I,ve just tried to post my final page on here but the screen couldn,t find the page, seven times. In the end I lost an hours work so am going off in a huff.
I,ve just tried to post my final page on here but the screen couldn,t find the page, seven times. In the end I lost an hours work so am going off in a huff.
Chippie,put it down to experience,pick yourself up,dust yourself down and start all over again.Your readership awaits,
I,m over it now Bri. but can,t do it tonight as it,s not my turn on the computer, will have to wait till tomorrow.
Chippie, keep it up, I feel as if I am back there in time,
The neighbours that lived in Desmond Street while I was there for seventeen years were not by and large transient people, except for one or two households like the Seagerburgs who went to live in Sweden. Their house was on the opposit side to where ours was and to get over the threshold you had to climb several steps. Some of them originaly had cellars where the coalman each Wednesday morning would throw a hundredweight of nutty slack down the hole or through the door, and leave a dirty, dusty mess where the sack hit the pavement.
There weren,t many households on the south side of Dessy. Starting from the top nearest Heyworth Street was Joe Kitchen whom I never saw at all whilst I was living in the street. I don,t know whether he was a shift worker or whether he just was a very private person. Next came the Speeds whom I remember was a strickly female household who I saw quite regularly either going to the shops or Great Homer Street Market on a Saturday morning and coming back with loads of goodies.
Next to the Speeds was Mrs. Almond was a great character old, bent over, pushing a dirty old pram we used to call a go chair back then. She be dressed in tatty old clothes, stunk to high heaven and talked in a low manly voice which was quite loud for a little old Tilly Mint like Mrs. Almond. I,m afraid, although we had a good respect for her, we kids tended to poke fun at her expence, yes even me. One of my party pieces at family gatherings was immitate Mrs. Almond,s voice. She was quite a scary character, I remember one dark winter,s night going up our street on our side to sit at my friend,s doorstep right at the top. The street was always poorly lit with three gas jets one at the top, bottom and middle, two of which were always burning either low or not on at all due to us kids kicking balls at the glass.
I was in my own thoughts going up our street and I thought I saw a flicker of light a bit further up in the dark. I slowed up trying to focus my eyes to try and see if there was somebody coming down the street or someone lurking there. As I drew nearer a low booming voice echoed over to me, "WILL YOU OPEN MY DOOR?" I nearly wet myself and jumped three feet into the air. It was Mrs. Almond sitting on the steps of her house waiting for someone, anyone, to come past and open her door for her to go in. She was a frequent visitor to the London Store public house as it was the nearest to her. She smoked, drank and swore like a trooper, but for her age, which looked like in the nineties, she could get about. I went over to her calling her name to let her know that I knew her and was a local. Took her key and opened her door, took her arm and helped her up, pushed her pram up and in after her, slammed the door and legged it to my friend,s house where I had a fit of giggles more out of being scared than funny. Now Mrs. Almond,s house was even worst than ours. The nets and curtains looked like they,d never been changed since the Relief of Maferking, the hallway dark and dingy with pieces of dusty cloth flying in the breeze which indicated that her back door was always open, if she had one that is. I couldn,t see any gas jet in her hall but then again I couldn,t see my hand behind my back either! There was always a dirty deserted house smell to her house, as if the inhabitents had gone and left it years ago and had become derelict. Next came Mrs. Boyne, my nan,s friend. She worked as a cleaner in the Collegiate in Shaw Street and one time got my nan a job there with her. One night I went with them and stood around looking up and about I was so amazed at the building and overcome with awe. Next came the Bennetts, Sales, and Smiths, and next to them was my Auntie Louie,s house. Now my Auntie Louie was not really my auntie, but was related to my nan. Nan,s brother married Auntie Louie,s sister and their family used to live in our house before Nan and her husband Charlie moved in there in 1936.
Auntie louie was riddled with arthritis and could only sit in one position. She must have slept, very poorly I thought, in such an uncomfortable way at night and had to call her sons in the night to take her to the toilet which was a chair with the bottom removed and a bucket underneath. Poor Auntie Louie. She had black straight hair and glasses falling down her nose all the time. A yellowy/white complection and gnarled hands and fingers, but she could manage a small newspaper or magazine on a good day. She had three sons, Ronnie who worked in Silcocks who liked his drink and would come home after a few on occassions and try and kiss his mum and tell her he loved her but Auntie Louie would resist and tell him to leave her alone and go and sit down. It was amusing sometimes but on the other hand destressing for Auntie Lou and her sore body. Jimmy was the next son, he was my mentor at one time and taught me how to develope my own rolls of film in their cellar, and made me things out of household packaging just like a one man Blue Peter he was. When I was the required age he got me a job in his firm in Aintree where I reached the grand position of chargehand over a group of lads who were the best in the business, but that,s for another page. John was the youngest son of them all and was the only one to marry later on. One day I went over to Auntie Louies and I found her crying. John had gone out with his friend Mick from the flats at the bottom of our street and hadn,t been about for a few hours. She told me that sh wanted John to take her to the toilet and would I go and try and find him. Well I ran like the clappers to Mick,s house in the flats but got no answer so I ran round to the betting office but they were not there so looked areound the main road to see if I could see them walking along, no sign. I had to go back and tell Auntie Louie that I hadn,t found them. I did and she calmed down a little bit but I was flushed and worried about her and felt sorry for her. Not long after John did appear and I left while the preparations were done. I went home and breathed a sigh of relief.
Not many people knew what Auntie Louie looked like. She would sit at the front door about two hours every year if it was hot and sunny so not many people saw her, it was just someone I knew and talked about often to my friends and neighbours. Next to the Redmond,s (my Auntie Lou,s married name) was the Rickerby,s I mention previously one of which was the local errand boy for Auntie Lou. When they left relatives of The Guys moved there. The guys were living on the opposite side, our side. there was a bombed out site next which happened during the war when two households were wiped out and our football pitch was created. Well that,s the one side of our street.
Great, when are you getting by No.5, cheers.
On our side of the street were the Merettsas, the Rooms/Pritchards, the Corless, the Caves, the Amos, the Carsons, the Ferneoghs, the Woods, the Quirks, the Thompsons and grandad Thistlewood.
Now grandad Thistlewood was the second husband of my grandmother,s mother, namely, Ganny who came over from Armagh sometime in the past. She had a brother Thomas Irwin who went over to America around 1885 according to his American obituary column when he was a mere 18 and eventually he founded the First Presbyterian Church in Lawton, Kansas and went on to marry a lady from St. Louis and had one daughter, later dying at the age of 73 in 1943. Ganny also had a sister Mary Ann who also went to America and married a George Washington Mostella. But Ganny came to Liverpool and stayed and married a John Henry Simpson and had three children, John Arthur, known as Uncle Arthur, Thomas Henry, known as Uncle Tom and of course my nan, Lily. I was unfortunate not to have been able to meet my nan,s brother and sister but up to the start of the war one of them lived in number 41 on our side at the very bottom of the street. When the war started he and his family moved to York because he was working on the railway and there was better promotion activities there for him at the time. Uncle Arthur boldly took himself over to America following in his Uncle Thomas,s footsteps and staying with him in Witchita until he could stand on his own two feet. What a nomadic lot our family was, both sides hailing from Ireland and some spreading further afield to America.
It was from here that my nan met grandad and they got married and lived in number 21 until another house in the street became available which was
number 25, two doors away where we now found ourselves in the early 50s.
number 23 was the home of the Emery,s. Mrs. Emery had terrible brown teeth and she would stand at the door eating coal, yes, chunks of coal. Her and her husband were humped back and we used to say, "here,s humpty Emery coming down the street". Next to us was the MacEnernys, the Carsons, the Fowler/Corlass family, and little Emmie was next. She was a beautiful good natured person who would never say boo to a goose, very polite and her smile was worth telling her a joke for. She must have been all of about three foot ten inches in height but was lovely. The howards lived next door to Emmie, their son Thomas never played with us much for some reason and he later died in the Hillsborough Stadium quite a young man. The Iddons were next. Flo died of breast cancer and Ken used to wait on corners trying to get a new wife, (well it takes all kinds doen,t it?) I was looking after his son while he did this every Saturday. The Flans were next, later the Careys and the Guys on the end in the house my nan,s brother had up till the war years.
Only about four of the houses ever changed occupants while I was there.
The leader of the Desmond Street bonfire wood collectors was a lad called Jackie Pritchard who is the Desmond Street hunk in my accompanying photographs. He was about six or seven years older than us kids and was great at organising us all and storing bonfire wood in Auntie Louie,s entry out of the sight of neighbouring street collector,s eyes. We used several entrys so if someone raided our one supply we could always have other supplies in other hideaways. Ricky was a right little tough guy who smoked drank and swore at us all, but he was our leader and we revered him like a god.
There was also relatives of other neighbours who came round to our street with their mams and used to play with us in the street. Also in our street were other groups of kids who were younger than us who stayed in there younger gangs. Sometimes we used to let the younger ones play with us to make numbers up or to be "it" when we wanted someone to come and find us in hide and seek. There was myself, about five of the Guy kids, Raymond Bennett, the Cary lads, Jeff and Steven, and Josie Williams out of the flats at the bottom of our street,made up the bosom buddies of Desmond Street.
If I was not out playing in the street hide and seek, my favourite game, or kick the can or allalio or off ground tick or just tick or Simon says or skipping games with the adults joining in. Sometimes I,d be swinging on the gas lamp with a huge dirty piece of rope somebody would produce from somewhere. I,d be out climbing on walls and just talking with mates. My favourite place to sit and chat was on the top of Auntie Louie,s toilet roof that we called the shed. Next favourite was the sub station roof adjacent to the flats. If not out playing I,d be in Auntie Lou,s watching telivision. We couldn,t have television obviously as we had no electricity, so nearly every night I would be watching the Redmond,s t.v.. I remember seeing the first Coranation Street. My favourite programmes were variety shows like Sunday Night at the London Palladium. I loved detective stories and horrors like Canon, Sherlock Holmes, Hitchcocks films and Dracula type horrors. My favourite cartoon was Popeye. Gran would leave me there watching television sometimes till after midnight. I,m sure that Auntie Louie must have got sick of me being there all the time.
At the top of the street was derelict waste ground with a gate and makeshift roof on. This was a very exciting place to play when I discovered it. It contained old petrol pumps that had been discarded and stored there. I used to climb into the grounds and play amongst them. They reeked of petrol and consequently, so did I. I used to spend time when I saw Harry Haworth going into his garage to stoke his boiler to cook the beetroots he sold in the shop. There were lots of old fruit crates that he used to burn in the boiler, all made of wood. The best and most rugged ones being the Fyffes banana boxes. I,m glad he never asked me to clean his garage out for him when I worked for him as a delivery boy when I turned fourteen. The place was a midden.
I,m leaving my story there for awhile until the social services contact me and I can maybe tell you some background of how I came to have lived and been brought up in my grandparents house and not my mum,s. stay tuned to YO.
Chippie,my p.c. has been on the fritz for a couple of days,it is still not quite right,but it was good enough for me to read your last chapter.................It was brilliant,the names of those families are as familiar as the ones I knew in the streets of my childhood.You have recaptured the richness of your childhood with a simple honesty,each word ringing with the truth.This is your story,and it is well told.
Thanks for sharing it with us,
Thank you Brian, I can still see and feel those people today even though it was over 45 years ago. You can,t grow out of your childhood sometimes.
Chippie and Brian, you are both good at writing, my
childhood was similar to both of you, wish I could put down like you do.
Keep it up, Chippie! Great memories!
I am printing them out for me owld Mum (age 87) just as I have been doing with Brian's equally wonderful reminiscences. They'll both bring back memories for her I know.
All the best
Ernie get yer thinking cap on and start writing. If yer don,t yer might find it too late and what will yer great grandchildren think of yer then, eh? Some miserable old sod who went and died an, never left us a bed time story...
dedication to Mrs Chrisgeorge.
Chris, thank you, tell yer old mum that I,ve deicated the first part of my story to her, the first five posts.
I,ve been at my file box today marked "secret life of Chippie" and come up with some more ideas, so stay tuned to YO
Getting ready for school each morning I would wash in the brown sink in the back kitchen from the single brass cold tap. There was never a sink plug in this basin ever in all my days there. The back kitchen consisted of a sink and a wooden wash stand. Cobwebs covered the whole of the small window as well as all the corners of the room. The spiders that lived in them were of the round bodied type the size of a contact lens and long spindly legs and of a grey colour. Talking of colour, this room was devoid of it, just cement grey. The cold grey floor was concrete and had no covering on it ever while I was there, or after I,d left. There was never any money for fancy things or luxury items beyond the portals of 25.
The out side toilet almost always had a burst pipe during the winter months and the landlord had to be contacted to send a jobber to come and reweld the lead pipes. Sometimes we would leave a candle burning out there to help stop the pipes freezing but that stopped one year when our toilet door was taken for the bonfire, thereafter we had to do our "business" in the open air and in full view of Molly and Frank whose bedroom window looked into our yard and some of the back windows of our street neighbours from Jasmine Street. I didn,t mind as in those days I didn,t have very much to hide! When the pipes burst water would be coming out for days until the landlord,s men came round to fix the leak or leaks. We had to stifle the flow as best we could with an old item of clothing with string wrapped around. Then we would have to take a bucket of water to flush the toilet if needed.
One day I remember I was crying with terrible pains in my stomach and I couldn,t go to the toilet at all. Nan took me down the yard and sat with me holding my hand until eventually I did go. It took ages and it was very painful but nan was good and looked after me like that.
The room that was called the kitchen was always in darkness for some reason. Although there was a gas fitting in the ceiling, the mantle remained broken and was never replaced and lit. There were two clothes lines across the full width of the room full of clothes always. It was used as a giant wardrobe. The coalman making his delivery to the yard through the house always managed to catch the line on his way through but it was never brought down. There were huge bundles of clothes on the floor in this room which always remained dark and dingy and the windows with ages of grime encrusted on all four panes of glass. There were periods when this room did have some items of furniture but non specifically that I can recall.
There were two floor to ceiling cupboards on either side of the big black fire range. On the hob was a single gas jet (how safe was that?) where most of the cooking and teamaking was done. The fire was lit sometimes at weekends, money permitting, so that some form of Sunday dinner could be cooked. Behind the door going from the hall to the kitchen was a high shelf under the stairs where things were put out of my reach. I got at them one way or another over the years; Chinese fire crackers brought home from the uncles going away to sea, letters, photos, tools etc. were all got at by me and sifted through as I was a right snooper. Over the years I saw some really interesting and at the time, frightening, letters pertaining to my father and mother and the reason why I was living in this Dickensian hellhole which was to be my home through all my schooldays and two years after when I was deemed a man.
Then there was the front room, the main room in the house. This room was lounge, kitchen and bedroom all in one. We ate on a square, two leaved pull out table while sitting on the arm of one of the armchairs. The seats of these chairs were always full of old "Echo" and "Daily Mirror,s" so high as sometimes unable to sit down upon.
The walls were wallpapered in this one room in the house and the pattern changed periodically, maybe three or four times in seventeen years. The fireplace grate was a modern one probably financed by one of nan,s sons after coming home from sea and spending out a bit on their old ma. There was nearly always a cosy fire when it was needed or when finances allowed. The winters were the best with the snow outside a foot deep and the temperatures below freezing, the fire would be halfway up the chimney with a fireguard usually around drying the clothes that had been washed in the wash house at the top of Heyworth Street. The other furniture in this room was a bed settee and a sideboard we called the dresser. Uncle Ronnie and I slept in the make shift bed in later life but early on I mainly slept upstairs with nan in the back bedroom or on the parlour floor by the fire with coats over us. This was probably before the bed settee arrived. I also remember Uncle Bob sleeping on the floor in the front room at one time, he had come back from a long voyage at sea and this was the only room available. The front windows were cleaned by the local window cleaner up and down but he stopped doing them when he never got paid.
The window sills were never painted outside but the front door was. Uncle Ronnie put a hardboard panel over the door once and a full sized triangle done in half beading and painted in maroon. The Yorkshire stone pavement outside the front door was sandstoned periodically to keep it clean.
Up the stairs in our house were two bedrooms, one front and one back entered by a small square about two foot all round we called the landing. Now the stairs had a fascination for me for it had a huge (to me as a child) shelf halfway up and across the whole width. It was dark with loads of things on but I was never able to get onto it and rummage around as it was too dangerous, I might have fallen down the stairs in my attempts to do so. But, now and again I was able, with a stick, to bring some things to the front of the shelf to inspect,but in the end nothing very exciting was ever found. The bedrooms never had wallpaper on them and there were watermarks high up and onto the ceilings from long ago holes on the roof where the water had been coming in but I never experienced any while I was there. I used to pick off flakes of distemper when I used to sleep up there and make patterns on the pinky bare walls revealling the blue distemper from an age before.
In the front bedroom were two beds on bare floorboards, and, across the fireplace which was now rusty but must have once been black and had only ever been lit once I remember when I was taken ill, lay a pencilled or charcoal picture of a long dead relative of ours, so I learned later. My nan told me that he was supposed to have been the first policeman in the Liverpool force to have been been given permission to sport a full face of hair, ie beard and mustache, and you should have seen the fullness of it all. The picture was about three foot high and two foot six across showing this policeman in full uniform. The frame and glass were dirty and the back card coming adrift. There was also a gas mantle fitted to the wall by the window with a finger length fracture in the arm where gas must have escaped ferociously and rendered the shillings (5p) of gas to a mere sixpence worth each time. I often wondered later if this was one of the reasons why we never slept in that room so often. It was by providence that no one was gassed in that room. The mantle was so near to the window probably letting the obnoxious stuff pass out into the street before doing any harm to an occupier sleeping in there. I used to play in this room quite a lot between the ages of five to twelve on the bare boards with a sheet canopy above me playing cowboys and Indians and suchlike.
The back bedroom was where nan and I slept in a huge double bed with a large headboard. I,d remember Lonnie Donnigan singing the song starting "does your chewing gum lose it,s flavour on the bedpost over night?" when I used to go up to bed by the light of a candle as there was no light fitting in the back room at all. The mantlepiece used to be full of candle grease eventually dripping down over the sides and ends like an ice cave,s stalagmites and tites. I use to get a knife and prise it off when it looked like a scene from another planet.
There was a big mound of clothes and papers in this room covered over by a big dirty sheet, just like the ones in the back room downstairs. I found a gas mask, a trilby hat and a photograph of Randolph Turpin amongst other things under this cloth mountain. A dressing table was the only other item of furniture in this room. A small shelf high in one of the alcoves on either side of the chimney breast where I once hid my pet mouse which was discovered and thrown out, was all that was in that cold back room. We took a bucket up each night to save us the discomfort of getting up and going down into the back yard toilet, this was used very frequently by nan and I. I used to wet this bed and grandma almost every night at this time. Then, later on when it was the bed settee in the parlour and Uncle Ronnie who got it, a little less frequent, much to the Ronnie,s delight.
The outside yard where the toilet was situated was where the coal and an old mangle was kept. Years ago before my arrival grandad used to keep racing pigeons here, and even earlier still, a pig. The dust bin in the wall leading to the back entry completed the picture outside the building.
Our neighbours being, as mentioned before, the Emerys on the left and the MacInerneys on the right. Grandad Thistlewood, the second husband of my great grandma,my nan,s mother, lived in number 21, the house where I was to live with my dad when I was seventeen in the year 1969.
The street was dominated at the top by the dark shadow of St Benedicts Church, a local Church of England, on Heyworth Street but entranced in Kepler Street. At the bottom of the street which led into a wide alleyway it entered Breck Road. On this corner lived a local character lived a local character opposite to Mrs. Mudd,s shop, a Mrs. Ellenbogan who had a skin like stretched leather on her face and wore very peculiar clothes more fitting to a Herefordshire farmer,s wife. Apparently her home used to have been a shop many years before.
I remember one incident I was being got ready to go to Auntie Lilys, nan,s only daughter of a brood of eight lads. Auntie Lily had not long been married and had rented a flat in Erskine Street, a long way away towards town. I knew that I,d like the trip being so far away and it would get me away from the street for a few hours, and the rest of the urchins that lived there who would never play with me at that particular time as I was fairly new to the street.
I was being wiped over in the usual way with a piece of grey rag that had previously been torn away from one of the sheets which covered nan and I during the night as we lay in bed together. She used to tell me stories that I loved to hear if the wind was strong one night and blowing through the triangular hole in the window. I often hoped that the window would be fixed so that it wouldn,t be so cold as we both got up to wee in the yellow bucket next to the tiny fireplace. One story that always had me spellbound and would bring tears dripping onto the bolster was "Her Benny," a story about two little urchins scratching a living on the streets of Liverpool years before. They had no mother and father. I think I grew up in my childhood thinking that this was the norm as memories of my mother and father, I must have had a mother and father, faded. Hearing stories like Her Benny made me think that it was the thing that families do, treat the children like dirt or turn them out onto the streets when they didn,t want them. Didn,t that happen to me? Isn,t that why I,m in my nan,s house?
As the tears flooded from my eyes I would slip into the land of dreams and dream childish fantasies. If I had a particularly bad dream about the bogey man one night and I would wake up feeling scared and afraid, there was always nan,s arm across my shoulders, holding me safe from the most horrible fears, and I would feel content again and drift back into slumber, relax my tense little body, and wet the bed.
Ready to go off on the long journey to see Auntie Lily and sitting in my go chair outside our house, all clean and fastened in, impatient to be off; Big Steven from up the entry comes out to play with a long piece of muddy rope.
Nan is making sure that all the doors are locked and that the guard is around the fire. Steven comes over to me and throws the rope over my shoulders as if he is the cowboy and has lassoed an Indian, me. Seeing that I,m not able to play with him he goes back up the entry to his own house.
When nan comes out and sees me covered in mud from the rope she goes spare and shouts and screams at my dirtiness. "It was Steven!" I cried bursting into tears and pointing towards the entry to which the cowboy had galloped. Nan disappears in that direction and is gone a long time while I sit tight in my pram and wait for her return. After what seems like ages she reappears, I get yanked out of the pram, into the house, and undergo another wash and change of clothes.
In no time at all we are off along the roads, looking into lots of shop windows but buying nothing. We soon reach Auntie Lily,s street and nan puts the pram right up against the building and puts the brakes on and unfastens the straps that are holding me in. She presses the doorbell and soon gains entry into the building and carries me up three flights of stairs and stands outside Auntie Lily,s flat.
We are there for ages and drink tea and eat marshmallows and cake. I like going to visit aunties and uncles because I get things I don,t get at home like cake and biscuits and sometimes lemonade.
Eventually it was time to go, so we say our goodbyes and go down all those stairs again. We reached the huge front door, opened it, and found out that our go chair had disappeared. Someone had run off with it while we were visiting for the day. We had a lengthy walk home that day and we were both miffed about losing the pram. I never did get another one but we still went out on long walks together nan and I, she loved her walks right up to the day she died twenty odd years into the future..