They would sometimes come in sets of say, animals or cars or motorbikes
Like most kids of this time we had a hobby to keep you entertained. Some of the lads would collect car number plates. Others, like me, would collect matchboxes. Now we were spoiled for choice with living in Appleby Street, for in a matter of ten minutes’ walk to the east we had the Fish Quay. In these times we would get fishing boats from all over the place into North Shields. They came from Germany, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Holland, Norway and the Russian countries etc.
Now just ten yards from our back door were the walls of the Smiths Dock Dry Dock Co. Just along in the next street was a cul de sac which we called the Box Canyon and when we wanted to go down into the docks, we just climbed over there because the Gatemen could not see you – it was a blind spot. Once inside we could either jump on the ships that were in dry dock or go on the ones tied alongside to scrounge some matchboxes. It is fair to say you never gave danger a thought, for you could trust one and all in those times.
Now just along to the west, we had the Albert Edward Docks, where the tramp ships from all over the world would bring in the likes of timber and pit props etc. The matchboxes would sometimes come in sets of say, animals or cars or motorbikes etc, but I can say without doubt for some reason we, or at least I, never ever got a set with ships on – which is strange, considering this is where the majority came from.
Over the years there must have been thousands of boxes collected but each time we shifted slowly but surely they disappeared – probably thrown out as rubbish.