Once up and ready off we would go with two borrowed shovels and a brush to start our front door cleaning.
During the 1950s life was great, there were different ways to make a bit pocket money and life always seemed to be good for a laugh. Some of the best times were, oddly enough, in winter, when the lads and me would go snow shovelling. During those times there would be as much ice on the inside of your house windows as there was on the outside. Saturday morning you would wake up freezing cold but have a look outside and thought, “champion – 6 or 8 inches of fresh snow”. Once up and ready off we would go with two borrowed shovels and a brush to start our front door cleaning.
Sometimes we were lucky, and would make at least 1/6d each (seven and a half new pence), or if things were really good 2/- (ten new pence) for our morning’s work. Out patch was the bottom end of west Shields: Wilson Street, Milbourne Street, Appleby Street, Dene Street, Dock Road, Elsdon Street, Southside Howdon Road, Lawson Street, Lower Penman Street, Thrift Street and Victoria Street.
You always knew who was a soft touch, like the couple who lived at the bottom of Lower Penman Street. She had a heart of gold and we knew it. Knocking on the door we always got the OK to clean her door, then when finished we would knock for our two or three pennies and she would invite us in. Biscuits, and, I believe, Oxo drinks were served. Once we were fed and defrosted off, we would go to our next customer.
The morning was spent working like skivvies, but the afternoon was spending time and you got a bag full of sweets for the cash we had earned. Sometimes for a bit daftness we would go along to Atkinson’s, the fruiterers, and buy a bag of bruised fruit each. You got a carrier bag full for one or two old pennies (depending on how much bruised fruit the shop had in at that time). This included apples, oranges, pears etc., then away up the nearest back lane and have a fruit fight. It was a great laugh and a good time was had by all.
To finish the day off if we had enough money left, we would call in at Cotties chip shop at the corner of Thrift Street and buy a large bag of chips for a tanner (instead of a 4d small bag) and share them out.