10. Bits and pieces - including a
After tea (see house rules) we would get tidied up and head out for a walk. This could easily take us to the far end of Ardrossan and back the long way via the shore road, a distance of probably 5 miles and perfectly acceptable every evening of the holidays. Our holidays were certainly not slothful and I still enjoy a good walk, albeit that it is now without the ice cream or the bag of chips enroute!
Sundays meant church whenever possible and the Reverend Moore had previously moved from our church in Coatbridge to a church in Saltcoats and so it was naturally our home from home on Sunday morning.
10.8 The house rules.
Since we shared the kitchen with the family with whom we were living it was only proper that they had unrestricted access to prepare the evening meal for their men folk coming in from work. This often meant that we did not eat until between 6 and 6.30 p.m. We would head back to our room about 9.30 and a game of Snakes & Ladders or Ludo till bedtime.
If the weather was bad we still had to stay out of the house till at least late afternoon. This usually meant that people stayed on the beach in all but the worst of the weather which, on the Clyde coast could be quite wet and windy even in the height of summer. When we could not get out for our walk in the evenings we would occasionally be invited to join the family and watch television, a rare treat as we did not have a set at home.
10.9 Father escapes.
Most years my Dad would stay with us only for one week. He would then go home and do some maintenance or decorating at home. I sometimes think that this was more of a holiday for him than being at the seaside with an energetic youngster! I guess I have taken after Dad as, like him, I cannot sit on the beach for any length of time without getting up and going for a walk or exploring the rocks and seashore.
10.10 Bye bye blues.
At the end of out two-week holiday it was back on to the train and a last look at the sea as the train turned inland between Stevenston and Kilwinning. With a lump in my throat I bade farewell to the sea for another year. Perhaps this explains why, after living by the sea for twenty four years now, I still take every opportunity to look at the water or even drive along the seashore.
As I read back my description of a typical holiday I am laughing to myself at the simplicity of it! Money was tight and travel over long distances something that most people would not attempt in those days. Indeed a long distance probably included a trip to the coast for most people. For all of its simplicity we were more fortunate than a lot of people in that we actually had a holiday for two weeks. Even in my circle of friends at home and at school many never went further than the local park all year.
10.11 Mystery tours
Occasionally I would be treated to a mystery tour on a Sunday afternoon. These coach tours departed from Water Street, off Bank Street not far from the Fountain. Tickets were purchased from a newsagents shop on Bank Street and of course being a mystery tour you never knew where you would end up. They were usually about an hour or sos travel in each direction and so became predictable by the route they took out of Coatbridge. Callender, Largs, Helensburgh and Saltcoats were common destinations. Such tours, together with others going to advertised destination, were very popular and the bus terminus would be lined with busses on a Sunday afternoon. Departure times varied but were usually between 2 pm and 4 pm with about 1 hours to 2 hours being available to do your own thing at the other end. I cant remember whether they were run by Baxters or the SMT bus company.
10.12 Sunday School
A Sunday School took place in almost every Church, either while the Church service was in progress or in the afternoon. In the case of Albert Street Church it was, as mentioned elsewhere, run for the smaller, primary class children during the Church service but in the early afternoon for the older ones. Here you were taught about the bible, the church and Christianity each week. No lesson plans, structured teaching or yearly strategy then, just good people trying to teach children about their religion and good Christian values.
The two highlights of the year were the Christmas party and the annual Sunday School trip. The party was the traditional fun and games with the requisite visit from a certain gentleman in red. Food was a Purvey, that is food provided by an outside supplier, in this case usually City Bakers or Gillies the bakers. Breadboards of sausage rolls, sandwiches and cakes were carried round the children at the appropriate time in the proceedings. Drinks were usually small bottles of lemonade, Barrs Irn Bru or Tizer.
The Sunday School trip was held at the end of the Sunday School year, usually a Saturday in June, and involved a bus trip to some exotic location such as Strathaven, Linlithgow or Saltcoats. Again it was all fun and games with the customary three-legged race, egg and spoon race, sack race et al. Once again it was a purvey supplied via a local baker at the destination. This usually took the form of a paper bag containing a couple of sandwiches and a cake with the ubiquitous breadboard of hot Scotch pies appearing if things went to plan. Quite often an insulated container of ice cream and a box of wafer cones would appear from a local caf.
It was of course customary to bedeck every bus with streamers of coloured paper bought specially for the occasion. Every window that opened had coils of streamers thrown out as soon as the bus started to move towards the destination or on the homeward journey. Few parents came with the children and it was left to the teachers and helpers to take care of the assembled mass of excited children. Often two double-decker busses would leave Albert Street Church about 10.30 or 11 am packed with upwards of 50 children plus helpers in each.
Given the unreliability of the Scottish weather it was usual to have a local Church hall on standby as an alternative venue if the weather was too bad when you arrived at your destination. The program of games etc. didnt change but the little free time allowed became something of a drudge in such conditions as you were usually decanted from the hall to fend for yourself. Local cafes, Woolworths stores etc. passed the time and allowed the pocket money to be absorbed in to the community.
It was to be expected that someone would have a sore tummy, be sick, have a wee accident or miss their mummy in the course of the day but this was all taken in their stride by the teachers and helpers. And a tired bunch of children were returned to their parents around 9pm. Good days of simple fun for the children but still exhausting for the teachers and helpers. Sunday School took a holiday from then until about the beginning of September.
After a house. Most lower and middle-class housing was either council owned or was privately owned and rented out. As can be imagined (indeed it is still the same today) there were more prospective tenants than houses to accommodate them. Landlords were very fussy to whom they rented their properties and, in many cases, you had to be spoken for or accredited by an existing tenant of that landlord. Such was the shortage of good, economic housing that the merest suggestion of a house becoming available in a good property triggered an alert which spread like wildfire by word of mouth.
If you approached a landlord with a view to becoming one of his / her tenants it was then considered that you were after, or sought to rent, the house. A letter of reference would then be sought, from a friend or acquaintance who was already a tenant of that landlord, to attest your honesty, cleanliness and ability to pay the rent.
Frieze and Border Along with your rolls of wallpaper you purchased rolls of border. This was a strip of patterned, embossed paper about one and a half to two inches across. The border was used to cover the joint of the patterned wallpaper and the plain white "frieze" paper, which usually covered the space from the ceiling down some 15 to 18 inches. This idea may have been a carry over from the original wooden "Dado" rail or wooden profile that ran round Victorian rooms and from which picture frames could be hung. Most houses had this round the walls about 15 to 18 inches from the ceiling at one time. I can remember some of ours being removed by my father while he was decorating the room. The mark where it had been always showed through again.
Wallpaper came with a margin down each edge. This I assume was to allow an overlap but of course it had to be trimmed off one edge or it would have shown. This laborious task had to be done with scissors, a good eye for a straight line and a very steady hand or an uneven joint between sheets of paper resulted.
Wallpaper tended to be flat with a printed coloured pattern and it was a long time before embossed papers appeared. Oddly, embossed borders were common.
Wallpaper paste was made from a thin mix of size and water. Size was, I believe, a yeast based product and was used to seal plaster and other porous surfaces. Eventually, purpose made wallpaper pastes became available.
A Bookmaker. A Bookmaker, shortened to Bookie was originally a man who, despite the letter of the law, collected bets on various horse races, football pools coupons etc. for the general public who could not, or would not go to an authorised betting shop (Bookmakers or Turn Accountants as they later came to be called). In many cases their customers were men, sometimes women, who did not want to be seen betting. The Bookie would lurk in an alleyway, close or street corner where he could slip away easily if the local constabulary came to call. Usually a friend or acquaintance would keep watch for the price of a drink or a packet of cigarettes. Once he had amassed his customers bets the Bookie would go himself to a betting shop to lay off the bets he thought might win. In this way he spread his losses if any of the bets came up (he collected the winnings from the betting shop but paid out slightly less to his customer). He would hold the less favourable bets himself and, if they did not win, he pocketed the money and made a profit. If any of these bets did win, he was the looser. The art was of course knowing which bet was liable to win.
A Dyke. A dyke was a wall. Usually made of rough stone. This was usually topped with thin stones set up on edge or a Coping stone made of sandstone and cut in to a half circle, flat at the bottom and curved at the top across the width of the dyke. While a conventional dyke was held together with cement a Dry stane dyke, or dry stone dyke, was held together purely by the fit of the individual stones. This kind of construction was to be found all over the countryside using stone found locally and accumulated by farmers clearing it out of fields or from small quarries. The art of dry stane dyking is sadly being lost as farmers and estate owners tend to use post & wire fencing now.
Coory doon Snuggle down in to the bedclothes.
Pen, Pend or Close This was a tunnel-like access way built in to many long fronted buildings. It gave access to the area, or houses, behind the main road front structure. Mostly they were of two types, a narrow one about 2 metres wide, often with house doors leading from it, for pedestrian access and one of vehicular access size, albeit that most people did not have vehicles to go through them.
Skliffing Skliffing can best be described as akin to making a skating motion with the legs and feet but much more violently. Almost like trying to kick a stone but causing the sole of your shoe to scrape along the ground. Think of it as shoddy tap dancing!
Cossies Cossies were whinstone blocks used to make hard wearing roads. These came in different sizes but were mostly about 12 inches long by 4 inches square. They were notoriously slippy in wet or frosty weather.
Gutties Gutties were lightweight, lacing shoes made of canvas uppers and gutta-percha soles, hence the nickname of Gutties. They came in a range of coloursblack and white! Commonly used for tennis and badminton they were the forerunner of the modern day trainers.
Bread board A bread board was a wooden tray used in bakery delivery vehicles for carrying the produce. Made of plywood and approximately 5 feet long by 18 inches wide with 2 inch wooden side walls this device was quite common in the 50s. Delivery men used to carry them on their head when taking bread, cakes, pies and sausage rolls between their van and the bakers shop. Such a board would hold about 10 dozen cakes. In the instances referred to in this narrative they were synonymous with Purveys, food for an event delivered direct from the bakers. Thus cakes, sandwiches, pies, sausage rolls or the ubiquitous pokes of food were all delivered in an identical fashion and the appearance of the bread board signalled the cessation of all activities and an all out assault on the carrier of said bread board or the disburser of the food.
Poke. Poke was the local name for a paper bag of any size or colour. A poke of sweets could be a conical shaped bag some three inches high or a rectangular bag possibly up to six inches square. A poke of chips would be quite different. This would consist of a greaseproof bag about three inches high by six inches across, often with a serrated top edge, placed in either further greaseproof paper sheet and wrapped up in old newspaper or inside a regular white paper bag about eight inches square.
Measurements. It occurs to me that anyone who may read this may not be familiar with the old imperial measurements I have referred to. 1 (one inch) is equal to 25.4 millimetres. 1ft. (one foot) is equivalent to 12 and 3 feet made up 1 yd. (one yard). 1 metre is equivalent to 1 yard plus 3 inches.
2.2lbs (2.2 pounds) weight is equivalent to 1 kg. There were 16 oz (sixteen ounces) in 1lb. 1st. (one stone) is equivalent to 14lb.
Dedicated to Nan and Bert without whom none of this could have been experienced.