Continuing memories of Bootle in the 40's
Our swimming pool was the nearby Liverpool-Leeds canal with its vertical block-sandstone sides reaching from the water to the tow-path. The filthy sea-water was covered with multi-coloured patterns of oil from exhausts of barges chugging slowly by.
The sun never seemed to shine but this, together with the occasional floating dead dog, bug-infested railway sleepers, and makeshift rafts put together and manned by rival gangs, did not deter our skinny-dipping . Underwater dangers from old prams, bikes and occasional stolen motorbikes were ignored. There were rumours that there were fish in ‘the cut’ out at Ford but it was too far and too expensive to go and find out. Anyway, we got our fish from Kitty’s chip shop on the corner and it was already cooked.
Strangely enough none of us kids ever seemed to fall ill. Not from swimming in ‘the cut’ and not from eating Kitty’s fish.
After swimming we would gather any wood we could find including opponents
makeshift rafts, soggy railway sleepers (bugs and all), wooden outside ‘lavvy’ doors
from local houses (always in danger of ‘vanishing’ as they were easily lifted off the
hinges) and virtually anything remotely combustible and available. A smoking fire
would soon be kindled on the tow-path.
When it was blazing, the shivering, budding Olympic swimmers, 7 to 14 years of age,
including bony-chested, wet, tatty-haired girls and oily, snotty-nosed boys would climb
from the water and gather together as close as possible to the heat. The lads needed only
small hands to completely cover their diminished manhood as they huddled around the
blaze. Some of the girls, displaying modesty not apparent when their small bodies were
hidden in the dirty water, crossed their arms over what could hardly be described as
breasts. Occasionally, some of the posh kids might produce a dirty, frayed ‘towel’ and
rub down before passing it to other less wealthy pals.
The almost audible knocking of knees would gradually stop as the heat from the fire
warmed us. Seemingly healthy smells of burning pitch-pine, bubbling paint and melting
rubber from tyres, purloined from the nearby scrap-yard, would fill our nostrils.
This cowering group could be split early by an angry parent suddenly appearing and
battering their off-spring as he was held by the ear. The offender would be marched off
squealing loudly, hopping as he tried to get a leg into his pants. “Don’t crack me, ma.
Don’t crack me again. Honest. I won’t come down again”. But we all knew he would
be back tomorrow.
So did his ma.
If a copper was seen approaching the gang would quickly snatch their clothing from the tow path floor and scatter in all directions.
We had never heard of a golf course and didn’t have green grass either, but we did manage to concoct a cricket pitch on the stone-flagged pavement in the street, The stumps were the base of the lone lamp-post having a convenient single-ring pattern at the ideal height of the bails. The bowling crease was a break on the stone-flagged
surface, ideally a regulation twenty-two yards away. The bat was a plank of wood with a
handle chopped out and the ball was an old and balding, once-proud tennis ball, that
hadn’t felt the tight gut of a racket in years.
If the lamp was lit we could enjoy floodlit sport well into the night but eventually the special family whistles or shouts from parents like “Charleeee . Gerrin 'ere. A’ve told youse once and won’t tell yer again”
would send players home, one at a time, till everyone had gone and the game was over. It
was bed-time, the street was quiet and the lone gas lamp flickered on into the night.
I have enjoyed my memories of my childhood and have become a little melancholy as I
think of my pals of those times.
I reflect and wonder how our lives have changed so much but realise that those long, fun
days were seen through my eyes as a child and I was as happy and as sad then as I am
now. Age and experience have taught me that there are always things to strive for
in life. I believe that to continue to strive keeps one young.
Since writing this story we have left Florida and found other, different
wonderful places. Our decision to progress from that phase of our life is no different
to leaving my childhood paradise of Bootle, which I saw as an inexperienced 7-year
old, At 83, I am lucky to be seeing new places, learning new things and meeting even more, fine friends.
Some of my very best friends have remained in Bootle and are happy with that, others are
scattered around all corners of the world where they have made new lives and done new
things. Sadly, the majority who managed to survive the Blitz have passed on anyway.
I believe ‘happy’ is the biggest word in the dictionary as all good things follow, whoever,
whatever and wherever one may be.
But we don’t forget that we all have one thing in common that will never change.
We are Bootle Bucks and so proud of it.
I had a wonderful childhood.
Thanks Bootle History for helping bring back these memories, sad or otherwise.