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Childhood Memories of Rhodes Village

By Frank Jackson

The old air raid shelter at the rear of 56 Boardman Lane where my grandmother Smethurst lived How lucky we were to have lived in a small village. People call them the good old days. I personally think they were, having been born at home in Boardman lane in September 1942 and spending my early years in Rhodes until emmigrating to Australia in 1964. There are a lot of things to remember and when I pass these memories on to our grandchildren, their eyes open wide in amazement.

How many of the older generation can remember the 'Knock up' man who used to come round in the early morning and tap on the bedroom window with a long pole to wake up the early morning shift workers so they could start at the cotton mill on time, or the 'Gas lamp' man who used to ride his bike with a ladder over his shoulder and service the gas light in the street? He would prop his ladder against the bar sticking out from the lamp-post (often wondered what that bar was for? Well now you know. It was also good for swinging on). He would have to come round every week and wind the seven day clock so that the light would come on and go off, and if the gas mantle was damaged he would replace it. It wasn't that long ago that some houses in the village still had gas lighting and the old Palace cinema use to have them as emergency lighting. I know because as a young gas-fitter working for the North Western Gas Board, we had to service them every Monday morning, just in time of course to watch them run the new film for the week and check its timing.

54 Boardman Lane where the front steps were polished red. My wife Pat moved into number 27 further down across the road when she was 12 We always seemed to have something to do. We had no television until 1958 and even then, the programmes were terrible on the very small screen. We would rather listen to Dan Dare, a space story told on Radio Luxemburg at 6.45pm every night or listen to the Goon Show with Harry Secombe, etc. In the summertime, I can remember the long family walks we would take up Boardman Lane and across to Simister Lane stopping at the Simister pub for a beer for dad and soft drinks and crisp for us, before continuing our walk finally coming out on Manchester Old Road near the Three Arrows pub. We used to play cricket in the vicarage drive or climb the trees and if we felt really adventurous, we would go and chase the rabbits in the fields behind West Green until the farmer would see us and chase us off.

Top school (Broad St) circa 1956 School was always exciting. At the 'bottom' school, we used to write with pencils (ball point pens had not yet been invented) and when you were good enough you progressed to pen and ink, which comprised of an ink well in the top corner of the desk and a pen with a nib in it, similar to a fountain pen except you had to keep dipping your nib in the ink well, and the only calculator was your ten fingers and toes.

NB. Frank is writing a book of his childhood memories and would love to hear from school-pals in the picture. They are as follows:
From top left; Arthur (Frank) Jackson, Ken Thomas, Alan Keefe, Roy Kirkham, David Tench, Chris Wilde, Neil Haywood, Kay Pearson, Harold Butler
Middle row; John Keates, Neil Emmens, Jeff Edwards, Anthony Smithies, John Westwell, Frank Roberts, Jeffrey Issac
Bottom row; Edith Hall, Patricia Cummings, Rita Lord, Elizabeth Rose, Dorothy Knight, Carol Smethurst, Elaine Todkill, Linda Coope, Lynda Hawksworth, Phylis Healy, Sally Cooper, Norma Burgess, Carol Lucas

Boardman Lane from the very top, from here you could sledge down to Walker St if the snow was good. The only problem was the walk back up In the winter we could go sledging on the hills behind West Green or from the top of Boardman Lane. It was possible to go from the very top of the lane near Arnold's farm right down to Walker Street when the snow was deep enough. The only problem was the long way back to the top. There was always an uproar when Mrs Cosgrove from 96 Boardman Lane would throw cinders from the fireplace onto the snow to melt it, or when the council truck came round and sprayed salt on the road to melt the ice so traffic could once again make it to the top of the lane.

On weekends, there used to be Rugby on the sports-field in Broad Street (just about where Wellens Way is today). Prestwich Rugby Union Club used to play there in all sorts of weather and if that got boring, you could always stand on your bike seat to look over the fence and watch all the old fellows playing Lawn Bowls.

Whit Sunday walks outside the Gardeners Arms with Les Howarth, church deacon in the
black robes One often wonders how we managed without fast food. The only fast food we had was an oval meat pie from Lloyds shop at the bottom of Boardman Lane, or the small Hovis loaves they used to bake. You could always have fish and chips from Ethel & Billy Livingstone’s shop in Chapel Street. Mind you, this was not fast food as Billy would cut the chips in front of you on the old hand chipper, then you would have to wait until they were cooked. Talk about fresh, and well worth waiting for.

If you wanted chicken the wait was a bit longer. Mum would make us go up to Arnold's farm and wait for Arnold to catch a chicken and wring its neck. It was your job then to ride home on the bike, chicken wings still flapping. Once home, it was plucked while still warm and Mum would extract any partly formed eggs from the chicken along with the giblets, etc. It made a wonderful Sunday lunch, although this was only for special occasions.

I don’t think the modern generation would even consider eating some of the things we ate then, like the roasted cow's heart (beautiful) or tripe and onions, black pudding, pigs trotters and many more. It seems too easy to go and get take-away. I wonder how they would go when we only had outside toilets and no loo paper. We used to use The Radio Times cut up into small squares. It wasn’t much fun going to the toilet in the winter with six inches of snow on the ground and it was the same at bath-time. With no bathrooms, your bath consisted of a long galvanized slipper bath placed in front of the coal fire and filled with hot water. If you were lucky, you would be first in and everybody else who followed only got a top up of hot water.

Boardman Lane circa 1923 In the early days, the village seemed to have a lot of characters, like farmer Starkey who had a farm up Simister. He used to come round with a large cart pulled by a Clydesdale horse, selling potatoes and all kind of vegetables. He would park the cart outside the Little Heaton club in Boardman Lane on a Sunday and go and have a drink. Living opposite the club at number 54, we could earn a few pennies for looking after the horse until he came out, sometimes the worse for wear. Of course anything the horse left behind on the road was collected and used by my father. He would put the manure in a hessian sack, immerse it in water in a 44 gallon drum, and hey presto! Instant liquid manure for the garden, especially the tomatoes.

Another vendor was Walter Hilton. He had an old van and used to do the same, selling veg from the window in the side of the van. We used to go fishing with him on the Schwabes lodges and he could never understand why he never caught anything while others around him caught plenty of fish. The answer was simple. Walter used to smoke a pipe and of course, filling the pipe put tobacco on his fingers so when he baited his hook, the bait always smelt of tobacco, putting the fish off. I don’t think he really cared as he just enjoyed the peace and quiet.

A constant visitor to Dad's shed was a rather large chap called Charlie Massey who lived just across the road opposite Foxall Street. He had a market stall and used to import all kinds of stuff from overseas, especially Japan. In those days this was unusual, but music boxes and cheap watches were all the go and he always had something special and unusual to offer people.

Workers pointing the Schwabes chimney in the early days. No safety equipment here! One of the funniest people was Stanley Marriott. He had a hairdressing shop on Manchester Old Road right opposite Boardman Lane and although his shop had plenty of pictures of modern-day hairstyles hung on the wall, no matter which style you wanted, it was over the top with the electric clipper and you got short back and sides. If you were lucky you could get in before the old fellows went in for a shave. Stan used to use the old cut-throat razor to shave the old pensioners. How he didn’t manage to cut somebody’s ear off I don’t know because he appeared to have a slight tremor in his right hand and when he held up the razor, it used to wave around like a leaf in a storm! Still, he was good with us kids. He had a special extension that used to fit on the barber's chair to lift you up to the right height, and if you were very good, you would find his hand sliding across your face and a toffee would appear in your mouth as if by magic. To finish off the haircut, you had the usual handfull of 'brylcreem' to keep the hair flat.

The tram stop at the bottom of Heywood Old Road on the left. The chimney was at the old mill that later became Geigy Chemicals I suppose every village had its off-beat characters and I wish I could remember more as they definitely had an influence on my life and I think that to be born into a small village and have the freedom that we had, we were very, very lucky. There are so many memories of my early life in Rhodes, like the ration books, concrete air raid shelters, Wakes week and Whit Sunday walks, the beer truck that used to come to the club and watching the wooden beer barrels being lowered down into the cellar, haymaking on Arnold's farm, the barn burning down at Shackleton's farm, church parade with the Cubs and the Scouts and finally marrying the girl of my dreams, who also happened to live in Boardman Lane and who I went to school with.

Now after 46 years of marriage, three daughters and seven grand-kids, it's time to look back and remember. I would urge everybody from the older generation to put pen to paper and recall all the memories, good or bad, that made them the way they are, before its too late. I know my grand-kids enjoy every minute of looking at the old photographs and listening to all the stories about our early life.

Submitted by Frank Jackson. March 2010.

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