I was born at Dixon Street, Blackfyne, Blackhill, County Durham. My memories are from when I started school in 1943 at the Tin Mill School, Derwent Street, Blackhill, as far as I remmember I did not like it. Blackhill was shadowed by Consett Iron Company as it was then known (later known as Consett Steel Works), most of the men worked there. It made Blackhill a dirty place to live in because of the red dust. Monday was wash day but my mam used to go outside and check which way the wind was blowing, as if your wet washing was hanging on the line it could get covered in red dust. Blackhill had everything then, a bank, the Co-op, you could even get measured for a suit. My mam got all her shopping from the Co-op, I can even remember my mam's store number, 688, she got her dividend. There were a couple of hotels for people visiting the works, and two paper shops, I delivered papers for one of them, Loughs, their shop was a double-fronted one. Dixon Street was two rows of terraces with back to back fireplaces. It also had two shops, Harrisons and Stokoes, they sold lots of things that people used every day. As sweets were on coupons, liquorice root was what we used to buy, we got a piece for a penny, you chewed it till you got the juice out, it was pretty popular. Behind Dixon Street was fields to play football and cricket, and the blue heaps where we played. We also used to collect cigarette cards, birds eggs and even cigarette packets, there were lots found in the streets, there were no litter bins in them days.
The winters were the worst, we used to get ice on the inside of the windows, we had only electricity downstairs in the house. The fireplace had a back boiler and it heated the oven, my mam used to heat the oven, then take out the hot oven shelf, wrap it in a piece of blanket and put it in our bed before we went to bed We only had one big bedroom with two big beds, my two sisters slept in one and me mam and dad in the other. Our toilet was outside in the back yard, we were lucky it was a flush one as the toilets in some of the houses weren't, and a man came round every week and emptied them. In 1947 we had a big snow storm, it drifted to the other side of the road where my grandparents lived. Grandad was a pitman. The snow was that deep it drifted up to the upstairs window, and my dad had to dig them out. Everyone helped each other in them days. We were not allowed to play in the street as if some of the men were on night shift they would be in bed. My next door neighbour was a first hand on the furnaces at the steel works, it was a very good paid job, the son always had better things than most of us, like a new bike a real football (which was the only football we ever played with), and football boots - nobody else had football boots, some of us only had one pair of shoes, but we were all happy and knew no better. We all went to Benfieldside school, about a couple of miles away. We walked there and back at dinner time, then back after dinner, we always left home at dinner time when "Workers' Playtime" was on the radio at one o'clock.
Later, when we went to the senior school, we took sandwiches and a mixture of sugar and cocoato drink The school had radiators and was warm. I remember when I had my first pair of wellington boots, they were shiny ones, I copied the older lads and turned the tops down. One winter my dad made me a sledge, it was a long one, and two could sit on it. In those days there were no cars around so we could sledge down main roads. There was about a dozen of us about same age and we always seem to play out at the same time and go home for bed at the same time. The war years were the worst but we never thought of the danger we were in at times. Mam used to put us under the stairs when the siren went to warn us of an air raid. As there was only enough room under there for four of us, Dad used to get under our table which had big thick legs at the time, we never knew why. A bomb did drop two streets away in to the cemetery. We felt it explode but got no damage, when we went to school next morning we went to look and there was a big hole in the cemetery and bones were everywhere. The houses opposite had their windows blown out but I don't think anyone was badly hurt. The bomb should have hit the nearby steel works.
I used to play truant off school to help out at local cattle market, the son of the owner, Kackie Dalkin, was my age and my friend. We used to walk livestock for the farmers who bought any up to the slaughterhouse about half a mile away, if we were lucky we got sixpence. I remember once when I was walking a load of sheep to a nearby field and my mam was coming along the footpath, Jackie shouted "Alan, your mam's coming!" so I got down on all fours trying to hide among the sheep, but the sheep kept walking, leaving me on my own and I got seen by my mam. She gave me a clip and told me to get to school. Those were the days, all innocent but great fun, happy days.
A memory shared byon Jan 15th, 2008.
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