A 50`s Boy`s Summer

Life was so slow and easy growing up in the 50`s.

Very few televisions, and those that had them only saw programmes a few hours in a day.
No other screens of any size or shape to watch, no keyboards and very few home phones. All houses had a wireless and some had transistor radios, which worked off a huge square 6-volt battery.

There was no one saying towards the end of summer, well it feels like autumn doesn’t it, summer seemed to stop one day as autumn began the next, as did the other seasons before them. And they all came and went in their own time.

My memories of my early days brought up on a Silsden council estate were that we always had 4 definite seasons, not only defined by the weather, but by what we wore and what we did. The one which always seemed to last forever but was over in the blink of an eye was the summer one.

You were put in your shorts from the Whitsuntide school holidays at the end of May till the beginning of the new school year in September. It was deemed so grown up to have long pants, even if they had been handed down a few times, as was my case, when you went to the top school, now called Hothfield Junior School, it was our secondary modern, but come Whit everyone had shorts on.

Whitsuntide to the summer holidays passed in a flash, the only down side was at school in your shorts made for more pain if the teacher decided that the crime of dropping your pencil was such a heinous one you needed the tops of your legs slapping, ouch.

Summer activities were wide and varied; on really hot days it would be skinny-dipping in the local Dunn’s quarry, older kids would go down to the river.

At the old quarry was a huge beam to dive off and the water was always a lot warmer than that of the river as there was only a trickle of new water in and out.
Brave people used the local canal but we were told the weed would pull us down and drown us.

You usually went in naked swimming if all boys, or unders left on if it were mixed, a whole lot different to today’s values. Never a towel, we dried off just running around. Parental permission; what was that? If asked a pre thought out excuse of playing footy in the park or maybe playing up in Fairy Dell, if not asked nothing was said.

We were brought up around the dinning table at teatime, the only meal we ever had together, even Sunday lunch was in the evening after dad had been for a few pints, then slept it off. Here we discussed everything of relevance to our family, questions were asked and decisions given, pretty democratic really and much the same in most households.

During the day once or twice a month, Jack Narey on his horse and cart, the rag and bone man would call out his, “Any old rags”. He took all your old clothes, scrap iron and even jam jars in return for a couple of coppers or sometimes a goldfish, another mouth to feed.

Another strange thing was that we had 2 or 3 ice cream men coming round every day, but on a Saturday one called “Steve’s”, from Skipton, would come back at night selling hot pie and peas, you had to take your own bowls out for a pie and a generous scoop of peas.

Sunday was also unique when “Ledas” came round; this one not only sold ice cream but also had a counter full of pop, crisps and chocolate bars. Strange how the ice cream man knew when it was pocket money day???

Some kids used their pop bottle money for sweets, money earned if say the posh folk had thrown away their empty pop bottles which had a money back deposit on them they were straight down to Mosleys or Lunds grocers by the school. Old Mr. Mosley used to lose more sweets in the kids pockets than he took in the till, it was common practice at his shop.

Its documented that a youngster only a few decades before ours had been sent to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family, how well off we were, it was a crack at the back of the head if you were caught in our day, and that was only if he could catch you and sometimes it was worth it for a couple of penny bubbly`s or a packet of Spangles.

In the late afternoon and evening we played out till gone 8.00pm and had to go in, yet it was still daylight.  Daylight outside when you went to bed and daylight outside when you got up in the morning, always wondered did it ever get dark in summer.

On the Avenue where I was born and lived until adolescence, girls and boys played together and at all ages, someone was always out, girls skipping, using a fence post to tie one end of the rope on, boys with a football or tennis ball for footy or cricket. Footy was a couple of jumpers down for goals, cricket was a box from the Co-op as wickets.

We had competitions with the other avenues, soccer, cricket, rounders or running, we were very competitive then, and extremely patriotic to our own street, we were just following tradition I suppose. Friendships went out of the window during these events, it was win at all costs, and if you lost, the older lads would plan the next encounter and how we could win. Absolutely nothing wrong with that idea in my eyes, so why invent “Non Competitive Sport” now??

From mid to late evening I remember the front doors opening and mums would shout out their kids names, Billy Piper, bed time, they only shouted twice, you always got the benefit of the doubt after the first, and a whole lot more if ever a third call was needed. One by one our numbers were depleted.

I was always one of the first, being youngest of 4, so rushed in got my jim jams out of the cooker range, put them on and went into my brothers bedroom to look out of his window, his faced the avenue and his bed was under the window for comfortable viewing. I was lucky because we lived half way on the avenue with a street lamp right outside so which was used as the meeting place.

You saw different hiding places that the older kids used for when we were playing a type of hide and seek called “Tin Can Squat”. It was a was a simple game of picking someone to be “on” first, usually the youngest, standing them by our lamppost with a tin next to it. Then one of the hiders kicked the tin as hard as he could and the catcher had to retrieve it and put it back on its place before he could start his search for the others. Everyone then hid and the one who was “on” had to find them. If he saw you he had to run back to the tin and shout “Tin Can Squat, Gary by the railings” or whomever it was and where they were hiding, you were then out and had to go to the lamppost till all were accounted for. The skill of the game was to get past the catcher to the lamppost and put your foot on the tin and shout, Tin Can Squat and your name, and you were one of the winners. The first one caught was the one who was “on” for the next go, ah happy days, not only for the memory but I could run then.

Also from the bedroom window I could see the older boys spending more and more time talking to the older girls. Perhaps the odd stolen kiss and fumbling hands over jumpers stuff, but it was a lot more secretive than nowadays, but why did they have to spoil it by all that kissing, yukkkkkk?

Summer also brought out the roller skates and an old annual. By balancing the book on the skate you could go from the end of Glouster Avenue, down Dradishaw and up Woodside Road, sat on the book and steering buy leaning one way or the other. In avenue competition the winner was the one who managed to get the farthest up Woodside.

How far could you get climbing the big Oak tree at the corner of Woodside and Dradishaw, would you need to use the nails, which had been hammered in, and if someone had managed to get a rope and hang it down as a swing, when would it be your turn, like all nature, we had an unwritten pecking order, youngest, last. I recall at least 2 who ended up at the Victoria Hospital in Keighley with broken bones, and countless with scrapes and bruising, no one was ever shocked by their accidents, just glad to move up the “Pecking” order….

All harmless fun, which cost nothing, except a bit of skin off your knuckles if you lent too far on the skates or missed a nail on the tree.

Well that was summer, long sunny days, warm sunny nights, shorts and scuffed knees.

Posted in Memories of Silsden

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