Fish and chips – and marzipan for Mum!

Ring o' Bells, Queensbury: 'We sneaked into the back yard of the George III, took a handful of empties out of a crate and took them to the Ring O' Bells for cash back on the empties.'  Below: Roger Hyde
Ring o' Bells, Queensbury: 'We sneaked into the back yard of the George III, took a handful of empties out of a crate and took them to the Ring O' Bells for cash back on the empties.' Below: Roger Hyde

AS a teenager in the 1950s I lived with my family in Great Street, one of the rows of “navvy” houses off the Brighouse Denholme Gate Road, in Queensbury, built to house the men who, in the 1880s, built the Halifax to Queensbury railway line.

The local Co-op bakery was a red-brick building, now demolished, in front of the Co-op gala field, where annual races were organised and sponsored by the Co-op.

Roger Hyde, who is organising a scout re-union in Queensbury.

Roger Hyde, who is organising a scout re-union in Queensbury.

My mother was a lover of marzipan and a friend of ours from the navvy houses was the head baker there and I used to scrounge a lump of marzipan from him to take home for my mother.

It was never wrapped and my mother always had to peel it because of my grubby hands. Ugh!

To raise a bit of spending cash we used to chop firewood and sell it door to door and my mate used to take his grandad’s “empties” back to the pub and keep the proceeds.

A rather sly and naughty idea hit us and we sneaked into the back yard of the George III, took a handful of empties out of a crate and took them to the Ring O’ Bells for our cash back on the empties. Shame on us!

“Pop” Waite had the Chapel Street fish shop at the time and we usually called at about 11am and asked him for any cold cakes from the day before and he usually obliged by giving us one each. My stomach turns now at the thought of a cold fatty cake.

Talking about fish shops I remember that the nicest fish and chips were from the Friendly fish shop, which was run by Mr and Mrs Clarke. On Thursdays they served “patties”, which were cakes, but instead of a fish filling they had a sliver of steak. Very nice! Sadly the fish shop is no more.

Still on the subject of fish shops, we had a milkman in Queensbury who was an alcoholic. After his rounds he used to visit umpteen pubs on his way home and, fortunately for him, his faithful horse, pulling the milk cart, used to take him from pub to pub. It knew the route by heart and his owner never had any need to tether the horse at any watering hole as it obediently ferried him from one drink to another.

Legless at the end of the night, he staggered to his milk cart and his faithful nag saw him safely home.

He could be a nasty piece of work when he was drunk and he upgraded his milk transport to an old van long before the drink-and-drive laws.

One night my mate had just been served with a bag of chips (with the obligatory scraps) and the milkman, in a nasty fit of temper, brayed my mate around his head for no reason at all.

My mate promptly picked up the remainder of his chips, which had been knocked to the floor, and went outside, smothering them all over the van’s windscreen, causing an ugly, greasy mess.

The small corner shop near the “navvies” was where I always bought my “spice” and was owned by a very cheerful fella who I am sure sold everything on tick until wage day and always gave you a cheery “How’s your father?” or his favourite saying, “How’s your belly for spots?” Good times.

* Roger Hyde lives at Bradshaw Lane, Bradshaw, Halifax.

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