John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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The adventure begins (6.40pm–8.00pm)

1965, the year that changed my life
4.15pm–6.20pm

Chris wrote in 1967: "We had arranged to meet at the traffic lights near our home at 6.30 p.m. After we had left notes for our parents we all arrived at the meeting place. John was a bit late, as he had had trouble getting out of the house. We set off hitch-hiking, but it was a very bad night, and we were so wet that it was no wonder that nobody would stop. We were not discouraged, and were determined not to be put off by the weather. God had said, “Go!”, we were sure of that, so we were not going to be stopped at any price. As we were hitch-hiking, my father drove past us in the car, he was out looking for us. He stopped once, and we hid from him in a farmyard, and then went on when we thought he had gone, but again he passed us and stopped. We ran and hid in the outside toilets of a nearby public house. I praise God that my father never caught us that night, he had a bad foot, and this hindered him in searching for us. We hid in a compartment in the toilets, but my father wasn’t sure where we had gone. He even came in, but amazing as it may seem he never looked in the compartment where we were although the door was ajar. This was surely a miracle! After this incident, we gave up the idea of hitch-hiking, and ran about a mile down the road to the nearest railway station in Poulton-le-Fylde. We bought tickets for Bolton…"

video

Wednesday 13th January 1965



Perhaps 6.40pm
 11. Because of my difficulty in getting out of the house, it was after half-past six when I arrived at the bus shelter at Four Lane Ends. Chris and Gooding were already there, and they got up from their perch on the little tubular-steel bit of fencing that was between the bus stop and the District Bank. It may have stopped raining then, though there was a strong wind. They both carried a pack with blankets, which I had been unable to do.

“The bus shelter at Four Lane Ends” as it appeared in 1979


“The little tubular-steel bit of fencing that was between the bus stop and the District Bank” — again, in 1979
 We decided that we would set off southwards down Fleetwood Road and try to thumb a lift. We didn’t go down Victoria Road on what was then the main A585 route because we figured that this was the way we would be expected to go by anxious parents or police.

 12. We started walking, not very quickly because we were hoping soon to obtain a lift.
 We were walking on the pavement
[sidewalk] on the left side of Fleetwood Road. We crossed over Neville Drive, and then as we approached my house, which stood back from the right of the road and was clearly visible in the light from the street lamps, we broke into a sprint, running past and keeping on running till we were well beyond it.

"We were walking on the pavement on the left side of Fleetwood Road" — 1979 photo


In this 1979 photo, the entrance to “Neville Drive” can be seen just to the left of the foremost car; and “my house” appears in silhouette at the right of the photo.
Perhaps 7.10pm
 13. When my Mum went upstairs, she was a bit bored; she was waiting for Coronation Street (a popular soap-opera) to come on the television. And she had nothing else to do, so she decided that she would tidy some drawers in the dressing table. And then, as she was coming downstairs, she noticed that my light was on, so she went into my room and picked her way across the “debris”, intending to tidy up. And then she saw the note, propped up against my typewriter. Well, she wasn’t going to read it at first, but then she noticed “Mum and Dad” so she picked it up and read it. And she put it down; she was going to ignore it, because she thought, “Blow! I’ll miss Coronation Street.” This was her first reaction; it was as if a shutter came down in her mind. And then of course she had to read it again.

 14. Then Chris’s father (known to us as Fido) came round in the car to our house. My Mum thinks he came twice before our adventure was over. He must have found Chris’s note — Chris left a note, just as I did, only his note said that he was “going to end these fits once and for all.” Obviously, his father feared that he was going to do away with himself. So he came to our house; he wanted to know if Chris was with us there, or whether my Mum knew anything. She replied that, yes, she’d had this letter. She showed it to him, and then he went off in the car to look for us. He also notified the police that night, that we were missing.

 15. My Mum hurried into Beechwood Drive, to the telephone box down there, rang the Blackpool Park Golf Club and spoke to my Dad. She told him what had happened, but he was reluctant to come. “Well, what can I do about it?” he asked.
 But my Mum was very upset and was weeping, and so my Dad came home.

 16. Further along Fleetwood Road, a little way past New Lane, we had not succeeded in getting a lift. Suddenly, though, Chris alerted us, because the car he had just seen driving past was Fido’s. Immediately, we took to our heels. There were some deserted farm buildings nearby,* so we ran into the farmyard and found refuge in the shadow of one of the outbuildings. There was grass in the farmyard, wet with rain; I remember this because I got my feet wet.
 Eventually, we emerged from our hiding place and continued on our way.
* Nearby: I originally wrote “to the left” here, but it could be that we back-tracked to the farmyard, which would make it “to the right” when we turned into it.


"Further along Fleetwood Road, a little way past New Lane, we had not succeeded in getting a lift" — 2008 photo




"Suddenly, though, Chris alerted us, because the car he had just seen driving past was Fido’s" — 2008 photo.
If it was he, it is hard to see how he could have missed us: he must have seen us, three of us, on the side of the road, trying to thumb a lift — unless there were more trees there at that time, giving cover, than today. We wouldn’t have recognised the car as being his until it had passed, because of the headlights.
Perhaps 7.30pm
 17. The incident by the farmyard wasn’t the end of our near-encounter with Fido, because as we approached the cross-roads in Carleton at the end of Fleetwood Road, we saw his car again; this time he drove past us and stopped. We ran, and veered left through an entrance in the white-painted wall into the back yard of the Castle Gardens public house. We found the gentlemen’s toilet and dashed into the cubicle.

"As we approached the cross-roads in Carleton at the end of Fleetwood Road, we saw his car again; this time he drove past us and stopped" — 2008 photo


"We ran, and veered left through an entrance in the white-painted wall into the back yard of the Castle Gardens public house." In 1965, the wall of the pub continued along the line of the grass verge. (The nearer building in this 2008 photo is a later extension.) There was an entrance to the back yard of the pub in this wall, through which we fled.
 Footsteps outside! We held our breath. The footsteps came into the toilet and hesitated. We heard the person clear his throat and spit — characteristic, so Chris indicated to us, of Fido when he used the toilet. Chris recalls that the door of the compartment was even ajar, yet Fido didn’t look in there. Eventually, the footsteps retreated, and we breathed again.
 We remained there for some time, fearing an ambush. It was then that we noticed what looked like a face trying to peer in at us through the frosted glass of the compartment’s window. But after we had stood there immobile for several long seconds, we noticed that the “face” didn’t appear to have moved. We stared at it a bit longer, trying to make out details. We imagined that the “face” showed some movement. In the end, though, we decided that we had imagined it in the distorted image of something that stood there outside: stacked beer crates, or whatever.
 Fortunately for us, Fido had a painful foot which hindered him in his pursuit of us that night. This was the second in the series of miracles which we would see in the unfolding of events, together with the fact that Fido did not look through the slightly open door into the toilet cubicle where we were hiding.

 18. After this incident, we gave up the idea of hitch-hiking and decided to catch a train instead. Emerging from our hiding place, we turned the corner on which the Castle Gardens stands, left into Poulton Road. It was nearly a mile to the railway station at Poulton, but we ran for most of the way.

"Emerging from our hiding place, we turned the corner on which the Castle Gardens stands, left into Poulton Road" (right in this 2008 photo).
 There was a narrow passage, a short cut at the start of Tithebarn Street (the continuation of Poulton Road), leading along the railway embankment, leading to the station.

"There was a narrow passage, a short cut at the start of Tithebarn Street (the continuation of Poulton Road), leading along the railway embankment, leading to the station." The entrance to the passage can be seen just to the left of the traffic light in this 1997 photo.
 We sprinted down this, and arrived out of breath at the ticket office of the deserted station with its dimly glowing gas lamps, and that smell that hung around stations — that familiar sweet smell, a mixture of gas from the lamps and coal or coke from the heating stoves.
video
"We sprinted down this,…" — 2008 video


1997 photo


"…and arrived out of breath at the… deserted station" — 2008 photo.
"Deserted": of passengers, that is; there was someone on duty in the ticket office.
 You had to speak into a kind of “tunnel”, a recess in the wall where you spoke through a small arch cut out of the glass at the back of the tunnel. “Three single tickets to Bolton, please.” We had decided to take the train to Bolton, then get a bus into Manchester, because when Chris had run away from home once, he had found the police waiting for him at Manchester Victoria railway station. “Three singles to Bolton Trinity Street, please.”
 We made our way down steps to the platform. The ticket office was built on the bridge carrying Chapel Street over the railway line.

"We made our way… to the platform" — 2003 photo
Perhaps 8.00pm
 19. A steam-hauled train arrived at the station. It was a mail train, headed in all probability for Crewe, with newspaper wagons and a couple of passenger coaches. We entered a compartment and sighed with relief as the train moved off; we had finally escaped Fido, and it looked as if our mission was going to be accomplished.
 We changed trains, perhaps at Kirkham but more likely at Preston; I have a vague recollection of being in the station buffet at Preston. The train we got from Preston was a green-liveried diesel multiple unit.


9.00pm


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