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.


20. 20

Florrie’s children waited in the scullery whilst their mother shared out the fish and chips. She left some in the packet for her husband to eat, if and when he decided to get up from his drunken stupor.




Ralph Mason packed a bag with all of his swimming stuff in. He was wearing his trunks under his short pants so that when he got to Hawkey’s lane baths he could just take off his tee shirt and shorts then remove his socks and sand slippers. His mother had made him beans on toast for his lunch which he liked to eat.

At one there was a knock at the door and Manny and Terry Lane were standing out side.

“Are you ready then Ralph.’

“Yes, give me a minute.’

Ralph went back and got his haversack with his towel and clean underwear inside. His mother made him a sandwich and put in a bottle of lemonade knowing how hungry Ralph could get.

He kissed his mother before leaving. By the time he’d come outside the rest of his friends along with the girls had all shown up.

Mattheed bragged on about a woollen costume that his mother had knit for him.

It was navy blue and had an elastic waistband used from an old pair of old briefs.

They all walked up Coach Lane onto Albion Road they crossed over the road then turned left. They passed the barber shop and then the newsagents and tuned up Hawkey’s lane. Over the road was Ralph Gardner Secondary Modern School.

They walked past the posh houses on Hawkey’s Lane where the saw the North Shields Boys Club on Scorer Street then the green wooden door further along that led to the baths.

Over the road they saw the war memorial to all those that had lost their lives in both the Great War and the Second World War; behind it was the Tynemouth Jubilee infirmary they all hoped that they wouldn’t be visiting there before the school holidays were over.

The green door was open and the stepped inside then walked up a flight of steps. They paid a penny to get in then walked to the canvas cover on the right hand side of the pool that was the changing room. There was a spring board and a high diving board but they weren’t allowed to use. However they did during closing time when it was light evenings like this. They would climb along the wall from the back of the boys club onto the roof and scale the pipes and inside the baths for free. They would jump in off the high board without a care in the world.

Sometime the snotty cow that lived at the back of the pool would call the police and they would have to leg it out and hide in Scorer’s Park where they hid in the trees until the police had gone.

Mattheed was the first to change and he waited for the rest to get changed before going out. There wasn’t many in that afternoon. An old man was doing length after length as Mattheed threw in his inflated inner tube from a wagon wheel. The girls came out from the other side after changing. Jan Nicholson, Alice Rice, and Pam Saunders all jumped in. The lads avoided the trough at the bottom of the pool you were meant to step into to prevent viruses. They launched themselves in splashing the girls in the faces with their top bombing. Mattheed hadn’t come up and everyone looked for him.

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