Prologue: Where it all began
I was actually born on Dunoon drive; Oldham’s Estate but spent most of my time living at my grans house in Athalone Ave. My dad was a long distance trucker and used to go to work on a Monday morning about 3am and come back on Friday teatime, no techographs those days!! Mum worked shifts at the Vernon’s factory just off higher bridge street, making bed pan`s for all as she loved to tell people, but her shifts were 6-2 / 2-10 so we never really saw that much either!! So it was up to my wonderful gran to do their job for them, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Oldham’s Estate was such a vibrant place and it was full of huge families, the Fallons, The Derbyshire’s, the Gavin’s, the Hallidays and many more, but the biggest had to be Mrs Streets family who lived facing us. She had so many children they had to knock two council houses into one and when all the kids upped and left they put them back to two houses again where one of my friends lived, Phil Seddon. The council house we lived in was HUGE compared to the new ones now, with a
front room, a range against one wall and front windows almost the length of the room. The kitchen was the same size with a walk in pantry, very large pot sink (had many a stand up wash in there ) and a thick wooden kitchen door which only had a Yale lock in those days.
For me, what made it special was the gardens front and back. The front was a bit of a flower bed surrounded by a hedge of privets, it does make me chuckle at the price they charge for “BOX” plants in garden centres LOLL they are Privets for goodness sake !! The back garden was as big as a football pitch, (or so I thought at the time) and was full of veggie plots, blackcurrant bushes, and Washing flying in the breeze from the line every Monday, never any other day, and certainly not on a Sunday! One of my most favourite memories is picking home grown peas from the pods and eating as many as I collected, something I still do to this day, and I am sure my love of Veg growing stemmed from these early memories. It was my Grandad who was the gardener, he only had one leg, lost the other during the war, and yet my gran used to say, even on crutches he could beat anybody running for a bus, so funny, butt he died when I was very young so just a very distant memory of him, but my Gran did her best in the garden to carry the gardening on.
Play time was mostly spent on Barlow park!! What a wonderful magical place it was then. Walking onto the football pitches I was always amazed at the expanse of the fields that went right up to the edge of my favourite place on Earth, Bluebell forest, little did I know I would end up playing regular football on the very same pitches as I grew older, and even after that I managed a team from the same side-lines I was walking along as a child. The changing rooms always amazed me to the right as they looked like concrete air raid shelters, and smelt as old as them as well. As you got older it was a rite of passage to jump off the roofs of these onto the pitches in front whilst missing the concrete path directly below, which I managed to do, well, sometimes LOL
Walking up the side of the changing rooms, up stone steps you came across two bowling greens, one to your left and one to the right if I remember rightly. The one to the left always seemed the poshist as it was in kind of a hollow with benches all around and rhododendron bushes surrounding the edges. Then it was up some more stone steps to the crowning glory, which was
Barlow Park Café!!
The first thing that hit you when you walked in was the smell of ice cream and coffee. Don’t forget if you had
coffee in those days you were really well off, we only had it at funerals, I wonder why that was, every funeral I attended a boy there was always milky coffee provide, albeit Camp Coffee LOL. The tables all had table cloths on and children sat upright as mums poured the tea of coffee for their own families, keeping their headscarves on of course!! Dads sat there, with fags in hand and sometimes wishing they were down the pub. But that’s how we spent our days, and what wonderful days they were!! Yes they were hard, and yes we didn’t have much, but what we did have was homemade and tasty. I have to laugh when I hear about kids staying in their rooms these days and not playing out, you couldn’t keep me in when I was a child!! You can’t build a DEN of old wood and twigs in a bedroom, you can’t climb a tree and throw berries onto people’s heads from above, and you certainly can’t catch trout from an indoor toilet!! Ha Ha