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The Family Tree

Page history last edited by Ann Vipond 2 years, 4 months ago

The Family Tree


As autumn drew into winter it got to that exciting time when my younger sister and I came back from school in the dark.  Well it wasn’t usually very dark, just twilight but the gas street lights and the yellow lights on the main road were on and if it was cloudy, foggy and frosty, as it often was in Bolton at this time of year, it could be very nearly dark. Sometimes if it was very dark and foggy the children who lived furthest away (like us) would be allowed out a little earlier.


At this time of year we weren’t allowed to dawdle and play with our friends after school but had to come straight back. So I would meet up with my sister as we came out of school door with Juniors over it, across the yard, past the air raid shelter to the gates and we would set off immediately for home.  We turned right along Wallace Street and went to the T junction with Gaskell Street where we turned left and started up the hill.


It was very cold and our raincoats did not do much to keep our bare knees warm.  Gail’s Mac did have a hood and she could at least keep her head a bit warmer but I don’t think I would like that because it cuts you off from knowing what’s coming from behind and can be a bit scary.


The enormous bulk of Park Mill was then on our right with lights in all the windows and the quiet whine of all the spindles going round as the mill workers tended the machines.  There was also that warm steamy/oily cotton mill smell, a bit like a railway station but not quite the same. The side of the school was on Gaskell Street and the mill ended just by the school and there was an enormous wooden cooling tower with steam coming out of it.  This meant that there was almost always a fine drizzle of vapour dropping onto the school yard.


On the left was a series of streets and back streets of small terraced houses with flat fronts directly onto the street and small back yards with toilets just by the back gate.


As we went up the street we passed Back Wallace Street and then Orm Street which was quite wide and opposite the gate through the vast bulk of the mill that led into Park Mill Yard.  There, you could see heaps of the large square wicker skips that contained the raw cotton and the completed  cones of fine white thread that would be taken on to the weaving mill and bleach and dye works a short distance away.  Further up the hill we came to Back Orm Street and Snowdon Street.  The last street we came to before the main road was John Brown Street   This had a shop which sold toys and about this time of year they always had a model train set in a box in the window and I would very much like to stop to look and dream but my sister was getting a bit frightened of the dark so we had to press on quickly.  This is also where Park mill ended and Bayley Street was on the other side of Gaskell Street.


There were lots of lights and shops and a pub when we got to Chorley Old Road.  As this was a busy main road and had smooth grey blocks on its surface not the rounded cobbles of all the other streets in our part of town.  We had to stop, wait and do our kerb drill very carefully.  We crossed the road and went straight down a little street to the back street that lay behind Chorley Old Road and turned right.  This was called Park Hill Street.  Just past the right turn was a small triangular cobbled space with a junction to the narrow lane that led to a lot of the back yards of houses in Chorley new road but we continued straight ahead with a two storey Factory on the left this was the main headquarters of Joshua and Tom Taylor builders “AGA cookers a speciality” At least that’s what it said on the gates as we turned sharp left into Back Park Street on the last lap before we got home.


We lived in the first house on Park Street. So that was right down the end of the street from the direction we had come. We came in the gate past the outside toilet and coal shed and into the back door to the kitchen with its wringer under a table, large white sink, cooker and shelves all round the walls.  Grandma always called it the Scullery we took our coats off and hung them on a peg and went into the living room which grandma always called the kitchen.  This was always nice and warm because it had the fire that heated the water and an enormous oven and hotplate that were almost never used.  Except for the Christmas when the electricity failed just as everyone was cooking their Christmas dinner!


As it was a Monday, tea tonight was bread and dripping and some potatoes left over from the Sunday dinner, one of my favourites, particularly as the dripping had some tasty jelly in the bottom when you dug your knife right down in it so I made some potato sandwiches.  Sometimes, if there were no potatoes I would use onions and make onion sandwiches.  While we were having tea we listened to Children’s hour on the radio with Norman and Henry bones the boy detectives.


Gail told Grandma that she was a bit frightened on the way home because it had been very dark.  Grandma said “don’t be silly.  When I was your age I had to walk back three miles from school across the fields and there were no lights at all.  Sometimes in winter the snow was so deep we didn’t even know where the hedges were. Your journey is only about half a mile with lots of street lights”  “It’s getting near to Christmas and your mother said you could stay up a bit later tonight to start decorating the tree she wont want to know about that or she might think you’re too young to stay up”.


Mummy got back as usual a bit after six o’clock  “oh it was a busy day but they were mostly fussy old ladies with feet like dinner plates and it was very difficult to find anything that would fit them” she said as I asked her how the day had been at the shop.  “We’ll do the tree tonight after I’ve had my tea”

“Ian you’re growing up a bit now do you still want to stick to Christmas stockings this year.

“O yes please” I said “it wouldn’t be the same without them”.  Our Christmas stockings were truly enormous thigh length sea boot stockings that My father had had during the war when he served as a coder on Trawlers out in the North Sea listening to German messages, coding them and sending them on to help the British war effort because he was not fit enough to fight.


Granddad took the sewing machine off the top of the Meccano Cabinet and put it in a corner of the front sitting room and we brought the tree down from the attic.  He planted the base of the tree in a large metal pot full of sand.  Each of the branches, which looked a bit like green flue brushes had to be carefully opened out and the tinsel and baubles carefully hung on it.  Finally the lights had to be fixed in place.


There were also a few other decorations to be hung around the room including some paper chains we had made at school some years earlier. There was also one brightly coloured garland made out of flat sheets of coloured shiny foil but it was much damaged and had to be hung up very gently but it was very beautiful and the effect was well worth it. And so to bed.


A few days later it was Christmas Eve the excitement was mounting and it was difficult to get to sleep but we did.  We both woke up at one time during the night to reach out and feel a reassuring lumpy woolly object at the foot of the bed but to open things was strictly forbidden until it was daylight.


When we came downstairs after opening our presents, the tree had changed. It has sprouted a few extra items, presents for Christmas teatime.  Just before these were distributed there was the ceremony of the lights when the candles on the tree were lit and the main room lights put out and we sat quietly in the firelight for a few minutes to watch in awe the sparkling lights from the candles on the tinsel garlands and baubles on the family tree.




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