Last Friday I re-blogged a post about my childhood. This was surprisingly well received; it seems that a great many of my readers had similar childhoods. In fact one of my Facebook friends, an old acquaintance who is the same age as me, remarked that he believed our generation was the last to enjoy a PROPER childhood……. something that I most definitely agree with. So, with that in mind, I decided to re-blog some more of my childhood memories.
I do hope you will forgive this self-indulgence and, if you are of a certain age, perhaps my posts will bring back some of your childhood, too.
So, here is the first re-blog, there will be more to follow …..you have been warned…..
My Nana and Grandad lived in Grangetown, North Yorkshire, in the 1950s to the mid 1960s. They lived at 89, Bolckow Road, in a large Victorian terraced house.
I often went to stay with them at weekends and, before I became too ‘cool’ for such things, I stayed during school holidays, too.
Bolckow Road was one of the main thoroughfares through Grangetown, and my grand-parents house was situated at the far end; just one house away from Bailey’s grocery shop; almost on the corner of Birchington Avenue, where the trolley buses turned and continued their humming, whistling, crackling way up towards Lackenby and the foot of the Eston hills.
On the opposite side of Bolckow Road stood a tiny parade of shops. I can barely remember what type of establishments were there; I seem to recall a bookmakers; but I do remember one of them ………………. Lanny’s Cafe !
Ah yes, Lanny’s Cafe. To an impressionable 8 or 9 year old it seemed so glamourous.
It was a rather bare, cold place, with just a handful of formica-covered tables and wooden framed seats. I think it tried to cater to all; the workmen of the town; the ‘teddy boys’ with their motor-bikes and ‘DAs’ and the genteel, lavender-scented old ladies. But, of course, this was impossible and so it teetered on the edge of all these categories, never quite one thing or the other.
But I thought it was wonderful, decadent even, and I dreamed of sitting, casually, at one of the tables, listening to the music that came out of the radio. A jukebox would have been considered far too racy for Grangetown !
It all seemed so exciting to me. Huge stainless steel urns hissed and fizzed and steam rose up into the cool air whenever tea or coffee was poured into thick cups. They were carried to the tables, liquid slopping around, by leather-jacketed youths who then slumped in the seats, tipping backwards and scraping the walls and flicking cigarette butts onto the floor. So scary, but so alluring to my young eyes.
The floor was covered in a dull linoleum that had a pattern of black and white squares, reminiscent of a huge chess-board and was usually being mopped by the proprietor. He was a very tall, thin man who resembled Anthony Perkins in ‘Pyscho’ and, as a child, I found him both fascinating and frightening. He shook, he trembled and he whispered rather incoherently. He was weird.
My Nana explained to me that the poor chap had ‘shell-shock’. But, of course, that didn’t mean much to an 8 year old. Looking back, I realise that he must have suffered unbelievable mental turmoil, with no medical help or counselling. And I am ashamed to say that my wide-eyed stares can’t have helped him, either. But he was always kind and took extra care when I nervously approached the lowest part of the counter, with coins burning red marks into my sweaty little palms.
There was also a long, high, glass-fronted, display counter which usually housed a chipped, but rather ornate cake-stand. The cakes that were proudly offered for sale were frequently either a rather pale, dry, Victoria sponge or some other cake of indeterminate flavour, generally covered in thin icing and desiccated coconut. But, I would never know how they tasted because my Nana would not allow ‘shop-bought‘ cakes in the house. No matter how much I pleaded and cajoled, in her opinion such things were “common” !
No, the only thing that was ‘allowed’ from Lanny’s Cafe was ice-cream or the occasional bottle of ‘Lowcock’s’ lemonade.
Ice-cream ! That was a special treat.
Now, when I stayed with my grand-parents, I only ever had an ice-cream cone when I went to the sea-side. At home, in Guisborough, I was allowed a cone or an ice-lolly from the ice-cream man, but my Nana thought that was “common” too ! So, Nana bought ice-cream in a bowl and then it was served in dainty dishes and eaten with a spoon; perhaps accompanied by strawberries in the summer, if we were very lucky.
So, the highlight of a quiet Sunday afternoon would be a trip to Lanny’s Cafe to buy ice-cream.
As it was so quiet in those days, I was often allowed to go on my own. My Nana or Grandad would stand at the kerb and see me safely across the road, even though traffic was a rarity on Sundays. I would carefully walk across the dusty tarmac; it was always dusty. I can clearly remember the sun beating down, relentlessly, on the bleached, white flag-stones of the wide pavement in front of the cafe. Sometimes there would be a few motorbikes parked by the plate-glass window and the smell of hot oil and petrol would fill my nostrils as I passed, clutching my Pyrex bowl and saucer (to cover the bowl and keep the ice-cream free from flies and grit on my return journey)
I remember walking, shyly, up to the counter and asking for “ 5 shillings worth of vanilla ice-cream, please” and handing over my bowl and saucer. Then reaching into my pocket for the money, which was tied up in a corner of my handkerchief. The ice-cream would then be spooned into the bowl, spoon rattling against the rim as the poor man’s hand shook uncontrollably; the money taken and the saucer placed carefully over the top of the bowl, before being handed back to me with a trembling, shaking smile.
I was always escorted to the pavement and sent safely on my way back across the road, Grandad or Nana waving in thanks as I hurried, excitedly indoors with the precious cargo.
Of course, it has all gone now. The trolley buses, the cafe, most of the houses. What was once a thriving town, full of proud, hardworking men and women is now a broken, desolate wasteland. The huge steel works of Dorman Long is now a much smaller place. It is now British Steel and is a mere shadow of its former glory. Times have changed.
Ice-cream is eaten every day, its no longer the treat it once was. And little girls no longer carry it home in Pyrex bowls.
I don’t know why this memory came to me today. But it filled my head and I could think of little else. Isn’t it strange how memories catch us unaware, sneak up on us from behind and take us by surprise ? But, for a few hours today, I was that little girl and I’m so glad and grateful for such happy memories.