JD08 – John Denison.
|Title||My Childhood memories|
|Date||1926 – 1939|
|Written By||John Denison|
|Comment||The memories of John Denison.|
JD09 – John Denison.
My Childhood Memories – 1926 – 1939
John Denison aged 11 yrs old.
JD11 – John Denison.
My Childhood Memories – 1926 – 1939
John Denison and his sister Kath.
“Moving up to the next class was to be taught by ‘Cecil’ Rhodes, he seemed to take delight in throwing the heavy wooden… blackboard cleaner at those not paying attention and he was a pretty good shot.
After this, in order, came the classes of Freddy Waugh, ‘Ikey’ Silsen, Harry Birch and finally, at Standard 8, Sydney Smith.
Very early on, by rote, we learned our ‘times table’ up to 12x, I think that if you asked any of my generation a ‘times by’ question they would answer it instantly.
It amazes me when you see TV quizes with such questions it usually stops the contestants in their tracks.
In my last year an entirely new concept was tried out when we were given an hour called ‘do it yourself’, I drew and painted pictures of Spitfires.
One that I have not said is that the class was boys only.
By the time we reached Standard 8 where I spent two years having ‘jumped’ the previous classes we were old enough to pull little stunts.
One of these self made distractions was to arrange our books under the desk lid so that from the top a channel would be created.
Down this a marble was rolled which made a very noisy click as it hit the side of the desk, this would be quite audible to the teacher.
It was, I’m sure, most frustrating for the teacher who would rarely catch a culprit since our ‘runs’ were carefully calculated to have been completed before they could be detected.
Our writing instruments were pens with nibs.
By breaking off the writing part of the nib two sharp points were created, the other end was flattened when it would split, into which was inserted a paper flight.
At break times these would be thrown upwards to embed in the ceiling, there were hundreds up there.
It was at this time that we received our half pint bottle of milk but I hated the stuff bargaining mine away.
Winter was the time for chapped knees, some lads still being in shorts at 13 and quite big by then with lots of skin showing.
When there had been a light snowfall there was some compensation in that the snow would be stamped down to create slides.
Traditionally the longest and most dangerous stretched diagonally across the playground ending up at the bottom corner wall.
Only the most daring negotiated this slide without falling though, if the run was completed, it might mean bashing into the wall.
Outside the perimeter of the playground was a wall behind which was a lane of hardened …earth, this was part of a short cut to the Henshaw Estate.
In this earth were dozens of shallow holes with various channels leading up to them, this was were we played ‘taws’, marbles.
These could be the simple ones made from baked clay or the glass stoppers from ginger beer bottles which, for some reason were much despised.
The best were the coloured marbles which could have an increase in value depended on how attractive they appeared.
The very large had much more value being worth five or more of the smaller glass alleys when played.
We did not like ‘them’ down south who drew circles and flicked, our method was to throw and then propel by use of the side of the hand.
Any number of marbles could be played after declaration had been made such as ‘cannon with 1, 2 in’, I think successful play gave an extra go whilst failure incurred loss of a go.
We carried our taws around in a bag, those possessing a large bagful usually indicated a successful player who rarely took on other competitors outside his favourite hole.
We all had our favourite hole at school and other venues would be created around our homes.
Come the Autumn the marble bag would be left at home and we would be carrying around strings of conkers.
There were altercations at school usually occurring in the playground which could develop into the need to fight which, as I have said elsewhere, were arranged after school.
Because of my diminutive size I managed to avoid confrontation except on one occasion.
At the start I did not know I was in a fight which ended indecisive before it was stopped but I reckon my opponent a lad named Phil Sharpe won on points.
The dangers of smoking were then generally unknown and films were a bad example in that heroes were portrayed practically always with a cigarette in the hand whereas with ‘baddies’ it usually dangled from the corner of the mouth.
Women on screen were generally made to use the cigarette in a more exotic manner, often with a long holder.
Men smoked everywhere and there were still many pipe smokers but it was rare to see a woman smoking in the street this being generally looked down on
Of course we children took this as an example (Smoking) and couldn’t wait to adopt the habit very often about the age …of eleven.
Cigarette machines were everywhere outside shops with Wild Woodbine’s being obtainable in fives with matches for, I think, twopence.
Or was it the other way, two cigs and five matches?
If cash was not to hand we were not beyond collecting ‘dog ends’ and rolling these up.
Alternatives would be tried such as cinnamon sticks and dried mint of which I could always get a plentiful supply as Grandad had a large tin of the stuff.
Strangely enough dried leaves were an absolute no-no since passed down information told you that smoking these turned one blind!
Frank’s dad had a joiners shop on The Grange and behind this was a small windowless wooden hut which was sometimes used as our den.
I would be around twelve when Frank, his twin Leslie and another lad named Albert Dobson gathered there for a smoking session.
We had no means of telling the time so that I overstayed beyond the hour set for tea.
Dad knew where to look and we were surprised at someone banging on the door.
We shouted out for the password but I quickly realised who was being called and emerged amidst a cloud of cigarette smoke.
I was chivvied home at speed being told by Dad that if he caught me smoking again he would force me to smoke a 20 pack one after the other.
I could probably have managed this with ease!
I don’t think I received any other punishment except a good talking to.
Incidentally I became a none smoker forty-five years ago.
My normal way home from school was out of the main entrance and up Harper Terrace but if fee…ling adventurous I would go via the drive to Doctor Malcolm Bett’s house, always with a slight fear of being caught for trespass.
At the bottom of the drive was a very large sycamore tree with low branches which made it a favourite tree for climbing which was great fun.
To the right of the drive was Doctor’s field which eventually disappeared first under a school annex and then for private dwellings.
I once entered this field with a lad named John Buck from Swincar Avenue who was to demonstrate to me how to make a ‘carbide bomb’.
He took a tin which had a lid into which a hole was punched and into the tin went water plus some carbide up to the level of another hole in the side of the tin.
This produced a gas whereupon he applied a match to the top but it did not work.
Possibly not enough gas had collected so John bent over, peered into it, and tried again – result two lovely black eyes!
Further up towards Harper Terrace was one of the Doc’s two orchards which was duly raided, there was yet another often attacked orchard even closer to the school where the Rufford Avenue bungalows are now situated.
Whilst still talking school / apples, further along this avenue to the south were some large 3/4 story houses, my Gt Uncle Harry lived in one of these, they had large gardens and orchards.
Two elderly spinsters lived near here but their orchard was never raided, we feared them as some kind of witches though they were very likely nice people.
At eleven I was to sit my ’11 plus’ exam which I was expected to pass without too much trouble.
I failed putting it down to the invigilating officer who prowled up and down the aisle, she was none other than one of the two ‘witches’.
I remember well that I was also confused by a maths question which required me to calculate the cost of so many yards of towelling at so much per yard.
I read it as ‘troweling’ and was more concerned about how it was possible to purchase digging in soil than I was in working out the sum.
Such is the way a child can easily be affected and there was no second chance”.