Monday, 17 April 2017

Looking back to early days Part 1

After being at Beamish Museum a lot of memories started to come back, and the grandchildren thought some of them were strange and others were odd, or funny.

I was born in a small coal mining village in county Durham, a village that was surrounded by moorlands or fells as we called them..

Within the village there was one large deep pit coal mine, and three drift mines, which were sunk into the hill sides.

The houses were basic, because they were owned by the mining company, but they consisted of two rooms down stairs, and two upstairs.

There was only one cold water tap, and all hot water was heated up on the large coal range in the main kitchen / living room area, downstairs. 

The front room was for Sundays,  or for guests otherwise, us children were kept out of it, apart from going through it to go upstairs to bed.

There was no bath inside, we just had a tin bath which was hung on the wall outside the house when not in use. 

When needed, it was brought in and the water was heated on the range.

The lighting was all gas provided by the mine.

The toilet was in the back yard, here again no running water as we have thee days.

The toilets did not have drains either, but were emptied out every so often, by a man working for the mine, who went down the streets with a horse and cart emptying each toilet out.
That must have been an awful job.

I often wondered what would have happened if the family were hit by a bug like diarrhoea and sickness, but these were few and far between because as children we were always playing in muddy fields etc, and there were few of the bugs around that we have these days.

My father grew up in the same village and he was one of six children.

So the downstairs rooms were a kitchen/ living room, and a front room which acted as his parents bedroom
Upstairs the three daughters slept in one room, and the three boys in the other.

Not a lot of space, but in those days you got on with life and accepted it.

I have an elderly aunt living in the house where my father grew up, and it's strange to think that 8 people lived in such a small house.

Next to the toilet was a coal shed, where all of the coal was shovelled in through an 18 inch hatch after it had been delivered.

My mother always talked about me as a three or four year old, walking up and down the street with my little toy wheel barrow,  loading it up with someone's coal from the street, and wheeling it back home, where it was emptied outside the back gate.

She later admitted that they were very worried at one stage, because for some reason they started to notice that their cutlery draw was looking oddly "sparse and nothing made and sense.

In those days we had oilcloth on the bare wooden floor boards in the kitchen, and as you walked through the kitchen from the back door, the oilcloth was wearing thin and had split in places, due to the floor boards splitting and breaking at the edges.

So my father started to replace the broken floor boards before replacing the oilcloth, and found all of he cutlery under the floor.

It was then that they realised that I was hiding their precious cutlery under the floor, by pushing through the spilt oilcloth and broken floor boards.

I honestly don't know what I was trying to achieve at that age, but our grandchildren thought that it was funny.

Mum embarrassed but I was too young to understand what I was doing, and I was so small at this time, that I could not reach the sink.

I guess we all did weird things as children, but I confess that I don't remember any of this happening

When I was old enough I went to the Infants school in the village, which again was built and owned by the mine owners.

It was here that I was taught the basics of writing and arithmetic,  with a slate board and slate pencil. The screeches can still give me the shivers.

When we first took the grandchildren up to Beamish Museum,   I told them about using those, and they looked at me in total disbelief, it was as if they thought I had been a caveman

It was amazing watching these children using these slate boards and pencils.

After this children went to the Senior school, which was around 1 1/2 miles walk across the fells, then the mining company put roads across the fells,  which made it easier.

Those were the days when few parents had transport, so you either got a bus or walked, and most people in those days chose to walk, unless the weather was rubbish

The old Church and Chapels were  built and owned by the mine owners too.

The organ in the church was pumped up by hand, in those days,  so playing the organ was a two person job.

One playing the organ while someone else pumped it up, using a large lever at the side of the organ

My grandfather used to play the organ on Sundays,  and my father's brother, uncle John used to pump the organ up as a boy. He then took over playing the organ when grandfather lost his eyesight in a mining accident

We grew all our own vegetables because the nearest town was two miles away, and the only large  shop was a local Co-op shop, so it was a case of doing what you could.

There was also a public house , a working mens club, a few small independent shops and a post office.

But it was a totaly different life style to what we see today.

There were no play grounds, you just played on the fells, and arrived back when someone decided it must be nearly time for your meals.

This was made easy sometimes, because the mine hooter used to sound at the end of every shift, so we knew it was time to get back in before father came home.

Considering wrist watches were not around in those days, we always managed to get home at meal time.
As my Aunt always says, we used to go out to play after breakfast, and would return when we were hungry which was around 12 noon. Then we went out again and returned around 4-30.

She always said that she was amazed at out time keeping. But I guess it was the same when they were children

The moors stretched for miles, so we could be anywhere,  but never got lost or into trouble

The first public telephone box arrived in the village not long after we left around 1952.

But these days children don't understand that we lived in houses without a telephone,  running hot water, Electricity,  Central heating or inside toilet

What is more there was no television or radio, because there was no radio signal up there then.

They look at the outside toilet at Beamish in total disbelief. As one grand daughter said at Beamish one Day?  How did you get to the toilet when it was dark. We used a candle.

Did you have spider's living in the Toilet?  I guess there was, but it was so cold out there in winter that you got back inside as soon as you could

I guess that this was the start of my chest problems, because it was then that I had Mumps measels and Whooping cough.

I suppose a mining village was full of pollution,  but I was far too young to understand that

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