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Those Were The Days

A Memory of Billingham

I was still a teenager, 17 years old and my baby brother at school at Bede Campus. I escaped the campus by virtue of it not having been completed when I passed the 11+. The town centre in Billingham was still being built, and we used to hang out in the park - John Whitehead. In those days, pleasures were simple, roller skate in the street (though not when neighbours were on nightshift and so still sleeping) cycle around the neighbourhood, walk, swim at the local pool or go to the bowling alley. Cafes used to open late so we could sit and have a coffee at 8 o'clock. There was no early morning tv which used to start mid to late afternoon so we kids were encouraged to spend our time outdoors which to me now is remembered as being warmer, drier and longer summers? I was often given sandwiches in the summer holidays and went off to amuse myself all day long, sometimes bringing home tadpoles/froglets or tiddlers caught at the local pond in a farmer's field. We carefully negotiated the railway track on our travels and would walk for miles alongside streams, along tracks to distant villages only accessible otherwise by buses. I remember that everyone took responsibility for children minding their manners and a clip around the ear from a neighbour wasn't unusual. Any misdemeanors at school - punished by a swipe with a ruler across the knuckles remained a memory at school as if I mentioned it at home, I would receive another swipe from a parent for letting them down. At no time do I remember any parents marching to school to wreak revenge for their children being punished. Ten years earlier, when still living in Wilson Street, Middlesbrough, I remember a wedding where the bride and groom returned to her parents house, leaned out of an upstairs window and threw pennies, threepenny bits and sixpences out of the window to us eagerly waiting kids down below. My mother was brought up in a 2 up and 2 down terraced house with 8 other kids with no lasting hardship. She forgo the scholarship she won in order to take up employment and bring home her wage to her parents. She was given a small amount for herself out of her earnings. I cannot see today's children accepting that. Even at 19 years, I still had to toe the line regarding staying out late with a boyfriend. A time limit was set and enforced up to the day I was married. I struggled to keep up with my own children. I employed strict standards of behaviour with my own family, which as adults they now see the merits of and so are employing similar strategies with my grandchildren. It was sometimes awkward to access a supermarket in those days as all the mums would leave their prams or pushchairs outside the store with their precious little ones securely strapped in. It was the norm. I was horrified to discover that a friend of mine (a social worker) saying that if she encountered that now, she would have no alternative but to prosecute as "abandonment". For goodness sake, where has common sense gone? But to return to 1965, the only school on the campus which was open when I passed the exams was the Secondary Modern. It was the uniform which encouraged me to pass the tests as I could not see me going to school in such horrific colours. I would rather wear the black, white and gold of the Henry Smith Grammar at Hartlepool, even though I would have to leave for school before baby brother was even out of bed. I often wish that the clocks could be turned back to an age where there was far more respect from children to their elders, where discipline was accepted as the norm rather than as abuse and before there was too much "political correctness". We have come on so much since those days but I don't think we are any happier for having more, but instead are afraid of losing so much of what we don't actually need. We had so much going for us as teenagers, we had plenty of fun, pleasures were simple - a book, the cinema, so where has it all gone wrong?

A memory shared by Paula Hollingworth , on Oct 8th, 2008.

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