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U3A Writing: When Saturday Comes

Rachel Grundy remembers the Saturdays of her childhood.

It was Saturday afternoon, the day we didn't go to school and Dad didn't go to work. Dad's work at Bessemer's Forge was hot and thirsty and he enjoyed his Saturday afternoons sitting companionably on the pavement with our next-door neighbour, backs against the wall, legs stretched out in front of them, quaffing pints of home-brewed herb beer.

Our mothers sat decorously on chairs brought from their kitchens, chatting peacefully after their arduous morning's cleaning.

We children had spent the morning playing various street games - skipping rope, top and whip, rounders, piggy and marbles. Our social life was to be found on the street, adults and children alike. This was before the days of television, radio or even the 'cat's whiskers' wireless sets. And few could afford the new wind-up gramophones.

We never did anything alone. With a family of seven children and two adults in a small two-up, two-down cottage we did everything together. We ate together, slept together - two or three in a bed, and we played together.

But now, we had eaten our dinner of potato pie and peas followed by rice pudding and were ready to go to the Saturday afternoon pictures. So many children lived in the area that it seemed that the whole street went to the pictures in a gang, older children minding the little ones and all clutching our entrance fee of a ha'penny.

Any child who didn't have a d could bring an empty jam jar. As well as gaining entrance to the pictures this d entitled us to a comic or a few sweets - we thought it very good value.

The atmosphere inside the picture place was exciting. There was a delay, as sometimes happened at the start of the show, and this gave us a chance to stamp our feet and shout, 'Purr a penny in't gas'. The noise of our clogs made a very satisfying sound, it was almost as exciting as 'sparking' the irons on our way to school.

Eventually, the first film began. As it was a love story, little attention was paid to the silent screen, especially by the boys. But the pianist would valiantly carry on, playing sentimental tunes to coincide with the silent action on the screen.

What we were all waiting for was the cowboy serial which was seemingly endless, always with a cliffhanging scene at the end to bring us back next week. Now the pianist could let rip with all the dramatic, crashing chords at her command.

We all went home discussing the film. Would the heroine escape the clutches of the villain? Would the hero arrive in time? We could hardly wait for next week to find out.

It seems that those golden days before the First World War were always sunny and we were always happy. We weren't to know that my Dad would not survive the war, that my lovely elder sister Lydia would die of TB at the age of seventeen, and that my only brother would emigrate to America and we would not see him again for more than thirty years.

But that was all in the future on that sunny Saturday in 1913 when I was eight years old.


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