GROWING up in Hartlepool in the post-war years I recall a town which was very different from how it is today.
Gray’s shipyard was building cargo ships, the Central Marine Engine Works was producing Doxford marine engines, Richardson and Westgarth was manufacturing steam turbines, boilers and generators for power stations, and Siemens had 4,500 employees assembling Strowger telephones.
There were also numerous cinemas in the town.
The Forum, the Odeon, the Regal, the Gaumont, the Lex, the Northerns, the West End where the six front rows were wooden benches, and of course the Queens and the Palladium in ‘old Hartlepool.’
There was a dance at the Town Hall on Saturdays, with music by Billy Howard and his band, and at the Queens Rink where the Benny Nelson band played three nights a week with Tommy Lough on trumpet.
And more dance evenings at the Borough Hall.
There were Scout troops, Boys Brigade companies, Girl Guides and Brownies, and a number of youth clubs in various parts of the town.
Football was popular, with Church League matches every Saturday afternoon at Grayfields and on the ‘Rec’.
There were cricket matches in the summer, and swimming at the baths at Seaton and in the open-air, unheated sea water pool at Hartlepool. Brrrr!
And there were occasional athletics meetings at Grayfields, on the Oval, where top runners would compete on the cinder track.
Very few people had cars in those days and the electric trolley buses were a popular way to get into town.
Clean and non-polluting but they were replaced by noisy, diesel buses which belch toxic carbon monoxide and soot particles from their exhaust pipes.
It was regarded as progress, but we now know that diesel buses are a health hazard and it would have been better if we had continued with the quiet, clean trolley buses.
And for special occasions there was always Meredith’s who had a small fleet of old, classic Rolls Royce cars which waited outside the railway station because, apart from weddings, the main thing was to take people to and from the station.
Hartlepool was well known as the only town in England with Rolls Royce taxis.
We had better shopping in those days too with Binns, the Co-op store at the bottom of Park Road, Robinson’s, Blackett’s and Moorhouses at the York Road/Park Road traffic lights.
Other shops that come to mind are John F Knight’s in Church Square, a high class grocer, and Hare and Greenwell in York Road, an excellent grocer and butcher.
Miss Smith had a high quality crystal and china shop in York Road and Miss Carr’s dress shop, also in York Road, was well patronised.
There were two good baker’s shops, Spark’s and Scott’s, Jackson and Dunn’s hardware shop and Bruce Moore’s music and records shop.
Atkinson and Shires in Musgrave Street was another very good butcher’s shop and down in Lynn Street there was Woolworth and Marks and Spencer, almost next door to each other.
Always crowded on Saturdays.
And there was the beautiful Victorian Empire Theatre where variety shows were very popular.
I recall seeing Frankie Vaughan there and the comedian, Derek Roy.
The Philip Barrett repertory company came every summer and stayed for two months, putting on a different play every week. I saw the old classic East Lynn on one occasion.
Times were hard in those days as Britain was recovering from six years of war, but although unemployment was relatively low there wasn’t a lot of money around.
But I look back on those days with fond memories.
Life seemed to be good in many ways.
Even though we didn’t have computers, Facebook, Twitter and pubs licensed to stay open until 2am.
In those days it was “time please” at 10.30pm with 15 minutes’ drinking up time.
Drugs were almost unheard of and the police had a much easier job than they have today.