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A Kerridge Childhood (19)


Below is a further chapter from A Kerridge Childhood written by Enid Simpson. For a full introduction and index to all the stories please see the head page.


Opposite the recreation grounds was another road on a still higher level. To support this road a high brick wall had been built and in order to provide a short cut for those people who lived there, a flight of steps had been cut into the banking. This, of course, necessitated a hole in the wall where the steps began. Originally, I’m sure, it had been nicknamed ‘the hole in the wall’, but time had corrupted this to ‘THOLYWALL’ steps and this is what I always called it! It was near to this opening that the canal had to be carried over the road by an aqueduct. Again, local dialect had turned this word into ‘THAKADOCK’ – much easier to say, I’m sure! But baffling for a little girl who liked the sounds of words.

As you walked along this road, toward the railway station, another ugly, but extremely useful edifice had been built – a men’s urinal. Comparing modern sanitation to those days, there is only one way to describe the difference – earthy. This particular piece of masonry was simply a brick wall, perhaps 8-10′ high, with the necessary ablutions behind it. There was no top or sides to disguise it. The front was used for bill-posting and in winter weather the wind would manage to whip most of the bills from the wall and leave scraps of paper flapping untidily. No euphemisms were used to name this urinal – it was (and probably still is) known simply as the ‘pee stump’.

There was another building, ugly as far as architectural design went, but of great use to all and sundry. To whom it belonged, who built it and who administered it’s allocations, I don’t know. Known to all as ‘the Old School’, or in local dialect ‘TH’OWD SCHOO’, it stood in the centre of the village. It was used for all kinds of things. Primarily it’s use was for an nondenominational Sunday School and it had a great following each Sunday for those who did not attend any of the other designated churches or chapels. So many rooms and so many miles, or so it seemed, of the stone flagged corridors that their uses were legion. The Employment Exchange – the place where you ‘signed on’ if your place of employment was on ‘short time’ – had it’s headquarters there. The Welfare Clinic met weekly for the free consultation on babies and children up to five years old. Several of the rooms were put into use as extra classrooms when domestic science, (known then as Housewifery) was added to the local school’s curriculum. Any meetings, concert, or anything demanding a large audience met there.

Twice in each winter season, the local Cooperative Society held a concert on these premises. A local concert party was hired as an attraction, then in the interval, one of the executive members would speak for about half an hour on the virtues and advantages of belonging to the Co-Op. As most people in Bollington were Co-Op members, it was a bit unnecessary, but the concerts went on regardless.

Posters would appear announcing the forthcoming attraction and would end thus: ‘Doors Open at 6.45 pm. Admission 2d’. So few entertainments had we then that the prospect of something costing only 2d each was too good to resist. Most people sent their children to be first in the queue and off we would go, leaving home around 5.30 pm to take our places. The idea was, of course, that we reserved places and seats for our parents.

No matter how early we were, there was always another family before us – the Potts’. Bertha Potts was a notoriously belligerent woman who worked in one of the mills. She was always the strike leader, the spokeswoman or the agitator. Her daughters, Alice and Phyllis, were not quite as fierce as Bertha, but had been brought up to stand firm and speak up for themselves. So, on these nights, they would be first in the queue and would stand with their backs to the huge double doors. No-one would dispute their rights (heaven preserve them if they had done!) It was winter and therefore cold with a thin east wind buffeting us as we stood in the open air. We shoved a little nearer and huddled together to keep warm. This meant a tight little mass around the doors, and when the time came for someone to open up from the inside, everyone, including the Potts’ girls, fell inside. Always quick to recover, they would regain their equilibrium and dash off like mountain goats to be first up the stairs, pay their money and then spread themselves out over the front seats, with places saved for their parents. It was first come, first served then and we accepted this ruling.

It always seemed like hours before our parents came and we would wave frantically over the heads of the audience who now rapidly filled the hall.

The concert parties were all fifth rate, but for 2d what could you expect? There would be a bright young man who played the piano, Always wearing an ear to ear smile. A powerful baritone who would render ‘Asleep in the Deep’, an earnest contralto, usually wearing a drab brown dress, would sing coyly about the Cuckoo putting her hand to her ear to ‘listen’ for the bird’s reply to her trills. For some reason this always sent us into paroxysms of laughter and we’d stuff handkerchiefs into our mouths to stifle the giggles. Then a comedian, an older man, who told corny jokes (he probably did the pub on Saturday night). Someone would do a monologue, great favourites then, and they were usually imploring father to come home from. the pub, as one of the children lay dying. Real tear jerkers, they were.

The interval, when we had to listen to the dreary monotonous exhortation to join the Co-Op was something to be endured rather than enjoyed. There was always the second part of the concert to look forward to – the soulful rendering of ‘The Two Gendarmes’ from the baritone and tenor, the warbling ‘Pipes of Pan’ from the slightly off-key soprano (more hysteria from us) and then the National Anthem which ended every meeting, theatre and film showing.

It was a good evening and even though we had nothing with which to compare it, we had our own criteria. These concerts were always Called the ‘Twopenny Rush’ and it was a good two pennoth.

© 1985 Enid Simpson

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