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. i


4. 4

If they were lucky the whole family would go to Blackpool to the pleasure beach; if not in the summer the crowds would gather down to Tynemouth Long Sands and all the way along into Cullercoats and Whitley Bay. If you were very poor you ended up playing on the fish quay sands. Kids brought up in poverty knew nothing else. They never complained and made the most of what they had. They ate what was put down to them and were glad of it because many a time they had to go without. Clothes were passed down from child to child and often repaired that many times that other material was used to patch them up. If you had a new pair of leather shoes you were rich. Mainly they wore boots bought second hand and were taken time and time again to the cobbler shop to have a new leather sole put on them. Then they were handed down to a younger member of the family. Mainly the kids wore sand slippers to play out in. The boots were kept for school. Clothes were often pawned at Fisher’s on little Bedford Street one week then bought back the next, if you had the money. You went into cubicles to pawn rings and other valuables. North Shields was like a lot of towns that had been bombed during the onset of the Second World War.

The people endured and all pulled together like every community. New housing had been built on the old Ridges farm in 1934 and by the end of 1948 what came to be known as the Ridges Estate.


Alan Fairlamb was the next in to bat he was a tall skinny looking kid with blond hair. His short pants had holes in the arse end and his bum was showing as he hit the ball and it went over the wall and hit a window.

“You’ve gone and hit Mrs Jennings window you idiot now we won’t get the ball back. “Go and climb the wall before she comes out.’

Luckily for them that Mrs Emily Jennings was out. She had a lock on her back door so no one could get in and was well known around Shields as a bit of a snob. She was married to Edward Jennings who was a skipper on board a whaling vessel and would come down in her best pinnie and stand calling everyone who passed with her neighbour Florie Legg.

Tony Santos and Ralphie Mason gave him a bunk up and he scrambled along the wall and lowered himself in. He retrieved the ball after looking through the back window to check to see if anyone was in before he opened the bolt from the back door and let himself out.

“Good lad; diven’t do that again though or we will all be for it. Yer na what Mrs Jennings is like?’

Aye we do; she’s got a face like a smacked arse said Manny.’

The girls all put their hands over their mouths as they started to giggle.

Right how many bowls have I left said Richard?’

“Four shouted Manny.’

“It’s not golf we are playing yer na.’

“Shut up and bowl said Ralph we’ll be here all day otherwise.

Aye me mother will be calling me in for my tea which will get cold.’

“Cold my eye said Tony Santos; how can bread and jam get cold.

“I’m having sausage, egg and chips I am’

“Yes, and we are all havin’ fillet steak said Ralphie and they all laughed out loud but it was soon silenced as Mrs Jennings came out into the yard.

“Who’s climbed over the wall into my back yard?’

All the kids stood there with vacant looks on their faces as she waddled down the lane. Her fat buttocks wobbled like a jelly as she interrogated everyone.

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