To get to school I first had to cycle to the nearest village, a mile and a half away. I had the timing perfected and, as long as I left home at 8.10am, I could be sure to catch the bus at 8.19am. Most days!
I could normally see the bus slowly approaching as I came into the village. There, at a run, I left my bike to park itself, in a shed, behind the Methodist Chapel and ran across the road to the bus stop.
The bus to the nearest town took 20 minutes, and, then, there was a walk through town to school. None of the Mum’s school run in those days!
If it snowed heavily, the narrow road to the village became blocked very easily. In such conditions, everyone who was travelling by car carried a shovel, or spade. A few of us riding bikes would return home and then return to the blockage with our spades.
I remember with some fondness, the great community spirit on these occasions. Don’t get me wrong, there was not a host of people all stuck at the same snowdrift, just a few, because not many people travelled that road!
So, there we were, my sister and I, a neighbour from a quarter of a mile away, and a local smallholder. We all set to, digging through the snowdrift. We eventually dug through, making a track big enough to get a car through, and moved on to the next drift. There would be a series of drifts within a 200 yard stretch, then a blissfully free section before we hit more drifts. Eventually, we reached the crossroads, and we knew that from thereon the road would be clear.
On one occasion, just as we had broken through the last drift, a Council snow plough appeared from the opposite direction and turned into our road. The blade was set about a foot above the road surface, and extended to a width of about 10 feet. All our hard work was destroyed and the road was, once again blocked, covered by a foot of snow all over! I think the adults said “Oh dear!”
There was never a question of giving up and going home because it was too cold, too difficult, or dangerous. We just assumed that we must make every effort to get to school, and we did!
Bus fare obviously changed over time but there was a fairly long period of time where prices (and wages) seemed to be constant. I remember my Dad, who was a farm labourer, earned £9 per week for quite some time.
The bus fare at that stage was 5 pence ha’penny each way, no return tickets available! that is 5.5 old pennies, just over 2 pence today. I was given a shilling each day and allowed to spend the 1 penny change. Bliss!
You could go into the biscuit shop and buy a bag of broken biscuits, or into the sweet shop and buy 4 chews for a penny. Alternatives were liquorice root and, if you’ve never tried it, don’t knock it! (google the image!)
I did cycle to school a few times. Must have been mad!
Once I reached 16 I was able to ride motorbikes, firstly an NSU Quickly, basically a heavy bike with an engine, later, a Lambretta 125cc scooter, then Dad’s Ambassador 225cc motorbike.
Actually, my first motorcycle experience was at the age of 14, after dark, on my Dad’s 98cc James. I would sneak it from behind an old garage at the side of the road, freewheel it down the road until out of sight and hearing, then start it up and go for a jolly.
All was fine until one day I decided to go and visit a girl in a village about 4 miles away by narrow, twisty country roads. It was raining, and I misjudged a tight left hand bend, ending up in a heap in a ditch.
The bike had a bent footrest and the chain had come off but, other than that seemed OK. My body was not quite so lucky, my right thumb was broken, I had multiple abrasions and my clothes were rather the worse for wear.
Somehow I managed to kick the bent bits into their right places, and forced the chain back on to the sprockets. I then had to ride home. I did it, and it hurt! A lot!
When I arrived back home I tried to make the bike appear to be totally normal and then pondered how to pass off my injuries and appearance.
Dad, bless him, half pretended to believe my story that I had fallen down the steps at the front of the house. The details of what happened next are rather vague in my memory. Somehow, I ended up the following day, going to school with my right thumb in a splint! What kudos that pain brought!
I never did manage to get together with that girl! Maureen Stonehewer – if only you knew!
(To find out a little more about me, follow #My life below)