General election 1952

There was an air of excitement as the kids arrived with old stockings, tennis balls and wads of paper.

“Stuff the paper and ball into the stockin’ and tie a knot to keep it tight,” instructed one of the older boys.

The men had already assembled in the middle of Charles Street and handed out various placards. ‘VOTE MARQUAND’ proclaimed the signs. The young lads lined up at the rear of the procession, swinging their ‘weapons’. They could be useful if the group was confronted by a Tory march coming from the opposite direction. Discussions often became quite heated and ended with placards and posters being torn down. North Ormesby was in the ward of Middlesbrough East. Welshman, Hilary Marquand, was the sitting Socialist member. As the march took off the kids began to sing:

Vote! Vote! Vote! for Hilary Marquand
When he comes knocking on your door
We’ll fight with all our might
Get the Tories in a fright
And they won’t come knocking anymore

As eleven year-olds, Cliffy Williams and I had the job of sitting outside the polling booth at Derwent Street School to help with ‘number catching’ – asking the voters who they were going to vote for. Most people were happy to oblige. We then took turns to run the figures to the Socialist Party office where Cliffy’s dad was a delegate at the local branch. This was the method used to estimate how the vote was going.

Uncle Jimmy had a large house in Kings Road. Each election time their front room was rented out to the Tory Party and their front window plastered with blue and white photos of the Tory candidate. I thought he was a traitor, but Uncle Jimmy always voted Labour or Socialist, and was happy to take good money from the opposition.

King George 6th died on Wednesday 6th February 1952. It didn’t mean much to a lad of ten, but I was very impressed by the black and purple crepe paper ‘decorations’ that festooned the window of the Spencely Sisters’ haberdashery shop on Trinity Terrace.

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