Before cars, computers and TVs

Posted on 07 February 2013 | Narrative

“My family moved to York in September 1946 after my father had been demobbed from the army. The London North Eastern Railway was compelled to give him a job as he had worked for them before the war and, without any choice, he was sent to York.

Whilst looking for a suitable house he lodged with an army friend in Grantham Drive, he checked the local Methodist churches and chose one of the two that were at that time in Acomb, about where Farmfoods now is.

We moved to York, me a very disgruntled 12 year old having had to leave my secondary school after just one year, my friends and my guide company.

We had been in our new house less than a week when the knock on the door revealed a teenager who had come to invite me to a Guide company which met at Holgate Methodist Church. The guide movement had a very efficient transfer system and I jumped at the offer.

Once at Guides, I was invited to join the Sunday School and attending Church Parade was compulsory. My parents decided that it was stupid for them to attend Acomb whilst I came to Holgate and so the family became members at Holgate.

The area was considerably different to what it is now. Where the Mormon Church and West Bank estate is now was Backhouses, a large nursery and garden centre. The Regent cinema, where the Co-op now is, provided the only public entertainment venue.

Fawcett’s Coach Firm was where Fairfax Court and the doctors surgery now stand. There were several shops at the Fox, a chemist, two bakers, two butchers, a cobbler, fish and chips, a post office, newsagent and a Co-op. Acomb had not developed as a shopping centre at that time.

The Grantham Drive, Saint Swithin’s Walk and the Windmill Rise complex was only half finished; the war having put a stop to building. Windmill Rise had houses up to the windmill from Poppleton Road but nothing else, Saint Swithin’s had houses on the South side and about three others at the Poppleton Road end, Grantham Drive was nearly finished but had waste ground at the top and the middle where Howe Hill Close is now.

Holgate Lodge Drive, Chelwood Walk and Tisbury Road were non existent. Acomb Road only had one house and the vicarage between Holgate and Grantham Drive. The rest of this area was waste ground or allotments – wonderful for children building dens, lighting fires, playing hide and seek – which is what they did when there were no computer games to play.

I can’t remember anyone at Holgate Methodist Church having a car or a television, so apart from the occasional trip to the cinema, our leisure time activities were centred on what the Church had to offer and the use of our bicycles or our feet.

At that time we had a large congregation and an even larger Sunday School and many people willing and able to serve God in a practical way helping with the activities at Holgate Methodist Church.

On Sunday there were always two Services, morning and evening, attended by men wearing suits , collars and ties and ladies wearing hats. The evening service had the larger congregation being full upstairs and downstairs, the rowdy teenagers frequently getting into bother because of their behaviour upstairs!

The morning service also catered for children with them leaving the main service as they do now. Then in the afternoon there was Sunday School. The church was packed! About forty in the Beginners, upstairs in the room used by Playgroup, about the same number in the Primary in room 1 and about eighty to ninety juniors in the main church. The seniors met in room 11 and the vestry.

When the various departments split for lessons there were groups in every available space, the entrance porches the kitchen the corridors and all the side rooms, none of these could be used for storage. The children had star cards which were stamped to show attendance and prizes were given each year to the good attenders.

At the age of about 11 to 13 they were encouraged to learn long passages of the Bible in order to receive a Philip Lord Wharton Bible (I still have mine – very worn and battered but very precious). Every year there was an Anniversary with children reciting poems, scripture and singing. Each department held a Christmas party and once a year there was a coach outing to the seaside and later to the Homestead for games and races and a picnic tea.

Each year there was a concert of some kind when the Sunday school queen was crowned to reign for the next year; I was never sure what her duties entailed but it provided an opportunity for dressing up, wearing a crown and having attendants. The playgroup was started for children in the Beginners group, being run by volunteers from the teachers in that department with help from the children’s mothers on a rota basis. The children had to attend Beginners in order to attend playgroup.

The Church had two choirs, a senior choir who sat on the front platform and sang an anthem together or sometimes solos during the evening service and a junior choir who occasionally took the place of the seniors.

At that time the circuit was smaller and our circuit church was Wesley – now the Rock Church in Priory Street. We were much more aware of the circuit with circuit activities involving all the churches. Religious films were sometimes shown at Wesley, a yearly Eisteddfod was held with classes for various crafts, reciting poetry, singing (both choirs and solos),playing musical instruments.

There was a strong but friendly competition between the churches! The Billy Graham Crusade was relayed into Wesley. I remember going on a circuit trip, by train to London to attend a Billy Graham rally. The train (full of Methodists) vibrated with hymn singing on the return journey in the early hours.

The week was full of Church based activities. There was the Sisterhood (now called Holgate Fellowship), a men’s group run jointly with St. Paul’s, a Young Wives group, a youth club, Guides (it was some time before Brownies, cubs and scouts started), Junior Christian Endeavour, Senior Christian Endeavour, a pastoral class group and Old peoples welfare run jointly with St. Paul’s.

Several of these groups went on coach trips to various places and some on holidays together. In the late 1940s, some of our young people joined with Lidgett Grove Methodist Church and made a trip to Germany staying with families in Siegen, a town that had been virtually flattened by our air force. We had a wonderful time including a coach trip staying at Youth Hostels in the Black Forest.

We went everywhere with guitars, washboards and metal thimbles entertaining anyone who cared to listen or who couldn’t escape with our skiffle group. I stayed in a newly built flat with a mother and daughter whose house had been completely destroyed and whose father had been killed by our forces. The next year the Germans visited us. It was truly a reconciliation exercise.

Then there was the Tennis club; this had existed before the war, but the court had been requisitioned for an emergency water tank during the war. Hours were spent levelling the ground, erecting a high netting fence (it had to be very high because of the road and our poor tennis skills) marking out the court and cutting the grass and finally playing tennis – but not on a Sunday.

We had a Youth Preaching group which went round the circuit taking services in other churches. One person led, one read the lessons, one sang a solo, one took the prayers and one gave the sermon. A terrifying experience but wonderful Christian fellowship with the group when preparing the service and, though I say it myself, we were very well prepared.

I have reminisced for long enough, I sometimes wish that cars, TVs and computers could disappear and we could return to the Christian Fellowship of 70 years ago. I must now close down my computer, check the weather forecast on the TV, jump in the car and go to the local supermarket.”