Childhood at Bourne (5)

Emmie Taylor's memories of childhood at Bourne (continued)

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Northgate and Durham Street were the main roads in Hartlepool. Auntie Liza lived in Durham Street. Uncle Will Little was a painter and decorator and they had a shop for paints and wallpaper etc. To get there from Auntie Kate's we had to go up either Cleveland Street or Ropery Lane, where nearly all Irish people lived and they were terribly poor and often used to fight. The children were nearly all in rags and had bare feet. We were (ie Kitty Coulson, Jennie Little and I) always afraid going up Cleveland Street. We were absolutely forbidden to go up Ropery Lane. I remember we once did, but we were terrified.

When we were at Auntie Kate's, Auntie Kitty and I slept in a double bed. Sometimes Jennie Little came and slept with Kitty and me. I don't know where Auntie slept then. On Sunday mornings there was always a packet of sweets under our pillows. Sometimes Kitty and I went to sleep at Jennie Little's. Oh, what fun we had and what chattering we did. We spent most of our time on the beach. Hartlepool was a dirty town, a fishing place and shipbuilding, but the sea front was lovely and there was a splendid prom, which stretched for quite ¾ mile. It was built as a breakwater. In the middle was a band stand and at this time they used to be pierrots on a little platform in front of it. There was an enclosure with deck chairs but you had to pay 3d or 4d to go in there. We used to sit on the ordinary prom seats and they would come round with a box, and we would put in ½d or 1d whatever we had been given. After a few years they went out of business and I suppose you think "no wonder". I don't suppose they were much good, but we thought they were lovely.

At this time when we went to play on the beach we went down a slope opposite the house where my Mother was born on Sea View Terrace. To the left of this slope were beautiful sands which stretched for 2 or 3 miles right to Black Hall Rocks and the village of Hart. To the right were rocks which went as far as the Lighthouse. When the tide was out we used to scramble over the rocks and play in the pools where there would be baby crabs, star fish and jelly fish. We had to keep clear of the jelly fish because they stung. At the end of the rocks was the lighthouse, and then a stone pier on two levels. It was really a breakwater. If the sea was at all rough you could not walk along it because there were enormous waves clashing over it. Then came what we called the "block sands". They were most peculiar. Near to the sea was sand and then huge square and oblong blocks, with corners rounded off by the sea, and they had shells and small sea stones embedded in them. We used to play a game called "???" which was a sort of "follow my leader" jumping from block to block which sometimes had quite a big space between them. My Auntie Sally Mitchell lived near here and Dora and Jessie used to come to play with us and sometimes we went to Auntie Sally's for dinner. She lived in St Hilda's Street which was off "The Cliff" behind the block sands. The Cliff was the swanky part of the town where the wealthy people lived. At the end of the Cliff was the Old Town Wall, and a ferry to West Hartlepool. About once in the holidays, we went by the ferry which was a rowing boat, but it cost money so we usually walked the long way round.

There were two funny stories about Hartlepool. St Hilda's Church was at the end of the street where Auntie Sally lived and it was said some men bet some other men that they could move St Hilda's Church by pushing, so they put their shirts on the ground by the Church and went round to the other side and started to push. The other men stole their shirts and made off, so when they went back and found their shirts had gone they thought they had pushed the church over them. The other one was that in the 16th century a French boat was wrecked on the rocks and only one man was saved. Of course the people could not understand a word he said so they thought he was a monkey so they hung him, so if you wanted to make a person in Hartlepool cross, especially the old fishermen, you just said "Who hung the monkey?"

During this period while Auntie Kate lived in Northgate, one day just before going to Hartlepool Auntie West let me iron some handkerchiefs and the iron tipped up and burnt my wrist badly and I had to go to the doctors in Hartlepool. Auntie Lizzie Oliver was there with one of her little girls. Lizzie Oliver (then Mrs Charlie Graham) was my own Mother's and Auntie Liza's great friend when they were girls. Her husband was a sea captain so he was often away. She had several little girls who died but she had one son Tom, who lived to grow up. Later on Auntie Kate went to live in Frederick Street, at first she till had a little shop, but she soon gave it up and had it furnished as a sitting room. James, Bert and Jennie were working more so things were better, Lill always stayed at home to help and later looked after her Mother and Father. She is 80 now and lives in Rhodesia with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson.

From Frederick Street we only had to run a little way to the cliffs. We used to play shop and make milk with seawater and white rock. We had the sand for sugar and broke up coloured rock for other things. It must have rained, but in my memory the sun was always shining at Hartlepool. I can remember one Bank Holiday Monday we all, the Littles, the Coulsons and us walked (or paddled) most of the way to Black Hall Rocks where we had our tea and there were lovely mysterious caves to play in. There some regular outings Auntie and I always had. We went to Grandma Curry to tea, to Auntie Sally's and always had a day at Auntie Hannah's at West Hartlepool. They always had Nestle's milk in their tea, and she used to let me have spoons full. She had a big family as you will see from the Curry Family Tree, but Emma and Janey were round about my age and Janey is the only one still alive. She was an art teacher. Aggie the one older than Emma was just like my Mother so Aunt Hannah said when she heard her singing she could imagine it was my Mother still alive. Then we went to tea to Uncle Ralph's (my Mother's brother) and Auntie Clara. They had a daughter Clara who was very old fashioned and wore her hair in a plait wound round her head. When I went to see her about 25 years ago she was exactly the same as when I was a girl and had exactly the same old Victorian furniture. She had a sister Ethel who was about my age, but she had fits and died when she was about 10.

The best visit to my mother's relations was to Aunt Jane's at Middlesborough. She was kind and motherly and her husband Uncle George was very jolly and always called me "Little Monkey" which he had always called my Mother. (I have told more about them in the family notes). We often stayed the night and then went to see Auntie Catherine, who really was not an Auntie at all, but was my Grandma Parker's niece. She was always in bed because she had what was then called Locomotor Ataxy (?), but which I think must have been Multiple Sclerosis. She was always cheerful and we used to have sausage for tea because she said she knew it was my favourite and she liked it. I do not think her husband was up to much, I cannot remember him very well. I think he drank. She had a daughter, but Rachel is the one I remember best. One day when I must have only been about 5, Auntie Rachel and I wend to Redcar and we went out in a rowing boat. I was terrified and screamed the whole of the time, I must have been a perfect nuisance, but I have been afraid of small boats ever since.

Of course we spent a lot of time at the fish quay watching them unload the boats. You could get a dozen fresh herrings for a copper or two and kippers for 1d a pair. Auntie had a friend called Kate Beer who ran a sort of cafe for the men from the fish quay and the ??? building works and Auntie and I always went once during the holidays for dinner. A lot of the men who came in were rough types, but they were always kind to me.

I will tell you more about Hartlepool holidays later on, but I will tell about living at Springfield Villas now. By this time Miss Leyton had given up her school on West Street and just had about 20 pupils at the house of one of her old maids. We all sat round the same table. She used to say "If you see a pin ...(missing) pick it up that is stealing. I know it was narrow and a bit ridiculous, but a bit of her old fashioned morality might not do any harm today.

About this time I began to learn the piano and Miss Darnes used to come to the house to give me lesson. We started by learning the spaces E A C E and lines C B D F A and playing five finger exercises. One night when I had finished my lesson Miss Darnes and I want into the kitchen where Auntie had been making toffee and she was pouring it from a pan into a tin. I put my hand under to catch some to eat and of course the boiling toffee stuck to my hand. I was away from school for a fortnight but Miss Leyton said I need not have stayed away because I could have read and someone could have written my sums down. She was very strict, but a fine old lady, and my Father had a great respect for her. A little later that year I had my tonsils out on the dining room table, our own doctor did it and the other local doctor gave the anaesthetic — there wasn't much fuss about germs then. The death rate amongst babies was very high.

After about a year Miss Leyton gave up her school altogether. I had new friends now we lived at this end of the town. Next door lived the Hassocks, who had a grown up son and daughter Horace and Alice and Winnie who was about my age and was my special friend. She had a swing and we had a way cut from our garden into theirs as I spent a lot of time there. Mr Hassock was an engine driver and was very religious. Mrs Hassock was very, very deaf and used to lip read what we said, only very occasionally did we have to get right up to her ear and shout at the top of our voices. Other girls we played with were Madge Atkins who was adopted and lived on the other side of Hassocks, Eva Wall who had a brother and young twin sisters and lived in Elm Terrace and Marjorie Carvath, the Baptist Minister's daughter, who lived further up North Road, but they were none of them as nice as Winnie Hassock. She and I used to fall out with them sometimes, especially Eva Wall. Her father and Uncles and Grandfather were drapers and were important people at the Congregational Church.

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