Reading Eric Dale’s series of articles in growing up in the Heaton’s Avenues was all the motivation one of our readers, Jean Sowrey, needed to put pen to paper. Here are her memories:
I was born Jean Rudd in 1936 In the front room of a two bed roomed flat in Eighth Avenue. I think a Dr Bell was in attendance and a midwife called Jean. For years to come we’d see midwife Jean around Heaton, Mam continually reminding me that she was the reason for my name Jean. At that time Dad was a postman and I had an elder sister, Margaret, who was 22 months old.
Apart from the two bedrooms, our flat had a sitting room with a black leaded fireplace and the scullery with sink, gas cooker and a gas boiler No hot water so kettle boiled frequently and gas boiler used on Mondays (wash day) and for filling the tin bath. Latter used placed in front of the fire. Outside was the back yard where the mangle was stored and also the toilet, no toilet paper only newspaper squares. Washing was hung on a line in the back lane.
I think women had a hard life in the 1940s. Mam having to do all the house work: black leading the fire place, doing the washing with a poss stick, plus shopping etc. She also did a lot of cooking. A pretty regular daily menu, Mondays always being Sunday’s leftovers .Occasionally we had jelly having been left to set covered outside on a window sill. Having an abundance of relatives, we frequently had Sunday afternoon callers – the treasured tin of salmon opened.
In 1939 Second World War started a month before my third Birthday. Margaret, my elder sister, was just about to start school. Alas Chillingham Road School had a glass roof so children were sent to North Heaton School. (Not sure if it was only the infant school?) . More work for Mam having to arrange blackout curtains etc. Dad in a reserved occupation didn’t need to enlist for military service but did so in 1941, joining the army Maritime Service as a Gunner. Previously from a young age, he’d served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers, giving it upon marriage.
In 1940 my sister Dorothy was born, our maternal grandmother, Frances Stephenson having died a week before. She was buried in Heaton Cemetery. The last of one of our grandparents
1941 and Dad went off to do military service. Women being required to work during the war, Mam started work at a chemists on Heaton Road, owners Mr and Mrs Bartle. They were excellent employers allowing Mam to take our younger sister Dorothy. How Dorothy occupied herself goodness knows!
That year I joined Margaret at Chillingham Road School. Memories are vague now although I do recall a teacher Mrs Whitehouse who absolutely terrified me and others. She used a belt to reprimand pupils. One incident I recall was when she used it on Cynthia Jackson, a girl who wore a calliper on her leg. Fortunately it never happened to me, a rather mild child! One memory I have is when we celebrated Empire Day, marching around the Union flag. Another memory is Air Raid Drill. Going to the air raid shelter where we sang songs: ‘Ten Green Bottles Hanging On The Wall’ and many more. If you were clever were top of the class you received a medal. Later my brainy young sister Dorothy was frequently a recipient. Some pupil names I recall are my best friend Dorothy Rogers who also had a sister, Margaret; Brenda Parker, Sheila Raine, John and Elisabeth Crowe, Gordon Winn, Dorothy Emily, Olga Hedley and, of course, Eighth Avenue children.
In Eighth Avenue my close playmates were Betty Kibble, Sheila Muir, Kathleen Flanagan, Freda Patterson, Joan Robinson, Eric Dale and Harold Charlton. Other children in the street were Moira and Brian Law, Teddy Masterson, Alan & David Hinkley, the Nicholson brothers, Ernest Wray, Lucy Aspinall, Joyce Munster. We played outdoors most of the time, hopscotch etc – and skipping ropes for the girls.
At home we spent a lot of time listening to the radio. Sunday lunch time ardently listening to ‘Two –Way Family Favourites‘ with Jean Metcalfe and Cliff Michelmore – a programme for families and members of the armed forces – Dad even sent us a message. Other indoor activities included knitting and letter-writing to Dad. My two sisters and I took piano lessons and the teacher would drop the shilling into a milk bottle: she also gave me dancing and elocution lessons gratis as she liked me. We also went to Heaton Swimming Baths and the library, and did a lot of walking to Jesmond Dene and Heaton Park, where I also played tennis. Occasionally we went to the cinema – The Scala and the Lyric.
During air raids we would go across the road to the Taylor family air raid shelter. The camaraderie of Eighth Avenue neighbours was incredible. I believe their daughter, Lily, was serving as a Land Girl. The air raid I still recall was when Guildford Place was bombed and totally devastated. We felt the blast too, though luckily only windows shattered. That particular night Mam had taken Margaret and myself to the Taylors’ shelter. Baby Dorothy (5 months) sleeping peacefully in her cot, Mam decided unusually to leave her at home. Fortunately Dorothy survived unscathed even though glass was all around. .
At the end of Junior School girls had to go to North Heaton School whereas the boys went into senior school. A bit unfair really as we were about to sit the 11 plus exam which meant some of us were only there one year. Margaret and I passed for Middle Street Commercial School For Girls. Young sister Dorothy eventually went to Central Newcastle High School For Girls.
Dad didn’t come home in 1945 as he’d been involved in an accident in an army lorry in Greenock and suffered a broken femur. He ended up spending two years in Hexham General Hospital. He had been torpedoed twice during the war, luckily rescued and survived. However war finished and he had his accident whilst awaiting demob. Finally home in 1947 with a serious limp, he couldn’t go back to his Heaton postman job but was given work at Orchard Street Sorting Office.
Being an ex-Army veteran and because of Dad’s disability we were given a brand new council house at Longbenton and in 1948 left Eighth Avenue, but the first 11 years will always remain with me.
Thank you, Jean, for taking the trouble to write down some of your Heaton memories. Fascinating both for your contemporaries and for those too young to remember the thirties and forties.
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First published on 02/08/2017