1926-1939 Childhood Memories Part 6
|The memories of John (Malcolm) Denison
||1926 to 1939
||On the other side of Yeadon we would walk past the Ledgards garage off the Harrogate Road then across the fields to The Billing.
From the top one looked out over Larkfield Dam whilst just over the other side was a small square pool which was shallow at the side but quite deep at the centre.
Those who could went swimming here, not for me, I could not swim.
The training I had received was on a couple of occasions when the class was taken in 'crocodile' style to the Secondary School Pool.
There we would enter the water, cling onto the side, and be told to swim by a teacher who did not enter the water.
If still feeling energetic enough we would walk past Rawdon Church to the Red Beck where the stream ran through a miniature ravine lined with trees.
Ropes had been attached to the tree branches enabling us to swing back and forth over the beck.
On a different direction to the south going through Nether Yeadon across New Road brought us to Belmont Wood which we called 'Bellyband'.
The main attraction here was to be able to stand on a bridge and be enveloped by smoke when a train passed underneath.
Closer to hand was The Dam playground which had many attractions the favourite for boys was the mini-roundabouts which we ran around to get up speed then jumping on and off resulting in grazed knees.
I think all boys bare knees were permanently covered with healing and new scratches.
At the bottom end of the Dam was a roped off enclosure next to the 'bridge' and the wooden pier.
Here there were two-seater paddle boats with swans heads at the bow, parents could watch from the bridge as their children paddled away in water only about a foot deep.
At the very top of the Dam were a series of channels with paths running among them lined with small shrubs etc.
This was a fascinating place with frogs, their tadpoles, newts and many water insects.
It was at this end of the Dam that I would launch my model speedboat which was about two feet long being driven by a little steam engine.
The boiler was heated by a small methylated spirit burner.
After an intolerable wait steam would be up and it could be launched.
There was a rudder which could be set to make the boat return but if often failed to perform or the engine would stop which then involved paddling out across the muddy bottom to retrieve the boat.
Visits were rare!
Being situated so high above sea level it was almost guaranteed that The Dam would freeze over in winter when large crowds would gather to skate, at night when car headlights would be directed over the ice.
I joined in this activity with metal skeleton skates which were screwed onto our school boots, I don't think anyone had full skating boots.
I also got amusement from throwing stones across the ice for Ruff the dog to retrieve when he would skid around all over the place.
It might sound like a kind of ill treatment but he enjoyed it and came back for more.
When snow came we were well positioned for sledging living at the top of Stony Road which now had its bumps covered.
Dad built me a long low sledge with one inch wide metal runners, it was easily the fastest in the neighbourhood being much in demand for 'lends'
I spoke of finding newts at the Dam, these were rare whereas they were far more numerable in another place.
This was at the very deep quarry situated between The Grange and the Peacock Hotel.
It still had the shed with gravel crushing machinery on the south side, beyond this was a sheer drop of about 25 yards to the water filled bottom.
To the west were a series of ledges where the stone had been cut which were great for climbing and newts could be observed swimming along the ledges.
The eastern side was a gradual slope which took one to the edge of the water.
Here we could catch sticklebacks which were taken home being then placed in a large sweet jar where the water gradually turned green, they died and stunk the cellar out so that mother would throw them out.
Opportunity to travel around more quickly came when I was eleven and got my first bike for Xmas, it was a Hercules 'sit up and beg', second hand but nice and shiny.
Not being full-size it was not long before I graduated to a version with 'drop' handlebars plus a three speed gear.
I learnt how to do basic repairs on these bikes but if more difficult work was required there was a place to go.
Mr Sessions had a repair shop at the Alma Street junction with High Street.
This was an amazing place with bicycle bits hanging and stacked all over with the owner sitting just inside the door in a small space where he did his repairs.
Biking wasn't enough in itself if we wanted to sound like motorbikes, this was achieved by attaching a piece of stiff cardboard on the break mounting sticking out into the spokes which provided a satisfying motor-like noise.
In writing this I think of the many things Dad did and made for me but one stands out as a particularly noble effort.
We had cycled down into Otley and to avoid riding back up the hill through Menston it was decided we would go up the Chevin which turned out to be easier said than done.
Although I tried my best he had to carry both bikes most of the way, its a long way up!
Wherever we went our bikes would be left safe in the knowledge that they would still be there on our return.
Dad would come home for lunch but not wanting to push it up Stony Road would just leave it at the bottom to be collected later.
Those days there was much more honesty, in fact I never heard of a house being broken into but of course now there is much more attention to these things through the media.
Nothing was thought of wandering off, our parents seemed to have absolutely no fear of children being 'taken' or absconding although then as now when upset about something we would threaten to run away.
We were not told that to approach strangers or allow them to speak to us held danger.
For instance it was part of my life to present myself outside the gates of Green Mill to stop workers who were going home and ask if they had any spare cigarette cards.
These latter were a large part of my life to which I will return later."
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