Generations of humanity lose sight of what was important to previous generations
By E. Anthony Orme
I was born in 1945 just after the war ended, in West Gorton, a suburb of Manchester.
During a period of roughly 15 years, that whole area came under a re-development act, or as we called it “slum clearance”.
As row after row of ageing terraced houses were demolished, the whole area came to resemble a battlefield, which in turn became a fantastic playground for us kids.
I remember starting a paper round at the age of 12 (should have been 13 but I lied about my age) and really got to know the streets of West Gorton up to Belle Vue, Gorton, like the back of my hand. This was just as well as the fog (or smog) – which came down due to the thick, heavy smoke from the thousands of chimney stacks, was like thick pea soup. On many occasions you could hardly see more than two or three metres in front of you and the acrid sooty smell was often in your cloths and in your lungs.
We did have some fabulous sunny days though and the “pitch” or “tar” which often joined the cobbles together, would actually bubble from the extreme heat of the afternoon sun.
We didn’t have any supermarkets in those days and so we relied on the many high street shops and also back street corner shops who would supply anything from safety pins to tripe and sheep’s heads.
As I mentioned earlier, the streets were our playground. We were roughly equidistant from Gorton Park near Belle Vue Zoo, to Ardwick Green near the Apollo Cinema. Both parks approx. 2 miles away on either side.
Not too far to walk in the summer, but on cold autumn/winter afternoons we tended to stay local.
The corner shops I spoke about previously, were often spared the demolition contractor’s destructive swinging steel ball until later in the re-development, as it became obvious that people still need provisions.
Sometimes these remaining shops looked like islands in a craggy landscape with their tiny dimly lit windows emitting a strange and ethereal light which seemed to pull us like an angler fish stalks its prey.
You will see from the painting “Saturday Morning” which I did of the children playing near the steps, that the girls were skipping and the boys were playing cricket. This was so typical that I just had to produce this painting purely from memory. The lamp post as you can see doubled as a wicket for the boy with the bat. Gas lamp posts were recreational vehicles for us kids in those days and I will go into more detail about this in next month’s article.
The upright painting “Back Alley Footie” of the boys playing football in the back alley was also very typical. The goal posts were either ‘chalked‘ onto a wall or designated by placing coats or jumpers at both ends of the fictitious posts.
The reason that I entitled this article “ Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be ” is simply that progressively, generations of humanity lose sight of what was important to previous generations.
However, I find that my paintings of the 1950’s – 1960’s are often bought by the present younger generation for their parents or grandparents. And so it goes on.
I am at the moment working on a series of nostalgic paintings of Manchester and Salford as I have spent many, many years working in both cities. I am sure that those of you of a certain age will recognise the various scenes which I am producing. Such as lamp lighters, dustbin men, kids swinging on lamp posts, hopscotch, skipping, football etc.
As I said, it wasn’t all foggy, rainy, grey days. There was sunshine, ice cream, toffee apples, Belle Vue Bobs, the beautiful Alma Cogan, the wonderful Dickie Valentine, the 210 trolley bus, Ardwick Hippodrome, Gorton Baths, Whit Week Walks, Radio Luxenburg.
As many of you will understand, my memories are your memories. Different districts maybe, but we are all linked with thoughts of things lost.
The images in this piece feature in a new exhibition at the E. Anthony Orme Gallery, 284 Stand Lane, Radcliffe, Manchester, M26 1JE. 0161 7669991