Where do you begin a story that started in 1961, and is still unfolding today? The most logical answer is at the beginning, however, although I was around at the beginning I can recall very little about my formative years. Them formative years that where spent in Anfield, Liverpool 4, within spitting distance of the then Famous Kop End of Liverpool FC. Tuesday 4th April 1961, Mill Road Maternity Hospital was where I took my first breath.
Mill Road Hospital was originally built as a workhouse for the sick poor. By 1891 it had been renamed Mill Road Infirmary. It remained a general hospital until the Second World War. The only major addition to the original institution was a new outpatients department, which was built in 1938. During the Second World War the hospital was very badly damaged by air raids. In 1941 patients had to be transferred to Broadgreen Hospital where 610 beds were made available for Mill Road patients. Fortunately the new outpatient block was not damaged. When the war ended there was a debate about whether or not the hospital should be rebuilt. When it did finally reopen in June 1947, it was not as a general hospital but as a specialist maternity hospital. In November 1993 the main part of the hospital was closed. Eventually the hospital was replaced by a larger maternity hospital in Toxteth, which opened in 1995 the new Liverpool Women's Hospital, ironically my mum worked as an auxiliary nurse in both Mill Road Hospital and latterly until her retirement in the Liverpool Women's hospital.
However back in 1961 I was not the only person to take a breath as Elvis Presley was to take many as he hit the number one spot on the 23rd March 1961 with 'Wooden Heart' where he was to remain until 4th May 1961, when he was knocked off the top spot by The 'Marcels' singing 'Blue Moon' now maybe I should have waited four weeks as that would have been a more appropriate theme tune to come into the world to, being an Evertonian through and through (although that song was later adopted by Manchester City, so maybe not) but as my story unfolds maybe Wooden Heart was an appropriate song to greet me, as it would seem in retrospect my parents had Wooden Hearts.Home was to be Balfour Street in Anfield. It was a narrow cobbled street of small two up, two down terraced houses, upon opening the front door from the street you would find yourself in a living room with a fire place. This room was the parlour and only used on a Sunday. The back room was used as the living room and in the far left hand corner of the living room was a covered stairway that led to a very small landing area and two small bedrooms. Also leading from the living room was a tiny kitchen, which contained a small ceramic sink and a free standing cooker with a grill hood. The back door led out into a small-whitewashed bricked back yard with a toilet at the bottom of the yard, and against one wall hung a large tin bath. I have no early memories of this time, and can recall very little minute detail about that house; the few pictures that I have seen from that time show me to be a chubby baby with hardly any hair (people who know me now, would no doubt say " you haven't changed much then"!) I suspect those early years were uneventful as I can recall very little. I do have vague memories of attending Granton Road Nursery in Anfield and having to go to bed in the afternoon, after we had had our half pint of milk. I wonder if that was a memory or somebody's recollection but its not important. I do recall visiting Donaldson Street Public Baths with my Mum, as like most houses at that time we did not have a bathroom, or indoor toilet, and following the visit to the baths we would go to the Church at the junction of Oakfield Road and Anfield Road and pick up some tins of 'National Health Dried Milk' I suspect they may have been for my younger sister but maybe they could have been for me. I suppose my most early memories would have been when I was about six or seven which would have been 1967/68. My mum had left the family home and gone to live in the Isle of Man with my younger sister who was born in 1964, and went to the Isle of Man with some bloke, whom she remains with to this day. I wasn't that bothered at the time, as life seemed like one big adventure. I think my dad was working at the Abattoir in East Prescot Road in 1967/68, and he must have been working nights as my brother and I were always left alone in the house overnight, although I have since heard conflicting stories that he was a doorman at the Wooky Hollow night club in Belmont Road, and following his shift he would go to town and frequent the 'Shakespeare' or the 'Royal Tiger' which was by the Birkenhead Tunnel.
It was an age when frilly-shirted crooners such as Lovelace Watkins broke the ladies' hearts, and a generation split their sides to the pop parodies of The Barron Knights. Bobby Shack was the popular compere at the 'Wooky' and it was a time when chicken-in-a-basket was the height of sophistication, and a night out meant gentlemen in their Sunday suit and tie, ladies in their best frock, the former quaffing Watney's Red Barrel, the latter sipping a Cinzano Bianco, Babycham or a bottle of Mateus Rose. This, was more than 40 years ago, and was the golden age of the cabaret club, and my dad was in the thick of it. Whatever nefarious activities he was up too was of no concern to me, or my brother, we were having a great time.
My dad would leave money on the mantelpiece for us to buy essentials from the corner shop like bread and milk, but we were far more productive and chose to steal the milk and bread (along with juice eggs, bacon etc) which at that time was delivered by the milkman, and spend the money he had left on sweets and comics. It became a ritual staying up all night, and we would occupy ourselves by putting our mattresses on the stairs and sliding or throwing ourselves down the stairwell, in addition to this my dad was a big football fan and would have a magazine called 'Goal' delivered on a weekly basis. I took great delight in cutting pictures out of the magazine of all of the footballers of the day, players like Roger Hunt, Alan Ball, Geoff Hurst Dave Mackay etc and making some paste out of flour and water and pasting these pictures all over the house…and I mean all over the house. My dad had accumulated a stack of these magazines, which I chose to cut up and I can vividly remember pasting them everywhere to the point where there was no wallpaper left on show. I do recall the parlour which was only used on a Sunday had a grey three-piece suite in there along with orange cushions, and a Radiogram which adorned the main wall, I stayed up all night and decorated that parlour with all the football pictures, somehow I thought my dad would be 'made up'. The following morning when he arrived home (thinking about it now he always used to come home in a suit, so maybe he wasn't working at the abattoir) anyway when he arrived home my brother and I where in the backyard playing football, and I remember my brother was teasing me, calling Everton Hero of the time 'Alan Ball', he was mocking him saying something childish like "Alan Ball is not tall" I was really angry, and as I was an Evertonian, and loyal to my team I replied that "Roger Hunt is a cunt" Just at that point my dad walked out and heard me and wouldn't listen to my honest protests that I meant 'Currant' it was just that 'Cunt' rhymed better, I honestly didn't even know that Cunt was an offensive word or come to that, a word! So with my decorating attempts and my offensive language, I got a good hiding, I never did find out, was the hiding for swearing, decorating or offending his beloved Liverpool, I suspect the latter.
As a child I don't recall having a lot of toys or come to that any toys! So I would often visit my Nana's who lived a couple of streets away in Randolph Street, with a view to playing with a couple of toy cars that I think used to belong to her sons (my uncles) who had recently left the family home and joined the Royal Marines. However both my Nana and granddad worked (at the English Electric) and when they were not at work, they were in the 'Liver' public house on Robson Street Anfield. I remember they had a big black front door, which used to hurt my knuckles when I tried to knock, so often I would just peep under the door and if the lobby door was closed that indicated they were out, so I wouldn't bother knocking. Later in life I was told that my mum had what is now known as 'an obsessive compulsive disorder' and would throw out my toys, as she could not stand clutter of any description, this I can believe as even in later life her house was always like a show house not a family home. So because of this, prior to her leaving the family home, I became very adept at occupying myself and would sit for hours playing with 'Tampax Tubes' which became my hairy armies and hair curlers which would become the fat monsters, such ingenuity at a tender age!
Anyway, back to the story, at this time both my brother and I were attending Major Lester Junior School in Anfield, but due to our all night adventures we very rarely attended. We would often leave the house prior to my dad getting home under the pretence of going to School and go to Stanley Park instead. Breakfast very often consisted of sticking a fork into the top edge of the bread and holding it in front of the fire, while sitting crossed legged, watching the telly. We always had loads of butter in the house as my dad used to get it, knock off from work. The toast was dipped into a large mug of tea with the butter floating on the surface. You used to sieve the tea through your teeth as you sipped it to keep the tealeaves out. If it was a Monday the Dandy would be delivered, whilst my personal favourite The Beano, would be delivered on a Wednesday, I used to take great delight in being first to the letterbox and hiding the comic, and reading it later in the day.
Stanley Park became like a second home at this time, as we would often sleep there (due to being up all night) we found a disused Air-Raid shelter next to the Palm House and would often sleep in there for a few hours, before looking for mischief in the park or surrounding areas. Stanley Park is arguably the most architecturally significant of the city's great Victorian parks. The park features a grand terrace punctuated by imposing shelters with expansive bedding schemes once highlighted by fountains. The 45-hectare park opened in 1870 and contains the Gladstone Conservatory locally known as the Palm House (Grade II) by Mackenzie & Moncur (1899), who also constructed the Palm House in Sefton Park.
Within Stanley Park is a garden area surrounded by big sandstone walls, one wall we titled 'the butty' (don't ask me why) and my brother would dare me to jump off it, it was about 25 feet high and being no more than 4 foot tall I used to shit myself, but it was the lesser of the two evils a broken limb jumping off the wall or a good hiding off my brother for being a Shithouse, I jumped the butty wall each time as my brother was becoming a bit of a nutter, and not somebody you wanted to upset. Even though he was the most stable influence in my life at this point, I suspect my parent's marriage break up was affecting him more than I realised. I vaguely remember that it was about this time that some fella by the name of 'Martin Luther King' had been shot dead in America which seemed too annoy a lot of people, apparently he had been protesting about other peoples rights, and I can recall, being as young as I was thinking how unfair that, this fella who was standing up for what he believed gets shot, the world did really seem a confusing place at this time. In retrospect I often wonder if it was this singular event that gave me my strong sense of equality and fairness, which I retain to this day. However for the time being life continued in a similar vein, and my adventures continued unabated.
It may be hard to believe nowadays but we continued to live like this for what seemed ages, and were always up to some sort of mischief. Around this time New Brighton was to play a significant part in my childhood. New Brighton at the time was a very lively seaside resort on the Wirral side of the Mersey with a big outdoor fair, outdoor swimming pool and of course 'New Brighton Tower' which in its hey day attracted in excess of half a million visitors, and the very tower that me, my dad and Paul visited in 1969 on the day it burned down, this I suspect with the onset of affordable package holidays abroad, signaled the start of the decline in New Brighton's tourist industry. However I don't think my brother or I was responsible for this fire, but nothing surprises me, when I think of the mischief we were getting up to.
We had previously been responsible for burning down a local quarry that used to be situated next to Major Lester School in Anfield (we called it a quarry, but I think it was a storage base for the local council workmen) one day we took it upon ourselves to climb the small wall and enter the 'quarry', in the quarry were loads of small plastic huts, which the 'workies' used to load on wagons when they were undertaking road works and such like, we used these huts as little dens, and to hide from the cocky watchman. Whilst in one of these huts, we noticed a few barrels of water, which had a weird smell; the smell was that overpowering that we decided to find another hut, which didn't smell so much. My brother, by this time had started smoking and strangely not wanting to get caught smoking by the cocky watchman, decided to finish his ciggie, before moving on, once he finished his ciggie, he threw it into the barrel of water, and WHOOSH, it went up like a bomb, the barrels of water were actually petrol, to say we shit ourselves is an understatement, singed and smelling like a furnace we ran as fast as our legs could carry us, as we heard small explosions behind us, before long we found ourselves at the top of Sleepers Hill in Anfield, and some may recall the chemist that was on the corner of Robson Street and Walton Breck Road, outside the shop was an emergency kerbside fire alarm where you broke the glass and pulled a handle to alert the fire service of a fire (incidentally many years later I spotted this very machine in Liverpool Museum in the transport section), so in my infinite wisdom I done exactly that, and waited until the fire engine arrived to direct them to the scene of the fire, although it wasn't hard to spot as black plumes of smoke rose into the Liverpool skyline, due to the plastic huts melting, within what seemed like minutes the fire engines arrived and I duly pointed them in the right direction, looking as innocent as I could. The event actually made the 'Liverpool Echo' and until now neither my brother or myself have ever disclosed our guilty secret. So maybe the New Brighton Tower fire could have been linked to us!
It is strange when you commit yourself to print what you remember as I am sat here writing this I have just recalled a dark memory which must have been lodged in the recesses of my mind. I recall a day trip with my dad aboard the seacombe ferries one summer, I remember leaving the ferry in seacombe with my dad but in the crowds leaving the ferry we momentarily got separated, when I thought I spotted him I took hold of his hand and felt relieved as he acknowledged me, by gently and reassuringly squeezing my small hand (I must have only been about 4/5 at this time) we walked towards the terminal and I was shocked to see my dad standing there looking for me, when I looked up at the person holding my hand I recall staring into the eyes of a 'dirty old man' I recall kicking him and running away from him, towards my dad. I attempted to tell my dad what had happened but he seemed unconcerned, looking back in hindsight, maybe it was just a concerned citizen who realised I was lost, and was going to hand me over to the authorities, or maybe it was some sort of paedophile who intended to abduct me, thankfully we would never know.
Reading this back it may appear that my dad, was the nurturing father whose wife had abandoned her two sons and husband, and left to create a new life for herself and my sister in the Isle of Man. I do not recall it like that; I recall being a pawn along with my brother in a bitter divorce dispute, between two individuals who were only concerned at getting one over on the other and treating their sons like commodities. My Dad was born out of wedlock to my Nana and I am led to believe she left Ireland with her illegimate son, because of the shame and traveled to London to stay with her brother, who lived in Harlow in Essex. My dad was born in Lambeth, London on the 6th August 1937, two years prior to the outbreak of war. I have no knowledge of how or why she ended up in Liverpool, but it would appear that she moved to Liverpool sometime during the war and met the man I always considered my grandad who was married at the time, their romance blossomed and he left his wife and later married my Nana. Grandad never accepted my dad and their relationship was troublesome from the start. My Nana & Grandads marriage produced two boys, (my uncles). From talking to family members it would appear that my dad was put on a pedestal by his younger half brothers, a persona he seemed to like and a persona he embraced when he reached adulthood, he was allegedly a 'hard man' and " not someone you argued with ". This may have explained why other family members did not intervene, when he allowed his two young sons to become pawns in his marriage dispute with my mum. My Mum was born in Liverpool, in 1936, I am aware that my mum was removed from her mother by the authorities and initially placed with her Grandma, who I did meet during my formative years, she was known as 'Grandma Tilley' and was your stereotypical Granny with her grey hair pulled back in a bun and she always wore a 'pinny', I remember she lived in a terraced street behind 'Gregsons Well' in Liverpool, but I can't recall the street name, but I do know the area was pretty derelict and desolate, I suspect it was a clearance area, due to the bombing it must have received during the war, prior to my parents divorce I can remember visiting 'Grandma Tilley' with my Mum and brother, whilst there my brother and I would play outside and skim slates off the rooftops, on one occasion we dislodged a row of slates on a roof, which fell into the street and nearly cut my head in half in the process, I was rushed to 'The Royal' and stitched up, (not the first or last time I would be 'Stitched Up') no wonder my mum always hoped I wouldn't go bald in later life as I apparently have a skull like a map of the desert, such is the number of scars I received over the years. In later life 'Granny Tilley' was moved to a 'corpy' flat in The Norris Green area, and occasionally I would stay overnight at her flat, but she was ancient and It was so boring staying there, sadly I was supposed to stay over the night she died, but I refused, in hindsight I'm glad I did refuse, as I don't think it would have been much fun finding a dead granny with your Cornflakes, although she had a good innings, I think she was about 97 when she passed away.
However back to the story, I am unaware of the reasons why my mum did not stay with Grandma Tilley but Social Services removed my Mum and put her in care, she was to spend the remainder of her childhood in the 'system' and lived for some time in the 'Cottage Homes in Fazackerley, Liverpool. Whilst researching for my story I come across this description of the Cottage Homes back in 1949, which would have been the time, my mum was placed there it reads:
"I arrived at the Fazakerley Cottage homes on the 25th August 1949 after a brief stay at Olive Mount Children's Hospital. The place was so large that it just overwhelmed me as the Home consisted of 20 or so detached villas rather than cottages, each with ground at the back for playing and where the coal was kept in a very large bunker. At the very rear of the garden there was a toilet that was used by the children during the daylight hours. There was land also at the front, which had a little grass and flowerbeds, and a wall separating the garden from the pavement. Each cottage housed about 30 children; the girls lived on the right of the "Avenue" and the boys on the other. The whole complex stood in thirty-eight acres of land, which had a very large playing field where we played football, cricket, golf and athletics. Near to the field was a swimming pool, a trade yard, and sickbay. In 1949 there must have been between 600-650 children resident at the Cottage Homes, and in those days most of the children were orphans. One of the reason why the home was built and opened in 1889 was to place a rising generation of workhouse children "under such improved conditions and training as should fit them to become worth keeping in this country" The home was built for Pauper and Orphan children as an option to the workhouse, but when I arrived it was mostly orphaned, or who were classed as such". Author Unknown
Many years later I was informed by someone who used to live by the Cottage homes during the forties, that he would observe the kids from the Cottage Homes being shepherded about and shuffling along in their grey uniforms and clunky boots, and he would often get a 'crack' on the head off his mum, and told to stop shuffling his feet like a 'Cottie Jones' Kid. This may explain why both my parents married young, my mum to escape the clutches of Social Services and institutionalised life and my dad to escape a household where, he felt he was never accepted, hence the marriage of convenience I mentioned earlier on. Having come from such backgrounds, you would have thought that both my parents would have done all they possibly could, to both protect and nurture their children but this was not the case, with my brother and I. Maybe they lacked the parental skills or values which many of us take for granted.
However within all this I continued to take each day as it come, and actually enjoyed my childhood and the many adventures it presented. Many of which continued to take place in New Brighton around 1969. Whilst at home in Balfour Street, my brother and I had stumbled upon a stash of money, which had been hidden in my dads wardrobe, which was breathtaking, there must have been thousands there, 10 shilling notes, £1.00 notes £5.00 notes, and £10 notes, there was thousands, we did not have a clue where the money had come from, and suspected my dad was on the fiddle at his workplace, as he would often come home with massive slabs of butter which he would get us to cut into blocks and wrap in greaseproof paper, he was very discreet about this, but as kids you don't question, you just do it. Or maybe he was wisely hiding any assets he had, pending a bitter divorce settlement, I never did find out. This treasure trove of money was to be our passport to a life of fun (for a while at least) and newly acquired friends. Very often we would take a handful of money (not too much that would be noticed but enough to have a good time) handfuls of money would often amount to, in excess of £50, and when you consider the average days wage in 1969 was about £3.00, a pound of butter cost 3/- (15p) a tin of Beans was 9d, (4p) and Cornflakes were 1/5 (7p) this sum amounted to a fair bit. With this £50 we would jump a 26/27 bus from Walton Breck Road to James Street station in the centre of Liverpool and get a train through to New Brighton, where we would indulge in fully cooked breakfasts in one of the plentiful cafes followed by mugs of hot tea, before spending the day at the funfair, stopping of course for dinner, which we would have in some fancy café, we thought it was great at the time. Very often we would take a gang of other kids with us and treat them to anything they wanted, on one occasion we must have taken about 12 other kids with us to New Brighton and half way through the day we had run out of money, so my brother ordered me to return home and get another wad of cash, I didn't fancy the idea of returning home on my own, but after a few threats off my brother, I begrudgingly returned home alone, and helped myself to another £50.00, but this time I was a bit more resourceful and hailed a taxi, from Walton Breck Road right through to New Brighton, the cabbie must have thought it was his birthday, and within an hour of two of leaving New Brighton , I was back again to continue the spending spree, which culminated at the Forum Cinema in Lime Street Liverpool, I can't remember what we watched, but films at the time included 'Beneath the Planet of The Apes', 'Kes' 'Oliver' and 'Zulu' I know my brother was obsessed with 'Zulu' staring Michael Caine and we watched that many times, so many this was my premier viewing.
It was strange that the money we took was never mentioned or seemingly noticed, but later events would unfold which put a stop to us taking the money. I can recall going into school in July 1969, prior to the school breaking up for Summer as everyone was allowed to take in toys, and as I didn't have any, I took great delight in playing with the other kids toys, hence my reason for attending this particular day. I was disappointed though when my class was gathered in the upstairs corridor and a TV was wheeled in, and it was announced that an astronaut had landed on the moon, during the night, and we watched a TV viewing of it, I know videos had not been thought of, so I assume it must have been a newsreel that we watched. I can recall Neil Armstrong stepping down from the craft and as he put his left foot down first Armstrong declared them now immortal lines: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." I can't say I was that impressed and was probably thinking "Now take one more fuckin' step for man, and fuck off so I can play with Robert Smith's toys". Every school has a Robert Smith, Robert lived at the corner of Balfour Street and had everything I wanted, a Mum and Dad, a toy fort and soldiers, a garage, guns, cars you name it he had it…. spoilt bastard. I wasn't jealous honest! One year however I thought I had gained one on Robert, when one Christmas, Father Christmas, (but I suspect it was my dad) had left a toy gun at the end of my bed, along with colouring books, felt tips, apples, oranges and for some reason stamps! This gun was the business and to the untrained spy (yes spy, it is not a typography) it looked like an ordinary household radio, but if you pressed the on switch it flicked out into a machine gun….oh it was so cool , The Spy TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E staring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum was big at the time and with this gun I was Illya Kuryakin (the character portrayed by David McCallum) 'fuckin Robert won't have one of these', I thought, so at about 7am, I ran towards Roberts house to wake him up and show him my gun, I was shaking with excitement, and the palms of my hands were dripping in sweat as I approached his house, then horror of horrors I tripped over a paving stone, and as I fell I landed on my plastic Gun, breaking it into pieces, I couldn't believe it, my gun was broke, beyond repair, I returned home dejected and in tears, and woke my dad, to tell him of my misfortune, he turned over gave me a belt for waking him up, told me I would have to do without now, farted and rolled over back to sleep, I spent the rest of that Christmas day avoiding Robert (the bastard) and sticking stamps on my oranges!!
During this time we were quite resourceful, and would run errands for neighbours charging them 2/- (10p) for their messages. It was relatively easy money as Blessington Road at the time was full of shops such as the butchers, the fruit shop, grocery shops, chip shops, wool shop, dairy, the chandlers basically every shop you needed, and in the event we got to know all our neighbours who I suspect looked upon us as lovable rogues and suspected it was us who was nicking their milk and bread delivered earlier by the milkman, but we would run to the shop to replace it for them. Another source of income was a visit from the local 'Rag & Bone' man he always came round with goldfish in return for rags or jam jars! If you didn't want the goldfish you could get an old three penny bit for 2 clean jam jars, or a whole sixpence for a big bundle of 'rags'. On more than one occasion I can remember hearing the ragman shouting out "any old iron, any old rags" and I would run upstairs and delve into my dads wardrobe and grab some clothing which I could give the rag man in return for a three penny bit or a goldfish, again my dad never questioned where his clothing went. The neighbours who observed this would often threaten to tell my dad, but I don't think they ever did, as nothing was ever said.
One particular Neighbour who was to play a significant part in my life at that time, although she would never know it, was a young girl who lived over the road at 9 Balfour Street her name was Glenys Chamberlain, she would have been about twenty, and for a while she seemed to take me 'under her wing' and became like a surrogate mum. I fondly remember trips out to town with Glenys, where she would treat me to new clothes, and on one particular occasion she took me to lunch at a Chinese Restaurant, my only experience of Chinese prior to this was 'Yungs' chippy on Blessington road. Glenys was a big Evertonian and it may have been her influence which made me the Evertonian I am today, as opposed to the strong red influence at home of both my dad and brother. In retrospect I suspect Glenys afforded me the nurturing I was craving at that time from a female mother figure, and I am truly thankful for the influence she had on me at that time.
In Blessington Road at the time an Asian guy had opened a sweet shop his name was 'Redman' and his wife was called Gloria. I had never seen an Asian before and was fascinated with this fella who spoke a weird language and had brown skin, but he was a good guy, he always denied Gloria was his wife, when I asked him why the sign on the shop said 'Gloria Redman' he replied it should read Gloria & Redman, in hindsight it demonstrates societies view of that time of mixed marriages and how society viewed it as unacceptable, this was in the era of TV shows such as 'Til Death us do part' and 'Love thy Neighbour' which would promote racial stereotypes and terminology such as nig nogs, however I found Redman and his culture intriguing and basically found him to be a decent feller.
Another decent shopkeeper was Mr. Anderson who owned the sweet shop opposite the King Harry Pub on Blessington Road, 'Andersons' became a profitable business for my brother and I, as Paul would keep him talking, whilst I nipped over the back wall and stole all the empty lemonade bottles, only to return them during the course of the day to claim the three pence deposit, explaining to Mr. Anderson that I would knock on doors in the area asking if anyone had any empty pop bottles, he never found out, and it became a great little scam when I needed some money. Another little earner during this time was clearing front paths after a fall of snow, and strangely their seemed to be more snowfall then, there has been since. So all in all we were quite productive in the community and known at that time to most of our neighbours.
Saturdays was often a day of high excitement, as you would have the ABC minors club to attend at the Astoria on Walton road, and later in the afternoon, football at either Goodison or Anfield. If I remember correctly the ABC minors club ran from 9am through until 12am, admission was only a tanner, but it was more fun to bunk in, one of us would pay to get in, and then open the emergency exit by the toilets to let all your mates in. Prior to the picture starting you would stock up with strips of 'Everlasting Toffee' which cost about a penny, and sit chewing them, until they were all soft and gooey, then once the lights had gone out, you would bomb everyone with your toffee bombs, which would always lead to the houselights coming on, and protests of stamping feet, as you couldn't see the film when the lights were on, I am ashamed to admit that quite a few girls went home with toffee stuck in their long flowing hair, a few times due to myself and my toffee bombs. During the interval, cinema staff would invite kids on stage who were celebrating a birthday, that week and invariably I would go up, claiming it was my birthday, but as you can imagine this scam, didn't last long, as one week the Manager realised I had been up about 6 times in the last 12 weeks. During the interval I would sing along to the ABC minor song with great gusto ' We are the ABC minors...and every Saturday all line up...to see the films we like and shout aloud with glee. We like to laugh and have our sing-song...such a happy crowd are weeeeeee We're all mates together...we are the ABC minors. Following the ABC minors club, it was time to get ready for the big match. The most profitable earner at the time was minding cars on match days; there was no such thing as 'resident parking only' then. My brother and I controlled all the streets off Blessington road, and would get friends to look after certain streets, whilst we overseen the operation. In hindsight it was probably akin to a protection racket, but there was certainly no ulterior motive to our intentions, it was purely a case of looking after someone's car whilst they attended the match, and collecting the money thereafter, which is when we really earned our takings, you would keep an eye on your designated street and look for the drivers returning, and run up to them, and remind them that you had been looking after their car, most would toss you their loose change, which generally amounted to two shillings, but on one occasion the famous comedian 'Freddie Starr' let us look after his car, and paid us £1 for the privilege. After the cars had gone we would count up our earnings and a percentage was paid out to the runners with Paul getting the biggest percentage, and me getting a slice thereafter. Occasionally we didn't mind the cars at all but would go the match and leave at three quarter time, to claim our earnings. I used to love visiting the 'cheap shop' on Robson Street and buying soldiers with my earnings. So as you can see we never went without, and were very resourceful. Another profitable pastime, which came round once a year, was 'Bommy Night' better known as Bonfire Night. I can recall how we used to make the 'Guy' for Guy Fawkes, 'borrowing' my dad's old clothes, followed by the making of the 'guy', stuffing it with as many old Echo's as we could find, and using an old pram. Then, at last, going out with the other kids in the street, so proud of our smart guy...."Penny for the Guy Mate" could be heard everywhere. Our regular patch was outside the Salisbury Pub on Walton Breck Road, occasionally we couldn't be bothered making a guy and I would sit slumped in a pram with my head pulled down into my jumper and a football placed on the top of my head, with a couple of newspapers sticking out of my arms, at times like this you could guarantee that some smart arses, would come out of the pub and start kicking the guy, strange now I think, it was always me who was the dummy guy, never my brother. Once we had made enough money we would go to the sweet shop on Walton Breck Road and buy loads of boxes of Bangers and matches which were called 'Bengal Matches' they would light all multi coloured when struck, then ashamedly Anfield would be subjected to scenes which must have resembled a re run of the blitz. If Bommy Night fell on a match day, I loved it, as we would make a fortune off the passing football fans.
When it wasn't match day I would often wander up to Anfield and hang around outside waiting for the players to return from Melwood, and upon their return I would get them to sign my Autograph book, very often there was nobody else there, and the players would take the time out to chat with me, I would tell them that I was going to be a footballer, and they would make small talk with me, Players such as Ian St John, Roger Hunt, (the cunt) Peter Thompson, Alec Lindsay, Ron Yeats and later Kevin Keegan, got to know me on first name turns, and when on a match day the caught site of me they would acknowledge me, I felt ten foot tall. One incident in particular is etched into my memory forever, I was hanging around outside Anfield like I usually did playing football on my own with a can, when I sensed an old feller, walking towards me, I thought it was the 'cocky watchman', and was ready to give him a mouthful before getting off on my toes, I then heard a broad Scottish accent, call "hey sonny" when I turned around it was the legendary Manager of Liverpool at the time Mr. Bill Shankly, initially I thought he was going to tell me off for playing with a can by the staff cars, but he engaged in conversation, asking what team I supported ,(I lied and said Liverpool) and he asked me why I was not in School, (I lied I said I was ill), I was surprised when he said "you have been ill for a while then sonny" he went on to say that he had noticed me a few times recently, and he suggested that as soon as I was recovered I should get myself back into School, and concentrate on my studies, and if I wanted to pursue a career in football I would stand a better chance of getting noticed playing for the school team, than I would kicking a can around Anfield Car-Park, with that he winked at me, ruffled my hair, smiled and strode off, I was really chuffed, and embellished that story for years telling anyone who would listen that me and Bill where firm friends. It was shortly after this chance meeting with 'Shankly' that I appeared, and scored in the famous Kop end at Anfield. I actually scored a hat trick but the second goal was ruled out due to foul play. What actually happened was that Anfield was having some renovation work done during the close season, and often the workmen would leave the double gates open, and nip off for a pint at lunchtime to the 'Albert", so having observed this, for a couple of days, I got my friends together and we hid, and waited patiently for the 'workies' to go for lunch, and sure enough right on cue, off they went. With that the gang and me casually walked in to Anfield, humming the 'Match of the Day' theme tune, and proceeded to play our local derby, this lasted for about half an hour, before the cocky watchman, complete (with a wig and a limp) chased us, it was however a great experience, and something I will never forget. I suppose my only other memory of Anfield, was going to reserve games and nicking the plastic numbers off the seats in the Paddock. These plastic numbers when wrapped in foil and warmed with a match, would smoke just like a smoke bomb, no wonder the reserve team of Liverpool in the seventies done so well, they probably thought they where playing on the continent with all that smoke and atmosphere being generated from the Paddock. Resourcefulness was my middle name.
I can recall in the barber shops at the time Men's Magazines were plentiful to fellers waiting to have their haircut, I would take it upon myself to visit these Barber Shops notably 'Bert Peppers' on Walton Breck Road and the more stylish 'Tony's' on Walton Road. Both had loads of Mayfairs, Penthouse and Readers Forums, available, and I would innocently walk in on the pretence of getting my haircut, and when the barber was distracted I would steal a load of 'noddy mags' and sell them on the streets to other kids for a shilling a time, occasionally I would get a foreign 'noddy mag' which a sailor may have left there, which contained real pictures of both tits, arse and real fannies, these I could get as much as half a crown for. On one occasion I was unable to grab a handful of mags as I suspect the barber was suspicious of me, and then it was my turn to get a haircut, I didn't want my haircut, as I was only in there to rob a few mags, but I couldn't back out, so as the barber put the board across the chair which I had to sit on to see myself in the mirror, I had to think fast, he continued combing my long curly hair, which I had never combed or brushed, and after a few minutes of him tugging at my hair I was quite surprised at how nice I looked with my hair combed, so I happily paid him for combing my hair, and walked out, yes it cost me probably half a crown but I had never looked smarter.
Arnolds Confectionery Warehouse in Cherry Lane Walton, was a place of great interest to both me and my brother at this time, as it was an Aladdin's cave of sweets, chocolates, and crisps, we would climb up on the railway embankment and watch as the lorries delivered their loads, working out a way we could infiltrate the warehouse without being seen. Eventually my brother come up with what he thought was a foolproof plan, he would keep watch from the safety of the railway embankment, as I approached the warehouse, and with a series of whistles he would keep in touch to warn me of pending apprehension, crafty bastard was happy to put me at risk whilst he remained in the relative safety of the railway embankment, as you could imagine this was not up for discussion, and the plan was hatched, I was going in. So with nervous trepidation I scrambled down the embankment and discreetly jumped onto the pavement opposite the warehouse, waiting for my signal to move in, I recall that silly bastard twittering like an owl, which was my signal that the way was all clear, and as I swooped for a large box of what I thought was chocolates, the owl kept twittering, but I was off on my toes up the railway embankment dragging the box with me, I finally arrived back proud of my accomplishment and not being spotted, I eagerly opened my box of goodies and was disappointed when it turned out to be a box of 'Rainbow Drops' and not chocolates, my brother went mad, and told me to go back and "get something proper", I don't know where I got the courage from but I told him to "Fuck Off", and then ran for my life, as he chased after me threatening to kill me, I knew I had to get away, because he would have literally killed me, I hid in a recess between the railway tracks out of his view, and attempted to catch my breath, as I did so the earth started rumbling, and this noise got louder and louder, I carefully looked up out of the recess, and shit myself when I seen a train hurtling towards me, I was frozen with fear, and as the train got nearer I lied flat in the recess, as the train hurtled above my head, for what seemed like a lifetime, eventually the train past, and as I wiped the tears of fear from my face, I dejectedly walked across Anfield Cemetery towards Stanley Park. A short while later I found my brother in the park with his friends just finishing off a box of 48 packets of 'Rainbow Drops', I never even got a packet of Rainbow Drops for my troubles, and to cap off a bad day my brother give me a hiding and told me to never tell him to Fuck Off again…. Bastard!
By now I was starting to miss a settling influence in my life, and was becoming more wary of my brother's unpredictable moods, he was becoming stranger by the day and very unpredictable. One day we both decided to run away, and go and find my mum, we knew she was in the Isle of Man, and knew to get there you needed to get a boat from the Pier Head. So after making a shed full of jam butties and a couple of flasks of Tea, we set out for the Pier Head, with the intention of getting a boat to the Isle of Man. Upon arriving at the Pier Head, we would carefully walk down the 'Floating Landing Stage' which was always a source of fascination to me, balancing on the edge, watching the River Mersey below me, once on the Landing Stage, I was intrigued with the various booths where you could 'Make a Record' and on the other side was a machine that would polish your shoes for a 'Tanner' and a booth that would print your name out on a metal tag, I used to spend ages rotating that letter dial, creating allsorts of abusive tags which I would attempt to stick to my brothers back without his knowledge. Once at the landing stage we made our way to the area of the Pier Head, where the cruise ships and cargo ships docked. In our naivety we assumed that all of these ships must stop at the Isle of Man, so we casually strolled along the dockside being careful not to draw attention to ourselves, and we spotted a ship which had 'Man' in its name and assumed that this must go to the Isle of Man, so we discreetly boarded the ship and hid ourselves under some tarpaulin, and made ourselves quite comfortable. What seemed an age passed and the ship remained where it was with no sign of it moving, nightfall was descending and I was becoming a little unsettled, my brother realised this and tried to cheer me up telling me he had found some fireworks, and he would put on a firework display for me. This had the desired effect and I helped him remove the rockets from the box, which he had uncovered under the tarpaulin. After carefully making a rocket launch from ropes we lined up about six rockets, and my brother lit them with his matches whilst I gained a good view partially hidden by the tarpaulin, 'FUCKIN HELL' within seconds the whole of the Pier Head was lit up by a cascade of light with these 'Rockets exploding above us, there was frantic activity around us, and in the distance the sound of Police Sirens, "oh shit" I thought, as some feller pulled us from the tarpaulin, we were handed over to the Police, who after questioning us returned us home. It became clear that we had stowed away on a Pilot's Boat, and had let off distress flares, alerting the authorities in the vicinity, this I believe was recorded in the 'Liverpool Echo' at the time, and my lasting memory of this was getting a visit a couple of days later from a woman Police Officer, whilst I was sat naked in the kitchen sink getting a bath, telling me that I would not be getting prosecuted at this time, but the Police would be keeping an eye on me, I probably thought at the time "well please keep an eye on me when I am dressed, you dirty bitch" I was so embarrassed as she told me off whilst I was sat there stark bollock naked, even though I was only about ten.
On one occasion we got wind that my mum was back in Liverpool and living in the Tuebrook area of the city. my brother decided that we would 'case the joint' and wait for my mum to come out (it transpired that she was staying with her then, boyfriends parents) when my mum came out, I can remember filling up with tears and wanting to run over to her so much, but my brother insisted we remain where we were and just follow her, which is exactly what we done. We just watched from afar as my mum went shopping in Tuebrook, it truly broke my heart, not being able to approach her, I was so confused at the time my dad was critical of my mum, my brother said he hated her and wished her dead, but I wanted her so much, but I could not betray my dad or brother who had cared for me in her absence. During this visit she actually returned to Balfour Street to visit us, but I recall both my dad and brother being extremely abusive to her and her partner, again I was confused and scared and did not know where to turn, so I told her to 'Fuck off, back to the Isle of Man' I was only ten. Many years later my mum told me that she had actually come back to take me to the Isle of Man with her, it transpired from her that my dad was cheating on her and was a serial womaniser, she had, had enough, and over time had developed a relationship with her now partner, whilst working in Plessey's, they had decided to start a new life in the Isle of Man, and had intended to establish themselves their, having arrived on the island with nothing and then return to Liverpool for me and my brother, my mum explained that she had only took my sister with her as she was a baby at the time. When she returned to Liverpool to take me to the Isle of Man, my dad refused and both my brother and I refused to go with her. So she felt she had no choice but to return to the Isle of Man without us. In hindsight I wanted to go with my mum then, but was scared of the reaction of both my brother and my Dad, and life had lost its initial sense of adventure, I wanted caring for and nurturing, neither of which I felt I was getting at home. I don't suppose I will ever know the truth of why my parents divorced, and why they allowed their subsequent actions to place both myself and my brother at such risk and more confusingly why we both ended up in the care of the local authorities.