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Memories of Motherwell
Saturday Morning Matinee at The La Scala
Saturday morning was the highlight of the week for me I put on my ABC badge and made my way from Hope Street to the La Scala picture house near Motherwell Cross in Brandon Street were I duly paid my entrance fee I think sixpence and sat amongst a crowd of other excited boys and girls to see Flash Gordon, Tom Mix, Lash Larue and other favourites. Before the show started Mr. Richie the theatre manager appeared on stage with the old fashioned stand up mike and led us in the ABC Minors song, then we settled down to two hours of cartoons and serials. I also remember when I was a couple of years older taken the newsreel up to the Rex cinema from the La Scala which got you free entry.
Fort Street (1950s)
Fort Street, in North Motherwell, was a very close-knit community in the 1950's, which is why I still remember the following names: Mr and Mrs Darroch lived at number 21 with their children John, Denise and Keith. Mr Bill Rae, who was a mechanic at Skelly’s garage, lived at number 15 with his wife Olga and their two daughters, Fiona and Edith. The Lauders lived at number 17 and the Crosser family lived at number 19. I also remember Thomas McWhinnie the fruit merchant who came along the street regularly with a horse-drawn cart before he acquired a lorry. Sad to say, I also remember a fatal accident that took place around 1951 at the junction of Fort Street and Hadrian Terrace. A little girl named Polly who was 4 years of age was run over by a bus near to my house. Her parents were so devastated by their loss that they left Scotland soon after and went to live in England.
My Guitar Hero
Brandon High's 1957/8 Christmas show featured a spot by a fellow named Willie McAloney who played guitar and sang “Worried Man Blues”. He later played in a group called The Electrons and sometimes performed at the local Majestic at the top of Brandon Street, a venue long since demolished. When I got my first guitar at the age of 13 Willie, who was a couple of years older, taught me to play 'Move It', and also 'Bird Dog' by the Everly Brothers, lessons conducted on street corners at night by the light of a lamppost. These impromptu lessons stood me in good stead, for I later became a musician and at 68 still give the occasional performance. So wherever you are now – thank you Willie.
The School Mime
A fond memory while attending Brandon High was appearing in the school’s Christmas show (circa 1958). Mr McKeown the English teacher, commonly known as “Cueballs”, decided to stage a mime act. I think all of us taking part were very self-conscious making exaggerated gestures because even after many weeks of rehearsals our continuing lacklustre efforts had caused Mr McKeown much hand wringing. He was convinced the actual performance would be a disaster. Fortunately “on the night”, thanks to the vital ingredient – a live audience – everyone who took part rose to the occasion and the performance was a resounding success. No one was more relieved than poor old “Cueballs”.
Gird And Cleek
If you were a boy in the 1950’s did you ever own, like I did, a gird and cleek? Many Motherwell fathers at the time worked in the local steelworks and some would make a gird and cleek for their young sons. Girls, on the other hand, preferred to play with a whip and peerie instead, though despite being a boy I enjoyed both. Anyway, the gird was simply a metal hoop and the cleek a metal rod with a hook at one end. The idea was to get the hoop rolling by pushing it with the cleek, which also steered the gird at the same time. Many happy hours could be had getting such a simple device up to speed along a main road (not many motor vehicles in those days to endanger life and limb). Sometimes, however, the gird ran out of control, disappeared into the distance and was never seen again. You can see now why I liked the whip and peerie!
The Dancing Class
Another memory I have of Brandon High is being taught Scottish Country Dancing, an ordeal exacerbated by the fact that boys and girls were otherwise segregated and consequently perceived one another as members of an alien species. Girls would enter the gym through one door and boys another, then made to line up facing one another like opposing armies before reluctantly having to take a dancing partner. There were many times when I clumsily trod on a girl’s toes during The Dashing White Sergeant and my unfortunate partner would mutter insults in return. Of all the classes I dreaded in those days, the dancing one comes high on the list!
The Rex Cafe Etc.
Motherwell in the 1950’s seemed fairly dull to me, which is where the Rex Café next to the Rex cinema comes into the picture, if you’ll pardon the pun. It was 1958 when I first feasted my eyes on the café’s flashy jukebox. It looked like something from another planet. I think it was a Rock-Ola jukebox, a state-of-the-art music machine made in the USA. I’m also reminded of Mills music shop, which was on Brandon Street. I purchased my first piece of sheet music from there when I was 13. I thought the price was 2d. I should have looked closer because the price was in fact 2 shillings, which I found out when I got to the counter. I was too shocked and embarrassed to change my mind and simply handed over the cash. One week’s pocket money blown in one fell swoop for a single sheet of folded paper with dots on it. Ah well…
Memories of Brandon High also reminded me of the time I developed a crush on an attractive girl who also attended the school. I decided that a sure-fire method of gaining her attention was to present her with a box of chocolates. As soon as she emerged through the school gates I thrust the chocolates at her. She obviously thought I was some kind of weirdo because she gave a loud shriek and scurried away as fast as her legs could carry her. Anyway, a good box of chocolates was not to be wasted so I ate them all myself. With the benefit of hindsight that wasn’t a good idea either because a few days later half my face had erupted in spots.