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.


83. 83

The hall had long tables that could seat up to twenty people. There was a dinner monitor on each end and they were responsible for sharing out the food.

There was a large aluminium jug and small glasses that could be filled with water and you took your utensils as you went in from the boxes on two tables.

After grace the monitors went up to get the food it was mean to be share out equally but the monitors always kept the lions share for themselves.’

Today they were having cheese pie with chips and salad. For pudding it was Rhubarb tart and custard. Not many liked Rhubarb so Ralphie knew that he would get another helping.

Once the plates were shifted and the cutlery placed into the buckets they were allowed to go into the playground.

They wondered past the girls playing area where some were playing netball. Ralph had a crush on two girls who played for the team; Sandra Hinchcliff and Carol Harman the younger sister of Margaret. Both were tall and pretty and Ralph couldn’t keep his eyes off them as he and Brian walked slowly past suddenly the ball bounced in their direction and Ralph caught it then passed it back to Sandra who smiled at him.

That had made his day as they walked down to the sea training quarters.

“Next year we will be doing sea training you know.’

“Will we?’

“Yes, with Mr Flett, I heard some older boys talking and they were saying that Mr Flett was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp after a ship that he was on got sunk.’

They reckon that the Japs starved him and the other prisoners who were working flat out in the blazing heat of the jungle. They got a small bowl of rice each day and had to eat rats that they caught and ate to keep them alive.’

“My God that is terrible.’

Yes it was, He told how his friends were beheaded by the Japanese commanders who said that it was an honourable way to die.’
“Not for the poor buggers who were getting their heads lopped off it weren’t.’

They were responsible for the making of the bridge over the River Kwai and the railway lines in Burma.’ Hundreds of men died of Malaria, Beriberi, and dysentery. Those that survived were often beaten within an inch of their lives then thrown into a hole in the blazing heat with no food or water.’

“We should think ourselves fortunate that we were too young to be conscripted.’

“I know Brian; God knows what horrors my father saw.’

“Mine too I expect.’

“Was your father in the war?’

“Yes, he was a sergeant in the Durham light infantry.’

“My dad was in the Royal armoured corps; he was sent to North Africa to fight against Erwin Rommel’s panzer division.’

“I never saw much of my dad during the war and when he came home he was like a stranger at first.’ My mam brought us up whilst my dad was away fighting for king and country.’ He got compassionate leave after our Maureen died.’

“I’m sorry; what does your dad do now?’

“He works for Hastie D Burton’s now; after the war he was responsible for rebuilding the houses that were bombed.

“Come on we better go back inside.’

“What lesson do we have now?’

“We have maths and then music with Mr Sadler.’ They walked slowly up to the top yard as the whistle went and they joined the others in line.


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