LongtonOnline.co.uk
© LongtonOnline.co.uk
Longton 1960’s

Longton 1960’s

Written By Dave Ronson, Auckland NZ

I moved to Longton in June 1961, at the age of twelve, having been brought up in a farming community in Howick. My dad worked on his father's farm until my grandad retired in 1959. My grandparents went to live in Preston, and my dad went to work at the brewery in Longton. When the chance to move into a Longton council house came about in 1961, this was an opportunity too good for our family to miss. Then, as now, there was a stigma attached to living on a council estate in the towns and cities, but with village estates this was unjustified. We moved into West Square, and settled in quickly with such good neighbours around us. The great thing about moving to Longton was that I already had two Longton lads as classmates (Eddie Clayton and Mick Webster) at what was then Penwortham County Secondary School (now known as Priory High). Once moved into West Square, I quickly got to know the other kids in the neighbourhood. We were the Baby-boomer generation, and from the nineteen houses on the square were no fewer than six kids in my year at PCSS. It was a new experience for me, living on a housing estate, and having a crowd of kids my own age as neighbours. We used to meet on the green to play football and cricket, and all got on with each other. Kids could leave out their bikes or trolleys while they went back inside, and the other kids would use them and return them. Longton had a much smaller population then, as the new housing boom was in its infancy. Franklands and Landsmoor Drive were still being built, and they were the only houses in that area apart the existing council houses. Developers had the annoying habit of building all the houses first, then the roads weren't paved for several months, or even years, afterwards. It was quite some time before Landsmoor Drive had a decent road surface. Street lamps had only just been erected in the village, and were switched on late in 1961. The houses in the older settled areas of the village, namely Liverpool Road, Marsh Lane and Chapel Lane didn't have numbers then - only names. It must have been difficult for strangers to find an address, but any local would be able to guide anyone to where they wanted to go. Most people didn't have cars, but used the bus to travel around. There were frequent buses from Preston which served Longton. There was also the Preston to Southport railway, but this was rarely used for trips to Preston, as the Longton Bridge Station was away from the centre of the village, and the fares were dearer than on the bus. The adult bus fare to Preston was 8d (31/2p), and the train fare was 11d (41/2p)! When the railway eventually closed in 1964, the bus service to Southport increased from a two-hourly to hourly frequency. There was a bakery near the railway station, owned by Bert Brown. The Co-op had a large store opposite the Golden Ball, which is now occupied by Blundell's. Opposite the Red Lion was the main newsagent for the village, H & E Yates (Harold & Edith). Frank Taylor owned the butcher's shop between the Golden Ball and the Red Lion. He raised his own pigs, and was renowned for his pork and his sausages. Bob and Dick Rimmer ran their shoe repair business next door to the Red Lion. Bob's wife worked with them, and she had an amazing memory. The first time I went in there, she recognised the family name, as she and Bob had been to a family wedding, and from that she figured out who I was. I was twelve then, and she hadn't seen me since the wedding, when I was three! On the opposite side of the road was Stewart Porter Electrical. Next to the Black Bull was a bakery, owned by Roland & Hilda Heath. Mr Heath ran a mobile shop, and their pies and cakes were renowned for several miles around Longton. Opposite St Andrew's Church was the chemists, owned by Verner Lingard. Booth's store was on the corner of School Lane and Chapel Lane, and their manager was a real gentleman called Mr Williams. Booths did much of their business by delivery van, and an old bike like G-G-G-Granville's in "Open All Hours". That was the way of things in the pre- supermarket age. Next to Booth's was the original Blundell's hardware store. Opposite the Ram's Head was a new block of shops - a bank, a greengrocer (Vinnie), a Spar owned by Laurence Hunt, and I think also a clothing shop. Next to the Ram's Head was a grocer, called Walkden. He was later to start selling newspapers - much to the disgust of Edith Yates! The only takeaway bars then were fish & chip shops. Mrs Hill ran the local chippy in Chapel Lane, and the only other one in the area was Winrow's at Walmer Bridge. Opposite St Andrew's church was a row of terraced cottages. These were demolished in the early sixties to make way for the shops that stand there today. The Wilkins Brewery by this time was owned by Groves & Whitnall, of Salford. Groves & Whitnall's Salford brewery was the actual brewery upon which Coronation Street's "Newton & Ridley" was based, with the fictitious Weatherfield being based on Salford. Brewing had ceased in Longton by the sixties, but malting was still carried out for a short while, and the site was used as a distribution depot. Groves & Whitnall was eventually bought out by Greenall Whitley. Many of the Greenall's pubs in West Lancashire are a legacy of the Wilkins empire. The brewery site no longer exists, but there is now a residential road called "The Maltings", in honour of a past Longton industry. The brickcroft was still operating, but was being slowly wound down before demolition in the mid sixties. The old clay pits had flooded, and made an excellent fishing spot. I used to spend hours there, fishing for perch, in the summer. The best fun for kids was walking along the elevated tramway. From the ground, it didn't look very high, but once up on the tracks the footing of only a few inches wide made it a precarious walk. The workmen at the kiln were none too impressed, and regularly chased us away. I remember the BBC once filming an episode of "Z Cars" at the brickcroft. It was quite something for us kids to see our TV heroes in the flesh, and then to see our own backyard on the telly. With the Police headquarters being at Hutton, The BBC did a fair amount of filming there, and we would often see local sites on "Z Cars". The demolition of the chimneystack at the kiln closed the curtain on an era in Longton's history, for this was a landmark, which could be seen for miles around. Fortunately, the development of the brickcroft into a nature reserve has preserved some of that history. The Grove was occupied by Charles H Pugh Ltd, better known as Atco. This Birmingham based lawnmower manufacturer used Longton as a service depot. Their agents throughout the northwest , from North Wales to Carlisle, used to collect the machines for servicing, and send them to Longton once a week. Here they would carry out anything from a tune up to a full rebuild. Atco was a major employer in the Longton district. My dad used to be their driver, after his stint at the brewery, and did the regular run of collecting the machinery from the agents, and returning the repaired machines. The agent at Abergele, in North Wales, didn't dare tell his customers that their machines were being serviced in Lancashire. They wouldn't have wanted the "Bloody English" handling their machines, and were blissfully unaware that they left Abergele. Farming was still strong in Longton, but the fields were slowly being turned into housing estates. By the end of the sixties all of Shirley Lane, from Liverpool Road to Longton Brook was a housing estate. Mr Bisbrown, who had a farm opposite the Black Bull, had sold all of his fields, and there was only the farmhouse left of the original farm. Bank Croft estate was built, so that the last fields between Liverpool Road and School Lane had all gone, with the exception of the rec. and Bill Bodill's field. Lancashire County still operated the Eleven Plus system for Secondary education, throughout the sixties. The primary school kids attended Longton Council School or St Oswald's School. In their final year, they sat an external exam, which determined their secondary education. Those who passed went to Hutton Grammar, Penwortham Girls' Grammar or the Catholic College. Those who didn't pass went to Penwortham Secondary, with the Catholics going to Brownedge or Cuthbert Mayne. Penwortham Secondary was opened in 1953, to cater for about six hundred pupils. By the time I started there, in 1960, there were over nine hundred pupils. At that time, it was the only Secondary Modern between Preston and Southport. We had kids from as far as Hesketh Bank. There used to be a school bus, the P6, which ran from Grange Lane to Preston. By the time it reached my stop, at Shirley lane, it was often full. However, it would unload the primary school kids at the Ram's Head, so if it went through full, we could run after it to the Ram's head, and manage to reach the bus stop before they had finished unloading. Why we didn't just go to the Ram's Head in the first place is a mystery, but the run kept us fit! For the return journey, a string of school specials lined up in Crookings Lane, near the school entrance. They had a strict school rule with double-decker buses - girls upstairs and boys downstairs. On the Longton bus, all the lads used to go upstairs, so they could smoke. The bus crews never seemed to mind, but passing teachers blew the whistle on the arrangement, and the Longton kids had to conform to the school rule like the rest. St Andrew's had an old Sunday School building next to the church, which was used as a youth club. It was demolished to make way for the Church Hall, which opened in 1964. The youth club moved to the new building, and had regular Saturday night dances. This was in the era when Britain became a force in pop music, and the Mersey Sound was all the rage. This was when the younger generation started to have their own identity by way of music and fashions. The Mersey Sound was really something special to us, to realise that groups from our closest city were leading the pop revolution. In the early sixties, the BBC operated the only radio stations, and they catered for the older generation with mainly orchestral music. The Musicians' Union wouldn't allow records to be played on the radio, so we had to wait for the evening broadcasts of Radio Luxembourg, which were broadcast from the Grand Duchy. Reception was often marginal. The big breakthrough was when the pirate station, Radio Caroline, anchored off the Isle of Man, giving us the music we wanted loud and clear. They served the area well until 1967, when the BBC set up Radio 1 as a pop music station, and the pirate stations were outlawed. Walking Day was always special. There were actually separate Walking Days organised by St Oswald's, the Methodist Church and St Andrew's. The main one was St Andrew's. The day started with a procession down Liverpool Road, with floats, a band, and the various groups associated with the church carrying their banners. The main attraction for the kids was the fairground at the rec. The older kids would stay on till the closedown, late on the Saturday night, when the last ride on the Speedway ride was free. As we reached sixteen, most of us lads were keen on having a motorbike. I was an exception, as I always set my mind on four wheels - not two. My mate, Pete Maggs, was real character, and he bought a motorbike as soon as he was old enough. I wasn't game to have a ride on it, but one of the other lads couldn't wait to have a go. Pete showed him how everything worked, and off he went - very gingerly. After a short ride, he dismounted, but didn't put the gear in neutral. Instead, he just held the clutch in, but his hand slipped off the lever. The bike took off, dragging him along, and as he tried to hang on, he opened up the throttle further! The bike then took off on its own, and luckily it soon fell over without further mishap. Also, as we grew into teenagers, the big attraction was the pubs. Most kids were able to pass for drinking age by the time they were sixteen. The old Ram's Head, which was demolished in 1967, was a regular haunt of underage drinkers, particularly in the back room where the jukebox was. Often, word would reach the back room that Joe Poole, the local policeman, was on his way into the bar. The place would just empty in seconds, with half-finished drinks left on all the tables! I wasn't game to enter pubs before my eighteenth birthday, because I looked much younger than my age. However, I found that I was able to fool the ladies at the off licence in Shirley Lane. This worked well until one time I arrived at the checkout with some bottles of brown ale. The owner, Eddie, was manning the till, and he made it quite clear that he thought I was underage, and gave me a real dressing down in front of a shop full of customers. I never bought beer there again until I was eighteen! Once I was of a legitimate drinking age, my social life took off. On a Saturday night, I would go on the bus to Southport or Blackpool, with my mates. Southport was OK, because I could catch the last bus home, and be dropped off in Longton. Going to Blackpool wasn't so easy, as the last bus home arrived in Preston long after the last bus to Longton had left. I couldn't afford a taxi, so I used to walk home. That wasn't too bad if it was fine weather, but I can recall walking home in a blizzard, and I was half frozen to death by the time I reached Longton. When having a beer in the village, I usually went to the Ram's Head, Golden Ball and Red Lion. When the current Ram's Head opened in 1967, I took on a job as a waiter at weekends. It used to get quite lively when Liverpool coach parties called in. The Scousers were a real hard case bunch. Some trips to Blackpool Illuminations stayed at the Ram till closing time, then went on to Blackpool. Most of the passengers were so drunk when they left, they would have probably slept all the way through the Lights! One party took one of the pub's potted shrubs as a souvenir. No village would be complete without its characters, and there were quite a few in Longton. One bloke who always amused us as kids, was Tommy Dobson, known to everybody as "Tommy Tush". Tommy really enjoyed having a few pints, and would stagger and weave all over the place as he walked home. He was always happy and content. He'd always say to us kids "Yer all good lads - world-beaters". Occasionally he regressed to 1939, and would ask "Hez wair brok out?" Tommy could often be seen sitting on the seat outside the Ram's Head, late in the afternoon, waiting for the pub to open for the evening session. Another amusing character was Bill Walton - "Chicken Billy". Bill loved his ale, and was delightfully friendly when he'd had a few. One night he had a special comb in his pocket, which had a blade in the teeth, for trimming your hair. He took a delight in showing everybody how it worked by combing his hair. By the end of the night there were huge chunks of hair missing! Walter Smith, the haulage contractor, had a cowman called Bill Atkinson, but he was known to everybody as "Milky Bill". Bill wore his cap "wi' t' neb at t' back" (back to front) when he was milking, as did most dairy farmers, so that the peak didn't rub against the cow's side, and knock his cap off. The only difference was that Bill wore his cap like that all the time. He was quite a sight, pedalling round the village, with a couple of small crates of milk slung on his handlebars, and his cap back to front. I often laugh when I see kids these days, wearing their baseball caps back to front. They may be copying the street fashions of America, but Milky Bill set the fashion decades ago! There was a dear old lady called Polly, who lived in a cottage in Chapel Lane. She was a sweet old lass, but she wasn't to be crossed. One winter's night, a couple of young lads were throwing snowballs at her window, and frightening her budgie. She took off after them, and caught up with them at the chip shop, where she tore into one lad, and gave him a real pasting. Unfortunately, she got the wrong one, and battered somebody who hadn't been anywhere near her cottage! I remember a bloke called Jimmy, who loved being on point duty. He would often stand outside the Ram's Head, directing the traffic. Then there was John Broughton, who lived in a cottage next to Longton Brook, and was affectionately known as "The Squire". He really lived the part, wearing tweed hat, jacket and plus fours. I lived in Longton till 1973, then emigrated to New Zealand. I'm still here, enjoying the lifestyle, and have been fortunate to have always been in full employment. I have made three trips back to England, and always enjoy my stays in Longton. People there still remember me, and I receive the sort of welcome which just doesn't exist in the cities. Though I appreciate being able to earn a decent living in a city, I still think that a village like Longton is by far the best sort of place for a kid to grow up. When my kids have completed their education, they will probably go the way of most Kiwis, and do their "Big O.E." (Overseas Experience) in the UK Hopefully they will get to spend some time in Longton, and appreciate why I still have a great affection for the village.
LongtonOnline.co.uk
© LongtonOnline.co.uk

Longton 1960’s

Written By Dave Ronson,

Auckland NZ

I moved to Longton in June 1961, at the age of twelve, having been brought up in a farming community in Howick. My dad worked on his father's farm until my grandad retired in 1959. My grandparents went to live in Preston, and my dad went to work at the brewery in Longton. When the chance to move into a Longton council house came about in 1961, this was an opportunity too good for our family to miss. Then, as now, there was a stigma attached to living on a council estate in the towns and cities, but with village estates this was unjustified. We moved into West Square, and settled in quickly with such good neighbours around us. The great thing about moving to Longton was that I already had two Longton lads as classmates (Eddie Clayton and Mick Webster) at what was then Penwortham County Secondary School (now known as Priory High). Once moved into West Square, I quickly got to know the other kids in the neighbourhood. We were the Baby-boomer generation, and from the nineteen houses on the square were no fewer than six kids in my year at PCSS. It was a new experience for me, living on a housing estate, and having a crowd of kids my own age as neighbours. We used to meet on the green to play football and cricket, and all got on with each other. Kids could leave out their bikes or trolleys while they went back inside, and the other kids would use them and return them. Longton had a much smaller population then, as the new housing boom was in its infancy. Franklands and Landsmoor Drive were still being built, and they were the only houses in that area apart the existing council houses. Developers had the annoying habit of building all the houses first, then the roads weren't paved for several months, or even years, afterwards. It was quite some time before Landsmoor Drive had a decent road surface. Street lamps had only just been erected in the village, and were switched on late in 1961. The houses in the older settled areas of the village, namely Liverpool Road, Marsh Lane and Chapel Lane didn't have numbers then - only names. It must have been difficult for strangers to find an address, but any local would be able to guide anyone to where they wanted to go. Most people didn't have cars, but used the bus to travel around. There were frequent buses from Preston which served Longton. There was also the Preston to Southport railway, but this was rarely used for trips to Preston, as the Longton Bridge Station was away from the centre of the village, and the fares were dearer than on the bus. The adult bus fare to Preston was 8d (31/2p), and the train fare was 11d (41/2p)! When the railway eventually closed in 1964, the bus service to Southport increased from a two-hourly to hourly frequency. There was a bakery near the railway station, owned by Bert Brown. The Co-op had a large store opposite the Golden Ball, which is now occupied by Blundell's. Opposite the Red Lion was the main newsagent for the village, H & E Yates (Harold & Edith). Frank Taylor owned the butcher's shop between the Golden Ball and the Red Lion. He raised his own pigs, and was renowned for his pork and his sausages. Bob and Dick Rimmer ran their shoe repair business next door to the Red Lion. Bob's wife worked with them, and she had an amazing memory. The first time I went in there, she recognised the family name, as she and Bob had been to a family wedding, and from that she figured out who I was. I was twelve then, and she hadn't seen me since the wedding, when I was three! On the opposite side of the road was Stewart Porter Electrical. Next to the Black Bull was a bakery, owned by Roland & Hilda Heath. Mr Heath ran a mobile shop, and their pies and cakes were renowned for several miles around Longton. Opposite St Andrew's Church was the chemists, owned by Verner Lingard. Booth's store was on the corner of School Lane and Chapel Lane, and their manager was a real gentleman called Mr Williams. Booths did much of their business by delivery van, and an old bike like G-G-G-Granville's in "Open All Hours". That was the way of things in the pre-supermarket age. Next to Booth's was the original Blundell's hardware store. Opposite the Ram's Head was a new block of shops - a bank, a greengrocer (Vinnie), a Spar owned by Laurence Hunt, and I think also a clothing shop. Next to the Ram's Head was a grocer, called Walkden. He was later to start selling newspapers - much to the disgust of Edith Yates! The only takeaway bars then were fish & chip shops. Mrs Hill ran the local chippy in Chapel Lane, and the only other one in the area was Winrow's at Walmer Bridge. Opposite St Andrew's church was a row of terraced cottages. These were demolished in the early sixties to make way for the shops that stand there today. The Wilkins Brewery by this time was owned by Groves & Whitnall, of Salford. Groves & Whitnall's Salford brewery was the actual brewery upon which Coronation Street's "Newton & Ridley" was based, with the fictitious Weatherfield being based on Salford. Brewing had ceased in Longton by the sixties, but malting was still carried out for a short while, and the site was used as a distribution depot. Groves & Whitnall was eventually bought out by Greenall Whitley. Many of the Greenall's pubs in West Lancashire are a legacy of the Wilkins empire. The brewery site no longer exists, but there is now a residential road called "The Maltings", in honour of a past Longton industry. The brickcroft was still operating, but was being slowly wound down before demolition in the mid sixties. The old clay pits had flooded, and made an excellent fishing spot. I used to spend hours there, fishing for perch, in the summer. The best fun for kids was walking along the elevated tramway. From the ground, it didn't look very high, but once up on the tracks the footing of only a few inches wide made it a precarious walk. The workmen at the kiln were none too impressed, and regularly chased us away. I remember the BBC once filming an episode of "Z Cars" at the brickcroft. It was quite something for us kids to see our TV heroes in the flesh, and then to see our own backyard on the telly. With the Police headquarters being at Hutton, The BBC did a fair amount of filming there, and we would often see local sites on "Z Cars". The demolition of the chimneystack at the kiln closed the curtain on an era in Longton's history, for this was a landmark, which could be seen for miles around. Fortunately, the development of the brickcroft into a nature reserve has preserved some of that history. The Grove was occupied by Charles H Pugh Ltd, better known as Atco. This Birmingham based lawnmower manufacturer used Longton as a service depot. Their agents throughout the northwest , from North Wales to Carlisle, used to collect the machines for servicing, and send them to Longton once a week. Here they would carry out anything from a tune up to a full rebuild. Atco was a major employer in the Longton district. My dad used to be their driver, after his stint at the brewery, and did the regular run of collecting the machinery from the agents, and returning the repaired machines. The agent at Abergele, in North Wales, didn't dare tell his customers that their machines were being serviced in Lancashire. They wouldn't have wanted the "Bloody English" handling their machines, and were blissfully unaware that they left Abergele. Farming was still strong in Longton, but the fields were slowly being turned into housing estates. By the end of the sixties all of Shirley Lane, from Liverpool Road to Longton Brook was a housing estate. Mr Bisbrown, who had a farm opposite the Black Bull, had sold all of his fields, and there was only the farmhouse left of the original farm. Bank Croft estate was built, so that the last fields between Liverpool Road and School Lane had all gone, with the exception of the rec. and Bill Bodill's field. Lancashire County still operated the Eleven Plus system for Secondary education, throughout the sixties. The primary school kids attended Longton Council School or St Oswald's School. In their final year, they sat an external exam, which determined their secondary education. Those who passed went to Hutton Grammar, Penwortham Girls' Grammar or the Catholic College. Those who didn't pass went to Penwortham Secondary, with the Catholics going to Brownedge or Cuthbert Mayne. Penwortham Secondary was opened in 1953, to cater for about six hundred pupils. By the time I started there, in 1960, there were over nine hundred pupils. At that time, it was the only Secondary Modern between Preston and Southport. We had kids from as far as Hesketh Bank. There used to be a school bus, the P6, which ran from Grange Lane to Preston. By the time it reached my stop, at Shirley lane, it was often full. However, it would unload the primary school kids at the Ram's Head, so if it went through full, we could run after it to the Ram's head, and manage to reach the bus stop before they had finished unloading. Why we didn't just go to the Ram's Head in the first place is a mystery, but the run kept us fit! For the return journey, a string of school specials lined up in Crookings Lane, near the school entrance. They had a strict school rule with double-decker buses - girls upstairs and boys downstairs. On the Longton bus, all the lads used to go upstairs, so they could smoke. The bus crews never seemed to mind, but passing teachers blew the whistle on the arrangement, and the Longton kids had to conform to the school rule like the rest. St Andrew's had an old Sunday School building next to the church, which was used as a youth club. It was demolished to make way for the Church Hall, which opened in 1964. The youth club moved to the new building, and had regular Saturday night dances. This was in the era when Britain became a force in pop music, and the Mersey Sound was all the rage. This was when the younger generation started to have their own identity by way of music and fashions. The Mersey Sound was really something special to us, to realise that groups from our closest city were leading the pop revolution. In the early sixties, the BBC operated the only radio stations, and they catered for the older generation with mainly orchestral music. The Musicians' Union wouldn't allow records to be played on the radio, so we had to wait for the evening broadcasts of Radio Luxembourg, which were broadcast from the Grand Duchy. Reception was often marginal. The big breakthrough was when the pirate station, Radio Caroline, anchored off the Isle of Man, giving us the music we wanted loud and clear. They served the area well until 1967, when the BBC set up Radio 1 as a pop music station, and the pirate stations were outlawed. Walking Day was always special. There were actually separate Walking Days organised by St Oswald's, the Methodist Church and St Andrew's. The main one was St Andrew's. The day started with a procession down Liverpool Road, with floats, a band, and the various groups associated with the church carrying their banners. The main attraction for the kids was the fairground at the rec. The older kids would stay on till the closedown, late on the Saturday night, when the last ride on the Speedway ride was free. As we reached sixteen, most of us lads were keen on having a motorbike. I was an exception, as I always set my mind on four wheels - not two. My mate, Pete Maggs, was real character, and he bought a motorbike as soon as he was old enough. I wasn't game to have a ride on it, but one of the other lads couldn't wait to have a go. Pete showed him how everything worked, and off he went - very gingerly. After a short ride, he dismounted, but didn't put the gear in neutral. Instead, he just held the clutch in, but his hand slipped off the lever. The bike took off, dragging him along, and as he tried to hang on, he opened up the throttle further! The bike then took off on its own, and luckily it soon fell over without further mishap. Also, as we grew into teenagers, the big attraction was the pubs. Most kids were able to pass for drinking age by the time they were sixteen. The old Ram's Head, which was demolished in 1967, was a regular haunt of underage drinkers, particularly in the back room where the jukebox was. Often, word would reach the back room that Joe Poole, the local policeman, was on his way into the bar. The place would just empty in seconds, with half-finished drinks left on all the tables! I wasn't game to enter pubs before my eighteenth birthday, because I looked much younger than my age. However, I found that I was able to fool the ladies at the off licence in Shirley Lane. This worked well until one time I arrived at the checkout with some bottles of brown ale. The owner, Eddie, was manning the till, and he made it quite clear that he thought I was underage, and gave me a real dressing down in front of a shop full of customers. I never bought beer there again until I was eighteen! Once I was of a legitimate drinking age, my social life took off. On a Saturday night, I would go on the bus to Southport or Blackpool, with my mates. Southport was OK, because I could catch the last bus home, and be dropped off in Longton. Going to Blackpool wasn't so easy, as the last bus home arrived in Preston long after the last bus to Longton had left. I couldn't afford a taxi, so I used to walk home. That wasn't too bad if it was fine weather, but I can recall walking home in a blizzard, and I was half frozen to death by the time I reached Longton. When having a beer in the village, I usually went to the Ram's Head, Golden Ball and Red Lion. When the current Ram's Head opened in 1967, I took on a job as a waiter at weekends. It used to get quite lively when Liverpool coach parties called in. The Scousers were a real hard case bunch. Some trips to Blackpool Illuminations stayed at the Ram till closing time, then went on to Blackpool. Most of the passengers were so drunk when they left, they would have probably slept all the way through the Lights! One party took one of the pub's potted shrubs as a souvenir. No village would be complete without its characters, and there were quite a few in Longton. One bloke who always amused us as kids, was Tommy Dobson, known to everybody as "Tommy Tush". Tommy really enjoyed having a few pints, and would stagger and weave all over the place as he walked home. He was always happy and content. He'd always say to us kids "Yer all good lads - world-beaters". Occasionally he regressed to 1939, and would ask "Hez wair brok out?" Tommy could often be seen sitting on the seat outside the Ram's Head, late in the afternoon, waiting for the pub to open for the evening session. Another amusing character was Bill Walton - "Chicken Billy". Bill loved his ale, and was delightfully friendly when he'd had a few. One night he had a special comb in his pocket, which had a blade in the teeth, for trimming your hair. He took a delight in showing everybody how it worked by combing his hair. By the end of the night there were huge chunks of hair missing! Walter Smith, the haulage contractor, had a cowman called Bill Atkinson, but he was known to everybody as "Milky Bill". Bill wore his cap "wi' t' neb at t' back" (back to front) when he was milking, as did most dairy farmers, so that the peak didn't rub against the cow's side, and knock his cap off. The only difference was that Bill wore his cap like that all the time. He was quite a sight, pedalling round the village, with a couple of small crates of milk slung on his handlebars, and his cap back to front. I often laugh when I see kids these days, wearing their baseball caps back to front. They may be copying the street fashions of America, but Milky Bill set the fashion decades ago! There was a dear old lady called Polly, who lived in a cottage in Chapel Lane. She was a sweet old lass, but she wasn't to be crossed. One winter's night, a couple of young lads were throwing snowballs at her window, and frightening her budgie. She took off after them, and caught up with them at the chip shop, where she tore into one lad, and gave him a real pasting. Unfortunately, she got the wrong one, and battered somebody who hadn't been anywhere near her cottage! I remember a bloke called Jimmy, who loved being on point duty. He would often stand outside the Ram's Head, directing the traffic. Then there was John Broughton, who lived in a cottage next to Longton Brook, and was affectionately known as "The Squire". He really lived the part, wearing tweed hat, jacket and plus fours. I lived in Longton till 1973, then emigrated to New Zealand. I'm still here, enjoying the lifestyle, and have been fortunate to have always been in full employment. I have made three trips back to England, and always enjoy my stays in Longton. People there still remember me, and I receive the sort of welcome which just doesn't exist in the cities. Though I appreciate being able to earn a decent living in a city, I still think that a village like Longton is by far the best sort of place for a kid to grow up. When my kids have completed their education, they will probably go the way of most Kiwis, and do their "Big O.E." (Overseas Experience) in the UK Hopefully they will get to spend some time in Longton, and appreciate why I still have a great affection for the village.
Longton 1960’s