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.


80. 80

Ralph and John felt like fish out of water when they first moved onto the street but they soon made new friends. John Left School that summer and went to work at Charlie Clay’s for a while then left and went to work on the trawlers down on North Shields fish quay; it was better money but it was the stink of fish that finally persuaded him to leave after only a few months. He took a job as an apprentice projectionist at the Comedy Cinema; before he packed that in and went to work as an apprentice joiner.

He finally joined the army at 17 years of age and would travel the world.




Agnes went with her friend Jenny to St Anton in Arlberg in Austria after her birthday. The chalet they were staying in had all the amenities that they needed. One more there was a big log fire which they could light each night on there return. Jenny was staying with other friends from London who had been out with her before. Susan Bean was a 22 year old law student and Lindsey Turnbull who was training to become vet. They had all gone to the same school as Jenny and had kept in touch with her.

They made Agnes welcome. There was a chalet girl who came in each day and prepared food and lit the fires. So all Agnes had to do was spend time skiing and enjoying herself. Every night they met in the local bar called the Moose where the women all dress in the traditional Dirndl dresses and the men in Lederhosen.

Her instructor was called Benjamin Dennison; he was from Vancouver in Canada but everyone called him Benny.

The first few days Agnes was separated from the others as she had to learn how to ski on the beginner’s slopes which lasted 2 days.

To begin with Agnes like all the rest kept falling over and she thought that she would never get the hang of it.

She had to learn edge control, foot rotation, separation of the upper body as well as learning how to flatten and the use of pole planting to create and edge.

She had a very sore behind after the first day but the chalet had a hot tub that they all got into each night and it soaked away the pain. The alcohol helped her sleep at night. On day two of her skiing lesson Benny showed them all how to keep their feet together, banking and leaning into turns. She also learned how to gain more edge by turning the outside ski and counter balancing her body.

By the end of the second day she was able to ski on her own. She was really enjoying herself; even if it wasn’t as fast as everyone else. She was able to follow Benny line he made with his pole and the idea was to follow and rub out the line with her skis.

On day three of her week in Austria she took the Flexenbarn cable car with Jenny and her friends where they had lunch in the Rendl beach bar and restaurant before hitting the bigger slopes for the first time. The Valluga was the slope that Jenny and the others used and they took the ski lift to the top which over looked Stuben and Zurs.

They could also see the small village of St Christoph.

“On Saturday before we leave we will spend the morning shopping where you can pick up some gifts for your parents said Jenny.’

“Yes,’ I would like that very much.’


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