Oldham Historical Research Group

'Oldham Stories'

     'Oldham Stories'
by Mary Dickinson

Summer Saturdays

I passed some tall flats the other day and I thought how life has changed. They were built just where my old home used to be. As I looked at them I thought of all the people, young and old who lived round there. My thoughts went back to the beautiful summers we always seemed to have.

We lived in quite a narrow street and on Saturday afternoons most of the hard working mothers would sit outside. They would put a mat on the doorstep for the children. Even the birdcages were brought out and this was the only time we ever heard the sound of birdsong in our little cobbled street.

We all used to sit there knowing that soon we would be entertained, while the children played skipping, hop-flag, rounders or cricket. After a while the Morris Dancers would come round. They were dressed in beautiful clothes, white shirts, black waistcoats and white stockings. They wore shiny black clogs with brass nails around the soles. One man had the music and another had the collection box. They were mostly miners and the money was for sick miners or to help after disasters at the pit. There was not much money among the neighbours but nearly everyone gave a copper. We were always sorry when they moved into the next street.

Before long the Hokey-Pokey man would come round. He sold something like ice cream. It was solid and very creamy. He soon sold up because it melted very quickly. Then the organ man and his monkey would come round. He stayed quite a while because one of the neighbours, Mr. Brankin would give him some of home brewed beer. Sometimes a roundabout on a horse and cart would come round. All the little children would have a turn. It cost a halfpenny a go.

Later on the courting couples would go out and the younger children put to bed but most of us would stay out. The black pea man usually came round and cups and basins were brought out and we would sit on our doorsteps eating the delicious peas. We knew all our neighbours in those days and now when I look at the flats I know the people have a new way of life and I hope it is better but I am glad I have my memories of happy times. We were poor but not in spirit.

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