A revisit

In 1967, Helen and I had made our first trip back to England, four years after I had left. On one particular day I remember, Helen and Coral had decided to take the bus to Redcar High Street, so I drove into Middlesbrough to check out my old haunts. I found my way to the new carpark in the street next to the old pseudo-gothic town hall. At least that looked pretty much as I remembered, except that the hundred years of steelworks grime and smokestack soot had been removed to reveal the original sandstone beneath.

It was surprising how much the old town had changed after four years and yet it still had the same comfortable feel of familiarity. I had a feeling of belonging and at the same time feeling like an outsider, like a visitor, which of course I was.

We had only been ‘back home’ for a few a short weeks, but I was keen to check out my old haunts and landmarks. I found myself walking down Linthorpe Road heading towards Middlesbrough Station. Automatically I turned right into Wilson Street, where as young teenagers, Tommy and I bought our model balsa wood planes that we attempted to fly at Pallister Park. Of course, the model shop had long since gone, probably even before I left.

The Astoria was still there though, now a Bingo Hall. The sounds of Buddy Holly and Connie Francis echoed from the past.

At the end of Wilson Street, past The Grand, where, on Friday nights, Gordon, Mala and I went upstairs for games of snooker as 18-year-olds, is the Royal Exchange and the main bus terminus of the town.

It brought back memories from when i was about 14 of an incident involving my uncle Bruce, dad’s sister Doris’ husband.

He was a truck driver. One Saturday night after the pubs had chucked out, he was at the terminus on the  the rowdy ‘drunk’s bus’ (the last trip of the night) waiting for the driver and conductor to turn up. Sick of waiting, he jumped into the cab, put the bus into gear and drove everyone home. He left the bus neatly parked at the bus stop at the Park End terminus. Someone dobbed him in but I’ve no idea what happened to him.

Little Eva – ‘Loco-motion’  1960
You gotta swing your hips now
Come on baby, jump up, jump back
Well, I think you got the knack!



Turning left at the Exchange, I strolled under the railway bridge toward the old town. This area was always ominously referred to as ‘over the border’ when we were kids. Now with most of the old terraces gone, along with the notorious Cannon Street, it had an air of respectability and was quaintly called St Hilda’s.

On the river side of the railway line was the original town hall and market square, adjacent to St Hilda’s Parish Church. Past the Mercantile offices I caught glimpses of the top of the Transporter Bridge over the rooftops.

Rounding the last corner, the whole bridge came into view, now a smart blue instead of the dull green that I remembered. You only know that you are really home when you stand under the massive pylons of The Bridge. After taking a few photos I retraced my steps and headed back towards the carpark.

Looking up at the Mercantile Building I remembered  experiencing an awkward encounter.

Next  Ronnie

Previous: Coral and Gordon