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My Family

We lived for the pictures. We would go three or four times a week, sometimes twice on Monday.



School photograph of St Cuthbert's, North Shields with Canon Keenleyside on the right

School photograph of St Cuthbert’s, North Shields with Canon Keenleyside on the right

My father was born on 23 February 1893 and died, aged 62 years, in March 1955. My mother was born on 15 March 1903 and died, aged 82 years in 1985. They were married August, 1923.

My father was a riveter by trade but was wounded in the Great War. He served in the Northumberland Fusiliers for approximately three years until November 1917, when he was invalided out of the army. As it was his right hand that was shot, he could not carry on with his trade and he found work as a labourer when he could. At times things were very hard for all of us.

My mother never had a job. She used to work very hard at home for her mother, and even after she got married she used to go every Thursday to clean, shop and bake for my grandparents. My mother used to bake every other day and grew what vegetables she could in the back garden: potatoes, beetroot, sweet peas, lettuce. I remember she was quite good at it.

We never had many books, but my dad used to take us to the library often and to this day I still have fond memories of going with him. As for newspapers my dad used to go to the library nearly every day to read them as we could not afford to buy them.

Most of the games we would play was skipping, tops and whips, bays and any ball games when we could. We never had any trips or holidays, but we often went down to Tynemouth sands, or along the Fish Quay to see the fishing boats, or to Harbottle’s playing fields where there were swings and roundabouts and see-saws and Tynemouth Park.

I was born Hannah Mary Clarke (now Pate) in Willington Quay, Wallsend in 1928. I was two years old when we moved down to Queen Street, North Shields. My mother, father and my oldest sister who was born 1924, all moved to Queen Street.

We lived in Queen Street from 1930 – 1934 where my brother (born 1930 and died 1934) and younger sister (1932) were born. My parents rented 2 rooms upstairs. It was lit by gaslight; cold water and toilet with washhouse and boiler were in the back yard. All of the water had to be carried upstairs for all of our needs.

When we had to get bathed she used to heat water up in the boiler and we would get washed in the tin bath in front of the fire. In 1934 we moved to the Ridges Estate under the Slum Clearance Act. On the day we moved we had to go to our Grandmother’s as all of our furniture had to go and be fumigated before we were allowed to take it to our new flat where we had hot water, an inside toilet, and back and front gardens.

One of my earliest memories was my first Holy Communion when I was seven years old. I remember my mother putting on my new white dress, shoes, socks and my veil and I felt very happy. On the way down to St Cuthbert’s Church we had to pass the Co-op bakery which was in Front Street, Chirton and I remember the bakery girls all waving and cheering and someone shouting out “come and look at the little bride”.

From 1933 – 1948 I attended St Cuthbert’s Catholic School. We were taught by nuns and the Headmistress was a nun.

We did not get pocket money as such but if we did odd jobs or run for messages for any of the neighbours, we would get a 1/2d or if we were lucky maybe a 1d on a lemonade bottle, milk bottle or 2 jam jars and we would get to keep the 1d deposit.

I would spend my money on the Eldorado man. He would come around to the school gates on his three-wheeled barrow bicycle ringing his bell and calling out “Stop Me and Buy One”. He used to sell frozen fruit ice bars for 1d and he would half one for a 1/2d. The toffee Pat Man would stand outside the school with his attaché case which had a strap to go around his neck. He would sell his rounds of homemade toffee. Some had nuts, coconut or mixed fruit sprinkled on the top for a 1/2d each, soda lunches which consisted of a tube of fizzee powder, 5 sweets and a stick of liquorice, 1/2d and 1d frogs.

When my Dad had work, we would go to the children’s pictures on Saturday morning as a special treat.

When the war broke out in 1939, I was eleven years old. I remember going to school part time always carrying my gas mask and when the sirens sounded, I would run to the air raid shelter.

All the streetlights were dimmed, every house was blacked out and all of the buses had blue lighting. Most nights we were up and down three or four times when the air raid siren sounded, and we used to go into the Anderson shelter which was in the back garden. I remember being very frightened.

I left school in 1942 and went to work for William Hunter – Baker, Caterer and Confectioners. It was a family run business and was situated in Stephenson Street, North Shields. I worked in their Roslyn Hall, catering for weddings, dinners, parties and Masonic dinners. I was there for thirty years and I loved it. I was always treated with kindness and became a friend to all of the family.

During my teens, my best friend was Joan, who also worked for Hunters. We lived for the pictures. We would go three or four times a week, sometimes twice on Monday and Saturday first and second half. We would go to the Princess Theatre first, then the Rex Cinema for the second half. It was the place to be seen as all of the boys and girls went on Monday night.

One of the pictures was ‘Gone with the Wind’, and it was at the Comedy Theatre on Saville Street. It cost five shillings (25p today) to get in and we had to queue for over one and half hours to be sure to get in, but we thought it was worthwhile, although five shillings was double the price.

My future mother-in-law had a wind up gramophone and she used to make all her children (she had four) and their friends welcome. We used to gather in her house whenever we could to play records.

Every week we would put 6d (or one shilling) in the ‘kitty’ to buy the latest hit record: Perry Como, Ink Spots, Jo Stafford, Harry James, the Andrew Sisters, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Glen Miller. The list was endless and to this day these artists are among my favourite recordings and bring back many fond memories.

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