In the early days of this blog we had a look round Liverpool in 1953, the place I was about to get born into. In this follow up to that one we’re going to come in a bit closer. Having spent much of my life with no early photographs of my early days, I’ve recently gathered up a few, courtesy of my Dad. And they’ve got a story to tell.
But before I arrive, of course, my parents have to meet.
In this lovely picture Joe is eight and Terry four. Meaning it’s 1936. They are living in North Liverpool down by the Dock Road.
“Even at that age, in those days, we were allowed to roam wherever we liked and I was trusted to look after Terry’ Joe says now. ‘We’d go to church on our own and then go off wandering around the docks and streets and even into town. I remember me and Terry being in town together even after it had gone dark. We had a much bigger Liverpool to play in than children seem to be allowed now. It was great.”
When the war comes three years later Joe is still too young to join the forces. But we walked round Liverpool a couple of months ago talking about his days as an office boy in 1943.
As the war ends though Joe volunteers for the RAF before he’s conscripted and is part of the occupying forces in Germany, at Lubeck. He is an engineer, working mainly on Meteors, the RAF’s first jet fighter plane.
By the early 1950s Joe is back in Liverpool and working at the English Electric on the East Lancs Road. He’s an engineer but has hopes of moving on to becoming an engineering draughtsman, as his older brother Danny has just done.
Roseanne Gerrard, always known as Rose is from Canal Street, near the docks in Bootle. Though the family are by these days living in Marsh Avenue, just off Southport Road. Rose has been working at Vernon’s Pools. But when they decide to get married she is ‘finished up’ as always happened to young women back then.
They get married in December 1952 and in January 1954 they have their first child, me.
That’s my nan, Elizabeth Gerrard on the left. My mum Rose in the middle. And me, grinning, on her sister Ellen’s lap. Winston Churchill is the Prime Minister still at this time and I’ve clearly modelled my early look on him.
We’re not living in Bootle though. We live here.
When I get a bit older I’ll stand in the window and marvel every other Saturday at the thousands of people walking down our street to get into the ground. Goodison would hold over 70,000 in those days and I can still remember the roar of the place. Joe rarely goes there though because he supports Liverpool and teaches me from very early on that I support them too. I still do.
We live in two shared houses here. In the first we live upstairs, while the man who owns the house lives downstairs. He is called Johnnie something and he keeps and raised dogs for sale. Joe also remembers him as a leading local ‘fence’ for stolen goods. He goes down to the kitchen one evening and unexpectedly comes across Johnnie and some mates counting out cash on the table. ‘It looks like a thieves kitchen in here’ quips Joe as they all laugh!
We move into the other shared house in Diana Street when we need a bit more room.
I remember walking into Walton Hospital to collect him, 18 months old and holding on to my push-chair.
“Rose was kept in hospital for ten days after each of you were born’ Joe tells me. ‘And I was only allowed to visit once a week, on a Sunday. It may have been the NHS by then but they were still running it like a workhouse.”
In the other shared house we moved to there were two ‘big girls’ living there too, though I can’t remember their names.
Doesn’t actually look all that big does she?
Around this time Joe moves from being a welder at English Electric on East Lancs Road and gets his ‘office job’ as an engineering draughtsman, so now goes off to work each day in a tie. He also fulfils a life long dream to move to the suburbs.
When Joe had been very young his own mother and father had argued and campaigned very hard with Liverpool Corporation to get their family moved out of the crowded slums they were living in and give them a house on the huge new suburban estate they were then building at Norris Green. Many of their neighbours managed it, but the furthest the Hughes family got then was Owen House, a tenement walk-up block in Kirkdale.
But now, a generation later on, we all move to Marsh Avenue to live with my Nan in Bootle for a while as we wait for our new house ‘out in the suburbs’ to be ready.
A small village with a railway station that’s expanded overnight into one of Liverpool’s post war overspill estates. Not that it’s called that, because these are mostly ‘bought houses’. Our’s cost just over £2,000 – though who knows how much by the time the mortgage is paid off?
We’re now in a land of new roads, steamrollers, a co-op mobile shop coming round and farms still hanging on as the houses gradually crowd them out. It’s a great place to grow up and I ramble around to my heart’s content as much as Joe and Terry used to do down by the docks. In fact, it’s when I begin the long walking that has stayed with me to this day.
And though I’ll move back into inner Liverpool the minute I’m grown, I never feel as if we’ve moved away. Very few weeks go by without us getting the bus back to Walton or into town.
Joe tells me this photo’s actually taken at a studio in London Road, up near to TJs. It was clearly the year they had Pinky and Perky on. 1959? Colin seems to have inherited my black coat from first moving into Maghull. While I’ve got a new gaberdine. He looks cooler than methough doesn’t he?
And now we’re coming into the 1960s. Another story for another day, though one already started by me and my school-friend Barry Ward’s posts about food and sweets.
Just a few more photos though.
This was St George’s infants, up near the train station in Maghull. An old sandstone school-house with a prefab block hastily erected to deal with us lot, the influx from Liverpool.
It’s a Catholic school and soon I’m making my first communion and then being confirmed.
Unlike my support for Liverpool FC, the religious belief won’t stay with me.
In these days there’s been the final addition to the family. Born, at home, in 1959 – my sister Debbie.
All on the ferry as the 60s roll on.
Rose still goes back to Marsh Avenue to look after her now increasingly infirm mother twice a week, until, in 1970 Elizabeth Gerrard dies. Elizabeth, my Nan, had been a committed socialist all her life, going out canvassing with Bessie Braddock in the 40s and 50s. And the final glorious thing I remember her saying to 16 year old me just before she died was:
“I never thought we’d let the bloody Tories back in again.”
Last year sadly Rose too died. Her and Joe having been together for 62 years. The first photograph of the young Rose at the beginning of this post is from her Order of Service. Joe’s sister Terry, 82 now, was at the funeral too by the way.
Which, in a roundabout way, is how come me and my Dad are sitting around looking through old photographs. Our lives are full of stories and these have been just a few of them.
I originally drafted this story in early 2015, shortly before my younger sister Debbie also died.