West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Letters Page

A STATE OF EUPHORIC REMINISCENCE

ADDED 27 MAY 2006

My name is Jean Walker (nee Allen) and I now live in Queensland Australia. My sister, Lily Appleyard of Horsefair, Pontefract, sent me two copies of your magazine as she thought I might be interested. Within four hours of receiving them my daughter had ordered all back editions for me and subscribed to future ones. As soon as I realised the content I became enthralled and excited and I think I was in a state of euphoric reminiscence all evening.

I was born at 16 Westbourne Mount, Westfields, in October 1936, the youngest child of Liza and Robert Allen. My dad and brothers worked at the Prince of Wales Colliery, which was mentioned in one of the magazines. I attended Love Lane Infant and Junior School and then Ponterfract & District Girls High School. Can you imagine my surprise and pleasure reading the article by Carol Bingham, in Issue 14 when she refers to the Speech Day at the Alexandra Picture-house; I was there too!

Miss Illingworth was my first teacher at the school and I well remember how she played the school song on the piano, with great vigour and enthusiasm, as she taught it to us. I believe it started with "We sing a song of school days, our school up on the hill" - then there was a middle part which I forget but the ending went something like this "Veritas, Vita, Vitae, Long live our school, Keep it’s name untarnished, That’s the schoolgirls rule. May we never shame it, Never love it less, Good betide it ever, P.D.H.S." And didn’t we finish on a resounding high note! If any of your readers remember the song I would appreciate a copy.

My first job was in Wordsworth’s grocery store in Beastfair, and I went to work at the Co-op at a later time. I met the man who was to become my husband for 43 years at the Embassy on Ropergate, Michael (Mick) Walker, so the mention of that dance-hall brought back so many memories, not least one of a visit one evening from a group of "Teddy Boys" from Castleford. I also went to the Miner’s Welfare in Halfpenny Lane for Saturday night dances. Oh, the memories!

I was three when the war broke out, but well do I remember the sirens and the Anderson Shelters we were given as protection during the nighttime air raids. It was sobering to read the article by Ted Brook about the Zeppelins and the bombing in and around Pontefract. In our street was a lady who lived alone and my Mum would send my brothers to bring her to our shelter when the siren went. I can remember them telling us how she would cover her head with her hands as she walked up the street and say "Keep going you Bug*** keep going" to the Zeppelins, as if this would save her. It brought some light relief to a grave situation.

My Mum used to bake her own bread and she would sift the flour through a silk stocking to get out all the brown bits leaving the bread pure white. These days we are encouraged to eat the ‘brown bits’ as they are good for us. Mum would take a loaf of bread into the shelter at night and we would have it with a scraping of margarine (bread and scrape) and Tit-Bits Sauce. What a feast to be sure!

I remember when a neighbourhood child ran around the estate to tell everyone that Cornforth’s (a little general shop on Wakefield road at the edge of town) had bananas. This was when the war had ended but lots of things were still unavailable and/or on ration. My mum just dropped everything, grabbed her coat and bag with the ration books in, and ran all the way to Cornforth’s to queue for her share of bananas, which I had never seen before. Mum was allowed one banana per person and my sister Gladys sliced mine and put milk on it for me.

The pictures of the railway stations and other places bring back memories also, so I just can’t wait to get the other copies. I’m afraid the housework will have to take a back seat when they arrive, as I won’t be able to contain my eagerness to read them.

Maybe something mentioned here will spark memories in someone else and make people more inclined to write in with memories of their own?

Jean Walker


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