The Skin Shop

The story which is semi autobiographical tells the story of Ralph Mason Growing up in Collingwood Terrace in North Shields in 1948. it is a story of Hardship, poverty, love, and friendship just after the Second World War. Some names have been changed and I have used some poetic licence to bring the story to back to life as some of the places talked about in this story are no longer with us. "The Skin Shop is one boys journey into manhood.


101. 101

Florrie and the children moved into the Fisherman’s Lodge that week end and Florrie loved the place.


 The council agreed to allow George to open on a Sunday Lunchtime on the 29th of May1949. The first customers started coming in. little did he realise how in demand he would be. George had to ring the Robert Smith who was the skipper of the Silver Darling to bring him everything he had to cope with the influx of customers.

Florie came in to help him serve because as fast as he was serving another load of tourists were coming in. By six o’clock they closed for just one hour and they were able to grab a drink and something to eat.’

Of course the boys were happy just to eat a bag of fish and chips. They hadn’t eaten so well in years.

The Silver Darling was making a lot of money too from his catch which was being snapped up by George Cottingham. George had a wide variety of customers who liked skate, haddock, cod, and whiting.’ He was making over one hundred pounds a day during the week and at weekends even more. He even opened at eleven o’clock each morning and still the people came flooding in. George made £2.800 in his first summer season from the shop alone. He charged seven pounds per week to the tourists to stay in his flat with breakfast thrown in. With all the overheads they were still in profit and were able to save. In October the tourists had all but left and it was only the local people and those who lived in the caravans who came to the shop. He only opened of an evening then and he was able to go out with Florie and the kids and spend some time away from the shop.

They went shopping for Christmas; Florie couldn’t believe how fast the time had gone. She had booked the local registry office for their wedding in March. George wanted to marry her in the local church but Florie being a practical person had opted for a registry office saying that she wasn’t into all the pomp and ceremony. Bobby and Peter weren’t bothered either way. They had come to like William who gave them ten shillings each every week. He took them out and even went fishing with them of an evening. It was cold here in the winter months with heavy winds with waves that crashed against the rocks but it was good for catching some decent sized cod.’

The kids never complained and George wanted to make their first Christmas together special.

He went out in his van and bought two bicycles for them so they could cycle to the local middle school.

Florie had used some of Frank Johnson’s paintings around the cottage and the rest were stored away. Most of her furniture was given away as George’s were better quality. They put the bed that she had and other bits and bobs into the flat to make the place look more homely.

The children decorated both the chip shop and the cottage with streamers and balloons and George bought a big Christmas tree with tinsel and baubles which they all helped to decorate.

Florie cooked the first Turkey that she had ever eaten in over twelve years; George didn’t scrimp on anything; they had all the fancy trimmings to go with it; they pulled crackers together. They even ate Christmas pudding as well. It was the best Christmas that she’d ever known and she was so happy. George had agreed to drive them all back to North Shields so they could all take presents to their grand parents.

The boys were ever so smart in their new clothes and proper leather shoes which they polished every night.’

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