millionaire who lived in Hamilton Square, Birkenhead. He had been found guilty of murdering his wife, and after a sensational trial he was to die. Everyone thought that his money and position of influence would get him off, but his appeal failed and the large Chinese population as a last resort were resorting to the idols and gods to come to the aid of the millionaire and obtain his release. It was well known that the idols and gods were being displayed in the shops, bars and windows. On the night numerous Liverpudlians promenaded Chinatown to see the event. In spite of all the entreaties to the gods, next day justice was served, and Loch Ah Tam was hung in Walton jail.

    Liverpool was an extremely rich city but its riches did not reach down as far as the working class families. The commerce always revolved around the River Mersey, the docks attracted the ships, the ships? cargoes were stored in the huge warehouses and then processed in the mills into many commodities such as flour, sugar, soap, washing liquids, cattle foods, etc.

    The docks employed many thousands of men; these were honest hardworking people who wanted nothing more than the opportunity to work, but the power of the ship owners who dominated the city council in those days was very great, they owned all the great estates and the land for many miles outside the city. What they didn?t own was owned by the landed gentry like Lords Derby, Stanley and Knowsley etc. The result of this was that no great industries other than shipping were allowed to develop and compete for the available labour. It was therefore very easy to keep wages low, and this in turn lead to the poverty of the day and the actions of people like Joey Porter. It is a pity that the present generations of children (late 20th / early 21st Century) cannot be educated to understand the suffering of their forefathers. History of the social privations of the past should be a compulsory subject; it would most certainly help to develop a more humane and understanding person, and ultimately a better world. It is difficult for the present generations to get a feeling for what it was like.

    Imagine the streets completely devoid of the present type of motor car, lorry, bus or coach... In the early days the bulk of the traffic was horse and carts of various shapes and sizes, and there was also the tram car. This was an electric powered vehicle running on tracks down the main roads of large cities, it did not have a very high speed and the boys could easily sprint alongside and when the conductor was upstairs they could jump on, wait until the conductor was coming down the stairs, and then jump off. As the motor became more common so our interest in them grew. One of the delights was the steam traction engines. These were extremely powerful lorries which usually pulled a trailer and what seemed to be huge loads of flour or sugar. In front of the engine between the wheels there was a fire box which the driver would light a fire in; this would heat up the water which in turn created steam pressure. They were extremely slow but were faster than horses and many times stronger. The fading of the horses was something we did not like. Horses provided quite a lot of our excitement, for instance if we boys decided to make a boxing ring we would creep up behind a loaded wagon as it was going along the street, we would get under it , climb onto the rear axle and from there lean forward onto the tray which hung down and where the driver kept his sheets and ropes. Then we would drop the end of the rope onto the floor until it trailed behind the wagon and climb back the way we had come. Once off the wagon it was simple to pull the rope until you had all the rope required to make a ring. It was probably a very risky thing to do but we boys thought nothing of it, and I did it many times. We became good friends with the traction engine drivers who would allow us to open up the front of the fire box and stand there warming ourselves in the cold weather; sometimes we would put potatoes in and bake them, this was always popular with our mates who were always hungry. But the horses and their stables provided a lot of our excitement. Where there are horses there are rats, and rats were good for sport, a favourite sport was to isolate a rat, chase it until it ran up a down spout, then smoke it out with wet straw. One of our pals would fetch his terrier and when the rat made a run for his life we would release the dog; we thought that was great.

    When the stable middens were being emptied was really super. There was always about twenty rats in a midden, word would pass around that a midden was being emptied and the gang would turn up with their dogs. As the manure was being lifted out a rat would jump out and make a run for it, the dogs were always ready, up went the rat and we all cheered; few rats survived. We were a sadistic bunch of boys but didn?t realise it, rats were such a common sight in the 1920s. As a family we had always bred bulldogs, they are not noted for speed or rat-catching ability, but one day a rat walked into the shop from the street and Sally the bulldog quick as a flash snapped it in two.

    On Saturdays most pubs would be visited by people entertaining the public and the boys would be around to join in the fun. Other common excitement was the arrests, gambling houses would be raided by police from Black Marias and Saturday night drinking sometimes developed into family feuds which the police had to sort out. The boys enjoyed life in their own way with little or no money. As they grew older the technology developed and so did the opportunity to get hold of the odd copper or two. I would walk round Paddy?s market in Scotland Road and hope to be used as a model. The hope was that a woman buying a second-hand coat for one of her children might decide that I was the same size as her child, and ask me to try it on. If it fitted I would usually get a penny. In the school holidays I would go round on a lorry to the well-to-do areas of Liverpool calling on houses by arrangement and collecting empty jam jars and bottles. My job was to sort out the different sizes and types, for which I got about three pence. Another piece of enterprise was to go to the golf-course to caddie or look for golf balls which could be sold. The interest in money developed with the advent of films and talking pictures.

    One of the highlights of the school football was the Ross Common Cup. This was an unusual competition in so much that it was an inter-denominational competition. Sponsor of the cup was a Mr Wilson, owner of the Ross Common picture house. The Wilsons actually filmed the games for showing in the picture house. The crowds flocked to see their children and family friends on the screen. I played in the final and we lost 1-0 to Rennyn Street. Watching the game on the screen was unbelievable at the time. As the talkies took off so popular singing increased. For years Sam Bonner?s jazz band played between films at Derby Picture Palace for at least half an hour. The words of all the popular songs would appear on the screen and people let it rip; Thursday night at Derby Picture House was always packed.

    We would hang around the back of the boxing stadium in Pudsey Street hoping to creep in free to watch stadium fighters like Ike Bradley, Dom Volante, Nel Tarleton, Peter Kane and Ginger Faren, all local men who we boys worshipped. Sport, singing and religion were the driving factors of our lives. When the first world title fight took place at Anfield, the whole city wanted to see Nel Tarleton fight the American Freddie Miller for the featherweight title; needless to say the boys wanted a piece of the action.

    The cheapest ticket was half a crown, which was well beyond the resources of the street boys. Me and my pals arrived with a strong rope. We stood on each others shoulders until one boy reached the top, he dropped over the wall, secured the rope and in no time at all the boys were over and saw the fight ? Tarleton lost.
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    Default Horses

    Horses

    I suppose we were considered to be heartless little brats but really we had a lot of feeling. One of the things we hated was to see a horse killed. The streets were cobbled and as well as being hard-wearing the cobbles were spaced to enable the horses, shoes to get a grip, so that they could pull the heavy loads up from the docks. Many of the streets had a steep incline and it would be necessary for a lead horse to be hitched to the front to help pull the load. These were magnificent animals of tremendous strength (shire horses). It was common to see a load being pulled up a steep hill by a team of three horses. During winter the cobbles would be icy and the ground frozen; the horses would struggle to get a grip and a horse whose shoes were worn would fall to the ground bringing down the other horses. There would be chaos; the heavy loads would start to roll back dragging the other horses with them. The carter would act as quickly as he could to apply the chocks (this was a breaking system which would halt the load). Very often the horse?s sides would be skinned, but the worst was when a horse broke its leg in the fall; the poor creature would writhe on the ground making valiant efforts to regain its footing, it was a horrible sight. Eventually a vetinary surgeon would arrive on the scene and put the horse out of its suffering with a humane killer. The horse would be detached from the team and a cart known as the knacker?s cart would arrive and take the dead horse away. When this sort of accident occurred the carter would be very distressed; Liverpool carters and their horses were inseparable, the horse always came first, and no matter how late a carter worked he would always brush, clean, feed and water his horse before he bedded it down in a clean stable; the horse was the carter?s pride. To see the May Day Parade of the Liverpool carters was a spectacle; hundreds of horses would be groomed and decorated in a most colourful manner. Their tails and manes would be combed and plaited, the carts and drays would be cleaned and painted in an attempt to win the premier award, and all the horses would have their own name on a plaque above the stable. The passing of the horse altered life a great deal.
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    Default ROAST CHESTNUTS

    Roast Chestnuts

    In the wintertime the streets were lit with gas lamps. There were no automatic switches so a man was employed in the district as a lamp lighter.

    He used to go from lamp to lamp with a long pole which he would put into the lamp and pull a switch which would light the lamp. Us kids used to follow him round and as soon as he had moved on to the next lamp we would climb up the lamp he had just lit and put it out. We thought it a great joke to see him having to return a number of times to the same lamp. Eventually he would realise what was happening and put the police on to us but we were always too quick to get caught. During November as the damp night air hung over the city, the smoke from the liner?s funnels along with the smoke from the chimneys used to make really thick fog. There were times when you could not see across a narrow street, but the gang never used to mind, we used to like it, it gave a spooky and mysterious atmosphere. We would gather on the street corner by the Elephant pub where Joe Podesta used to sell roast chestnuts. Joe was an Italian immigrant who spoke pidgin English just like on the films, we loved him and he loved us. We would gather round his hand cart which had a firebox on the top. In this he would roast nuts and potatoes, we would laugh and joke, sing our songs. In the summer Joe?s cart became an ice cream cart, cornets were half a penny and sandwiches one penny, but we were always trying to get a better bargain. One idea we had was to take a cup and ask for a penny worth in the cup, we usually got a lot more that way and then we could share it out. Sharing with your school mates was automatic, on Saturday morning after delivering the newspapers we would meet about nine o clock and set off for the school playing fields about eight miles away, we would call for the latecomers on the way.
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    Senior Member Samp's Avatar
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    Great Stuff Kev!

    The piece about the carters loving their horses reminded me of my grandfather who used to go down on Christmas day to spend time with his horses.

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    Default POVERTY

    Poverty

    One family who were always late were the Graham brothers Frank and Johnny, they were usually in bed when we called. This family were extremely poor, there were four children in the family. The father had been killed in the war and the mother depended on the widow?s pension. We would knock on the Graham?s door and usually one of the boys would put his head out of the window; when he saw it was us he would come down and let us in to wait while they dressed. They would come down in their shirts which they had obviously slept in. The room we waited in was straight off the street; there was a deal top table covered with a newspaper, on this would be an upside down loaf of bread and an opened tin of condensed milk. The two boys would swill themselves down in the shallow stone sink in the corner of the room, then cut a slice of bread and smear some condensed milk on it; that was their breakfast. We would then set off for the game. We would have our tram fare but we would usually go into a baker?s shop and buy stale bread or cakes and share them with our pals. (These brothers were always hungry and there were many families like them whose fathers were killed in the war).

    These two brothers were among the many of our school friends who, along with hundreds of Liverpool men, were put into the merchant navy during the Second World War. The ship that they sailed in was sunk and they both drowned; the poor lads never knew much comfort, pleasure or happiness in their very short lives. It was families and occasions like these that helped you to realise your good fortune and the value of sensible parents. Towards the end of September the local schools would be visited by somebody from the police and the pupils would be questioned as to the family income; later on the poor children would be sent down to the local washhouse and there they would be stripped of their clothes, given a good hot bath and scrubbed down. They would then be re-clothed; the boys would be dressed in a brown corduroy suit, a rough shirt, a jersey, stockings and a pair of clogs with steel tips round the edges. Their heads were shaved to complete baldness to avoid nits and fleas. The girls were treated the same but wore a skirt and their hair was left a little longer. In the winter these children would sit on the hot water pipes or stand close to the radiators, and their clothes would smell awful. At midday on school days they would be given a pink ticket to take to the dinner centre at Blackstock Street where they would receive a plate of very thick stew called scouse and a cake or a piece of bread and jam. The clothes were a stigma of poverty but without these clothes and food these families could not have survived these hard times; the police were very good to the poor people.

    Many accidents happened around the church. On one occasion Benny Gedman was climbing the church railings and slipped, the spike of one of the tailings went through one of his fingers, he stood screaming until I went to him and lifted his finger off the spike; I was warmly complimented for my presence of mind and the boy?s finger was saved. Incidents like that were always happening. I can recall a boy from a rather poor family named Joey Porter, he was always hungry. On this occasion I saw Joey about 20 yards ahead of me on the street, and suddenly he started running forward. He grabbed a handful of fruit off a stall and ran across the street without looking. He ran in front of a pony and trap and was knocked down; the wheel ran over his body but to everyone?s amazement he jumped up and continued running away. Some days after I met Joey, he was rather shaken up about the event but apart from severe bruising was OK. It appears the wheel had passed over the soft part of his stomach, he was very lucky. It must be appreciated that times were very hard for a lot of families; we were the lucky ones who came from well-to- do stable homes, but to our credit we were well aware of it.

    I never had pocket money, almost all activities were free. If I needed money my mother usually supplied it in return for a small chore. Me and my older brother Wilf were now expected to pull our weight within the family and each took it in turns to look after the shop, whenever mother needed us. We were proficient at serving the customers with cigarettes, tobacco, sweets, snuff, newspapers, stationery and toys etc. I particularly liked working in the shop, it enabled me to read all the books and comics. Another of my jobs was to take the money to the bank. For all my wild activities I was very reliable and could be trusted to do what I was asked to. I would polish my shoes, wash my face, brush and comb my hair; and could be very business-like, especially when I went to the bank; the bank was somewhere special, none of my friends ever went to the bank.
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    Creator & Administrator Kev's Avatar
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    Default SCHOOL FIGHTS

    School Fights

    The Headmaster of the school and the parish priest both used me as their messenger. The other boys saw me as a potential leader who could look after himself. On one occasion when the school bully, an older boy named Blackie Richardson was throwing his weight about, I was asked if I was scared of him. I said that I wasn?t and before I knew it a fight had been arranged for dinner time. I gave Blackie a good hiding so much so that Blackie was off school for a while. His parents went to the school and to my mum to complain about me knocking their son about but when they saw how much smaller I was they changed their minds and no more was said about it but my classmates thought I was top. The school fights always took place on Creer Street. It was a short street with no actual front doors, but the side of one house was on one corner, and sometimes when a fight was taking place the woman who lived in the house would wait for us to get all excited and would then open the window and throw a bucket of water over us. On one occasion she must have been in a foul mood, and she opened the window and emptied the full contents of the gazunder over us. The gazunder is the jerry pot that gazunder the bed. We found another place for the school fights for a while after that.
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    Creator & Administrator Kev's Avatar
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    Default TECHNOLOGY

    Technology

    At the same time electric light began to appear in shop windows, and when mother?s shop was lit with electricity it attracted all my pals every night and we soon had various versions of I spy and similar games. There was also the introduction of the crystal set radio with ear phones, and the mysteries of photography began to be unfolded through Phil the youngest of my uncles, a man about 12 years older than us who was fortunate enough to have been apprenticed in hydraulic engineering and had a very good job. We admired him, for he was a trend setter of his day. He showed us how to make match box crystal radios, how to make box cameras, how to develop films using bromide, and developing frames for sunlight developing, but most exciting was when he bought a Triumph motor cycle. As he learned all about the maintenance of the bike, so he told us all about it, and in turn we became enthusiasts. It was he who first told us about the T T Races on the Isle of Man, to which he used to go. He also toured France on his motorcycle; all the boys thought he was a millionaire and would flock around when they saw his bike outside the shop.
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    Creator & Administrator Kev's Avatar
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    Default SECONDARY EDUCATION

    Secondary Education

    I sat the 11 plus aged ten, and along with 200 other boys sat the two day examinations in all subjects at St Francis Xaviers College. A lot more boys passed than there were places available. When this happened the council used to ask the parents how much they were prepared to pay towards the College Education. My mother said she was not prepared to do for one child what she could not afford to do for the others, and as a result I was turned down. The next year I tried again; I wanted to go to College but was let down by the school. When the day came to sit the exam, the Headmaster Mr McCluskey, was away from the school with flue, and it appeared that nobody realised the date for the exam. It wasn?t until the second day that the deputy head, realising what had happened, sent me and two other boys to St Francis Xavier?s College to do their best. In spite of missing half the exam I was again awarded a pass mark, but again my mother said that she wouldn?t pay anything, so again I missed out and did not go to College.

    On one school outing the school assembled, and, all dressed in Sunday best, marched in single file to catch a tram car to the Pier head, then went on the ferry boat to Eastham and then made a mile walk to a field, where there was a large hut where they ate a cake, and drank lemonade made with lemonade powder and had sandwiches. The day?s activities were taken up with school sports and football. We arrived home tired out; it was the only holiday the majority of the children had. Those who could afford it paid 5 pence a week and saved up by instalments, and the children of the unemployed went free.

    The outing was subsidised by the teachers themselves. The choir boys/ altar boys outing was a far better day. Paid for by the three priests of the parish, the outing was usually to West Kirby on the Wirral. Tram, boat, train it was like going abroad, and it finished off with a meal in a restaurant. For the number of services and practices they did the boys felt it was deserved, although most of the boys in the choir seemed to really enjoy the privilege of singing, and to sing in Latin was very special. One Sunday afternoon Wilf was playing cards in card school; he was winning a lot and one of the bigger boys was a bad loser and he jumped on Wilf to steal his money back. But he hadn?t bargained for Wilf?s brother (me) who dived into the fight gave the boy a good hiding and broke his glasses and his nose. Once again I was in trouble, but fortunately a lot of people had seen what happened and the villain became a hero. There were times when I was lucky not to get in trouble with the police through my fighting, but because I usually took on people much bigger and older I got the benefit of the doubt, such as when I took on the co-op milkman who had stolen our ball, and the time when I threw the park keeper over my shoulder in a wrestle, and the park keeper broke his ankle. I was a lively character and from as early as seven was in a crowd of youngsters carrying banners and singing, ?vote, vote, vote for Harry Walker,? this being a Municipal Election. But the Scotland Ward became a miniature battleground at a General Election. T P Connor was the Catholic candidate, followed in later years by David Logan. Life was never dull. On the 17th March every parish held a dance or concert. On the 12th July the Orangemen held their parades; these could be spectacular and colourful.

    Streets were lavishly decorated and drew large crowds; these celebrations usually lasted a week. Towards the weekend a large Parade would take place and would go over the river to Eastham. As they were mainly adults an enormous amount of drinking took place, quite a lot got drunk, and when the parade returned to Liverpool , the leaders would defy the police and turn into Byron Street to march up Scotland Road to challenge the Catholic Irish. It usually finished up with a mini battle, with the police helpless. Needless to say me and my mates were there to see it all happen.

    As one of the lucky ones, I got the chance to spend some of the school holidays on a farm in Wales. It was on one of these holidays that something happened that was to affect me for the rest of his life. Farms in the 1920s and 30s were not as hygienic as today, and on this occasion there were a large number of flies, some of which entered my left ear. When the farmer?s wife heard this she produced a syringe which had a large rubber bulb as the pressure piece. She filled it with soapy water and proceeded to squirt it into his ear. The pain was terrific, I screamed, but she continued to squirt trying to clean the flies. When I got home I told mother what had happened.

    Months later the ear began to discharge and I became a patient at the ear hospital; eventually it was diagnosed as a badly perforated ear drum which was incurable.
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    Senior Member Samp's Avatar
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    Keep it coming.

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    There's not much left I'm sorry to say, thanks for the comments
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    Default 1925-34

    1925-34

    In the years 1925 -1930 the work situation in Liverpool was getting serious; Wilf left school and his work prospects weren?t good. An apprenticeship in the building trade required a bond of 25 pounds; mother offered more but people with more money bought up the jobs. Wilf eventually got a job as a lift attendant in the East India Buildings. I used to go and ride up and down in the lift with him. His wages were the equivalent of 40p a week, and Cissie lost the half crown equivalent to 25p a week because he was working. There was no future in the lift job, and when he got the opportunity to learn shoe repairing Wilf changed his job. I was soon poking my nose in at the shoe repairers. A library was opened in the old Electric Light cinema at the corner of Collingwood Street and Scotland Road. I enrolled at the advice of the headmaster, Mr McCluskey, who had become a family friend. Mr McClusky would arrange to meet any boys who would turn up outside the library and give them a lesson on astronomy. He would explain how the mariners navigated and then the next day teach a trigonometry and geometry lesson using the stars, etc. Other lessons were equally interesting; teachers would invite boys to meet them on Saturdays after the school match, having pre-arranged to take the boys down to the docks with a permit and go over an Atlantic liner, or a cargo vessel, and the boys would be allowed over the ships, be given a sample of the cargo and be told where the ships travelled to. The following week there would be a Geography lesson based on this experience. This way we were taught about continents and countries, their capital cities, their raw materials, and what they produced. We were taught about the British Isles through sport, mainly football, and the different teams were used to find the location of towns, the counties they were in, and the historical importance of a place; at the age of fourteen the pupils had to be ready to deal in the world. They were of course encouraged to attend evening classes after they left, but these had to be paid for by subscription which few could afford. My mother paid the subscription, and so I attended the classes at St Sylvester?s under the notorious Mr Callagan. I now joined an under-18 football team called Netherleigh that had a lot of talented players who had played for Lancashire County Schools. My physique (5ft 6ins and 8 ? stone) was not developed enough to be seriously considered by the major professional league teams. I was encouraged to pursue and enjoy the amateur game. I did, and I adored the Everton team of the day. The first game I saw was against Liverpool at Anfield with a Liverpool player called Scott Bromilow Hopkins. I saw Dixie Dean breaking George Camsell?s record of 59 goals, and was a fan when Everton won the cup in 1933. I was in Lime Street station when the team arrived home and walked with thousands of others as the team carried the cup, riding in an old stage coach drawn by four horses. At the ground, Dixie held up the cup as the crowd cheered and cheered, and I stood in the middle of the pitched and went berserk like everybody else. There was no question of getting a ticket for the final, but they had all crowded outside shops or cafes which had radios turned on full blast for people to hear outside.

    I had now left school and was in the labour market.

    ?AJ?has attended All Souls RC school for the past nine years, during which time he has proved himself to be a regular, punctual, intelligent and very satisfactory scholar. He attained the position of first pupil in standard seven. His home is impeccable. I wish him every success.?

    Yours ? J. M. McCluskey.


    I was told to report with the reference to the Junior Education Office in St Thomas?s Street which I did. The work situation was even worse now but I did not realise it. I was given a note of introduction to take to the main Picton library in Liverpool. I turned up for the interview with my shoes polished, knees scrubbed (still in short trousers in those days until about 15), hair combed, clean shirt and pressed tie. I had never been to Picton Library before and was totally unprepared for what was to come. I was shocked; to me the library was a vast room with extremely dull lighting, no windows whatsoever, and a lot of desks with what seemed to be a lot of very old people bent over books, engrossed in reading in deathly silence. I knew that I had to get outside immediately and panicked. I was afraid of the atmosphere of the place, and had never experienced anything like it. I didn?t take the interview, and in fact ran away from the building, not realising that it would be two years before I would start work for a firm. After my father had died my mother Cissie carried on the business and did very well, but the depression of the thirties was bad, and the business started to fail. Cut price cigarette shops and cut price sweet shops began to appear. Businesses were closing down all over the place, and it was only the newsagents that were surviving. On either side of Cissie?s shop there were shops owned by Jews.

    One day one of the women, Mrs Philips, told Cissie that it would be in her best interests if she were to sell the business, as a Jewish syndicate were buying up all the newsagents and were about to open opposite to us and that they would sell cut- price cigarettes and sweets in order to take her business. At that time Cissie was thinking of getting married again to a friend of the family whom we had known for sometime as Uncle Joe the vet who had apparently asked her to marry him. With the problem of cut price opposition in the offing Cissie decided to sell and get married.

    END

    That's all folks - hope you enjoyed the thread.
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    Senior Member burkhilly's Avatar
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    That was a great read. I love reading other people's history.

    Thanks!

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    Default AJ's Liverpool Childhood

    Struck by AJ's reminiscences. I am editing a book of Liverpool memories for London publisher Headline. Would AJ's family consider allowing me to quote from the booklet they have made available for friends and family? I can be contacted on janthony78@ymail.com or 01723 859978.

    J P Dudgeon

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    Just seen this Kev, superb tales. I really do enjoy reading History, especially Local History. Do let his family know we all have enjoyed reading these tales.
    Started the Old Swan Website:

    http://oldswan.piczo.com/?cr=5

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    I urge everyone to read and reflect upon these memories of Liverpool, RIP AJ
    Liverpool in Pictures/ YO! Liverpool has taken me over 10 years to develop and maintain.

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    Member Lelly's Avatar
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    Just brilliant- thanks for posting

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    Default Sam Bonner's Band

    Just found this photo, taken on New Year's Eve 1929 in Liverpool. My grandfather (William Joseph Brennen, born on 21st July 1901) is playing banjo. I believe it is Sam Bonner on piano and Jack (?) on violin. Am trying to find out more, if anyone can help!!
    Many thanks in advance,
    Clare Brennen
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    fantastic stuff really ,really fantastic, makes my hairs on my neck stand up ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by cbrennen View Post
    Just found this photo, taken on New Year's Eve 1929 in Liverpool. My grandfather (William Joseph Brennen, born on 21st July 1901) is playing banjo. I believe it is Sam Bonner on piano and Jack (?) on violin. Am trying to find out more, if anyone can help!!
    Many thanks in advance,
    Clare Brennen
    Dear Clare , What an Idiot ! I forgot to give you my Email ; klarkieklarkie@yahoo.com ................... I"m on Da West Coast , California ( Sometimes called The Left Coast ) Peter.

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    Default Luddite Lament !

    My Third Attempt ! Sam Bonner was my Great-Uncle , This I found out recently when I became a defrocked Luddite ! My Family discovered that he was a Musician 5 days ago ! Here"s my background; (some of It) Escorts / Merseys / Apple Records / Jackie Lomax / Billy Preston / Doris Troy / The Liverpool Scene / Stealers Wheel / Kiki Dee Band / Badfinger & Other stuff ! Thankyou Sooooooo... Much ! THIS IS THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPH WE HAVE SEEN ! Right now , accross the Globe , every hair & nerve ending we have is on maximum overload ! Please Email me , and I"ll give you all the Info we have so far. Peter Cllarke. klarkieklarkie@yahoo.com

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    Default Sam Bonner / Joseph Brennen

    Quote Originally Posted by cbrennen View Post
    Just found this photo, taken on New Year's Eve 1929 in Liverpool. My grandfather (William Joseph Brennen, born on 21st July 1901) is playing banjo. I believe it is Sam Bonner on piano and Jack (?) on violin. Am trying to find out more, if anyone can help!!
    Many thanks in advance,
    Clare Brennen
    Dear Clare, same message, I can help, please Email, klarkieklarkie@yahoo.com Thankyou, Peter Clarke.

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    Senior Member Lizzie1's Avatar
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    Fantastic stuff!

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    It really is, Lizzie, it really is. Someone I remember is Ike Bradley, mentioned in post #8 with Nel Tarleton and other Pudsey Street memorables. I knew him when he used to walk the greyhounds around White City Stadium, before each race, and he was often featured in The Echo's only illustration of those days - a caricature of participants in current sports events. Ike was pictured as a boxing second dressed in roll-neck pullover and towel folded over his arm.

    It is said that no one really dies, as long as there is somebody who remembers them.

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