I too remember a thriving Middleton, three cinemas, a fantastic central gardens with public toilets, a bustling market near Middleton baths that would match Bury and Oldham, abeit not of the same size. A UCP tripe shop, a great butchers where the man behind the counter would slice some corned beef and give it to every child that came in the shop. The original Tommy's chip shop in a terrace house, a pet shop at the bottom of Wood street, a Woolworth's and Langley Labour Club.
I do not see the big deal for changing things or places. I am this weekend visiting Ledbury in Herefordshire. It's a jewel in England's crown. People go to visit because it has never changed for hundreds of years and it has character. But in a way we are all guilty of letting greedy developers and politicians get away with it.
When I was a kid, I lived on Langley estate and our house overlooked fields (near Bishop Marshall school). I would lie in the meadow looking up at a skylark, or go froggin' it (collecting frogs in Langley Brook). We would play ally's (marbles) and sometimes the summers were so hot it would melt the pitch on the road and we would roll it on a stick.
One time I went to Cox's Farm, it had rained and then the sun came out. I walked along a cart-track that had Hawthorn trees on either side that almost touched at the top. They were in full bloom with white blossom and they were so aromatic, almost intoxicating. To this day, the fragrance from Hawthorn takes me back to that time.
Many people who lived on Langley in the early sixties will remember Bob's van. It was a blue coach that was converted to a mobile shop. They were father and son and Bob had one hand missing that was covered up with a sock, which, when you are a young boy, had a fascination in itself. Bob sold everything from five Park Drive cigarettes (if you couldn’t afford five, he would sell you them individually) to cheese and paraffin, usually kept next to each other!! You must remember that Bob was a lifeline for most people. There weren’t a lot of shops like there is nowadays and he usually came around in the early evening.
Another memory I have is the Wall's ice cream lads. They would have blue trolleys filled with ice and they would knock on your door and ask if you would like a block of ice cream, usually on a Sunday afternoon. If you didn't fancy a block of ice cream, you could wait till the ice cream van came and run out with a bowl to be filled.
On Saturday, my cousin and I would go to the Palace cinema for the matinee. You would buy a lollie when you went in and the first thing you would do would be to look inside the packet to see if you had the piece of paper that said 'LUCKY'. Joy of joys if you did have it, you had just won a box of Rowntrees fruit gums. Sometimes the kids would jump on stage to compete in a Hoola Hoop competition.
My mam would say "and on the way home, get your haircut." There was a Barbers shop half way up Wood Street opposite the Who'd a Thowt It pub. If you didn’t have nits when you went in the Barbers, you had them when you came out!! I think he should have cleaned his blades more often. No worry, the nit nurse would find them at school (Fancy being called the nit nurse all your life!).
As I grew into a teenager, I would go to Langley Youth Club on Martindale Crescent. They would play the latest sixties hits and if they played 'Satisfaction' by the Rolling Stones, the kids would hit the table tennis table to the beat of Charlie Watts drums. The youth leader would shout " Do that one more time and you're out!
My Mam and Dad went out on Friday night to the Langley Labour Club. It cannot be over-emphasised how popular this club was and many big stars of the day performed there.
One of the characters I and many other people of the era will remember was a chap we all called Blind Bob. Many people would help Bob cross the road or get onto the 121 bus. At the time, the buses that ran to Langley were the 121, 122 and later the 138. There was an all-night bus service that ran on the hour.
Trev Goodwin. May 2012.