the Wetherby Photographic Archive & Nostalgia Experience The memories of former Wetherbyite Tim Midgley
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In my diary I made observations of the following flighted friends which appeared in the warmer months: raven, gold finch, thrush, cuckoo, lapwing, great tit, Jackdaw, swallow, magpie, sparrow, starling, wren, and in the local streams, kingfishers. I do not recall seeing too many mammals except for that scourge, the rabbit on rough ground outside the town.

One sight that dismayed us as children was that ravens were piling up at a rapid rate near a large dead oak tree. We could only surmise that they had been killed by poison. This type of scenario was later to be described in other parts of the world in Silent Spring [Rachel Carson]. Needless to say we buried each one with a Christian cross, not that we were ever aware that they attended church.

Sunday April 3rd 1955 the school attended St. James's Church and we were presented with a piece of Palm. I must have been suitably impressed to mention this in my diary, we were rarely given anything by anyone other than our parents - Sunday April 10th we were given lots of Easter eggs by Mum and Dad!

>>Cub Scouts:

The cub pack met every Monday e.g. 7th Dec 1955, down a narrow lane, Scott Lane, in a large upstairs room. Nearby there was a craft shop and a hardware store where 'Wolf' electric hand drills were sold - an innovation of the 1950's. In summer we often waited in the lane for the leaders to arrive and had time to browse the shop windows.

Getting to the cub house on a winter's night from Ceres M.Q. was very scary, particularly when the wind was blowing through the large sycamore trees in the churchyard. The huge iron gates at either end had to be creaked open and clanked shut, then run like the blazes, past the headstones and church, looking for some imaginary character from Great Expectations to jump out and throttle me. When the gate near the school was reached on Church Street, a sigh of relief, out of the gate and seemingly safe.

By Mon 26th September 1955 I had, to my great pride been made a sixer and was given my stripes. In our small world this was recognition at last. Mr. Oddy [Akela] was the cub-master. He had his helper Ba-loo, whose real name we never knew. She seemed to be very fond of a tall scoutmaster with a ruddy complexion.

>>Cub Master, Mr Oddy

Mr. Oddy was a kindly, craggy man with a very old English surname. With him I had learned to tie a reef knot, this would be the first of many types of knot that I would find useful throughout my life. I had earlier been invested as a 'tenderpad' [aged 8] then promoted to seconder and later a patrol leader. A one star cub with first aid and housekeeping badges - We learned these skills in a St. James classroom situated near Mr. Oddy's house. We memorised flag semaphore. I cannot say I have found this specific skill useful but at least we had fun trying to decipher each other's messages and it probably helped to knit some brain neurones somewhere. In the 1960's I discovered that the familiar symbol for Nuclear Disarmament [the 'chicken footprint' which many now call 'the peace sign'] was based upon the flag semaphore letters N and D.

We had outings on the back of open trucks [which seems daring by today's safety conscious standards] to Wetherby Grange Park for a day of races with other cub packs. Egg and spoon, wheel-barrow and three-legged races were popular. We laughed so much when we all collapsed in the wheel-barrow races and crawled to the finish line. We would never make the Olympics. Another outing was, to what I think was Bardsey but it could have been Brimham Rocks, an eerie place of odd shaped boulders the shapes that ostensibly inspired the famous sculptor Henry Moore of Harrogate to develop his style. Another was to a deep limestone gorge but I am not sure where it was, could have been the Malham Cove area. When I left Wetherby in 1956 Mr. Oddy said I would return 'as brown as a berry'. My father had been transferred from Wetherby to a NATO establishment in Naples, Italy, the cub master was not wrong, but the cultural change was much more long lasting than a suntan. This regular movement by service personnel was a boon to some children and the bane of their life to others. It meant making new friends wherever they went and sadly some did not fare well, educationally or spiritually. It is a hidden downside of service life.

Thursday 15th December I made a hobby-horse for my brother Stephen who was only 10 months old, perhaps he would grow into it. There wasn't a lot of money around for buying presents.

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Royal Visit

>>St. James C. of E. Primary School:

One highlight was seeing Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke who drove north in 1954. The whole school was made to line North Street, which we all called 'The Great North Road' outside the Church gates, madly waving little union flags. The opulence of the Rolls-Royces, as they drove slowly, the pale yellow dress of the Queen and the way the car interior was lit gave a suitable aura of regal stateliness to the occasion, which the organisers had no doubt laboured over to get the right effect. In this era the Queen was in the age of her full radiance and could do no wrong, a coup for the popularity of the Battenberg family. Somehow it was all tied up with the old notion of the rights of kings and queens and their link to the holy radiance of Christ.

This opulence was offset by the reality that on the opposite side of North Street was a huge piece of land given over to pig farming. This farm lay between the M.Q. and North Street opposite St. James' Street intersection.

School writing was done with pencils. Steel pen and ink came later with secondary school that continued until at least 1959 when ball-pens made their general appearance in schools. Besides the classrooms along Church Street there were additional rooms on the main street almost opposite the M.Q. gates and another near a bend on Barleyfields Road. This second classroom was reached by the class walking from the main buildings, on Church Street, along a path between the church and what was a council depot that housed road-making equipment. This depot had wondrous fiery machines like steam and diesel driven road rollers, tar-spraying equipment etc. that fired the imaginations of our future engineers. The class then crossed St. James Road to where a narrow alley way ran from Stead's the cobbler's to Barleyfields Road. I think Mr. Oddy the cub master lived on this road as I once saw his name on a gatepost to a house here. Miss Hodgson the year III teacher lived on Northfield Place, a large Victorian terrace house overlooking the railway viaduct, I think I visited for tea once with my mother in the large front room. Miss Hodgson seemed to be very community-minded and I think knew Mr. Oddy well, for there was also a Mrs. Oddy working at St. James's School at some period.

In year II, because I was tall for my age, I was made the Christmas tree in the school Christmas play. From this I think I subliminally absorbed a respect for large trees that I now respect and protect on land where I live in Australia. From small seeds grow giant oaks, but in my case eucalyptus. Our class II teacher was Miss Pullen in 1954. All the boys I am sure were in love with her, but she broke our hearts when she left to get married and was replaced with the much older but no less capable teacher, Miss Hodgson.

School class photographs were taken in the walled playground in class II and on the grassy area by the demountable buildings in class III. Sadly I don't think the family budget spread to the purchase of a class photograph in either year.

On Friday 30th December Dad returned to Rainham, Kent to clean out his house after renters had left a mess. This was one of the problems of being a naval itinerant, who had to move to a new station every three years.

Rodney Cinema, Wetherby

Saturday 31st December is a noted diary insertion, for we visited the Wetherby Cinema in the afternoon, 'the pictures'. In the AM we had played cowboys and then read some books so were pretty much ready for some real gun-slinging. Here we would see Roy Rodgers and other cowboy films including 'Davy Crockett' whilst our parents were watching the like of 'Seven Brides For Seven Brothers' and 'Rob Roy'. Davy Crockett's raccoon-skin style hats became an early mass marketing ploy, which was repeated with yo-yos. But you could have much more fun with non-merchandise toys, like the sycamore seeds in the St. James' playground, conkers too, of course.

If the children were too noisy at the matinee the lights would go on and the manager would come to the front and remonstrate. Mantovani would summon his orchestra whilst there were ice-cream ladies who moved effortlessly to the front selling Kia-Ora a Californian orange drink and other intoxicating concoctions. We didn't realise it at the time but we were being saturated with post WWII crass American ideology, sell, sell, sell, which continues unabated today.

TV and Radio

Every house had a radio but there were very few televisions in houses in the early to mid 1950's. On the radio was the Saturday morning, hour long, Children's Favourites, a medley of songs which were requested over and over again until the grooves in the records must have collapsed. In the evening we would listen to "Dick Barton, Special Agent", a forerunner of the James Bond persona and later imitators, but with studio sound effects.

TV was coming into the picture. The Lone Ranger and his side kick Tonto, Muffin the Mule hosted by Annette Mills, sister of (Sir) John Mills, Bill and Ben, Sooty and Sweep with Harry Corbett, God Bless him.
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