John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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The children in Fairfield Drive

Early Days

Early 1950’s
 1. There were always quite a lot of children playing in Fairfield Drive. I have a picture in my mind of regularly being in the street with kids around.

Graham Salter
 2. On the opposite side of the “kink” in Fairfield Drive from our house was where the Salters lived. I remember being in the back yard round there once, with Graham Salter and others—but perhaps only that once, for I seem to remember feeling it was strange to be there. Yet we must have been friendly with Graham, because we—Steven and I—were given a teddy bear by the Salters. It was an unusual teddy, because its clothes formed an integral part of its composition; it was its clothes, plus its head and paws. We named the teddy bear Graham Teddy, after the Salters’ son.

On the opposite side of the “kink” in Fairfield Drive from our house was where the Salters lived. The end of the Salters’ house, 11A Fairfield Drive, is facing us in this photo (taken in 1996).

The Salters’ house is on the right of this photo.

Map of Fairfield Drive, retrieved 2011 from Lancashire County Council Maps and Related Information Online. Our house, No.20 is on one side of the “kink”, and the Salters’ house, No.11A, is on the other.
Alan Clark
 3. On the left as one looks towards Blackpool Road—not far from the end, perhaps at No. 6 Fairfield Drive—was where Alan Clark lived. He was the “bad boy” of the neighbourhood; he was always getting up to some mischief or other.

On the left as one looks towards Blackpool Road [therefore on the right in the photo (taken, 6th June 1996) which looks away from Blackpool Road] not far from the end, perhaps at No. 6 Fairfield Drive—was where Alan Clark lived.
 4. Once, I remember, when there was a lull in the general chatter and activity, he coyly declared to everyone, “I’ve got a bottle in my mouth.” This saying was perhaps delivered while he was standing at his doorstep, or in the street outside his house.
 I imagine that we stared at him—incredulous—till someone piped up, “You haven’t, have you?”
 With a crooked smile, pausing, he looked back at us out of the corner of his eye, then answered, “Yeah!” It was as if he felt that to say “Yes” was just as easy as saying “No, I haven’t really!”, and he plumped for “Yes”.
 Then a chorus of voices cried out:
 “You haven’t!”
 “You can’t have!”
 “Show us, then!”

 5. He had a cheeky face, did Alan Clark, and a mop of fair hair. He was clownish; he liked people to laugh at him or take notice of him. (And he’d laugh back in rapid bursts: “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”) To this end he would say ridiculous or outrageous things: ridiculous, like (as we have seen), “I’ve got a bottle in my mouth!”; or outrageous, as follows:

 6. We children were standing just outside his front hedge and wall and he was nearby, probably on the short path leading to the front door, or maybe standing among us.
 All of a sudden, he just uttered the single word “Bugger!”
[1]—which caused all the other boys and girls to point at him and say, “Aaaaah!” I was unmoved; I hadn’t heard the word before so I didn’t understand everyone’s reaction. But they were all able to go home and announce that “Alan Clark said a RUDE WORD today.”
[1] “Bugger!”: Our Steve remembers that he said “Bugger!” himself at school (after learning it from Alan Clark, perhaps?) and got a scolding for it.
 7. Because of the similarity of the scene in both these incidents, it seems likely that they both happened on the same afternoon. Possibly Alan, gratified by the response to his “I’ve got a bottle in my mouth!”, decided to take the fun a step further by risking a quick “Bugger!”. It may also have been at that time that Alan Clark told us: “You can’t come in my house because there’s a bogeyman there!”

 8. Then, rather against his will because he was having so much fun, he was dragged in for his tea. But that wasn’t the end of his attention-seeking (and getting), for soon he appeared in the window, seated at his own little table to the right of the one where the grown-ups were sitting,
[2] making us laugh at his antics, possibly showing us the half-chewed food in his mouth and pulling funny faces, till he suddenly accidentally upset his table and got a walloping for it. This last event probably got a bigger laugh from us than all the rest of his show put together.
[2] He appeared in the window, seated at his own little table to the right of where the grown-ups were sitting: I am not sure exactly where Alan Clark lived; it was on the “evens” side of Fairfield Drive, and my impression is that it was towards the Blackpool Road end. I have the impression that the front door was to the left, for I have a mental picture of the front window—with Alan Clark visible through it, sitting at a separate table to the right of the main table having his tea, showing off, upsetting the table and getting scolded—and in my mind’s eye that window is to the right of the house. On Thursday 6 June 1996 I visited Fairfield Drive and made the following sketch, showing the positions of the front doors of that block of houses:

The following Saturday I was talking to Steve; he thought Alan Clark lived at the end house. The left front door and right front-room bay window of my memory fit in with this, but I don’t have the impression of it being the very end house—towards the end, but not quite the end—so it was perhaps No. 6.
 9. On another occasion, there was a group of us in the road in the middle of the “kink”. Alan was being naughty again, probably teasing someone. And in my hand I had a rod with a string attached to one end; I think it was a home-made archery bow and the string had come off one end. So I tried to discourage Alan by lashing at him with this ready-made whip; only, after a couple of swings at him I misjudged my stroke and hit him on the head with this pole. I was aware then that the string had already fallen off; and also that Alan was in tears, bellowing at the top of his voice. And then I was severely scolded by my Mum who obviously thought I’d clouted him deliberately.

Elizabeth Dent
 10. Next door but one to us, at the end house of our block of three, lived a little girl, somewhat younger than I, called Elizabeth Dent.
[3] She would creep through a hole in our back garden hedge and without asking permission come and play in our back garden. I seem to remember her silently coming into our back garden and playing on our swing (for we had a swing), tugging quite expertly on the supporting chains to gain height. Nothing was said to her; she wasn’t doing any harm.
[3] Elizabeth Dent: Her name was Elizabeth Dent, though the name Dorothy springs to mind. I may have addressed her as Dorothy at some time by mistake. Had I seen Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz? Or was I acquainted with someone else called Dorothy? I don’t know. Perhaps this memory is totally confused: I think it was after we moved to Thornton in 1955 that I first saw The Wizard of Oz, and the only Dorothy I can definitely remember is Dorothy Tewson (Doreen Tewson’s sister) after I started school in Thornton.

Next door but one to us, at the end house of our block of three, lived a little girl, somewhat younger than I, called Elizabeth Dent. Photos taken, 6th June 1996.
 11. Once, either in her back yard or the one next door,[4] there was a dispute between her and a little boy over a small wooden spade that they both wanted to play with. So the boy just snatched up the spade and hit her on the head with it several times (Blat! Blat! Blat! Blat! Blat! Blat! Blat!). Of course Elizabeth promptly shrieked and cried with a great deal of noise and a reddening, screwed-up face, till her mother came out to investigate.
[4] Next door: I can’t remember who lived next door on that side; next door the other way, at No. 18, lived a lady called Mrs. Gilliard.
The Paddling Pool and Sand Pit
 12. My Dad built a paddling pool and sand pit in the back garden. When the sand for the sand pit came, all the children gathered around. When it came it was dumped towards the corner of the “kink” on the curb and road, right on top of the grating (or “grid”
[5], as we called it) covering a roadside drain. Some paper had been put down to cover the grid but it had torn and a quantity of sand was falling down into the drain. As my Dad cleared the sand from the grid, thereby forming a “cliff” of sand around it with his spade, he marvelled at the stupidity of the delivery men for dumping it just there;[6] there was plenty of space available elsewhere for them to put it, wasn’t there?
[5] Grid: I remember a nonsense-rhyme that children used to chant:
Where d’you live?
 Down a grid.
What number?
What street?
 Pig’s feet.
[6] My Dad… marvelled at the stupidity of the delivery men for dumping it just there: He was probably not there when the sand was delivered, or he would have been able to “supervise operations”. He probably discovered the blunder after his return from work, in the early evening.
 13. I discovered on one occasion that if I dug in the sand, and continued to dig down, the sand changed colour from light brown to black!

 14. Having a swing and a sand pit made our back garden a very popular venue for all the kids in the street. One of them was called Colin. I don’t remember anything about Colin, except that he was there in the back garden near the swing, standing with one or two others; and I only remember this because I gleefully said to someone standing there, “Colin’s got a scratch on his neck!”

Pamela Bramley
 15. The name Pamela Bramley is memorable because it “flows”, particularly if pronounced with each word having three syllables: “Pa-mə-lə Bra-mə-ly”. It was through her that I first discovered that there is an anatomical difference between boys and girls.

 16. Pamela Bramley lived on the other side of Fairfield Drive, in the same block as the Salters, but about halfway down towards Blackpool Road. The Bramleys were just about the only family in Fairfield Drive at that time to have a television set.

 17. Pamela Bramley was older than I, probably our Steve’s age. He recalls that she was very “bossy”. Whether it was for that reason or for some other, I don’t know, but she was not well liked by us. Nevertheless, she must have been playing in our pool or something one day, for I remember seeing her in our living room (or was it the kitchen?) getting changed or towelling herself dry; and I noticed that she didn’t have a “sparrow” as I did.

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