It was 1948, my parents with their two small girls and my mother pregnant, were on a ship bound for England. The war was over. Their homeland Italy was in chaos, people were starving.
My parents made the big decision to leave their beloved families to make a better life in a better place. They settled in the North East of England, I think mainly because before the war my grandparents (father’s side) had an ice cream business in Newcastle. Other members of the family also took the plunge and emigrated to the North East.
My parents, (not speaking a word of English) somehow arrived in Cannon Street. My father did any work he could to maintain his family, living in a bedsit for some time.
Eventually, they managed to rent a corner shop that came with a house attached. The front door was at No. 1 Derby Street, and around the same corner, the shop was on Cannon Street. It was in poor condition and my parents set about converting the previous fish shop into a general store and (what they knew best), an ice cream shop. My mother was working in the shop, by then with two more children; Marcelle & Josephine (Born in Italy). Including my sister Marie and I, Anthony Mario John Di Carlo (born November 1950), there were four children in all, up to that point.
My mother, Rose, ran the shop with help to look after the children from a neighbour in Derby Street, Mrs Olden, who had become a good friend. My father worked as a mechanic and sold second-hand cars. There were still bad memories at the time of the Second World War. My parents being Italian suffered racist abuse, and we as children suffered abuse too… although we didn’t know why. Little by little as my parents became better known, they were liked by a great number of neighbours and customers. Not really being business people, my parents allowed customers to buy goods on a weekly/monthly tick basis. As people had so little money, quite often didn’t pay at all. Being kind and sympathetic people, my parents let it go, to their own detriment. Probably one of the reasons they were so popular!
My first memories were in 1953, we were the only people in our street with a TV and this certain day, our house was full of neighbours and casual passer-by! It was the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. I still remember to this day watching the Queen being crowned on a fuzzy 12 inch black and white TV, with all those people (mostly strangers) all shouting and cheering.
Anthony Di Carlo with his brother Stephen in Derby Street
From then on, I remember the pigeon park, which was near Newport Bridge. It was a little magical for me, around the allotments there was a lot of sand mixed with seashells. I used to filter out the seashells and sometimes found whole pigeon eggs, which was great. I wondered how part of the sea shore managed to get so far from the beach. In later life, I guessed that the pigeon fanciers brought the sand in for the pigeon nest boxes, later tipping out the used sand around the perimeter of the allotments. It was there I earned my first many stitches. I was about four I think, and a girl a little taller than me, hit me with half a wall brick on my forehead, prompting me to run home crying. Three stitches were my reward.
Alongside the park on the other side of Cannon Street were rows of houses, some of them looked inhabitable. One always had a handwritten sign in the window “Winkles a penny a bag”. I knew what winkles were because when my family had our daytrips out to the beach (I now realise how lucky we were because we had a car). My dad being a mechanic and selling second-hand cars, meant his perk was to have a car. At the beach, we collected winkles and I loved them, picked them out with a needle, so often I knocked on the door with the sign, and when they answered (which wasn’t often) I would buy a penny bag of winkles and stuff my face!
My first day at school was at Marsh Road infants. I cried my eyes out. Our teacher was really nice and I soon cheered up. Mrs Robinson, pretty with a mole on her face. I still remember what she looked like. I imagine she is not with us anymore.
My father had been a motorcycle champion in his youth in Italy, he built me a real miniature 80cc motorcycle, which he named “The Red Devil” after me I suppose! It was made from a cyclemaster engine (bicycle that had an engine on the back wheel) and he made the frame from tubular steel. It was fantastic and I rode on the common in Derby Street, with a trail of kids behind. I must have been a spoilt brat! It created quite a sensation at that time, 1955, child motorcycles did not exist, the evening Gazette did a story on it and one of the national papers, this became known by the local police and the cautioned my dad not to let me ride it in public never again, which was upsetting for me at the time. St Patrick’s junior school was good, I liked the teachers and made bags of sweets and some money on the side! The school was split down the middle separating boys from girls with the playgrounds separated by high walls, I had three sisters on the other side of that wall! The older boys bribed me to pass messages to my sisters, as my sisters were and still are very pretty. My first taste of business aged around seven years old.
During lunch and after school we would play hiding and throwing clemy’s at each other (stones for the uneducated hahaa), no names mentioned…Terry Hast…got me when I popped up from behind rubble. Three more pretty stitches. We also did the forbidden and sneaked through the fence alongside the railway tracks. I recall some kid getting killed on the tracks and they repaired the fence and that ended the taste of danger. The summers were hot and sunny in those days. At Easter we would sit on our step with our Easter eggs melting.
By 1957, I had three more siblings; Pamela, Stephen and Yvonne.
In this photo (left) is Pamela and Yvonne Di Carlo in Derby Street. You can see the penny in Yvonne’s pocket.
I remember my friends and Derby Street neighbours leaving on the government offer of 10 pounds for families to emigrate to Australia. I was sad to see them go, but they came back a few years later. They couldn’t settle there. We were now a family of six siblings and at the age of eight years old we were moving to a new house on the other side of Newport Road and new adventures for us kids. A massive house with garden and six bedrooms. When we left No 1 Derby Street I said goodbye to every room.