Times of Yesteryear

I am in my 81st year, and I remember many events that happened in my life time.

When I was a boy living in the south-end, to be precise, I lived in Byles Street off Park Road. The houses we lived in were very old two and two down terrace type, which were condemned before the First World War. Built in the mid 19th century, a flagged floor, pokey back kitchen, no cooker, we would use the oven for cooking, my mother did have a gas ring, but the old kettle was forever on the fire. We had plenty of mice for company, plus cockroaches, the back bedroom which was were my brother and I slept, had a two foot square window,(note- this type of window would not be allowed today, as it would certainly contravene the Health & Safety acts).

But I suppose we were happy with our lot, as kids we were always out doing something, playing ollies (using stone ollies) three holes across the street.  Not much traffic in them days, with the exception of the doctors car calling to see some poor kid, T.B, consumption, rickets was common place, as we never had the right basic food. But we did have a luxury of a battery radio, which consisted of a large ever-ready battery, a heavy thick glass jar, known as the accumulator, listening to programs on the BBC Tommy Handley in “I.T..M.A”, “Band Wagon” with Arthur Askey, “The Ovalteanies” on “Radio Luxembourg”, or “In Town Tonight”.

As kids we liked to see the illuminated tram coming down Park Road with music, some were dressed up in Perio dress, we envied those aboard, as they were having a great time. As we were not too far from Princes Park, we were never away from the park. I remember the Park keepers blowing their whistles, to let everyone know to vacate the park as the gates were closing. The park would be opened from dawn till sunset.

 I remember my Dad taking my brother and I down town to see the Mersey tunnel being opened by King George V with Queen Mary in 1934, the day was very sunny.

All I write about, has been printed and published in Waterstone’s, I named the book “# 4 Hatch”, it was my biography it took me four years to write. I write about the war years and what it was like to live quite near the docks.

We moved on from Byles Street in 1938, to Brunswick Gardens, this was a step forward, regarding living conditions. We had this switch on the wall, and when you pulled the button down we had electricity. And it did not take too much long to get to know lads our own age, which we formed the Brunnie gang, As were we lived now, this was a long way from the parks, our football pitch was Caryl Street, the police caught us one day playing football in the street, we were fined 7/6pence.

Let me take you to a place which is now history, I would proceed down Park Lane on to Canning Place, which wrapped around the second most beautiful building in Liverpool, namely the huge building “The Custom House” going across Canning Place. The building had posts and small chains, you could walk under the centre of the building through three archways, and when you looked up you could see the inside of the beautiful dome. When you came out of the other side, the street opposite was South Castle Street, up this street was small shops and businesses, about 100 yards was Crooked Lane. This was an era of the 18th century, along the lane was a most beautiful court called Bens Gardens. It had a pair of guilltred gates, the flooring of the court had huge stone flags, this was the area for solicitors offices, as the lane is called Crooked Lane. At each bend there was fixes at each corner a gun barrel, salvaged from the Crimea War, this was to prevent the carts from damaging the brickwork. The lane was only about six foot wide, it emerged at the north side of Canning Place.

The Custom House was our meeting place , we would keep an eye on the traffic along the dock road, lads carried small pen knifes ( not to use on anybody, I must say) but to open a bag of sugar, or peanuts, that was been carried along the dock road.

I left school at fourteen, as the school that I attended had no eleven plus, we were factory fodder, the school is no longer there, Harrington Board Council school.

I worked for a well known Ships fender maker, Jameson’s, there was three warehouses Bridgwater street, Cornwallis street, and Argyle street this is were I worked. The building is now a classy restaurant, it was built in 1783, opposite was the Bridewell, We would watch the prisoners being taken in, as the bridewell was ran by the military police, we saw some sights from our building, as our site was high up and was saw some sights. Of which I mentioned in my autobiography.

Left Jameson’s as the war ended, I went to work for Chas Howsons ship repairers, this was an exiting time, as there was an abundance of work, as the large troop ships were being overhauled, to be put back in service as paying passenger liners, our form had contracts with the Cunard and the Brocklebank Line.

Employment was plentiful, which lasted for ten years, then the work declined.

I remember the halcyon days when the “Liverpool Overhead railway”, was thriving the trains were always packed, the workmen’s ticket was 7 pence return from the Dingle to the Huskesson dock. As I said in my book, the L.O.R was a brilliant conception but it was poorly designed, it lasted 63 years, there was a number of reasons why the line closed; No1 the work moved north, No2 the council put buses on the dock road and  No3 the railway was falling to pieces, they could not keep the maintenance up, so sadly it went bankrupt. But I can tell a fine tale as I used it every day for years, the sound of the L.O.R running along with a dum-de-dum, brings tears to my eyes. I can still rattle off every station from Dingle to Seaforth sands. I still have vivid memories of my city, in which I love.

At this time of the year, I read about what people get up to, at this time of Halloween. The interpretation today is not quite true. Halloween is taken from the old English text  Hallow (Holy) and ween means one, hence the Holy one. We celebrate as All saints Day, the so called trick-or-treat was imported from America, which didn’t happen in my day, or my children’s day. We did have duck-apple a harmless piece of fun, but trick-or-treat is totally a commercial gimmick, and the true meaning is being lost.

Story by Jack Stamper

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This story was added on 11th November 2010

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