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


47. 47

She would have to buy herself some bigger clothes as time went by but she would meet that when the time came. Her mother was going to have to go and tell the manager at the borough picture house where she worked of a night time that she was leaving. She could collect her wages for her and any other entitlements due to her.



Ralph Mason returned from his second visit to the hospital to see his friend Terry; he seemed a lot better today than he had been. They had removed the bandages from his head so he looked a hundred times better than he was. Ralph went around and saw his other friends and told them about Terry. What are we going to do today then asked Manny Nicholson as they all stood in the back lane. Some of the women were putting out their bins for their rubbish to be collected.

Norman Jennings was back from his whaling trip he looked over at them but said nothing.

They all walked down to the fish quay and found some empty fish boxes which they dragged over from the sheds and began to make a camp with them. The boxes were piled up about four high and about eight or ten wide. Some wooden pallets were laid across then boxes placed on top they would bring some tarpaulin down to cover it and it blocked out the daylight. There was a box recess hole so people could get in and out and then when everyone was inside the last box would cover the entrance. It was completely watertight if it rained. They played games in there and at night took their torches inside. They would take jam sandwiches and pop inside to share out and sometime one of them would bring a packet of gingersnaps or a bag of broken biscuits from Woolies. It was large enough for six people to fit inside and they would spend hours in there. Ralph had brought his ludo board and they would play that or snakes and ladders. The winner got to eat five biscuits of their own choice from the bag.

It was after six when the decided to head back walking along the road they found a long length of rope.

“Wow said little Tommy Armstrong who had become friends with them all after moving onto Collingwood Terrace two years ago. He struck up a special friendship though with Ralph who he called his best friend. Tommy’s mam Iris was divorced and had three children Tommy was the youngest as his two sisters Pauline and Debbie who were twins were both fourteen. Ralph was either at his house for tea or Tom would come over to his. They loved playing the same games; and they would buy comics like the Beano, Dandy, The Topper, and Beezer and swap them once they had been read usually in the camp with a torch.. Ralph would loan him his brothers Eagle comics as well.

“We could tie this rope from that high lamp posts and swing out from the bank up there Tom pointed out. We need a bit of wood so we can tie it on the bottom to make a seat first though.

“Great,’ who’s going to climb up and tie it off?

Mattheed will climb up wont you.’

“Why me?’

“Because yer here lad they all voiced; imitating Mr Kershaw from Western Board School.’

“Go on Mattheed get yorsel up there and tie it off.’

“Ten biscuits for yer if yer do Kidda.’

“Giz the biscuits first or I’m not gannin’ up there.’

“Alright but yer not getting’ all the bourbons or the custard creams said Tommy as Mattheed stuck his mucky paw into the bag then pulled out a handful of biscuits.’

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