Smallbridge And All That - a Memory of Smallbridge.

The place name comes from a narrow bridge over a stream that forms the boundary between Rochdale and Wardle on Halifax Road, by The Red Lion pub as it was then. Folk who lived in Smallbridge were once called "Sandknockers" apparently from a family called Kitter who knocked the local stone to sand to spread on floors.

We lived on the main road opposite the Congregational church with Kitter Street at the end of our row. My Dad was a cobbler - intially a clogger till shoes became more affordable. In those days you could buy practically everything you needed within about 300 yards from Buckley Lane to Wardle Road, excepting things like clothes, furniture etc, things that you only bought once in a Blue Moon. Now there are no shops at all in Samallbridge.

As a pre-teen us kids could always eat more than we got, not that we were starved. There was no such thing among my friends of refusing food at any time. I can't believe I was the only one who ate what was put in front of me at mealtimes, whether I liked it or not - going hungry was not an option in my book.

In those days fruit and veg were seasonal, unlike these days when we can buy almost anything any time of the year. It was such a treat to get bananas again after the war, though I'd only a vague memory of them. My step-mother got us dried bananas from the Health Food shop. Sometimes we were given what we would now call drinking chocolate powder at school. I think we ate a lot of it before it ever saw home.

The milk used to be delivered from a farm (just round the back of the houses) from churns on a Milk Float, and left on the doorstep in your jug for folk out at work.

Bus services were much more frequent - and reliable, but the busses were under-powered and coming up John Street you could easily imagine it rolling back down when fully loaded with about 100 people. Single deckers were very rare then.

Strange now to remember that we used to take ourselves to school and go out all day without our parents getting in a panic "they'll come home when they're hungry" was a sure thing then.

We used to have to carry our gasmasks all the time in the square cardboard boxes they were issued in. I remember playing with my Dad's rifle when he was in the Home Guard - ammunition/bayonet wasn't kept at home. People shooting other people was unheard of in those days - except for the war. I couldn't repeat what my Grandma said she would do to Hitler if she got her hands on him.

We saw very little of the war just an odd Gung-ho Spitfire pilot flying low over the house tops. One plane that caught my imagination was the "7 miles a minute" Mosquito announced on the radio, but I never actually saw one. Then there was those strange messages on the radio after the news, they were for spies etc in occupied countries.

Fortunately all my Uncles came back from the war unharmed, though at home lots of people died from TB. A young lad next door (6/7) died at home from diptheria it strikes very quick. The first person I was close too who was there one day and dead the next - quite a shock.

The windows at Halifax Rd school, like all public buildings, had sticky tape on the windows in case of bomb blasts. At last there came a day when all the class helped to scrape it off - with safety razor blades and climbing on the window sills. Health and Safety would have a heart attack these days.

I'm obviously a born a bred Lancashire man and speak the dialect, or thought I did. But I could only understand every other word of farmers who came into dad's shop from Wardle only a couple of miles away. Now that's almost gone and I wonder if we speak English anymore we've got that Americanised.

Of course the films started that. As a young person ugly is UGLY, and Charles Laughton as The Hunchback of Notre Dame looked ghastly. In Mutiny on the Bounty as Captain Bligh I was most disappointed that he didn't die after being cast adift, he seemed a terribly cruel tyrant.

I really appreciated my Dad, especially, giving me his sweet coupons when rationing was in force, though I realise now that things are more enjoyable when we don't get too much of them. Cars were for "rich" people there were not many about, I couldn't imagine I would ever own one.

My mother died when I was 4 and around that time my Dad had to fill some official form. Being upset he put my date of birth wrong. Years later during the war two MP's came to arrest me for not responding to call-up papers (I imagine). I can't really remember it but you can imagine the look on their faces when my dad presented me to them.

The main road was cobbled down the middle with about 4ft of tamac at the sides. The regular shaped stones are called Sets, it's the irregular ones that are Cobbles. On Halifax road were blue granite and would have lasted for ever. But years later it was great to ride your bike ride on a smooth tarmac road. To replace the tarmac a Steam Roller would have some big spikes fastened to a frame at the back. These were used to rip up the old tarmac in big chunks. The new tarmac was laid by hand.

Religion was much more a part of our lives. The main road was full of folk in the Whit Friday processions, though mostly us kids only joined in for the pie and a cake.
People actually talked about God, even those of us who didn't really believe then, and not misusing his name.

A memory shared by Peter Butterworth on Oct 26th, 2007. Send Peter Butterworth a message.

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