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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories


MO HARRISON (nee Maureen Scott)

I sometimes think of the children I spent my time with at Holes Lane School. The year was from 1955 when I was six years old. Ferrybridge School couldn’t take our family, so we spent out schooldays walking up from Pottery Lane.

The Scott’s, Betty and Richard, with their four children, Maureen, Denise, Melvyn and Pauline, moved from Springfield Avenue in Knottingley, to 18 Pinders Crescent Ferrybridge. At the time, electricity had only recently been installed, a gas mantle in use, hung from the ceiling, and barely reachable cupboards were painted in murky browns. The bold black lead fireplace and oven, which dominated the room, would be replaced eventually by a timid, cold, tiled fireplace as a centrepiece.

The kitchen had a concrete corner boiler and the small fire underneath it heated copious amounts of water, needed for the weekly wash. Before the washing machine, mum washed with a Peggy tub and a wringing machine. Washdays were cold and miserable, it always rained and wet clothes sat continuously around the fireplace.

The garden was a good size and we grew plenty of vegetables: beetroot, cabbages, onions, beans and potatoes – picking off aphids and caterpillars before they were spoilt. I warmly remember the purple lilac tree at the bottom of the garden, banned from the house because it was considered bad luck.

Mum was superstitious, young and half-Irish. We kept hens which we boiled potato peelings for, and these overlooked Johnny and Milly Fisher and her family. Susan and I often shared a bag of XL crisps.

The exterior house door was next to the outside loo, which meant buckets and pots for the bedrooms through the night. We were tight for space and the room downstairs was where mum and dad slept. The adjoining coal house led a stream of coal dust into the kitchen, where a bucketful of coal was kept under the sink. The small pantry window at the front was always jammed partly open, after being stuck closed for years – this area was used mainly for storage and bikes.

There were eight children eventually with the additions of Stephen, Neil, Tracey and Lisa, but sadly, Melvyn died in April 2004.

Walking to Holes Lane School took us past the Ackroyd’s where Jean, Brian, Sylvia and Ann lived. When Ann was injured on the road by a car, she had to spend a long time off school. The children from Holes Lane made her an abundance of get well cards. At the end of Pinders Garth, cows grazed around wild flowers, which we passed to cross the road to Pollards Field. To the left was Mrs Preston’s general food and vegetable shop, which had an awkward chewing gum machine outside. We slipped through the side of Pollards, which cut the corner off, bringing us past Harry Preston’s fish shop, then alongside the old cottages.

Burkett’s shop was near the Vale estate; we bought OXO cubes sometimes. Christine Bugg lived on the Vale; she had polio as a child and was confined to a wheelchair. Her house and the neighbours had an alleyway between them where we played and threw balls to each other.

Darryl Glue’s house was near the pottery. We were sure it was haunted and always rushed past. Sometimes we called for Anne, Lynne and Pauline who lived at the end of Aire View. We watched whilst their mum hastily took the rags out of their ringlets, before running across the field to school. We were often warned in class never to go near the River Aire or the canal whilst at school, or without an adult. A new boy called Harry was drowned and the family quickly moved away.

The last leg took us to Mrs Maers who sold juicy pears from her trees. Her sons David and Geoffrey sometimes served us. We would then cut through the ginnel to school. I used to have nightmares about the toilet block – a stone built area up steps with a wrought iron railing. It was a cold, damp, dark and wet place with doors that wouldn’t close.

Miss Heald was my first teacher in reception class. She was a tall, slim, dark lady who was very resourceful at thinking up ways of trying to stop me from sucking my thumb. I would still go back and see her after I had moved on to Mrs Coates, who’s smart, blonde-grey hair was cut into her neck.

With our milk in a morning we could buy eight small cheese biscuits or a jammy dodger for one old penny.

Mrs Bannister taught us music. She had dark grey, wavy hair and wore glasses. Both teachers took the second year. I loved Saturday mornings with Mrs Bannister when we had choir practice. Learning the new songs – ‘Who is Sylvia’ and ‘Oh for the Wings of a Dove’. We sang in Pontefract Town Hall where I saw the wall impression of ‘The Battle of Trafalgar’ for the first time. The hall was hot and sticky and we were all ready to burst, but they were good nights. After choir practice the rag and bone man was outside, selling tortoises, balloons, crayons and books etc. You could either buy them or give him a good quantity of rags.

We learned how to do double writing with Mrs France in the third year and it was then that I became friendly with Linda Drury who wore lovely hand knitted cardigans. She lived near the flour mill round the corner from the school and always looked perfect. Her chubby round face and healthy, dark, shiny hair was held back with a ribbon in the style often used. Sometimes I went with her to take her dads ‘pack up’ to him at the pottery where he worked.

In the fourth year it was Miss Parkinson who taught us. She had hot water with a slice of lemon for her elevenses. She married and became Mrs Pearson. Her Morris Minor had leopard skin upholstery. I can still remember the lovely smell of her car. She was a very stylish woman of the fifties who wore swingy tent coats. I had to round up three or four siblings after school, sometimes we lagged behind and occasionally she gave us a lift down to the bottom of the lane. She soon began to realise we were dawdling too often.

In Mrs Pearson’s class I sat with David Wright who was softly spoken. We would read together. David Haigh had blonde hair, perfect nails and white teeth. His sister Christine worked at the jewellers in Beastfair. Ian Hargreave’s mum and dad ran ‘The Duke’ pub near the school. Ian was good fun and always had a smile on his face. His task sometimes was to buy things from the pub for us, or get change for the teachers. Rita Fowles was always smart with a proper school uniform and we would stop off at her grandma’s occasionally and sample a biscuit or some of her baking.

On the way home from school, dad would creep up behind us as a treat and give us a lift on his steamroller; so funny when you think…….. He was called Dick or Dicky by his friends.

When the council painted the doors in Pinders, ours were always dark blue. It could have been red, blue, green or yellow; I would have much preferred red.

Margaret Dean and her boys lived opposite us; we chatted sometimes. Her kitchen had a stone paved floor. I can remember going in and thinking how clean and well scrubbed it was. Everywhere was simple, none of us had much, but her house was spotless. I once permed her hair when I was about twelve or thirteen - it was very fashionable at the time. The products were harsh though and the result was frizzy, but she was kind to me.

Many of our old neighbours still live in Pinders today including the Wathen’s, Malpas’s, Walshaw’s, Emily King and the Williams’s. In the past I have known Thorpe’s, Waite’s, Flower’s, Escriett’s, Hinchcliffe’s, Albert and Violet Jones, Long’s, Silverwood’s and Daphne, Brian, Sadie and Tom who lodged with them. The Youngman’s lived next door – their son Keith was killed driving his car near Wakefield; it was a great shock. I often played with Susan Youngman, with her sweet shop and post office set. When they moved out, Alice and her family moved in. Our other neighbours were the Smiths who moved in when the Bedford’s moved out. One of my friends, Carole King and I had some nice times playing in her garden where her mum would lay a blanket out for us and our dolls.

I remember from The Holes, the Rooke’s, Alfred and Ronnie, and the Oldfield’s, especially Mrs Oldfield with her basket of potted meat sandwiches and goodies that she brought to school for Christmas parties and other occasions.

The fifties were a hard time for some of us. I would not want to feel again many of the feelings I had as a child; the cold winters and shortage of money for fuel, food and clothes, thus creating a loss of dignity. There was bound to be a lack of nutrition, sleep and security whilst battling to survive. We never questioned, only accepted our predicament and believed that everyone else was the same, whilst actually feeling inferior. The cramped and overcrowded rooms and the ever present undercurrent of discomfort and anxiety not fully understood, but one that distracted the child from schoolwork.

In recent years, our old house on Pinders Crescent has been up for sale. It is much smarter now, in fact all of Pinders looks prosperous, mainly owner occupied, not council property anymore. I occasionally pass through when I call on my sister Denise. Easily remembering the old rickety wicket fences and re-enforced gates where we gossiped. The ice-cream cart pulled by a man in a thin white coat, the rag and bone man who made regular stops and the old black lamp-post across from our house, shining bright, promptly visualised.

It was a sad day when Holes Lane School was demolished. What remains is an unbelievably small area of land. It is difficult to believe that it held play areas, gardens and a school. The cloak-room to Mrs Pearson’s class where we queued for our school photographs, the toilet block, the wall separating the school from the swings and rockery gardens, and the fence and wall barring the canal and river, all long gone. Many of the children I knew then will be grandparents now. Some will have moved far away and some will have remained local, but like me they will have their memories from 1955 at Holes Lane School.

Mo Harrison (nee Maureen Scott)

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