Monday, 10 March 2008

#006 Life at home

Home, after hospital life, seemed very small. The shop was busy, the bell going throughout the day. Often times my dad was called from the workshop at the rear of the premises to deal with an awkward problem, this necessitated him coming through the living room to shouts of “wipe your feet” from my mum!. Starting back to school was always difficult especially if half way through a term, they also put me in a class lower than my age, owing to my being absent ‑ seemingly not to know about hospital school. In summer we learnt to swim at Derby Road baths, these baths were unfortunately closed some little time later due to an epidemic of some kind. We therefore swam in the Erewash canal, which was only a hundred yards from our home.

We built a raft from scrap wood from the local ballast hole, this ballast hole had been formed when the Midland Railway had been laid some 30 years previous, it had filled with water and the Railway Co. was tipping all waste in to it to infill it. The new local policeman hauled my brothers before the court and, confiscating the raft, he took it on a handcart to the court. The Magistrate who was a local man, had played on this ballast hole years before us, and when the case came up, he asked the policeman where he had collected the wood. He replied that the 'raft' had been brought from Tamworth Road bridge, where upon the magistrate observed that the policeman had taken the 'raft' much further away from the site than we would ever have done. Case dismissed. A diving board was built, we obtained two scrap front springing from the local Magnet Garage (still in business), fitted these to a plank and fabricated a sprung diving board, this site is still there situated near the Tamworth Road canal bridge, part of the site is now a Sea scouts headquarters.

In 1930 or thereabouts, Long Eaton staged a week long Carnival. The proceeds those days went to the local hospitals, everyone dressed up and all the streets were decorated, including lampposts and telegraph poles. There was a prize for the best decorated street which was won if my memory is correct by Queen St. At the rear of the fire station they ran a swimming contest on the canal. Two long boats were anchored at 100 yards apart with distances marked in between, the events were a great success. The final Saturday was given over to a parade, these were miles long, at least 50 carnival bands and all the local trades on long vehicles with carnival Queen and her attendants leading. The carnival raised thousands of pounds for the local hospitals ‑ my own Bretby included.

This carnival eventually advanced so successfully that it was extended right up to 1938 to 14 days. The last Saturday of the carnival was brilliant, a big fun fair with all the latest rides and side-shows, such as boxing booths, almost as good as Nottingham Goose Fair. A sports meeting was also held on West Park where cycling and athletics were on show. The prizes ‑ being very good ‑ brought all the top cyclists and athletes to the town, later at night a big firework display was held. At midnight a huge crowd on the market place took part in community singing led by the”Daily Mail” red radio van, This van led all the parades with its tannoy system, bringing everyone out in force. Meanwhile my legs were getting much stronger, due mainly to cycling.

My Dad had been ill in 1931 due to pressure of work, but business was good so he was able to set on an assistant. At last he could take a holiday. Apart from odd days, this was his first long break since 1924, I well remember one of these days, it would be an Easter Sunday, Dad took Ernie on his bike, Mum had Alan and I rode my own machine. We went over Sawley Bridges then turned left down Whites Lane which, after opening several gates comes out at Kegworth, some 5 miles distance. Turning left at Kegworth, we travelled over the river Soar, past the high board causeway (built for cyclists and walkers when the Soar flooded). We had egg & chips at the Railway Inn and then set off through Kingston, Gotham & Clifton to arrive in Nottingham. We parked our bikes at the rear of the Ritz cinema (now the Odeon) and went in. The thrill of seeing Jack Hellyer and his organ rising from the floor was real magic for us, the film was titled "Easter Parade". This was very appropriate. We came out of the cinema, collected out bikes and sailed home with a back wind. There was no thought of our bikes being stolen. What pleasure we had from small things those days and how honest people were then.

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