Memories of post-war East Boldon

East Boldon Junior School in around 1951.
East Boldon Junior School in around 1951.
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Memories of village life came flooding back for one Wearside Echoes reader during a recent trip to her childhood home.

Vikki Wood (nee Groom) spent the first 10 years of her life in East Boldon, before her family moved to Lancashire.

Boldon Cenataph.

Boldon Cenataph.

More than 60 years have now passed since the farmer’s wife left the area, but her recollections still remain vivid.

“Standing in front of our old home of Ashleigh Villas, Front Street, brought so many memories back for me,” she said.

“It was from there that I toddled completely naked out into the main road one day, while my mother was running my bath.

“A miner had just stepped off the bus and scooped me up. He handed me back covered in dusty fingerprints to my frantic mother.

“There was little traffic, and no pit head baths, then. But it did seem as if all the world passed by our house.”

Vikki Wood, former Boldon resident.

“There was little traffic, and no pit head baths, then! But it did seem as if all the world passed by our house.”

Vikki was born during the Second World War, but, by the time she joined East Boldon Primary School, the conflict was finally over.

“I spent five years there; somehow it feels longer! The headmaster, Mr Whitling, had been there in my mother’s day,” she said.

“My memories of him are of a little grey man akin to a whirling Dervish and brandishing a cane. A man to be avoided at all costs!”

Boldon Coat of Arms

Boldon Coat of Arms

But life outside of school passed happily for young Vikki, who often took part in events at each of the village churches.

“There was the formality of St George’s, with huge gatherings of girls in white dresses prepared for their confirmation,” she said.

“Then there was the informality of the Congregational Church and the intensity of the Methodist. All gave me a good grounding.

“We also had concerts in the hall where Boldon Auction Rooms is now, and I was a Sixer in the local Brownie pack too.

“It met in a building on Back Lane, next to a farm. I always tried to see what was going on in the farmyard - but got shooed away!”

Vikki’s grandfather, Jack Gray, also lived in the village - although his St Mary’s Terrace home was a “good scoot” from Ashleigh Villas.

Jack, a keen cricketer, bred prize-winning budgies in the 1940s and 50s - as well as tropical fish.

“He had been a chief engineer on the colliers and was awarded an MBE for his service in World War Two,” said Vikki.

“I have photographs of him proudly wearing his medals and laying a wreath on Armistice Day at the cenotaph opposite Ashleigh Villas.

“He lost his neighbour, and best pal, Donald Halcrow in 1943 - when Donald’s collier, SS Catford, was sunk by a mine.

“That was my first understanding of the fact any one of us could lose our daddies, as most were at sea or in one of the services.”

The end of the war laid to rest Vikki’s fears for her relatives, and brought one unexpected bonus too - day trips to the seaside.

Wearsiders were banned from visiting Seaburn, Cleadon and Whitburn throughout most of the war, due to the risk of unexploded mines.

But, once the barbed wire had finally been torn down, so Vikki and her pals would travel to the Bents by bus for a day at the beach.

“The folks who lived in the Bents sold pots of tea, and our mams would carry the hot brew down to our chosen picnic site,” she said.

“We had bats and balls, buckets and spades and searched for crabs and winkles with our fishing nets. Such joyful days for us.

“Now I am in my 74th year, I wonder how all my playmates fared - like Pauline and Jacqueline - and what memories they treasure of that time.”

Although Vikki’s grandfather lost his best pal in the war, Vikki was lucky enough to see her father - a lieutenant captain - return safely.

Seven years later, in 1952, the family opted to start a new life in Lancashire - although the county seemed like “another world” to Vikki.

“I was chided mercilessly about my accent, and had to learn a whole new vocabulary at the tender age of 11 to survive,” she recalls.

“Just three years after the move my daddy died and my world changed forever. My beloved grandfather gave up his Boldon home to support mum.

“It was a tough call but, through it all, I have a wonderful life living my dream as a farmer’s wife. But not a year has been missed when I insist our family welcomes the New Year with a piece of coal - as I did as a child.”