West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Letters Page

FLASHBACK TO 1920s PONTEFRACT

ADDED 9 FEBRUARY 2007

A few recollection of Pontefract circa 1920s.

Christmas with laughter, lots of people visiting, hugs and kisses, music on the gramophone with a large horn and scratchy needle. Standing on Dad’s toes as he waltzed around the room. A bright burning coal fire with a ‘guard’ around, and a shiny brass strip along the top.

“Keep the kettle boiling”; a game played with my sisters as we tumbled over the end of the sofa after each other, then raced around the room before tumbling over again (probably when I was two or three years old)

Bed time and the zinc bathtub in front of the fire with hot soapy water and a pungent smell of carbolic. Then out of the tub and quickly into the warm towel before the cold draught from the passage door could get to you.

Night shirt on followed by ‘Prayers’, then off to bed up the narrow staircase, no lights other than a candle in an enamel holder, with ’shadows’ following as we arrived in the bedroom, and moving around the ceiling like emormous spectres. The bed was cold despite the hot metal oven shelf wrapped in a piece of flannelette, tucked in and a “Goodnight and God Bless” kiss. Then it was head under the sheets to get warm. With the stairs door closed it was very dark and quiet; “scary!”

School in the early days was a large room with an open coal fireplace. The teacher, Miss Ganley, would tell stories and we would play games. A slate and chalk were provided to make pictures, and plasticine to roll around and stick legs on a body to look like funny animals. Playground games were “Ring-a-ring-o-roses, pocket full of posies, achoo, achoo, all fall down”.

Back in class and the smell of cedar wood as we sharpened pencils to learn our alphabet before teacher would help us to put on our coats to go home.

Babies class didn’t last long. We seemed to be in Standard One and Two, with the ability to read and write, along with doing sums, in no time at all. While this was happening our senses became aware of things around us, our friends who became ill or were hungry, some didn’t have shoes to wear and their feet were dirty and sore. Many would be taken off to the Clinic and would return with patches of ‘Blue Gentian’ or other treatment for ailments. Teacher would often bring biscuits or cakes to pass around to children we thought of, and called, ‘Teachers Pet’, only to realise in later years that those same children were simply hungry.

Ted Boyle.


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