Do you remember when Smallthorne was just a little village with no more than a dozen street of terraced houses surrounded by fields and farmland? We had 3 chapels, the Church, pubs and pioneer club. We were so fortunate as children because we were surrounded by nature. Do you remember hearing the Cuckoo and the Skylark and spring down at the brook, where, on hot sunny days we sat in out bathing costumes dangling our feet in the cold water?
Did you ever get the orange iron mould on you?, we did. Do you remember the big pond in Mr Cartlidge’s field where in spring we were intrigued to watch the tadpoles hatch? Do you remember jumping lickers over the brook, looking for the widest parts to jump? Did you ever land in, we did. Do you remember all the wild flowers around the brook, the Ladysmocks and Marigolds, they were so lovely. I used to pick a bunch, for my grandma, with clover and buttercups, she had always got a bunch in her kitchen window which I had picked. Do you remember when bluebell wood was covered in blue, like a blue carpet? Do you remember when we learned more about nature when Mr Procter’ cows calved in the fields?
Do you remember when it was the annual outing to Blackpool of Pioneer Club, when all the village went to Ford Green Station and piled on to the special train and went to Blackpool, what a treat that was, pop and crisps provided and how many miles did we walk up and down the train looking for friends and see up who on. The whole of Smallthorne was deserted that day, which was the only day we didn’t go to Sunday School.
Do you remember the siren at the pit when the day shift finished. I waited for my granddad to come home because he let me have a piece of bread and sit on the back of his big chair with him and dip in his dinner, after dinner he learned me to tell the time. When I could tell the time my uncle Jack bought me a wrist watch, I was lucky, nobody else in my class had one.
Do you remember when we were in school and it rained heavy and they came to tell the children from Norton to go home because they would have to cross the bottom of Ford Green in a boat because it was flooded, that happened very often. Do you remember 3d a ride when Mr Gibbons use to come with his horse and cart and give rides across the street when we came from school. Do you remember the Mickey Mouse gas masks we had to have at school when the war was on? Do you remember having to take a tin to school when we were all given some drinking chocolate, not much of it arrived home, we were all dipping our fingers in it.
And do you remember Sunday School Anniversaries? I went to Chapel Lane Methodist which later was changed to Sangster Lane Methodist. We had a procession around the village in the morning and went on stage, to sing all the songs we had learned, in the afternoon and night time. The chapel was always full, not a seat to spare. I can remember the year that I had a lovely straw bonnet which was trimmed with flowers.
Can you remember playing in Mr Cartlidge’s field and being stuck there because to get back home you had to cross through Mr Proctors and Mr Proctor didn’t like children going into his fields? Mr Proctor very often ran you away with his hay fork.
Do you remember the allotments at Newford, I used to go with Kevin to granddad Dutton’s and was always wondering about the old man who had no home who lived in granddad Dutton’s hut.
Do you remember the Duttons? Everyone knew them as Grandma and Granddad. They were very nice, they lived next door to Kevin. I remember the big wooden table in her kitchen and how she used to pluck fowl on the back of her kitchen door.
Do you remember Mr Phillips, he used to guard the children’s playground and Mrs Phillips who let us hide in her toilet when we played Tin Can Tommy.
Do you remember the shows in Mrs Snape’s garden? Beryl produced a panto and if you paid a button you could go in.
Do you remember the air-raid shelter on the playground? They were a maze of passages underground. Do you remember Harold Taylor, Stan Horne and Tom Pedley making a ghost train in there with trucks to sit on to go round and all the straw they hung up to frighten you, it really was dark.
Do you remember Mrs Jervis’ little shop in the street, she used to sell bread, sticks and milk. Do you remember the days when we decided to make our own perfume, when we collected rose petals out of the cemetery and put them in a bottle of water? It was an unusual smell. Do you remember the top and whip, I loved my top and whip, I bought a packet of lovely coloured chalk to make circles round the top and then whipping it right across the pavement. And do you remember how we dared to come right the way down Coseley Street on our scooter or sledge, we never saw a car then.
Do you remember having a Tin Can Tommy and when the coalmen had been on Mondays collecting all the small pieces of coal, swinging the tin round and getting it glowing and then roasting a potato in it.
Do you remember the big green wooden building down the back street, my Grandma told me it used to be the Old Comrades and King Edward and Queen Mary had been there. It had since become Mr Woods pottery warehouse, but the boys told us it was the headquarters of the Black Hand Gang, we were scared to go anywhere near.
Do you remember our Picture Palace? Of course you must, it was the best place in Smallthorne. It was called ‘’The Scratch ‘’because the saying was you go in itching and come out scratching. It was a funny feeling to be sat watching the film and the cat would brush against your legs. Do you remember Doris, the usherette with her flashlight, how she used to shine it when everybody stamped their feet when the film broke down. We used to go on Monday and Thursday and it cost 3d per night.
Do you remember the beautiful Shire Horses in the Co-Op yard at King Street, they had their manes platted with lovely coloured ribbons.
Do you remember the miner’s hostel and all the different nationalities of the people who lived there? My mother worked part-time there and we had to pass the hostel to go to school. Every morning we would call and shout ‘mam’ through the open corridor windows, then the chorus would start, just like a choir as they would all shout ‘mam’. Once they had festival at which everybody wore National Costume and we were all invited, it was a lovely colourful weekend.
Do you remember the games of cricket on the playground? When the lads hit the ball into my father’s garden just missing the greenhouse and how they used to get us to go retrieve the ball as they didn’t dare.
Do you remember Browns buses with the hard wooden slatted seats, but how cheap the fares were? I used to go from Smallthorne to Brown Edge to take flowers on my Grandma’s grave. It cost 3d return.
Do you remember the days at Smallthorne School? It was called the Board School but later became the County Primary School. Do you remember any of the teachers? I remember, most of all, Mrs Talbot, I was in here PDSA busy bees; Mr Bird who took all the boys Youth Hostelling; Mrs Goodwin who taught me how to play in her percussion band, our favourite piece was Coppellia, I played the triangle. Do you remember school dinners at Smallthorne, when we all went along to Victoria Chapel for our dinners? Dinners were very nice because the war was on and we didn’t have much at home because of our rationing.
Do you remember the end of rationing when on the Monday morning we were going to be able to get any sweets or chocolate that we wanted? I went to look in Mrs Lunt’s shop window on Sunday to look what I could buy with the pocket money I had saved. I remember buying a Mars bar for 3d, it was a wonderful treat.
Do you remember the train that used to go up from the colliery to Nettlebank? Do you remember the clap gates, and the spiritualist church on the corner of Cliff Street? My uncle Jack worked on the train and told us he had seen my mother and Aunty Clara come out of the Spiritualist Church with their hair standing on end.
Do you remember being in trouble for whistling? I was in trouble with my Grandma who told me a ‘whistling Women, crowing hen fetches the devil out of his den’. I was always whistling and as my Grandma lived next door I had to remember to be quiet.
Do you remember when we came from Sunday School or church on Sunday and being forbidden to take out a football, skipping rope or bikes etc.? You never saw children playing on Sunday but they were always nicely dressed.
Do you remember when the rag & bone men came round with their carts and gave painting books, goldfish, windmills and tins of bubbles in exchange for old clothes? I remember having a gold wire ring which Kevin got for me.
Do you remember the train which ran from Whitfield Colliery through Ford Green transporting coal and a little station and signal box at Ford Green?
Do you remember Smallthorne School sports at Norton Cricket ground, all the village turned out to that? Mr Pedley the postmaster was always there with a very loud gun to start the races.
Do you remember Mr Pedley in his Post Office, he always had a cheery word for everyone. Do you remember the lovely smell of fresh bread which came from the bakery at the back of the shop, Kevin was the errand boy, delivering bread and cakes.
Do you remember the Chemist, Mr Graham’s father? I can remember Mr Graham’s shop before it was modernised, with different coloured glass bottles on the shelves.
Do you remember Miss Cartlidge’s shop, she sold clothes, wool, baby clothes. And
Do you remember Mrs Pickford’s shop, she sold clothes and shoes? Harry Oatcake also had a shop on ‘the bank’: Mrs Ruston’s shop where you went for paint an paraffin; Mr Allman’s on the corner of Croft Court with the lovely smell of all the different meats and cheeses, he was a very nice man and helped a lot of people.
I am told there used to be 2 schools in Smallthorne, the Board School and the Church School which is now the old church Schoolroom. If you lived in Church Street or above you went to the Church School, everybody living below went to the Board School.
Do you remember Baker’s chip shop in Croft Court, you had to queue ages for chips. Do you remember Mr Savage’s monkey in Church Street? It used to sit on the wall and all the kids used to give it chips coming past from the chip shop.
Do you remember Mrs Halfpenny, the little old lady who had a sweet shop on the corner of Sparrow Street against the school? She seemed very old, we used to go in for Kali and liquorice root, have you ever had that, it’s like chewing a twig. Then there was Brereton’s milk shop with lovely ice creams and Miss Brookes’ sweet shop with dozens of different sweet jars and the lovely smell in the shop I can remember being very small and going to see my mother in one of the Chapel Shows, it was called Aladdin and Out. They did a lot of good very good musicals at the Chapel and I remember our Sunday School treats, it was really something to go to Trentham Gardens. Another treat was going to Congleton Park, where all the boys gathered conkers and we paddled in the paddling pool. Every year we worked and had a lovely carnival with a procession through the village. I was the first Sunday School Queen in 1953. It was lovely going round on the lorry.
All in all Smallthorne was one of the best places to live.
Some childhood memories shared by Barbara Dunn (nee Slack), handwritten from memory and transcribed by Barry Ashley.