The new school at Dalton was in a shed in the playground. I cried the first day. Ann Bailes had to look after me. The teacher was Miss Jewson and I don’t think we got on. I was the last that got to do anything. I had the smallest number of stars. Work returned, in pencil, untidy, red remarks. I read well. She made some sort of surprised noise when I picked out a book. I was door monitor once. Had to open the door for big brother’s girlfriend. She’d been in Miss Jewson’s class too. Came back to visit when she’d gone to the High school. Ridiculous smile across my face. At last I got to to write in ink. She sighed a lot though. Peter Sutton used to kiss girls.
We moved to a bigger building. Miss Jewson became Mrs. Eliff. I never saw her again. The new teacher was Miss Boast. She was old. School assemblies. Teachers at the end of the row and Miss Pattinson on the stage. I thought I’d never find the hymn the first time. It was the first book Miss handed out. It was easy. The first numbers lesson was good. Everything added up to ten. Used to walk from home. Mum took us the first few times. There were lolly-pop men on the big roads. One got knocked over by a car. He died. Could get the bus too. You got to know the bus conductress. Until the West Indians started coming. I must have been naughty or something. Mum said she’d been to see Miss. “He does things before they are naughty.” We had to make a lighthouse. Dad made it out of a roll of something. Pushed the middle up, stuck it and put some stuff on to make it shine. Too good for me. It got on the sand box for a while. I threw a stone in the playground. It hit a boy in the eye. An ambulance came. I never saw the boy again. I was frightened for ages. I’d been bad. I was waiting. Nobody told me off.
Then Mr. Wiseman. In the class-room next door. First man for a teacher. He went away for a while. A woman came. Used a ruler on hands. I never got my pictures on the wall. Then I did after he came back. A crap one of a shark. We made things that never got finished. Cardboard and paste. Railway stations and goods yards. We did exercises in the big hall. Changing. Some how squirming your stuff off sitting behind a desk. Hiding your skidmarks. Catching sight of other things possibly. Stand like a tree. “That’s not a tree, David Walker.” Then you do something. “Look at David Walker. Do it again David.” At break and dinner times, playing allys, making the rules up as you go along. Pretend games, “Anyone want to play cowboys and indians.” My gun was a straight finger. What was that? A curled finger. “Oh, that’s the trigger is it.” Football and cricket. Dawsey and Briscoe were best, and Parkin. Parkin went dancing though. And he could play the piano. And fighting. You had to. Didn’t the teachers realise? We had our rules. I cracked one lad’s head on the playground concrete. Crying, fight over. But I hadn’t won. Broken the rules somehow. Until Dawsey said well done. He’d not taken my side before. A white line appeared around the boiler-house. Couldn’t go over it. Pushed Cootey and told on him. Got told off by Mr. Meal for sneaking. Cootey’s pleased. He was short with a hair lip. Lived next to Handy on the main road. He was brainy, and cocky. You watched him, never pally with him. He wasn’t frightened. We arranged a fight after school. Two or three hung around. We starts and he’s no softy, awkward, inside me, pulling and tugging, can’t get a hit. Some grown-up stops us just as I get in a punch to the side of the head. Was it late? We didn’t fight after that. Mr. Meal was odd. He was nice, but still told you off. Made you cry, by talking to you. He moved in with a woman down the road from us. Mum said he wasn’t nice because he was divorced.
We were in gangs. Our gang came from Fernside. We walked to school and dawdled back and we called for each other. And we ran away. Whispers. Secret signals.
Mr. Meal had 4B. I was in 4A with Miss Town. She was friendly with big brother’s girlfriend’s mum. She read to us on Friday afternoons. Treasure Island. Every morning there were sums on the board. Then she’d come and tick them, with a red pen, from answers in her book. She never did them. “We always have to do seven or eight wrong before we get one right, don’t we David Walker?” so the whole class hears. Forty-two in the class and we change places every week. Marks are added up and you come where you come. David Woods and Brenda Butcher are always top. They get to sit at the back, furthest away from Miss. Pleased with themselves. I’m near the front. We have to write stuff. Vicky Flek does it as a poem all the time. She reads them out at the front. Miss clucks and says nice things. “You don’t start sentences with and, David Walker.” I’m at Miss’s desk. Red pen everywhere. I told dad. He was going to come in and sort her out. But he didn’t.
Anyway we got to play football. We joined the Red Triangle league on Saturday mornings. We’d played the year before, but I didn’t make the team, so I was linesman. Dawsey, Briscoe and Parkin did. Picked a stick up on a walk and got mum to put some red cloth on it. Went to away matches as well. Stuck the flag up when the ball went out. A referee asked me, shouting, “Who’s ball is it linesman?” I didn’t know. Something to do with which way my flag was pointing. He didn’t speak to me after. Dad bought me some football boots with cork studs. “Lost them in five minutes,” my dad said. I didn’t do it on purpose. When I didn’t play, “I spent all that money on boots and you’re not playing.” We were on the terrace side at Fartown. I don’t think we had a lot of money. I’ve nothing to say. I won’t bother telling him.
Would I get picked? Mr. Witter with a ball, bouncing it on the classroom floor. We couldn’t do that. Throws it over for me to feel. “Good enough for you, David?”
So I played at last. Right back, a clogger. An old Town shirt, god knows where from, laces at the collar. Shorts to my knees, shin pads, short back and sides. Gordon Littlewood played at left back. We got mixed up once on a sloping pitch Lindley way. Why wasn’t the ball comingto me? Teacher told us after the game. “What did you swap for?” We hadn’t. I took the goal kicks. Couldn’t get it out of the area that game. We had to have somebody waiting on the edge to kick it on. At home I kicked into their half. Dad watched once. I kept kicking it out. My dad goes up to the teacher after, “He was put off with me on the line.” We won every game except two. We lost to Stile common in the semi-final of the cup. Played at Leeds Road. Neither of us normally played there. “A neutral venue.” Mum said smiling. Just like real footballers. We lose one-nil. Thin snow, lines cleared, cold. I kick their centre forward’s legs from under him. He was going to score. Gets the penalty. Lads tell me off, but it doesn’t matter. head a ball in defence in the second half. Nearly goes in our goal. Sir says ,”Well played.” We lost away to Netherton too. Angry this time, “We’ll murder you at our place.” We beat’em after school in the week. Must’ve arranged it special. We didn’t murder them. We went away on the bus. We came home dirty knees and foreheads and kit and all. Played at Paddock once. Sunny. Pitch was grey, bits of grass. A man from the Examiner took a photo.
Peter Sutton was our goalie. He said one week that he wanted to go train-spotting. He got some stick. Then we didn’t really talk to him for a while. Alec Eales played instead. Massive and fat and slow. Not as good as Sutton, but all we had. He could throw a cricket ball. So could Gordon Sibald. I came third on sports’ day, for 2A or 3A. “That were rubbish, Walker,” in the classroom day after. I knew it was and so was I, crying. Miss shooed a bit, but I’m mostly left to it. The men teachers tried to show us how to pass a baton on in a relay. Put sticks in the ground specially to give room. Still stood still on the day and waited. We’d’ve won easy if ours had set off. “Why didn’t you?” teacher asks. Heads down, silence.
We won trophies at football. We had to go back to school at night, after we’d been home. Take a cup with us. ie and peas, loads of jelly, cartoons and a Hopalong Cassidy picture, just for us.
“Dawsey wants us to go to watch Town, dad.” Mutters, “How much is it? How are you going?” “I’m calling for him, and we’re going over Kilner bank. He’s been before, with his dad.” We went in the lads and pensioners, a turnstile. You went up a back lane at Fartown and a man let you in a red door. “Stay the other side,” dad paying further up the lane, near the smelly corrugated lavs. First Town match was brilliant. Went regular after that, and Fartown, every other week. Blue and white signs and claret and gold signs on trolley bus windows, who they’re playing next. 73 Bus to the bottom of town and walk up Bradford Road. Or get off at Moldgreen and walk to Leeds Road. We did walk a lot. I think dad got a bit fat and he needed to walk. He had an ulcer. Stayed in bed for days at a time. Burped a lot. Horrible white powder in a big white tin, stirred in water, drink it before it settles. White fish in milk. No onions. “I like them, but they don’t like me.” I burp. “David, that’s rude.” “Dad does it.” “It’s his stomach.” No answer to that.“Dad’s in a bad mood.” “It’s his stomach.” Dad didn’t have bad moods. Some of the time I went to the match with dad. Went with my pals when I started smoking. Paper round money went a long way. Ten Nelson or Park Drive, get into the match and the pictures and some left. Possibly chips. Names to remember, Kenyon in goal, McHale, Metcalf and then Massie, Stokes, Wood in goal, and O’Grady. Beat Wolves at home midweek, floodlights, snow. Wolves were a good side. Drew away on the Saturday. I’m going on my own, to see if I can stand next to Sheila Sykes and her dad. She’s there, behind the goal, Kilner Bank end. O’Grady’s cross and Stokes’ header, he jumps, soft contact, hardly changes direction, top corner of the net. You let go. Put my arm round her and she me, quickly. Didn’t keep them there though. And then they’re all over us, passing and running and we hold out. What a night.
Most of us did a bit of train-spotting, but not on Saturdays in the football season anyway. We’d try and catch the half-oner and the half-fourer which usually had namers on front. Half-oner was a double-header. Got to cab a few too. But it was mostly tank engines and big nine-twoers with trucks. To see owt decent we had to set off. Manchester Exchange and Piccadilly, Leeds City and the News Theatre, Wakefield Westgate and Kirkgate, Penistone and Doncaster on the race-course platform. And York. Thames-Clyder, Elizabethan, South Yorkshireman, Flying Scotsman. Massive locos with names. Patriot, The Black Watch, Bittern, Gemsbock, Resolution, Trinidad and Tobago, Leviathan, City of Stoke, Oliver Cromwell, Evening Star, The Princess Royal. York was curved. When somat good was coming you knew from boys’ shouts that came round the bend first, streak, streak, streak – a bow wave of awe. We put pennies on the line at Leeds and wondered how far they went. We visited the sheds too. Longsight, Holbeck, Doncaster plant. Sometimes the drivers and firemen would shout and see you off. Sometimes they ignored us. We got friendly with the porters at Huddersfield. A platform ticket got you on, waved in without it clipped if the bloke in the box was friendly. Miserable ones, the big fat one specially, wouldn’t let you on at all or clipped your ticket for an hour. We helped with the luggage barrows and the mail sacks. Spent all day there sometimes, little rucksack with sandwiches, apple, a notebook and a pencil. Rain and snow. Copied all your numbers when you got home. Underlined them until I got bored, and then I only bothered with namers.
Cousin Pat got married in Coventry. Me and Mum, auntie Mary and Granny Addy set off on the train. Got off at Stalybridge when we shouldn’t’ave. Changed at Crewe. Well, what a spot. Loads of cops (first sight of an engine). Nearly missed the train to Coventry. Mum calm, never knew how I managed to remember things or tell the time. Auntie Mary was having kittens. Sick as anything, flu and a man smoking. A carriage where you couldn’t go anywhere. Full. Raining, hot. String bags for your stuff. Mirrors and little pictures of people on beaches. Leather straps hanging on wooden doors. Men could open the window, but it was hard for women and awkward. Dirt smells. It was that Asian flu.
A man talked to me a lot on the platform. Said he knew my dad from Hopkinson’s. Gave me a black note-book. I told my dad. He thought about it a lot. He did warn me off. Then we came home on the train. Into Platform one so we came from Leeds. Perhaps a rail-rover day. Anywhere in Yorkshire for seven bob. Roast beef at the bottom of Westborough for dinner and a cake at the Paragon in Hull for tea. We used to go to Old Trafford and watch the cricket. Had to walk across Manchester to get to Oxford Road. Roses matches and Test matches. I saw Brian Close pull one round to leg and get caught. He’d only been in two minutes. Me and Graham Cartwright went separate and it rained. We came home early. Dad stayed and saw Trueman get loads of wickets. The rain stopped and they played extra time. Bugger. Dad laughed. Anyway we came off the train and there’s this bloke. I points him out and Dad gives him a look. I didn’t see him again.
I’m going somewhere on the train on my own. Mum’s dressed me in my new New College blazer and tie. A porter I’ve known for ages has a right good look. “I didn’t know you went there.” “I start next term”. Boasting a bit, but OK with it, and he was. Train-spotting dropped off a bit after that.