GROWING UP IN OUTWOOD in the 1930s   Part Two


Part Two.  Lakeing Art, By the late Norman Ellis


After school or during holidays, children were generally content 
to play out. Being home by a particular time or running errands were often the only constraints. 

One chore which I regularly had to perform was going to the Co-op for a loaf of bread, which cost four and a half pence.

Outwood was full of places where children could play. Part of the grounds of Outwood Hall became a public park after being purchased from the Bramley family by Stanley Urban District Council in the early 1920s. 

However, the park was gradually filled with council houses from the middle 1920s and throughout the 1930s, so this recreational amenity was gradually lost. 

I was born in one of the first houses to be erected there on what was blandly named The Avenue. 

One summer day, aged six, I decided to amuse myself among the long grass in the park instead of going to school. Our next door neighbour, Mrs Price, reported me to my mother, who quickly marched me down to school.

Some of the favourite leisure sites involved trespassing, which added an extra thrill to our escapades. A reservoir (known locally as the res)., in a field between Lofthouse Colliery and Springfield House (Madame Hall) on Lingwell Gate Lane, was good for catching tiddlers. 

These small fishes were prone to passing away in our Jam Jars before we got them home. One or two survived for a few weeks in my father's water butt. 

Tiddlers were even more plentiful in a pond behind some houses in Ledger Lane, not far from the Working Men's Club. This partly filled in expanse of water was on an old brickyard site. 

Newts were caught at a pond on the southern edge of Outwood Park, named on old maps as the Fish Pond.

We stole sticks of rhubarb (nicknamed tusky) and ate it raw, preferably with sugar. Mr Macauley once caught us red handed on his Spring Hills site, but merely asked us not to do any wilful damage, he would not miss a few sticks. 

A crowd of us from The Avenue, mostly boys but including a few girls, once raided two apple trees which belonged to a Mr Tallent. We took enough to give us bellyache for weeks. We were apprehended afterwards by the owner and ordered to pay 1/6d each, actually our parents payed up.

Yards and streets served as out of school playgrounds for most youngsters. In the 1930s, only the main Leeds Road, which bisected Outwood, had become unsafe for games. 

A few children were fortunate enough to have small bicycles. My parents presented me with a bright red pedal car. I was envied by every boy on the Avenue, but would not let any of them use it.

Eventually I became too big for the car, which was sold for half a crown. It had only had one careful driver!

Some games and pastimes could be equally enjoyed in the street, yard or school playground. 

Requiring a certain amount of skill were various games played with glass marbles (or taws) such as Podge. Sticky, Hookey. The incantation, "Bugs around that taw", was on occasion made if you didn't want someone elses taw to win. 

Playing conkers was popular in Autumn, many a conker was baked in the oven or soaked in vinegar to harden them up for a contest.  

Battledore and shuttlecock and whip and top appeared every spring. The upper faces of the tops were decorated with coloured chalk.

You were not generally short of mates if you had a cricket bat, stumps or a football. Improvisation came in the form of coats on the ground to represent goalposts, or chalk lines on a wall to denote stumps. 

Walls to children were a positive godsend, and not Just for climbing over or walking on. Some youngsters did handstands against them, then gradually lowered their feet down the wall to form a crab position.

In winter, when darkness fell, we tended to congregate beneath the street lamps. In the 1930s, many of these were gas lit, some still requiring the services of a man with a pole to light them every evening and extinguish them every morning. 

The customary heavy snowfalls were always welcome for snowballing, sledging and making snowmen, but you had to beware the bullies who came and ‘rubbed' you with the white stuff.

Keeping white mice, guinea pigs or rabbits was the hobby of many children in the 1930s

One Sunday afternoon, I went to look at my friend Ken Winpenny’s rabbits. I was wearing a new light blue suit. Ken had Just tarred his rabbit hutches. Suddenly I realised that a lot of the tar had transferred to my suit. I ran home, sneaked upstairs to the bathroom and tried to remove it with soap and water. To no avail. I learnt the hard way that soapy water was no match for tar.

Aged about twelve, I decided to try breeding a pair of my own rabbits. My father was ill in bed at the time. I told him the doe was ready for mating and that I would introduce the buck to her. Dad was livid and insisted that I did no such thing. 

He thought I knew nothing about the birds and the bees, let alone rabbits. I had in fact bought and read a number of rabbit books. The matter was resolved and Flossie, a black and white Dutch doe, produced a large litter of babies.

Comic magazines were the literary fodder of many children, particularly the boys. The Beano, Dandy, Film Fun and Radio Fun were, later in childhood, sometimes ousted by the Adventure, Hotspur, Rover and Wizard. 

Charlie Swaine, whose newsagency shop was at the end of Ledger Lane, did a roaring trade, although, during the war, comics became scarce. 

For a time, I was an avid reader of books from the library  adventure stories, Biggles, Tom Sawyer, the Arthur Ransome books,  but nothing too serious.

The Empire on Leeds Road was 0utwood's own cinema. It opened in 1921, the last film being shown in 1964. 

The Saturday afternoon matinees were popular with children, cowboy pictures often being shown. Sam Hardcastle, an elderly man, was employed to keep order with the aid of his stick. Few kids argued with Sam!

Children were allowed into most evening performances during the week, but only if accompanied by a parent or guardian. With many parents otherwise occupied, this presented a problem. We got round it by asking someone, often a total stranger, to take us in, we were supposed to sit with them, but once inside we dissapeared.

Most village children of similar age to me had probably seen the sea a few times by the time they were ten, even if only on a club trip from Lofthouse Station. My father wasn't a member of the Working Men's Club but managed on a couple of occasions to get me a ticket. 

The favourite venue was Cleethorpes, where everyone headed for the amusement arcades and slot machines without even looking at the weather. I was more fortunate than many children in having a week at the seaside with my parents up to 1938, when the war started.

Little religious instruction was given at day school although, a few mornings a year on special days, we were asked, but not forced, to go to the Parish Church. 

Being a Chapel boy myself, I only went sporadically, but can remember the Rev H.C.Libby’s gallant attempts to explain the meaning of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness.

Religious instruction was provided by the various Sunday Schools attached to St-Mary flagdalene's Parish Church, the three Methodist Chapels (St John's and Rehoboth on Leeds Road, Bourne on Bolus Lane) 

The Salvation Army, then situated in Grey Street. Apart from the Sunday School sessions, had plenty of midweek activities such as music and woodwork classes which were open to all children and young people.

The now vanished Rehoboth Methodist Chapel, which stood almost opposite the Victoria Hotel, had strong Boys‘ Brigade, Girl Guide and Brownie organisations. 

The Boys’ Brigade band was a big attraction. Member Jack Asquith, who lived next door to me (after Mrs Price moved into a bungalow on Bramley Crescent), caused my mother a few headaches when he practiced on his bugle, but she took it in good part because his parents were excellent neighbours.

My parents, being fairly regular attenders at St John’s Methodist, expected me to go to Sunday School there twice every Sabbath(Sunday). This was no problem because I enjoyed listening to the stories and singing the hymns. I always had enough stars on my card at the end of the year to receive a prize.

Morning Sunday School was followed by our being paraded into the church itself for the first half of morning worship. In the afternoon, we were divided into classes. 

I recall the teachers with gratitude. Two of them deserve special mention: Francisa Armitage, an efficient secretary and born leader; and Florrie Lindley, a loyal superintendent, who lived opposite the chapel.

Worship in church always included a children's hymn and children's address. One preacher talked to us about faith. He singled me out and asked if I had faith that my mother would provide Yorkshire Pudding for the Sunday dinner. I had faith to know she would. I think I learnt something that morning.

Highlights of the year at the various Sunday Schools were the prizegiving, anniversary, Whitsun parade and schoolfeast. 

At the anniversary, usually extending over two Sundays, special lively hymns were sung. The more fortunate children sported their new clothes. 

Any fatigue brought on by the Whit parade was amply compensated by the schoolfeast, with its games and sports (including prizes), long buns and a bag of sweets.

Youngsters were encouraged to raise money for overseas missions and children's homes and take part in various church and chapel concerts. 

At St John's (now Parkside) Mrs L.C.Wilson had some difficulty in pursuading me to learn a poem which began, ‘I would like to be a tall lighthouse lantern’, for an anniversary display. I believe I was more interested in playing with my lead soldiers at the time. Or perhaps it was my tin plate motors.


Sadly Norman passed away in 2016, but left us these wonderful memories of his childhood.


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