the Wetherby Photographic Archive & Nostalgia Experience The memories of former Wetherbyite Tim Midgley
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The Memories of Tim Midgley

>>A Diary...

In 1955 I was given a Lett's Boy Scout Diary as a birthday present by my aunt which contained a wealth of information that every child should have. I began to make cursory but periodic notes, some of which I have included here. The rest is memory recall.

The Author in the 50's5th Feb 1955, nine years old. Post war recovery Britain. Ration books were still required to do grocery shopping. I often did errands to the grocery shop next door to the jeweller's on the main road through Wetherby which we knew as the "Great North Road" near the junction of St. James Street. Incidentally, rationing saw a correlation with the reduction of diabetes. After rationing ceased, diabetes showed an increase, which continues today. In the event diabetes type 2 endangers the western world, perhaps fat and sugar rationing should be reintroduced!

As children aged 8-9 years, one of our favourite pastimes was making 'dens' and tents, we were reading "Famous Five" books and Beano comics although our teacher, Miss Hodgson, did not approve of the latter. I remember trying to convince her, not very successfully, how it helped me to read. I still think it did, although at a low level, but this encouraged many a reluctant reader to at least start.

One afternoon Miss Hodgson decided to have us engage in a listening exercise. This consisted of two participants at a time wearing blindfolds and brandishing rolled-up newspapers. Each person had to listen quietly for the other and when they thought they had found them, wallop them with the newspaper. As a participant, I thought I heard my combatant off to the right and began laying into them for all I was worth, the class was roaring, and when I finally had beaten my opponent to the ground, removed my blind-fold to find Miss Hodgson arms raised trying to shield herself in the corner. To her credit she never made a sound and took it all in good humour, the children really enjoyed that one. After that we all thought Miss Hodgson was a good brick.

>>HMS Ceres

In 1954 we were to be found residing on the HMS Ceres naval establishment Married Quarters (No. 5 M.Q. now replaced by a school, I believe). Around the M.Q. was a high fence that separated it from the WRENS and Writers classrooms that were housed in similar buildings to those we were living in. The uniformed trainees could often be seen marching to and from class. Here they learned typing, pay office and purser duties as well as stores management. Everything had to be accounted for to the last penny. If the sheets did not balance, no one got to slip between the sheets that night.

The older houses in the M.Q. were constructed of brick, they were single storey and roofed with sheets of wartime tarry fabric. We enjoyed burning bits of this tarry fabric but it often spattered and branded us with blisters which no doubt we all still carry, a tangible legacy of Wetherby. Even the bricks of these buildings were visible from the inside, painted in a heavy beige naval coat, probably left over from naval surplus. The walls were very cold in winter but kept the dwellings cool in summer. Each unit had an enclosed coke burning fireplace, with mica windows. I was fascinated by the way the mica mineral split into sheets and probably started an interest in geology that was to take me to Australia and the mineral boom in the 1970's.

Our old wartime dwellings were also centrally heated by a furnace at the corner of each row of houses. In winter, if we dared, we would climb down a six-foot iron ladder into the bowels of the furnace room, daring stuff, we were in fear of the stoker. The heat was intense, fired by coke and visited by the stoker every four hours, he travelled to each furnace on an old bicycle, we made sure we were scarce when he was on his rounds.

In 1956 newer M.Q. houses were erected to the North East these were double storey and looked like palaces to us. The fence between the older and newer section of the M.Q. was torn down and a new world opened up, with new friends moving in - Ceres must have been expanding.

>>Important Numbers

From my first diary in 1955:
Emergency addresses:

A hairdresser had a shop in The Square. He told me I needed a new hair product called 'Tax' to hold down my hair that was forever sticking up. I told Mum I needed some 'tax' for my hair and of course she laughed as she knew he meant 'tacks', ouch.

>>The library

was a common place to visit for Enid Blyton books. It sat beside the A661 going out of the town square, next to a wood-yard. There was a middle-aged lady librarian with a hearing aid who was always telling us boys to be quiet. I think I understood her to be the husband of a school principal but I might be mistaken. This was when libraries were supposed to be silent places. In her book, I calculated, boys were not to be trusted. I wondered why she had a hearing aid, I supposed it was so she could detect the smallest mouse-like sound and reprimand us boys, I began to understand the frustrations of Richmal Crompton's William Brown, condemned before trial. Richmal, of course, was a woman (I was to learn much later).
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