An Australian remembers growing up in Prestwich.
An Australian remembers….
Growing up in Prestwich
Eunice Barnwell ( nee Fairclough )
I was born at my grandmother’s house, 52 Clifton Road Prestwich, just off the village on Bury New Road. I came into the world during the war in 1940 we lived at 36.I spent my first few months, I believe, under the dining table, for safe keeping!
I remember the ration books and the lack of eggs, sugar, butter etc. Today we have too many choices of food, and an abundance of it, even choosing a loaf of bread is not always easy. We (one brother, Roy and 2 sisters, Jean and Lynn) went to the National Infant/Junior school on Bury New Road. This was Prestwich Parish Church School which belonged to St Mary’s Church on Church Lane. Rector, Rev. Paton-Williams was always visiting the school and knew us all. The infants section was across Rectory Lane. I remember headmasters, Mr Blackburn and Mr Harding.
We spent school holidays exploring in the clough, which seemed never ending then, and playing in the swing park. Sundays we would spend sometimes listen to a band in the flower park,visiting relatives or walking through Philips Park or Heaton Park. We couldn’t play on Sundays because we always wore our “best” clothes and could not chance spoiling them. I loved the Prestwich Band with the leader throwing up the baton, they would head up the Whit walks (Sunday was Prestwich /Friday was Whitefield) and the Prestwich Carnival.
In hindsight it seems all the Summer days were sunny and it snowed every Christmas, I think that is selective memory. We would go up to the village and enjoy the carols under the tree outside the school on Christmas Eve.
In the Summer I remember Mr Brindles’ shop between the Barclays Bank, corner of Clifton road and The Grapes Inn, corner of Warwick Street had the best ice cream. It was his own, home made and creamy yellow – yummy, delicious! We used to play on the street, we only had small gardens, there were enough of us to have teams to play french cricket and rounders.
The No. 22 bus used to turn round at Prestwich to return to Victoria bus station and it would come down Clifton Road and up Chester Street. We used to hear it coming and jump off the road in time for it to pass. Also the “simi flyer” No.4 would turn around here – this was the little bus that ran from Simister to Prestwich and back. There were never any accidents, I think we were very lucky – and fleet of foot!
The best chip shop was Smith’s in Longfield. We used to cut up Longfield to the railway station. In the winter in the 40’s we would buy coalbricks for the fire from the coalyards adjacent to the station. The Post Office was on the corner of Longfield. I remember the pedestrian crossing at the top of Clifton Road and always a policeman on duty before and after school, to take our hand to see us across the crossing.
I went to Hope Park School for Girls, on the corner of Hilton Lane. I believe both the National and Hope Park have been demolished.I remember my junior schooling seemed happier than the high school days. I couldn’t wait to leave school, although I was a reasonable student. I was able to leave after my 15th birthday because I passed the Post Office exam to become a telephonist at the GPO in Manchester.
Above : Hope Park Girls school.
From 12 years old up to leaving school at 15 I delivered newspapers 7 days a week for Carr’s newsagency in the village. I won’t say it was fun getting up before the milkman, especially when the snow was deep, but it provided good pocket money, especially to go to the cinema, usually the Plaza on the village, or the Mayfair at Besses. I was able to go on a school trip to London due to my paper round. I also think some of the things we do in our formative years are very good for our self discipline. I remember when I was at Hope Park, I thought the school discipline was hard, but I have appreciated these lessons throughout my adult life as it taught me self discipline and a pride in myself. My first dance lessons were at the 279 club at Bury Old Road, Heaton Park. I loved ballroom dancing and took the medal classes, my name was still on the board there, 20 years later. The teacher was Len Levinson and my partner was Ian Metcalfe.
We also went to the Saturday night dances at the Co-op hall, then discovered rock and roll and moved on, to the Plaza dance hall in Oxford Road. The DJ running the dancehall was JIMMY SAVILLE (who would have thought he would become so famous?) and he made the Plaza a fun place. When he was to be transferred we signed a petition to keep him. It didn’t work!! We used to go dancing at the Plaza in our lunch hour for 6d.
I met my husband Bob at the Plaza, he comes from Salford. I loved dancing. I didn’t stay at the GPO very long, but worked in various offices on switchboard and reception. I always worked in the city, I loved the buzz of being part of the city. In January 1965, we emigrated to Australia with two daughters. In 1966 we had our ‘Aussie’ daughter. It was hard at first in a new land so far away from all the family and not knowing anyone, but Adelaide is a lovely city and a great place to raise a family. We live close to the beach, half an hour from the city or the hills, and 10 minutes from the National Park.
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