Barry Robbins – Reminiscences

My first recollection of Methley is of a Saturday in November 1949, when along with my parents and dog ‘Lady’ we arrived at No 87 The Hollings,I was in my 3rd year, this was to be my home for the next 21 years.   On the same day there arrived at No 12 the Turpin family, including their dog Judy a ‘red setter’. I recall that the family pet decided to investigate the upstairs of our new home, much to my mother’s displeasure.

PC Fred Vezinner and family were already living at No 1 by the time of our arrival, they had a son John, who was my first mate, he and I would take off and investigate the estate and in particular those of the houses which were still incomplete. On one of our expeditions John and I discovered one of the houses though without doors , had a staircase, so up we went to investigate, what we found was not quite what we had expected, two other people had got there before us, and were to quote an expression of my mothers’ were up to no good’ …! we beat a hasty retreat.

There were three shops in Woodrow, where we would buy sherbet dips, ‘spanish’ and liquorish sticks, and run to for the occasional errand for our mothers.  Charlie and Minnie Dickinson had a shop in Bondfield Terrace, Mrs Sunderland in Albert Place, and Eric and Marion Spencer by the Royal Oak. Minnie Dickinson I recall had long periods of absence from serving in the shop, due to Ill health, when entering the shop one felt almost an intruder, as it retained the air of its original function as their front room. Mrs Sunderland to me as a child was a lady of ‘great age,’ she wore a sort of ‘tam’ on her head, her skin was like parchment, always had a kind word for we children, this shop again was in what had been her ‘front room’.The Spencer’s shop was quite small, and had a bow fronted window there was also a fish and chip shop next door.

Apart from the shops there were an assortment of mobile shops, a few that spring to mind are ‘ Varleys’ who came from Castleford selling hardware items , including paraffin, Rainbow, Johnny Bramble, and another who’s name escapes me, possibly because as my mother always referred to him as ‘rob dog…! his real name wasn’t necessary to know, Rington’s selling tea, its delivery van with black green and gold livery, an eye catching sight. Charlie Bentley and Stan Pyrah brought vegetables by horse and cart on a Friday night, the canopy bedecked with secondary supplies of potatoes and greens.    In winter the cart was lit by tilley lamps always a familiar and striking sight.

Our neighbours were Ernest and Hilda Micklefield, Mrs Micklefield would rush out with her shovel and gather up the horse muck from Charlie’s horse and place it around her roses, nothing was wasted.  There was ‘Jackie’ with his two wheeled box barrow, selling sticks for lighting the fire, he was afflicted with what we would now refer to as a ‘palsy, he was unable to walk properly, and had difficulty ‘getting his words out’ nevertheless he sold his sticks and made a living.

The Kleen-ezee traveller, selling dusters polish , brushes, the striking difference being that the man doing the selling was an ex-service man, a man who had been in the RAF, and had been horrifically burned, his face was a succession of skin grafts, fingers without flesh , just bone with skin grafted onto them. Prior to the mans arrival at our door, I suspect that my mother had noticed his condition, I was forewarned of this, and forbidden to stare, for whatever reason on this occasion I did as I was asked, my mother offered him tea, and bought some of his wares, when he had left it was explained to me how he had sustained his injuries, and somewhere in her explanation I first heard the word ‘ sacrifice’ this did make an impression on me, as I still remember the situation to this day.

The pubs in Woodrow were the Royal Oak, landlord Walter Mc Cullough, wife Grace and daughter Gwyneth. The United Kingdom with landlord Jack Leonard, and wife Cissie (daughter of Mrs Sunderland) and son John.   My parents took me to the ‘Kingdom’ on Saturday nights, my mother and I would sit in the kitchen, and do our drinking from there, Mrs Leonard from time to time in between serving customers came to enquire if we were alright?

John Leonard had a double barrel shot gun and would sit on a sofa with gun held between legs cleaning the barrels with a gun liner, the gun cleaning provided me with great interest, the treat was being allowed to have a go at the gun cleaning which became a highlight of the evening for me.

Micklefields were our neighbours on the estate side, the Tillotsons on  the other in the old cottages, the latter consisted of mother Louisa, and daughter Amy, but in addition there was for a short time Mrs Tillotsons sister, a Mrs Morton who had at some time in her life lived in America.   The toilet to their house was ‘outside’, mother and aunt when going to the toilet would don their shiny black straw hats and a shawl, and scurry across the yard, to a 4 year old this was an ‘unusual sight’ and provided great interest.   There was a granddaughter Marguerite who visited once a week, the day of her visit provided much excitement for both grandmother and aunt.

To the best of my recollection, I was not an obedient child, far from it, this was in spite of my mother chastising me on a regular basis, usually with a smacked bottom, when this act was observed by Mrs Micklefield, I can still hear her words of encouragement to my mother, “Eee, a know what ad do wi im”.   At such a tender age I can remember thinking, the bottom smacking is bad enough,what Mrs Micklefield is suggesting must be much worse, being a coward I decided I did not want to find out, and started to behave a little better.

Trips to Mickletown were at this time infrequent, other than to the doctor, Mrs Annie Dennis who with her husband John conducted their practice from The former Parsonage, the waiting room was dingy, a table in the middle with reading material, woodwork painted brown with cream wallpaper on the walls, there was a gas fire which took the chill off in winter, but once one entered the consulting room, this was an ice box.  Mrs Dennis seemed always to have a cold, a handkerchief ever at the ready, and hands cold also. Her writing desk and records were squeezed within the reveal of the window, the only warmth was on a sunny day, when its rays came streaming into the room.

In September 1951 I commenced my formal education my Al’ma Mat’er, Churchside School.

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