Bygones: Life never boring in wild west
HERE, Jeff Beedham shares his memories of a West Marsh childhood...
As a young child growing up during the 1950s in the West Marsh area of Grimsby, life was never boring.
The surrounding streets and passageways were literally my playground as only a handful of cars were ever parked in the side streets.
Horses still regularly pulled wagons full of timber between sawmills, offering an opportunity for children to ride on the back of these slow-moving vehicles.
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Marbles or "glass alleys" were played along the gutters and cigarette cards or "faggies" played on the adjacent pavement.
Girls and boys would set up long skipping ropes stretching across the street and take turns to skip or turn the rope as they sang rhymes and songs passed down through generations of children.
Cricket, football and other ball games were played in the streets, with goal posts and wickets roughly chalked on a suitable gable end.
In the summer months, these games would move to the grass field on the nearby Boulevard Recreation Ground, where there were a selection of tennis courts (grass and asphalt).
The area was criss-crossed with a myriad of narrow passageways, ideal for hide and seek and also many wide-gated alleyways that were mostly occupied by small businesses, such as bakers, builders and sawdust/firewood merchants.
However, there were many of these paved or cobbled alleyways that had been long abandoned, leaving the empty stables with haylofts above, ideal places for playing in.
One of these alleyways, formerly a local blacksmiths, was on Corporation Road between number 114 and Eric Stanton's tiny shop, that sold virtually everything for fishing and shooting.
My friend Roy lived at number 114 and we would arm ourselves with home-made wooden swords, shields and bow and arrows, playing for hours re-enacting the sword fights we had seen at the nearby Rex cinema Saturday morning matinees.
Cowboys and Indians was another popular role-playing game with a wide range of toy cap-firing Colt 45 pistols and Winchester rifles available from local shops, Grommets and Sidney Dines, along with fancy leather gun belts and a variety of cowboy hats.
The many newsagents, then situated along Corporation Road, were a favourite haunt of children. Besides the essential sweets or "goodies", "over the marsh" they sold a wide selection of choice items at pocket money prices, including many different comics such as the ubiquitous Beano, Beezer, Dandy, Film Fun, Hotspur, Topper, Victor and Wizard to name just a few.
There were also carousels jammed full of more expensive American DC Comics; Batman, Fantastic Four, Superman, Superwoman.
These fascinating shops, where every square inch of wall behind the counter was utilised with shelves and drawers, sold other small items such as rolls of caps for toy pistols, packs of pre-war cigarette cards, bags of assorted glass marbles, foreign stamps and albums.
There were also cap pistols, catapults, spud guns, strutting nets for the River Freshney, peashooters, jacks, rubber balls of all sizes and a variety of whips and wooden spinning tops. All these affordable items provided endless hours of entertainment. Corporation Road was also home to arguably one of Grimsby's best known confectioners - Goodie Taylor's, at number 32.
There was a sweet factory behind the shop where they produced their own brand of pear drops, aniseed rock etc, all sold from large glass jars, carefully weighed out into 2oz or 4oz paper bags.
From early October each year, colourful displays of British-made fireworks by Astra, Brocks, Lion and Standard would suddenly appear in newsagents' glass-topped cabinets.
Over the marsh, timber was plentiful, owing to the number of sawmills and dealyards.
Besides wooden swords, shields and bows and arrows, another popular home-made toy was a trolley or go-cart, utilising old pram wheels, usually two large ones at the back and two small ones at the front, a suitable wide plank of wood about five feet long and an old wooden soapbox or something similar to sit in.
The trolley was usually pushed by a friend using a pole pushed against a block of wood fitted at the rear.
It was steered by a rope loop attached to the front axle. A rudimentary brake was a pivoted piece of wood on one side that when pushed rubbed on one of the back wheels stopping the trolley.
The nearby Boulevard had lovely wide smooth tarmac paths suitable for the trolley, especially round the bandstand, or for roller skating that required hours of practice resulting in grazed knees or elbows before becoming proficient.
During the freezing winter months wooden sledges with strip steel runners were hastily fabricated to run along on the snow-covered streets that became a battleground for snowball fights.
To warm numbed frozen hands the local bakery wall was always hot from the large bakers oven inside. Today's children tend to be kept indoors by their fearful parents, which is a shame because they are missing out on so much!