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Muckleston Family History Group

researching all references to the surnames Muckleston, Mucklestone, Muckelston and Mackleston please get in touch via the contact us page with any additional information or to correct any errors.

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Memories of a Manchester Childhood


by Bill Mackleston          



I remember the house I was born in. It was my maternal grandmothers house and although (of course) I do not remember my birth I was to stay in that house many times over the next fifteen years. The house was situated between a pub and a pawnbrokers and faced onto a main road with trams clanging by every few minutes. There was no bathroom and we bathed once a week using the tin bath that hung behind the scullery door.


I remember the outside loo with little six inch squares of the "Manchester Evening News", threaded on a piece of string, for toilet paper.


I remember the tremendous arguments between my grandmother and grandfather which always ended with her throwing at him every piece of crockery she could lay her hands on. Next day my grandfather and I would go to the local hardware shop and purchase a supply of the cheapest crockery that they sold.


I remember going, with my grandfather, to the local cinema on a Saturday afternoon to watch cowboy films with Tom Mix and Buck Jones and serials with Buster Crabbe. Once we were inside the attendants would spray the whole cinema (and the audience) with Zoflora disinfectant. It took days for the smell to wear off our clothes!


I remember the house we moved into some months after I was born. Again no bathroom, another outside loo and only cold water in the kitchen. The front door was divided into an upper and lower half like a stable. As I grew older I remember the top half of the door being always open in the summer and my mother leaning on the lower half always gossiping with the neighbours.



I remember the  cart horse, belonging to the man next door, who wouldn't take his owners cart on it's round until my mother had fed him with lumps of sugar.


I remember neighbours, with no money with which to pay the rent, hiding upstairs until after the rent collector had gone. I remember one elderly lady who did this and, after repeated knocking by the rent collector (who obviously did not believe she was out), finally became so exasperated that she threw open the bedroom window and shouted "You bloody fool, can't you see I'm not in".


I remember going to Belle Vue (a local pleasure complex) on Bonfire Night and seeing my Uncle take part in a mock battle pageant. I remember crying when he fell down because I thought he had really been shot.


I remember going round to the house of one of my classmates who had died to pay my last respects. She lay in an open coffin in the front room and all the children there were made to touch the corpse in order that we should not dream about her. I was to do this several times before I left school, childhood mortality being what it was in those days. And no, I don't remember dreaming about them afterwards.


I remember my mother and father taking me and my sister to the local fair after much urging on our part. My parents only had a shilling (5p) between them but my mother (always lucky at fairs) won 15 shillings which paid for several magical rides and a fish and chip supper on the way home.


I remember going to the local butchers at 10pm on a Saturday night. Since the Butcher had no refrigerator, and he was closed on Sunday, he had to sell off all his meat before closing at 10.30p.m. We used to get the Sunday joint at less than half price.


I remember seaside boarding houses which always seemed to smell of wet clothes and boiled cabbage.



I remember falling into the local canal whilst fishing and, after being hauled out by my frantic parents, crying, not because of  relief at being saved from drowning, but because I had lost my fishing net and jar of tiddlers.



I remember buying glass "negative" slides and sensitised paper from the local toy shop and sticking them in a sunny window to make "photographs",



I remember the road menders spraying tar on the road in front of our house and the children from poorer families being encouraged by their parents to walk in the tar, before it set, in order to build up a layer of tar on the soles of their shoes so that they would last longer.


I remember children with weak chests and bronchitis being held by their parents over the tar boiling machine in order to inhale the fumes which were supposed to be good for the chest.


I remember drinking the best part of a jug of beer which I found on the back doorstep of the pub next door. When the local policeman (for whom it was intended) found out I got three whacks on the backside with his leather belt.


I remember buying glasses of real dandelion and burdock drink from the old lady who ran the local herbalist shop. She used to gather the plants herself and I never tasted a better drink.


I remember stoking the huge copper boiler in my grandmothers cellar, on washdays. The place became so steamy that the walls dripped water and afterwards I had to dry my clothes in front of the kitchen fire.


I remember my grandfathers dog, named Tiny, who used to go pub crawling with my granddad on Saturday nights. Tiny was a favourite with one of the landlords who used to let him drink beer out of the slops bucket behind the bar. On the way home, along the local canal towpath, a very tipsy tiny would insist on walking along the very edge of the path. Naturally, at intervals, he would fall in and have to be rescued by my equally tipsy grandfather. On reaching home, a sopping wet dog would disappear down the cellar and not surface until Sunday afternoon. (I wonder if he had to have the hair of the dog..........?)



I remember Ernie Halson. He was a coach driver and I went to school with his children. When he was doing trips to seaside places, such as Blackpool, his boss used to let him fill (for free) any un-booked seats with members of his immediate family. Some summers I was never sure whether my name was Halson or Mackleston...........


I remember being sent (at the age of 3) to the local shop for some cigarettes for my father. Being a "with it" kid I came home with one in my mouth, one behind each ear and the rest in the packet. My dad made me smoke the one in my mouth and, after about two puffs, I was violently sick. I now tell everyone that I gave up smoking at the age of three.


I remember giving away, throwing away or just plain breaking comics, cigarette cards, pulp magazines and toys which, if I had only kept them in a good condition would have ensured a more solvent old age!

I can remember so many things - the Walls ice cream man on his tri-cycle with "Stop Me And Buy One" on the front of his box - Whit Sunday parades with hundreds of children in their best clothes - wives pawning their husbands suits on Monday mornings in order to buy food and then redeeming them on Friday night after he had been paid - radios with huge aerials on poles in the back garden - silent films with an orchestra playing the music - playing yoyo and diabolo - old friends who are no longer with us.


I'm glad I have my memories.