Memory Lane: Days of mischief in Blackpool

1953 Coronation party in York Street, Blackpool

1953 Coronation party in York Street, Blackpool

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ROD Lea has made two big moves to the coast – and has regretted neither of them.

From his home, where he sent this picture taken 58 years ago next week, Rod, now 65, writes: “I’ve lived in New Zealand since 1975, but have great memories of my childhood at 30 York Street, Blackpool.

“My parents, looking for a better life, moved from the Black Country in 1948, with my mother’s sister and husband to make their fortune running a boarding house. My brother Wilfred was 12, and my cousin Colin and myself were just three.

“I don’t remember the early years but know my brother hated it. He had really enjoyed his old grammar school in Halesowen and hated his new one in Blackpool. However, he got on with it and later became Head Boy.

“I went to Thames Road School and Chapel Street Methodist Sunday School, a vibrant chapel with lots of young people enjoying themselves. My brother had a very good friend, Jimmy Armfield, who went to Arnold School and I used to tag along. I remember going to watch Jimmy win the Sprint Championship at Stanley Park.”

Rod recalls: “Boarding houses were very basic. Ours had 14 bedrooms, some with three double beds and catered for working class families. Highest occupancy was 48 people and there was one toilet. No hot water in rooms just a sink with cold water. Men used to line up outside our lounge door, mugs in hand, and dad filled them with hot water for shaving. Chamber pots were emptied after guests went out in the morning. Full board was about 12s 6d (62.5p).”

Rod says: “As children we didn’t have the chance to share summer with our parents because they were always too busy, so we had to entertain ourselves. We enjoyed spring and winter better because we had the beaches and our families to ourselves.

“Colin and I got into mischief – as boys do! Things were still on ration and we took all the powdered eggs, milk and flour and a bin in the backyard, put all the ingredients together and made a cake. We thought it was great fun, but our parents were in total despair. With a house full of guests and no milk, they asked all the neighbouring boarding houses for help to get through the week.

“Some families came back for many years and ‘adopted’ us. A coal mining family called Brown from Wombwell, Barnsley, had a daughter who worked for us as a maid. One year I had my summer holiday staying with their family. The children I played with couldn’t believe anybody could have a good time in Wombwell, but I did!”

To supplement pocket money, Rod dug lugworms, selling them to Fred Hindley’s fishing shop on Central Pier for 10s (50p) per 100. His trolley was “a very good earner” taking bags to and from Central Railway Station or the Coliseum Bus Station.

Rod says: “The town has changed a great amount since my childhood. On a 2006 visit, the current owner of 30 York Street invited us in after my brother told him we had lived there. What a revelation! All rooms ensuite and well fitted out. The owner said an architect had advised them to keep all the plaster ceilings that my father had done, due to such craftsmanship. We were very proud.”

On leaving school Rod started to serve his carpentry apprenticeship at GN Hadley, then Jackson and Lawson.

“At 20 I joined Blackpool Fire Brigade, staying for 10 years prior to leaving to become a fireman in Wellington, New Zealand. After a while I changed direction and went into manufacturing, running a factory in Lower Hutt before health problems caused early retirement.

“We live in a seaside town called Waikane, an hour north of Wellington on our North Island. I love New Zealand and have no regrets with the move,” says Rod, who would love to hear from old friends at rodandliz@paradise.net.nz or post at 1 David Street, Waikanae 5036, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.