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A Shout From The Attic: Cobbles And Yards

Ronnie Bray, seeing clearly with memory's eye, takes us round the streets of his boyhood in a Yorkshire industrial town.

For more of Ronnie's engagingly narrated life story please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

South Street was cobbled and worn, with small terrace houses and yards into which the working men poured after the day’s work was ended, and from which the children poured themselves into their schools.

On the top corner of South Street was a nice little sweet shop with a corner door and an Ex-Lax machine on the outside wall that once confused me but only once, cost me sixpence, and had me call at a friend’s house somewhere between the off-licence and the shop into which I did not go.

In Trinity Street there was a shop which was the first to sell Birds-Eye frozen fruit juices after the war, and then came the corner of Greenhead road with the Co-op and a little above that the charming dairy with fresh cream cakes daily that tasted better than the best artificial cream cakes sold at the Co-op.

The next reach of Trinity Street held a closed down café that opened for a short time and then through the big archway was a builder’s yard from where I went on my annual trip for a threepenny bucket of slaked lime whitewash for someone to come and apply to the scullery walls to keep them clean and fresh smelling. The other side of the arch was an organ teacher with an imposing plaque outside his door. Then a small drapery shop that belonged to Mollie Mason and her husband.

Next in train was Billy Rhode’s greengrocer shop with a green pull down roller shutter and all kinds of fruit and vegetables. Sometimes he sold them from a horse and cart calling from door to door. Billy lived across the street from us at the bottom corner of Fitzwilliam Street’s Junction with Wentworth Street with his wife and his daughter Margaret Rhodes who was easily confused in the minds of children with Princess Margaret Rose. Some years later, Barry Heap’s parents put in a glass front and made a brave effort to sell antiques from Billy’s old shop.

Under the small arch was ‘Pop” Johnson’s fish and chip shop. It was a small room with a window to Trinity Street with ingress through a door in the archway, housing a big square iron vat with a coal fire in a grate underneath from which he produced very good fish and finerks, as chips were sometimes called. Fish, mostly cod, was twopence and chips were a penny, making threepence for fish and chips same as down at Bill Haley’s sparkling shop with a multicoloured vitriolite and chrome frying range made by Taylors of Leeds Road Huddersfield. It was in Johnson’s that my mother blackmailed the poor old man into providing a ha’po’rth of chips on the threat of giving him his already wrapped fish back for resale. She got the chips!

Above there was the unusual front of Fox’s Dancing Academy. I actually attended there for two or three Saturday morning shillings worth before deciding on a common vote that I was not destined to dance. Near there down some railinged cellar steps was the dark domain of Mr Armitage, cobbler.

Higher up at the bottom side of the next archway, Bulls Yard, was another little sweet shop, but I did not go into it until the old man died and his daughter sold off some of his stuff from the window. I bought his Meerschaum pipe and case and his big fountain pen. Items that I did not need, could not use, but that held for me a fascination hard to explain unless you have been a compulsive collector.

Next port of call of any note was Gabriella’s Milk Bar where my spending money and sweet coupons most often found their way. Bright and cheerful with Mabel in seemingly constant attendance and others of the Gabriella family much in evidence, it was a favourite spot for a bit of escapism into the grown-up world of those who sat in cafes with a radio playing, as close to the electric fire on the far wall as possible sipping away at a glass of Vimto with a scoop of ice cream making sudsy purple bubbles at the top of the glass.

Then it was a small house abutting the Milk Bar with a greenhouse in the iron-railed garden containing succulents, or cactuses as we called them in our ignorance. The War Department did not steal these railings. Perhaps that is why the War went on for so long. Then it was the entrance to Little Greenhead Park and across the road end to the Park Gates.


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