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.


21. 21

It was Ralph who saw him on the bottom of the pool swimming about he didn’t notice at first then he caught sight of his little Willie as he breached then went straight back down again. His bare bum surfaced as the woollen costume had come straight off when he’d dived in.

He found it and slipped it back on and pulled it up but the weight of water in the wool kept forcing it down. He got out of the pool then had to go and get his snake belt to tie around his waist to prevent them from coming down again as the girls stood giggling. 


All afternoon they frolicked in the water oblivious to how cold the water was. With purple lips and wet hair they played with a football that Tony Santos brought. They played a kind of tuggie” one person would be on and he had to hit you with the ball. Each time someone was hit with the ball he or she joined in the team trying to get the others out.’ The last person out got to play without being on.


The pool closed at five and then the swimming clubs would come in and use the pool. When the school was on they held galas in there. Ralphie, Tony Santos, and Terry Lane were all good swimmers. Jack Mason had taught them all to swim down at the fish quay sands. He told them that if they could swim in the sea then they could swim anywhere. Mattheed was the weakest swimmer of the group. He did a kind of doggy paddle but could only swim a few yards. He was alright in the safety of the shallow end. They all got out and sat on the wooden benches after getting there jam sandwiches which they all had and drank their lemonade. They all kept the bottles which they returned to the shops to recover a penny for which paid for the next trip to the baths. Once they’d eaten they had a shower then dried off and got ready again. Instead of going home they went to Scorer’s Park where they picked blackberries from the hedge rows to take home so their mothers could make a pie with them or make jam. They managed to fill a few bags with the ripe berries before heading back home again. It was still light until around eight thirty so they agreed to meet in the lane at seven o’clock that night.’



Florrie Grant met Hannah Mason in the Co-op later that afternoon.’

“Hi Hannah, thanks for havin’ a word with the vicar for me. “He came around yesterday.’ He gave me enough money to pay off my arrears and even said he could get Bobby a job as a handyman.

That’s good; have you paid the rent then?’

Yes; I’ve been I told them that Bobby would have to work a week in hand before he would get paid and they were alright about it.’

“So when does Bobby start then?’

“He started this morning.’

“That’s great Flo.’

I’m spending what was left from the money the vicar gave me Hannah so Bobby can’t get his hands on it for beer.’

“Good idea Flo’ I know how men can be when they say that they are only having a couple then a card game gets going;  a lock in follows and next minute there’s nowt left.’

I’ve brought a load of vegetables and I’ve got some bacon bones and some lap and a sheep’s head to make broth with. That will keep us for a few days. I also got some flour, some suet and some mince so I can make mince and dumplings that will do us a couple of days then I have a few bob left to get fish and chips to see us until Sunday.’

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