Ray Price - My Yorkshire childhood
PUBLISHED: 17:39 11 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:29 20 February 2013
Grandfather Ray Price gives us a graphic recollection of childhood in the pit village of Armthorpe near Doncaster, South Yorkshire
I grew up in a South Yorkshire pit village where each morning the pit buzzer woke everyone, not just the next shift down the pit. It was a village where every home had at least one dog which was pushed out of the door to roam the streets in packs, leaving small piles of surprises every few yards.
All the houses were covered in a black dust from the many coal fires and I remember the dark shadow of the coking plant in the pit yard. I remember too the sight of my fathers back streaked with black lines where he had been scratched and cut while working, the fine coal dust sealed into his skin like so many tattoos.
We would cut and shape cardboard to fit in our school shoes, trying to cover the holes in the soles, and I remember the dreaded, vibrantly coloured, plastic playing-out sandals our mothers bought from the market because they were cheap and hard wearing. They were prisons for the feet.
Our playground was thousands of feet above our fathers place of work. As we approached the pit tip it looked like a Red Indian encampment with plumes of smoke that permeated through the slag from the many underground fires. We searched for fossils and the ever elusive fossil tree that our fathers told us they regularly saw growing in the coal seam.
And the walk home, dogs dashing around us; dogs and kids covered in the grey pit muck that stuck like glue oblivious of the trouble we would be in when we got home.
Hoards of kids would climb up into the crowns of trees, the missing back pocket of their jeans highly visible because of its newness; they shook the branches like apes until the spiky chestnut cases fell. Those on the ground stamped on them with their plastic shoes until they opened, throwing the contents into their plastic carrier bags.
I have fond memories of Sunday night after our weekly pre-school bath, sitting in front of the Yorkshire range with my mother, father, and three brothers, coal shovel sat on top of the hot ashes of the fire, chestnuts piled on top popping as they roasted, our hands and faces smudged with black as we peeled the burnt shells to get at the now soft nut inside. We laughed and joked as we fought over the hot nuts.
Keep your childhood memories coming in. They make fascinating reading. Just email the editor firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more and be ready to share some of your childhood photographs with us too.
The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life
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