Simms Cross - a Memory of Widnes.

I was born at 9 Frederick Street, in 1941, and my earliest memory is of flags, streamers and buntings strung across the street every time a soldier came home 'from the war'.
I don't know why, but the Union Jack flag absolutely terrified me, and still does....I will walk blocks to avoid one flying...but I always go to the cenotaph in Victoria Park on Remembrance Sunday...still terrified of the flags, and yet I am sure, not as terrified as those we remember were.
Does anyone remember my grandad? He was Bob Houghton, known as Long Bob because he was well over six feet tall. He was a Bookies Runner, and took bets for the Bookmaker (illegally then, of course) in Gerard Street, and he used to give me a threepenny Joey, to take the bag of bets and money to the bookmaker's sweet shop, and another to pick up the 'winnings'. It was 'our secret', I think my grandmother would have killed him had she known.
My grandmother was Fanny Houghton, she used to feed all the poor Irish children and a tramp called Matty Walsh. I was directed to help in these operations, lest I forgot how lucky we were to have food and clothing and a warm home.
Some might question how we managed to feed so many children and a tramp, in those days of rationing. She had her sources of stuff, and made sure it went to the needy, as well as her family. A laundry basket filled with newspaper wrapped parcels of slices of bread and dripping, jam or margarine, and occasionally lardy cake or any combination of those would be brought to our back gate every day at school home-time, and the children would come and carry off a package to eat before going home. Nanny told them to eat it before their fathers or older brothers took it from them. I think I would have been about five years old, and saw all of this as fairly normal.
Nanny used to bring young American soldiers to our house for Sunday dinner. They were probably glad of a home-cooked meal, and would bring food supplies with well as candy for my brother and me. Nanny made us share them with other children (of course!).
Simmy's Public House was the place where Nanny made her contacts. She would sit in the 'Snug" with a half pint of 'mild' for the whole evening and rule her little world from there.
She also took in 'Theatricals". These were the pantomime performers from the Alexandra Theatre. I remember the Seven Dwarfes sleeping in the back bedroom (yes..all of them, which must have been quite a squeeze, even for such little people). And a pantomime dame called Tommy Leary. When he got to be too old and sick to work, he stayed at No 9. till he died. I don't think he had an income, but Nanny would not let that detail worry her.

There you go...a few memories of Widnes...and I am still here!

A memory shared by Jackie Worrall on Nov 20th, 2011. Send Jackie Worrall a message

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