The girls in the work room were a 'soft touch' compared with my father, who was hard over pocket money. The trouble with children is that they learn all the wrong things from their friends, such as asking for pocket money as a routine duty of a parent every week. My father's attitude was two sided, namely, have you earned it, do you deserve it, and on the other hand whatever do you want money for, we buy your clothes and feed you - what else do you want? He was not wrong, we do undoubtedly 'spoil' children by giving too much too easily and killing the instinct that rewards have to be worked for and earned. I remember once standing in front of father in the-work-room whilst he was working and asking him for pocket money or to go to the pictures, I cannot remember which, and his reply was " I'll take off my belt to you" Now both Blanche and I got belted, she more than me, but on that particular occasion I just stood in front of him legs astride and I just said 'I don't care" I cannot remember the outcome of that encounter. I believe it was inevitably, no money, but neither did I get belted. My father held no grudge and may have been privately amused, but he stuck to his principles, and I consoled myself by muttering to myself "I won't leave him anything in my will", totally oblivious of the fact of nature that he would most certainly die before me.
The nearest seaside town to Middlesbrough was Redcar, about ten or eleven miles away by road through Marton, Ormesby, Normanby, Eston, Wilton, Kirkleatham and Dormanstown, in the early twenties before the new 'trunk' road was built on a much more direct route passing close to South Bank and following the river much more closely. There was another route which was rough and winding but much more interesting, from down-town Middlesbrough to North Ormesby , through Cargo Fleet, South Bank and on to Dormanstown and Redcar; interesting you might guess from the names of the places through which it passed. It led right through and immediately close to iron and steel works, Bessemer furnaces, and mountains of slag which is the waste stone after the iron-ore has been extracted. If you passed by at the right time you could see a couple of hundred yards away, no more, molten metal, white hot, pouring out of a furnace into crucibles mounted on wheels which were gently shuttled away to cool into ingots or go into moulds to make tram lines, railway lines, girders for building or sheets of metal of various thicknesses. The smoke and the smell of sulphur I think it was, once upon a time was the hall mark of Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough and all steel towns had that particular individual smell in the good times. Unfortunately there were too many bad times in the iron and steel industry, due to the uncertain nature of the industry, its markets and competitors in other countries, and the use of pre-cast concrete, a poor substitute for steel frameworks supporting brick walls. When times were bad, the environment smelt better, but the workers could not live on fresh air, however much the unthinking environmentalists might welcome it. There is an old very true saying in the North : "Where there's muck there's money" . For me Middlesbrough could be identified even by a blind man, from the smell.
During the war years I was away from my home-town for the better part of seven years, four and a half years of which were spent in the Middle East, without any leave to visit home. On my return from overseas there was a disembarcation leave from the port of entry which was Southampton. On the whole of that rail journey I was anxiouly awaiting to see my family again, but the first welcome home was the smell from about six or seven miles away on the last leg of the journey from Darlington. It was still unmistakably the Middlesbrough smell and I was sure the train was going in the right direction. I don't want to hear anyone say it was unhealthy. Maybe it was for some, but it never hurt me, and very recently the oldest woman in Britain died aged about 110 years, admittedly in Redcar, but the old iron and steel works went right up to the Tees estuary and in more recent years ICI at Wilton, close to Redcar, was a great stink producer depending on wind direction. Which brings me back to Redcar, which I want to tell you about.
Redcar was the great recreational ground for Middlesbrough people and in fact many visitors came for holidays from as far away as Leeds and Sheffield. There were very few motor cars, and in the early twenties no bus service. Everyone travelled by train and the trains were packed with parents and children on special 'excursion' trains. I often travelled on the train, which went right through the iron and and steel works which extended all the way from cargo fleet right up to Dormastown. I remember being intrigued to see mothers breast feeding their babies on the train. I had never seen that before, or thought or knew about it. Mother and father were always working long hours and during the Summer holidays often felt that they could not take a holiday. At those times I remember Ethel Shore being in charge of us, I mean Blanche. Audrey, and me. I do remember being taken to Redcar for a week with Ethel Shore, and we lodged in a house, a little terrace cottage either in France Street, or Henry Street. I do not remember ever staying at the home of my uncle and aunt Rose and Michael Gilbert who lived right on the sea front at the corner of Bath Street and the prom. I might be wrong and doing them an injustice, but I just do not remember it. Redcar catered for us day-tourists. People with families in the main could not afford to sit in cafes, so they took their own food hampers with them and also their tea pots, cups or mugs. All along the main stretch of promenade were little kiosks with big hand written notices advertising "Jugs of hot water 3d, 6d. 9d and one shilling", depending on size of course. When the tide went out there were rocks you could walk on and hunt for star fish, sea tiddlers, the odd jelly fish, crabs, mussels and winkles, and all manner of sea creatures. My parents used to collect sea weed and take it home to put into my bath. It was already known that sea weed had an iodine content and probably other therapeutic constituents. The Channel Islanders call it 'wrack' and spread it on their fields as plant food/nutrient. Redcar has or had a wonderful stretch of beach, safe for children and stretching for ten miles or so past Marske by the Sea all the way to Saltburn by the Sea, where the beach ended and the big towering cliffs started with the imposing Huntcliff.
Apart from digging in the soft sand, running back and forth to the sea to fetch buckets of water to make sand castles (as countless thousands of kids have done in endless generations before and after me) I remember the occasional donkey ride on the beach which I did not really like very much, and sometimes getting a ride on the roundabouts and swings
There was an ingenious contraption, a motor car which was also a boat - its owner operator sold seats for his cruise whilst he was parked way up on the beach at the edge of the hard sand. When he had sufficient passengers on board he got into the driving seat and drove his 'motor car' all the way down to the waters edge and without stopping went straight on into the sea for a distance of about two hundred and fifty yards, described a big circle, gave the people a plenty of spray and a bit of rolling the boat and back to the beach and when the wheels touched earth they automatically engaged and once more it was a motor car. This is something which I have never ever seen or heard of elsewhere, though I can imagine the mechanics of the device. I wonder why the principle was never adapted for use by small or for that matter large lifeboats.
Which brings me to another topic for which Redcar should be famous, but very few people seem to know about it. Redcar had and still houses in a building on the promenade open for everyone to see, the oldest lifeboat in the world, called the Zetland. ( There was and is a Lord Zetland and the area at the Eastern end of the promenade near Locke Park and the stray called Zetland.) At this end of Redcar there is Fishermans Square where the local fishermen have beached their boats since time immemorial and nearby, is the pier which prior to its partial destruction early on in the second world war when it was deliberately broken, in case it should assist an enemy landing, was always a something else to explore. The old lifeboat saved many lives of seamen shipwrecked on the treacherous rocks just under the surface of the sea for some distance from the land. Ships often met this fate due to bad navigation, the Captains mistaking the bay at the West end of Redcar for the entrance to the close-by Tees Estuary. There must have been also several old ships deliberately beached on this famous black spot for shipping.