Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. Sorry that we have not written much lately. It’s mainly due to the horrible virus thingy that is restricting you humans from travelling. Also, Hopalong is still waiting for his knee operation. So, we are walking locally and only for short distances. The big feller had an idea about walking around some of the places where he spent his childhood. The first thing that I thought was that he was going to drive me crazy rabbiting on about the olden days when kids played in the street. Guess what! That is exactly what he did.
Our little trip around Runcorn started at the top of Loch Street, where he spent his first few months living with his gran on his mother’s side. Nowadays, the street only exists for a few yards, with most of it being the town car park. When my dad was a sprog, in the days before colour was invented, Loch Street ran from the bank in High Street down to Church Street. It was a quiet friendly street lined with small terraced houses, all with outdoor toilets. Ackerley’s coal merchants was at the top of the road that supplied a large portion of the town. My dad can’t remember living there except for a foggy memory of a roaring fire in a black grate.
As we were walking away from Loch Street, my tone-deaf human started to sing to himself again. This time it was One by U2 that assaulted my ears. He really does think that he can sing. Unfortunately, unlike humans who can put their fingers in their ears to block out unwanted noise, my paws are useless for that. Luckily, I was on an extending lead so, I got as far away from him as possible. He kept telling me off for pulling on my lead. This time I chose to turn a ‘deaf one’.
We walked along High Street to Heath Road until we were opposite the Town Hall. My human moved into a prefab in Heath Road Crescent when he was a toddler. The prefabs were constructed during the Second World War to supply cheap temporary rented accommodation. My dad moved to the small development in the mid 1950’s. The prefabs have long since been demolished and replaced by flats and bungalows. We had a mooch around and saw a short length of the original road but, there is very little evidence of this small development remaining. My human told me about the small corrugated walled buildings with a garden at the front and the back. He told me about the original garden shed where he used to breed guinea pigs. He remembered the coal fire that heated the living room while the rest of the building was so cold in the winter. ‘Shut the door’ was the phrase that he remembers being said repeatedly. He had a built-in gas fridge in the small kitchen and a fitted bathroom which was like an ice box. I think that he thought that he was very posh as he described the house as a ‘detached bungalow in its own grounds’. He said that he loved it there with his little gang of friends that played outdoors from dawn to dusk on the island in the middle of the houses. It wasn’t much fun, he said, when other kids asked, ‘how do you get in if you lose your key?’ ‘Do you use a tin opener?’
At the side of Heath Road and opposite the Town Hall grounds is a dip in the landscape known as Pool Hollow. My human said that he used to play in the stream that ran through the small valley, catching frogs and keeping them in an old galvanised water tank. We couldn’t get into the hollow because it is fenced off, nowadays. My dad reckoned that the ghosts of those frogs may haunt the place. He is an idiot!
We crossed the road into the Town Hall grounds or, little park, as my human called it when he was a nipper. He used to go to the swings, slide and rocking horse with his group of pals from the prefabs. Autumn was the time for conkers, and he would throw sticks into the horse chestnut trees to dislodge them. This usually meant that they would be chased by the park keeper, who never actually caught them! He told me about how he would harden them in the oven before his battles with the other kids. He said that some kids hardened theirs in vinegar but, he couldn’t stand the smell. The small hilly section of the grounds by Heath Road used to be where him and his pals went on their sledges when the snow covered the ground. He said that he remembers the hill being huge and steep. I think that his memory is a little blurred, as it’s actually only a small drop and not steep at all!
Our next destination took us to the top end of the grounds and the exit into Boston Avenue, then along Festival Way, passing the chippy that my human used to have to reach up to the counter to pay. We passed the Grangeway shops, St. Andrews church and the building that used to be the Cherry Tree pub. Further along Grangeway, we turned left into the houses that my human called the Grange Estate. We walked into Larch Road, which was where his gran lived after she left Loch Street. She lived in a new end-terraced bungalow, with a large green area in front, where he was not allowed to play football. My dad was naughty because he did have a kick around on there and played the odd game of cricket. He remembers digging out a tunnel and cave into a huge mound of builder’s sand in the adjacent car garages. To say that it was dangerous would be an understatement. His gran used to cook fantastic meals for him and allow him to pick mint from her garden to make mint sauce. He had his first taste of coffee in his grans. It was called Camp Coffee and was a liquid with coffee and chicory that you added hot water to. He said that it was absolutely gross! Behind the row of houses opposite his grans place, was the remains of Grice’s Farm. He told me about the ‘Blood Stream’ that ran through the fields. He recalled the day when he and his friends saw the stream flowing with blood! I think that he has a very vivid imagination. It was actually a drainage ditch that ran with muddy water but, I will humour him.
The next part of our walk took us through the houses of Laburnum Grove, Norleane Crescent and through the ‘entry’ into Heath Road. We turned left, up the hill to our next point of his reminiscence. The Heath playing fields or, ‘Big Park’ as he called it, was another area that my human spent a lot of time playing and exploring. My dad played football and cricket on these playing fields, when he was allowed to venture further afield than the little park. It was a great place for me to have a run, off-lead, through the puddles and mud. We passed the boating lake and saw the much improved and safer kid’s playground. My dad said that, when he was young, there was a huge slide, massive swings, a roundabout and monkey bars in that spot.
We left the park to head down Heath Road, toward my human’s grandads house in Whitby road. This little road is just off Langdale Road and is a quiet street lined with semi-detatched houses. His grandad used to grow ‘goosegogs’ or gooseberries in his back garden. His nan used to make a pie with them that she covered in custard. My human said that he hated it, the fruit was so tart and bitter, but he loved the custard which sweetened up the dish. He had to ‘clear his plate’ and he recalls it being a torture. He wasn’t allowed to play football in the street because the neighbours would complain. He said that he preferred to visit his gran in Larch Road because he had a bit more freedom there.
From Whitby Road we walked along Langdale road and up to Victoria Road School. This was my human’s first school. He said that it seems to be quite large now but, when he went there, he said it seemed absolutely massive. My dad said that the best time when he was there was playtime, when he would play British Bulldog and other such ancient games. He remembers boys forming their own little gangs while the girls formed theirs, in the playground. I am not sure whether my dad actually learned anything while he was there except for his ‘times tables’ and a few hymns. He just had to google how to spell hymns by the way! He said that he used to enjoy his third of a pint of milk everyday as well with its foil top and straw. My dad remembers some nonsense!
From Victoria Road school my dad was supposed to go to a brand new school in Clayton Crescent but, for one year, he had to go to Mill Brow school while Westfield was being built. We turned back, down Victoria Road and crossed under the Spur Road to Mill Brow. This single classroomed building was originally the Ragged School and has been a church since. He remembers it being crowded with children. The highlights of his time there was playing Wee Willy Winkie in the school play and Father Christmas in the Christmas play. That, however, was the end of his acting career. He can, however, be a drama queen!
We had a long walk from Mill Brow to Westfield Primary School, which was a Junior school when he was a pupil. My dad said that he liked Westfield because it was brand new and seemed so very modern. He played in goal for the school football team. He remembered playing against the Grange Juniors and beating them 4 – 0 on their own pitch. He said that he was frozen because he had nothing to do. He also recalled how he played on the Picow Farm football field for the school and scored a goal with his head. He said that it was a waterlogged ‘casey’ ball that nearly knocked his head off his shoulders!
That was the end of our little jaunt while my human reminisced about his early days. He said that we will do a walk that takes in some of the significant spots of his teen years, shortly. If you managed to read this account, you were only tortured by half of his ramblings and recollections. I had to pretend to be interested in his story when all I wanted to do was sniff around, splash in puddles and find sticks! Till next time!