Looking Back…

Is it just me or have things changed rapidly over the last 50 years or so? For those of you born in the fifties like me, or even sixties, then I am sure you will agree.

What has changed? Well everything. The houses we lived in, the way we heated them, television, telephones, schools and how we were taught and of course we never had computers or mobile phones.

I thought for the next few weeks while we wait for House of Grace to be launched I would take a wander down memory lane and compare with life today. Some of the things I’ll touch on, do in fact turn up in Grace’s life.

Do you remember the old cobbled streets and terraced houses, all very close together? I spent a few years as a child living in one of these. It was called Bamber Street in Daubhill, Bolton. I’m sure there are some Boltonians out there that remember this little street with a small church school named Emmanuel lying at the bottom. It only had three classes in total. And it took children from 5 – 11 years. Imagine that now? Although I don’t doubt in some little villages these schools still exist.

My late sister and I went to Emmanuel. Most days we arrived late and last, upsetting the Headmistress, more so because we lived less than 100 yards away. This must have had quite an effect on me as I always made sure my children arrived at school in plenty of time. But isn’t it often the case that the nearer you are to something the less time you allocate  to get ready and before you know it, time has run out.

Anyway, I’m digressing. I’m supposed to be talking about how things used to be. And I’m supposed to be still on the subject of little streets and I was about to say that before long, you are in for a little treat. A local artist, Vanessa Cumper, is busy creating a pencil-sketched drawing of a street such as this from the picture I’ve described to her. As soon as it’s ready I will post for you all to see. This street is featured in House of Grace but I’m not going to tell you where or why, because I don’t want to add any spoilers. However, once you start reading and you get to the street you can take a look at the picture and see if it’s the same as what you’re picturing. And ask yourself, have you ever come across a street like this or possibly you may have lived in one too.

During my track down memory lane, I will look at streets, plumbing, coal men, milk men, bread men, corner shops, televisions, telephones, carpets or lack of them, curtains, windows, so much has changed.

My first vivid memories don’t actually occur until I’m about six years old so around 1961. I was living in a top, third floor, flat in Kirby with Mum, Dad, two sisters and a baby brother who’d not long arrived. I remember glass baby bottles, big National Dried milk tins and horrid bottles of concentrated orange juice from the clinic. Are you old enough to remember them?

A most vivid memory of mine is in 1962 and I was seven. It’s about my first junior teacher.

This teacher was a Miss. I do remember her name and exactly what she looked like because she made such an impact, however for the purpose of this blog she’ll become Miss H. She was quite young, probably twenties, dark straight hair to her shoulders and big glasses. On the face of it she seemed nice but unfortunately possessed a nasty streak.

In those days if you needed the toilet during class it was frowned upon. I’m not sure what it’s like today but it certainly isn’t the same as then. Unfortunately there were days that I needed the toilet despite going at playtime. I’d put up my hand and request to be excused. Miss H would nod but always reminded me what would happen when I got back. When desperate there was no option but to agree. On return Miss H would call me to her desk and I’d hold out my hand. She would take three thick rulers, not the thin flimsy rulers you get today but three thick wooden rulers, raise her hand and strike the wood across my palm at least three times. It didn’t half sting.

Another instance, she had returned our exercise books and told us to check our marked work before starting the next exercise. Minutes later we had to put up our hand if we hadn’t started the new work. The whole class made up of 30 – 40 boys and girls (I can’t remember the exact number – well I was only seven) shot up their hands. A queue was formed around the classroom and one by one she slapped our palms with these three thick wooden rulers. Imagine that happening today? Thankfully, I didn’t stay in her class for too long as we moved to Daubhill in Bolton and I went to Emmanuel School.

In my next blog I will take you down some memories from Daubhill and Tonge Moor, both in Bolton.

Bolton made quite an impression with me even though I only lived there for four years but it is for this reason that I featured it in House of Grace.

I hope you enjoy my memories and look forward to hearing some of yours from the same era.

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