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Memories of Garrowhill

More Memories of my Garrowhill Childhood
 Alistair Stevenson

I joined the Garrowhill Junior Tennis Club in 1948, for12/6d. They were well kept courts, adjacent to the swings and the bowling club. After each game we had to smooth the surface by dragging a wide heavy canvas blanket over the playing area .The courts were well patronised every summer evening. They were also a venue for all the teenagers to meet in the summer evenings, while leaning on their bikes, supposedly watching the adults play their competitions.

During the tennis off-season the teenagers met at the swings. Garrowhill Park in those days was an unkempt piece of ground that the youngsters used for football, headers, skid- kids on bikes and in summer cricket and rounders. In winter, during a welcome snowfall, the sledges came out in droves and the hill, from the church to Maxwell Avenue was alive with children, laughing and breathing out the misty cold air.

The lanes that ran parallel to the main streets were ideal for the young boys to wander at night and jump fences to pinch apples and pears and they sometimes managed to find a glasshouse with tomatoes. These lanes are now overgrown and are no longer in use. That's probably a good thing!

Garrowhill House at the top of the hill was used for providing hot lunches for the school (although in those days, we called them school dinners). Whale meat and black spotted spuds, with cabbage and gravy was the order of the day, followed by a brown bit of dumpling an' custard. Sometimes we had semolina an' tapioca.
The house was also used as a library, where I borrowed my first novel, The Bully of Boiling Creek. There was a beautifully crafted stairwell to the top floor but with terrible musty smelling wallpaper, peeling off at the joints in every room.

Garrowhill House had a caretaker's cottage in those days. The son was called Garry and how I remember him, my hero. He had built a tree house way up high in the beech tree, near his cottage, and with great caution, I followed him up the trunk where, like Tarzan, we could see for ever, right over to the Campsie Fells.

While Saturday afternoon at the pictures may have been the favourite for the Garrowhill children, there was also the Odeon Club in Shettleston where, for fourpence (4d =2p) and tuppence (2d =1p) for tram fares, we could enjoy all the cowboy serials that Hollywood ever made: Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Gabby Hayes and the list went on .We sang the hit songs of the day following a bouncing ping pong ball, waiting impatiently for the serials to begin, whistling and jeering at the projectionist to get a move on.

The State picture theatre in Shettleston provided us with more sophisticated films, costing us tenpence (10d = 4p) for the back stalls. There we could watch the Bud Abbott and Lou Costello films and sometimes horror movies like Frankenstein and the Wolfman (we were utterly fascinated watching Lon Chaney turning into a wolfman, hair by hair and tooth by tooth).These were under sixteen not admitted movies but on Saturday afternoon there was no one over fourteen!  Many of us were smoking cinnamon sticks. Isn't it great: you went to the pictures at night and all the adults were smoking ther heads off. It was terrible and a wunner we are no all deid wi' lung cancer fae all that passive smokin'!.

We had other favourites like Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead, Old Mother Reilly, The East End Kids (or the Bowery Boys as they were later known), and the best film I ever saw The Thief of Baghdad, with Sabu, at the Palaceum.

If we wanted to see a special picture at the State and we had run out of pocket money, we had to resort to collecting our fathers' beer bottles and returning them to the Durtocher Bar. Sometimes we even collected empty jam jars and returned them to the local shops.

Christmas time in Scotland was great. While we had few presents, things did improve after the war.

We had Sunday School parties, where we could kiss the girls, playing such games as Be Bop Babbitty, The Grand Old Duke of Yorkand eat loads of ice cream into the bargain.

People throughout the world seem to believe that Scots do not celebrate Christmas. This may have been true, to a degree in the days of long ago but I remember that we a children did not miss out on presents, even if our fathers had to work on Christmas day.

The Odeon, Shettleston, circa 1955
A Saturday Morning

My grandaughter, aged fourteen was asked by the teacher to write a story about one of her grandparents' Christmas, when they were young. She chose Scotland because the teacher had told the class that the Scots chose to celebrate New Year and not Christmas. Well of course I put her right on that one. Sure my father worked on that day; it was not a public holiday but we kids still had presents and a Santa Claus.

I told her all about New Year and shortbread and ginger wine and firstfooting and lumps of coal and dark haired men, but the story she liked best of all, was when I was seven:

It was 1943 and my father worked at the Roll Royce factory. One day, not that long before Christmas, he brought home some material from work and he told me we were going to make some toys for the son of one of his pals at work. Toys were not to be had in 1943. This was a great idea.

So, from an Andrew's Liver Salt can and a used thread bobbin, for a funnel, he made a toy steam engine. I helped with the painting and sand papering. It looked marvellous. I was envious of this wee boy but my father told me not to worry because his friend was making something for me in return. It was to be a surprise.  Well he also made a tommy gun and using a spring steel strip and a wee wooden ratchet he was able to make the gun go Rattity Rattity Tat. Absolutely fantastic. What a lucky boy, this son of my father's friend. 

When Christmas morning came I had the usual jig saw puzzle, a painting book, a cowboy set, a bag of sweets in my stocking and in my pillow case, next to my bed, I found a beautiful steam engine AND a tommy gun. Yep, that's right, I had helped make my own Christmas present!!

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