The Market 1953

In winter, the stall tilley lamps hissed in the half-light and the air was full of the smell of cabbage leaves and apples. To feed the assortment of rabbits that Grandad kept on his allotment, Tommy and I were often given the task of collecting the discarded cabbage and cauliflower leaves heaped behind the stalls, loading them into his homemade barrow, then wheeling it to his allotment. We loved doing it and expected no reward for our efforts, but were often handed a sixpence each.

Coral, Tommy and Ray – 1952

Clifford, the eldest son of the Williams family next door, was the same age as me and in the same class at school. When we were about 12, we embarked on a business venture together at the local market.

“Mister, have you any jobs?” we inquired.

The farmer from Guisborough looked up and pointed to a pile of celery in a wooden crate next to his hand cart.

“Thee c’n clean t’ mud off them celery sticks if yer like. Thez a bucket uv watter there and a scrubbin’ brush. Put celery int’ watter and use t’ brush. Ah’l give thee both a tanner each.”

We tentatively dipped the celery into the water and proceeded to scrub. The ground was still white with frost in the shadows and the water was icy cold. The old fellow from the stall next door watched for a while then commented with a grin: “Where thez muck thez money!”

“Aye,” was the economical response.

Our hands were soon blue and numb. While the farmer was serving, we quietly dropped the brush in the water and left. We had lasted less than 30 minutes.

I told Mam what the stall-keeper had said.

“Cheeky bugger” was Mam’s reply.

The market in winter

Lesley Hurst, a school friend of mine, composed the following ditty to the strains of ‘Galway Bay’

If you ever go across the Tees to Stockton
Maybe at the close of Market Day
You can sit up on the ‘O’ bus1eating winkles2
And watch the gadgies3 put the stalls away

Les was a real smoothie with the girls and was sweet on my cousin Pauline. He had dark wavy hair, plastered with Brylcreem which he combed incessantly into a Bill Haley ‘kiss curl’. Pauline was too shrewd to take any notice of his sweet talk.

The market in summer – The Albion pub, top centre

There was a large removal van that came to the market now and again, selling old wares.

Coral recalls        “When the rear doors were opened, the inside looked like Aladdin’s Cave. The charismatic salesman in his spivvy attire could arrange a full half tea set along his arm. Thumping his cane on a plywood tea chest, he loudly described each bargain. He practically gave treasures away, ranging from gaudy gilt mirrors to twenty-piece dinner sets. When Dad was well enough to work, or when he earned extra from handling difficult cargo, Mam could go to the market and buy a new tea set to replace our odd assortment of cracked cups and saucers”.

Market Day – Mam, Aunty Edie, Aunty Freda and the grandkids

Each market day the Turner clan usually met at Gran’s. The place always seemed crowded with adults and kids. Grandad Jim made a makeshift highchair for one of the smaller children by turning a stool upside down on a kitchen chair. The stool rails substituted as a safety rail around the occupant. There seemed to be endless cups of tea and oven-warm teacakes. Dunger’s the baker was across the street from Gran’s house. Their teacakes were a special treat.

Next: The ticket man

Previous: 2014 – Market day

  1. Double decker bus that ran from Stockton to the terminus at the North Ormesby Market Place.
  2. Small sea snail that can be eaten
  3. Old man with limited authority – Night watchman or any old man unknown to you