Special events


Close to November 5th (Bonfire Night) the street gang began collecting anything that was combustible. Dead trees from the plantation, old sofas, empty fruit boxes and even car tyres were acquired. The items were stored in various back yards until the bonfire was assembled. Rival gangs often raided each other’s rubbish and many fights developed trying to protect their respective treasures.

Gangs lucky enough to live near a common could set up their bonfires safely away from property. In North Ormesby, kids were not so fortunate and had to assemble our bonfire, complete with Guy Fawkes, in the middle of the road. As the fire became fiercer door paint blistered and windows cracked from the heat. Inevitably the fire brigade would arrive to spoil the fun and render the area safe. There were no laws  regarding the sale of fireworks so, consequently there were many reports of related injuries.


I had been told that there would be a ‘money scramble’ at The Crown, the hotel on the corner of Pierson Street, where there was a swanky wedding reception. I had no idea what that was but everyone was excited, so I joined the crowd.

Adults lined the pavement and the kids stood in the middle of the street gazing up at the first-floor window. The large centre window sash was thrown up to reveal the bride and groom. They waved and everyone cheered.

The groom produced a calico bag, took out fistfuls of coins and threw them into the crowd of children below. The kids scrambled for the prized copper and silver coins as the onlookers clapped enthusiastically. I ran home with a shiny silver sixpence.


On cold nights, when the sea mist and heavy dew had left a thick coating of hoar frost on the ground, Tommy and I donned balaclavas, coats and gloves and headed for the market square. Other children were already there preparing the slides.

By rubbing the white frost with our feet, it quickly transformed into black ice. This was repeated in a long line to make a glassy slide. Often these slides were 6 metres long and about 40cms wide. If the slide wore thin, water was added to thicken the ice. The kids formed a line and, after a brief run up, careered to the end, often ending in a huge pile-up of young bodies.


On Sunday 3rd June, Eddy Watkinson and I cycled to Teesport to see the Royal Yatch Britannia awaiting the arrival of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh who were on their way to visit Scandinavia.  On Monday 4th they visited the ICI chemical plant to see the new Terylene Plant and also the Dorman and Long steel works. The route took the motorcade along the Trunk Road.

The whole school population was marched to the road, given a small union jack and lined up along the curb. We waited in excited anticipation for the procession to pass. Mr. Sykes stood in the road to see when they were coming.                                                            “Here they come, everyone start waving!” he called out.                     We all started to wave furiously. Five black cars passed, travelling about the speed limit. I glimpsed a white gloved hand at the window of the middle car and then they were gone.

The flags were collected and we were marched back to school. My one and only encounter with the royal family was over.

Pat Boone – ‘Ain’t That a Shame’  1956
You broke my heart
When you said we’ll part
Ain’t that a shame?
My tears fell like rain
Ain’t that a shame?
You’re the one to blame

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