John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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We move to Thornton

Early Days

1. The first year that I knew what year it was, was 1955. A whole year was a very long time indeed, and it seemed that it had always been, and would always be, 1955.
 1955 was the year I started school. And it was in 1955 that I learned that we were going to move to Thornton, where Nanny and Grandad lived. My Dad had left the War Office in Preston and had started travelling to Thornton every day to work at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance at a place called Norcross.
[1] (I probably wouldn’t be aware of the names of the government departments my Dad had worked at and was working at, but I do seem to remember the name “Norcross” being mentioned more than once.) Steven and I were told that we would soon be moving to a big house in Thornton, and that it had a wash-house, which would be all right for us because we would be able to play in it.
[1] My Dad had left the War Office in Preston and had started travelling to Thornton every day to work at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance at a place called Norcross: My Dad travelled daily from Preston for six months or so, till we moved to Thornton. He had obtained a posting to the Ministry of Pensions, Norcross. He saw an ad in Red Tape, the official organ of the Civil Service Clerical Association, from someone who wanted a head-for-head transfer to York; and knowing that the War Office was about to transfer operations to York he answered the ad, saying that he wanted to be considered if the other did not mind a delay of several months. But the other party agreed to a transfer to Preston because then he would get transfer allowances to York.
 Occasionally my Dad travelled by train, but usually he got a bus from the bus stop just beyond the junction of Norcross Lane with Fleetwood Road. He travelled with a chap called Jim Weir; and he remembers on one occasion, as they waited at the bus stop, pointing out the house beyond the field on Fleetwood Road and remarking that that was the house he was going to move to.
 2. And one day we caught a bus to Thornton: not a brown bus; this was a red one. It was a hot, sunny day; and when we got to the house with its brown-painted woodwork, there was the hum of bees on the heat-hazed air and hives on the long back garden in the glare of the afternoon sunshine, and blackcurrant bushes and brambles.[2]
 The chap who had the house before us kept bees. Mrs. Webb, the elderly white-haired neighbour living in the adjoining house, always remembered the sight of Steven guiding me with his arm past the beehives, as we walked towards the apple and pear trees which were at the far end of the garden. I must have been scared of the bees or something.
[2] Blackcurrant bushes and brambles: Writing this now (September 1990), I recall there being brambles, because in later memory they were allowed to grow wild behind the greenhouse and shed, and cropped up in other places on that side of the garden. I don’t remember blackcurrants, though; Nanny and Grandad Cooper had them just in front of the greenhouse at the bottom of their back garden, but I don’t remember them at our house. I have retained the reference to blackcurrant bushes from the source document, however, because it is possible that I have just forgotten about them in the intervening period.
3. There were wooden steps up to a wood-planked balcony before the back door, because the ground fell away gently as one went from the front door round the side of the house; and there was an outside toilet from the balcony and a lean-to shed below it. There was a tumble-down wooden garage in the garden and a lean-to at the far end of that. But where was the promised wash-house? Indeed, what would the wash-house look like? Not like any of these other outbuildings that I could see.

 4. Back home, I was disappointed to learn that this wasn’t the house with the wash-house; this was a different house: we weren’t going to go to live in the house with the wash-house any more.

 5. The people whose house we were about to move to, didn’t come to live in our house in Preston. Because we visited one day another house in Preston near the centre of Town, which seemed dark inside and dingy; and it seems to me that they were coming to our house. I may be getting confused here, because if they were coming to live in our house, why did we visit them?
 Anyhow, whether or not this memory belongs to the time of the house sale, we were moving to Thornton, and these people, or some people, in Preston were moving to our house in Ashton, so someone would be moving into their house, and someone would be moving into their house, and… where would the people in Thornton go, if they couldn’t move into our house, or the house in Town, or the next house? Or if they moved into somebody else’s house, where would they go? or they go? or they go?
[3] Where would they go? or they go? or they go?: I can’t remember exactly how my reasoning went; I have tried to capture the gist here. But suffice it to say, that there was a very real conceptual problem for me because there always somehow seemed to be someone left over who had to go somewhere else and displace someone else.
Perhaps 3rd October 1955[4]
 6. Anyhow, we moved to this house in Thornton; and we left behind all the playmates we knew in Fairfield Drive,
[5] who used everlastingly to be playing on the street, or in our back garden, on our swing, in our sand pit, in our paddling pool. We said goodbye to strolls in Haslam Park, walks by the canal, visits down Blackpool Road to the mobile library bus on the corner by St. Andrew’s school, occasional walks to Ashton Park across the road from there.[6] No more the attendance at that school, the taking off of shoes and donning of pumps [gym shoes] the confusion of the classroom, the singing group round the piano. A new life was beginning.
[4] Perhaps 3rd October 1955: Although my Dad recalled in August 1989 that our move to Thornton took place early in September 1955, perhaps on the 3rd, my school report for the half-year ending February 1956 gives, as “Date of Admission to School”, October 3rd (deleted), 4th (added), 1955. It could be, then, that we moved to Thornton on Monday 3 October 1955, and that I started school the next day. If we accept the earlier date for moving, Saturday 3 September 1955, we would have to suppose that there was some difficulty getting Steven and me into a school. When I spoke to my Dad on Sunday 24 November 2002 he suggested this, but added that because it was such a long time ago he couldn’t remember.

[5] We left behind all the playmates we knew in Fairfield Drive: After moving to Thornton—I suppose, because I knew no-one there—I acquired the solitary disposition which characterised me for the next five years or so. The move to Thornton was difficult for Steve, too; he knew lots of kids in Preston but none in Thornton.

[6] Ashton Park across the road from there: My recollections are inaccurate here: although Ashton Park is nearby, it is not just “across the road from” St Andrew’s school, as a glance at a map of Preston will show. And it seems unlikely, looking at the map, that the library bus would be parked on that corner, because the road there, Tulketh Road, is a main road to the centre of town. However, the memory cannot be denied; maybe the bus was parked at the next corner, in Abingdon Drive or Pedders Lane.

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