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Two Rooms And A View: 63 - The Mystery Knocker

...Two comedy/light entertainment programmes were on the radio most evenings, but due to night classes, I missed them.

Like most of my work colleagues, we listened to the repeats on a Sunday and discussed them at work on a Monday. I wonder how many people remember the well-known Jean Metcalfe in Two-Way Family Favourites, Ray's a Laugh, Take it from Here and Hancock's Half Hour. Educating Archie and Life with the Lyons were also very popular thirty-minute radio comedies...

Robert Owen recalls some of the radio programmes he listened to as a teenager.

Many things happened out of work while I was working in the drawing office. One was that, after fifteen years at Reed Street, we moved house. Many new council houses were built on the Marsden and Horsley Hill estates after the war, and new tenants for these houses often released a smaller house in the older part of the town. As we were in a better financial position, my mother had put our names down for a larger house with our estate agent landlord.

It was during the summer of 1954 that someone called with a key for a possible house in Marsden Street. After work one night and very excited, we went to look at the house. It was situated at the bottom end of the street near Westoe Bridges. It consisted of three rooms, a small scullery and a shared yard. Unlike our Reed Street flat, it had a proper gas cooker, water supply and sink.

Although a little more rent, we jumped at the chance of taking it and leaving our very cramped two-rooms-and-a-view flat. A few days later, Hanratty's horse and cart moved all our worldly goods approximately half a mile to Marsden Street. I went to work in the morning from one address and came back to another!

Our re-location to Marsden Street was our first move back up the hill - both physically and psychologically, and was perhaps the indicator of better times to come. What it meant personally was, that at nineteen years of age for the first time in my life, apart from evacuation and holidays, I had a bedroom to myself!

Our new downstairs neighbour at Marsden Street was a middle-aged gentleman who had some strange behavioural characteristics. He lived alone and most people gave him a wide berth. My mother eventually found out that he was shell-shocked from the last war and she tried to help him. Other neighbours however, scorned her and warned her to be careful as he might be violent. She answered by saying, "He got into that condition by fighting for us - now we should help him."

Looking back, it makes me think how we used to treat mentally ill ex-servicemen, as I compare it to the compensation culture of the twenty-first century.

We had not been in Marsden Street very long, when somebody knocked us up early one Sunday morning. The continual knocking was accompanied by a man's loud voice shouting, "Come on, let's in," and quoting a woman's name. We didn't open the door but retreated to the window, and attempted to explain that the woman had moved.

The intruder must not have believed us because he continued knocking and shouting. He only stopped when startled neighbours put on their lights. He eventually left. I don't know what the people living either side of us thought of their new neighbours, but it didn't help our reputation.

This happened on one of those very rare occasions that I was working on a Sunday. So, riding to Reyrolles early that morning, I reported the incident to the first policeman I saw. There was usually one at the Chichester roundabout. He took details and two plain-clothes policemen called on my mother within hours. We never did find the mystery knocker, but he never came back.

While living at Marsden Street, I recall a major problem that caused me great personal concern. Since leaving Fence Houses, I had brought only one friend home and I rarely let on to people where we lived. This was because of our family circumstances and sparse accommodation.

However, in September 1954, my secret was exposed. Jimmy McDowell, a friend of mine from work was attending the Marine School annexe at Prince Edward Road the same day as I did. The annexe had no facilities for lunch but allowed one-and-a-half-hours for students to make their own arrangements.

Jimmy lived in Jarrow and couldn't get home for lunch. I intended to go home for a meal but my problem was, should I invite him to our humble abode? The added problem was that my mother was out at work and I would have to cook any lunch. After much thought, I discussed the issue with Jimmy and he decided to live dangerously and try my cooking. We used to get the bus down to Marsden Street, get the kettle on and the frying pan out and enjoy a transport cafe type lunch.
Fortunately after Christmas my mother managed to change her hours of work and rescued me from my kitchen duty. She prepared a meal for us during the rest of the academic year, and Jimmy kindly presented her with a much-appreciated present on the last day of term.

I don't know if we fed him too well because at the end of the year, he passed his exams and I didn't! Fortunately, this time I didn't have to return to the factory, but I lost my day-release course for the following year.

We didn't live in Marsden Street very long. The next year an unusual opportunity occurred for us to move to a similar, but downstairs flat in the next street. This happened because my mother kept in contact with Mrs Willey, her friend and former neighbour in Reed Street. Mrs Willey's daughter and her husband were expecting a family and were moving to a new, larger house. As a result, we got the first opportunity of their existing property at the top of John Clay Street. It was another step back up the hill!

After the austere post-war years, the 1950's was a great time to be a teenager. This was the golden age of radio, cinema and dance halls. Two comedy/light entertainment programmes were on the radio most evenings, but due to night classes, I missed them.

Like most of my work colleagues, we listened to the repeats on a Sunday and discussed them at work on a Monday. I wonder how many people remember the well-known Jean Metcalfe in Two-Way Family Favourites, Ray's a Laugh, Take it from Here and Hancock's Half Hour. Educating Archie and Life with the Lyons were also very popular thirty-minute radio comedies.

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