The highlight of the event was raiding other people’s bonfires, pinching stuff when they weren’t guarding it, but best of all setting fire to one.
This was another exciting time for us as teenagers. We used to be on weeks collecting rubbish for our bonfire which was on the Rec (Recreation Ground). Before they built the houses in about 1948-1949, we used to pinch our dad’s firewood axes (every home had one) and go down to the Farthing Line to the river side, chop some trees down and drag them back up the line singing “We are the Percy Main Lads” (our own song). We thought we were great. But the highlight of the event was raiding other people’s bonfires, pinching stuff when they weren’t guarding it, but best of all setting fire to one.
A notable instance was when a gang of us dared to attack the East Howdon Bonfire. This was always a huge pile and because it was on waste ground right beside the houses, it was well guarded. However, we got some bottles of paraffin, crept down the railway line which ran behind the bonfire. Two or three of us carefully tunnelled into the centre from the back of it where you put the cardboard and paper, sprinkled our paraffin over then threw matches in and ran for it.
We reached the Railway Bridge on Howdon Road and turned to watch the fun. There was a crowd of kids and their parents playing under the street lights. Nothing happened for a while then suddenly, the flames burnt through. The people ran to salvage what they could while we yelled and jeered from the bridge. We truly felt as though we were heroes or something. We went back to Percy Main full of pride.