Childhood memories of the 1940s

A little while after the war, I must have been 5 or 6 I suppose, my uncle Alf said I was old enough to have a bike –  and a new one at that!  He had got all his back pay from the navy, or he had flogged a load of lead pipe down the scrap yard, as he was working as a plumber by then.

Grown ups know best?

Anyway, we went down somewhere near St James’ Street, and he said I could pick which one I liked and then Santa would bring it on the day. Seemed a bit daft to me as it was sitting in the shop and by the time it got to Santa’s and then come all the way back to Sussex Terrace it would probably be rusty. But grown ups know best and the bike was to be a secret?

The big day came
Christmas was very long in coming that year and I thought I would be a teenager before I got it!  But the big day eventually arrived. Out I went into the street about half past four !!! in the morning or so. All the other kids were out as well, and I was the only one who had a bike. After all the ” We didn’t want one” comments from the other kids  I set off.  I went about 3 feet and fell off. After about an hour I was getting quite good, but just as I got back outside my house the pedal fell off.  As the parts for bikes were not available because of the shortage of metal after the war, I never rode it again.

Very special presents
Looking in the house, I found a pillow case with my name on it so I looked inside. My mum had got a new potato sack from Charlie Payne’s greengrocers and coal merchants across the road.  She had decorated it with some green blanket material.  She had also put fringeing on a cowboy outfit she had made out of the sacking, plus an old hat with a feather on the side. Just to make it really special, my uncle Alf had made a pistol out of wood.

Like ‘Cock of the North’
Well out I went for the second time to see the kids. I’m not saying they were jealous, but after most of the boys said “We didn’t want one anyway” again, I felt like ‘The Cock of the North’. After a time most of the kids let me play with them, as long as they had a go with the hat or the gun.  Then the girls turned up, and we had to let them play as well.  A little girl called Joybell Smith from three doors up came over and said to me “Let me see the jacket” and promptly blew her nose on it.  I was so upset I went home and I never wore the cowboy suit again. I think that’s why I remember that Christmas above all the others!

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