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Childhood memories of 1940/50s

Entrance to the Open Market c1950s
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Regency Society and The James Gray Collection

A ramshackle place

When I was a kid in the 1940s and 1950s, my father had a stall in the Open Market doing engraving and selling handmade jewellery, which I also made myself. In the early days the market was a ramshackle place with tin roofs and sides made up of tin and anything you could get hold of to keep the cold out. My dad had his stall next to the Mitchell brother’s wet fish stall. My dad did not need the whole of his stall so the rear part was used by the Mitchell Bros for their empty fish boxes. In return my dad got free fish every Friday.

Tea to warm us up

The winters were cold in the market. All we had was a black Valor paraffin heater which doubled as a teapot warmer. We got our pot of tea from a little cafe in Francis Street, opposite the market’s side entrance. I remember Arthur Dawkins the blacksmith; he had a temper sometimes but was good with the horses. I often went to the cafe and got his half pint of tea for him, and in return got two pennies for my trouble. My dad knew a man from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) that got tea sent from his brother in Ceylon in big red packets. He would swap some of this tea and some Bantams eggs for some jewellery. We loved this man, the sun seemed to shine from his very eyes, and he was a kind man.

Remembering Maurice Raff

There was a camaraderie in the old market which seemed to disappear when the new market was erected. The stallholders were moved around and were next to different people, and it took a little while to get used to your new neighbours even though you knew them. My dad not needing a large stall shared his new stall with Maurice Raff the blindman who has been mentioned on this site. Maury, as we called him, was a nice man that had eyes in his ears. He knew exactly what was going on around his stall and knew when somebody picked something up and would say “Can I help you?” just to let them know he was there. He always wore dark glasses. Nice man.

Happy Saturday mornings

On a Saturday morning us kids would spend some of our pocket money on broken biscuits from a stall in the market. Because our dad had a stall, we got extra big helpings of anything we bought in the market, that was how it was then. We would stroll along London Road, in and out of the shops just looking. Then we would go over to The Level to play on the swings and roundabouts. In the afternoon we would be off to the Duke of York’s cinema in Preston Circus with most of our broken biscuits saved for the occasion. Then back to the stall to clear up and go home on a number 44 trolley bus to where we lived in Bennett Road.

Times have changed

We had nothing in those days compared to what the kids have now, but we were happy. But then the kids of today have missed out on what we had, the freedom and I suppose today everything is handed over on demand. When we were kids we had to wait for Christmas for our surprises, and we were happy as they say, playing with the boxes. Times certainly have changed.

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