THERE is something about the place where you were born which always has a pull on you no matter who you are or where you’re from.
Famous people when writing their autobiographies always devote the first chapter to the village from where they came, the school they attended, their relatives and friends.
This helps build a picture of who they are, and we soon learn the effect their upbringing had upon them.
Today, people of my generation may forget what they had for their tea yesterday, but they never forget what happened in childhood.
It is vividly imprinted on their brain. They remember every detail of the house in which they grew up, the street where they lived, the corner shops, even the name of the bobby on the beat – in my case, Bobby Riley.
I was born in Springfield, Dewsbury, which was made up of a few streets, all with back-to-back houses and no gardens, but with shops, pubs, churches, schools and cinemas, all within walking distance.
Most of the houses are long gone, but I still get warm nostalgic feelings whenever I pass through this small village, now an industrial area, and, if I close my eyes, I can still see the faces of my little friends.
I can also see clearly those of my aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, who all lived up Victoria Road or round the back.
I can even call to mind neighbours who I didn’t know very well, but strangely these too have become part of the fabric of my life.
Mrs Oxley, who lived across the road, was very well-spoken, always smartly dressed, and I always felt she had come from a better place and known better times.
Her husband was the milkman who delivered our milk every morning, filling our jugs from a giant milk urn with the aid of a huge ladle.
If ever we ran out, mother would send me across to Mrs Oxley’s with a jug for a gill of milk, but we were never invited inside.
She would go round the back to get the milk, and this gave me the opportunity to peep inside to look at her lovely furniture and ornaments arranged around the house.
Young as I was, I sensed that here was a couple who were a breed apart who had perhaps come from a different place to the rest of us up our street.
I never remember seeing her in conversation with anyone, and never saw her go into anyone’s house, and mother used to say she didn’t even know her first name,
Mrs Baker, who ran a little grocer’s shop a few doors from us, was a kind and friendly lady with grey hair, whose son was a police officer, something which ensured we were always well behaved both in the shop and outside.
Our house didn’t have electricity, and I remember going to her shop to buy gas mantles and also freshly baked bread, uncut, of course, which cost four-and-a-half-pence (in old money) and always had a thick crust, delicious when toasted on the open coal fire.
Another shopkeeper in Victoria Road was Mr Haigh, manager of the Co-operative store at the bottom of our road, who knew all his customers by name.
Around the corner lived Baggy Barker, the “knocker-up” who used a long wooden pole to tap on bedroom windows in the morning to awaken those who had requested it.
Very few people down our street could afford alarm clocks, and those who lived in fear of “sleeping in” and not getting to work on time were grateful for this service which only cost a couple of coppers.
In most mills, if you were only a few minutes late you were locked out and not allowed back until after the tea-break, and you were also fined.
The rat-a-tat-tat of Baggy’s pole in the early hours was a familiar sound but I knew it wasn’t to wake me up, but my dad and brother. I was able to turn over and go back to sleep for another couple of hours.
Baggy Barker was both a source of fascination and amusement to me and my friends, and we would peep though his open door in the summer months to look at all his clocks.
They were all set for different times because he also awakened people, who had been working on night shifts, in the late afternoon.
People used to say Baggy Barker never slept on a bed because he was afraid he’d never wake up, and so spent all day and night sitting in his arm chair facing his beloved clocks, all arranged in a line on the mantle shelf.
At the bottom of our street was a centre for people who were deaf and couldn’t speak, and some of those who attended the centre, lived in Albion Street, the street next to ours. It wasn’t easy for us to communicate with them, but we always smiled at each other and nodded our heads in friendly welcome, which they always acknowledged in the same way.
At the top of the street stood Springfield Chapel, which had amongst its members quite a lot of the great and the good of Dewsbury, including mill owner Sir Mark Oldroyd, and the family of the late Eddie Waring, who became a famous television personality.
Everybody talks about Eddie as being an Eastborough lad, but his roots were in Springfield where his parents and grandparents lived.
He was christened at the chapel, and went to Sunday school there and also sang in the choir. His parents were devout members of this little congregational chapel.
Although I was a Catholic, I still used to pluck up the courage to sneak in and stand in the corridor listening to their hearty singing. This church, like many more, was demolished in the 1950s.
They were happy days, and we had lots of good friends and kind neighbours whom I will never forget. I never tire of talking about them, and wherever they are today, I wish them well.
If you want to share your childhood memories, as many of our readers already have, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.