36 Rastrick Common continued…
Back to describing the house with the off-shoot memories that each description brings:
Besides the table, television and front-door in the front room I can only remember the door to the kitchen but most of all, the fireplace and hearth that was sparkling clean at all times. It was a black Victorian fireplace with a side-oven in which were dried or aired socks and the like. Today you would pay a lot of money for such a fireplace. It was gleaming black and had a mantelpiece. We had lots of brass ornaments and trinkets which had to be polished every day not just dusted but polished. The brass was cleaned with ‘Duraglit’ (still around today) – the smell of that still brings back those memories of having to clean these ornaments and rake out the ashes of the fire and bring in buckets of coal for the fire. And, the other strange bit of cleaning was after every meal the knives, forks, spoons – cutlery – had to be polished with ‘Brillo Pads’ – after every meal! This was a chore that was given to me and my sister, May when we were a bit older. Did we argue! If you were on washing duty and you were washing faster than the other who was on drying duty – the drier always got miffed!
This is similar to the fireplace at 36 Rastrick Common but we had a hearth with a fender. And, ours was gleaming clean too!
We had to Brillo every knife, spoon, fork and pans too – after every meal!
Now, the dozens of ornaments – brass and otherwise all came from FM and his job on the bins. Anything worth keeping the bin-men would put aside in a small compartment of the bin-wagon and share them out every so often. We got a lot of brass I can tell you! There were WW1 or WW2 rifle bullets in their ‘clip’ of 6 each, I think – two sets that sat at each end of the mantelpiece and always gleamed. I loved those. I don’t know where they are now but they were passed around the part of my family that my Mother was in contact with namely Auntie Gloria who had them at one point and may have them now for all I know. Maybe FM’s Auntie Lizzie had them at one point too. They would come back home sometimes too. The other piece of shiny brass I remember was a WW1 Battle of the Somme shell-case which had been engraved with the name of the battle and the jagged edges at the top where the opening was turned inwards and then used as a poker stand in the hearth.
These remind me of the bullets we had on either side of the mantelpiece – there were two sets of 6 secured inside a ‘clip’ and they always shone like all our brasses with a daily dose of ‘Duraglit’.
This is similar to the shell-case we used as a poker stand which was a Battle of the Somme (which was engraved on its side) shell-case. Ours even had the triangular spiky bits shown above at the top which were folded inside the tube.
That poker was once used by my Mother to hit FM around the head one night when they had had a row. The poker bent out of shape but I don’t know what happened to FM’s head. I loved it when they split-up and there was only my Mother at home. I don’t why looking back but I was always happier somehow and hated it when they had made up and he came back.
I also remember after another such fight that my Mother suddenly appeared with a black eye which I didn’t quite understand and it made me feel physically ill especially when she was giving us our food at the table. But I knew I had to eat the food.
Talking of the fireplace having a mantelpiece I can see even now in my mind’s-eye my Mother standing there leaning against it pregnant again! I am under 11 years here because we moved in 1966 but I can remember thinking ‘No, not again! We don’t have any money now and you are having another baby!’ And, it would mean I would be left alone with FM at home. In those days you went into hospital for a few days to have a baby even though my Mother always discharged herself early. I still find the sight of a pregnant woman unattractive. I also remember having bad thoughts about my brothers and sisters at an early age and would have bad dreams/ nightmares about them drowning or dying and would wake up crying. But, I also used to cry at night worrying about my Nannan dying. I remember once vowing to myself that if she died I would never, ever talk to anyone ever again! Writing about that awful memory reminds me of a song that we used to sing in the playground at Junior School around the same time as these thoughts. We would sit in a circle in the playground and sing ‘Three Wheels On My Wagon’ by the New Christy Minstrels which was released in 1963 so; I was about 7/8 years old. I suppose we must have heard it on the wireless or the telly for all of us to know it so well.
Here is a link to the 1963 song of ‘Three Wheels On My Wagon’ by the New Christy Minstrels on youtube:
In front of the fireplace was a tiled hearth around which was a fender which separated the rest of the room at floor-level from the fire area and any falling coals. The fender was extendable and retractable to fit different hearthsI seem to remember and again had to have a daily dose of ‘Duraglit’ as it was brass or some similar shiny material.
I used to have to baby-sit even though I was a child myself when my Mum and FM went out on a Friday or Saturday. Once I remember I had fallen asleep so deeply that they had to break the door down to get back in. Another time my Auntie Jennifer came to baby-sit and I had been given permission to watch a television programme (yes, you read me right!) but Jennifer wouldn’t allow me to. She wanted a bath. But, I didn’t see the problem. Jennifer is only 8 years older than me so, if I was 7/8 she would be a teenager at 15/16 – so, a young woman. You see we didn’t have a bathroom – we had a tin-bath which was placed in front of the fire now and again, filled with hot water from the boiler; we didn’t have hot water in this house – it had to be boiled in a huge white boiler which was in the kitchen. So, of course she wanted her privacy. I didn’t understand because I just wanted to watch my television programme which I didn’t get to see!
This brings back distant memories.
And, in those early days the television and pop radio stations finished about 11pm if not earlier. So, it wasn’t as though you could sit there being entertained until the adults came home. Once it was just me in the front room – no telly, no radio – and having a vivid imagination I was convinced a gorilla was coming to get me. I was really scared, I can tell you!
I can’t remember anything else about the front room of this house so, onto the kitchen which is even blurrier than the front room.
The door into the kitchen was wooden with slats and a metal latch. The boiler, I think was just ahead of you as you walked in and next to that was the stone sink where we were washed by my Mother. We would sit naked on the cold stone whilst she washed us and I can remember thinking what would happen to me when I am growing up and I start to grow hair down there – it will be very embarrassing…..In those days for us the soap came in huge green blocks – was it ‘Fairy’??? At school, it was big red blocks of carbolic soap with which teachers used to threaten to wash our mouths out if we said anything untoward in class. I can’t remember if it ever happened to me.
Big blocks of green ‘Fairy’ soap which was used to wash clothes and us too!
Evil smelling and evil tasting carbolic soap which we had at school and with which the teachers would threaten to wash out our mouths if anything rude was said.
I did once tell the Music Teacher, Mrs Wilson to shut up and I was caned by Mr Pollard, the headmaster on both hands. I was considered by Mrs Wilson to be the best singer in the school so I was a favourite of hers. I used to get to sing solos in front of the whole school at assembly and was asked to judge the singing of the rest of the class once which I didn’t feel I could do. I can’t remember what she said to upset me to cause me to shout ‘Shut up!’ but when I wouldn’t speak to her after my caning she did embarrass me. It was the end of play-time and she was ringing the bell for all us to get into a line before we re-entered the school and shouted across to me ‘Are you speaking to me yet Barry?’ I think I ignored her. I also recall she was a member of the Huddersfield Choral Society and she got to travel to the United States. This enthralled me as I loved, in those days the idea of all things American. I remember when she came back she let me hold an American silver dollar. I was in raptures! As an adult I did see her once going into the waiting room on Huddersfield Railway Station but didn’t have the guts to go and say hello. I wouldn’t recognise her now.
The playground at Longroyde School where I sang Kathy Kirby songs, re-enacted Emma Peel fights from ‘The Avengers’, sang ‘Three Wheels On My Wagon’, played an Indian in ‘Cowboys and Indians’, played ‘elastic twist’ and skipping with the girls.
The building to the bottom left is part of the Infant’s School where I lied that I had seen Santa on his sleigh in the sky and was upset when he arrived and didn’t kiss me but kissed all the girls when he gave out the presents. I think I was given a plastic helicopter. Also, I remember we were read to by a teacher (Mrs Kay?) ‘The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse’ – that was fascinating – a chapter a week!
The rest of the building is the Junior school where I was the best speller in Mr Thomson’s class. I also cried in his class because I didn’t know what ‘in your own words’ meant. And, Miss Hexham told me she had seen Diana Rigg on stage wearing a wig in a play. I said ‘No, she didn’t!’
The black door at the top is where is Mrs Wilson embarrassed me when we were queuing up in our class lines after playtime.
In the kitchen I cannot remember a cooker or stove but there must have been one because by the time we moved to the final address as a family in 1966 there were 5 children (May, Stephen, Linda, Mandy and me) so my Mum had to able to cook somewhere. We certainly had meat cooked somewhere because I hated meat especially the fatty parts (still hate fat on meat!) and I can remember it being forced down my throat. When I was at my Nannan’s she never made me eat meat and she made tins and tins of Yorkshire Pudding just for me – I still love Yorkshire Puddings with a passion to this very day with salty gravy made from the meat and the vegetables cooked for a Sunday lunch (typing this and those words I have made myself hungry – quick break for lunch). When I go out these days for a Sunday lunch/ roast I generally choose chicken instead of beef.
There were three doors in the kitchen – one to upstairs; one to the front room and one to the pantry. The door to the pantry was off to the right as you walked into the kitchen from the front room. It was painted white and this was where many things including the food were stored and coats were hung. Underneath the huge stone-flags of the pantry floor was some kind of cellar which I remember seeing – just a huge black hole – but it was to be sealed up and never used.
There was a shelf on the wall to the right as you walked in because I kept my big furry gloves that looked like gorilla’s hands that I bought at a jumble sale. I used to play with these to entertain my siblings and probably school friends too. But eventually they were thrown onto the fire because I was having too much fun with them.
I also used to store my memorabilia on this shelf too which also found its way onto the fire that roared in the shiny Victorian hearth. I don’t know if it was felt that it was strange to keep newspaper clippings and photos of Diana Rigg at 10 years of age or it was just spite that caused my Mum andFM to destroy them this way. They certainly let this 10 year old boy know that they thought that she was ‘rubbish’; ‘crap’ and every other negative word you can think to the point where at 55 I still doubt her and any of my other passions that have kept me going through both good and bad times. But, Diana Rigg like my Nannan has been a constant and one of the few positive influences in my life. More about that later.
The back door went out to a long thin garden area which ran the length or the width of the three houses in that small slot of land on Rastrick Common. Wild mint grew there and when we dug into the earth we would uncover clay-pipes galore and lots and lots of pieces of blue and white pottery.
Clay pipes – the kind we used to dig up in the back garden at Rastrick Common along with lots of bits of blue and white pottery.
At the far end of the garden was an outside wall of a semi-detached house where an old lady, whose name escapes me, lived. She was a lovely lady who would make us cakes or give us biscuits but the only thing is they all smelled of and tasted of ‘Germolene’ ointment. Of course, we didn’t say anything.
Germolene ointment. The old lady who lived in a private house next door smelled of this as did all the sweets and biscuits she gave us. We could never eat them.
Beyond our garden was a dry-stone wall over which were more gardens or allotments and the backs of houses which fronted onto Brooke Street. The one opposite us was the Moore family house with whom I was very friendly – a big Irish family. My good friend was Anthony Moore – wonder where he is now? He had a very tall brother Liam but that’s all I can remember of them.
Next to the old lady’s house mentioned above was a little lane which led to the houses that backed off from Brooke Street. I remember one had some crab-apple trees which we used to pick but were told that we would get colic if we ate them. They were too bitter anyway.
In my area of Yorkshire when the fruit trees came into fruition groups of kids would go ‘raiding’ orchards of apples and pears – can’t remember if there was any kind of fruit. Maybe there were attempts of growing grapes in greenhouses. I would be such a wimp really shaking in my sandals when on a ‘raid’ and I don’t remember eating our spoils anyway but it was in the days that kids would play out as long as it was light.
One place where we played for hours, days, months and years was across the road from our house in the old brickyard. The brick factory was a huge circular building with a chimney and at the base of the circular building on the outside were all the kilns. We believed all sorts of monsters and malignant forces lived in those kilns but we still played in them. Today Health & Safety would have a field-day. But, we played at ‘Batman & Robin’, ‘Dr Who’, ‘The Avengers’, and ‘The Man From Uncle’ in that building. But, no matter what TV programme was being played out I always managed to be Emma Peel. As the Americans say ‘Go figure!’
The grounds of the brick-yard seemed huge to us and it was at the base of what we thought was a mountain – Toothill Bank which we would climb and fall down and get filthy.
The above 4 photos show how the ‘brick-yard’ looks today. In the top one in the foreground is a lump of concrete with metal spikes sticking out of it which reminds of the concrete slab it was said you disappeared beneath if you stood on it. The ‘dams’ will be completely filled in now and levelled off.
Photos courtesy of Humphrey Bolton
There were also two ‘dams’ or pools of water. One was down at the bottom of the quarry and it was quite a climb down for little ‘uns like us but we were very adventurous and knew no fear. When I think of the ‘bottom dam’ I think of frogs, frog-spawn, tad-poles, toads and newts…….
Frog in frog – spawn.
When I think of the ‘top dam’ I think of a slab of concrete with metal bars sticking out of it and being told that people had stood on this piece of concrete and been sucked into the ground and never seen again. I was shit-scared of that, I can tell you.
We built a raft on this top dam and used to attempt to sail across it. One day we decided that we would clear the ‘dam’ of all it’s rubbish to make it clean and safe. Old bikes, prams, rocks and all sorts were thrown to the shore. As I waded in one day I stood on a huge broken bottle which sliced right into my foot.
There were a couple of men with a shooting pistol nearby and they saw my distress and the one with the pistol and leather jacket picked me up and I remember him saying ‘You’re a heavy little cunt, aren’t you?’ – I think it was supposed to be a term of endearment as I wasn’t a fat child at all. He took me home and my foot was put in a bowl of water and an ambulance came, took me away and I had stitches in the sole of my foot. The scar is still there some 50 years later….we all have those scars…..maybe in today’s world children won’t have such scars and memories because they are not allowed adventures anymore in what is becoming a very sanitised and paranoid world….
The only other thing that springs to mind from playing in the brick-yard is that I was ‘fishing’, I believe in the ‘top dam’ when I suddenly started sneezing and sneezing and sneezing and sneezing…..I was 10….I had hay-fever! What a menace that is to this day for me! I only get hay-fever in this country and have never suffered with it any other country that I have lived in. So, it is something peculiar to the UK that I am allergic to.
So, from 10 years onwards I would go to my GP – Dr Fanelli – and have an ‘injection’ and be given a blue pill and a white pill to help alleviate my acute allergy. The ‘injection’ I think was some kind of test I had to go through; I think they were trying to determine what exactly I was allergic to…but as far as I know we never found out. I can’t remember the pills helping either. It wasn’t until I was living in Manchester in the 70’s that I heard of ‘Kenalog’ injection which helped relieve the symptoms incredibly. Sadly, I think I am now immune so rely on over the counter medication. But, it was a wonder drug in my eyes.
Back to the house and the back garden – we had a ginger cat once and the only thing I can remember about this poor kitty is that one day it was meowing at the back door to get in because it was dying from eating rat poison that had been left outside one of the other dwellings. I just remember the poor thing frothing at the mouth and the vet coming and giving him/ her an injection. Very sad!
I also remember we got a dog called ‘Patch’ who was with us for such a short time he was almost gone as soon as he arrived. One day he just wasn’t there anymore. I was told he was given away to a ‘good family’ – I hope so and hope that wasn’t a euphemism for some thing more sinister. He was a little black and white puppy. Why would we have got him only to give him away??? I think I remember going looking for him but never found him.
Next to the back door was the latched door to the stairs to bedrooms – there were two bedrooms. But that door and those stairs bring back one horrible memory……my friend whom I named ‘Delia’ in a previous chapter and I stole money from other pupils’ pockets in the changing rooms at school and with these ill-gotten gains treated ourselves to what we classed as luxurious sweets – Riley’s Chocolate Toffee Rolls. We bought a quarter each (a quarter of a pound in weight, that is)!
We smuggled them home and I remember flattening down the bag of sweets in my coat pocket so that they wouldn’t be detected. I arrived home, it was after school and then all of a sudden was huge furore where ‘Mrs Heathholme’ was banging on the front door with ‘Delia’ in tow. She had been caught! And, she had implicated me! My Mother found the sweets in my pocket and the story of stealing the money had been discovered……
I was lashed and lashed and lashed with a leather belt so hard that my arm went blue and was as big as a ‘Schwarzenegger’ arm…..it hurt!…..I must have been screaming and crying and I remember my Mother was upset with what she had done and cried and tore up a sheet which she dampened and used to bandage my voluminous arm……
Other times I remember getting into trouble were when my sister, May and I were playing ‘house’ by the front door….I think May was the pet dog and I was my Mother and I pretended to use a telephone and said ‘Shirley Clarke: Number 37’ – boy, did my Mother lay into me for that! I had no idea what I had done wrong!
When, I would be out with my Mother she would make a telephone every so often and say those words on the telephone. It was a complete mystery to me. But, she was calling the courts to find out if my Father had paid maintenance money and Number 37 was her ID number.
And, what is very strange is that this very day – this very day! – my Uncle Pete and Auntie Sandra telephoned me and said in their yearly clear-out of their archives they had found a ‘maintenance order’ from the court dated 1955 in a box in their loft which they are sending me. They were a bit wary of mentioning it as I am described as ‘a bastard child’ on the document – which as I type is quite upsetting…..it wasn’t when I was speaking to Uncle Pete but it is now….oh, well…it’s something I have never seen and look forward to receiving…so thanks to Sandra and Peter again more of my history that has been uncovered!!!!
Another time, I/we got into trouble I can see in my mind’s eye my sister May sitting at the table by the window…now, she is 4 years younger than me so she was between the ages of 4 and 7 when this happened…..she had upset my Mother so much that my Mother threw a high-heeled shoe at her – thank goodness she ducked out of the way! – and it missed and hit the window which made my Mother even angrier and me being in the firing line had a plate smashed over the top my head for doing absolutely nothing!
Other memories of living at 36, Rastrick Common are my sister Linda being knocked down by a car outside the Post Office/ shop. I think it was Mr Preston and his family who ran that shop. I remember they had a daughter with Down’s syndrome which called something else back then. I also, remember having to knock on their door after closing time to ask for whatever we needed. But, they always seemed to have no problem with that. Anyway, my poor sister was lying in the road when a bloody dog came up to her and bit her. I do remember her lying in the road and looking very dazed and then being carted off to hospital in an ambulance.
The Old Post Office which was run by Mr Preston and his family. The wall wasn’t built all the way round as now. The wall was just around the garden and side door to the right. From what was the main door of the PO which is white here was an open ‘forecourt’ with a pillar-box and the wall where the film posters were displayed.
Photo courtesy of Humphrey Bolton
Next to the Post Office was an Angler’s Shop which is still there. I had forgotten about this until I found Mr Humphrey Bolton’s photos online.
The Angler’s Shop next to the Post Office on Rastrick Common.
I did go fishing a few times in the River Calder with a friends and his Dad and we would buy live maggots here – yuk! But I loved sitting by the side of the river with sandwiches and pop.
Photo courtesy of Humphrey Bolton
Brighouse Angling Association video showing some Brighouse scenes.
I also remember on the wall outside the PO was where the posters for the films coming up at the local cinema would be posted and for some strange reason I remember Harold Robbin’s ‘The Carpetbaggers’ posters which were all in black, blue and red and this was an ‘X’ film! That came out in 1964 so I was 9 but I can still remember seeing it there.
Also, whilst living on Rastrick Common one of the local bullies called Kenny Barker made me steal things from peoples’ back gardens and he bought some penny bangers (fireworks) which were different from the ones we were used to which were made by Standard Fireworks in Huddersfield……
My Auntie Laraine used to work at Standard Fireworks which I visited once or met her outside at least and she told me because they were dealing with gunpowder they were paid in effect ‘danger money’ – she would get huge, huge fireworks for free for Bonfire Night – rockets and the like – but, I seem to recall most of them were duds.
This is the logo that I will always remember for advertising Standard Fireworks whose factory closed in 1987.
…..Anyway, the penny bangers that Kenny Barker bought were a green colour and I didn’t recognise them as bangers….he told me to hold one of them while he lit it and, of course it exploded in my hand!
He also made me stand by the door of one of those derelict houses mentioned in a previous chapter and he threw darts at me with his eyes shut – I was lucky that only of them stabbed me in the knee!
Another time I ‘borrowed’ a knife from home and hid it behind of the big corrugated doors of Miller’s Oils next door to our house so, that me and friends could use it at Bramston Street Rec. to play a game known as ‘stretch’. Two or more kids would stand facing each other and throw the knife into the ground and wherever the knife stuck, not just landed the next person had to move one of their feet to that point whilst keeping the other foot where it was. This went on until there was a winner who had the others stretch out of their comfort zone, so to speak. Only one time, the knife went straight into the top of my foot – I still have the scar today! – through the slats of those plastic sandals kids wore in those days. Ouch! I don’t remember stitches being needed though.
The type plastic shoes we wore as kids in the 1960’s. I suppose they were cheap and washable. I think mine were dark brown.
On the same part of the ‘rec’ one day a boy from Brooke Street had upset my sister May and so, in protection of her I ran after him, slipped on the gravel and my head smashed into a huge boulder….I remember putting my hand on the pain on my head, feeling the lump grow, burst and flood my head and face in blood. A kind lady took me home and I was taken to the hospital for stitches – still got that scar too! I had to have a little square patch shaved right on top of my head and wear a square of white dressing with pink plasters sticking it down to my hair. What a thing to have to wear to school! But, I can’t remember any ribbing or taunting.
I can also remember falling off the top of the slide on the ‘bottom rec’ and my auntie Janet carrying me home. I remember my sister sitting on a swing and having inflamed fingers which was impetigo. I remember having had to my sister with me to the rec. she would wander home on her own if I was elsewhere and I would shit myself having to go home just in case she wasn’t there. We lived on a quite a busy road and she would have to cross Brooke Street too! She was always at home and I would be shouted at and probably hit too for not ‘looking after’ her. There is a scene in one of my all-time favourite films, ‘Cinema Paradiso’ where ‘Toto’ meets his Mother in the piazza and his Mother lays into him for going to the cinema when she had forbidden him to – this always reminds of such incidents in my life.
Certain things said to me by FM at 36 Rastrick Common that stay with me today are that I am flat-footed (I am not and have never been!); the whites of my eyes are not white enough and certainly not as white as his son’s, Stephen; I would go to jail before Stephen; and that I am like a leech which springs up every time I have to shake hands with anyone – every time! We left 36, Rastrick Common in 1966 so, I was under 11 when all these were said to me.
Positive things I remember are that I was able to watch ‘The Kathy Kirby Show’ on the telly – she was a mini-obsession of mine at the time. I remember a friend, whose name I have forgotten now, had an Uncle who worked in or ran a nightclub in Bradford and she was going to appear there and he said he would try and get us in. I believed him and he probably believed it did too but imagine two 10 year old boys in a 60’s nightclub watching a voluptuous, blonde cabaret singer – ha!
Kathy Kirby in her hey-day!
‘Let Me Go Lover!’ was a song that friends at school would make me sing in the playground a la Kathy Kirby.
My other Kathy Kirby favourite ‘Secret Love’
FM took me to the cinema once or twice too – the films I seem to remember seeing with him for the first time were ‘Goldfinger’; ‘El Cid’ and ‘Henry V’ with Laurence Olivier (I thought he overacted even back then!). Remember he also bought me a ‘Bat Grenade’. But there was little warmth and certainly no love.
The only time I can remember as a child that I went to the pictures with my Mum was to the Albert cinema in Brighouse to see ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ which was double-billed with some Laurel & Hardy films. A band of ‘rockers’ came in and started ripping up the seats and my Mum vowed she would never go to the pictures again. And, she didn’t until a few of us took her to Halifax to see one of the ‘Naked Gun’ films for Mother’s Day. I remember her telling everyone in the queue outside the cinema about the last time she had been to teh cinema some 40 years earlier.
The poster for the film version of ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ – the only film I remember seeing with my Mum as a child.
April 7th 2011: Just received this DVD and watched it again after all these years. I can see why it enthralled me all those years ago as a child but it hasn’t stood the test of time, I’m afraid.
I used to watch the TV series avidly with my Nannan and wanted to travel on that submarine – ‘Seaview’. Wow!
I mean look at it – wouldn’t you!
You see as much as my Mother had a vile temper and was violent both verbally and physically she was a funny woman when we would go for a drink in my adult life. She was also a force of nature. If someone would hesitate when I asked them if they knew her or knew of her I knew that they had never met her because she was unforgettable.
I am sure more memories will come to me as time goes by from my time living on Rastrick Common. I am really hoping for some more positive incidents because I know this all must be sounding very self-indulgent. Well, I suppose autobiographies are to a certain extent, aren’t they?