I was born and raised in Smallthorne, a village in Stoke-on-Trent. My mum and dad had settled in Duddell Road when I was born, the youngest of three, my sister the eldest and then my brother. Stoke in general was a place where men were hewn from coal, drawn from steel or cast in clay and the women were some of the hardest working I’ve ever met. The place itself has changed and I would like to take you on a journey through those changes, in the years that I remember and some prior.

In my earliest memories of the red brick semi detached council house everyday was sunny, we had a back garden that my dad kept tidy with a manual lawn mower and hand shears for the edges, the front garden was similar but not used as much. The houses were much the same in the road that ran downhill though some had sun rooms which consisted of a through lounge with a large window each side. Part way down and at the bottom of the road several of the semis were flats with two doors, one for upstairs and one for down. The houses being council all had painted doors and four colours were used in sequence so that every fourth house had the same colours. I remember happiness and green grass and sunshine and the smell of oil on the blades of the shears and the mower and there always seemed time to play out. I sometimes sat on the pavement in front of our house and remember Jimmy Tompkinson on his way home from a lunchtime in the Albion Pub would call me ‘snowy’ due to my mop of blonde hair.

I next remember the dreaded day when I was taken away from this and was dragged screaming and kicking to school, I had not been to nursery and had really only ever known my own family so this was a massive shock to the system. I was taken to Mrs Leighton’s class and would meet for the first time a lifelong friend Joseph Wiggins. The day went quickly and after a couple of more ‘reluctant’ days I became used to doing the journey myself even at that young age. Down Coseley, along Kirk Street amd down the main road to where the lollipop man would cross us over, an old fella with grey hair, not tall but very official. The lollipop stick used to be kept behind the wall of one of the terraces.

School was good, in my first days there though I did manage a fight with a lad from the juniors, sticking up for myself from the word go. In the infants, as both infants and juniors were on the same site, I remember Mrs Leighton, Mrs Cooper and Mrs Hall. Mrs Hall was an old lady, very old to us youngsters and she read stories to us in the afternoon, we felt sleepy but I think she had more chance of nodding off than us. I also remember that we had free milk and I was a milk monitor, they were mini bottles in mini crates. Mrs Macavoy, Mrs Mailor and Mrs McShee also taught there and the last year before going into the juniors was spent in the wooden hut classroom in the other yard.

Memories of Barry Ashley

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