Banburyshire Family History

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go back to the last page you were on A Walk Into Town

go back to the last page you were on From Easington to Banbury Town Centre - about 1960

Christine Upton

Walking into Ruskin Road, and the mayhem of the end of the school day, makes you wonder where all these children will be in forty years time?

If you were lucky enough to get through the eleven plus exam, and managed to go to the Grammar School, you were plucked out at fifteen join the group of girls, employed by the Aluminium Works, (Alcan) to be trained as secretaries, and who were sent directly to the Technical College. There they would be taught, over a period of three years, the complicated and mysterious art of Shorthand. I think I would have found the Rosetta Stone easier to understand. Typing too, all clattering along together on some very ancient typewriters, to a scratchy old record ...... asdf ;lkj.

The other choice for girls at Grammar School, nursing. Every year another batch to train at the Horton Hospital.

The 'career' choices for the children at the Girls Easington Modern School, (quite a new building), and the 'Boys School', was a little more limited. Your short - very short - interview with the Careers Officer consisted of "would you like to work in Woolworths or the Wig Factory?", for the girls, and usually Stones the Printers, or something similar, for the boys

As you walk along Ruskin Road you notice the older Grammar School boys. They stand out from the rest in short grey trousers and the cap - three sizes too small - perched on the back of their heads, even though some of them are almost six feet tall.

The rest of the mob from the secondary school look similar, except for the girls from the Girls Easington Modern dressed in something that resembles a blue lamp shade, with large white spots - who thought that one up?

Onwards past St. Hugh's church. Lots of memories of Jumble Sales, (the strange smell of stale clothes!), Youth Club, Brownies - where we all learnt the necessary art of polishing shoes, and complicated knots, most useful in your future life. Fireworks and Fêtes, the old church was in constant use. Sunday School too - stick the copy of the saints picture in your book - the glue tasted awful.

The corner of Ruskin Road now. Mr Bridges general shop. I seem to remember it used to be a dairy. One of the many small shops in that area at the time, serving not only the many school children, but a busy local community.

Mr. Buzzard across the road - sweetie heaven.

Walking on along Horton View, being passed by an endless stream of School Buses. Some to the country some across town, as the only other Secondary School was in Grimsbury.

Now we get to the hub of community shopping. The large Co-Op, with its low wooden counters and large dangerous looking bacon slicing machine 'out the back'. No self service here - just "give my list to Masie" and "don't forget the Divi". I seem to remember large pyramids of tins on the shelves, and the smell of fresh tea. Cigarettes were often on the order - no problems collecting them for 'Mum', and 'ladies personal items' were quietly wrapped in newspaper, so as not to embarrass anyone.

Witheys Dairy was across the road, and the Post Office opposite that, which was run by Mr. Frost, with its wire screen, a bit like prison visits - only for stamps. Next door was yet another Grocery shop, run by Mr Harris, and yes, another sweet shop. Lots of schoolchildren equal lots of sweet shops!

Walking onwards down St .George's Crescent we head for the "Wreck". The hut in the Wreck was for footballers - now and again - but mostly for courting couples, or just kids hiding from the rain. Our one roundabout and slide kept us happy, although we did spend a lot of time trying to make the top of the roundabout jump off, sometimes succeeding. We played baseball with some American servicemen who lived nearby, or scrumped apples from the orchard at the edge of the park.

The long line of 'Conker' trees along the path gave us something to think about on the way to Harriers Ground School, at the end of the park.

The school had that lovely smell of cooked cabbage - very well cooked cabbage. We had happy times sitting in a circle under the tree, for lessons, on hot summer days. Miss Thompson, the Head was not the type of person you could argue with - rules were made - and kept to. Mr. Riley was one of the strongest characters in the school. 'Stomach in, chest out, stand up straight'. He tried to improve our diction. We repeated 'Fathers car is a Jaguar', endless times. Considering most of the children came from the local council estate their wasn't much chance of father having a car - let alone a Jaguar! Some of the teachers were very adept at just missing you ear with the blackboard rubber, or a piece of chalk, as it whizzed through the air, if you were caught talking and not listening. The morning milk was interesting. Milk ice lolly in the Winter and almost cheese in the Summer. We had Jammy Dodgers with our milk - they cost 1d each. The punishment for serious misdemeanours was a cane across the hands for the boys and a ruler for the girls. It didn't happen often, but it stung when it did. 'Music and Movement' was an interesting lesson. Lots of small children trying their best to be a 'tree' or a 'flower', waving in the wind. Also Country Dancing lessons. We learnt Cassions Circle and the Star, ready for the end of term show.

Opposite the school used to stand a line of wooden houses, (the huts). Very poor housing and probably gone by the early 1960's.

Onwards now down the Bloxham road, past the old bike repair shop, to the Case is Altered Pub on the corner. It seemed to be frozen in time, and seemed to stand derelict for many years before being pulled down.

Further on down past St. Johns Church, with its lovely crib at Christmas, past the end of Calthorpe Street, where we used to run about inside the derelict houses, after going to 'Girls Training Corps', (a bit too much marching for my liking). Past Wincotts, where the coach parties used to go for tea, and the old Cross Café, sweets and Banbury Cakes at the front, and good home cooking at the back, in the dining room.

Banbury Cross - one side for the Mods and the other for the Rockers - glaring at each other over the road, after coming out of the Winter Gardens. The place to watch Wrestling, go roller skating, and dancing on Saturdays. The roller skates never took you in the direction you thought you were going - they had a will of there own. Saturday nights were often an obstacle course down the passageway past The Inn Within, courting couples, the occasional fight brewing, and drunks. The bands were good, and music loud - just the thing!

Further down High Street, past Judges, the ladies dress shop, with its substantial underwear, sensible nightdresses, and nylon stockings with seams in the window, we come to Woolworths. When you were fourteen you could work limited hours. Working on the sweet counter had certain advantages, weighing out cold clammy sausages did not!

We all wore hot sweaty nylon overalls, and upstairs, where the stock was kept was very dark with creaking wooden floors.

Butlers shop, as I am sure most people of a certain age remember, had the lovely smell of fresh coffee wafting through the door, and above, on the roof, you could here the Jackdaws chattering.

Taking a slight detour back to Church Lane you came to 'Fields' department store. They supplied the uniform for the Grammar School. You could set up an account there almost as soon as you started work. The ladies clothes were rather 'sensible' but there was the occasional modern item. I remember buying a bright purple coat, which stood out from the usual stock. Perhaps it was a mistake? Perhaps one of the local Boutiques got a ladies gabardine mac instead of the purple coat they ordered? Fields usually sold items like bright pink silk ladies corsets with large 'bones' in. (I know my Granny wore one).

Further on down Church Lane and round the corner into Parsons Street, Kimberlys department store stood. It seemed a lovely place at Christmas, to buy something special for your Mum.

Carrying on into the Market Place, the old Palace Cinema, one of three in the town, was the venue for Saturday Morning Pictures. The rather elderly commissionaire, Mr Armitt, dressed in brown with gold epaulettes, tried in vain to hold back the hoards of noisy children desperate for another episode of 'The Black Scarab', and to drop ice lollies from the circle, down the necks of the children in the stalls.

Across the road by the post box there was a Milk Bar. Quite 'the hip' place to be. Opposite that, next to the Vine pub, Fosters gentleman's outfitters supplied substantial 'combinations', with, of course the essential 'back flap'. Also selling jaunty trilby hat, sometimes with a feather, which looked as though they should only be sold to large gentlemen in lederhosen.

Then there was the Vine, next to the Chuer. What a colourful clientele they had. But I only ever saw the 'Family Room', with long leather seats and large tables, where mothers sipped Milk Stout or a racy Port and Lemon, and the children had Vimto and crisps, while Dad joined the rest in the bar.

Further along the Market Place the Apple Tree Tearooms. You entered up creaking wooden stairs, into the dark interior. The floors creaked too, but you were rewarded with dainty cakes and sandwiches. I think, in my case, somewhere to be taken by Gran to teach me 'correct manners' when taking tea!

A bit further on the Angel pub, one of the dozens of pubs in town, was the other side of the coin. I don't think the customers were often seen in the Apple Tree Tearoom.

Passing the chip shop - great fish and chips, and The Bear, you can smell Lampreys from outside. It smells of Cattle Cake and Dog Biscuits. And again you entered up some creaky wooden stairs, and served across low wooden counters.

Along the way, the great Banbury institution, Hoods. You arrive with a piece of ironmongery you cannot recognise, but they find it in moments. Tall sets of green drawers and boxes, containing everything from the proverbial pin to an anchor. What would we do without them.

Across the road, Fine Fare supermarket. The upstairs café was the place to be at one stage. Round the corner, in Broad Street, the Co-op. Fascinating to anyone, was the way the money was sent around the shop in a container, on wires, also its rather stately lift, which took you right up the top to the hairdressers. The smell of perm lotion was completely overpowering.

Back around the corner, and onwards toward the bridge, you pass the Rally Club. This could have its own book. Lots of good bands, many late nights, and frequented by American Servicemen from the local bases.

Back across the road, past the Butchers shop, who specialised in something called 'Spiceball'. It looked a bit like cold faggots. Best not to ask what it was made of. We pass the pub by the canal, and avoiding a steam train going under the bridge, you come to Spiceball park. You could spend many hours catching Minnows under the bridge, and wondering who lived in the spooky old derelict mill.

After this long walk you end up in Grimsbury, with its old Victorian houses and many different cultures. I'm sure there's someone coming in the opposite direction?

Written by Christine Upton, December 2006