The earliest thing I clearly remember is the new TV arriving. I knew it was coming (though I didn't know what it was) and I was playing on my trike down the block when the van arrived from Radio Rentals to deliver it. I pedalled furiously back down the block and watched, along with other kids and grown-up neighbours, as the huge wooden box was carried in. The delivery man fiddled with it for ages before it was working correctly, and may have been up on the roof a few times to adjust the aerial. We must have had an aerial fixed up at some point, but I don't remember that happening. TV aerials in those days were letter-H shapes, and some were X-shapes - one for BBC, one for ITV, I think.
It was warm, and I hadn't started school yet, so I'm pretty sure it was during the summer of 1956 that this happened. I'd be 3, nearly 4, and there was so little traffic, and so many local people out and about, that letting toddlers play out in the street was safe, and acceptable.
About Breightmet Drive - we lived at 137 Breightmet Drive, and my name and address were the earliest things I learned - Mum drilled them into all of us so that we could be returned to sender if ever we were lost. The house was a mid-terrace council house which had been built a few years before I was born, and it had an alley through into the back garden from just next to the front door. That was joint access for us and the Taylor's who lived on the left of us. The house had a hall and stairs, a through living room, and a kitchen at the back. Upstairs it had 3 bedrooms and a bathroom. However, I remember being bathed in the kitchen sink. Another early memory is playing with a Matchbox green pantechnicon on the quilt of the back bedroom. That was mine, and the twins had the bigger back room, with angle-iron bunks when they were a bit older. I fell off the top bunk once, probably trying to hit Laurence, and hurt my back - I had a huge bruise for weeks after, but I didn't break anything. I never broke anything, unlike Laurence - I was in my late 20s before I broke a bone.
The back garden had a brick store room and outside toilet, and a coalhole, with a small flat patch close to the house. The row had been built along a straight level line on a hillside, and the garden sloped up quite steeply after that, to taper off in the distance where the back gardens of other streets up the hill met it. The soil was very heavy with clay, much to my father's despair, and held vast amounts of water. He wanted to garden but his efforts were often frustrated by the garden.
Date of Birth
I was born on 22nd August 1952, and it was a very useful birthday because it fell in the middle of school holidays so I didn't get my hair pulled or bumped by anybody, as we weren't at school. Being bumped meant that people picked you up by arms and legs and then bumped you on the ground, once for each year.
Tom and Anne Bridges were Mum and Dad
Bread van incident
In those days, there was no personal transport, so shopping was restricted to what you could carry back from the local shops in your shopping bag or basket. Women shopped every day for food, sometimes twice a day, and there were lots of enterprising salesmen who delivered to your door. Fred Brown had a mobile greengrocers' shop, where you could step into the back of his van when he parked in your street, and buy fruit and veg - lots of potatoes, of course, because we had potatoes with everything. He had an ice-cream-van-style chime to announce his arrival, to the tune of which my father would sing nonsense ditties like ' Fred Brown is here, he's got no beer', and many other variations. At my Grandma's, a mobile butcher would come down the back street, not in the ubiquitous Commer van conversion, but in a 2-wheeled kiosk that looked like a seaside ice-cream stall, pulled by a giant horse. Actually, it was probably quite an ordinary horse, but it was the only one I'd ever seen, and it looked monstrous. In Breightmet Drive, as well as Fred Brown and the Pop Man, we had a Bread Man. One day, he parked his bread van outside the Tomlinson's' to deliver, and I paddled my trike up to the back of the van to investigate. Business complete, the driver got back in his van, started it up, and reversed. I backed up but couldn't move quickly enough and was immediately knocked over. Both the trike and me were under the back wheel of the van before I had the wit to scream, at which point the driver halted, with the wheel against my chest. Another foot further and I'd have been dead.
The neighbours (and quite a crowd had gathered, almost instantly) hauled me out, sobbing, and sent for my mother. Everyone, including my mother, agreed that it wasn't the driver's fault and after making sure I was suffering nothing more than scratches, he went on his way. My mother took me home and patched me up, and life continued - though without the trike, which was a write-off. I don't remember my father making much of it when he came home, either. I could have been killed, but I hadn't been, so that was alright then....I forgot about this incident for decades, and only remembered it again in my 40's. I'm not sure what that means
Including who visited whom, presents, and strange memories like being sent to the Oddfellows' Xmas Party at the CWS function rooms on Bridge Street (now Argos) on a number of occasions. I had 'flu, or measles, or mumps, one Christmas at Breightmet Drive. I remember being very feverish, and staying in my pyjamas for the whole holiday.
Primary school was St Osmund's Catholic Primary, at the end of Long Lane, just walking distance from home. Everyone, including the grown-ups, called it Ozzie's. I'm pretty sure I cried the first day I was taken to school, but I don't remember much else about my first years there. I liked school, and I was good at it. By the time we were doing tests and reports, I was regularly coming top of the class. Looking back, I don't think there was that much competition, but it was still a great feeling. Marks were adjusted for age for the first few years, so my youth (youngest in the class with my August birthday) always gave me a few extra marks for free.
There was a lot of emphasis on Catholicism, and on doing all the Catholic stuff.
My Grandma lived at 5 Henry Street, Just off Manchester Road opposite what was then the Goods Warehouse for the railway, and is now a collection of retail-park sheds selling soft furnishings and electrical appliances. The area always smelt different to where we lived, and it was a long time before I realised the smell was from Walker's Tannery, just across the railway lines. The strange sweet/pungent mix is indescribable, but I'd know it instantly if I smelt it again. I don't know of any tanneries left in this country - there must be some, but like breweries, they'll be either shiny space-age odour-free edifices or tiny specialised places trading on their uniqueness and quaintness. Once upon a time, towns had tanneries in profusion, like breweries.
Henry Street is long gone, replaced by a small estate of tiny private houses. All the streets there are gone, including the house in which Elizabeth's friend Angela Egan grew up, and the one Fred Dibnah grew up in (which for many years featured the most elaborate gothic chimney rebuild of any terraced house in Europe).
Extended Family, and scandals
On the Bridges side, we had Dad's brothers and sisters - Uncle Walter, Auntie Rene, Aunty Lily, and Uncle Bill. They all, except Uncle Bill, lived with our Grandma at Henry Street. Rene's two sons, Peter and David Fletcher, also lived there. There were other Bridges around town we knew of vaguely and sometimes met by chance. Uncle Ken had hairdressers on Churchbank, opposite the Parish Church. Grandma's family all lived in Cumberland or elsewhere around the world, particularly Canada.
Grandma would visit her younger sister, Great-Aunty Lily, who still lived in Egremont in Cumberland, and took me with her a few times in the summer holidays. It was an epic train and bus journey, from Bolton to Preston, Preston to Whitehaven, and then by bus to Egremont.