we would go to the Prince of Wales pub for 3 o clock, waiting for the Trimmers coming out and ask “have you got any bait mister?”
At age five I had been introduced to the cowboy films at the Pearl Cinema, on a Saturday afternoon. The Pearl was also known by the kids as the ‘Lop’. The shop next door sold a bag of bruised fruit for a halfpenny.
If I was off school on a Monday, I used to go down to Howdon Docks, where I was learning to swim amongst the coal dust. Then we would go to the Prince of Wales pub for 3 o’clock, waiting for the Trimmers coming out and ask “have you got any bait mister?” One of them would always give you a sandwich, but it was always full of mustard with the meat. I stopped learning to swim at Howdon Docks when a boy from High Howdon came on a bike with a canoe, but he only had one arm. He got into the canoe and started to paddle and the canoe overturned. I shouted for the Coal Trimmers but they were too late and he was drowned.
One Saturday, we were playing on the walls near Willington Quay station goods yard. There was only one goods wagon there and one of the kids opened the door to hide in it, then found it was full of boxes of chocolates, so we all filled our pockets. Then the police came and took our names and addresses. I was shaken. I went home (no one was in), lit a piece of paper to light the gas mantel. With shaking hands, I touched the mantel and it broke into hundreds of pieces. I dashed to Fanny Bell’s shop and bought a mantel for 2d and carefully put it on and lit it.
Father came in a bit tiddly after playing the piano at Howdon British Legion Club. I had brushed the mantel bits onto the proggy mat in front of the fire. Father decided to steep his feet and cut his corns on the same mat, as well as his toenails. When Mother came in I thought I would play the angel and go to work on the proggy mat which was in the front room. Then I heard her shout at Father after looking down on the mat on the floor. “Have you been at the coconut cake again?” Then she got on again about shifting.
High Howdon in the 1930s was called Wembley, not High Howdon and we should have shifted there, with our big family, no bathroom and a very tiny kitchen. She was always on to Father about shifting there but his argument always was that the rent was too high. Wembley was 7/6 a week while here it was only 6/3.