Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. Our local area is in Tier 2 of virus restrictions but, adjacent areas are in Tier 3 so, we are staying local. We have just completed a walk around the locations in Runcorn that my human used to visit in his childhood. He decided to follow this up with a walk around significant areas associated with his early teenage years.
We wrapped up warmly as the temperature had dropped to a couple of degrees above freezing. The big feller was in his full winter gear and I had my waterproof fleece suit on. I like my fleece because it keeps me dry and warm. It also allows me to pee on walls and trees which does get a bit drafty when the cold wind blows. So, we set off from the house and walked through the Town Hall Park toward Festival Way and the Grange Estate.
My human moved from Heath Road Crescent to Sycamore Road in the summer of 1965. He had left Westfield Junior School in June and was about to start his secondary education in Helsby Grammar School. The house was a newly built small semi-detached council house that backed onto the fields of Grice’s farm. As we walked my human told me about how he played football, cricket and tennis in the street all day, every day. He would mark the lines of the tennis court on the road in chalk and have an imaginary net. Fortunately, not many people had cars in the road back then so, he was safe and didn’t need to keep stopping.
He remembers getting a bright red shiny cricket ball one Easter. It was bowled to him, he wacked it over the garden wall, straight into the corn field behind, never to be seen again. He is still gutted to this day. Grice’s farm was an adventure playground for him and his mates. He used to scrump crab apples and dare his friends to eat them as they walked to the Figure of Eight pit or along the track to Clifton Village. During the summer holidays they used to walk across the fields to Halton Village. Trekking to Halton seemed like a real adventure as it was a small stand-alone village in the early 60’s.
My human used to get the bus to school in Helsby from outside of the Grangeway shops. He remembers buying music papers from there every week, that he would read on the bus instead of doing his homework that he had left from the previous night. He was far from being the ideal pupil. The NME, Sounds and Melody Maker dominated his reading matter as his obsession with music became a major part of his life. Rock concerts and festivals, such as Weeley in 1971, became his focus instead of schoolwork. Bad human! Evenings tended to be spent in his bedroom with his friends while they listened to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin (way too loudly!)
In 1965 my human started to go to the odd football match at Old Trafford to see his other obsession, Manchester United. He used to travel to the away matches on the coach with Ma Scott from Clifton Road. A walk to Widnes North Railway Station came before a train journey to home games. He would follow them to both home and away matches with his biggest regret was not being able to see them at Wembley winning the European Cup in 1968.
With England winning the World Cup in 1966, football played a big part in his life and he would walk anywhere around Runcorn to have a kick about. He used to play either in goal or as a defender when he was in school because he was too slow and not skilful enough to play upfront, where he wanted to play.
A Runcorn football league was formed in the late 60’s and he played for Sycamore City, named after Sycamore Road and the cheap Manchester City kit that they bought. Arch rivals were Maple Madrid, named after Maple Avenue and the white kit of Real Madrid, he thinks! The local ‘derby’ was always a battle. They weren’t the best team in the league or the worst. The best was a team called Helsby, as it was basically the Helsby Grammar School year team. They played their home games initially on the Town Hall Park pitch where the all-weather pitch is nowadays. Back in those days it was an always-muddy pitch!
We walked from the Town Hall Park along Boston Avenue to where the Boys Club used to be. He played football there on several occasions. He also practised Judo for a while but, the novelty wore off quite quickly. Probably because he is a bit of a wimp!
We trudged over the Grange School playing fields where I had a run, off-lead, while I picked up the discarded water bottles. It wasn’t long before we were back walking through the houses of Stonehills Lane and Saxon Road. We were heading for Rock Park where my human used to play tennis on the rental hardcourt in the summer months. Sport and music continued to be his loves in his teenage years.
From Rock Park we headed along Heath Road toward Canal Street. No longer there but, for a long time the home ground of Runcorn AFC. At this point, my human started to reminisce about when Runcorn beat Notts County in the FA Cup and about how they should have been promoted to the Football League only for substandard facilities. He said that it was a great place to meet up with friends and everyone seemed to know everyone else. ‘Come on the ‘Corn’, and ‘Ref, where’s your glasses?’ were the comments back then, he said.
We headed downhill into town from Canal Street. The attraction for my human used to be the Poster Shop owned by Frank Murphy. He would spend hours in there with his other long-haired mates, talking and laughing with Frank. Frank is the owner of Frailer’s Music Shop a few yards from his original shop. He is a Runcorn Legend and has had a shop in the town for over 50 years.
We plodded on up Regent Street and over Doctor’s Bridge to the former site of the Empress Cinema. My human told me about seeing ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’, ‘And Now for Something Completely Different’, ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Midnight Cowboy’ there in the dusty, smoke-filled darkness. During the interval, if he had any cash, he would treat himself to a tub of icecream with a tiny wooden spoon.
We walked home from the new bridge approach roundabout alongside the expressway as he was singing ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, the Monty Python song and later sang by the Stretford End during the sad times at Old Trafford. Thankfully, we were home soon. Till next time!