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Memories from Harry Smith
Edited by Paul Lanagan, 2010
Memories relate to the 1930s - 1940s

The photo of North Row back street pressed the memories button again. In that snap of our back street one of the least interesting bits might seem to be those big poles with the cables strung across.

A game of cricket on Hawthorn Street, with the back yards of North Row opposite

Really these were monumental in the history of, if not Houghton in general, then Sunniside in particular. These lumps of wood and wire brought electricity to North Row about 1951 or 1952, just as television reached this far flung outpost of the Empire. A couple of the swanky ones in the street actually had their TV-sets in before the electricity was switched on, but I'm not mentioning any names. It was no secret though, as you needed an aerial nearly as big as the Angel of the North attached to your chimney. All this mind, when, a few yards away across that back street, Homelands had electricity from day one in1938 or so!

Those hatches built into the back walls of North Row were there so loads of coal could be shovelled into the coalhouse. One of the better perks of being a miner was the allowance of coal they got. Every few weeks the coal motor dropped about 15 cwt of coal under that hatch. Us kids could make a bit of pocket money shovelling it in. I must have shifted a few cwt. in my time at about tuppence a ton.

Also in the wall, lower down, those patches of newish looking bricks were where the metal shutters were, to give access to that house's midden. Before flush toilets were fitted just before the War, all household waste, including human, went into these middens. Then every week or so the ‘midden man’ came down the back street with his horse and cart to empty them. I don't know why, but us kids would stand as close as the man would let us, as he opened up the shutter, and shovelled this ‘moras’ from the midden onto his cart. Then as he shut the shutter with a loud clang the horse would take a few paces forward then stop at the next one. Someone had to do the job I suppose, but thinking about the washing facilities available at the time and the lad at going home at the end of his shift to his missus, the term ‘true love’ springs to mind.

Number 20, North Row, Sunniside, circa 1910 Number 33, North Row, Sunniside, circa 1937
Left: Louisa Waite at number 20 North Row, with her youngest child.
The number 5 chalked on the plate on the wall would be to tell the caller what time Mr Waite wanted to be knocked up for shift.
The neighbour to the left wanted to be up at 3!
Right: Number 33 North Row, circa 1937.

Clicking away through the Houghton Heritage site and the memory gets a nudge now and again. That snap of Sunderland FC travelling through Houghton after the cup win in 1973 reminded me I was at Wembley that day. But I also have snatches of memories of the one before that in 1937 (that Raich Carter again). Apparently my old dad heard that you would be able to hear a commentary of the match on one of these new fangled wireless sets. So, knowing a fellow member at the Comrades had an interest in an electric shop, arranged to buy one for about sixpence a week. For years I thought the word hire, in hire-purchase, was ‘higher’ and so this was a posher way to buy stuff.
Copyright © Books of the North 2010

A game of cricket on Hawthorn Street, with the back yards of North Row opposite
Above: William Smith and children at number 26 North Row, in the 1940s.
William was just home from his shift at the colliery.

I do remember this great big box with loads of knobs and dials and two great big batteries being delivered to our back gate by a lad on a motor bike and sidecar with half the street out to watch. I do remember during that commentary crawling under the kitchen table when Preston scored first. I can't remember crawling back out, but I must have done or I wouldn't be sat here tapping away. However, in the weeks after the match with little else on except news and Bing Crosby singing ‘Pennies from Heaven’, father must have got a bit bored with it and so didn’t bother paying those tanners.
Copyright © Books of the North 2010

Soon the lad on the motorbike and sidecar was back at our back gate to take away the wireless.

And yes, the whole street was out to see this.

Harry Smith, 2010

 

Collected & Edited by
Article and research by Paul Lanagan, local historian

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