These are a selection of random reminiscences of my time spent in and around the town of Kidsgrove and its people.
The memories fly from place to place and time to time so I hope you don’t get too giddy reading them.
Having lived to the ripe old age of 65, I decide that it was time to let it all out.
Despite being a Goldenhill boy, don’t hold it against me, Kidsgrove is a place that featured in my childhood through to adulthood.
I have worked there, played there, drank there and danced there.
What more could a man ask for.
In the language of my ancestors “ at cummin for a woke dine Kickrew Bonk an then wane cum back throw Bathpow”?
As a child I was a frequent visitor with my family to Stone Bank Road, this was to call on my father’s friends, Jack and Amy Turner.
Some of you may remember Jack he was an active member of Kidsgrove council and at one time Chairman of that same council.
How long ago this was can be judged by the programme on the television one Saturday evening, Gunsmoke with James Arness as Matt Dillon.
Sometime in the early 50s I would think,
Jack was a staunch Baptist like my father and they shared an interest in the Latebrook chapel.
The Boote family in Stone Bank Road were also good family friends.
I know it has been written about many times but the sight and smell of the old Birchenwood invokes many memories, going in at the bottom gates and seeing all that activity and someone shouting at us to clear off or else.
Equipped with jam butties and a bottle of water we used to traipse off to Red Rock, we all know where that was don’t we?
It seemed as if it was miles away yet it from the centre of Goldenhill it was probably just about a mile.
We really enjoyed the danger involved in climbing up one rock, moving across to the other and then back again.
The old Starvation Banks were a place of total joy to young lads, we spent hours over there, camping, playing or just wandering about.
They reclaimed the area in the summer of 1961 with the promise of a splendid park in its place.
Oldcott Drive and Oldcott Crescent are right at the top of Goldenhill and also at the top of Kidsgrove Bank but technically in Kidsgrove.
To a child who was raised in the terraced streets of Goldenhill, the Oldcott estate with its gardens and lawned pavements seemed very posh.
They had gardens and stuff on the Sandyford council estate but this was different.
So, did anyone actually decide, is it Kidsgrove Bank or Goldenhill Bank?
At the top of Chatterley Drive going down from the swings there used to be an old American army tuck which was built up on concrete blocks and used as winding gear for the old futtrel. ( footrail ).
Of course Chatterley Drive wasn't built then but there was a rough lane there even in the 50s and early 60s which according to old maps was once a railway line.
The futtrel was on the right hand side and the machinery used for the winding gear was the old American army truck.
The entrance to the mine was sealed up so nosey lads like myself couldn't get in there.
There was all sorts of associated junk there and we propped some old lines up on bricks and sleepers, mounted a small coal truck on them and pulled the chocks away.
The truck used to fly off the rails at the bottom spilling out its load of boys and girls, brilliant.
That is what I call a childhood.
Was this dangerous, yes of course it was, did we see the danger, no of course we didn't.
Read this and see if it brings back memories.
At the age of eleven I had my first proper bike, after an initial period of being very careful I decided that I was now good enough to ride down Kidsgrove Bank.
This was before they straightened the bend out by the houses on the left, I have never been so scared in all my life as I was that day.
I turned into the bend and encountered the ridges and grooves in the tarmac, unable to stop I carried on regardless and only managed to slow down as I flew past Stone Bank Road
How I actually survived it I don’t know.
Coming back up the bank is a different story, I have never managed to pedal all the way up on my own but once or twice I hung on to the back of a very slow lorry, you could do that then, they go too fast now.
The only alternative to this was to come back via Nelson Bank but this was just as dangerous because of the cars whizzing down there.
I remember when I had worked a Sunday morning at English Electric and my boss gave me a lift home, he decided to go by way of Nelson Bank.
Imagine this, we were in a battered old Morris Traveller which was about 20 years old and it had definitely seen better days.
The gear stick was on the steering column and over the years the stick had worn out and broken off.
No problem, he replaced it with a set of Mole Grips which worked fine but he couldn’t select the reverse gear.
Half way up the bank we had to stop because a car was coming down, the car reversed back up and Alan proceeded to put it into first gear for the hill start.
As he pushed the palm of his hand to the Mole Grips he hit the release catch on them.
The Grips fell off and hit him on the knee and then fell to the floor.
He struggled to bend down to pick them up and to clip them back onto the mechanism
I have never seen anyone so bad tempered, embarrassed or foul mouthed before or since.
I was no help at all because I was doubled up with laughter.
I was sworn to secrecy under the threat of death and I actually managed to get to Tuesday before I told the lads what had happened, by then his embarrassment had died down a bit.
When I was a boy we loved to go to Kidsgrove station and do a bit of trainspotting.
The one and only, very famous Tommy was there.
Day in, day out, rain sunshine you name it and he was there.
We used to write the numbers in his book for him and wait patiently when he said the express was coming through, sometimes we waited forever.
In 1972 I used to take my 3 year old daughter down to see the trains and she thought Tommy was marvellous.
She loved to be on the platform when the expresses came through and literally shook with excitement.
The canals were a permanent source of adventure, from a very young age up until we were teenagers.
As young lads it was good to just walk the towpaths and later as teenagers we went down there with our air guns, no trouble was caused and nobody complained.
What would happen now if you saw a group of lads with air pistols and rifles, the SWAT squad would be there within minutes to round us up and take us all off to Guantanamo Bay.
As time went on we graduated from trainspotting to snooker in Barnes’s, up the wooden staircase and enter the world of in offs, cannons, snookers and cigarette smoke.
When we were older and we could get in the pubs we used to go to the Town Hall on a Saturday night.
We started off in The Red Lion at Goldenhill, catch the bus down and nip in the Plough for a quick one, pay to go in the Town Hall have a few dances and nip out back to The Plough and then back down for a couple more dances.
I think they kicked us out about 11 o’clock and we usually walked back up the bank to home.
Sunday nights were spent in The Golden Slipper at Butt Lane, it was good there but not as good as the Town Hall.
However that didn’t last long because I met my future wife and she was a more attractive proposition than my mates.
I worked for Eric Alcock for 3 years and got to know the town and surrounding areas very well.
We erected aerials, repaired washing machines and small appliances too.
The van with the ladders on was a familiar site around the town.
One day one of the lads had forgotten to tie the Cat ladder onto the roof rack, he pulled out of Meadows Road, turned left and approached the junction.
As he braked the ladder shot off the rack and hurtled towards the Co-Op plate glass window, luckily the kerb slowed it down and it stopped about an inch away from it.
They jumped out of the van, put it back on the rack, tied it on quickly and sped off and I don’t think anybody noticed it.
Eric had the furniture shop in Liverpool road and in 1974 he decided that it needed refurbishing.
He brought in the builders who demolished the old toilets in the yard and built it back up to include a kitchen and toilets for the staff.
Len the aerial rigger, and myself stripped out the old wiring and plumbing, completely rewired it to include sockets and all the fluorescent ceiling lights.
We installed a free standing gas boiler, all the radiators and pipework for hot water and central heating over a period of about 8 weeks.
We insulated the loft space with fibre glass wadding and still did our service work as well.
The council houses on the right as you go up First Avenue were a nightmare to rig aerials on because of the high pitch and the length from the gutter to the ridge.
It was very hard to slide the cat ladder all the way to the ridge and when you did manage to hook it over there was a 3 or 4 foot gap between yourself and the cat ladder, not too bad going up but absolutely awful coming down.
Having said that, one of the apprentices used to run up the gulley by the dormer and then holding the aerial with the cable attached, proceed up to the chimney and lash the gear to it.
That was a good time to delegate responsibility, wasn’t it?
We used to dread the nights when it was very windy because we knew that in the morning there would be a mass of calls for aerials which had blown down during the night.
Aerial rigging was great on nice sunny days, but not so nice in the cold wet, winter days.
We always took our cigarettes up there with us because it could take quite a while to adjust the aerial while your mate was in the house tuning in the telly.
There was a lot of coal fires back then especially on the miner’s estate and you could always guarantee that as soon as you got to the chimney they would put a shovel full of coal on the fire.
A face full of smoke and soot was never very nice.
The soot and cold used to make the skin on your fingers crack and then the acid in the next batch of soot used to make your eyes water.
In 1974 we charged about £10 to supply and fit an aerial, I paid £110 four years ago and he didn’t even have to use a ladder because it was on a flat roof.
I’m back to vehicles with column change gear sticks again, Len and myself drove up to Mow Cop on a call, as we got to the top of Church Lane I swung the old Austin van across the road intending to carry out a three point turn.
As I selected reverse gear by pulling the end of the stick out and down towards my left knee, the stick became disconnected from the rest of the mechanism.
The result of this was that we were now strapped across the road with no reverse gear.
Even worse, was the fact that my mate Len was sitting in the passenger seat with tears in his eyes as a result of my hand and the detached gear stick making contact with his male bits.
We eventually pushed the van backwards enough to complete the turn, did the service call and drove it back to the workshop where we were told that this had happened before.
Christmas Eve lunchtime 1972 and we all toddled of to the Caldwell for a drink.
Graham was the nominated driver so he didn’t have a drink.
We were fed up of waiting for the other three to drink up so we came out and left them in there, Graham drove off in the direction of Butt lane but when he looked in the mirror he saw them running down the road after us.
As he slowed down I assumed that he would just pull over and wait for them.
Not so, as I opened the door he swung the van across the road into St Saviour’s Street and I fell out of the van.
Probably because of the anaesthetic qualities of the beer I rolled with the flow and felt very little, still it gave everyone a good laugh and no harm was done.
I took two of the young lads with me to Alsager to pick up a twin tub washing machine, we went into the customer’s house and saw that the wash tub was full of water, I told them to empty the water into the grid outside and then put it in the back of the van, lying down so that it wouldn’t fall over as we drove back.
I stayed with the customer a couple of minutes to explain about the repair and cost and then went out to the van.
The old A55 van had a bench seat so that all three of us sat there side by side.
Being a trusting soul I assumed they had done as I asked and I drove off, as I came to the end of the road I braked, I was wrong to trust them wasn’t I?
The twin tub washing machine with about 10 gallons of smelly soapy water slid towards the bench seat and tipped over, most of the water went over us but thankfully those two got the worst of it.
The moral of the story, trust no-one or, always look behind you when you get in a van.
I had a call to do in Newcastle once and I took Alan with me, the kitchen of the house we went to had a massive purple rhinoceros painted on the wall and the students in there were having a party, mid-afternoon.
This is a good life I thought everybody is very happy but it seemed very smoky in there.
By the time we had repaired the washing machine and got back in the van we were as happy as the students, no bloody wonder, the stuff they were smoking didn’t come in packs of twenty with Park Drive on the front.
The trouble was we didn’t realise until later that we were as high as kites, never again.
Another lesson learned, if you go into student accommodation don’t breathe in.
We had an old Vauxhall Viva van which had seen better days and the bite on the clutch was almost non-existent.
If you wanted to go to Newchapel you had to sort of zig zag across the town working your way slowly upwards avoiding anything steeper than a slight gradient.
Someone driving the old A55 van under the bridge at the bottom of Gloucester Road, not me I might add, used to turn the engine ignition off, leave it a couple of seconds and then turn it on again, this produced a massive bang as it backfired and burnt the fuel which had built up in the cylinders.
The fact that it was under the bridge, made it more effective apparently.
The residents were quick to complain and I don’t blame them.
I think it actually blew the exhaust off eventually.
One of the lads had seen on the television a man sliding down a ladder with his feet and hands on the outside of the uprights, he was keen to try it but what he forgot to do was to keep his head away from the rungs, I believe he hit most of them with his chin on the way down.
A very busy time of the year was when the Leek Club had their annual competitions, we had to transport all the prizes to the venue and when they had been won we had to deliver them to the homes of the winners.
Do they still have the Leek Club and is it still as popular?
Old family stories say that my great grandfather was once the licensee of the Lamb Inn, I have researched my family tree but I have never been able to prove it either way, he did come from Kidsgrove though.
At Goldenhill we had Billy Poole’s old fashioned ironmongers, it was very like the shop in the Two Ronnies 4 candles sketch.
In Kidsgrove you had Timmis and Stonier, very professional and short of nothing they’d got.
Did Harry Heath also have an ironmonger’s shop or is my memory playing tricks?
Also didn’t Harry have a dance band which played locally?
I can remember visiting with my mum the old terraces which were at Napier Street and Vine Bank.
You seemed to climb forever but the alleyways and little backyards were fascinating.
The weekend that I finished at Eric Alcocks in January 1975 was the time that Lesley Whittle was kidnapped from her home in the Midlands.
It wasn’t until about June that I was visited by the police who wanted to know where I was at that time.
Fortunately I could remember it quite well and they went away satisfied that I was not their number one suspect.
When we were courting we used to go to The Galley with friends, it was a good pub back then, can anyone remember the clock in the Harecastle pub that went backwards.
January 1962 saw me leaving school and starting work at English Electric at Butt Lane.
I served my apprenticeship and continued to work there as an electrical draughtsman until I was made redundant in May 1972.
So for 10 years I passed through Kidsgrove and walked up and down Church Street in Butt Lane in all weathers.
I had a really good apprenticeship and a good job afterwards until GEC took over.
I worked for Curry’s Mastercare as a service engineer making frequent calls to Kidsgrove residents.
I worked as an insurance agent for 4 years in and around the town.
I will eventually place my English Electric story on here, all 15 pages of it so keep an eye open for it because your name might pop up in it.
It covers the 10 years between 1962 and 1972, no scandal just plain old fashioned memories.