It was with great relief when Mother's unwanted pregnancy ended, as she had had a long, and towards the end, a very uncomfortable time, convinced that she was carrying twins, the Doctor, and midwife, had mentioned the probability, her Mother, friends and relatives all going along with the same idea, but on Sunday, 22nd of April, 1928, I proved them all wrong, there was only one pea in the pod, so to speak, though I was of a weight that was large enough for two, 12 pounds. Her misery was aided and abetted by the fact that I was 3 weeks overdue. Poor Mother, she just did not know which way to turn for mental, and physical comfort, and in her own words, she said, to me, later, "She was as broad as she was tall, could neither sit in a chair, nor lay down, with any degree of comfort, apart from sitting on the floor, with her back to the wall, with her legs straight out and well apart".
I was born at home, home being No 12 Camden Place, Great Yarmouth, in the county of Norfolk, using the local names that are given to those born in this part of the country, I was a Norfolk dumpling, a Yarmouth bloater, and as I was born under the sign of Taurus, I was, in other words, a roly, poly, fishy, bull, and looked the part.
Mother already had one son, Geofrey, born 28 months earlier, which is possibly the reason why I was not particularly welcome at that time, she wanted a bit more space between her children, which is understandable, I suppose.
I am not aware if Dad was home from sea, at that particular time, I know my maternal grandmother was in attendance, together with the midwife.
Mother breast fed me until I was weaned on to solid foods, and it was prior to my weaning that Mother entered me into a bonny baby contest, being held on the Wellington Pier.
She sat there, with other proud mums, bouncing, or cuddling their offspring, whilst the judging team, headed by a local doctor, did their rounds. He, the doctor, had the final say on who was going to get the "blue riband". As he paused at my position in the line up, he looked at mother and told her that I was evidently a Glaxo baby, (A propriety baby food known for it's body, and bulk, building properties), mother vehemently denied this, but I'd lost the day, and he awarded the prize to another child, Mum was quite convinced the reason for his choice, was that the lady, and her family were paying patients of his, whereas we were under another doctor.
Various other snippets of my activities during my very early years, are purely hearsay, from either Mum, or other relatives, and told to me when I was much older. Such as the time Dad would return from his six week term at sea, to be met by me screaming my head off, and then hiding under the kitchen table, because of this stranger coming into the house, which, on reflection, must have hurt Dad very much at the time. Mother would remind me, later that I had a rather nasty temper, (Can you believe that), and if I could not get my own way, I would throw a tantrum, the way I would do this is to lay full stretched on the floor, get myself rigid, and stop breathing. Evidently this action disturbed Mum so much so that she took medical advice to deal with this situation. The next time it arose, and she didn't have long to wait, something, or someone, I know not what, caused me to do one of my "tricks" again, she let me carry on for a few moments, and once I had gone into my "holding my breath "routine, she knelt down beside me, putting one of her hands over my mouth, and the other over my nose, ensuring that I could not breath if I wanted to, and her actions making me want to breath, as, and when, she felt my forced, rigid body, start to go limp, and my hands reach up to remove hers, she knew she had won, as I never tried "tricks" like that again.
Another occasion that I was reminded of was when my paternal Grandfather, and Grandmother, were staying with us. Grandfather had planned to take some photos of Geof and me. Just prior to the 'posing' session, I tipped a bowl of hot meat dripping over my hair, which had been perfectly safe on the stove, until I, being nosey, wanted to know what was in the basin. There is an old photograph, laying around, showing me with mussed up hair, sitting in a toy pedal car.
Writing of hair, as you can see from the 'snap', I was born with very blonde hair, but what you cannot see on the picture, is how curly it was, as the fat content of the dripping had slicked it down flat. It was these blonde curls that stopped me from wandering away from home, at least in one direction, and that was where Mrs. Horton lived, every time she saw me she asked me for a lock of it, actually threatening to snip a piece off, at that time, in my young life I thought she meant it, so unless I was accompanied by an adult, I kept clear of her.
There were always Uncles and Aunts visiting us, especially in the summer time, and of course to see the latest "Osborne". Again there are pictorial records of some of these occasions, a particular one I recall is of me sitting on Aunt Alice's lap, on the sea front, and her wearing what appears to be, an upturned flower pot on her head, no doubt the latest fashion in hats.
But I'm going on a bit too fast, I ought to describe the house, our home, before going much further. No 12 was an end of terrace house. possibly terrace is the wrong word, as the houses were built together in an elongated, open ended ring, No, 1 being opposite to us, although that side was known as West Street, our side being Camden Place, the area in between was called the passage, a common concreted opening, giving access to the back yards of the 'ring'. All the houses were basically the same, 2 up, and 2 down, with the exception that whereas our side had front gardens, West Street didn't.
Naturally I will try to give you a room by room picture of No. 12, Entering via a small front garden gate, up a small path, which divided the garden into two. On one side Dad had a small garden shed, then lots of Fuschias. There were other flowers, but Mother seemed to favour Fuschias, which always seemed to be full of wasps, and bees, which I tried to keep clear of.
The front door, which opened straight into the front room. This room was the best room, being used only for high days, such as weddings, funerals, or Christmas, and family occasions, as it contained Mum's proudest possessions, furniture, best crockery, silverware, etc.
If one of us was ill, but allowed up, Mum would light a fire in the front room, if it was winter time. It was on such an occasion when I was poorly that I decided to emulate my Dad, and rolled up a piece of paper into a spill, and lit the spill from the blazing fire, just as Dad did to light his pipe. The fashion in those days was to have a short frill hanging down, about 6 inches from the mantleshelf, As I lit the spill I also managed to set alight this frill, which soon was on fire, which in turn started to set alight a rather nice chiming clock on the mantle piece. Fortunately Geof was in the room, who yelled out for Mum to come in, to put the fire out, which she did successfully, but not before I had managed to damage the clock. Dad repaired it when he came home, but it was never the same. It would also be in this room where Geof taught me the alphabet. He was at school and I had yet to start. Before I actually went to the Greenacre, I could say the alphabet both forwards and backwards, and a lot of good that did me in later life.
During the winter, on Sundays only, Mum would light a fire in this room, where we would have our tea, and it was whilst I was quite young that I first tasted Marmite, which she would spread on to a slice of bread. Teatime was always at the same time, and we would just be eating a piece of cake as the "Ovaltiney's" programme came on the radio.
We are the Ovaltineys, little girls and boys
Make your requests we'll not refuse you
We are here just to amuse you
Would you like a song or story
Will you share our joys?
At games or sports we're more than keen;
No merrier children could be seen,
Because we all drink Ovaltine,
We're happy girls and boys!
Geof and I were both members of the club, and each week we would be given a secret message in a special code, that only us "Ovaltiney's" could decipher.Once that programme had finished we would hear the beginning of the next episode of "Dr. Fu Man Chu'a thriller for children, and then it was time to leave for our choir duties.
Dr Fu Man ChuŽa
A door from the front room led to the kitchen, cum living room, where, as the name suggests, we cooked, lived, and ate, this was a small room, although as a child it seemed large. It held the kitchen table, a couple of Suffolk chairs, and 2 smaller ones, and the very heart of the house, a coal burning stove, on which was a kettle, always near boiling, so that a pot of tea could be made quickly, if unexpected company arrived, this kettle was to be replaced later by an electric one, which was hired from the Great Yarmouth electricity board, never to be returned, as it now takes pride of place, in the living room at 4 Blackham.
The meals would be cooked, the bread toasted, and everything that needed heat would be done on this stove. On Friday nights the top of the stove would be covered with large metal saucepans, filled with water, heating up, prior to our weekly bath, for Friday night was bath night. The bath, a galvanised iron tub, was normally kept on a nail in the back yard, Mother would lift this off, place it in front of the fire, and fill it with water from the saucepans, augmented by cold water from the backyard tap. Our hair would also be washed at this time, and after drying it, would rub some mysterious cream onto our scalp, to stop scurf forming. Once bathed, and clad in clean pyjamas, she would remove the water with a ladle, and deposit the dirty water down the drain, then replace the bath back on to it's nail. Once this was done, we were given a half of sulphur tablet each, to cleanse our insides, as she would say "Clean out, clean in". This would be followed by a cuddle or two, and off we would go to bed, in which, if it was wintertime, would have been with a hot water bottle.
As with all children, I had a soft cuddly toy, which shared my part of the bed every night. It was a furry dog, named Fido, a kind of beigy colour all over, Well, he did share my bed until the day I saw a Dalmatian, which took my fancy. Now Mum had been doing a spot of painting, and had left the lid off, with the brush laying across the tin, whilst she prepared our meal, I seized the opportunity to turn Fido into the dog I would have liked, putting splodges of black paint all over my comforter, then I showed Mum my handiwork, who for some strange reason got quite annoyed, she tried to remove it with liberal applications of turpentine, to no avail, it just made it worse, the more she rubbed in the spirit, the worse it became, spreading the paint all over, until Fido was a dark grey, and his fur all hard, definitely it had lost it's cuddly feel. He did come in to my bed when he had dried out, but he wasn't the Fido I knew and loved, and we parted company, he only returning to sleep with me when I needed an extra amount of comfort.
After our bath, one particular Friday night, and we were dressed in our pyjamas, we heard a knock on our back door, and on opening it, Mum found Aunt Alice standing there, paying one of her rare visits to her sister. She lived about 600 yards away, but it might have been 600 miles. Nevertheless she called, and was made welcome, to the extent of Mum getting her beetroot wine out. At that time, we had acquired a cat, though she, the cat, arrived at ours as a kitten, a tortoise shell, which came one day after Mum saw a mouse, running around our living room, and she being terrified of the little creatures, (I've actually seen her jump up on to a chair, when one dared show itself to her). Whether or not it was a good mouser, I don't recall, but it soon became a family pet, leading to arguments between Geof and I as to whose turn it was to have the cat on who's lap, this would occasionally lead to blows, until Mum took the cane down from the picture rail, and hung it on the back of her chair, but I'm digressing. On this particular occasion, and in the presence of Aunt Alice, (We both thought that she was a cut above the rest of us, to be proved wrong at a later date), a terrible pong cut through the air, naturally one of us had caused it, hadn't we just consumed a sulphur tablet, and Mum knew it wasn't her, and no way would Aunt Alice do it. "Geof have you done that", "No Mum", "Roy it must have been you then", "No Mum". Both of us denying responsibility. Mum apologised to our aunt, it's not like the boys to lie, but it must be one of them, and with that we were sent off to bed. Some time after aunt's departure, Mum sat in her chair, against the fire with the cat on her lap, when the obnoxious smell returned, she knew it wasn't caused by her, her 2 sons were upstairs, it could only be the cat, which she unceremoniously dumped outside in the back yard. When Geof and I got up the next morning, she was full of apologies to us, with her thinking that we had lied to her the previous night, as if we could have done that, us being choir boys.
I mentioned about the relationship between us two brothers, whether it was the age gap, jealousy, or whatever, but at times very little love flowed from one to another, to the point that it seemed, at least to Mum, that we would rather fight than argue, and normally over nothing of any consequence. For example, when we arrived home from school at dinnertime (midday), Mum would give us an orange squash each, and after a lot of pleading, we persuaded her to buy some drinking straws, because that was the way to drink squash. This worked out alright until there was only one straw left, and who was to get it. An altercation took place, which would lead to blows being struck. It seems as if it was mainly meal times that our patience with each other was at a low ebb, and it must have been completely upsetting to Mum, as she had this trouble from us, day in, day out, but only whilst Dad was away at sea. When he was home, we behaved much better, and she must have felt that not only was she losing control of us, but herself as well. One day we had worked her up into such a pitch that she all of a sudden, stood up, reached for her hat and coat, put them on, opened the back door, and with a "I'm going to throw myself in the river" walked out of the house. Geof and I looked at each other, and tears welled up in our eyes, because of what she said. We knowing that she never broke her word, we both realised what we had done, we grabbed our own coats and ran after her, looking everywhere, gradually working our way to the river, when one of us espied her walking towards home, we both ran to her, each grabbing one of her hands, and crying to her that we were sorry, and promising never to be naughty again.
Under one of her arms she was carrying a thin cane, shaped like a Charlie Chaplin walking stick. What's that for Mum? we asked, and she replied that it was for us, and that she would use it if we ever carried on like we just had, and her look on her face told us that she meant every word. Once home she hung the curved end over the picture rail, which ran around the room about two feet below the ceiling. We resumed eating the rest of our dinner, which by this time was cold, but we were not going to complain.
Peace reigned in the house for quite a little time, and when hostility eventually reared it's head between us, she would just reach up for the cane, and hang it over the back of her chair, saying that if we continue she would use it, and as we knew she meant it, the meal would continue in comparative silence, and by the time we had finished eating, whatever had caused the friction would have been forgotten.
But back to the house, the kitchen led then into the back yard, this was a paved area, unroofed (Later on it was covered by a glass roof). This yard contained our only source of water in the house, a tap over a rectangular shaped, glazed stone sink, where we washed, cleaned our teeth, pots and pans, dishes etc. and any small bits of washing. The water, cold only, was fed in via lead pipes, (Later on it was decided that lead was a health hazard, that could cause brain damage, if water was used over a long period, you see, I have an excuse). Next to the sink was the lavatory, complete with door, for privacy, on the back of the door was a toilet roll holder, the paper was often made by Izal, where every other sheet had a rhyme printed on it, sometimes it was telling you that Bo Peep used it, or just it's medicinal properties. If the toilet paper ran out, there was a strategically placed nail, on which would be suspended the previous day's newspaper, cut into the appropriate size. This was perfectly safe to use for this purpose as the printing ink didn't come off, like it does now. When the toilet door was opened it still had room behind it to store the couple of hundredweight of coal, required for our heating, also some of the housing cleansing materials, brooms, dustpans, etc. There was even room for our buckets and spades that Geof and I would use on the beach. By the toilet door was the copper, in which the weekly wash, or boil, was done, more of that later.
Going back into the kitchen again, on the opposite wall to the back door, was the stairs door, leading, naturally to the bedrooms. The stairs were very narrow, with an acute rightangled bend at the bottom, the kind of stairs that made you extremely careful how you used them, making you take your time when ascending or descending, especially, when descending. As a child I often went my full length, crashing into the door, in my haste to get out to play.
2 bedrooms, the doors of which separated by a small landing at the top of the stairs. The larger one, on the right, was Mum and Dad's, when he was home from sea, the other one, was ours, a small double bed, which we shared, and the fact that we slept together didn't help our relationship, as we could always find a good reason to fall out with each other, sometimes leading to blows, "Mum, he had all the eiderdown last night", would be one moan, or that "he was always twisting about, and taking the bedclothes off me", and if one of us had a cold, and was breathing heavy, it would be, "Can't you stop breathing, you're keeping me awake". But if one of us said that we were not going to sleep together, anymore, Mother would offer the complainant the alternative of sleeping downstairs on the hard floor.
Back downstairs, built into the wall, was a big cupboard, that fitted under the stairs. In here was kept the everyday foodstuffs, bread butter cheese, etc, (milk, unless it was winter, meat, and anything else that could be deemed perishable, was kept in the food safe, a small wooden box that had a hinged door on it's front, with an aperture that would be covered with perforated zinc, to allow air in, but flies out, this was attached to the wall in the back yard. Another shelf in the big cupboard would hold the everyday crockery, and below that would be where the homemade wines, spirits, and the odd bottle of stout (she had been medically advised to take stout after my birth), and some Tolly's bitter beer, that Dad liked.
On the left of the cupboard was a little shelf, attached to the wall, and on this would stand Dad's toy. a crystal set, powered by a lead acid battery, which had to be charged up, now and again, by taking it to a little shop around the corner, where the necessary equipment was kept. The battery was filled with a weak solution of sulphuric acid, though it was strong enough to burn a hole in your clothes if any were spilt. Because of this, Mum kept some bicarbonate of soda close by, which would neutralize the acid. When this was applied it would bubble furiously, and once the bubbles had died down the garment had to be rinsed in water. Returning to Dad's toy, he was the only one who understood what to do with it, to make it work, Geof and I were forbidden to touch the contraption. I can see my father now, turning this knob on the set, with his earphones on, and hearing the incessant squeaks, squarks, and whistles that it gave out, for several minutes, that seemed like hours, with him muttering various oaths, under his breath, (He never swore, at least not in our presence), he would leave the set, go outside, to the front garden, where the wire that connected the set to the earth was attached to a steel rod, or was it copper, had been hammered into the soil, check it's connection, then he would examine the aerial wire, that was suspended on a pole at the bottom of the front garden, return to his plaything, and start twiddling, suddenly a big smile would light up his face, "Come and listen to this, boys", he'd say. We would put on the earphones, and lo and behold, we would hear dance music, or someone talking, and then it would be lost amidst the squeaks and whistles, etc, another fiddle, and we had the phones on again, I cannot recall just how long we could listen to something sensible, before it was lost, Dad would come out with, "Receptions not good, must be caused by bad atmospherics tonight", which of course meant nothing to me, or Geof, though I would use that statement much later on in life, if I said something to Dad, and he didn't hear me, I would tell him that it was bad atmospherics tonight.
Later on, a new type of wireless came into the house, it still needed an earth, and aerial, and a lead acid battery, but it also required an H. T. dry battery, this was, as they say, a state of the art set, no earphones, but a big loudspeaker, so that everyone could hear it, we could listen to this without the bubbles, and squeaks, though this set too, was affected by any electrical storms.
This was later superseded by an all mains superhetrodyne, a Phillips radio, not a wireless(is there a difference). This set now had pride of place on a shelf, above Dad's chair, on the opposite wall. Extension speakers could be added so that we could hear the set in the front room, it also had a socket that would allow an external microphone to be plugged in. Geof bought one of these, and connecting this to the set with an extension lead, he would take the mike into the front room, and sing through it, to music that was being played on the set.
But the main reason that brought the set into the house was that the "Trawler band" could be picked up on it, we could listen to ships at sea talking to one another about weather conditions, what fish catches they had. Late at night, when Dad was at sea, and we were not at school the next day, we could hear him talking to other lightships, or his shore base, then he would usually end up with a ``Goodnight Ethel, hope you're OK, and the boys". We would learn about ships being in distress, which was great, as we would know of these disasters before any of our friends would be aware.
Mother caught me one day, bragging about some shipping news that I had heard, and she told me off, pointing out that we were lucky to be able to afford this radio, as Dad was in work, whereas several of my friends fathers were out of work, and that I should not show off.
A bit about our neighbours. With living at the end of the 'ring' our attached household contained the Dye family, no relation to Mother, comprised of Mr. and Mrs. Dye, and 2 children, Mr. Dye was employed as a carpenter, and it was he who Dad hired to frame and glaze the roof of our backyard. Next to them was the Oakes, father, mother, and 2 sons, both older than Geof. Mr. Oakes only seemed to work during the summer months, when he sold Walls icecream and iced lollies, from a 3 wheeled boxed tricycle, the box holding his wares in a kind of freezer container. Written on the front of the box was the words, "Stop me and buy one".
His lunch, or rather his dinner hour, coincided with ours from school, and if it was hot day, Geof and I would craze Mum until she gave us a penny for a lolly. Of course during our meal we would be on our very best behaviour, and once eaten, we would ask her for the cost of the treat, she would give one or the other of us the necessary, and we would knock on Mr. Oakes door. We would pick a flavour, we both liked, hand over the money, take it back to Mum, who would cut it in half, and give us a piece each. "His piece is bigger than mine" was then heard, we would then be told that if we continued to argue, not to expect to get any more.
The Bately's came next, a widow with 2 daughters, Eileen and Kathleen. We, as boys, didn't mix with them, they were girls, unless you had no one else to play with, or you needed more kids to make up a team. Then another widow, Mrs. Ferris with a daughter much older than us, she was working. The Water's came next. Mr. and Mrs. with 2 sons, Geofrey, and Alan, 2 daughters, Dinah and Doris, and a sister of Mrs. Waters also lived in this house, which was the same size as ours, how they all slept, or where they all slept, I've no idea, and it never crossed my mind at the time. Alan was just a few months younger than me, and a lifelong friend, whereas Geofrey was a couple of years older than Geof, as was Dinah.
Doris, I believe was the oldest and had left school and started work. Then Mrs. Arbon, a widow, with a working daughter. Their neighbours were the Love's, 2 sons, and 2 daughters, Jimmy, another life long friend, except that he died in his early twenties, Ronald, much younger, Joan, and June. Last but not least, Mr. Spanton, a widower, who kept himself to himself.
There was another house, which wasn't actually in the passage, and was partially attached to No. 12. An extremely tiny house, one room up, one room down. This was so small that all you could get into the bedroom was a small double bed, and a very small wardrobe. The bedroom was actually over the whole house, with a small stairway leading up to it. The actual building was in the shape of a triangle, I think the name of the family was Gibbs.
From our passage, you went into the next passage, which led you to the passage that the front of our house was on, and to another group of houses, similar to ours, except that the opening in front of these houses was wider. It was here that we would have street parties, whenever a national celebration took place, such as the King and Queen's jubilee, the coronation of George the V1, and Queen Elizabeth, now the Queen Mother. This street, on these occasions would be strung with bunting, and Union Jacks. Trestle tables would be laid out, filled with sandwiches, cakes, trifle, etc, lemonade and various other fizzy drinks, we would all join in singing the National anthem, and the 'pop' songs of the day, the music being provided by one of the houses than owned a piano. We would also play various games.
At school, for the coronation, we, the kids, were each given a coronation mug, which is now in our glass cabinet. These mementos were supplied by the local council, as a souvenir of the royal occasion.
To the left of this area, another passage, called the dirty way. A larger open area that was our playground, this was where we would play Hop scotch, Tennis, football, and various other games, depending on the time of year. When it was the cricket season, the wickets were drawn on one end wall, in chalk, once drawn, they would last the whole year round. You name a game, and often or not, it, we played it there.
It got its name, dirty way, from the fact that a coal merchant had a yard adjoining the area, and often, when the wind was in the right direction, the ground would get a light coating of coal dust.
Just off our play area, was another opening, called Littlewoods passage, an old lady by that name lived at the end. She was always opening her door to tell us off for making too much noise. Her hearing was exceptional, for even if we were silent, and crept past her house, she would be out, moaning about the noise we created, yet she had no windows that would enable her to see us. We all came to the conclusion that she was a witch.
The passage that ran along the side of our house also joined Blackfriars Road, where our local shops were. Mays the butcher, where all our meat, including the meat that Dad took away with him to sea, Ives the grocers, where I would go for corned beef if I didn't want fish on Saturday, then Middletons the newsagent, where Mum bought the cane, and we could buy toy guns with percussion caps.
Close by, was one of the towers of the wall that enclosed Yarmouth, built 400 years previously, to protect the town from invaders, an arch way through this tower led to Adam and Eve's garden, a small grassed area surrounded by small houses. Opposite, on our side of Blackfriars Road, was the Army and Navy pub, next door, the Post office, then a clothing shop, then our passage, and across that, an ironmongers, and next door to that was Paganos sweet shop. He made his own icecream, and where a lot of my spending money and I, parted company. Mr Pagano was an Italian by birth, and when war was declared he was taken away, until he was proved to be a non risk person. He would sell in his shop, lucky dips, for a halfpenny, and gobstoppers for the same price, often when I decided to go for the lucky dip I would end up with just a small sweet, nowhere near as big as a gobsucker.
South East Tower
We, us kids, would by a penny packet of 'fizzers, which when one was put into a glass of water, it fizzed up, like an Alkaseltzer, and flavoured the water, either orange, or lemon. You would get 12 tablets in a pack. He also had lucky straws, where a piece of paper would be pushed out of the straw, by a steel rod, with the same end result as his lucky dips.
In the passage, that was at the back of the houses opposite us was West street, and the well remembered family that lived there were the Miller's, widowed Mrs. Miller, with her offsprings, Laura, Hazel and Jack. Laura the oldest was at work, Hazel was unable to go to school because she was very backward, and definitely 'not with it', not like her brother Jack, who was a different kettle of fish. You would take your life in your hands if you so much as looked at him. Their problem, I believe, was that there was very little money coming into the house, as a widows pension was extremely small, definitely not sufficient for a family of 4.
I once, foolhardly, made a derogatory remark about Hazel, and Jack gave me a good thumping. They, the children, never looked clean, often they would walk through the passages, eating their tea on the move, as it were. A doorstep of bread, covered in jam, yet they were never ill, and Mother would comment to us when either Geof or I had a bad cold, "How is it that all the good food, warm clothing you have, yet you get colds, but the Millers, half starved, dirty, underdressed, always seem healthy".
Mentioning childhood illnesses, both of us suffered the usual ailments such as Whooping cough, measles, mumps, and very often a cold. Geof was never a well child, he had every appearance of being undernourished, and from the time I was 5 years old, I was bigger than him. Mum took him to the doctor, who thought that if he had his tonsils out, his health may improve. He was due in hospital on a Sunday morning, and Dad was home at the time. Geof was terrified about his operation, so much so that Dad decided to cancel it, telling Mum that he would have it done, only when it was extremely necessary.
As for me, I gather Mum saved my young life over the use of a hot water bottle that she put against my ear, when it had a raging ache. I suffered this for a couple of days, when Mum called the doctor in. He examined me and told her that I had had a mastoid, fortunately it had burst outwardly, and that her use of heat had allowed this to happen, if it had gone inwardly, it would have poisoned my bloodstream, possibly with disastrous effect. He then supplied her with some form of disinfectant, that was to be used to flush out my ear, which by now was full of puss.
I had 3 ways to get to church, once I had joined the choir, one was a short distance, the others 3 times as far, but the short one led me past the Millers, who would sometimes hide from you, and jump out at the last minute, making you take to your heels. Mother would occasionally give some used clothing to Mrs. Miller, but that didn't stop Jack from attacking you. On reflection the Miller children must have felt very deprived, all the kids around them had complete families, yet they had no Dad, and all the clothing they wore was secondhand.
Many years on, in fact after David and Nigel were born, we were all down at Yarmouth, staying at Mothers house in Lichfield road, when she had a delivery of coal. and I renewed my aquaintenship with Jack. He was her coalman, we shook hands, had a little chat, and that was that. Later on that week, I saw him again, all dressed up, just entering his sister Laura's house, which was opposite No. 10, I had met her a few days later, and found that she spoke quite well of Mother.
Imagination always was a source of inspiration to us budding Henry Fords. We wanted wheels, so started going around the scrap yards until we could get the set of wheels from an old pram, complete with their axles, then we had to find a plank of wood, about 4 foot long, 6 to 8 inches wide, and at least an inch thick. Next job was to go from shop to shop to get a largish wooden box, though that was not urgent, bolts and screws we could get from our fathers. One pair of wheels were fixed to one end of the plank, at right angles, and the other set was fixed, first to a piece of wood, then to the other end of the plank, using a bolt through a hole drilled in the centre. A piece of rope attached to either end of the front axle, to allow us to steer, and we were ready to roll. The driver sitting in the box, or laying down on the plank. Power being supplied by a mate, unless you were travelling down hill. We would take it in turns to push each other. The only brakes you had were the toes of your shoes, which often got very scuffed, much to the annoyance of Mother, who would let you know, in no uncertain way, that shoes cost money.
When the holiday season started, the wooden box would come into use, we would take the box off, then the rear wheels off, nail them to the bottom of the box, then fix, on each side of the box, a pair of handles, and ply for trade at the railway station, carrying peoples luggage to their digs, as most of them could not afford taxis, and their cases would be extremely heavy.
Depending on distance to their holiday digs, we would charge accordingly, but normally we would get a penny. If you could get 3 or 4 trips in on an afternoon you could build up a little bit of cash. As Arthur Daley would say, 'a good little earner'. But back to the 'dirty way, if we played cricket, and the owner of the ball, or bat, got run out, or was caught and he didn't like the decision, he would leave the game and take his personal property with him.
It was also our 'prairie', where we would play 'cowboys and indians'. We all had cap guns, holsters, and belts, and some of us also had home made bows and arrows. We would split up the 'gang, into two parties, one to chase the other. Creating ambushes, tying the captives up with rope, to garden railings. On one occasion, after seeing Gene Autry, or Buck Jones on our Saturday film show, we had our chase in the evening, I caught a 'baddie' and hit him over the head, with my gun butt, just as I had seen that morning, at the cinema, but the lad didn't like it, and when he found blood on his hand, when rubbing his head, went home to his mother, who in turn called on my mother, who gave me a wallop. (Who says films do not influence). Those of us who were playing indians, would fire on the others, the cowboys, with our arrows, fortunately no harm was done to anyone, possibly because the range was to far for us to hit them.
If we saw Errol Flynn in one of his action films, using swords, we all made ourselves a sword, or bought a ready made one from Middletons, and we would have swordfights, losing only when your arms tired before your opponent's, If Errol was Robin Hood, then out came the bows and arrows again.
As the dark nights started, we would play "Knick Knock", knocking on peoples doors, and running away. When two doors were adjacent to each other, we would tie the handles together with a piece of string, leaving the string just long enough, hoping that the owners would come to the doors at the same time. the first door opened would be pulled shut by the person trying to open the second door.
As you can see, we were a credit to our parents. and this would become painfully clear, and I mean painfully, if we were caught and Mother was informed of my games.
School holidays, in particular the summer ones, meant that we could have later nights, than when we were at school, so most evenings a group of us would go to the beach, about 600 yards away. Here we could play cricket, with proper stumps, or rounders, and if the weather was warm enough, go in for a dip, after our games, and play water polo. Sometimes our games would lead to arguments, which would end up in a fight, though no one ever seemed to hit the face of an opponent, below the neck, yes, but never the face. The reason may have been if one of us had a bloody nose, his parent would know he had been fighting, and he would get another wallop from them.
It was whilst we were playing on the beach one afternoon, though, that the following took place, and forever will stay in my memory. We, the gang, were playing rounders, near the Wellington Pier, and between the Wellington Pier gardens and the beach, was a wide paved area, on which the horse drawn Landaus would drive, carrying their passengers from the Brittannia pier to the Pleasure beach, about a mile in distance. Now this paved area was laid with a sloping surface that allowed any sea water, which, in the winter months, and with the high tides, would come rushing up. the beach, and flood the top of the sea wall, this incline allowing the sea water to return to the beach. The edge of the sea wall had a rounded edge, which protruded about 4 inches over the wall's vertical face. This was a favourite place for holiday makers, who would sit there with their backs to the wall, the men covering their heads with a hankerchief, knotted in each corner, and the ladies pulling up their skirts and dresses as far as modesty would allow. So along comes this horse drawn coach, the "engine" decided that he would stop. and have a pee, and when a horse pees, he passes what seemed like gallons, this splattered down, and once on the pavement, parted into many streams, the water covering a wide area, this eventually worked its way towards the edge of the wall, over the projection, and dropped down on to the heads of the unsuspecting sun worshippers, much to our amusement. Startled out of their wits, they all jumped up, the men taking the hankercheifs off their heads and the women taking theirs out of their handbags, wiping themselves down furiously. We were not near enough to hear their comments, but can imagine what they were. They were not there against the wall the rest of the week, but no doubt others were caught out in the same way.
Great Yarmouth Beach
When Dad was home on shore leave and it was a warm summers night, the four of us would walk down to the south beach, where it was less populated, and amongst the sand dunes. Dad would undress and put his bathing costume on, and go for a swim, he was a very strong swimmer. He would entice us to join him, by offering to carry us, one at a time, on his back, Geof first, but he was not keen to go, and his crying, once he was in the water, put me off trying the same. Though I did eventually go, I was holding on for grim death, and certainly didn't enjoy the experience. Maybe, if Geof hadn't been so terrified, I may have been ok.
Late in October, a group of us would start going around the shops asking for burnable rubbish to enable us to build a bonfire. November the 5th not being that far away. We would also buy a penny mask, and build a 'guy'. One year we managed to get a tailors dummy, which when dressed in old clothes, seemed quite realistic. We would put 'guy' on the 'Ford', and take him around the streets, requesting "money for the guy", the money we received going towards the cost of fireworks. The rubbish we got was stored all over the place, in safe, dry, areas, as other gangs would be on the same game, and if they could pinch any of ours, it would save them from going round, collecting. Given the opportunity, we did the same to them, if the chance arose. Come the day, and once school was over, we would rush home, have a hurried tea, and start taking the stuff to the beach, leaving a couple on the beach to stand guard, whilst we went back for more, using our "Fords". By the time we had got all the rubbish on the beach, including the 'guy', some of our parents would be with us. The bonfire was built up, the guy would be placed on top, one of the fathers would give the rubbish a liberal covering of paraffin, and it would be lit. Once it had caught, and was burning well, the fireworks, and sparklers would be let off. Occasionally stopping to replace rubbish that had fallen free of the fire, until it had burnt itself out, just leaving the odd piece of metal, such as mattress springs, and nails.
All along the beach this was being repeated, and it seemed as if all the seashore was on fire. This ritual bonfire would be another milestone in our year.
The next day we would return to the beach, in daylight, and wander along the sea shore, examining the ashes, kicking over the debris. I never discovered what happened to the remains or where they went. I can only assume it was the local council, or Father Neptune cleaning the beach of the ashes. but in what appeared to be a few hours, there were no signs of what had happened the previous night.
It's maybe worth a note, but I only remember one firework accident, and that was caused by a few roughnecks, prewar name for hooligans, and happened to a couple of feeble minded women, mother and daughter, who were, shall I say, a couple of well known characters, in the town. One of the yobs lit a ha'penny banger, and thrust it into the daughters overcoat pocket, which exploded, and blew the pocket off, luckily the girl had several layers of clothing underneath, and no physical damage was done to her body, but mentally it was a different matter, so much so that she was terrified to go outside her home for weeks after the incident.