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.


79. 79

They chopped as much wood as they could and placed it onto the sledges then took it into the back yard where their father came out and broke the wood into smaller pieces.

“Good boys; where did you get this from?’

“We got it from China town dad; that old house on the hill.’

“Don’t say a word to your mother about this; you know what she is like about stealing.’

That night their mother was able to make a hot meal but come tomorrow they would have to go out again straight after school and collect more wood. At least they would get a meal at lunch time they thought.

Jack decided he had to ask his boss for a raise, it was the only way he could support his family. Hannah tried to see if she could get work too. Every penny counted in every household. Ralph got a paper round and John delivering milk for the Co-op dairy. It only brought in a few shillings each but it was better than nothing.

The cold snap lasted right through until the end of March and then the rains started in April. Heavy downpours saw the roads flooded out. Many boys boots were taking in and parents hadn’t enough money to get them cobbled. pieces of lino were cut and glued to the bottoms and cardboard cut to shape and placed inside.

The funeral parlours were kept busy as many died from pneumonia.

Ralph came down with a fever after he had got soaked to the skin on his paper round.

He was burning up and they had little heat in the house to sweat the fever out of him. Jack made him a hot toddy laced with navy rum and for three nights his mother watched over her son as the fever took a grip. Ralphs breathing was rasped as the pneumonia got into his lungs. The doctor came around and even the new priest John Hambridge from the church.

I think your son needs to go to hospital said the doctor; he is very ill.

An ambulance was called and Ralph was taken to the RVI in Newcastle where he spent two months being cared for.

When Ralph came home, all of his friends came around to see him. Terry Lane came over and brought him comics to read. The doctor said it was going to be another month before Ralph could leave the house.

It was the middle of June 1949 when Ralph was deemed fit enough to play out again.

Jack had secured a small raise from his boss so for now they were alright. Jack swore that never again would his children suffer the cold which nearly cost his son his life. Every week a few shilling was put into a tin that Hannah kept. This would go towards the cost of coal and food for the winter. Ralph and John Joined the Sunday school club that was set up by John Hambridge. All the children liked John and they flocked around him when he came to visit them in their homes. John cared and understood the poverty that these people were living with and campaigned with councils and politicians alike in an effort to raise the living standards that these people were going through.

For the next four years the Mason family endured; Ralph had a brief spell at Linskill School before Jack decided that he would move the family out of Collingwood Terrace and go and live in the Ridges.

They hired Tommy Holmes’s the coalman’s horse and cart to move all of their furniture in one day to their new house at number 58 Oakwood Avenue.

It was there that young Ralph Mason was to spend the next six years of his life.

No more would Ralph have to smell the stink from the Skin Shop.



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