from Ted Marriott
I looked forward to being thirteen and getting myself a paper round to earn some money of my own. I never had a pocket money allowance and mum never had much spare cash. I'd sometimes got the odd sixpence (2½p) to go swimming, but most times I'd sell my comics for sixpence and pay myself. I would be wasting my time asking Jim. My birthday was November 9th and he once told me that it was too near Christmas to have a birthday present as well as Christmas presents.
During the hot weather we would go swimming in the canal at Claytons Bridge on Gregory Street or the Coffin locks at Dunkirk. Sometimes we would swim at the railway bridge at the bottom of Petersham Street, but not often as our mums told us not to swim in the stinking water, and they might see us through the railings at the bottom of Alderney Street. I got away with it for so long, 'till mum smelt my damp trunks as she hung them on the line. That was it. No more sixpences for swimming!
When we weren't swimming we used to occupy ourselves by dredging the canal bottom with a hook on the end of a rope. We'd pull up bike frames, wheels, tin baths and even prams. One day on one of these occasions I got my hook well and truly snagged, on an object. Robin and Pete were with me and I pulled a little too vigorous and pulled myself off balance. I can picture myself now as I leant forward, twisted my body round and with arms flapping like bees wings, reached out to the lads as I slowly fell backwards. I'm sure if they had tried harder they could have saved me, but they both burst out laughing and stepped back as I splashed into the dirty green water. It really did stink!
A fire was made beside the railway bridge and I tried to dry my clothes. After an hour I had to accept defeat as my jacket and trousers were taking an age to dry…and they stank! I made my way over the railway bridge and went home, frightened of what Jim would do. On reaching the back door I found no one in. I pushed the door too hard and the door catch came away from the frame. I stripped off and washed myself down then put my wet clothes on the washing line. By now I was getting really worried about what Jim would say or do. I knew he would send me to bed as he always did if I upset him. That's it…. I went to my room.
Then I heard mum come home and shout for me to come down. She was as mad as hell for me knocking off the door catch. I explained what had happened and she clipped me round the ear and sent me back to bed. I think I was grounded for a week.
Me age 13
When I reached 13, I managed to land myself a paper round for 5/-(25p) a week, working for Harry Wells' at the bottom of Willoughby Street. Mum was to keep half and I had 2/6 or half a crown as it used to be called. At thirteen I was a small kid and I had to tie a knot in the strap of the canvas bag to stop it dragging on the floor. We were to start at 6.30a.m and finish at 7.30am.The evening round was 5.00pm start and 6.00pm finish. On my first evening round they came looking for me at 7.00. It took me all my time to carry the bag and my shoulder was sore from the strap. I was given a butchers type bike with a carrier on the front to carry my load, but I had to push it because of the weight. I got fed up and was sacked for throwing someone's paper that I'd missed, over a garden fence. Mum wasn't very happy about it and told me to get another paper round. As she used to keep half my wage, she appreciated the extra I brought in. I went to 'Nip' Broughtons shop further up the street and he set me on. He issued me a similar bike and just as big a round as the last. I'm sure kids of today wouldn't put up with it. He paid the same rate so mum was happy. I used to hate the Saturday evening round, as it was a double run. After the Evening Post or Guardian, we had to return for the Football Post or Green 'Un and repeat the run.
Mum used to shout me up at 6.00, as I didn't have an alarm clock. One morning at 6.30 I heard mum shout me and I could hear this madman outside shouting. "MARRIOTT…WAKE UP. ARE YOU STARTING WORK TODAY"?
I looked out the window and saw old man 'Tich' Broughton looking up at the window shaking his fist at me." COME ON…. HURRY UP" and off he pedalled on his bike.
Mum had either forgotten or didn't hear the alarm and overslept. I went to the shop and got an earful of abuse from the old man and went on my round. I worked for him for about a year and I asked mum for a bike for Christmas. I wanted a 21-inch frame racer type one with dropped handlebars, cable brakes and gears. The gang and I planned to ride to Skegness. Jim said I couldn't have one with cable brakes, as they were dangerous if the cable snapped. (I am now sixty-two and have yet to hear of that ever happening.)
Anyway, came Christmas and I got a bike. I was not impressed. It was a 15 or 16inch frame with steel rod brakes and no gears. I rode it with my short legs bent and felt embarrassed when I saw my mates. I never used it much and it stayed in the yard most of the time.
I had another fall out with old man Broughton and he eventually sacked me. Mum went spare. She had bought my bike out of a catalogue she ran, the instalments paid with the cash she kept from my wages, so I was ordered to find another delivery job ASAP.
I was to find another job with a paper shop on Derby Road, near the canal bridge at Wollaton.
It was further to walk to the shop, but it paid more.7/6 A WEEK! Robin Britton and Pete Bradley worked there too.
Mr Strawbridge, the owner, initially gave me a round that was nearly as big as those I had done before. As I had to walk the round, I would come back late, so he supplied a butcher's type delivery bike. On my third day I was riding back after the round and tried to ride between the stumps at the end of a narrow road. There was probably an inch clearance each side between the stumps and the metal frame that held my paper sack in front of the handlebars. I was sure I could make it easy enough…WRONG…. I was travelling much to fast and didn't quite judge it right. CRASH…. The bike stopped dead as it struck the stump and I didn't. I flew over the handlebars with a somersault and a half twist and landed on my hands and knees. I lay there on the floor hugging my knees and rolling from side to side in agony. The skin on my knees was all scraped off and bleeding, as were the palms of my hands complete with gravel chippings stuck in the flesh. My trousers were torn and I tried to stand. My kneecaps had taken a nasty bump and I was lucky not to have damaged them seriously. I sat there about twenty minutes or more before I could walk properly, then pushing the bike, I limped back to the shop, which was just around the corner.
Mr Strawbridge and his wife were shocked when they saw me. She took me into her kitchen and bathed my wounds. I told them I had fallen off the bike while delivering the papers at the beginning of my round and had pushed my bike around the streets to complete my round. Mr Strawbridge said he was proud of me for finishing the round and gave me a cup of tea and some biscuits. He said that I was on the small side to be delivering papers and he would sort something out for me. I reported for work next morning on my own bike, my knees were still sore and bandaged. Limping into the shop I saw my paper sack had gone and was told another boy had been set on to do my round.
"OH …NO! Not the sack again," I thought. Mum will kill me!
Mr Strawbridge smiled at me, as he must have read my thoughts. "Don't worry…I'm making you the spare man. If anyone misses a day, you can do their round. Is that o.k."?
IS THAT O.K???…I'll say. No one had time off at this shop. And after they turned up I could go home, as long as I didn't tell the other paper lads. I'd landed the perfect paper job. After about two months a small round was made up for me from new customers across the road and down Arnesby Road. This round consisted of about twenty-five houses but there was one new customer that I HAD to pull in. It was the police stables that were stationed in the Wollaton Park Hall stable block To get there I had to pedal up Wollaton Hall Drive, cross the ring road and ride up the long driveway to the Hall, which sits atop a hill and down the other side to the stable block. It was about a three mile round trip, but how could I refuse kind Mr Strawbridge. It was a nice run in summer and the ride back was nearly all downhill, but in winter it was terrible pedalling through the rain or virgin snow on the estate.
Christmas Day 1954
At Christmas time the tips were excellent as I also had a few houses on Adams Hill and Oundle Drive that ran alongside the park. Very posh (rich) folk lived in this area and I always said that if I won the pools I would buy a house there. Nearly fifty years on I'm still waiting.
One of my customers on Arnesby Road had a delivery of about a dozen Angling Times and I wrote him a note asking if he had any old issues he didn't want, as I was a fishing enthusiast too.
The next day his wife told me all the papers were taken to his fishing tackle shop but he would see what he could do for me later that week. Two days later a parcel was at the door of the house with a note addressed to " THE PAPER BOY." Inside the parcel were spools of fishing line, floats, hooks, weights, various lures and small books about fish. It was just like Christmas morning opening presents. It was a good job there was a note as Jim thought I'd pinched them.
I wasn't a very good angler as I didn't catch that many fish .We used to fish at the Police Pond at Dunkirk and I tried out the new lure I had been given. That was the best days' fishing I ever had with perch almost jumping into my keep net. The fish were biting just as I brought the lure to about six foot from the end of my rod tip. The other lads I was with watched in amazement as I reeled them in. They were soon dropping their floats in the water in front of me. For about five minutes we were reeling them in, even the other anglers walked across to us and asked what we were using as bait. Then all of a sudden it went dead. Either we had caught all the fish or we had frightened them off. I went home a happy chappie that day.
Another day at this pond I remember, (with a chuckle) was meeting a schoolmate, Geoff Gardner, also out for a days angling. As we were stood chatting he spotted a horse grazing. He mentioned something about riding it and we dared him to try. He slowly sauntered over to the nag, quickly gaining its trust as he fed it some bread from his fishing bag. We watched in amazement as he swung his leg over its back and he sat there grinning at us, the horse not moving.
"Easy, nothing to it," he laughed.
At that, the horse lifted its head and turned and galloped off across the field, Geoff now clinging wide eyed to the animals neck and legs flapping all over the place. We just cracked up laughing as he careered around the field. The horse came to a halt on the far side and Geoff straightened up and waved to us. Suddenly the horse had decided enough was enough, and kicked his hind legs up high as it lowered its head. Geoff went flying through the air and landed in a heap in front of the animal. As he got up the horse turned and ran away and we had to sit down before we wet ourselves with laughing so much.
A regular spot where we fished the Trent was just in front of the Wilford power station at a water outlet to the river. We used to call it 'roach hole' and rumour had it that it was because the water was warm as it was used for cooling the power station. I only ever caught a couple of fish all the times I fished the 'hole'.
Just further down the river over the Toll Bridge was another pond called Iremongers Pond. It was at this pond that I decided to pack up this fishing lark. Mick Cumberland and I set off from home on our bikes at 6.30a.m and fished till 6.00 p.m. without my float ever moving. Mick caught two gudgeon. That was it for me. Enough was enough. I gave my rod away to a kid who was fishing with a cane on the canal. I sold my other tackle to the other lads.
It would be about 1954 and I was approaching my 15th birthday. The small bike that mum bought me had stood idle too long and mum sold it. I bought a bike from Jim's brother-in-law, Vincent, who was married to Jean, for £1. It had all I wanted of a bike. Cable brakes, gears and a larger frame. Over the next few months the bike would be transformed from a normal conservative bicycle to a thing of beauty in the eyes of us kids of the 50's. Off came the handlebars and a set of chrome 'track bike' bars fitted plus chrome crash bars and eventually a pair of thick tread track tyres. Mum paid for one of the tyres as at 10/- (50p), buying the other bits had made me skint. The following week a tin of bright yellow enamel paint was purchased from the bike shop and the transformation was complete.
We all eventually got a bike each, Johnny Smithson made his from a frame he found on the local tip and spare parts were gathered somehow to finish the job. He would ride his dad's bike, a green, sturdy Raleigh sit up and beg type. Johnny as usual, bragging it was the best bike to be had. Robin Britton had one bought him and Pete Bradley had his brother's old one. Looking back it occurred to me that we never went far and we never did ride to 'Skeggy'.
This was the year we had a rented television. TV was now becoming popular since the Queens coronation the year before and we'd sit glued to watch any programme that was on. Childrens hour would be Muffin the Mule, a pathetic stringed puppet and just as pathetic a woman at a piano talking and singing to it. The early days of TV only provided one channel. BBC.
One of our favourites was a western called 'Champion the Wonder Horse' the title song sung by Frankie Laine. A documentary series called 'The War At Sea' was never missed and was a talking point at school the next day. When the 'commercial' station arrived we had other favourites such as Gun Smoke a western, and better variety shows and games. But as with all things new, the novelty wore off and the gang were back together on the street corner.
I'm trying to think of the things we used to do to keep ourselves occupied when we were on the street corner. Often we would all sit on Pete's wall and his dad would tell us to get off before it fell down. We would cross the road and stand outside Taylor's beer off' until Mr Taylor or his wife came out and told us to clear off .We would get even with them though. Whilst the moaning pair were having a go at us, one of us would make our way down Petersham Street and climb into their back yard and load up with empty beer and pop bottles. In those days you were paid back the penny or 'tuppence' (2d) deposit on returning the empties. Later, we would ask one or two of the little kids on the street to take the empties back for us and bring us the money. We used to do this to Mrs Clarke, the grocer's shop at the corner of Alderney Street. She soon twigged on to what was happening and would mark her empties when we handed them in.
At the bottom of Grove Road was a railway bridge under which the 'pad' (path) would lead past the 'sandybanks', past the back garden of my old house on Abbey Bridge and come out on Gregory Street. If we turned left we went over Claytons Bridge and over the canal. Sometimes we would wander for miles along the canal side, leaving the path and just seeing were we would end up if we cut across the fields, or rather scrubland, leading to the tip. The Lenton tip was where the industrial estate is now built and we would go 'tatting' to see what we could find. It was on this tip that we would meet lads from Gregory Street and would show each other our 'finds'.
The watchman on the tip site would chase us off many times, but we were too quick for the miserable old sod. One particular time he sneaked up on us as we were trying to pull some lead pipe out from under some rubbish. Before we could see him he threw an old oil drum at us and caught either Robin or Johnny across the shoulders. We scurried off as he laughed at us, but circled the tip till we could see his hut. A lorry was parked alongside the dilapidated wooden 10'x 10' shed and the watchman had brewed a cup of tea for the driver and himself. Creeping quietly behind the lorry we found coils of old wire that he had put to one side ready to 'weigh in' at the scrap yard. Tying the various lengths together we tied one end to the back of the lorry and the other to a spar at the base of the shed. Each of us picking up lengths of lead pipe we also found beside the hut, we then retreated off the tip and hid over a bank of grass and patiently watched, all of us giggling like schoolgirls.
We didn't have long to wait. The driver got into his cab and drove off as the watchman re entered the shed. The wire snaked behind the lorry for about twenty feet then tightened suddenly, ripping the end spar away from the main structure of the rotten shed. We watched in amazement as the shed collapsed like a pack of cards, as if in slow motion. The lorry continued on its way dragging the spar behind it through the dust, before it snagged in the ground and broke free. We couldn't see the watchman under the pile of wood and wondered if we had killed him? Suddenly the heap of wood in the centre started to move and the watchman appeared, throwing timber to each side of him and kicking other bits of rubbish out of the way. We kept our heads low and burst out again in fits of laughter, more I think in relief of him still being alive. That'll teach him to mess with the Grove Road gang!
Me age 13
The lead pipe was weighed in and we got 5/6d between us. Then we started the beer bottle scam again, but this time with lead. After weigh in, we watched where it was stored. We were pleased when we saw the scrap man throw it on a pile of lead scrap in the corner of the compound next to the wire fence. We all looked at each other knowingly and went home.
That Sunday evening we were back at the scrap yard fence looking at the scrap lead within our reach. Levering the bottom of the wire fence up about six inches allowed us to reach under and withdraw the lengths of pipe. We took as much as we could carry and made our way down to the pond where we went fishing. There we hid the pipe under the bushes in the undergrowth till a later date. Then we would knock it into a different shape and sell it to him again. This scam worked for a few weeks but we packed it in when a scruffy Alsatian dog was chained up to the fence beside the scrap lead. It would bark savagely whenever it spotted us coming into view, giving the scrap man plenty of notice we were there.
Days leading up to 'bonfire night' were often eventful. All the kids off Alderney Street and Grove Road would help us to store rubbish collected from shops, houses and everywhere, over the wall at the end of Alderney Street. Over this wall was a narrow strip of bank beside the canal. Access to this bank was only over the wall and was a safe place to store the rubbish from raiding gangs from other streets in the area. One particular year we raided Petersham Street's rubbish by throwing it in the canal and letting it flow downstream to our rubbish pile. That year the stacked rubbish in the middle of the road frightened the Clark's at the shop as they said when it was lit, the heat would break their shop window. It was duly dismantled and moved further down the street. When we did set it afire even we were worried. One of the nearest neighbours must have called the fire brigade as within five minutes a fire engine pulled alongside and started dousing the flames with water. But, they were considerate. They only doused HALF the fire. They pulled smoking rubbish to one side and told us to burn it when the other half had got smaller. We were warned that if they had to come back, they would bring the police. They left and fireworks were let off. As usual, we were stupid and threw 'bangers' and jumping jacks at the girls' feet and laughed at their screams. In fact quite often, a few of us had 'bangers' and squibs explode in our hands as we hung on to them too long. Even though it was a very painful experience we never learnt and were back doing the same idiotic stunt once the pain subsided. I got my comeuppance once, when a fizzing firework was thrown at me. I turned to run but the firework fell down into my Wellington boot. (I wore short trousers then) I yelled like a madman and pulled my boot off as fast as I could. I was VERY lucky. That squib must have been the proverbial 'damp squib,' as the sparks died before they could burn my flesh. I heaved a sigh of relief when the smoking firework fell out of my boot.