The Nostalgia Column with Margaret Watson
OVER the last few weeks I have been writing about how lives were changed during the slum clearance era of the 1950s and 60s.
What I have written has jogged the memories of some readers, including Mike Hobson whose family were moved from the Flatts to a brand new estate in Dewsbury Moor.
He was five years old but still remembers how his extended family were split up at that time because his grandparents, who lived in the next street, did not move with them.
Instead they were re-housed in Thornhill Lees which meant Mike’s family had to walk from Dewsbury Moor to Thornhill Lees every weekend to visit them.
No cars in those days.
The re-housing programme also brought changes for Mike’s grandfather, Norman Howgate, who was projectionist at the Rex Cinema in Dewsbury.
Prior to moving, Norman lived in Woodbine Street, just a two-minute’s walk from his place of work, and when the Rex closed and became a Bingo Hall, Norman stayed on as cashier.
Until then he had never had to catch a bus to work, but after the move to Thornhill Lees, he had to.
Mike’s first school was Boothroyd Lane School just up the road from where he lived in South Woodbine Street, but his move to a new house meant changing to a new school, St John’s CofE, in Dewsbury Moor.
The following is a brief record of what Mike remembers of those days:
“Moving to a different school seemed very scary. On the first day I hid behind a big drainpipe in the schoolyard, but alas the teacher spotted me and took me in.
“It wasn’t all that bad because all we did that first day was play in the sand pit and do drawings.
“When it came to home time, I set off walking back to my old home, forgetting we had moved to the new house that day.
“Suddenly, when I was almost back at South Woodbine Street, I remembered and turned round and raced up to our new house in Dewsbury Moor before real panic set in.
“I remember thinking when I first saw Moorcroft Road that it must be a brand new road because all the pavements were level, the roads smooth and there were only three cars on the entire estate.
“Our new house had three bedrooms with a garden front, rear and side, a coal and coke fire and a water boiler. What luxury. Mum thought we’d won the football pools!
“Behind our house was a field with a big mound of earth grassed over which I assume was the soil piled up from digging out the estate’s foundations,
“It made a great place to play cowboys and indians, and there were three more fields nearby with horses in them. Also some small farm buildings near the main Heckmondwike Road.
“We had loads of fun playing in those fields before they were turned over to the Council to build what is now Westmoor School.
“Not everything was good because the family had been split up and now we had a long walk every weekend to visit grandma and granddad in Thornhill Lees.
“Before being moved onto the new estates, families lived close to each other and our family was no exception.
“We lived in one street and our grandparents in the next one.
“Even though I was only five when we left the Flatts I still vividly remember what life was like while living there.
“I remember the wonderful smell of home baking when I passed a small bakery half way down Willans Road.
“And there was a garage I remember at the bottom which was owned by the Fewster family who later moved to the Woodkirk area.
“I remember also the recreation ground on the Flatts where we played, and nearby was Peace’s shop in Boothroyd Lane where they sold sweets in halfpenny and penny trays.
“When I first arrived at my new school there was a headmistress, but then Mr Smith took over, He was a happy chap and always seemed to have time for the children.
“My form teacher was Cecil Wheatley and our class was in St John’s old Church Hall. Other teachers I remember were Mr Flowers and Mr Hirst.
“We were once taken on a trip to London where we stayed in a posh hotel, but I suppose any hotel would seem posh when you’d been living on the Flatts.
“We had a really good few days there, and the following year we had a trip to Edinburgh and went to see the Sound of Music at a cinema there.
“I cannot remember all the names of the children who went on the trip or who were at school with me, but the ones I can remember are: Mark Shepherd, Stephen Goodall, David Harrison, Mick Wade, Simon Smith, George Parker, Leslie Galert and Frances Lee.
“If there are any other classmates who have memories of St John’s School it would be good to hear from them.”
○ If you have memories of moving to new estates or remember the school Mike has been writing about, please email [email protected]