Memories of Calderdale

Born 1943: Dipped in History


Anthony Buckless

I was a war baby classroom sizes swelled, up to from between 44 to 49 a class, as I recall. Moorside Primary was a good school; heaving classrooms were offset by daily nature walks. Due to the fields and moors of Ovenden, and Illingworth taking to growing houses, Moorside had classes at Providence Chapel before the war. They had moved to St Andrews Beechwood Road by my time, extra walking to and from. Two years of my schooling was spent in the hall, each class one side of Moveable Blackboards. This was offset a little by Mr Naylor, an excellent teacher.

Ovenden Secondary Modern – also with huge class sizes – was more like a Technical School when I started. A large garden was phased out gradually. Mr Peace, the metalwork teacher, left, and the wonderful metal workshop remained closed. Ovenden had a Joinery room, art, music, science-with a motorbike to rebuild and ride, geography room, and a large library that in later years the teachers pinched for a rest room, I believe. A projector and screen in the large Hall, with stage and dressing room, first aid room, R.I. and prefab flat – no boys allowed! Sewing room, Swimming bath, Gym, rooms for English, Maths and History. This good-with-your-hands intelligence was ignored slowly, so no old computers and plumbing, or electrical things replaced to update work needs. Later the school was merged and became Ridings, some of the teachers from the other school seemed to resent this, it was closed 2009.

The main roads were still busy in the 40/50s; they had electric lamps, our street gas lamps. Horse and carts were still on the road – Milk people, the Co-op had an electric float, Rag and Bone, and Veg in particular. Many Motor Bikes, plenty of them with sidecars – no one had a car on our street but there was a few motor bikes. British Road Service had a depot at Keighley Road Ovenden, many buses, and some work cars – cut down later when Parliament attacked expenses as perks and hidden wages, many Salespeople losing their works car, and etc. The side roads were less busy, and the streets quiet. Each street shared a slop bin. Our toilet was in the porch, the older houses shared blocks at the end of their street. As you hit Dean Clough from Ovenden, Lorries pulled out one a minute from the entrances of Crossleys, they said. The Whitaker's Brewery was in Corporation Street along with houses and mills.

Rationing came off totally in 1956, things improved immediately! Coloured clothing for men, light, plastic things like record players etc, working people got a telly. Many household gadgets seen on US films for years became available. Sweets, foods, cloths became more readily available, and of greater variety, as all remaining restrictions on the over milked rationing scheme were lifted. Mixenden council estates were built in the 1950s, we moved up there in 1956, better all round, but I had to travel to school, and, later, work, giving extra time spent and expense.

Change; we are never going to change,
So sure are we
Of that which the mind has seen.
Faithful path
How you mark our feet,
With so sure eyes – unaware
Change has already been.
For while the body sleeps
And the memory builds another day,
Each second is a merry go round
Where the Gods of change, change
The way, we play,
Look, speak and think!
Do we, indeed, react the same as after yesterday?
A word within a book,
A smile which the heart has seen
Within its special look.
Change, we are never going to change,
See the familiar with eyes the mind has never seen
Stubbornly stumbling forth – unaware,
Change has already been
Work was plentiful, the mood happier, and lighter, reflected by The Beatles, and Mary Quant's beloved mini skirt! Amongst others. Working Class people were not expected to carry the extra burden of commuting, that is, on wages and time on low pay. Coaches were put on to bring people in from a distance, and through one of MacMillan's Stop period, outward. Mills were closed, many came into my trade the booming Machine Tool as semi-skilled. My trade was attacked in the 80s – get rid, clean up, and keep it clean, I was redundant in 1987, many had gone before. Britain had changed drastically. The icing on the cake, we made, became the whole cake – money rules, man!

Nipping back to school, because for those like me you can often only see a teacher's true value to your life with hindsight. The 11+ did more damage than I thought at the time. The family were expecting me to pass, and after doing the exam, so did I! I tended to do just enough to pass in class exams, and I thought the exam itself easy! Easy enough to fail, yes, along with some others I expected to pass even more than me! Oh the joy of seeing Dad and Mom on failing, even though they took it very well. I'm glad I didn't pass though, in one way, I was a hands on chap at heart.

Afterwards exams froze me. Not until the last few years of Day Release at Percy's – the Tec' – did a Mr Moore notice me freeze. Read through and put down just one word you find you know, he whispered, I got 76% for that one. He also explained to us the marking procedure – just before I left schooling you'll note. Seems you could get a mark for a formula, layout, etc not just the answer, indeed you could get that wrong and still win!

I have two left feet, and no reflexes, and no speed. Coming in with the last bunch while being cheered on by a field full of girls, when you just wanted to collapse and being greeted by the winning bunch, showered and dressed, was not my idea of heaven. Later in life I would watch various sports and be surprised at my knowledge, down to Mr Bruce at Ovenden, I presume. I used to frustrate the man, I was not going to bow to the girls and beg some old fashion waltz. We went downhill from there, but, hey, more went in than you or I thought Mr Bruce. I did play school rugby for him just before leaving; and we won.

Mr Ainsley was not a goody or baddy, just a good science teacher. If you passed the combustion exam, stripped the bike engine you could ride it at lunch. Did we pass! I won't mention the baddies, or the young ones, the teachers were changing quickly due to the war being done, hindsight tells me.

Miss Dilworth was a kind young lady, doing R.I. and in charge of the girls. Somehow you knew not to cross her and no one did; no threats, shouting, and the like, she had the power. She saved my neck a couple of times or more, and gave me an old copy of The Story of Old Halifax, for sorting her shelves. She had me pegged, how I don't know, but she did.

Mr Saunders, Deputy Head, was a figure of fear for younger souls; he took maths, between taking the registers out and school business. What are you doing, he would bellow, or walk on the left as we jumbled down the corridor, and the dreaded go to my classroom was feared of course. We were really looking forward to having him for a form teacher before we left Ovenden!

Actually, he was very nice. Your old enough to be adults now – not so long before you left school at 14 years, remember, rather than our 15 years – I'll treat you as such, and I expect you to act as such. Being our form teacher he took us for English as well, and he was brilliant at it, poems about leaves passing over graves and such, with little personal stories to go with each. He was knocking on then, he said when he first went to Cambridge to study, the strangest thing happened; he got off the train and knew his way everywhere, all the short cuts and everything, and he had never been to Cambridge before. Well not in this life! Then he had us read a poem about it.

If he could enjoy sensitivity so could we. Later I remembered him when we called on holiday, and the nephew, Andrew, went to live near Cambridge.

This town is old
And smells so in its learning,
Ancient buildings crush with awesome power,
Hold a soul aloft, and make the senses cower;
Amidst its mighty spell.
Yet as the new town, bustling, laughs,
Old chapel quietly charms,
Moving softly Neath reverent feet;
Till works of art soars a soul and calms
Another moments fears.

For it also slumbers in gentleness
Of grassy fields and river,
That lulls a mind with tenderness
Of gentle thoughts which peaceful rest:
With those customs which are walking;
Ever walking
With the new thoughts of life – of man.
And one respects,
As one loves, one fears,
Walking, softly walking
The portals of this town.
A town which wears so nobly, it's very own cap and gown.

This valley
It is a kingdom
Where perfect beauty reigns supreme.
And its crown is a house so old
A Tudor smile cross members beam.
The eyes roll down hills to gardens
Where a little stream plays,
Then dances with the children
In a lake where stillness stays:
Before it chuckles through some trees
Below country lanes and majestic hills,
Which marks out a wonderland
That God's sweet breath gently fills
My first conscious memory is coming up to 4, so obviously 3! I say conscious because I have a brother +10, Ern, a sister Nan +5, and our Pat -3, sometimes I would and still do, mention things like how did we get that big black pram of our Pat's on the train. This would be greeted by howls of laughter; it was my pram it seems! Anyway, I'm there getting up off the bus upstairs, with our Ern, we were going to help get ready our new abode at Ovenden.

Oh, childhood worries! On one side of Nursery Lane are greens, as a child I noted Council houses and streets, each street looking the same from the road – panic, how was I going to remember which was mine. I then noticed a little green electric box right at the end of the green to our street, peace descended. Mind I still went in the wrong house on the street below and above once each, and once, nearly, each. I think Lego got their idea from these little council houses, just a thought.

My brother got stuck in while I did what kids do best, got in the way. Then we set off down Nursery Lane, through a ginnel that went at the back of the pub, and passed the building of the first school in Ovenden, into Keighley Road and the 10 O'clock shop. We came out with a steaming jug of hot mushy peas, and 2 hot pies, ran back where I sat on a pop box – which we had for years, and scoffed this manna from heaven. Ran back for the deposit back on the jug, before returning to toil.

My brother, sometimes with a friend, Billy Earnshaw, and sometimes with me sat on top! Moved the stuff on from Exley, bit by piled up bit, on his sack cart he delivered groceries with week-ends, he also dug gardens to help with the money. I had to jump off in town; the police did point duty at every junction in the busy town it seemed. We went up Winding Road, full of houses back then, and a bit... To avoid Lee Bank, very steep before they altered it, especially at the bottom, we went the back way; the Cinder path was also found running from the bottom of our street, so that cut off Nursery Lane corner.

Dad was a regular, he lied about his age to get in, he wanted to deal with horses so they told this lad from Staffordshire he needed a Riding regiment, and signed him to the Dukes! Still he eventually looked after the horses in Malta, and helped Mountbatten's team when they shipped in to play Polo. Dad said he was a perfect gentleman, and a good soldier concerned about the men The jumped up ones are always worse he said. Something I was to hear many times out there in life. And often true.

He left and was in great demand as a cowman, or a tractor driver in his home county. They had a smallholding and got a nice home together, but he was a first reserve so off he went to France. Mom had to sell what she could quickly and cheaply, keeping the little she could afford to move and store. So they came back to Gram's, Pat and I being born there at Exley. Up to 14 of us at times, Mom and Auntie Nelly went into a one room, and scullery in Moor Street Siddal, but got kicked out by the Council Man, back to Gram's. When the Council offered Ovenden she never even looked, she just took the key and ran; she was so pleased to get a house.

The smoke was rising
Like the stench from the fires of hell.
As it cleared
Bodies lay twisted, dead and dying,
In those places where the bullets fell.

And tormented souls cried with pain.
That striking germ of fear;
That comes when friends are gone
And their dismembered limbs share a bed.
Whilst inside a temple stood
Filled with the unfell tear.
And dried mud filled the nose and eyes
Red with lack of sleep and sore.

Something trembled within a soul
To strike with unspoken word – 
The very core:
Something which is remembered
Whenever history glorifies or tries to ignore
The stinking hell
The heroics;
In none heroic, blood filled war
Mother's talents made our clothes, which I tore liberally, and spilt various substances down, so although I had the youngest cloths on the block, they always looked old and tired of being worn out each day! She also made the rugs and curtains, and her own wallpaper glue with water and flour, I believe. At various times she worked in the mill, or cleaning, or as a home help. House cleaning had no vacuums, fancy spray polish or toilet cleaners. No washer, drier, fridge, TV, and the like, life was pretty basic, but not as basic as her mom's was when she was a new one. Elbow grease and knees were the order of the day. Why even sliced bread had not been invented, food was bought fresh!

Our Ern looked after us until working, then our Nan. The advantages of this were plenty of visits to the cinema, walks to the Parks and museums, etc, they and later me, helped with house chores and shopping for pocket money. The Porch was handy to play in, in rain the wooden clothing horse and old blanket, making an ideal stage curtain or house door when our Pat was playing with her dolls. Even a tent.

Cowboys and Indians, war – sometimes literally, marbles, hoola hoops, conkers in season, a bike tyre and stick, our bikes and scooters, sledges, and sack carts, tin soldiers, and cars etc for the lads. Dolls, prams, stoves and dolls houses, hoola hoop, skipping, hop scotch, whip and top, these latter we joined in at times, it was fun creating a good, new chalk pattern! Getting older it was roller skates, stilts and the like, mates would play with our stuff, and you played with theirs I had a dart board, for example.

After tea all the street played together disregard less of age. Hide and seek, and guess a song or film, or film star, and run across the road trying to get there first, kind of things. In home, before bed or in rain, Blind man's Bluff, Hangman, Animal, vegetable or mineral, guess who you are on yes and no answers, and the like-Twenty Questions. Often listening to the radio, or trying to find new stations. We were up very early, so it was bed at 6-30, then 7, then 7-30, when I complained I got another half hour, but I still had to get ready for bed. At 12 or 13 I had to be back in the house for 9.

Mothers said "I'll tell your dad." Everyone was scared of dad, in truth, you rarely saw him. He was gone before you got up, and came in after you had gone to bed, and often worked week-ends, or part of. Mothers ruled the home, I've seen some get thumped and kicked along the block for a major disobedience, mom kept a strap for the times I went over the top. Mind, I've seen 'em cuddled an' all! A much worse punishment to most lads! As was the psychological punishments that crept in like being sent to bed without your tea. Back then it was give me a clout any day!

So many young girls
Walk with that purposeful stride,
It should forebode to boys a warning
Of future womanly pride.
With small hands on hips;
Mimicked mother's tone,
An innocent small boy is conditioned
For when he his grown.

The soft spoken, persuasive tongue.
That shouted word when things go wrong:
Still he slumbers
In bliss of joyful play,
Unwarily prepared
For his domesticated, wedding day
Looking over your shoulder, you can see the different thinking patterns of the generations. Mum, was born with a disability – Rheumatoid Arthritis – which weakened her heart, and she got TB. She spent some time in a large, former house at Ovenden, when, like Mixenden was to us, it was all fields, moors, large houses and cottages.

Ovenden was built with a different mindset, than the later 50s, it's plain to see. The Secondary school was handy to the community, and catered to a physical work plan overall, rather than a middle class ruling education. There was areas for work like in town, and plenty of it, Mixenden had its own mills left from earlier days, but no areas for additions, and no secondary school, but a community centre.

Ovenden, like King Cross used to be in particular, had a comprehensive shopping area based around the bottom of Nursery Lane, with pubs, a bank, Post Office, paper shops, Café's, electrical shops, 2 barber's, a chemist, hardware and haberdashery shops, flower and second hand shops, butchers including a Dewhurst's, a Coop and Economic, sweet shops, grocer shops, F&S etc.

Yet nowhere really designed for children to play, at first we played on the greens at the top of the street, this was stopped by some of the houses in Nursery Lane complaining. We used to play around the different blocks, but as the older children grew up, or moved, and people got poorly, this was slowly stopped, block by block.

Shroggs Park was lovely, but you needed time like holidays or week end, and someone older to take you there. The only other swings I knew were across the dangerous junction at the top of Nursery Lane; odd spare land was grassed and flowered only. As you got older the street got smaller, this was not yet the age of the car, bear in mind! We went walking but there was nowhere to pop to for a quick hour. There are no blocks now by the way; the houses are house access only.

It really was the age of innocence; we believed what we were told without any proof otherwise, brain-washed in a way by government, through the papers and school. With TV and holidays abroad we started seeing, or hearing, for ourselves. The Europe debate opened my eyes to the Island mentality, not only would the older end not agree with Europe, but would get nasty if you tried to say we were part of the continental shelf of Europe.

Rock was introduced in the 50s early 60s, the charts were a mix of rock, jazz, ballad, pop, bands, country, blues, a melting pot for the 60s groups. Things changed drastically from 1956 onwards, yet it is the ignored decade, because from '62 to '63 it was British-driven, and the intellectuals haven't the decency to appreciate the US-driven decade, so they deride, or ignore, brain-washing those who rely on their intellectual feed back to them! The gifted working class rocker had become a degree job! The two minute blast of rock or blues reverted back to a concerto, and side swipes.

Plot-night started in the street, all joined in, different houses contributed. As the older end started work the council, we were told, wouldn't allow it any more. We moved into the back gardens, some people were poorly and complained. The government passed a law, supposedly, making fireworks even less than a damp squid. Provident church was putting one on for a small charge, I went to one but the fun had gone. How come all the fireworks on our Millennium, including the sparklers, sounded more spectacular than ours at their best? In 1956 we moved up Mixenden.

That age of joy
Often filled with confusion's pain.
Frightened for what we lose,
Eager for that we wish to gain.
For suddenly curiosity turns its head
And burns red with fire;
As a child becomes adult
Flooded by a driving, strong desire:
With guilt to stay
Or, unhappy, turn away.
Hold on to lust
Midst feelings one can no longer trust
Within this sudden, complex world.
A world where the easiest road is the hardest
And burns a mind heartfelt;
To cast aside the cares of life
And within those feelings melt:
Childhood part outgrown

The breeze blew back her skirt
And for a moment my eyes did flirt
With beauty of perfection's kind.
A lover's need that was not mine,
And yet,
I enjoyed the beauty of maturity full blown
And my heart did fly and sing:
If that truth be known
Mother was a keen reader; we would walk to Beechwood Road Library. Libraries, like many official bodies in those days, were cool aloof, and a bit hoity, the person giving out books and loading shelves, in all ways superior to the borrower. A strict rule at home, obeyed to the letter, was no touching the library books. One day the Librarian found something amiss with a book, and accused us!

Now it wasn't often in early life that mothers took the children's side, but mother had noticed this minor flaw on getting home. When the women serving insisted mum tore into her: Don't accuse my children of doing something that is your negligence. She snarled. However do you mean she answered in a tone only Librarians, Teachers and Bank clerks could back then. If you had checked the book before you gave it out, rather than afterwards, you would not be accusing innocent people.

We joined the Astra private library, at the bottom of Club Lane.

Beside mom's influence, we did some good books at school, I loved Brier Rabbit, and Wind in the Willows, at Moorside school. Through schooling the system seemed to be, the teacher read to you, and stopped, pointed and someone read a sentence, then, in another year a paragraph and so on, eventually stopping only when told. Other books through schooling were Black Bess, Water Babes, Robin Hood, Dick Turpin and a few more.

Mr Ashworth was the head at Moorside, my first personal encounter was around 8 years. Some girls were waving their dresses about and teasing, I charged across the hall forgetting the Head's Office was near the entrance to the girls' playground. You boy, come in here!

MACMILLAN – AN ERA 1957 to 1963
We laughed those days
As happiness seemed to fill those years;
And plenty filled once empty cups
Leaving little time for fears:
Within that wake of winning and losing pride
Freedom flew and danced its merry ride – 
To build another world.

For cast aside
The hard set social line,
As violence changed to a smile.

Melting Victorian rules so stern – 
Uncovering legs,
As happiness in beauty did beguile:
To start and stop in unwilling pause
Reluctant to stem the rush of its levelling cause;
Which spread all over this land.

For in youth unemployment burnt his heart
As he sipped its sourness and fed his mind
On what was wrong or right.

He showed a rich man's thinking heart could be kind:
For he a gentleman, not only born but bred,
Took that dream inside his head
And strove to make it real.

Fittingly, sex roared and brought him down;
But gone closed books – 
That prude filled Victorian frown.

For Britain had moved into more open days,
The river changing, forever, it's ways:
Within this Island home.

Where freedom, freedom, widened bonds
Clearing weeds which choked the ponds
Of growth, truth and love.
Both Mr Ashworth and Mr Shipley, at Ovenden, ran a well run ship, although, at the time, I thought him a nutter. Ovenden looked like a new school, not one built in 1936, twenty years and more before. They now brain-wash against race, back then it must have been for Women's Lib. Well school is the best way of changing attitudes. I say this because we had houses, I was in Brontë, and they were all achieved ladies, Cavell, Nightingale, etc. So we had to read up on the Brontës amongst other things we did.

We moved to Mixenden in '56, to the top of the mountain almost, at Hambleton Drive, Mr Bruce, the P.E. Teacher, I believe lived a lot lower down Mixenden, near where the buses turned around in bad weather. I mention this because I had hardly missed a day apart from tonsils out, and the normal children's things, and they thin on the ground, since 5years old. I delivered papers and it started snowing as I left school for Pallier's at Bank Top. It was a Blizzard up the mountain going home as I scrambled over 2 meter – 6foot – drifts!

The houses at Balkram had not been built – most now pulled down, the blizzard hit us full on from the moors, and in the morning blocked the back door, and was over the top of the front, our 6 houses in blocks of two were set back from the road. My Dad, Brother and our Nancy dug a tunnel out of the front door, and cleared mountains of snow to the road, before walking to work on the walls, something I was to do when I was working. Mom, who hated us off school, or work, said you're not going.

The day after we were sent. Sent to the Headmaster at school, he tore into me, refusing to listen. If Mr Bruce can get here, so can you! He went on, and on, and on. Nutter I thought. Back to the plot!

In my teens and twenties I played two people. From the library I read Blackshirt, The Saint, James Bond, Dennis Wheatley, The hilarious Topper books, and etc, interspersed more and more with fiction, the occult, and astrology.

At school our sex education was a book left on the desks one week by Mr Ainsley the science teacher who went out and didn't come back until the bell! Within the book was about half a page of human sex education; a drawing of sperm and two paragraphs of writing. That was it apart from minor favours from the odd girl now and then! So I discovered this book shop at the end of North Bridge with American imports; Hank Jansen, Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammond and various soft porn I thought very naughty, but it wouldn't even be called that now! At work nature books did the rounds, how corny can I get, this was the height of depravity.

I was thirteen, one of the houses that had friends in it had T.V. We would call, or wait for them, bustling around the door trying to catch the Murray Mint cowboy cartoon adverts and jingle. Can we have a TV, Dad, can we, please. Eventually we got one, I forget what it's that was out of the it's this, or that. My big push bike was in place of a school trip to France.

The screen is small within a room
It may educate,
Or dim the spark of loneliness's gloom.

With a fingered press it changes scene
Lights up pictures
Takes eyes where they have never been.

It stirs up Laughter, beauty, or deaths dark sting;
As realism strikes
Or flies away on fabled wing.

A blessing
So often a curse.

It may fritter away precious time
Or plant an idea a mind can gentle nurse
In a dream for tomorrow's days:
That lights your thoughts when they idle stray
Through that world without your own.

Which helps a soul become full grown;
Within a richer world
Once a poor man's eyes could never afford
to see

The TV was good and bad; it opened eyes and minds, but destroyed visiting. The wireless was a social occasion; you could sit round listening, or get on with what you were doing. The days of our Ern taking a huge battery down Exley Lane to Elland for a lady for 6 pence, to recharge, seemed light years away. Ice blue jeans for men and speckled jacket, R&R, and plenty of work.

One youth club I went to in the Labour Rooms was visited each week by a coach load of girls from Barnsley, on their overtime night at Highley's mill, many coaches came to Halifax. When our machine tool business went slack in the stop go period, the young family men would get on a coach for Lucas at Burnley, light engineering, or places at Bradford put them on. Prices for beer, cigs, the cinema etc would go up or down. On Saturday, at the Labour Rooms, Big Daddy, Shirley Crabtree, would run dances with his brother, and the wrestlers. He moved to the Marlborough Hall at the YMCA, it was always packed, or you could go to the Alexandra Hall. The Victoria had done the big band dancing. Many went to Palings above what is now MacDonald's, before moving up to the other two. Later, Big Daddies was created, you could dance in there during the week lunch times, and we did Tec day!

Enter Mr Wilson. The modern world took to full flight, much social snobbery was changed forever, drab was finally put to rest in the '70's!

Thanks for taking the journey, with me. I hope it edifies or relights depending on your age

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 10:26 / 30th May 2021 / 31854

Page Ref: M_9

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