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Sunday, 4 November 2007

The day I could have died.

My Grandparents fell under the compulsory purchase order that destroyed so many families in the Spring Bank area of Kingston upon Hull during 1964-5. The area the order covered was some 2 square miles of old fashioned back to back housing. From Derringham Street to Spring Street and Spring Bank to Clarance Street. Hundreds of houses, shops pubs and a park destroyed in one fell swoop. My Grandparents house off Trinity Street was a big 6 bedroomed privately owned house with a back garden that extended some 700yards off the back of the house. Surrounded as it was by a 6 foot high builder brick wall along its full length, both sides and across the back. Before I get slammed for having a rosy memory of that wonderful house to back up my own memory of it I took the sizes from the Government/Council owned archives thhat anyone can view.

The estate as was was not truly an estate in the modern sense back then. It was nothing more than a collection of mostly back to back, 2 up, 2 down terraced housing with larger properties along one side of Trinity Street and dotted about around the estate, known locally as The Spring Bank estate.

Most of the houses were owned by landlords but the rents were very low so the standards of some of the families were not as high as the might have been. Other houses and businesses were privately owned. These privately owned properties were the ones who suffered at the hands of the local council. The council offered these people a fraction of the true value of the properties and affectively stole the houses from under the feet of the house dwellers. My Grandparents where one such family. In 1960 they paid 1,200 UKP (a LOT of money back then) for the house after selling a smaller house off Thoresby Street for 800UKP. In 1964 when the stealing by stealth began the council offered them 200 UKP. The same value that everyone else on the estate had been offered. No consideration was given to house or property size whatsoever. Every single building was offered the same disgusting low price even for those times.

Anyway, in 1965 they moved from a private house to 2x25th Avenue on North Hull Estate. The house was not very big compared to the house the council had just stolen from them but as there was only my Grandmother and Grandfather plus the occasional visit from us Grandchildren to consider so they took it. The rent, via Hull County Council, was reasonable too.

I was five years old when they moved but was already used to visiting my Nana and Papa as my Grandparents were known to us kids. But, when they moved it became a 4 mile journey to their house compared to the 1/2 mile it used to be. My first visit during the very cold and snowy month of November 1965 aged five years old almost cost me my life.

I had got on the bus, alone as children had little to fear in those days as most all adults looked out for children back then, and kept muttering to myself what my Nana had told me. "Get off the bus at the terminus (which was at the end of 21st Avenue. Cross the road then same way as the bus points go to the end, then turn left then after a short walk turn left again the walk down there until you see the huge oak tree. Once you reach that you are almost here. Carry on walking until you reach 25th Avenue." The instructions where clear even for a five year old child. However, somewhere along the line I had missed a turn and instead of walking down Endike Lane I was in fact walking back where the bus had just come from.

It was one of the coldest evenings of that year (1965). Thick ice had laid everywhere. Trees glistened and flowers danced in the icy cold wind. After I had walked a ways, the wrong way, I started crying as by now I knew I was lost. With freezing cold hands gripped tightly around my books and pencils I stood, crying, not knowing what to do. Then, a man on a bicycle stopped and asked me what was the matter. I told him where I wanted to be and he said "Well, you are going the wrong way to reach there. You had better get on the back of my bicycle and I will take you are far as Elerburn Avenue. 25th Avenue is next one along." So, I got on his bicycle and with the icy wind tearing at my face and hands we set off.

After what seemed an eternity we arrived at the point where this man could go no further. I thanked him as a 5 year old thanks anyone and after checking I knew where I was going he went on his way and I mine. It was but 100 yards from the drop off point to where my grandma lived but along that 100 yards the cold had by now caused frostbite in my fingers. I dropped all my books and pencils and was really scared when I found I could not pick them up because my fingers felt like rubber and the mere touch of anything hurt. But being 5 years old and with a determination only a child possesses I managed to pick them all up bar two pencils. I was once again crying and tears on my face hurt as the dripped.

Eventually, I arrived at my grandma's house, frozen, crying and through the cries I mumbled that my hands and face hurt. My grandma sat me opposite a big open fire with flames merrily dancing and slowly worked her magic to get the feeling back in my hands and face.

That was the night I almost died. If it had not of been for that gentleman stopping and giving me a lift on his bicycle I know now that I would most certainly have got lost and would of eventually given in to the very cold icy evening wind that blew so menacingly.

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