Our neighbour next door kept rabbits and we’d swap a chicken for a Flemish Giant for a bit of variety.
I was born in Church Way, in the old cottages and I used to do some of my mam’s shopping. I remember going to the Co-op in Camden Street where the divi was 5d in the pound. My first job was at this Co-op, as an Errand Boy for 30/- a week.
There was a butcher in Front Street Chirton called Lesley Child and I used to get sent there for mince. It was nearly always mince, rarely a joint of meat. My father had been lost at sea and my mam was bringing up the family on very little. We’d had a few shillings from the Guardians but otherwise we were on our own. My sister and I sometimes used to go late in the day to the food shops when things were sold off at reduced prices.
Fresh produce would be reduced in price at Christmas because there was no way of storing it. Late on Christmas Eve you could get a chicken from either Clark’s the butcher in West Percy Street or from another place in Saville Street that had all the birds hung up outside the shop. Other shops would have done the same too.
Later on we never had to worry about our Christmas bird because we kept chickens in our garden and grew our own vegetables. The day old chicks came on the train from Darlington and we collected them from the station in North Shields. Then we kept them for eggs and meat. We saved the Rhode Island Red cockerel for Christmas dinner. Our neighbour next door kept rabbits and we’d swap a chicken for a Flemish Giant for a bit of variety. It was a good deal.
We had relations that lived in Toll Square and I remember going to a sweet shop called McKay’s in Charlotte Street for bars of toffee. Across the road was a tiny shop that used to be the only place we knew about where you could get Puro milk. The lady who owned the shop was very kind and never used to charge the proper prices. One day a man came from the bank to look at her books but she just looked at him and said “I haven’t got any”.
They were happy days, they were good days.