The Magazine of Lenton Local History Society

Lenton Memories
A Lenton Lad - Memories In and Around 1950s Nottingham

from Ted Marriott

1955, At Last A Working Man...
One evening whilst scanning the Evening Post vacancies column, an apprenticeship was offered at the hosiery factory and I immediately wrote to them and secured an interview. Out came the bike and I pedalled furiously to Basford, about 3 miles away and was interviewed by the foreman, Mr Dawkins.I gave him my 5 years worth of school reports (I had no certificates or qualifications) and he smiled and handed them back to me saying I could start work on the 28th. Yippee, success. I raced home, pleased as punch…. An apprenticeship. I was going to be an apprentice hosiery trimmer. Whatever one of those was. All Mr Dawkins said was that it was to do with socks and it was hot!

Mum was pleased for me and I was to start earning the good wage of £3-8s-5d a week. Pete was earning £1.00 a week and Robin was on £1.10s so I was chuffed at my wage. Mum was to take my wages and give me 10/- spending money plus 2/6 per day for my bus fare and dinner at work.

The 28th came and at 7.30a.m. I propped my bike outside the front door of the factory and reported to Mr Dawkins where about six other young lads were waiting. We were taken down some steps and along a tunnel that went under the road and emerged into the biggest room I had ever seen with a glass, whitewashed roof. The noise was strange, a slapping of wooden boards and the hissing of steam filled the room and when the men saw us following the foreman to his office, they started jeering and whistling. I think we all blushed with embarrassment and entered the office. This office was perched high and looked down across whole room. There must have been ten rows of steam presses with about 12 or 15 presses in a row and 3 steam machines in the centre. The rows of benches were filled with all different coloured men's socks and a man at each bench was pulling them onto a wooden board, furiously slapping the board down on the bench and rapidly picking up another to repeat the process. When he had pulled socks on the dozen boards (legged up) he spun around and lifted the handle of the hot press and in one sweeping motion, pulled a dozen boards out and with a twist dropped them onto the bench. Almost without breaking rhythm he would scoop up the pile of newly legged boards and holding them in one hand, push each board into the narrow slot of the press with the other, shuffling backwards as went along. He would then quickly turn and strip the pressed socks from the boards and repeat the process all over again.

Mr Dawkins told us to follow him and we made our way among the alleys. At certain intervals he would stop and leave one of us with a man at a bench. I was the last one and we walked to the corner of the room and introduced me to 'my man'. This was the term used for your trimmer who was to teach you your 'trade'. New lads were called 'leggers.' Ron Kiddier was to be my mentor for the next 4 years. He was a youth of 20 years and was looking forward to teaching a new lad, as he stopped being on piece work and was paid his average hourly rate for the next 6 or12 months. The two men on each side of the bench, Dougie Ward and Bill Walker (Korkie) were smiling as they cross-examined me. How old are you? Where do you live? How old is your mam? The questions were never ending. Then they embarrassed me by laughing at my work clothes. As I hadn't a clue what I would be doing as a trimmer, mum bought me some new work boots and a blue bib and brace overall. I thought I looked the part and ready to get my hands dirty but looking at the other men I was dressed completely wrong. They wore thin every day clothes because of the hot presses. Their shirts would be open to the navel later in the day when the room filled with the heat and they all wore a small leather apron to rest the wooden board between their stomach and the bench. This was my first problem. As I stood against the bench and picked up a board to wedge against my stomach, the edge of it came up to my chest. Being so small I was to be issued with a box to stand on and one was produced. I was also issued with a 'leather', an apron made from the flap of a ladies leather handbag and a stocking threaded through it for a belt. I was now ready to learn my trade and 'rarin'to go.

The first tea break came at 10 o'clock and we all sat down and opened our sandwiches. The questions started again from other trimmers who came up to inspect the new kid on the block. I didn't have time to finish my food, as I was busy answering the men when the bell went for work again 20 minutes later. In no time at all the dinner time bell went off at 1 o'clock and I commented how time flies. 'My man' said that it does when you're having fun but it won't last.

I was so eager to tell mum about my work that I jumped on my bike (that was still at the front door of the factory) and pedaled furiously home for dinner. She looked at me with surprise when I walked in all red faced and panting. After telling her all about my experience she suggested I set off again for work or I might be late. I rolled up at the factory with 5minutes to spare and left the bike propped up again near the door .The trimmers asked where I'd been as they were looking for me in the canteen. They said I was crazy pedaling home and back in the break time. I must admit they were right as I was knackered in the afternoon session at the bench and I was sweating profusely. I kept looking at the clock and was sure it was running slow.'My man' asked if I was still having fun as he saw me keep looking up.

The 6 o'clock bell went and we all knocked off for the day, everyone asking me if I was coming back tomorrow. When I got home I was still sweating and mum told me to stay at work the next day for my dinner break. I didn't need to be told that as I calculated I'd pedaled 12 miles that day.

The first time it rained I decided I was going to catch buses to work. A number 58 at the top of Grove Rd took me to the terminus at Radford and I crossed the road to catch a trolley bus through Hyson Green to Basford. These trolley buses ran on two electric wires above the vehicle and were connected by two swiveling poles on top. Sometimes they would come off the wires if the driver took a corner too wide and the conductor would have to pull a long pole out from under the bus and reconnect them. These buses were fume free, silent and gathered speed quite quickly. Where we could chase a motorbus and jump aboard as it left the bus stop, the trolley bus always beat you.The bus rides spoiled me and the bike was destined to the back yard.

The Rockin' Fifties - The Best Years
'Teds' & Tearaways - 1956-57

The music scene in England was beginning to change. Where we had listened to big bands, jazz and ballad singers such as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby or Frankie Laine, a new sound was coming from America. I always liked the Boogie Woogie/Jitterbug sound of the big bands that sometimes were heard on the wireless, but the one record that really sold in millions was from a soundtrack of a film. 'The Blackboard Jungle' starring Glen Ford and Sydney Poitier was about teenage delinquency in school, and was a smash hit as the opening and closing music caught the imagination of millions of teenagers. 'Rock Around The Clock' performed by Bill Haley and his Comets, was the beginning of Rock n' Roll, the new music fad, or 'the devils music' as the American bible punchers called it. Coming at a time when teenagers were earning their own money and the dull post war clothes were giving way to brighter more radical fashion, the Teddy Boy and Rock n' Roll were born. Everyone younger than twenty loved it. The older generation didn't like it because it was too loud, too fast and they couldn't hear the lyrics to the songs. Teddy Boys over the country were jiving in the aisles of the cinemas wherever it was shown. The bad publicity came when the cinema owners tried to stop them and they wrecked the cinemas up and down the country ripping up seats. Photographs of wrecked cinemas filled the newspapers at the time. And just over one song!

Malc Hood in 1956

A couple of the young men in the trimshop were typical Teddy Boys. Malc Hood had just come out of the army after being conscripted for two years and returned to the factory to resume his employment. He wore the long drape jacket and tight drainpipe trousers, coloured waistcoat and bootlace tie and thick crepe soled shoes. Sometimes his jacket would be deep red another time he'd be wearing a yellow one. All tailor-made. I always tried to spot him creeping up behind me, as he would always painfully pinch me on the inside of my thigh, making me yell till he let go.

Tony Dennis in 1956

The other chap was a bit older than me and I must say I looked upon him as role model. His name was Tony Dennis and his hairstyle was his crowning glory. He was a handsome youth and with his jet-black Tony Curtis roll at the front and long sideburns and D.A. (ducks arse) at the back, shining with the obligatory Brylcream, he could get any girl he wanted.

He wore drape suits but not as radical as Malcs, and I noticed he never wore the crepe soled shoes but highly polished black leather ones. I was a Bill Haley fan and Tony introduced me to Elvis Presley's music. He played me a couple of 78s at his house and I did like the style. I'd seen the usual photo of Elvis and thought he looked 'cool', but when I saw him on T.V. showing him singing from his film Love Me Tender, I was converted and bought every record he made till the day he died some 22 years later.

I was too small and too short of money to get 'with it' clothes wise and still lived and died in my jeans that my aunt Doll had tapered for me and a pair of baseball boots (the trainer shoe of the 50s), topped off with a plaid shirt. We were copying the style from American teenagers.

But we were keen on the music. The gang and I would take the portable wind up gramophone and a carrier bag full of my Bill Haley records up to Nottingham Castle, Wollaton Park or Highfields on a Sunday afternoon and in no time at all we would have the girls gathered around and jiving with us. Even when I played records at home in the front room with the front door open we'd have a crowd of teenagers outside.

It was all to come to an abrupt end when disaster struck on the way home from one of the parks. My collection of 16 Bill Haley and Elvis 78s were smashed when the string of the carrier bag snapped under the weight of the wax records and they shattered into a thousand pieces as they hit the floor. The gramophone was thrown under the bed and never saw light of day again.

A radio station we all listened to at night was Radio Luxemburg. This station played all the latest music and was enormously popular. The only trouble was that the signal was weak and it used to fade to a whisper or suddenly blare out with crackles, whistles and pops. But it kept us in touch with the latest sounds. I did eventually buy a Philips electric/battery portable record player and was amazed at the better quality sound tone over the old wind up one. By today's standard that record player wouldn't sound much better than a cheap transistor radio. This was taken on the parks but the batteries didn't last long so it was assigned to the front room permanently.

Ted the 'Ted'
Age 16 in 1957

During the next few months, Pete Bradley, Robin, Pete Selby and I, all acquired air rifles. We'd go down the 'jungle' or Lenton Lane shooting rats or just shooting targets. One particular Sunday when we were in the undergrowth off Lenton Lane, I dropped my loaded rifle and grabbed at it before it hit the muddy ground. I caught it but my hand was on the trigger and it went off. The trouble was that my foot was at the end of the barrel and the lead pellet went straight through the leather toecap of my boot. I gave one almighty yell and fell to the ground rolling in agony holding my foot. The lads just fell about laughing and I ended up laughing through the tears. My boot was taken off and the throbbing digit inspected curiously by all. Comments like "If it had been my rifle your toe would be off", was mentioned, as all I seemed to have was a graze at the base of my left big toe nail. We got up and carried on with the morning shoot, tramping through mud and lime deposits on the edge of the lake for the power station cooling water.

Limping home I went straight for a bath, and then found that I could not get my slipper on as my toe had swollen to twice its size. Jim took me to the General Hospital accident and emergency department and a doctor came to inspect the toe after having it x-rayed. He showed me the x-ray and the lead pellet could be clearly seen just touching the bone of my toe. He produced a long pliers type instrument and started probing into my toe. The pain was worse than the shooting but he quickly extracted the pellet, stitched and bandaged my toe. I had to cut a pair of sandals to fit the swollen foot and needed a week off work to get fit again. When I did return to work the men enjoyed poking fun at me.

I'd been working for a year now and I needed to start paying my board as I complained to mum that I had saved money and bought my own clothes. I bought a black and white flecked jacket, a pair of tapered trousers and a pair of dark blue suede shoes with thick crepe soles. A black shirt and a white slim Jim tie finished off the 'look'. I needed more money, as I wanted a Teddy boy drape suit too. A fair amount was agreed and I ordered a tailor made suit from Tony Dennis' tailor, Tony Seebright, in Nottingham. I was to pay weekly on completion of the suit. I had ordered a powder blue drape jacket with black velvet collar, black drainpipe trousers and a black and red patterned silk waistcoat. The total cost of this outfit was £22/10/- and I was earning around £4 a week. The tailor paid me a visit and needed Jim's signature on the h.p.agreement. It was the first Jim had heard about it and refused to sign. He didn't like the sound of my choice of clothes and after a bout of bargaining agreed to sign if I had a plain black suit and it cost no more than £12.10/-.

The suit was duly ordered, with a few amendments to 'plain.' It was to be a fingertip drape jacket with four flap pockets and turned back cuffs and 14 inch tight bottomed drainpipe trousers. It took four weeks to make and I eagerly went to town to collect it. Upon trying it on I thought it was tight across the shoulders but I was that keen to wear it I didn't complain. A white button down collar shirt and a black knitted silk slim Jim tie completed the outfit. Mum looked me up and down when I tried it on at home. She shook her head slowly and commented that I had at least got the right name. At last…. I was a Ted…a Teddy boy. Jim said I looked like an undertaker. Johnny Smithson said I looked more like Wyatt Earp.

The discos hadn't arrived on the scene yet and the only places we could hear our rock 'n roll music was at one of the three dance halls in the city. The nearest (and best) was the Astoria at the end of Castle Blvd. This was nicknamed 'The Barn' and we would go on a Saturday afternoon from about 3 till 6pm. In the centre of town were the Palais De Dance and the Locarno. But after trying these two out, we always came back to the 'Barn'. Girls were better looking and it was nearer to home so it was cheaper on bus fares.

I can still picture my first time at the 'Barn'. The excitement of hearing the rock n' roll played at such a high volume gave us a 'buzz' that lasted the whole session. The dance floor was packed and heaving with Teddy Boys and girls jiving around all in the same rhythm. We (Pete Bradley, Robin Britton, Pete Selby and some of the lads from over Abbey Bridge) just watched and tried to take in the way the Ted's jived. I wish I had a photograph of the Ted's as they were our role models, and being just that bit older, could afford the eccentric style of dress. The Teddy Boy fashion was based on the Edwardian style of dress code, but the teenagers of 1955 had added colour to the normally drab shades of yesteryear.

I wore my black and white fleck jacket, Pete Bradley wore a scarlet corduroy jacket that his brother gave him, and Pete Selby wore his black and white dogtooth check jacket. We thought we were the bees' knees as we preened ourselves in the mirrors in the men's room. It's funny now, looking back and picturing the scene at these mirrors. ALL the Ted's were proud of their hairstyles and would comb the sides back into the D.A. at every opportunity and pull the quiff or roll down on the fore head. I saw many an argument, as elbows would clash as they preened away.

The first record I heard as we walked through the curtains into the dance hall was Charlie Gracie singing 'Butterfly'. Its funny how certain things stick in the back of the mind? I still have a copy on a 78 of that song, sung by Andy Williams.

In the evening on a Saturday night, we found out about a youth club at Beeston two or three miles up the road. This club was the forerunner of the disco and a record player was rigged up to a sound system and rock'n roll records were played non-stop from 7 till 10.30pm.

The 'Shed' - Beeston Youth Centre

Class of 1957
(L to R) Ivan Harrison, Arthur Vickers, Pete Bradley, Mick Morley, Mick Patman, Me
(Centre) Bob Smith
(Front) Robin Britton, Archie Wooley, John?

The building was just a wooden structure on the lines of a scout hut and the place was immensely popular. It was known as the 'Shed' The cost was only about 6d to get in but if any damage was done, light bulbs or windows broken, the next week it would be 8d or 9d on entry, No alcohol was served and there was rarely any trouble inside the building. One policeman used to look in and never had to bother anyone inside. When there was trouble it was usually someone trying to impress their girlfriend and a punch up was soon over.

Except on one occasion. The last bus from Beeston left the terminus at11.00pm. and we were usually aboard by On this occasion we were all lucky that night and had 'pulled' and walked the girls home. The next day when we were in the Market Square, we heard the story of the last bus from Beeston having some trouble on board. It appeared two gangs had squared off to each other and had a set to on the upper deck. The driver just drove the bus directly to the police headquarters yard in Beeston and the gangs were duly arrested.

News must have been slack that weekend as imagine our surprise when on the Monday at work, we saw the headline on the front page of the Daily Sketch. In thick black extra large letters, THUGS, and underneath, the width of the page, a photograph of the gangs lined up and smiling with clenched fists to the camera. I must say they all looked a rough lot all rigged out in their Teddy boy outfits. Some of the lads were hard nuts from the St Anns area of Nottingham, and it was wise to steer clear of them. The story ran that the gangs were terrorizing the town of Beeston and the locals were frightened to death to come onto the streets.

"Typical Daily Sketch reporting," my man used to say. "The only thing true in that paper is the date."

Mum was to ask me about the incident a few days later after Jim had seen the paper at work. I told her I had taken a girl home that night so was innocent of any trouble. Every Saturday night after that, she used to warn me not to bring any trouble home. I asked her what she meant and the answer I got was that I knew what she meant???? I was never told about the birds and bees by either of them and I tried to embarrass her by saying that I didn't know what she meant. She just waved her hand in the air and repeated, "Go on, you know what I mean" and went out of my way to the kitchen. I followed her into the tiny kitchen still asking questions but she blushed and started giggling and tried to push past me. I would step aside quickly when she threatened to rustle my Brylcreamed hair out of place and calm returned to the room. Jim just scowled. He didn't like me having a laugh with mum. Basically I think he was jealous of our closeness.

The only other places we could hear our music were on the juke boxes at a couple of café in Beeston and a couple in Nottingham. The two in Nottingham were very popular with us. The Moo Cow next to the LMS station and the Farmer Giles opposite the Carlton cinema. With names like that I wonder if the same person owned them. The Moo Cow had an old Wurlitzer that played 78s and the Farmer Giles had the new type, just a box with buttons on the wall at a couple of tables. The two in Beeston, one was called Jacks, (I forget the other,) had modern Rockola types and were always full of teenagers.

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