Aireborough Historical Society

1926-1939 Childhood Memories Part 5

Children Playing Conkers
Co-op Town Hall Square, Yeadon 1928Jennys Cottage, Otley Chevin
Title
Primitive Methodist Chapel
Date Undated
Location Rawdon
Photo ID
A339
Comment "Returning to trees in the location recently mentioned.
This avenue was lined with horse-chestnuts which produced absolutely the best conker...s in the area.
We could not wait for them to drop of their own accord so would throw sticks to knock them down.
The road would be covered with bits of discarded stick, shells and leaves.
Playing conkers could be a painful experience to the knuckles when one missed and round it flew to give a nasty rap.

Let us stay with knuckles how these could suffer further damage in another activity which was roller skating.
We did not always use them in the normal where they were attached to school boots.
You took a single skate then placed a 2 to 3ft board across it upon which one squatted and semi-controlled by a hand at each end of the board.
Steep slopes were not attempted but the lower end of Rufford Ridge was ideal.
Often the result was painful skinned knuckles but to attempt this was a sign of bravery so it had to be done.

Here we go again, back to trees or at least a part of them.
I would scan the branches for a fork suitable for making a catapult, this would be cut off and skinned of bark.
Strips of bicycle inner tube would be tied to the two forks by string with which the shaft was also bound for an easier grip.
Addition of a leather pouch for the missile and is was off after the birds to satisfy the human hunting instinct, I don't recall any successes.
This was by no means the only 'weapon' manufactured since our six foot high privet hedge contained nice straight pieces which could be cut and converted into bows and arrows.

These did not prove quite powerful enough so I progressed to 'throwing arrows' which were a little more difficult to make.
First requirement was a piece of dowel about 18inches long and 1/4 to 3/8 inches in diameter the end being sharpened to a point.
A notch was cut some 3" from the other end and beyond this crosswise cuts were made with a fretsaw and a flight inserted.
The throw was executed by placing a piece of string with a knot in the end around the notch extending this to the pointed end with the thumb and forefinger, drawing back the arm and casting it off.
This is on the same principal as the method used by African tribes with their throwing spears.
What was achieved was impressive, they would fly very high indeed.

Of course this was not good enough so I improved the design by adding a normal dart instead of a sharpened point.
Frank and I would go to a field on The Billing which always seemed to be full of crows, up would go the arrow in a parabola with the intent of spearing one of the birds.
It was an extreme tactic which never worked.
However a much more satisfactory result could be obtained by launching it in level flight at the back of Mr. Wilson's garage.
Here it would embed itself right up to the arrow shaft becoming difficult to remove, a weapon with a truly dangerous potential.

I later acquired through 'swapping' a Diana air rifle but these were extremely low powered and therefore inaccurate.
It wasn't in my possession for long being confiscated by Dad after I shot a cousin in the back, I do not know why I did this so it was just as well the thing was low in power.
This was early on and so did not prevent me from being given a more powerful German Haenal as a Xmas present when I was thought to be more responsible.
My blood lust was revived so I again went after the poor sparrows bagging a few but not feeling particularly regretful they were so numerous.
Then came the day when I fired at a shadow in a tree and brought down what I found to be a most beautifully marked Thrush.
It was not dead so that I had to kill it with a stone.
This upset me very much and affected my conscience to such an extent that I gave up the 'sport' and stuck to target shooting.

I always seemed to be making things but in the main this was what had to be done, there were few other means of self entertainment.
Bullwhips were seen used by cowboys in films so I just had to make a 'cracking whip' which was to have a short handle with a long plaited string to which was fastened a leather lace tipped by yet more string of a type which would fray and provide the crack.
I got as far as attaching the leather which needed to be cut to length so off I went to Dad's toolbox and found a nice sharp chisel which I raised high and brought down on the lace held in place by the other hand.
Yes, the obvious happened I missed and neatly sliced halfway through my thumb which meant another visit to the doctor.
However, the whip was completed later working as well as expected.

I was not yet finished with personal injury.
One day when younger I was in the Town Hall Square when I saw a Post Office van arrive to pick up bags of mail.
Thinking this was of interest I dashed across the road but didn't make it being struck by a cyclist coming down the High Street at a fair lick.
I got up and ran off home through Rufford entering by the cellar not wanting to confess to Mam what had occurred.
She obviously heard me enter and because of my non appearance came down and saw a huge bump on my forehead.
Feeling guilty I said I had fallen running up the hill, of course she did not believe me upon which I confessed and was again whisked off to the doctor where I had the painful experience of having it lanced.
I believe the unfortunate cyclist broke his arm.

Yet another accident happened which fortunately did not end up in injury this was when Dad had made me a pair of stilts with stands about a foot high.
I went to try them out on a patch of concrete outside the living room window.
I think he must have regretted his generosity as I overbalanced the top of the stilt going through the window which he had to replace.

We received pocket money but I was always on the look out for a bit of extra cash.
When Dad was doing a bit of building work for which he needed sand for cement, this was an opportunity when I repaired to the fields where there was plenty of sandstone pieces lying around.
These were smashed on a concrete block in the field for which I earned a halfpenny per bucketful - slave labour!

Eventually I was trusted to go shopping, I did not require payment for this but did get the odd penny from Mam.
Most items were bought from Yeadon Co-op which occupied the building on the Town Hall Square which is now the Library.
Upon entry one saw two long counters to the left and right each being divided into two parts which held different types of commodity.
At each counter was a male assistant ready to serve the customer, all wore a white apron.
Mam wrote in a notebook what goods she required and I would present this at one of the counters and the goods would then be placed in my basket.
At the end the whole would be totaled and I would quote the Co-op number which I remember to this day.
I do not know whether I paid there and then or if it was on temporary 'tick' but the main reason for shopping with them was the 'divvy'

Another shopping trip was to the butcher, Harry Shuttleworth, in Ivegate who I bring to mind as a large, hearty man.
Usually I would be going there for bones for our pet dog but it could also be for pr-ordered meat.
To get there I would take the short cut through the back of Harper Terrace, it must have saved all of 50 yards!

By this time I would be allowed to roam at will wherever I wanted and Kath often went with me under my protection.
It was common practice particularly at holiday times for kids to go off wandering to return only for meals.
This 'putting out' was done by all people I think to get us out from under the feet and it also applied to dogs which were also free to roam.
I'm pretty sure our dog 'Ruff' had a penchant for chasing motor-bikes since he came home one day, lay down, and a huge deep cut in his back opened up.

I don't know whether there was a vet in the vicinity but it would have been too expensive to visit so Dad, as many others would, took him along to Dooley (never Mr.).
He was the local blacksmith with a forge behind the Clothiers Arms.
He was much respected for his sideline and knowledge of animal medicine but I remember him as a very taciturn man who spoke in single syllables.
I loved to go there to watch him shoeing horses, some of them being great big shire horses which he handled with ease though a very small man.
The smell of that operation still lingers in my memory.

Back to the wandering Ruff.
One day he was brought home by a workmate of Dads who recognized him as our dog.
Being a retriever cross he loved getting into water and had apparently entered Green Lane mill dam and swum to the other side where there was a concrete ramp which he could not climb.
He had scratched and scratched so that when he was found he was totally exhausted with his pads almost worn away and bleeding heavily.

However, back to our wanderings, where did we go or more correctly where didn't we go.
A trip with our parents in early days, being tackled later on our own, was to Otley Chevin which was approached from the back of St Andrews church and over The Banks.
We crossed a little stream where there was an abundant supply of watercress from which we would gather a bunch on the way home.
Tea and 'pop' could be obtained at Jenny's Cottage at Surprise View, on rare occasions we would be taken to the Royalty Inn.
Sometimes we would walk over Guiseley fields via Kirk Lane Park, the fields are now completely built over by Queensway.
This was a kind of pleasure visit since I had a Great Aunt living in Town Street who not only had a parrot but a selection of Kaleidoscopes.

 

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