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Home » Memories » Pre-1939 » My Childhood Memories, John Denison, 1926 – 1939 (2)

My Childhood Memories, John Denison, 1926 – 1939 (2)

John Denison & Family

JD03 – John Denison.

Title My Childhood Memories
Date 1926 – 1939
Location Yeadon
Written By John Denison
Comment The photograph is John aged about 8 with his parents and sister at Morecambe.
John Denison & Sister

JD04 – John Denison.

My Childhood Memories – 1926 – 1939

The photo was taken in August 1934, John is almost 8 years old and is with his sister.

John Denison school photo

JD05 – John Denison.

My Childhood Memories – 1926 – 1939

This is a school photograph of John aged 9.

John Denison aged 12

JD06 – John Denison.

My Childhood Memories – 1926 – 1939

The photo shows John (Malcolm) aged about 12…

My Childhood Memories – 1926 – 1939

“It is now time to start relating rather more about what children did for amusement at home and later at school.
I was told that as a baby, I could be just left on the rug in front of the living room fire which was rendered safe by use of a fireguard and the ever present ‘fender’.
Here I would play happily for hours with a pan and some spools.
These spools were bright orange and came from the mill packing dept, they were the centre bobbins from the large amounts of sticky tape used.
When not in use they were kept in the hollow seats at each end of the fender.
These were favourite fireside seats and you could often tell which households had similar features by the brown burn marks on unprotected female legs.

Later there were dozens of these spools which could be built into forts where my toy lead soldiers fought their battles.
These toys were hollow and often lost their heads but this was easily remedied by use of a matchstick.
A soldier or farm animal would cost a penny or so but this was a lot of money for a small child but I could build up my collection by barter or getting spares from my ‘rich’ cousins.

In our living room was a large square table which stood on solid legs being covered with a heavy draped cloth.
My sister and I would lay chairs flat underneath and this became our ‘tend’ bus.
This word was always in use when playing, I doubt whether we knew that it was an abbreviation of pretend.
The table had yet another use, I suppose it could be extended because the top was removable, on the underside was a metal locating spike.
Turned on end, set at different heights for children and adults, this became a holder for the dartboard becoming covered in so many holes it appeared to have had an attack from woodworm.

I had two much valued items in my childhood, one was my teddy bear which became very worn and lost its ‘squeak’, the other was a Willie Waddle book received one Christmas which became very tattered through constant reading over the years.
They were still around for a long time but many years later when I was an adult I went looking for them but they were gone, I confess that I felt a pang of loss.
My sister and I shared the back bedroom and I recall being taken to bed by my mother with a candle.
It is a wonder we were able to sleep since we ascended the stairs to a chant of “Here comes a candle to light you to bed and here comes a chopper to chop of your head.
It was a necessity that… we should be guided to and into bed since the whole house was kept in darkness because light could not be obtained by clicking a switch, only the living room and kitchen being lit, by gaslight.
A mantle would have to be lit by application of a taper after which the strength of the light would be increased by use of a chain attached to a rocker bar.
I so well remember the continual hissing and also that there seemed to be an inordinate number of times when the mantle broke so that it was necessary to keep a stock of these items.
In the kitchen a bracket with a small flame was kept continuously lit to which tapers could be applied when the living room fire was not in use.
In the mid thirties we were brought up to date when Dad installed electricity, he must have done a good job because the lead wiring was not replaced until he was in his eighties.

One of the bedtime ‘games’ indulged in before the need to sleep overtook us was by shinning a torch on the ceiling and in turn using our fingers to see who could produce the better kind of ‘hat’.
These were improved by this type of torch which had a switch which brought into play different coloured filters.
Later on I was sent off to the attic which became, in part, my bedroom, more of this later.

Not only was there a lack of light throughout the house but also a lack of heat although the back bedroom was OK because it contained the cistern which heated water from the downstairs fire back boiler.
Both the front and back bedrooms had small fireplaces which were not used, but they had probably been in use in Victorian times when the house was built.
We had a circular Valor heater which ran off paraffin it being transported around the house where needed.
In my early days it would be taken up to the attic to warm it up a little before I went to bed, later when I became a ‘big boy’ this practice ceased.
It also came into use on Friday which was bath night, at that time days were usually allocated, Monday, washing day, another was set aside for baking and so on, I think this was not only in our household but a general thing.
Bath night was enjoyable for me as I could indulge in my favourite game of ‘submarines’ which involved ducking my head under water and holding my breath for as long as possible
Early days were kept close to home so …that Mam could keep an eye on me and my little sister.
She was probably very relieved when we went to school as fathers were not the only ones who worked hard, wives had a pretty tough life of which more later.
We liked being in attendance on baking day when a big square piece of wood was brought up from the cellar and placed in the middle of the kitchen floor.
On this the dough for bread was mixed, the kneading process really needed great effort it being a large round ball of the stuff more than two feet in diameter.
The end product would be placed in greased tins which then went into the fireside or gas oven.
Great dollops would be flattened with a rolling pin to become oven bottom cake.

This latter was delicious when eaten straight out of the oven covered with butter but it was nothing like as good as the ‘ducks’ we were allowed to make ourselves.
At the same time as bread was being made rock and other cakes were produced also a favourite cake-cum biscuit made of oatmeal and golden syrup, these we called ‘nig-nogs’.
Before the cakes went into the oven came that time loved by children everywhere when fingers would be used to scoop up the remains of the mix to eat.

We were confined just to the street when very young so we often played whip and top on a patch of concrete between the kitchen of our house and that of May next door.
The upper surface of the top would be coloured with different chalks so we could observe the various effects as they span round.

Eventually the time came when I had to enter South View Primary School suitably dressed for the rough and tumble of this new experience.
It also involved a further treatment which I was not keen to undergo.

I was taken by Dad to see Charlie Stewart in Ivegate where I was to have my first proper haircut, tears were involved.
Up until this time I was like an early version of the Beatles in that my hair seemed to have been trimmed by use of an upturned pudding basin.
On arrival a box was produced which was placed on the seat of the barber’s chair before I was transformed into a normal schoolboy.
For the first few visits Dad would accompany me but in later years I could not wait for the three-weekly visit because Charlie was a clever man and his window bottom always had a good array of comics.
I always hoped that there would be a queue so that I had time for a good read before being lifted onto the box.

My favourite comic was Film Fun which featured Laurel & Hardy and Sydney Howard who was a Yeadoner who had achieved worldwide fame.

In those days long before Dandy and Beano came into being the Mickey Mouse comic had been going for a few years and I would see my cousin Betty Spence’s copy, at that time she lived next door in my Grandad’s house.
With her parents, my Aunt Lily and her husband Tom they later moved to Menston.
Another outlet to obtain comics was by visiting Burroughs off-license in Albert Square, these were mostly second hand of the American type.
This would be much later as I think Superman was one of the earliest appearing about 1937.

By the time I had graduated to the non-pictorial adventure type comics such as Rover, Hotspur, Adventure etc.
Theses I would get from Sam Riley next door who generously passed on his copies when he had read them.
He was also quite enterprising since he would set up a ‘stall’ in his back garden.
This consisted of playing cards set up on the back of their hen-house at which one threw darts.
In another ‘game’ he would place targets in the same place where one would fire the darts from an air-pistol.
Entry fees would be in cigarette cards prizes being a large number of cards but Sam had it carefully worked out, he did not lose out.

The above stalls were copied from those which appeared with the annual fair which took place on Albert Square.
This comprised of a Speedway Ride, the Dodgems, roundabouts, hooplah, penny rolling and other coin machines.
Power and lighting were provided by a huge steam engine which, in itself, was quite something to see.
I also recall going to watch a steam-roller which was in use when the High Street road surface was being replaced.
I am taken back to these memories when I attend the Great Steam Fair which takes place annually close to my present home.
Also on Albert Square, we were once taken to see a small circus but this was an infrequent visitor.See more

October 2013.

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Consolidated by Jack Brayshaw. 13 August 2022.
Last updated: 13 August 2022.

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