You could say we were a bit overcrowded.
I have very happy memories of my childhood in Trinity Street, North Shields, where I was born in 1923.
We had the usual big family, which was common in those days. There were three boys and three girls, with father and mother making eight of us in a small upstairs flat. You could say we were a bit overcrowded.
Bathrooms in those days were non-existent – tap and toilet were in the backyard. This was the year 1928. Water was carried upstairs by the bucket and bath time must have been a nightmare. There were two bath times, one for the girls and one for the boys. Mother looked after the girls and the boys were sent out to have a game of football, while we bathed in the large tin bath. We had a happy splashing about and when it was time to come out we would quickly change into our bedclothes and go off to bed. This was the signal for father to fetch the boys in to have their bath when he supervised proceedings.
Parents took it all in their stride, I never ever heard them complain. Mother was a marvellous cook, be it bread, pies, scones or cakes, all were made in the oven situated along-side the fire. How she got the temperature right is beyond me. Broth was made in a very large pan, the ingredients being marrow bones, pulses, vegetables and plenty of dumplings. This was all cooked on a single gas ring. Well worth running home from school for, this was Trinity School, just up the street. Learning to cook was a skill handed down from mother to daughter – there were no TV cooks in those days.
Father worked shifts at the well-known producers of high-quality paints at the factory called Cooksons. In later years this factory came to be feared by lots of people because of the sinister threat of cancer it carried, one of the materials used was red lead, a pernicious mineral from which men working there could contract lead poisoning. At the time my dad worked there no one knew about this. Enough to say he died aged 51 years.
I was the fourth child to start school, leaving mother with a nice peaceful life – I don’t think so with one-year-old twins to look after! How she managed to have a meal ready for four hungry siblings at midday, with twins crawling about all day is beyond me.
My first school was at the end of the street, I found it a very happy school, next door to it was the church. The four eldest children of the family attended twice on a Sunday giving our parents a well-deserved rest on the Sabbath. My second school was St Peter’s. I moved there when I was about nine, it was located at the bottom of Borough Bank, near the Ferry. It was a horrible school, teachers were very strict with us and frequently used the cane on those who got on the wrong side of them. I suffered at one teacher’s hand for being late for school one day. The remains of the school still stand to this day, when I pass it holds no happy memories for me at all.
It was very heavy going for a little lass to walk up and down the bank four times a day with a dozen high stone steps to climb up to school, but we managed grudgingly. I was always ready to play in the street after tea until bed-time, no couch potatoes in those days, we didn’t have time. My third school was the newly built Ralph Gardener. We had lovely open fields to play on and a wonderful bonus to being there was that we had nice teachers. I went there when eleven and left school at fourteen. I then became a working lass.
Oh, Happy Days!