Sunday, 18 January 2015

Trams, Trolleys & Trains.

In the 1940's and 50's there weren't many cars on the roads of Cleethorpes and Grimsby.  Kids could play in the side streets without the fear of being run over and it was generally much quieter. 
Trams operated from Grimsby to Immingham along the coast of the
The route of the Grimsby & Immingham
Electric Railway.
Humber Estuary.  They ran from 1921 to (surprisingly for me) 1961!  Now I don't remember travelling on them for general day to day purposes but I can remember my mam taking me on a "pleasure ride" from Grimsby, along the Humber bank to Immingham and then back on the return service.  From memory we got on near Corporation Bridge in Grimsby but I don't have any memory of  the Immingham end.  I
A Grimsby/Immingham tram, built in 1915
passing the Pywipe depot outbound for Immingham.
can remember the trip along the sea bank close to the River Humber, it seemed really close to the tracks.
The trams were standard gauge and ran for 7 miles between Grimsby & Immingham which was a developing seaport needing lots of contract workers so the tram system was well used.  
The headquarters for the trams was in Victoria Street, Grimsby and that was where the tramsheds were.  They are still there to this day having been utilised as the towns' bus depot and workshops when busses replaced the trams.     
The former Tramsheds of the Grimsby Corporation Tramways.  I took this photo in 2014, until
recently it was still being used as the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Bus Depot and workshops.
New, modern premises have been built next door. 

Trolley busses also operated in Grimsby and Cleethorpes while the
A trolley bus operating in
Cleethorpes, the overhead wires
can be seen, they were suspended
on steel poles.
trams were still in use and ran from Corporation Road, Grimsby to The Bathing Pool at the South end of Cleethorpes.  Trolley busses were powered by overhead wires as trams were but whereas trams ran on rails a trolleybus ran  on pneumatic tyres along the roads.

Trolley busses ran in from the 3rd of October 1936 until the 4th of June 1960.  They were replaced with petrol engined busses, noisier and smellier than the electric trolley busses and nowhere as pleasant to travel on.
At Sandtoft in Lincolnshire is the National Trolley bus Museum where restored examples of these
lovely old vehicles can be seen and ridden on.  This image shows the overhead system of wires
suspended from the arms on the distribution poles.
Some of the splendidly restored trolley busses at Sandtoft showing the arms on the top of the vehicles that take the power supply from the overhead wires.  
From time to time the arms would drop from the wires, usually if a driver took a corner too wide, the conductor would take a long wooden pole from under the bus and manually re-attach the take off arm back onto the wires! 

For all other long distance journeys people would take the train. 
Trains played a very big part in the development of Cleethorpes as a seaside resort.  Cleethorpes Railway Station was opened in 1863 and Cleethorpes soon became a popular destination for the Victorians to bathe in the sea.  It was later in the 20th century that the resort enjoyed it's boom times when the workers in the coal mines and steelworks of Yorkshire  came to Cleethorpes in their thousands for the annual "Wakes Weeks".  This was because the government declared that a working man required a paid holiday and so they could afford to take their families away for a break!  
The owners of the mines, steelworks and cotton mills took this opportunity to carry out necessary maintenance so they all shut down for the same two weeks in the summer, the last week in July & the first week in August and the whole workforce headed, by train, to Cleethorpes. 
I intend to devote a whole posting to this annual invasion so will finish here.

Photo's used in this posting: The 3 large colour images are my own, all others are courtesy of Wikipedia.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Retail Therapy and the Butcher who Played Away!

The Corner Shop.
In the late 40's & 50's there were no supermarkets and people had to go from one shop to another to get the weekly shopping.
Most communities had a corner shop where the housewife went to get her groceries, this was done every couple of days and not as now with one visit for the whole weekly shop.  There were no fridges so perishable items had to be used quickly and then replenished.  Our local grocery shop was "Kenningtons" on the corner of Taylor Street & Phelps Street.  Here my grandmother & my mother bought all their groceries, no self service here but a lady behind the counter would take your list and get it for you.  I often went with my mam, my favourite item was boiled ham or bacon. This would be sliced off a larger piece of meat on the bacon slicer which was a fearsome implement like a circular saw that traversed back and forth slicing thin slices.  
There was often a queue at the counter and you had to wait your turn but sometimes someone would rush in and try to jump the queue with the excuse "sorry, can I but in?  I've left a pan on the cooker".  Nobody believed this of course.
My grandmother often only wanted a couple of things so she would send me with a note and some money.  Sometimes it would be for a plain bread loaf and I would bite off the corners on the way home!

Going to the Library.
Another "shop" we went to was the "Green Circle Library" which was a private commercial lending library located in a shop. There were several of these but I can't remember when they disappeared.

A local man made good.
On the main road between Grimsby and Cleethorpes was Ron Ramsdens Hardware Store.  As the name suggests it sold all manner of hardware and home cleaning products required for the housewives' daily cleaning and washing tasks.  I remember going there with my mam and seeing dolly tubs, washboards, buckets & mops and all manner of things hanging up at the door and displayed
I can't find a picture of Ramsdens original shop
but this one in Horncastle is very close to how
I remember it looked.
across the pavement outside.  Ron Ramsden, the owner would have a conversation with my mam or grandmother.  He went on to expand the business over the years and it's now a very well known large department store and supermarket.  It occupies the most of the block of shops where his original hardware shop once stood.

Shopping areas.
Grimsby had two main areas for shopping, one was Freeman Street which was close to the Fishdocks and was a thriving hub of shops
Freeman Street. 
where you could but just about anything you needed.  The other shopping area was known as "going up town" and the shops were considered to be a bit more "up market" and was where people went for that special item.  Once a year, at Christmas time, we went up town to a large "posh" department store called Guy And Smiths.
House of Fraser, formerly called Binns and
before that Guy & Smiths.
I really looked forward to our visit, for one reason, they had a lift! 
The lift took shoppers from the ground floor up to the two upper floors, it was basically a large wire cage with two sets of doors so as it traversed up or down you could see the floors falling away or rising up to you.  It had a lift attendant and I can still remember the excitement of travelling on it.

The Co-Operative.
One of the best shops a small boy could go to though was the local Co-Op store, for one reason only.  The "change machine!"  When you walked in the first thing that hit you was the lovely smell of roasting coffee beans in the coffee grinder and the polished wood counters.  I also remember that it was always dimly lit and so the electric lights were always on.  My grandmother or mam would get  their items at the counter and then came the high spot of the visit when the counter assistant operated the "change machine"!  Unlike today there was no cash register or checkout, you gave the assistant your money and she would put it into a metal tube attached to an overhead wire wire system rather like a cable car.  Details of how much change went in too and it was "fired" along the wires to a central cashiers office, the cashier removed the money, put the money back into the tube to the correct amount for your change and fired it back to the front counter.  Pure magic for a small boy and something I never tired of watching.

The Butcher who often "Played Away!"
Going to the shops wasn't my favourite pastime and my grandma knew this so one day, to encourage me, she said she was going to take me to see a real live footballer!  When we entered the local butchers shop though I began to smell a rat!  I'd been tricked into shopping I thought, but no, my Nanna never told a lie.  Behind the counter was a huge chap in the familiar butchers striped apron and I was told that he was indeed also a footballer and played for Grimsby Town Association Football Club!  He came out from behind the counter to tell me all about being a footballer and I was in awe of him, even though I wasn't much of a football fan then and I'm still not now.  In the 1950's most professional footballers were only part time and had to have another full time job to earn a living, a far cry from the hugely over paid Premiere League footballers of today.  Why did he sometimes "play away" away though?  It wasn't what you might think, Grimsby Town Football club played then, as they still do now, at Blundell Park Football ground which is located in Cleethorpes so, in effect, they play all of their games AWAY from home!  The only club at that time to do so but I think there are one or two others that have relocated to grounds away from their hometown since then. 

Freeman Street Market.
I said earlier that there were two shopping centres in Grimsby but there was another quite separate area in Freeman Street with a character unique to the area.  Freeman Street Market was established in 1873 and was, until the 1960's an open market of stalls on a large cobbled area.  The Friday market was the big market day and I would go there with my mam or grandmother, they always said it was the cheapest place in grimsby to buy almost anything.  It's still there but since being covered over it's lost a lot of the charm and atmosphere it once had.
Freeman Street Market spans the years and has survived to this day and so I think that's a suitable place to finish my memories of shops in my early life.
Freeman Street Covered Market, still a popular place for Grimsby & Cleethorpes residents.



Sunday, 4 January 2015

Early memories.

This time I shall try to recall some of my very early memories from my childhood.

The very earliest recollection I have goes right back to being a baby
An advert for an early type
of disposable nappy.
when I can recall having a nappy changed and my mam sprinkling talcum powder on me!  In those days before disposable nappies mums used towelling nappies that had to be washed and sterilised before re-use and they were held in place by a quite big nappy safety pin.  Later in life, after marriage and my own children came along we still used towelling nappies but, although I tried to change them, they always ended up sliding down to the floor!  
Disposable nappies solved all the problems of sterilisation and where so much easier to apply.  However they have to be disposed and so take up landfill.  One problem solved but another created!

"In the 19th century, the modern diaper began to take shape and mothers in many parts of the world used cotton material, held in place with a fastening—eventually the safety pin. Cloth diapers in the United States were first mass-produced in 1887 by Maria Allen. In the UK, nappies were made out of terry towelling, often with an inner lining made out of soft muslin".
(Above information courtesy of Wikipedia)
As I grew older my mam would put me outside in the garden in my
Me outside in my pram, 1947.
pram, it was what all mums did to give their babies plenty of fresh air.  I can remember this too and looking up at the sky before drifting off to sleep.  As I got older she would put me onto a blanket spread on the grass with a makeshift sunshade over me to keep the sun off me.  I can remember laying back and watching a spiders web above me on one occasion.

Still on the subject of prams mam used to take me in the pram to get shopping, go to pay for things or visit people; on one occasion however she took me to get
some logs for the fire. We had been on this errand before, mam would pile a few logs onto the apron of the
pram, with me inside, and bring them home to my grandma's house.  On the way back she went down a particularly high kerb and the pram tipped up, all the logs tumbled down into the pram hood on top of me!  I wasn't hurt but I still remember it quite clearly.  I don't remember ever going back for logs after that!

We had no pets when I was born but when I was about 2 - 3 years old my dad came home with a tortoise for me.  Tortoises are not the best of pets for young children!  They do very little to entertain other than eating and biting anyone who gets their fingers too near if they are feeding them!   A tortoise is quite a commitment too, you've probably all heard the phrase "a dog is for life, not just for Christmas"?  Well that applies equally to a tortoise but with a very real twist, the "life" referred to is YOUR LIFE, not just theirs.  I still have my tortoise, called Joey, and I'm going to be 68 years old next Friday!
This is my tortoise Joey, photographed a year or two ago in the garden with my old dog Jasper.
We lost Jasper almost two years ago and now have another Cavalier called Suzi but Joey just keeps going year after year and will probably outlive me!

When I was  about 3 years old  I had to go into hospital to have my tonsils & adenoids removed.  It was quite an ordeal for young children in those days, my main memory of it was being told I was going to the theatre!  I imagined it was to see a film but no!  I can remember having what looked like a tea strainer put over my face and a horrible smell which I now realise must have been the chloroform anesthetic.  The best bit though was afterwards only being fed jelly and ice cream!

One of our neighbours was Kathy Marsh, a nurse at the hospital who was also considered by all the local mums to be our own unofficial district nurse.  If the were a medical crisis the shout would go up "quick, send for Mrs. Marsh!"
My grandma liked Mint Imperial sweets and would sometimes let 
me try one.  On one occasion I swallowed one whole and got it stuck in my throat, I was choking and can still remember the feeling!  "Send for Mrs. Marsh!" She came quickly through the back ways and hung me upside down while slapping me on the back, out it popped.  I've never been able to have another Mint Imperial to this day!      

My final memories are of the way the weather could affect children.  In the winter we all got colds and coughs and the remedy was to have Vick Lotion rubbed on the chest.  I can remember being woken up to have this rubbed over my chest at what seemed the middle of the night but was probably only at mam's own bedtime!
The summers in the 1940's were always long and very hot, at least that's how I remember things but they were probably no better than what we experience now!!  What we did get then though were "heat bumps".  On looking back these were probably caused more by vitamin deficiency but whatever, the remedy was still the same.  Again, in the dead of night, mam would wake us and slap freezing cold Camomile Liquid all over us, it was horrible!
In the summer we always wore thin cotton vests but come the autumn when the weather became cold mam would bring out the WOOL VESTS!  they were horribly itchy but we were told they were for our own good and would prevent us from catching a cold.  I still have an aversion to any clothing with wool in it and can't stand "itchy clothes"

Most of my memories though are happy ones and I recall them with a great deal of nostalgic pleasure.