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My toy tin car which I still have reminds me of my best ever Christmas in 1953

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: December 25, 2013

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IT'S 1953, I'm 9 years old, and the baby of six children, but the eldest, Peter, is away at sea on the Ark Royal.

My sister has just moved out after getting married, the third eldest is in Korea, and brother number four is also away in the army but at Southampton. So it's just us two boys and Mom and Dad.

Dad's been out of work after a long illness without sick pay, and the Social did come out to means test Mom and Dad.

He told them to start selling the furniture as with such a good home we did not need help, so Dad went looking for work and he said he would do anything.

He found work, which was just short term, loading coal into the big canal barges for two weeks from 7pm till 7am.

It was cash in hand and it was very hard and dirty work, with no place to wash at the end of your working day. Plus they would not let Dad on the bus because of how dirty he was.

Two days before Christmas Eve, Frank Smith came to the house after Dad, and asked could he start work in the morning? It was a dustman's job, but Dad, who was a drill sergeant, said it didn't matter what job it was, he would stick at it for the rest of his working life (and he did, doing 35 years).

Dad said yes, and we thought he would give the coal job up, but no, he gave his word.

He would do the full two weeks, as he said his children have had to live on jacket spuds for over a month, but not any more.

He was doing the last week loading, then he would go and work for the council in the day.

He had to start work for the refuse at 7.30am, he got a lift off one of the wagon drivers, had a wash at Rolfe Street Depot, then did a full day on the bins.

He would come home, wash, have a meal of jacket spud and cheese, then go to work all night.

On Christmas Eve morning he got paid four pounds ten shillings for two weeks 'work.

Mom met him at Rolfe Street council yard and he gave it all to her. She went to Marsh & Baxter's, got a chicken and a joint of beef, a toy for me and something for my brother. She paid the rent up, which was one shilling and sixpence per week.

She paid the two weeks outstanding plus another two weeks in advance.

On Christmas morning us two boys got up to a stocking with a toy, an apple and orange, a few nuts plus a new penny each.

We felt so very lucky.

The best was yet to come as we sat down for our Christmas dinner, the other three boys walked in together.

They had all got two weeks' leave. It was one of the best Christmases of my boyhood days, and when I see my grandchildren and the vast amount of gifts they will have, I think back to 1953 and my toy tin car which I still have.

That Christmas will stay with me all of my life.

Geoff Mann,

The Hawthorns,

1 Portway, Bispham,


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