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My tenderfoot years blog no. 10 part one.

Published by Lamont D in the blog Lamont D's blog. Views: 482

Having wrote a post on @Pasha thread about how kids aren't allowed the freedom we had.
I thought I would give you an insight into my childhood. Living on the banks of the Mersey.

I grew up in Wallasey, a stone's throw across the river from the port of Liverpool.
My younger days were spent in front of, my house in my street, playing in the street with kids of my age, learning skills such as kicking anything, mad on footie! Staying out of trouble with the neighbours, though not to successful, playing tag, relievio, cricket, football, stone throwing and playing on bombed sites with old houses that hadn't been demolished yet!
There was a lot of bombed sites, simply because the Germans plastered the dock areas regularly, as Liverpool played a major role in troop and goods movement, as well as shipbuilding and train freight movement. The role was so important that the headquarters of the North Atlantic 'Western Approaches' were housed underground in close to the waterfront.
How we for hours played and got filthy in our hand me downs clothes, surprises me.
As I grew up before my teen years, a lot of time were spent swimming in our local baths, it was very rare that a child couldn't swim over 5, that went to my school. Think if I can remember, I had three swimming certificates by the age of seven,by eleven before Grammar school, I could do 100, 25yard lengths. There was no near football pitches to play on and the only grass was in a park close to my school which there was a couple of bowling greens. You wouldn't dare play on them as your local Dad's and Grandads and some women played on them. Either the park keeper would get you in trouble with your parents, or some busybody would grass on you, or worse our local bobbie, George, would clip you around the ear and threaten you with borstal, or again grass you up to your parents, a leather strap was the deterrent. You didn't mess with your dad's belt! With three older brothers, could you blame him? It was the norm then. If you hadn't had it, you were called a sissy!
My primary school years were spent learning my chores as both parents had to work just to put food on the table. I had to learn to do the cleaning, washing, shopping down the local main street. Learn how to make coal then coke fires, this was the only heating in the house, carry it in, build it, set fire to it and keep it going. Then the next morning, clean the hearth, take out the ashes and start again. I was the youngest, so I had to do the worst jobs especially as my eldest brothers began out of school jobs or started work when they finished school at fifteen. My mom, would give me hell if it wasn't done properly. Or no anything for a day or week, didn't get pocket money. I had to earn any spends, that's if my parents had any.
I actually did go to school and swam and played when I could especially in the warmer times down by the river in the swings, the grounds of the town hall, all the riverside areas were playgrounds, where you learnt cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, Tommy v jerries. Or fighting the nips! On my first bike up and down the hills and prom.
We learnt cardboard racing on slopes of grass, we played on the sand, when the tide was out. It was full of oil and other detritus, that a busy river would accumulate over the years. We built sandcastles and barricades, to see whose would last when the tide did come in. Once the tide turned, the boats that came into the river got heavier and the waves got higher. Those who fished learnt there trade on that promenade, indeed that playground of us lucky kids that grew up there is still the same. With imagination, you could believe anything that you dream up is, possible there. There is nothing like the smell when the tide turns. I miss it now!
A view across to the three graces. The port of Liverpool is such a well known scene, it has changed, recently and the likes of the Pier Head, the Liver building, Cunard building and the India building.
It is a very memorable seafront to grow up with and see it every day.
The river traffic was busy in those years, indeed, in our fourth year, we were given a merchant vessel to follow and track through the shipping news. Mine was the ss mentheus (I think!) From the Blue Funnel Line. The site of merchantmen going out with the pilot boats and then at the turn of the tide others coming into the docks on both sides of the river. The docks were no go areas until you were a teenager and then in daylight only, there was a lot of Dockers that lived around by us, they were usually big men and more than often, hard! You wouldn't pick a fight with one!
The locals were the hub of life, we didn't drink water, we had to boil water for tea and cooking for using for baths etc. The pubs were more like social clubs for the residents, a piano would always be heard plunking away at night to outrageous singing and cheering, we used to get our drinks from the 'Offie'. An off license, next or attached to the pub. There was plenty of pubs. There was 5 within a hundred yards of our house. And the local Labour club. We used to hang around at night times around them, to pick up a few coppers for sweets.
We were told horror stories of things that would happen to us if we drank water, go somewhere we shouldn't, go to posh areas, or steal, 'borrow something without telling! Borstal was always a threat or being put in deva! 'Deva' is a place in Chester named after the Romans fort there. But to us it was a sanitorium, where nutters went.
There was lots of warnings about kids being kidnapped by foreign seamen and what they did to them. There was the local axeman, told to little kids to scare them, and me! Apparently there was such a murder in that area, when someone was actually axed to death!
Life was tough but you just had to get on with life then, and really we didn't know any better. Nothing prepared us from the winter of 1963. That was the coldest prolonged spell of under zero degrees weather that I have experienced. We were stuck indoors for weeks upon weeks, no school and no going out, we did venture out in our less than cold weather clothing, just to see ice floating on the Mersey, as we were told, then, that the river had frozen! It hadn't froze. Small floes of ice were going out with the tide.
We ran there and back to try and keep warm, it didn't! It was perishing! There were stalagmites everywhere. Hanging from gutters, ice was all over everything. My worst chore through this was getting the coke from the coke station a couple of miles away. We had to wheel an old pram, to carry it home. It was called 'going for coke!' There was very little work and things were really rough around March, when we had to borrow money just for the coke and food, as there was no money.
I spent most of my time reading. I read encyclopedias, history books and novels, I learnt an awful lot from these books.
Of course the problem of keeping warm and making sure the house was safe from such low temperatures. The pipes leaked from the thaw and we were very close to flooding the house.
But after the horror s, there was the long summers along the river watching the boats, the ferries, the tugs and sometimes warships. The Ark Royal was built at Cammell Lairds and it filled the river! There was always something happening out there! There was always something happening on the promenade and some really great adventures could be had down there. If you have thought of it, we have done it! From dawn to dusk and sometimes later, we were out, nobody worried too much. If you were late, so what, you could see the ferry clock or the Liver clock and you didn't have a watch.
I loved it down there especially in the warm weather, you didn't have Sun cream to protect you, you took off as much as you wanted to, you always wore short trousers, so down to bare chest or in your vest, no hat! Great playing days and no bother to anyone.
If it rained, no worries, make your way to one of the many shelters along the front, wait it out, and carry on playing.
You could walk for miles around the coastline, up to Egremont, New Brighton, on to Moreton shore and onto to West Kirby. We never went that far, could never get past the fair and baths and pier around the fort in New Brighton. We walked everywhere then.
Mother redcaps was a scary place for the locals in Wallasey, full of tales of pirates, wreckers and smuggling. It was a very historical 'inn' for centuries and had smugglers tunnels under the coastline for miles. We have had some fun exploring the site. Sadly now, an old peoples home now built on the site, though, there is still the tunnels, which are sadly 'dangerous', my arse! The Beehive was also a magnet for kids, as there was old buildings and a sailing club which was run down and interesting for all sorts of reasons. If you lived around here you were interested in boats, ships or anything that floated. Of course there was the buoyancy aids, that needed washing in the river!!!!!
The school I went to was good enough to send a few cleverest kids to grammar school including two of my brothers and about 4 from my year. I actually passed my 11+!!!! The reward I got for this was shocking to my system as the rich kids bullied and treated us like untermenschen. Despite us being the better sporting players and the intelligent. Even the toffee nosed masters put us in our place! It was something out of Dickensian novel.
My primary school had a belfry and we were warned not to go up there. What a stupid thing to say? Of course we went up and of course we got caught and punished. The school also had an area with bushes and trees, so you could hide at dinnertime and do things out of the way of the dinnertime staff. Her name was Miss Shehan. (Say it fast!) She was in her dotage and everybody thought she was a witch. All the kids were scared of her. Of course her nickname was 'washing'. She of course caught us many times in the out of bounds area. She of course reported us to the headmistress, who threatened us with banning us from the baths and staying in at dinnertime. Once we got a ruler over our fingers for something we hadn't done! Just the way it was!
We played footie in the playground with a very worn tennis ball. Proper balls or flyaways, (plastic) were too expensive and were rarely seen. We called Football, togger! Don't know why!!
We played cricket in the summer, which I was very good at, for my age and in primary school I played representative games for my district in my last two years, both times not out and highest scorer. We didn't win either, but I did meet a very good bowler, who became a teammate at grammar school. We only played one game of football for my primary, a 2-1 defeat in a cup, and an own goal for me, their winner. I have posted about this before. I went to score many more 'oggies' for my teams!!!
My two teachers at primary school were both different. Mr Wotton was brilliant, studious and encouraged our sport. I'm sure he was the reason a few of us got to grammar school. And Mr Edwards, who for some reason favoured the girls! Especially swimming lessons. He wasn't very good and just did his job,! Strange, though, we heard later that he left the school because of complaints from parents! Hmm!
The g food thing about school then was the dinners, even fussy then, the dinner ladies always give you what you wanted, as I didn't like dairy or greens, I got a couple more spuds or more meat and pudding, sometimes, it was my best meal of the day.
We got up to all sorts of high jinks during the holidays. Our parents were at work and we went where we wanted as long as the chores were done. Occasionally visiting areas that were no go areas and private sites to explore and discover. There was big industrial sites by the docks, toy factory, flour mills and storage wharves, big machinery and propeller makers, the train freight lines were full of stuff to investigate. Of course there were dock officials to chase you away, but you could always run faster.
We learnt to go ratting down by the ferry terminal, the size of them. Massive, long things, that we used big stones as target practice. You could go beachcombing and find all kinds of flotsam and jetsam.
Life was simpler for a pre teen then. If you did what was expected, and kept out of trouble (that your parents didn't find out about) all was well, you didn't want for nothing, as you knew, you would get spoilt on your birthday and Christmas. (Sometimes!)
I think my early days was full of the life skills and street cred, that is sadly missing for most kids now. The scaremongering do gooders have ruined childhood for my grandkids and turned today's kids into introverted spoilt brats. When they get the release and a sense of freedom, they ruin it as they wouldn't get the knowledge from their elder brothers and friends. Our youngsters are missing things, they shouldn't.
However, an accident, and I had a few, including breaking my right arm (embarrassing myself) in the swimming baths. My left arm building a shed with my mates, which wasn't as sturdy as I thought. And cuts and plus to other parts of my body, that I was a regular at the local A&E department. This accident happened during the summer holidays before going to grammar school.. Again on the roof of a shed, this time our coal shed, it had a roof made of asbestos. Well I ventured up there as I was spying on a few older acquaintances who were messing about on the bombed site next but one house to us. It had been raining. It was slippery and guess what? Yeah I slipped onto barbed wire, which my leg caught, I was hanging upside down, then landed on the top of my head and was knocked unconscious.
Woke up in hospital, leg and head bandaged. Never did learn not to climb! Had concussion, slept in a bed by myself for the first time, unless you count the times when my brother preferred to sleep on the floor, instead! Unbeknownst at the time, this affected my next few years. Which I will tell in part two, my teenage years.
Oh yeah, the ferry cross the Mersey thing and the Merseybeat thing, will be part of it.

Thanks for reading.
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