The Highbury Estate in the 50s - Part 15
|Author: davidjoyce||Published: 30th March 2017 08:18|
HAROLD WILSON ON T.V.
On most evening in the 50s and 60s the night-time news was on at 9p.m. During this programme, mum would go into the kitchen and make a cup of tea for her, dad and myself.
One evening, 9 o-clock came around and mum duly disappeared into the kitchen but, instead of the news, a party political broadcast appeared, with Harold Wilson. If there was one man my mother disliked, it was poor old Harold. For some reason, she never had a good word for him, and on this particular evening his defined Yorkshire accent must have reached her ears out in the kitchen. In she marched and with a 'HHMMPPH ... we're not having HIM on!' And promptly went to turn the T.V. off.
'STOP woman !' Uttered my dad as she reached for the switch 'I might just want to hear what he's got to say'
Such a pronouncement was astonishing, both to me, and my mother, who just stopped as if she'd run into an invisible wall. I'd never heard him speak to her in such terms .... and .... obviously .... neither had she!
She stared furiously at him for a few seconds, turned abruptly on her heels, and stormed back into the kitchen, only to return moments later with a tea-towel.
'WELL' She said 'We MIGHT have to listen to him .... but we're NOT going to look at him !' and promptly covered up the television screen with the tea-towel!
With a look of undeclared triumph, mum returned whence she had come, leaving one, hilariously amazed son, and a completely bemused husband behind her.
I just looked at Dad .... he merely shrugged his shoulders 'THAT'S your mother for you son!' He said
MY FIRST TASTE OF WORK
On the corner of Lonsdale and Roseberry Avenues, there sits today a rather innocuous detached house. If it looks a little unlike those around it, that's because it once was a shop.
It was, in fact, the local grocery store, run by two lovely people, Mr and Mrs Hallett. It was there I spent the last years of my school life from 1960-62. With Christmas, 1960 approaching, the Hallett's needed a lad to help make up and deliver customer orders, a position made necessary by Mr Hallett's hip problem, which was beginning to affect his mobility. On hearing this, my Aunt Hilda suggested me to them, so along I went for an interview, and they took me on. After a very short space of time, they were so pleased with the help I was able to give them that they kept me on right up to the time I moved toward full-time employment in the summer of 1962.
The Hallett's were a pleasure to work for. As well as delivering to local customers houses, I also helped out by re-organising and re-arranging their storage areas, dealing with their supplies, as and when they came in, and even serving in the shop itself, when times got busy.
It seemed the locals liked me as well. It appears I was polite and chatty, and always helpful, and lots of the ladies appeared to like me, as did one or two of the local girls.
The Hallett's had no children and, they did, in some ways, become surrogate parents. Their help, and advice was invaluable, I was always able to discuss things with them that I wouldn't feel comfortable bringing up with my own mum and dad, particularly as my mothers aversion to the Grammar School made conversation very difficult. Looking back, I feel they regarded me as a useful addition to their business, and trusted me to keep their account ledgers up to date (often asking me to count up their daily takings) and producing and maintaining a record of their stock lists, I also helped to fill out their wholesale order forms. 'Do you know David' Mr Hallett said one day 'The shop has been so much easier to run since you've been here'.
From my aspect, that job taught me a huge amount about life. It got me used to dealing with people, and gave me confidence in interacting with them, all of which was so central to my growing up, and so important with the world of work approaching. As mentioned earlier, working there also facilitated my encounter with Eileen, who lived next door, and who was equally instrumental in developing my personality, despite her young age. My transformation into adulthood would never have been the same without those experiences.
I departed the Hallett's employment at Easter 1962, to concentrate on my exams., and on the day I achieved the results that enabled me to realise my ambition of becoming a Civil Engineer with British Rail, they were the first people I went to see with the news. As expected, they were delighted for me and we shared a celebratory cup of tea - I had always made the tea, ever since day one! I stayed at the shop all afternoon and it was amazing just how many of their customers were pleased to see me once again. The best remark of the day, however, came from one of the regulars who said 'David, Mr and Mrs Hallett have been a bit lost without you these past two months, my how they've missed you!'
Memories of the two of them have lived with me all my life and I have never forgotten either. If I remember it correctly, they sold up the shop and retired in that summer of 1962, almost coincident with my leaving and they will always live in the 'most loving memories' box in my head. I never think of them without recalling how happy I was at their shop, and how proud I am to have known them.
Although I continued to live on the Highbury Estate for another eight years after the summer of 1962, realistically, it has to be said that day to day life there came to and end on 13th August that year when I stated work for British Rail at Woking, Surrey. It is true to say that, in all the years I lived on the Highbury Estate, and with all the people I knew of my age range that also lived there, I never, ever took a girl from the estate out on a date. Although I had individual dates with one or two girls within the city, only one of my longer-lasting girlfriends in the 60s was actually local to Portsmouth, probably a legacy of commuting to work for B.R. at a location near London, and also of early car ownership, both of which gave me tremendous freedom of travel. The long-term group of eight of us lads stayed together right up until I left for a position in York in 1970, and we shared a pretty widely spread lifestyle.
After 46 long years, I re-discovered some of those 'mates' in 2016, at least the three that were left with us, and it's been a pleasure and a privilege to be able go down and meet up again at regular intervals ever since. This series of articles has also regenerated communication and meetings with other friends and acquaintances that I thought would be lost forever - what a pleasure it has been to find out they are alive and well, and still as friendly as they ever were.
SO, that's IT for the 1950s ..... how have I managed to recall all those events from so long ago? The answer is twofold, a superb set of photographs from the period (only a few have been reproduced in these episodes), and the fact that I have always retained a clear memory of those heady years of the 50s and 60s .... and if you've managed to read all the foregoing episodes ... then you'll realise that time has not dulled them !
What about the 1960s ...... yes, they're written about as well, and recorded in as much detail, but my wings were spread during that decade and I'm not sure that they really fall within the 'Highbury Estate' title. I'm also not certain that publicising the events of those years would go down with either the people involved, or with those who might read about them - one's ideas of 'fun' (with events, lads and, in particular, girls) in my late teens and early twenties were completely different in the 60s, and definitely not so innocent .... it WAS after all the 'swinging' 60s. It also was, most definitely, a wonderful time to be young.
At present, therefore, those years remain part of my missive on 'Family History' which not only covers my life going forward, but also looks back through the lives of my parents, grandparents, and forebears (an even bigger challenge on my memory), and was originally planned only for the edification of my children and grand children.
But, to finish with a last reflection on the Highbury Estate, once I had started work in August 1962, those happy go lucky days of my school years around the area were over ..... a different life awaited me during the 1960s ... but what days those years of the 1950s brought .... and Oh, what memories !
DAVID JOYCE 2016