Frank Lowney: Memories of Fox Heads

Frank writes:-
Location of Fox Heads
The Foxheads area of Cannon St was really very small. It was situated about halfway along Cannon Street. It was bounded on the east by Marsh St, on the north by Newport St,on the south by Cannon St and on the west by the Gas Tank wall.

The Streets
Fox Heads consisted of Arthur Street, Prince Charles Street and Queen Mary Street which all ran north-south from Cannon St to Newport Street. These streets were intersected by Frederick Street which ran east-west parallel with Cannon Street and Newport Street.

Hard Times After the War
I was born in Newport St, Fox Heads, in 1944. My earliest memories are of the period just after the war when food was rationed and everyone was struggling to live. We ate a lot of porridge and bread and our Mam used to make a delicious broth out of bacon bones and pulses.
We never seemed to have enough to eat but nobody starved. I certainly cannot remember seeing any fat kids around but I guess we were healthier than today’s generation.

My Dad was an engine driver for LNER and I suppose we, as a family, were better off than some because my Dad always worked and always tipped up his wage. In spite of this money was always in short supply and often on a Wednesday Mam would take Dad’s only suit to Earnest Hush’s Pawn Shop for a ten shilling pledge. It would cost ten shillings and sixpence to redeem it on pay day which was Friday. When Dad got ready to go to the pub on Saturday night he never even knew his suit had been away.

I too remember the long hot summer days getting up to mischief playing around the streets but I also remember the long cold winters when we could not afford to buy coal for the fire. As I got older we would push an old pram to Redcar fill it up with sea coal collected from the beach and push it home again. There was a black man who lived on Marsh St who sold coal from his house, people would buy two or three stone of coal and push it home on a wheel barrow. We could always earn a penny or two by delivering the coal for them.

Angie’s Ice Cream
In the summer, an Italian woman called Angie sold ice cream from a handcart she pushed around the streets. She would come into Foxheads and park her cart smack in the middle of the junction of Prince Charles St and Frederick St. Nobody owned a car in those days and Foxheads saw very little traffic so her cart was not a problem to traffic. You could buy a tuppenny or threepenny sandwich(ice cream spread between two wafers) or a tupenny or threepenny cornet. Angie’s family ran a shop on Cannon St. It was a busy shop and the bread and milk were kept on the customer’s side of the counter, so whenever I was sent to buy bread and milk I bypassed the nearest shops and went to Angie’s where I would steal the bread and milk and keep the money. After closing time Angie would post one of her grown up sons on the shop doorway and he would let people in and out so she could carry on trading after hours.

Getting the Electric
I think it was about 1949 when electricity came to Foxheads, I can remember the pavement being dug up and a trench leading up to our front door. This meant we could buy a wireless and, if my memory is correct ,it came from a shop on Newport Road opposite Parliament Rd, I think it was called Rogers.* Our house was typical for the area ,two up, two down and each room had one light fitting and the kitchen had an electric socket ,not much- but a vast improvement on the gas lights.

* (James Edward) Rogers ‘Wireless Dealer’ 337 Newport Rd

Street Games
I can never recall being bored. We were always out on the streets playing games such as monakitty,T-Mack, off groundy, kick can as well as football and cricket. We also organised foot races. We would split up into two teams and do relay races around the block one runner handing on to the next until everyone had run.The first team home won. We also ran Pagging Out races this involved a whole gang setting off at the same time and just running until we ,one by one ,”Pagged” out until only one person was left .He won. I must say I was never any good at these running games but I always took part. Some of the younger parents would join in the street games particularly on light summer nights when it was still daylight at 10pm.

Gambling was prominent among Foxheaders, even though gambling was illegal it flourished. There was Fred Whitehouse a bookmaker who operated from a back alley between Prince Charles St and Queen Mary St. He had a runner who used to warn him when the police were in the area. Fred’s escape route was to disappear into a back yard ,go through the house across the street, through another house and so on. He would be several streets away in no time at all. He did get caught but not very often.

There was another woman who used her front room for housey-housey(bingo) several local women would collect at the house and have a session of housey-housey two or three times a week. A card school was always going on in some house or other and the house holder would take a percentage of the kitty for allowing the card players the use of the house.

Outside gambling included pitch and toss and spanny. Spanny was a game in which a player slammed a penny against a wall. It would rebound and land some distance away from the wall. The next player would do the same but try to land his coin within a hands span of his opponent’s coin. If he could span the distance between the two coins he won .Several people could play the same time and this was a popular game among the lads who used to congregate on the corner of Frederick St and Prince Charles St. This particular corner was where people collected for no other reason than to talk and pass the time of day.

Trips Away
During school holidays we would have an occasional day out to Redcar or Saltburn. It cost one shilling and sixpence for a return rail ticket so we could not afford to go often.I always preferred Saltburn to Redcar. We would fish off the pier with handlines. Usually we caught nothing but sometimes we would catch a few mackerel. There were always the winkles,and mussels to be collected off the rocks when the tide was out .Sometimes we would hitch hike to Leven to do a bit of fishing or catch a bus to Yarm which was also a good fishing area.
[Frank Lowney]

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