07th February 2022
Life in the 1950s in Darnborough St
Rosemary Koch from Canada has written a memoir for us about life in our local neighbourhood seventy years ago.
I grew up in the house at 2 Darnborough St with my parents Arthur and Amy Garnett, until our growing family, we were six children in all, entailed a move to a bigger house further up Bishopthorpe Rd. Our shop on the corner of Bishopgate St, J. Garnett and Co., where Dad sold animal, bird, and pet food, adjoined the house at 2 Darnborough St.
We would often enter no. 2 by the shop door on the corner rather than the front door of the house, always remembering to shout “Shop”, to show we weren’t actual customers. We’d go in past bins holding different kinds of dog biscuits and shelves holding every kind of pet food and accessories, then up two or three steps by the office, where Ellen Woodcock, Dad’s long-time book-keeper, would be busy on the phone or working at the accounts, then through the inside door into the house.
My best friend Peggy (Margaret) Robinson lived across Bishopthorpe Rd. with her family at John Robinson, greengrocer and fruiterer, so we had to cross the busy corner at the junction with Nunnery Lane to see each other. Their shop was next door to the bookies. Peggy was one of four children: Mary was the eldest, then Peter, Margaret, and David.
We all attended St. Clement’s School, and in the evenings the streets were our playground. Back then there were no cars lining Darnborough St, so we had the whole street for tag and such rhyming games as Please Mr. Crocodile may we cross your river? Yes if you…skip, hop, jump etc, and so whole evenings in summer would pass. We didn’t have a television back in the early fifties, but the Robinson’s did, and I watched part of the Queen’s coronation which seemed to go on all day, in their home behind the shop.
Back in the fifties the Bishopthorpe Rd area hosted every kind of shop: the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker – well maybe not the latter. We went to Robinson’s for our fruit and veg, Mr. Brough for the Sunday joint, and Sherwin’s the chemist for everything from gripe water and teething powders to drugs and toiletries. Miss Bland the milliner was across the road in Nunnery Lane. She sold hats and women’s apparel. Those were the days when a hat and white gloves were de rigueur for church. Also across the road was Watson’s the hairdresser, where we’d go upstairs to the Ladies Salon for a hair cut.
Bishopthorpe Road shops in the 1960s
Once a week as I got older I’d be sent to Johnson and Elson, averting my eyes from the poor dead pheasants hanging outside the shop, for “half a crown’s worth of haddock and some parsley, please.” I remember an ironmonger, a shop that sold and repaired clocks, and the Post Office that anchored one end of the row of shops.
One of the more popular shops was Mrs. Ambler’s Fish and Chips. One of each and three pen‘north, well wrapped in newspaper, was a popular buy, and if you were really skint, two-pen’north of scraps! I still remember seeing Mrs. Ambler peeling all those potatoes; no frozen fries for her. Wright’s pork pies, sausage rolls, or polony from their shop in Nunnery Lane were also a favourite at tea time.
As Dad sold flour in his shop, Mum often made her own bread – she was a wonderful baker – but occasionally I’d be sent to Mr. Tolson’s, on the corner of Spencer St and Nunnery Lane, for groceries and a farmhouse loaf that cost three pence (3d). Mr. Tolson also sold sweets and chocolates, hard to come by in post-war Britain because of rationing. Once a week I’d take my ration book to Tolson’s and he would take a pair of scissors and carefully remove a ration coupon and I was free to buy about 4 ounces of candy. I usually bought dolly mixtures, as there seemed so many of the tiny sweets, in the vain hope of maximizing my meagre allowance.
Great-Uncle Thomas Garnett, Great-Aunt Gertie and her sister Miss Fawcett also lived in Nunnery Lane, and I would visit on a Saturday afternoon for their contribution of sixpence for the Juvenile Missionary Association. Then we would drink a cup of tea and watch Mexican Pete the Big Bandit on their 12 inch console television set. Sunday meant attendance at Southlands in the morning, where Dad was in the choir, Sunday School in the afternoon, and maybe afterwards a visit to Grandma Jewitt, who lived in Russell St or a walk in Rowntree Park.
Those lean post war years were hard on parents and traders in the Bishopthorpe Rd. area, but as children we still managed to enjoy a little freedom and fun.