| | M y S a l t b u r n 1 9 5 2 - 1 9 7 0
"I realise very well that the reader has no great need to know all this;
but I need to tell him" - Rousseau, Les Confessions
Much of what I've written below is, naturally enough, constrained by my own memories and interpretation - and meaningless to anyone who has no knowledge of Saltburn, then or now - but
I've tried to keep it generally accessible rather than too particular to me. Hopefully, this will provoke you to write something too!
For those who don't know Saltburn, having come across this account by accident, it's a small seaside town on the north east coast of England, south of Middlesbrough. From the mouth of the River Tees, a wide smooth beach of fine picture-postcard sand sweeps south east for many miles, hindered briefly by rocky outcrops at Redcar, until at last it fetches up against the 365ft Huntcliff, jutting out into the North Sea. This final stretch is where Saltburn is, on a smaller adjacent headland. There has been some sort of settlement there since Anglo Saxon times, where Skelton Beck flows into the sea, and in fact there was a small Roman fort on Huntcliff, but the start of the modern town was in 1860 when industrialist Henry Pease decided to develop a Victorian coastal resort, and this was where he would do it, and so Saltburn-by-the Sea came into being.
The town is built on the high ground above the beach (aerial
view), and the slight curve of the coastline gives you a grandstand view back up the coast to the distant industrial silhouette of Billingham and Hartlepool on the far side of Tees Bay. The town is connected to the beach-side promenade and the pier far below by a water-balanced cliff lift that was first built in 1884. For
those unconvinced by the lift's all-too-obvious basic technology, then flights of steps or a steep zig-zag road are the other options. The pier, once almost twice as long as you see it nowadays, doesn't point across the sea to Europe as you might imagine, but indicates a direction not far adrift from North.
Saltburn declined markedly during the 1970s and early 1980s, first with the loss of the important summer holiday trade due to cheap foreign holidays, and then with the general economic blight. But there is a silver lining. If there were any plans in the offing for modernisation and development, they were virtually scuppered overnight and the town entered a time-warp such that, even now, I can go back and see a Saltburn not much changed since I grew up there 50 years ago. Great.
In fact, I wasn't born in Saltburn, I was born in nearby Marske, in the front bedroom of a small cottage just off the high street, through an arch near 'the middle house'. That was in late 1951, which I've obviously always known, but it dawned on me only recently that I was a child of the wartime King George VI's reign and not, as I've always vaguely thought, always of the new Queen Elizabeth's reign. But My Saltburn starts when I was six months old when, in mid-1952, my parents, my sister Suzanne and myself moved to newly-built 25 Marske Road, sited between the cemetery and what is now the petrol station, in the area roughly described as Ox Close where you leave Saltburn on the way to Marske. I lived there until about 1975, but the house only changed hands after my mother died in 1998.
Until I started school at Upleatham Street I suppose I was pretty much unaware of the rest of Saltburn outside my own immediate locality. Although I can remember things from about just over a year old, nearly all of my early memories are of the Marske Road end of town.
We were the first occupants of the house and in that row of six semis only the council's own chief architect was there before us, next-door-but-one towards Marske. I guess he was trying out his own creations to see if they worked. Such was his status within Saltburn & Marske Urban District Council that he actually had a car, a black Vauxhall Velox, which he parked at the back of the house. He did this by way of a curving cinder driveway (its route still apparent if you go to Google Maps) that came in from the track leading up to Pickering's bus garage and Hob Hill. When he went (to be replaced by the Westgarths) the boundaries became more regularised and his ad hoc carriage drive disappeared. The house at the far end became occupied by Mr Thurston the printer, while the Robinsons moved in next door to us.
The Dales were next door to us in the other direction (towards the cemetary) and they had two daughters, Terrie and Janet. I remember this with certainty because their mother used to step outside their back door at meal times and bellow, "Teh-reeeee! Jah-nerrrt!" then march around to the front of the house to do the same there. They were replaced by the Whitelaws, who where hardly there at all before they moved to the 'gardener's cottage' in Rifts Wood, and then the house was occupied by Kath and Sam Davies, who seperately succumbed to illnesses while still in their early-50s.
[Beyond the Dales at the far end of the row of houses lived the Graingers. Maxine and Neil were the children and for some reason Neil liked to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. - Suzanne]
The house stands on high ground facing across the main road (a heightened location responsible for a particularly hair-raising episode one summer). On the far side of the road the ground drops away, so you have a decent view over the rooftops opposite, over the railway, over the treetops of Bluebell Wood and across the fields that rise up from the woodland valley to the cliff tops a mile away. Beyond the cliffs it's all North Sea and sky. Those rooftops on the other side of the main road at a lower level belong to The Parkway, which leads down to the railway and a dark, dank, narrow 'cattle-arch' underpass that gives access to the allotments on the other side, as well as the woods, the caravan site and, eventually, the beach. At that time, the cattle-arch was overlooked by a large, gloomy signal box which was demolished sometime in the '70s I think.
The cattle-arch was very narrow indeed, and to get a vehicle to the allotments you had to go the long way round - that is, down Hilda Place opposite the C of E church towards Hazelgrove, under the railway bridge and then back alongside the railway on the cinder track past the caravan site. Nevertheless, I once saw Maurice Lock's dad drive a small pre-war Morris or Ford through the arch, which seemed to me to be a sensible thing to do. It still does, in fact. And I suppose he must have done that regularly, for before long the council put up a metal post at the entrance to prevent such transgressions of the bye laws getting out of hand, perhaps leading to insurrection and revolution throughout the town.
That short but very steep embankment between the main road and the start of The Parkway was an ideal sledge launchpad in winter. There were some heavy winters at the end of the '50s and once a few sledges had compacted the deep snow and it had turned to ice, you could achieve fantastic speeds within seconds on the 45 degree slope - especially with a running start from the edge of the main road - and could easily keep going right down The Parkway.
Unless you hit the lamp post. At the bottom of the embankment, dead centre and facing the entrance to The Parkway - right at the point of maximum velocity, you will note - was a concrete lamp post. If you can imagine a Winter Olympics Ski Jump with a lamp post right in the middle at the take-off point, you get the idea. And any child knows that by laying head-first flat on your sledge you can go really fast...
Through the cattle-arch, turn right along the cinder track alongside the railway, keep going past the allotments and you soon arrive at Saltburn Caravan Site, which to me seemed to carry with it a certain risqué air of louche holiday morals, even when closed and empty for the winter. The caravan site didn't use to be as extensive as it now is - Saltburn's football field used to be there too, between the allotments and the caravans.
to the caravan site is the Roman Catholic church, and finally, between the church and the start of Marine Parade (opposite the end of Milton Street) there were the two Scout huts. The Scout huts were demolished at the end of the '60s to make way for retirement flats, and a new Scout hut was built in the corner of the caravan site right next to the church (Cubs football team, approx 1962). Before that though the caravan site had expanded in the other direction towards the allotments and swallowed up the football field. The present day footy field - opposite the golf club at Hob Hill - is the filled-in, levelled-off and grassed-over old council tip, and maybe that's why the playing surface was never exactly smooth, though the 20-fags a day Saltburn FC athletes might well have been glad of it as a ready excuse for unconvincing performances.
The centre of Saltburn is at a scale that a child can grasp. Middlesbrough's big department stores were a frightening labyrinth - especially Binns, where you could enter or exit by any number of doors on different streets - but Saltburn town centre is a lot easier to comprehend for a tiny tot. The most interesting shop on Station Street was Langmans the chemist, on the east side under the wrought iron and glass arcade. It was laid out like a shop but didn't conduct itself quite like the others since the staff wore white coats and didn't seem like shop assistants at all. It was very dark, cool and quiet, almost with a reverential hush. There were huge coloured jars on upper shelves, plus a pervading smell of soap, polish and cleanliness that was nowhere near as noticeable in our own homes. You could enter by one door and leave by another and there was a weighing machine outside awaiting your penny. These were the people you entrusted with the developing and printing of your Brownie 127 films (which took at least two weeks).
Because Saltburn was one end of a number of United bus routes across east Cleveland, the buses would drop their last passengers on the west side of Station Street when they arrived, swing empty round the roundabout outside the station and come back up Station Street to park outside Langmans. The camber of the road ensured the upper decks of the double-decker Bristol Ks leaned perilously close to the wrought ironwork. The bus crews used to refresh themselves in a cafe/fish'n'chip shop on the other side of the street, run by Carol Burgin's mum, and everything was 1p cheaper for them. I've also some recollection that in the 1950s there was no centre divide down Station Street, but there was a proper roundabout - or half-roundabout - at the top outside the Queens Hotel, though not actually astride the main road.
The 73 (every half-hour: Redcar, Grangetown, South Bank, Middlesbrough, Stockton) would rest outside Saltburn Bakery while the 62 (each hour: Marske, Eston, Teesville, Middlesbrough) would park immediately behind, outside Langmans. Since the buses parked facing up a slight incline, the driver of the rearmost bus would park as close as possible to the one in front - only inches separating them - so that the front driver had the task of pulling his heavily-loaded bus away from the stop without slipping backwards even slightly when he released his handbrake.
The single-decker United from Loftus, Brotton and Skelton (usually a flatfronted Bristol LS5G or MW5) would park around the corner in Station Square in the shadow of the disused brine baths. Saltburn's own bus company, Saltburn
Motor Services, parked on Dundas Street East opposite Hibbert's television and radio shop.
There was a popular song in 1956 entitled 'The Railroad Comes Through the Middle of the House'. It could easily have had a powerful resonance with Saltburn residents since the railway came through the middle of the town and very effectively cut it in half. At that time - indeed, up until the recent era - the only ways to actually cross the tracks from one side to the other were the cattle-arch mentioned earlier, the underpass at the bottom of Hilda Place and the pedestrian subway under the station between Dundas Street West and Milton Street. For those unfamiliar with Saltburn's history, the reason for this subway was that the track and platform extended beyond the principal part of the station into the back of The Zetland Hotel so that the visiting toffs travelling First Class didn't have to mix even briefly with those further down the social scale when the train's passengers spilled out onto the platform on arrival. Nowadays, of course, the track, platform and subway have all disappeared.
Emerging from the subway on the Milton
Street side one was faced with shops of a more diverse nature, and this is where you and your saved-up pocket money would be taken by your mother at Christmas to buy presents for your parents and siblings.
Immediately to the left on the corner of the subway was Oscar Rajn's gift shop, interesting from my point of view as the Saltburn stockist of Corgi Toys (all of which I still have).
Almost opposite the subway was Rogers, a gents' outfitters very much in the old style of mahogany window frames, soaring plate glass windows, tiled entrance, glass display counters and banks of neatly-labelled polished wood drawers with brass corners, holding ties and handkerchiefs and everything else of that ilk and silk. Here you could buy a range of clothing to suit the bank manager or the country gentleman... or perhaps even a young fellow already 'doing well' with a steady income and a motorcar. It was well-known that you could 'pay by cheque'. Stocking quality goods for the middle classes, Rogers was definitely one of the ports of call for Christmas shopping (though never visited by the Sandersons at any other time of the year) and you could buy your dad a leather bookmark, or a shaving kit or maybe a tobacco pouch and pipe-cleaning tool. Just in case these items didn't, in fact, look much different from similar ones that could be bought elsewhere in Saltburn, the phrase "bought at Rogers, of course" was murmured at the earliest opportunity as the gift was revealed on Christmas morning.
On that side of Milton Street was Saltburn's other chemist - Taylors, I think, which seemed a tad more modern - plus the wet fish shop, Gladders grocery and dairy produce shop and the complete range of other businesses like electrician, tobacconist, solicitors, etc that you'd expect to find in a provincial town.
Another noteworthy shop was Hamiltons (telephone 149) on the corner of Amber Street, which was a more grand upmarket gift shop with a large range of goods, particularly china and glassware. For me, Hamiltons was noteworthy partly because it too had a Langmans-the-chemist-style wrought iron arcade outside, but mainly because it stocked Dinky and Matchbox toys (yes, I still have those as well), Hornby Dublo train sets (er, yes) and Ladybird books, and this was where you'd get your Dandy, Beano or School Friend Christmas annuals. Amazingly, it was also a lending library, though since Hamiltons charged you for the books you borrowed I suspect this business opportunity waned somewhat when the town library relocated from the Upleatham Street school to the centre of town.
For railway enthusiasts there was not only the station but also the railway sidings just by the caravan site. Apart from one whole afternoon's trainspotting, I've never been an enthusiast myself, but still recall how impressive Saltburn station seemed to be, echoing and cool even
on a hot day, with its 'railway traditional' glass roof, quiet waiting rooms and ticket office. I well remember steam trains easing to a stop alongside the main platform in clouds of white steam, with my cousins from Tyneside alighting for a week at the seaside. During Redcar races, the race excursion trains would drop their passengers at Redcar and come down to the Saltburn sidings until it was time to go back (there wasn't room at Redcar) - one week we even had a streamlined A4 Pacific 'Streak'.
The branch line that climbs the incline at that point and curves away towards the viaduct and Skelton used to be part of the route that eventually took you down the coast to Whitby. That was the Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway and it must have been an impressive trip along the coast, but it was badly built and, post-war, attracted fewer and fewer passengers and closed in 1958. After that, the branch line served only the steel works at Skinningrove and I remember nights when I couldn't sleep and could hear goods trains coming down the shallow incline from Marske, picking up speed and momentum that would help them take the rising curve off the main line and up past the back of Marske Mill Lane School. In the dead of still, wintery nights, when sound carries for miles in the cold, clear air, you could hear the trains for up to half an hour or more, ever-fainter occasional gusts of chuffing and clanking as they made their way inland past Skelton, then back out to the coastline again through Brotton.
There would be silence for a while, and then I might hear a piston-engined aircraft come from afar, slowly passing high overhead in the cold, starry night sky, its drone undergoing that gradual Doppler-shift change from a higher to a lower note until it too disappeared into the distance, gone forever. I used to wonder who they were, and where they were going and sometimes I used to wonder where I would be in 20 years time... 30 years time. I couldn't imagine, and it seemed frightening not to know the future.
Behind our house was Queensway, which seemed to be full of lawless bullies and insolvent families whose children wore wellingtons most of the year. In reality of course, that's just what took your notice – most of the families were entirely normal but you didn't notice them at all. John Watson is fairly sure that the Council had a policy of trying to 'coral' problem families into one area, and also used part of Woodrow Avenue in a similar way. Beyond Queensway was Hob Hill, a largely untamed hilly area of bushes and trees where you could play Commandos all day untroubled by grownups. No one had a wrist watch; you only returned home when some sixth sense told you that a meal was on the table. My mother never bothered looking for me - she assumed I would walk through the door as the grub was being served up, and that's what I usually did.
In the '50s Hob Hill was regularly used for motorcycle scrambling, which was a very popular sport in post-war Britain. This was quite a big event, with anything up to 20 bikes in each race (the Tate brothers were the star riders) and spectators at every vantage point around the lengthy course. There were even those wartime-style trumpet loudspeakers tied up in the trees to provide a commentary. On race weekends the track leading to it would be jammed with Rileys, Singers, Morris, Jowetts, Austins and Hillmans, etc, towing home-made trailers with scramble bikes lashed to them. And when the steeper part of the access track at the Hob Hill end was wet and muddy, you can imagine the chaos. I suppose the ease of use wasn't helped any by the track up to Hob Hill also being the access for what was then Pickering's bus garages - dark, oily caverns whose main interest for me was that unused locomotives from the Valley Gardens' miniature railway were kept there. Hob Hill was a great day out though, for it provided lots of secret paths and quiet clearings and, in the middle, shale pits hidden and guarded by prickly gorse where you could find newts and frogs if you were determined enough.
Further over by the back road to Guisborough was the new council tip, a real treasure-trove yielding anything from a perfectly good tyre to a copy of the Karma Sutra. In fact, our local tip scavengers seemed to work full-time at the tip in preference to any other occupation, bearing home their booty each day, balanced on old prams or dragged on pieces of wood.
[The rag-and-bone man came once a fortnight and if you had anything for him you might get a windmill on a stick or a goldfish, though you had to keep an eye on them since they were apt to leap out of the bowl. If you saw them in time you could revive them with some asprin or a drop of brandy in their water. - Suzanne]
At that time Queensway, The Parkway and our row of semi-detacheds on the main road were almost the last houses before you left Saltburn (with the exception of the curiously isolated Ox Close Cottages and 'The Villa'). Wilton Bank housing estate didn't exist and neither did Marton Gill.
But to digress slightly on this very point, it has to be said that the last house is not even Gladders farm, which later became a riding school. The last building of any sort is the one referred to on the maps as Tofts Bungalow, which is well on the way to Marske at the roadside where the track from Tofts Farm comes down to join the main road. The interesting aspect for me is not just that I can remember this house being built, but that on the thousands of occasions I have passed it since, during some 50-odd years, I've never once seen a single person there. Lights on at night, washing on the line, garage open, yes... but never anyone digging the garden, looking out of the window, getting in or out of a car, painting a windowframe, nothing. Not a single person ever visible. Strange.
Behind where the petrol station now stands was Pawson's farm. My sister used to play with Edith Pawson, so I played with John Pawson, though he was a bit older than me. They had an elder brother, Tony, who I think later went to run a farm down Whitby way, near Ruswarp, or maybe Sleights or Sneaton. The Pawsons were tenants and during the day Mr Pawson was part of Bonas & Pawson in Marske, a firm of woodworkers. He used to drive there each day in his Riley RM, while Mrs Pawson looked after the farm.
This was a most excellent place to play. We built pedal-bike scramble courses, underground camps and dams. Animals could be fed. The nearby stream could be fallen into. They had an orchard behind the farmhouse, two great stone barns just by Ox Close cottages and a third barn much further up the lane that led through the farm and over the hill. That lane is still there, though of course now it begins half way up Wilton Bank. During the week before bonfire night, a huge bonfire would be built in one of the top fields just below Hob Hill and on the night itself there would be jacket potatoes and sausages for everyone who turned up... and there was usually quite a crowd.
[Apart from being a carpenter Mr Pawson was an undertaker, which explains how Edith had so many wonderful silks and damasks to make dolls' clothes with! The heavy farm work was done by Mr Pawson and his eldest son Tony, which meant ploughing and harvesting (real hayricks and wooden haycarts) with meals taken in the fields. Us kids were often allowed to sit on the bailer, thresher and tractors as they worked across the field, blades whirling and metal arms and grabbing spikes flashing backwards and forwards. On the farm, Mrs Pawson saw to the chickens and sold eggs. At Christmas there would be lots of chickens strung up in the garden fence, and the garage became a plucking shed where everyone - including Edith and myself - would be plucking chickens for sale.
Mr and Mrs Sherwood and their daughter Kath lived at the far end of Ox Close cottages. Mr Sherwood used to keep dairy cows in the field where Marton Gill is now. Every night with help from us kids the cows were brought back to one of the two big stone barns which were alongside the entry lane to Pawson's farm. The milk would be transfered pail by pail from the barn to the small dairy in Mrs Sherwood's backyard, where it would be pasturised and then bottled by hand. The other barn was full of the Pawson's farm stuff and us kids had a swing attached to the joists. It smelt of meal and sacks. On the other side of this barn were the pigstys. - Suzanne]
On summer's days my mother, us kids and Mrs Pawson would sometimes walk up the lane and all the way over the hill to the back road that connects Saltburn with Guisborough. On the way we would note the position of huge dinnerplate-sized mushrooms to be collected on the way back. You followed the back road to the crossroads, then turned down the steep bank to Apple Orchard, lured ever onwards by an egg sandwich-and-crisps picnic by the river. Of course, there would be a bottle of Dandelion and Burdock too, and maybe a Penguin biscuit. Certainly there was always a flask of sweet tea for the grown-ups. For five- and six-year-olds this was quite a walk even just one way. Coming back, we were faced with a long, steep hill straight away.
When I was seven or eight, the Pawsons packed us all into their Riley one morning and we went to Harrogate for the Yorkshire Show and that was the furthest I went from home until I had a trip to London when I was 12. At about this time the Pawsons also bought a television, the first one I was aware of, and us kids were allowed to watch Robin Hood or Hiram Holliday until teatime, then that was that. This was in the days when television closed down completely for an hour or so in the early evening so that parents could get their kids off to bed. For the most part, we played on the farm or up Hob Hill, and had no inkling of anything more exciting.
With the wind of change blowing, the farm didn't last long and the land was sold for development. The Pawsons moved across the road to the newly-built Marton Gill estate, the farm was demolished and the whole of that area facing the main road was taken over by the new Esso petrol station. That short loop of side road between the petrol station and the main road was Tarmac'd over at this time; before that it was just stones in mud. The excavations for the underground tanks were a very exciting place for us youngsters to play - especially after dark - and it seemed an enormous area, though nowadays I can stroll past it in less than half a minute.
In fits and starts over a number of years Wilton Bank appeared, itself a perfect playground for youngsters while it was still a building site. When building commenced, there was some excitement that there might be shops included in the Wilton Bank part of the development. It was said there were plans for a post office, and maybe buses would go up there too. Just rumours, of course, for none of those happened... but once-upon-a-time there was a shop, and it was very convenient for us Marske Road-dwellers.
At the end of our row of houses is the beginning of the track we've already mentioned, the one that leads up to Hob Hill, and this is where Willy's shop stood until about 1958 or so. It was the first building I went to on my own and it seemed a wonderful emporium of colourful things and strange stuff and oddments. In truth, as I realised later, Willy's shop was not much more than a ramshackled corrugated iron shed huddling under the hedge, parallel to the track, and can't have been much bigger than a medium-sized caravan, but it sold the bread, butter, milk and Woodbines that my mother needed (desperately needed, in the case of the Woodbines), and the Penguin biscuits, bubblegum and Tango that my sister and I craved. Mr Willy (perhaps Willie or Willis) was the owner and he had a very elderly, slow-moving helper called Mr Abraham, who could sometimes be seen 'exercising' an equally ancient and slow-moving dog.
In the meantime my schooling had started, beginning with the light and airy modern(ish) Upleatham Street Infants School (photo) in about 1956 and then crossing the yard to the dark, very Victorian Junior School in about 1959. Both of these schools have long since been demolished. By 'very Victorian' I mean cream-painted brick inside, wooden floorboards, outside toilets, high ceilings, lead pipe plumbing that rattled like a machine gun when you used a squeaky tap, carbolic soap and scalding hot water so hot it smelt scorched. Just over the wall of the school was the Saltburn Electric Laundry, which managed to stop all schoolwork at least once a day by venting steam pressure with an enormous roaring noise that went on for almost five minutes. While this was happening all teaching stopped since it was completely impossible to hear anyone speak. The headmaster was Mr Scott and his secretary – later wife – was Stella, who I never ever heard utter a single word in the four years I was there.
The first class in the Junior school was with the already-very-ancient Miss Ridgard, then came Miss Bean, then Mr Moss - our class moving halfway through his year to prefab rooms at the then-Secondary school at the corner of Marske Mill Lane - and, finally, back to Upleatham Street for the fourth year with Fanny Harburn, culminating in the 1963 11-Plus exam. This link takes you to 1961-62 class pictures of 3A and 4A.
Geoff Lynas tells me that - amazingly - Miss Ridgard didn't die until just a few years ago: she must have been well on her way to being 100! Correspondence with the late Terry 'Tug' Wilson, who went through the school during the war years, reminded me that Miss Ridgard was an unsmiling, unapproachable woman who demanded, and got, absolute silence at all times. He went on to relate how, sometime in 1945, her class had been 'average best attenders' and the reward was to be taken down to the beach. That must have some treat for a class-full of kids who had lived all their lives in a seaside town. The boys had to sit separately from the girls and, despite a howling gale blowing sand about, all had to face the same direction and eat their 'picnic' in silence.
Generally speaking, I knew the boys in my class quite well but none of the girls at all. As an example, in about 1974 I suddenly recognised Jane Harrison one night in the Top Deck nightclub in Redcar, said hello and managed some light conversation for a few minutes. These were the first (and only) words I ever spoke to her, even though she had always been in the same class as me from the first day of infants' school until we left the Junior school many years later. Girls just weren't very interesting, you see, but you could count on any of the boys knowing what a Hawker Hurricane or a Buntline Special was, and I guess there is no more sharply defined threshold of companionship than that.
The 11-Plus was in two parts. If you didn't pass the first, you didn't sit the second. The first part we took in our own classroom at Upleatham Street as far as I remember, but the second part was on a Saturday at the then-new Secondary Modern School on Marske Mill Lane (Huntcliff School). None of us had ever been inside such a modern building and when we went to the toilet at half-time we were bedazzled by the white tiles, modern urinals and sinks, huge mirrors and fluorescent lighting. Above each sink was a dispenser of gooey liquid. We couldn't think what this was and eventually reasoned that, being below the mirrors and in a school for older boys, it must be some variety of Brylcreem-style hairdressing lotion. So we rubbed it into our hair, combed some neat partings, then sat down for the second half of the exam and felt our hair and scalps go tight and rock-hard as the soap set.
[My best memories of the school in Upleatham Street was the sweetshop - a bag of sherbet for 3d, four Black Jacks for 1d or maybe a Holland Bar for a penny. When you were older you could buy chips at Wrigleys fish and chip shop next to the church and that would only be 3d as well - including 'scraps'. Our teachers also took us on nature walks into nearby Rifts Woods, which were most memorable for the overpowering smell of garlic. There were lots of other memorable flowers though, such as primroses, bluebells, red campions and wild roses. A highlight of the '60s was The Beatles staying at The Alexandra Hotel in Saltburn before appearing at The Globe in Stockton.. - Suzanne]
[I just had to look it up, and found that The Beatles' Globe appearance was on Friday 22 November 1963, the same day President Kennedy was assassinated, which was the day before the very first episode of Dr Who was broadcast. – Paul]
Then it was on to Sir WillIam Turner's School in Redcar from September 1963. The succesful girls went to Cleveland Girls Grammar, also in Redcar. Anthony Drew, John Watson, John Hawkins, Geoff Lynas, Stephen Jarratt, Clive Proctor, Chris Jarvis, Rod St Vaughn, Norman Pictor and David Thornton and I all went to SWT and, as far as I can tell, we immediately lost touch with those who didn't. (Picture 1968). During that time I travelled every day on red United buses (the 73, later renumbered the 273) to Redcar. But in the evenings and at weekends it was necessary to enjoy what Saltburn could offer, since the Sandersons didn't have a car (never did) and few of the families I knew had one either. In fact, I don't remember even using a telephone until I was about 16 (all that Button A and B stuff seemed very complicated).
As the 1960s progressed and we got older, Hob Hill and the building site were left behind and the cricket club and Friday night church youth club became our focus; we seemed to slip seamlessly from one lifestyle into the other.
The youth club started in the Upleatham School hall, which is where Dave Coverdale's first 'rock concert' was in about 1968, with an audience of about 20 (that is, the rest of the youth club). Celluloid they called themselves, and I remember it in the first place because I did the poster for it and in the second place for the clearly unresolveable problem of a lead guitarist modelling himself on Hank Marvin and The Shadows but being required to play the Hendrix and Cream material required by Deep Purple and Whitesnake's future frontman...
Then the youth club moved for a short while to upstairs rooms in Diamond Street, opposite Jack Simmonds' auction salesrooms (where I first learned the hypnotic attraction of other people's battered old crap in sagging cardboard boxes), before relocated in the early '70s to the new purpose-built church hall behind the C of E church at the bottom of Upleatham Street, though by that time I was doing other things.
For me, the library was a big draw during the holidays. I had first become aware of its existence when I was at the infants' school in Upleatham Street, because at that time the library was in the school grounds, squeezed in alongside the Junior School. It was dark and cool inside and smelling of floor polish and you could easily slip over on your bum. Which I did. I remember my astonishment on discovering that a noteworthy character in a book could appear in another book too.
Sometime in the early '60s the library was moved to its present site alongside the Methodist church hall, across the road from the Queen's Hotel. Once I'd been promoted from a child's ticket I discovered science fiction, and I would often borrow a book each day, reading it all afternoon and into the evening. The next day I'd swap it for another. At the back of the library was a reading area with comfy chairs, where I would read Punch or The Motor.
Now we added girls to the rolecall of friends, as well as new friends from Redcar and Marske, and younger/older Saltburn boys. So for about 1968, my list of friends and acquaintances - Saltburn, Marske and Redcar - was thus:
(alphabetically) Diane Barwick, Annette Blair, Linda (Merog) Brown, Phil Broomhead, Pat Bunting, Bill Carter, Dave Carter, Chris Chester, Joy Clarke, Judith Clegg, Jeff Clements, Ian Colclough, Dave Coverdale, Wendy Crosland, Annette Cutler, Francis Cutler, Anthony Drew, Len Gettings, Claire Goodswen, Dave Graham, Johnny Graham, Diane Granville, John Hawkins, June Hetherington, Mary Heerin, Kris Hibbett, Stephen Jarratt, Chris Jarvis, Larraine Knaggs, Richard Knaggs, Warwick Knights, Richard Light, Sarah Light, Maurice Lock, Geoff Lynas, Heather Mallory, Pat Mason, Claire McAuliffe, Peter Medd, Nicky Metcalfe, Ann Miller, John Murray, Mary O'Mahoney (pr: Oh-marny), Anne Newton, Christine Newton, Irene Newton, Graham Pacey, Nigel Pacey, Kate Pearson, Christine Poulson, John Pratt, Lyn Preston, Norman Pictor, Pete Pringle, Clive Proctor, Christine Robinson, Norma Saunby, Anne Saunders, 'Bol' Smith, Brian Smith, Gordon Smith, Richard Smith, Rod St Vaughan, Robin Stevenson, John Straight, Will Swales, Glynis Todd, George Tranter, Maxine Ulrich, Graham Watson, John Watson, Jane Weir, Herbie Wisniewski (pr: Vish nef ski), Werner Wisniewski, Anne Wright.
Some of the girls appear in a Cleveland
Girls School class photo (16 sec at 56kbp).
Although Saltburn's main feature is its seaside location, I didn't seem to spend too much time on the beach even in the summer. For one thing, the uncertanties of the sea itself always kept me out of it; there were always plenty of dire warnings from adults – even if rather unspecific – but I never had difficulty imagining undersea tentacles or teeth grabbing my legs and pulling me under. And from Marske Road it was a bit of a trek for tiny tot legs anyway (especially coming home: all uphill).
As I got older and stronger the beach became more accessible but most of my friends lived at my end of town, so as a 'pre-teen' Hob Hill and the Wilton Bank building site were the prefered choices. And the unbroken stream of cars and strange-liveried buses heading to the beach past our house on a summer weekend was an obvious inducement not to go down to the beach. My own kids can't understand why I wasn't on the beach every waking moment when I had the chance.
Which is not to say that I never went to the beach, for as a teenager I had my share of the waltzers and Cat Nab and the pier. But I spent just as much time having Lazy Sunday Afternoons at the cricket ground, happy to just idle under bright blue skies in the warm summer sun, listening to the drone of the holiday traffic going past, maybe tuning in to Radio Caroline somewhere out there on the North Sea, with the mixed aroma of newly-mown grass and pipe tobacco hanging heavy in the air when there was a match on, and a ripple of applause for some adroit fielding or an unlikely half-century. In the background: plock... plock, plungplock from the tennis courts.
Or sometimes I'd just sit in my bedroom on a sunny afternoon, dust motes floating in the shafts of sunlight, building an Airfix kit I'd bought with my pocket money that morning at The Model Shop in Redcar. The record player would be on in the corner with some of my sister's records on it (Beatles For Sale, The Planets Suite, etc) and even now I can smell that mixture of warm LP plastic, hot electricity, model aeroplane glue and household polish, and hear the hum of the speaker grille between records.
Weighing up the pros and cons, I think I prefer Saltburn's esplanade 'out of season'. There's many a dank wintery night I've walked along the lower prom by myself, alone with my thoughts, cocooned in parka and scarf, leaving the misty car park lights behind in exchange for the dark promenade where the sea roars more loudly and the stars are more easily seen.
Overall, Saltburn's topography is more interesting and varied than anywhere else within miles. The two woods, the beach, the Italian Gardens - the fact that it's at the end of the railway and not just on the way to somewhere else. If you've a mind to consider it, there are some interesting old buildings and constructions to remind us of now-gone glories that once promised an even more thrilling future that never happened. And then there's the cliffs and the very nearby countryside - in all, a very satisfyingly varied landscape/townscape with plenty to provoke your thoughts and imagination.
By and large the Swinging Sixties merely glanced at Saltburn as it went past and didn't stop, though the beat of that era did touch our lives to a certain extent and any song from that time is enough to whisk me back. I recall it easily now because I understand it (and me) better now. You get a better perspective from further away. I suppose that's why I watch Heartbeat, except I can see that there are too many 'new' cars too nicely polished, and not enough dogs and snotty kids running around. And not enough dog shit on the pavements, either... And, while I'm on the subject, a remarkably low proportion of North Yorkshire people too!
And so we arrive at the summer of 1970, aged 18, which I remember as the Pele World Cup summer, and it was the last time that the boys who had grown up together played footy together after Sunday lunch on the disused rugby field behind Saltburn Cricket Club, where the swimming bath now stands. I guess one Sunday teatime we finished playing, put on our jumpers, said, "See you next week!" and went home, never dreaming we wouldn't be there next week, nor any other week. We did our A-levels, left school and everyone disappeared in all directions to universities and colleges.
Except me. I stayed on in a Saltburn suddenly emptied of just about everyone I knew and for four years went by bus each day to the art college at Middlesbrough... but that's another story, as they say, and has no relevance here!
I don’t often visit Saltburn nowadays. When I do, I enjoy walking or driving the quiet areas that are not the main parts of Saltburn that one would immediately think of. These are the places I have most memories of, things known only to me for my own reasons – a particular dip in the road; the friend’s house where I first heard Revolver by The Beatles; the now-crumbling wall that I remember being new and where my father would hoist his little boy up to walk daringly along the top.
But what always invokes my sense of times past is to walk on the lower promenade and lean on the railings, looking at the sea, watching how the waves run up the beach and then back again. They were doing that when I was a toddler, when I was a youngster, when I was a teenager and when I was a young man. They were doing that when I left Saltburn many years ago and they've been doing it unceasingly ever since. There’s a part of me that feels they’ve kept doing it just for me, hoping that one day I’ll reappear to see them still doing it, just like it was in the old days. So I always go to look at the sea.
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Paul (Sandy) Sanderson, 17 July 2015 email@example.com