Paul Gibson’s Hull and East Yorkshire History

Schooldays

I don’t think I did it every day, but my first memories of school are of running away – running back home to the safety of my Mam. Running away down Clifton Street, and across Brunswick Avenue past the big trees. Running away down Blundell Street, and through the passage into Pleasant Place and on to Norfolk Street. Running away past the Mechanics Arms, along Drainside and home. Hiding there until Mam came home from Guildhall, where she worked as a cleaner, or my sister Jean from Smith & Nephew. That was Clifton Street Primary School and my only other memories are kicking and screaming my way there on the first day, as I seriously resented the idea of having to go to school at all. Once I had settled I do remember growing cress, but being treated as thick - when I was actually just short sighted and slightly colour blind - so couldn’t read the board. Making paper chains at Christmas, getting all of the ‘equipment’ out for P E in the small school yard (did they call it a vaulting horse - and was the other kit stored inside it – oh, and those benches that you had to balance walking along), and best of all singing ­‘All Things Bright & Beautiful’ – one of my favourite hymns. Though I didn’t know it was a hymn then.

I moved from Clifton Street Infants to Blundell Street Junior School, probably aged seven or eight. I remember running around the playground, discovering girls (playing looking under the desk sticks in my memory...). Getting told off again for being thick, when I was only short sighted, and being one of the wise men in the nativity play, and stealing the lines of the wise man before me, as I liked his more than mine. And running around like a whirling dervish in the hall, and pretending to be a tree in dance class.

The school seemed huge to me, but looking at this 1990s photograph I guess it wasn't at all. The headmaster sticks in my memory too - a little man called Mr Howe - remember that? When everyone was called Mr or Mrs or Miss? When that stopped, and uniform began to disappear, that's when it all started to go wrong - lack of respect ... don't get me started ...

I think Blundell Street closed then, because we were moved to Brunswick Avenue Junior School; I seemed to have been revisiting all the places I had passed when running away from infant school. Memories of Brunswick Avenue School are few because I can only have been there a year or so when our house in Drainside was demolished, following compulsory purchase in 1967-68. But I do remember being praised for my drawing sometimes, and English composition; making lasting friends for the first time, and not being told off for being thick - because someone had the bright idea of getting my eyes tested and sitting me at the front of the class. Also the balcony around the hall, with classrooms off it – and Science class for the first time – with those excellent old Bunsen burners.

For some reason I seem to have kept the badge from my old school blazer, which shows the school insignia or emblem thingy - a bee - busy as Bees - geddit?

As we had to move house following the demolition of our family home on Drainside (to 32 Ellerburn Avenue, North Hull Estate) I had to change school yet again, and ended up at Endike Lane Boys School in 1970. Memories are all to clear of this one. When you were caned it was in front of the whole school in morning assembly; having the blackboard rubber smacked across my knuckles; having to play football in sub zero temperatures and then go on a long distance run, and having the heavy wet leather football kicked at you by the sadistic teacher, if you ever forgot your kit. And I think my first experience of Gays, as several kids were just a bit too keen to put a frock on when the school performed Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.

Another house move (to Bransholme – but I can’t remember why) and another school, Sutton Park Junior High School. It was late 1971. Best memories are of meeting a lad who has remained my best mate ever since – Keith. He was in the school reception on the first day (he was with his Mam too - their family had known our family since Drainside days - but that’s a long story – see later). Having brilliant, entertaining, funny and arty teachers for the first time, and enjoying it so much I even got certificates, including one for full attendance! Being terrified whilst singing in the choir, and fantasising over a female teacher who belonged more in an Avengers-style leather cat suit than school (and she had a red Triumph Spitfire!). Tuck Shop at play-time (Jammy Dodgers, Wagon Wheels, Smiths crisps etc.), and discovering a little bit more about girls.

1973 and yet another new school - Bransholme High School, which was an education in more ways than one. Memories there include getting heavily into music; discovering Tetley’s Bitter, and discovering an awful lot more about girls and such-like. Also meeting my best female friend ever (she still is, poor thing). Being the class clown for a while, and having crowds around me in tutor group whilst I told jokes with my partner in crime Rajah, and inevitably getting bad reports for being the class clown (‘… Paul is obviously intelligent, but occasionally feels the need to assert this by poor behaviour in tutor-group periods'). Meeting mates with great names like Zeki Domnez, Rajah Singh, and Fatimah Alahmetmet (I doubt those spellings are accurate). Getting bullied for being befriended by the girl the tough kids wanted to know, and missing assembly to avoid getting bullied by them. This was when mates and I sneaked off to play David Bowie songs we had learned, on guitars in the sound-proofed rehearsal rooms. Having forward thinking art teachers (Dave Bush), drama teachers (Jane Beezer) and music teachers (Mr Ogilvie) who even let students play Santana songs live in assembly – brilliant! I played rhythm guitar, Doug Smelt played lead, and Mr Ogilvie rocked out on the school organ. Mostly I remember making friends that have lasted my life through. Being pissed off at not being able to wear my Levi jacket in senior school, and deciding to chuck my ‘A’ levels in late 1976 after a single term, and go get a job, even though my ‘O’ level results were rubbish.

Favourite things

It’s hard to recall my favourite things, those that are prized above all other things. Maybe I’m lucky, I have many, many things that I like a lot, and perhaps these are my favourite things; old trade directories, old photographs, old pubs (some of which I have parts of in my front room), and old maps. Favourite things for me however, also tend to include things I don’t actually own, like sunshine, real ales, sitting in my summer house (shed) whilst it pours with rain outside, birdsong, sitting in the pub with friends, music, being near the sea, etc, etc.

I guess my favourite thing in the 1960s - my childhood - may have been my scooter, with a tiger’s tail hanging from the handlebars. The tiger’s tail was given as a freebie for buying Esso petrol I think (‘put a tiger in your tank’, all that sort of stuff) and was probably a present from my uncle Arthur, as he was the only one in the family with a car – and lived just a few doors away. Or later, it could have been my next set of wheels, a three-wheeler bike. This was fantastic, it was harder to fall off than a scooter, and handy as it had the added bonus of a metal bucket on the back with a lid - like the boot of a car. This was particularly useful for bringing home bricks and stuff.

My favourite thing in the 1970s, hmm, well I’m not sure. Possibly a pair of shoes - snakeskin stack heels, with two inch platform soles. These didn’t last that long actually as I couldn’t walk far in them, and the potential for embarrassment at school discos was almost endless, so I passed them on to my girlfriend Deena, who walked in them very well (do you still have them old mate?). It could also have been my first electric guitars; the very first, was acquired after we (my guitarist mates and I) had heard the riff from ‘The Jean Genie’ by David Bowie; this was copied in ‘Blockbuster’ by The Sweet, and we loved it, as we could actually play it. The first was a horrible guitar; I can’t really recall the name, but it was a Chinese or Korean import (a K?), strung like a cheese-grater, with the same effect on your fingers. This was followed closely by my first real guitar - a copy of the famous Gibson Les Paul. My parents must have had a premonition when naming me Paul Leslie Gibson, which is almost Gibson Les Paul backwards. You try buying a guitar, from a guitar shop, with lots of guitarists hanging around, when your name is Paul Leslie Gibson. I can still feel my red cheeks glowing with embarrassment, stood in the guitar section of Gough & Davy. Both guitars were played through a cheap amplifier from Woolworth’s that we used to call it the Winfield Wall of Sound. I would say overall though, that favourite things in the 1970s would have been LPs and singles. 

Once I had discovered that I could actually have my own, instead of listening to my brothers and sisters’, a new world opened up for me. This was the era of the best rock music in history, and after a long affair with the seven inch single I remember buying David Bowie, Steely Dan, T Rex and Led Zeppelin albums literally as they were released, usually on the actual day of release. Nothing could beat the excitement of getting the no.33 bus into town from Bransholme Centre on a Saturday morning, and rushing to Sydney Scarborough, Stardisc or Shakespeare Brothers to get my hands on the new release. Just reading the covers, was a joy in itself and I couldn’t get home with them quick enough.

The 1980s brought a new wave of favourite things, but the prize items were still LPs. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a huge variety of obscure musicians and bands by older friends in the late 1970s, and these remain my favourites to this day (Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, Free, Eric Clapton – and the blues). The 1980s also brought an interest in photography, and my favourite thing was a Yashica camera (an FR 2 - and later a Pentax ME Super)) that went everywhere with me, as I recorded the everyday exploits of mates, my family, workmates and myself. I bought my first house in 1986, and this too was a favourite thing for many years; a small three up, three down in Sutton village – north of Hull, where I could do my own thing. Being a home-loving Cancerian I soon made this my home.

I’m not really sure about the 1990s - I guess the highlight would have been my second car, a Mini 1275GT. This was the fastest thing I had ever driven, and had real character. If ever a car suited me, it was that one. Parting with it was painful, but so was driving it a lot of the time, so it didn’t hurt that much, although I do wish I still had it.

I used to love spending weekends with my hands dirty, trying to impress the neighbours with my mechanical skills. This usually just meant fitting assorted bits and bobs to the car that I bought from specialist Mini magazines, although I did manage to fit engine stabilising bars and service it by myself. Then it had a replacement engine from an MG Metro and it all got a bit beyond me - it was quick though.

I suppose pets come in to the bracket of favourite things, and I found myself coming home with two kittens in 1989, which I bought when taking a friend to buy a kitten for his wife from a farm. There were seven I think - he went for one, but couldn't resist them and bought five. I took the remaining two and named them Jack and Annie after my parents who had recently died (that's Jack on the right, and his sister on the left - when they were brand new). They were an endless joy to me throughout their life and came with me from Sutton to the Avenues where I now live.

Sadly they passed away a few years ago, but both had a good innings and lived until their late teens. Latterly they lived in next door's garden, in a house built especially for them. They moved out when Gail moved in with me, as her dogs Gertie and Rita didn't exactly see eye-to-eye with Jack and Annie - or rather they did - if you see what I mean? Anyway - they had a fabulous life, and I still miss them hanging around. Gail's dogs have gone some way to fill the gap left by the cats, and the latest addition - Lily the springer spaniel - is a good companion in her own little way.

Now, we’re in the 2000s, my three-wheeler, scooter, and the Mini have gone, but I still have a lot of the LPs and seven inch singles. I have several guitars including a second genuine Gibson Les Paul (the first is seen here with me in the 1990s), plus a decent amplifier to play it through. I now also have the digital technology to write and record my own music, and even to write it on to a CD, or put it up on my own web-site to share it with the world. I have nice good cameras, a nice house, and joint ownership of two nice cars and an even nicer Springer Spaniel. But to be perfectly truthful, none of these mean any more to me than those free things, the favourite things that I don’t actually own - sunshine, beer, birdsong, sitting in the pub with friends, music, and being in the country - or near the sea.

Food & Drink

Memories of my early life are few, and memories of my early diet are even fewer - put it down to a happy childhood I guess. Either way, dragging details of my early years from the depths of my mind has always seemed impossible for me, and as a consequence I rarely bother. However, some fleeting memories of tastes and smells do come to mind every now and then, and the more you remember, the more that comes to mind as one thing sparks another. As ever, all through my life there has been a musical soundtrack, initially dictated by what my elder siblings were raving about at the time, or what was playing on the radiogram in the middle room. Nothing is ever recalled in crystal clear ‘Stereophonic Vista-Vision’, but more often as not in plain black and white, like old films on a Saturday afternoon. This view of my past life has been further tinted by my interest in old postcards and photographs, which now dictates that most of my memories are in postcard size bytes and often feature slightly out of place Edwardian streets.

Looking at family photos often spurs memories, and an early one I have about 1965 shows the young Gibby with an ice cream wafer sandwich in hand. I can almost hear the sound of the Beatles’ ‘Help’ coming from the middle room in the background. So rare was the occasion that we could actually afford an ice cream, that it had was immortalised for posterity in grainy film on Dad’s Brownie camera. I’ve no idea where it came from, this rare treat and in the photograph it looks more like a film prop than a tasty memory. I suppose it was from an ice cream van - Penna’s or Mr Whippy no doubt. I notice from many of the early photos that I’m wearing bloody hand-me-downs, or clothes made from elder siblings old clothes or knitted delights. It’s a wonder I haven’t developed a complex from wearing so many female clothes (or have I?). Marc Bolan and David Bowie eat your heart out - I was wearing girls’ shoes and jumpers long before Glam Rock was even heard of.

Goodies! Posh people called them sweets, and mine came from a little shop at the corner of a terrace in Liddell Street, that my sister Jean reminds me was called Hancock's. I know there was a little old lady on the counter who scared me a bit. I can recall that I had one of those lovely twelve-sided chunky three-penny-bits for my pocket money (they were still hanging around in people’s loose change at that time) that was soon replaced with ‘tanner’ (six pence). 

I loved that coin - and I still think its the best we've had in England. Sad I know.

This huge sum was whisked up Richmond Terrace (Drainside to us) in my hand-me-down tartan trousers (made from one of my sisters old skirts I think), turning left past Grindell’s Pet Shop - opposite Bums’ Head pub in Waterloo Street, and left again into Liddell Street where the little corner shop had supplied generation after generation of kids like us. I can hear Thunderclap Newman’s ‘Something in the air’ playing on the jukebox of the pub as I run home in this memory. I remember it as a tiny little shop (seen here in an old 1920s photograph) with a small counter that loomed over my head, but was just low enough for me to catch tantalising glimpses of the latest fads. There were chewing gum packets with cards in that made up sets of ‘Man from Uncle’ or ‘Monkees’ cards collectors cards (the group not the animals); each had part of a larger picture on the back so you had to buy at least six thousand to even hope to get a full picture of the group or character. I can’t remember the make of chewy’ but it was probably American like Hubba Bubba or something similar. Either way I can still taste its sickly sweetness and feel its dusty texture, wrapped in waxy paper.

Other goodies from the shop were gob-stoppers - unfeasibly large sweets that would be banned the RSPCC now, or some EU child protection unit. Just one of them in your gob and you were sorted for hours, if you didn’t actually choke and pass out first. Sweet cigarettes too, in actual Camel brand foil packets – or was that imitation tobacco in those almost illegal packets? Blackjacks, fruit salad, liquorice laces, flying saucers, swizzles - its all coming back to me like a dentist’s fantasy. And Lucky Bags cor-yes! Lucky Bags, the trade descriptions people would have them now; define lucky - a bit of dodgy plastic loosely called a toy (usually a ring or a bracelet, or an alien or a bloody whistle) with half a dozen of the above named sweets chucked in. Lucky Bags were nothing new however – they were the descendants of Victorian Lucky Bags introduced in the 1880s I think. The Move’s ‘Flowers in the rain’ crackled from the old radio in the shop as I left.

As my few early memories are viewed in brilliant sunshine with blue skies, another familiar taste is that of ice lollies; the most frustrating of which, was an unusual geometric design, like a pyramid but not quite, if you see what I mean. Wrapped in really dense cardboard that was almost impossible to break into – like modern tertra-paks. Consequently it lasted hours and your tongue, lips and all around your mouth turned purple or orange depending on your taste. What did they call them? Juicy something or other, Juicy Jims, Juicesodas? Someone will know [indeed they did, as emails from afar revealed they were called Jubblys, have a look at http://www.lightstraw.co.uk/faded/ if you are interested, where you will find a picture of the Jubbly carton]. Further afield on the way to school, probably at the corner of Brunswick Avenue and Clifton Street was another shop, and I can remember getting a selection of chewy delicacies there too - including things that looked like twigs, but were yellowy in the middle.

Was it arrowroot or chicory or something? Anyway I loved them - much more than I loved the prospect of school. Then there were spangles, Swizzles, etc etc etc

Tastes from my early schools (Clifton Street Infants, Blundell Street Junior and Brunswick Avenue Junior) just consisted of the afore-mentioned goodies really, oh - and that cress. Boring cress that was grown, as if by magic, from paper and water or something. I think the teachers replaced our feeble efforts overnight with some from the grocer without us knowing - just to make us feel better. Either way you wouldn’t get fat on it.

End of term productions (Nativity plays! Hurrah! Do they still do them, or would it offend the ethnic minorities?), yes - end of term productions, or plays, they have their own tastes in my memory. Small sausage rolls, hot dog sausages from a tin (Walls?) and curled up salmon paste or beef paste sandwiches (sangwijis as we say in Hull), and of course cheese on sticks, with little onions, and a pineapple chunk from a tin. No such thing as school meals I don’t think - I can’t remember what happened at lunchtime - if I wasn’t whirling round like a demented Dervish, holding my breath, or running round like a mad thing trying to look up girls skirts, I think I escaped and ran home again. As I ran home past the Mechanics Arms and along Drainside to find Mam - if she wasn’t at the wash ouse’ or working - the Small Faces ‘Itchycoo Park’ echoed from the always-open corner door of the Mechanics as I pelted past in plastic Woolies sandals.

Mam was no domestic goddess bless her, as she didn’t have the time, and I was the youngest of eight (technically nine) so we must have kept her on her toes. In the days before washing machines, the dolly tub and the mangle were kept very busy, and the wash ouse’ was like her second home. Money was short but we didn’t know it as kids, and any food dished out was gratefully trenched, and clean plates were left all round. One of my favourite meals whilst stood at the table (there wasn’t enough room for everyone to sit down at once, so I stood in between the chairs, as I was the littlest) was mince and mash sangwijis - white bread (not buttered), a layer of mince, a layer of mash, a layer of peas and white bread on top - FAB.

Obviously not too many culinary delights to speak of in our house, but fried onion sangwijis in mam’s bread cakes were a Friday night treat, just before the tin bath came out (Friday night was bath night) – aye, and bread and dripping still has a nice sound to it too. I also took a fancy to bacon rind – the really chewy bit from the edge, that Mam used to cut off.

If none of these specialities of the house were available, and Dad had actually passed some of his earnings to Mam, before drinking them away in Burns’ Head, we could have a fish and chip supper from a little chip shop on Charles Street. Not 100 yards from our door - it was called Ralph’s, and was just past Robbie’s tobacconist and Smokey Joe Gorman’s Sculcoates Arms, and stood at the entrance to one of those old courts that held two up, two down houses, which were common in that area of town. I seem to remember going down that passage to get served but I may be wrong – and if only I had taken Dad’s Brownie I could have recorded some of the last court housing in Hull, but I was only eight or nine and I hadn’t met Chris Ketchell yet [an old trade directory confirms that this was Ann’s Place; No.39 Charles Street and the 1901 Census lists five households in the tiny court] Sandie Shaw’s ‘Always something there to remind me’ was playing on the works radio in the brewery yard over the wall at the end of the court, as I sneaked a chip on the way home.

1970 brought disaster for our family and hundreds of others, as the area was razed to the ground in another wave of council demolition, which had actually begun before the Second World War. We were sent packing to Ellerburn Avenue on North Hull Estate - oh no - out in the country! We never got this far from town usually, just to Homsea or Withernsea for our annual holidays. As it turned out things weren’t so bad, and everyone settled in for a few years – apart from the power-cuts. One of very few memories of food there was Dad’s cheese on toast, or Spam on toast; I don’t know what he did with it but it was magic; a rare treat after a wet winter’s day at Endike Lane Boys penitentiary (that’s interesting - my memories of North Hull aren’t set in Summer, they are in black and white and in Winter). Deep Purple’s ‘Black Night’ came from my sisters’ bedroom as I looked eagerly at Dad in front of the high-level grill of the cooker. Other early 1970s food recollections include the introduction of Sunday lunches. We never had them before I don’t think; I suppose with fewer mouths to feed we could afford to live in style. As Dad had cooked in the war (I think Mam told me that) he often took the kitchen duties on Sundays, but sadly both he and Mam were taught the ‘boil it to death’ style of cuisine, but it never did us any harm. Despite all the food and goodies and sangwijis I remained stick-thin well into my teens - as this shot from outside no.32 Ellerburn Avenue shows. Nice gear though - sta-press trousers, and Ben Sherman shirt I think. Bike's not mine - honest ...

Sweets were rapidly taken over by real food from this point, as I never really have had a sweet tooth - much preferring savouries to this day. As the years rolled on, childhood memories of sweet tastes disappear, and apart from the occasional ice cream wafer sangwij at 32 Ellerburn Avenue (another item that had ceased to be a luxury with Dad in regular employment, and many siblings left home or at work) - nothing much else comes to mind. Very soon after, a move from Ellerbum Avenue to Bransholme would change all that; beer, crisps, Chinkys, and even more beer would change my diet forever. T Rex’s ‘20th Century Boy’ and Slade’s ‘Cum on feel the Noize’ played very loudly from the Dansette in my bedroom, and all of a sudden my bloody hand-me-down tartan trousers were actually in fashion.

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