Oh my God it’s Kilkenny! Bryan Kilkenny, 53 going on five, still has the sort of cheeky charm which will have made him a classroom favourite, a legend in school lunchtime, but driven the teachers crazy years ago. It was all not far from where we are now stood, outside what used to be Grange Park Primary School, on Dingle Avenue.
For a lad who could be reduced to a quivering wreck by a well-aimed glare from one of the more formidable members of female staff, it’s a surprise to learn he returned to work here, for 20 years, as caretaker. He must have been the coolest caretaker around with his Blues Brothers-style Trilby hat and tattoos.
“I got my own back by becoming staff – and calling the teacher by her first name,” says the now self-styled gentleman of leisure.
The six facing me represent 600 others, all part of an online social network of people who grew up on Grange Park.
Bryan is the only one of the six to still live on the estate. “It carries with it a certain image, thanks to other people’s negative attitudes,” he admits.
That’s why the group are organising a very special reunion this month. Their affection for Grange Park knows no bounds, although it’s warts and all.
Bryan adds: “You grow up here, it never really leaves you.”
The six have just met for the first time in the real world, rather than cyber space, and right back at the former school where they started their education.
They’re trading banter, catching up with family histories, births, marriages, the inevitable deaths, within minutes of meeting, stood shivering in the cold outside their old school, which is no longer used as such, because it’s the building which they all have in common.
It was Asda worker Tracey Millward’s idea to set up People Who Grew Up On Grange Park on Facebook.
“It became addictive reading memories of growing up on the estate,” says Tracey, 49, who grew up on Wensleydale Avenue with her three sisters, Joanne, Gillian and Rachel.
“All the doubting Thomas’s out there don’t know the real Grange Park. I’ve only fond memories of playing out all day in the holidays, only going home when hungry, mum never worrying as everyone knew everyone else and we felt safe.”
She cherishes a picture of when she played Prince Charming to Yvonne Wood’s rose queen at St Michaels and All Angels Church on Dinmore Avenue in 1974.
With the support of office manager Joanne Hartenfeld, 44, the pair decided to organise a proper reunion, which will be held at Christ the King Social Club on November 18.
Joanne, who moved to her grandma’s house on Chepstow Road at three, adds: “It’s not like a class reunion, we all went to different schools, although most of us here today started at Grange Park Primary.
“Our old school playing field is where Boundary Park Primary is situated. It would be nice if teachers from the various schools came too, though.
“Even the bobby George Hayward knew us well – we were little blighters but in an innocent childhood way, scrumping for apples from the convent and that kind of thing.
“Flats were occupied by the older generation and they knew how to tell us off, and were respected for that.
“The summer play scheme was legendary – my mum ran it for a couple of years, parents always got involved.
“We all have so many fond memories, even though we grew up at different times.
“We think that’s worth celebrating. It was, and remains, a community.”
Jay Scott, 40, who recalls rivalry between the school house colours, Windsor, Hanover, Stuart and Tudor, adds: “My parents still live there and I’m really proud my father helped Peter Collins, the postmaster, thwart a robbery attempt a few years back.
“Grange Park may have its troublemakers, but it’s the heroes who make it a great place to live.
“I’m proud to have grown up there, I still remember water fights, playing knock-on-door-run, carol singing and buying 10p mixes with the proceeds.”
Ray Thaw, who couldn’t get to the photocall as he lives in Parbold, left the estate in 1975 to join up, and spent 24 years in the Army.
He says: “I still follow Blackpool FC home and away and am known as the Tangerine Tommy.”
Blackpool C Cabs director Dee Grant, 47, lived on the estate until she was 21. She says: “I can’t explain how much it means to me to have grown up here.
“I can still remember the friends I had then, and just hope to meet them at the reunion.”
Lisa Whiteside, 44, shop assistant, admits she was a bit of a rebel as a child.
She says: “I can’t say I liked or enjoyed school, but I loved Grange Park, still do. Sure it has problems but so does everywhere.
“It was home. My mum and dad still live here. You could leave your house and windows and doors open.”
The reunion will also raise funds for BBC Children in Need.
For details email firstname.lastname@example.org or see Facebook group People Who Grew Up On Grange Park, Blackpool.