Uncle Ronnie

Tommy first started work at 15 with a local plumber. Early on in the job he was using a handcart to move some rubble and plumbing debris. Unfortunately, he loaded the two wheeled cart unevenly and the cart tipped up in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in town near Linthorpe Road. Old toilets, broken tiles and bricks blocked the road. When he arrived home, he related the event and told us that the only person to stop and help him reload was a middle-aged lady out shopping! Thankfully, shortly after that he started a carpentry and joinery apprenticeship with the firm that Uncle Ronnie worked for.

Uncle Ronnie Wing was a spiritualist. He told us wide-eyed kids many stories of ectoplasm pouring from the nose and ears of people in trances and other such strange happenings. He switched ‘churches’ a number of times and all of the five Wing kids went to his Sunday School at the Gospel Hall on Marton Road. For many years we went along too, singing along with the bible verses. Often a visiting seaman (and once a sea captain) came off a ship to talk to us. One sailor taught us a religious song in Arabic!

Instead of getting the bus home we walked (to save the penny bus fare) from the town to the end of our street, where we either bought a glass of cordial from the John Smith ‘off licence’ or put the penny in the slot of the Wrigley’s machine for a packet of chewy. Every 5th penny dropped an extra packet!

The Wings then took the ‘G’ bus home to Thorntree with the remainder of their fare.

Talking about religion, I am reminded of the time Billy Graham came to town I talked Cliffy Williams into coming with me. Aresome Park, the local football stadium, was filled to capacity. A huge choir dressed in white sung hymns and Billy Graham spoke. When he called on people to step forward to the strains of ‘Oh Lamb of God I come’ it was very hypnotic and crowds walked across the field to him to get ‘saved’. It is very moving hymn and when it is sung by thousands of people it is very hard not to be affected. Cliffy was taken up with the emotion and unsuccessfully urged me to go too.

Billy Graham – ‘Just As I Am’
O Lamb of God
I come, I come


Cliffy Williams came to Sunday School with us some of the time. During the summer holidays the Sunday School usually took us on a day bus trip to Marske, to spend the day at the beach. A local hall was usually set up with our party lunch. On one of the trips, Cliffy and I sneaked off from the beach early and accessed the hall through a small window at the back of the hall. Rows of paper plates were set out with the party goodies. We went along and helped ourselves to one piece from each plate. Thank goodness no-one noticed the missing items. We kept going for a while after that but that was only because Violet and Betty attended. Remarkably the Gospel Hall is still there but is now occupied by some nondescript business.

Ronnie had learned to drive trucks in the Air Force and he eventually bought his first car. He announced that he would take all of us kids to Scarborough (50 miles down the coast) for a day out.

He arrived to pick us up and we all piled into the small car; Aunty Freda, Uncle Ronnie, 5 Wings and 3 Jones kids. I have no idea how we squeezed in. When we set off, the car kangaroo hopped down the street till we gathered speed. It seems that driving a car was a lot different to driving a 3-ton truck!

We thought Uncle Ronnie was wonderful. He re-trained as a carpenter after leaving the Air Force. He worked as a site foreman and Tommy did his apprenticeship with the firm. It turned out though, that he was not the great man we thought he was. He worked away from home a lot and we found out years later that he had a ‘fancy woman’ at each location. Aunty Freda took the train to visit him at his lodgings and exposed his double life.

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