Stories From Swinton

Famous cowboys visit to Swinton
 
I suppose I was like many boys growing up in 1940/50s Britain with my super heroes being American western movies stars like Hopalong Cassidy, Tom Mix & others.   I often watched them on TV and saw their films at the Roxy cinema in Swinton,
Upon learning that a real life motion picture action hero was riding into town certainly created a buzz for our local community.   
The ‘star’ was Alfred ‘Lash’ LaRue who famously appeared in numerous movies and was well known for his skill with an 18 foot bullwhip and later taught Harrison Ford how to use the whip for his Indiana Jones movies.  La Rue always appeared dressed in black from head to toe and looked quite intimidating.
‘Lash La Rue’ appeared at Swinton Library circa 1952 as part of his UK tour of small venues and theatres. To a mesmerised audience, mainly consisting a young lads, including myself and my schoolpal Michael Collinson, we listened intently to his life story.  As we were seated at the front myself and Michael were brought onto the stage to witness first hand Lash LaRue’s expertise with his bullwhip.   He had us holding a long thin length of paper between our teeth firstly about 12 feet apart then cracking his whip he brought it down to about 2 feet apart !!     It was quite scary as the whip cut through the flimsy paper within inches of our noses.
The following day at Queen Street Primary School our peers were keen to hear of our stage experience with a real life cowboy !
Memories of John Newey
The story has it that if you were born within the sound of Bow Bells in London you were a true Cockney.  Soon after the end of WW2 I was born on Manor Rd, Swinton within the sounds of St Margaret’s Church bells and the chimes of Swinton Library, surely making me a true Swintonian?
My father Bill was a coal face ripper at Manvers Main Colliery and my mother Beatrice worked at GEC on the twilight shift on the assembly line making toasters/kettles.
I was a toddler when we moved into a prefabricated bungalow on Bower Rd, Bowbroom.  I was about 4 when I had my first conveyance, a Raleigh tricycle.  
My introduction to the education system came via Queen Street County Primary School.  I enjoyed my time there particularly annual events like the Christmas Carol Service and the Harvest Festival when we were expected to take a range of fruit or vegetables which were arranged near the altar at St Margarets Church. Father Quarrell must have had his 5 a day for months afterwards !!  The school sports day was always great fun with events including the egg and spoon race and the sack race but political correctness later forbade such acts of universal enjoyment. 
Much of Swinton was brown or green fields at the turn of the 1950s, the large housing developments at Wentworth Park, Cresswell and Lime Grove estates came much later.
On my birthday in 1952 we moved to Brookfield Avenue to a semi detached adjacent to my materal grandmother Beatrice Thompson who was a major factor in my upbringing with both parents working shifts.
A new circle of friends evolved all liuving within doors of each other.  The group included Neil Bowen, Charlie Kirby, Anne Willoughby, Edwin Cooper and Colin Speight.    We we a close knit group playing streets games like nipsy, marbles, tiggy and hide and seek.  Darkness would fall but our games continued thanks to the illumination afforded by the trusty gas lamps on the avenue.
The street was a universal multi sports arena in those days, covering the World Cup. Wimbledon & Lords depending upon the season of the year.  We used anything, rope for tennis nets, dustbin lids for stumps, as necessity was the mother of invention for us.  
We craved for the real thing and found tennis courts at Piccadilly which was a quarry fashioned into a three tier state of the art tennis arena arranged with stunning gardens.  We would go there armed with out spending money and clubbed together to pay 3 shillings for an hours court time.  The Machin family who administed the facilty were strict with the time allocation. I later played there as an adult and was extremely dismayed when it closed and became a landfil site and is now grassed over.
I became an avid cinema goer thanks to having a picture house in our town called the Roxy.  Every town in those days had a cinema and memories of the Saturday matinee evokes thoughts of seeing the cowboy heroes of the day plus the Three Stooges and a host of others.   As we got older we would venture to Mexborough who had three cinemas and were very poular with 2 houses at the weekend when you had to queue to get in.   
Our group used to liaise with other friends from school when there was a decent film on at the Roxy and agree upon maybe two of us paying to get in.  Once inside one of us would ostensibly visit the toilet and activate the crash bar to the exit allowing a dozen or so sneak in free of charge but the eagle eyed usherette often detected the deception resulting in mass ejection, leading to an early supper at a fish and chip shop which was affectionaty known as “Greasy Lils” 
The side streets leading off Brookfield went onto a turnip field whose path went down to the railway bridge near Carlisle Street and onto the site of The Chemical works aka The Tar Distillers, later to become Croda.  The area had previously housed the premises of Baker and Bessemer where my mother had worked in munitions production in the war years.  Bakers as they were known locally had a sports ground accessed via the canal bridge.  It had one of the best football  pitches in the area with goal and nets which I had seen at the Roxy on Pathe News featuring Wembley Stadium.  We used to go and play there when the groundsman had finished his duties,   
Growing up then was so much fun compared to the world of today,