Down Our Street: Growing Up In 1950s Norwich

By Raymond E Aldous
This reminiscence article was created using Culture24's Storymaker tool, which allowed members of the public to upload personal memories of their local area.

Shows a black and white photo of a 1950s street.

Mariners Lane

Raymond Aldous has used our Storymaker programme to tell us about the street where he grew up, Argyle Street in Norwich. Read about his experiences at school and playing in the streets and woods in his area, the way they used to be.

All pictures courtesy Norfolk Library and Information Service, reproduced with kind permission.

We moved into 11 Argyle Street in 1952 when I was just four years old. We lived on the hill which ran down into Kings Street in the fine city of Norwich — this was the only access by road.

The house was just a two-up-two-down council dwelling with a long kitchen that ran off the back of the house with its outside toilet. We were very lucky because we had the only bathroom in the whole row which was over the top of a passageway which lead to our back alley.

Shows a black and white photo of a 1950s street.

Looking at Argyle Street From Compass Street

I spent my first year confined to playing in our back garden. My brother however was allowed to go out into the street to play because he was 18 months older than me and already attending school. I got to know our neighbours very well indeed and became great friends with Jock the dog who belonged to Mr and Mrs Lockwood’s daughter, Vera, who lived next door. She was about 16 then.

There was not much traffic in our street in those days because many of the families could not afford to run a car. Just the odd delivery vehicle delivering to one of the two shops that was in Argyle Street. So the whole street became our playground.

At the age of five I was allowed to play with the other kids. I was to join my brother at Horns Lane Infants School and later to attend the Horns Lane Juniors which was at the very bottom of Horns Lane and backed on to Kings Street. The old infants school has long since gone but my old junior school can still be seen today.

I can remember on one occasion after my mother had stopped taking me to the infant school, I was dawdling along without a care in the world and made myself late. I heard the bell go and ran to get in but fell flat on my face. I suffered cuts to both knees and both my hands got dirty.

Shows a black and white photo of a JCB working on a site in front of some houses.

Horns Lane Infants is the white prefab to the right of the picture the junior school is the white building between the row of houses

I was taken in front of Mrs Arms — she was our head mistress and a woman to be obeyed. I had a note pinned to my jumper which read: ‘I must not be late and come to school with dirty hands’. I had to go round each class and show everybody, such was the way back then. Needless to say I never told my parents because I would have been in more trouble.

In those long ago days you would soon get to know all the children and their families in the entire street. Everybody would know everybody else and the whole street would become one big family.

The elder children like Vera Lockwood, Margaret and Mary Mullinder would take charge of us youngsters and herd us off to the pictures on a Saturday morning, What was to be known as the Tanner Rush. It was the Carlton Cinema on All Saints Green in Norwich that we went to.

With sixpence to get in and threepence to spend on an ice lolly, we would see all our favourite films. The show would start with cartoons like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and many more. Next would come the Bowery Boys, Laurel and Hardy or the Three Stooges, then The Lone Ranger or Champion the Wonder Horse and, of course, Hopalong Cassidy which was followed by the weekly serial Flash Gordon or my favourite, Rocket Man.

The old bomb site in Argyle street, which we called the dump, became our playground for the cowboys and Indians films we would copy from the big screen at the pictures.

Shows a black and white photo of a cinema at night.

The Carlton Cinema, All Saints Green, Norwich

My mother was a great fan of the silver screen and we would go with her sometimes during the week to see a big epic such as Gone With The Wind. Everything was in black and white in those days.

I can remember when I first saw my very first colour film — we went on a cold Friday evening. The picture started once again in black and white and I felt very disappointed with this. However, as we got into the film and the small house was lifted in a great tornado and landed somewhere over the rainbow my heart came into my mouth as Dorothy opened the front door to let in such a burst of colour — from then on I was truly captivated. This has and remains to this very day my all time favourite film: The Wizard Of Oz.

It was not long before we as children began to explore our surroundings. We had a large swing field that you could get to from our street via Southgate Lane. This was the place for many long football matches between us and the Mariners Lane Lot, as we called them. Beside this was the old churchyard of St Peter’s, which also became our playground.

The summer nights we could play out until eight but the winter nights it was down to the radio to keep us entertained — very few people had televisions in those days. We would play street tennis and five-a-side football. Big matches would be played on the swing field and once we had climbed the churchyard wall we would pick up sides to play commandos.

Shows a black and white photo of an old wall and tower covered in snow, amongst trees.

The Black Tower and remains of the old city walls in our plantation

Also we would have the plantation to explore and play in. This was a woodland area that was on a steep bank running down beside Southgate Lane to meet the churchyard. It has the remains of the old city wall, built in 1294, which runs from Ber Street right down Carrow Hill to the two boom towers that span the river Wensum. The boom towers were so called because a boom or chain was slung between them to control the entrance and departure of boats on the river.

The plantation has the best view of the old city wall and of two remaining towers that still stand today. The Black Tower and the Wilderness Tower became our forts in my early days and many a battle was fought between us friends. When I walk the path alongside the old city wall I think of those long ago days when we scaled those high walls and think how lucky we as kids were to have not been injured in any way! But that was how kids were back then — we were brought up to be tough.

The swing field became our meeting place after school and before tea. Many children from our neighbourhood attended the Horns Lane Schools, including the Mariners Lane Lot. Any arguments between us either at school or at play would be sorted out man to man on the swingy, as we used to call it. Not what you have got today — two or three against one would not be tolerated — but most of the time we all got on very well.

Shows a black and white photo of a building site.

Our old swing field being dug up to make way for housing and the King Street widening

In our street, you had the Huggins kids, Michael, Malcolm, Graham; there was Freddy Kemp, Tony Mason, Tony Page (Bruno), Paul Davis (Torchy), Brian Wig, Tony, Terry and Ronny Leach, Tiger Campilling, Malcolm Robbins, Stewart Henry, Raymond Algar. On the girls side there was Jenny Huggins, Shirley Murphy, the Fisher girls and Pat Page. We all grew up together and went to the same schools, until the eleven-plus exams sent us to different senior schools. Even then we would still meet after school.

We had a dump, which was the old bomb site in our street. This was the result of the many German bombs that were dropped on the city during the Second World War. This ran from our street down to the old Young’s and Crawshey brewery building. The building had not been used for many months and was empty, so one of the lads found a way in.

We began to use this as a play area, too. Hiding out in there one Saturday afternoon during one of our many games of commandos there was myself, Malcolm Huggins, his brother Graham, my brother Terry, Tony Mason, and Freddy Kemp. We were standing by the large wall that we used to climb down in to the old brewery site when all of a sudden Malcolm just shot up the wall like it wasn’t there at all. We turned round to find the biggest policeman we had ever seen standing there.

Shows a black and white photo of a large burnt-out building, of which only the frame is left.

The remains of the brewery where we would climb down to play

While reaching for his note book and pencil we started to scale the wall as quick as we could but alas only to fall back down again at his feet. After a good dressing down and a threat to tell our parents, with a smile on his face he let us go. We went in search of Malcolm, but could not find him, and as it was getting near teatime we gave up the search and went home.

On the following Sunday morning, Michael and Graham told us how they found Malcolm locked in the outside toilet when they got home and he had been in there all that time! We had a good laugh over that, but such were the ways in those long ago days. Just the thought of the policeman on his beat was enough to put the wind up us kids.

© Raymond E Aldous and 24 Hour Museum.

Raymond used Storymaker to input his memories.

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