It was Christmas 1946 when Philip Parkinson left the army, back in civvy street, with no job and not best pleased with how things turned out with Hans.
Home for Christmas it was the coldest winter on record, snow covered the ground that Christmas. Dad applied for every job posted at the unemployment centre, he tried for a job as a bus driver but there was a waiting list. With snow everywhere and Kathleen six months pregnant, it was back to the council office, ‘sorry mister Parkinson, you need more than one child to get enough points to get house’ said the clerk, you will need to come back when you have two.
The big problem was Bridget had come back from Ireland, she moved back into the room dad and mum had so they were virtually homeless. Everything in the house was moved around, and the front room was converted to an extra bed room, six girls and dad in the house was not a good situation.
With hunting for jobs and snow everywhere, the Waterloo pub became a shelter from the women at home. Dad got the idea of getting a taxi so off he went to Preston auctions they were held on Tuesday every week. Dad had his eye on big American Chevrolet, the bidding started and at £74. 00, the hammer came down and it was bought.
Driving back to Barrow and the engine started making a funny noise. Percy Haslem the local garage owner took a look at it, big ends gone Phil not a lot we can do with these V8 engines, the crank will need grinding ask your Kath about that.
Mum had fitted big ends in Vickers and reluctantly agreed with Percy. Taxi idea gone snow gone Kenneth arrives, Waterloo is even more inviting. ‘Say Phil theirs a job going at our place’ said Walter Batty coop milkman, ‘what do I need to do’, come with me this afternoon I will introduce you to the boss. The boss was ex army so no problem.
Kathleen was delighted, Phil had been drinking too much of late, and the new job would settle him down. Horse and cart, that's how milk was delivered, they had the very latest all mod cons! Milk bottles were the new way of doing it. Bottles had replaced the old way of having a large churn and label. It was possible to drop milk off and pick up the empties without knocking, also the customers bought tokens from the coop shops and left them with the empties.
This was a great improvement, with the horse walking down the road slowly the milkman and his lad could deliver each side of the road. Dad said it was easy until some do-gooder kind hearted sole decided to feed the horse, once it had been fed the thing stopped every day and wouldn't move until it got its bread. The shout don't feed the B-horse was a regular sound, dad loved the horses after finishing the round it was muck out the stable rub down the horse. Rubbing down the horse with a hand full of straw was the way to get to know the horse, if it liked you it wouldn't kick you, if it didn't like you it could make your life a misery, many’s a man has had a kick off a bad tempered horse.
Back working dad found a new confidence, Kenneth was a good baby, Kathleen was soon pregnant again. It was off to the council office again, this time they had enough points to go on the list. Dad settle down his routine was up at 5 00am into the coop yard 6 00 horse ready and on the road by 6 30 back in the yard by 12 30, he would always pick up his Express and Sporting Chronicle on the way to work, at 9 00 he would have a break, picking his horses was a serious job not to be disturbed, each way doubles trebles Yankees all had to be taken into account, by now dad was winning more than he lost.
John (me) arrived 10 June 1948 back down to the council office, this time ‘if you wait here ill check’, as I thought theirs a release coming up. Brow Avenue will be realised next week, come back on Monday and I will have some news for you. With no furniture to call their own, Money was not a problem, they had savings, on the Saturday they went shopping, a cooker, bed, and a second hand three piece suite.
Mum paid and everything was going well, except when they got back to 62 Harrison St with two both babies in the pram, mum had put her hand bag with the savings under the cover on the pram, on looking for it, there was no bag, it was missing, gone!
Dad was off like a shot, back up town but nothing. In the bag had been £100+ also national INS cards ration card marriage certificate the entire things required on Monday for getting the council house. It was decided that Kenneth at 15 months was in the kicking stage and must have kicked the bag out. Sunday morning dad out delivering milk, knock at the door, it was a policeman, straight away mum thought something had happened to dad.
The policeman asked ‘are you Mrs. Parkinson’, she was shaking with shock, we have had a hand bag handed in, relieved she started to crying, if you can confirm your Mrs Parkinson I can hand it over. She said ‘everything was in the bag’, she couldn’t prove who she was, OK said the policeman, what was in the bag? All my savings my ration book and all the other things! Sorry there is no money, the bag was found in a hedge in Abbey Rd. When dad got home he was so happy to have got the bag back because they could still get the council house.
We can always save up again. Dad finished his round as early as he could on the Monday, with all the paper work done number 10 Brow Avenue became the new home of the Parkinson family. The government were building thousands of new council houses all over Great Briton they were to a high quality, they had three bedrooms bathroom toilet upstairs and down stairs, kitchen and large sitting room. Neither dad or mum ever had so much room, they had shared bedrooms with brothers and sisters all their lives.
When they told Bridget they were moving out she said good, the relationship between dad and Bridget was never good, dad said years later leaving 62 Harrison St was one of the best days of his life. Can you imagine the feeling of moving into a brand new semi-detached house, all your life having to share beds baths no hot running water. Mum loved it even after losing all her savings, no carpets scraping the ice off the inside of the windows when you get up in the morning.
Marvellous, it was on the outskirts of town, dad had to buy one of those petrol powered mopeds, a bicycle with a small engine, getting to work was a lot easier he didn't have to walk. With a garden to clear after the builders, rubble was everywhere, he borrowed the horse and cart and got top soil mixed it with the plenty full horse manure, dad loved doing the garden, lawn at the front and side vegetables in the back, as long as the horse muck is well rotted you can grow anything, the coop where moving away from horses, dad still kept his, but for how long he didn't know.
The new electric milk float were harder work than the horses, as the driver you had to be getting in and out all the time, but you didn’t have to feed it and rub it down and it didn't kick you. A year after moving in everything seen wonderful, Kenneth was 26 months old and already forgiven over the bag, John was 13 months and a real handful, he look like angel and behaved like a little devil, a real handful dad would put me in the pram and walk for miles just to get me to sleep, mum had her bad moments, aunty Mary would help out baby sitting on Friday or Saturday night, while dad and mum went to the Waterloo for the sing along.
With a routine things got better, mum would go shopping and leave the two boys at 62 Harrison St, grandma would feed us boiled bacon and cabbage a good old Irish recipe. Dad stayed well away from Bridget going to the Waterloo on Saturday afternoon, the sporting chronicle was his best friend picking winners was easy. At that time betting was only legal on the racecourse, every pub had a bookies runner, and this man would take the bets to the bookie, usually at the back door of a local shop. Dick Evans Silver King was the local bookie, he would go to all racecourses and dog races. Dad would bet on anything, not a lot of money but on all types of races.
In these austere times the government kept the rationing that was introduced in war time. With this a lot of people had allotments, these where patches of land that you could have hens pigs and grow every different type of vegetable, dad went back to the council office and put his name down on a waiting list,
July 1949 saw mum fall pregnant again this Catholic Birth control, was not working, dad was over the moon, mum was still thinking about it. Red waters allotment number six, it’s a mess the last tenant had let it go. Rats were always a problem, cats were at a premium. Jack shields another of the coop milkmen wanted to share the allotment.
The way you got the allotment was by applying every week, they promised they would produce vegetables pigs and chickens. At this time with rationing in the UK, food was really in short supply. Dad and Jack worked day and night, chicks had to be in heated conditions, pigs were bought as a sow in labour. Each sow could have 10 piglets, the business plan was, buy a sow for £10. Raise ten piglets. After 10 weeks sell piglets @ £1 00 each, then the sow would be serviced by a bore for £2 00.
After 12 months the investment was repaid as long as you didn't lose the sow Vegetables were different, buying plants from suppliers were cheap, 50 cabbage plants for 6 pence. It was a good way to help the rationing, after the war Germany Belgium Holland and northern France were starving, Britain was sending food. Just to keep the civilians alive.
After five years of war the whole food chain had disintegrated, Britain imported food from the commonwealth countries and sent it straight to the continent, Berlin was under the control of the allies, Russian troops controlled the area around Berlin, the RAF had to airlift all the food in. Russia would have let the whole population starve, The siege of Stalingrad was the worst war crime of the second world war, the German army surrounded Stalingrad and tried to starve the whole population.
The Allies would not allow the Russians to stave the whole of Berlin. This was the start of the cold war. Dad wanted to do his bit to ease the rationing, chickens eggs pork potatoes lettuce onions sprouts, cauliflower, gooseberries, black currents, rhubarb all on the menu, and horse manure was the best fertiliser, with the coop horses being phased out it was get as much as you could while they still had horses. Times changed no more horses, an ex army Bedford replaced the horses, M2 Bedford it had to be started with a handle, holding the handle without looping your thumb meant if it kicked back as you turned the engine over it did not break your thumb. Many times you would have to turn over the engine with a quick twist hoping it would start.
One day young John had a temperature, dad had to go to the chemist for a prescription, he pulled up outside leaving the engine running(it wouldn't start once it was hot) coming out there was a policeman stood beside the Bedford, ‘it’s an offence to leave a vehicle with its engine running sir’, ‘sorry officer it’s a bit of a devil to start’, your problem sir, name address date of birth, you will have to attend court’. Dad never forgave this policeman, it was the only time he went to court for anything.
The job changed with the arrival of the Bedford, longer rounds, he also had to deliver grocery for the coop shops, Monday Wednesday and Friday. In those days bosses changed your job when they wanted to, starting at six sometimes not finished until six at night for the same money. This never left to much time for the allotment.
Kathleen’s pregnancy was not going well; the two boys were a handful. Dad suggested the two boys could go to Carnforth, his youngest sister Joyce said she could look after them with the help of grandma, Carnforth was a hive of activity, six girls looking after two little boys, and we were there from 2nd September until the 30th. Great grandfather Daniel Parkinson would call in to see how the young ones were doing. Being nearly ninety he was quite a character, playing dominoes and darts down the shovel.
As the time passed mum got better, after a month of rest she was able to cope. Dad and mum came from Barrow to pick us up, we had been fussed over and they had had a good rest. Trina arrived 22 April 1950, dad had his allotment and working full time so aunty Mary came to stay, she would help mum with the kids before going to work at the social security office.
It was good times for the Parkinson clan. Dads pigs took a lot of looking after, organising the collection of pig swill from friends and family and the left over’s from the coop shops. At this time Jack Shields left the coop milk and got a job on nights at Listers Velvert, he would go to the pigs on his way home in the mornings, dad doing the late shift. The pigs were supposed to go to the market for sale, because of rationing it was illegal to kill the pigs yourself, but everybody knew a butcher that would kill and chop up a pig, being paid with a choice cut.
Since coming home dad was settling into a regular routine Jack doing morning’s dad doing the teatime at the allotments. After Trina was born everything improved mum got over her depression, Mary went back to 62 Harrison St, dad had a bad winter on the milk he was suffering from bunions. These are caused by not looking after your feet as a youngster, his shoes must have been to tight, add to this he had chilblains, and he could hardly walk.
This was to be the end of the road for the Bedford, 1950 saw the ex army vehicles replaced with new electric milk floats and bigger rounds. The afternoon deliveries were every day, dad found he was working morning noon and night seven days a week.
Christmas 1952 was a cold and wet affair with the wind blowing from the north. Dad put his heavy army coat on to keep him warm. Going to work on his auto cycle in the rain was a miserable experience, in at 6 am, load the truck with 30 crates of milk all outside, there was no working under cover. 6 30 truck loaded still waiting from his milk lad to arrive; they are always late and usually useless.
The lads had just left school and on minimum wage, there job was to help the milkman. They would go out at night and sleep in next morning; the milkmen would load up and then go round to their homes and bang on the door until they got up. Just as dad was creating about his lad, he arrived: Not to bad after all, they set off to go onto Walney Island; over the high level bridge and start delivering milk.
Dad was soaked to the skin and not feeling too much like Christmas day. ‘Merry Christmas Phil’, It was jack Jones from number 42 Dover St. ‘oh yes jack merry Christmas to you I’m frozen’ ‘Do you want a nip to warm you up’ ‘ Is the pope catholic?, not half!’ Whiskey do! Cheers! With a good glass of whiskey warming him up, things started to look up, half an hour later it was merry Christmas again and another whiskey. By the end of the round he was half cut and wishing everybody merry Christmas!
Back to the yard onto the Auto cycle to ride home with bottles of milk in his pockets, cream inside his shirt, thinking were going to have a good Christmas: Bang and down he goes, milk all over the place, cream coming out of his shirt. Drunk by 12 o’clock Christmas day but no damage done only his pride damaged. MERRY CHRISTMAS.
Dad worked for the Co-op for another four years. Sharron arrived in march 1953, mum got into a routine four children under six were a handful, she still went to 62 Harrison St were Bridget would have the children while mum went shopping on three or four days a week. Kenneth and John were in school Trina and Sharron were like angels.
The allotment going flat out, thing couldn’t be better. Dad loved his Saturday afternoons! Mum at 62 Harrison St with the kids, him and Jack Shields in the Waterloo with a beer and having a bet, the only thing to upset him was he loved the thought of working for himself, he would be talking about buying different businesses, he thought about a taxi, a coal round, window cleaning, every suggestion was met with not at the moment, mum had the same answer, Always it was the same! when the kids are older.
1953 was coronation year, King George the sixth had died the previous year, Princess Elizabeth was to be crowned in June. This was the biggest celebration to be planned for years, everybody got into the party mood, and the new television age was about to start.
George Downey the man that mum had been seeing when dad was missing had become a family friend ever since, he had a TV shop in Rawlinson Street, and was doing very nicely. Dad got the idea that it would be good to buy a TV, they were in short supply because of the coronation, so it was down to Rawlinson St, ‘hay George good to see you’ ‘hi Phil what can I do for you,’ ’have you got a TV I can buy’? .you know there in short supply’ well can you find one for us, ‘Kathleen would love to watch the coronation’, ‘let me see what I can do’. Dad went back a week later and there it was a 12 inch Bush TV, it was second hand but like new, .you’ll need an Ariel, but ‘I’m very busy at the moment’, ‘I could come! Round next Wednesday and fit one’!’ That’s cutting it fine for the Coronation’; you won’t let us down will you.
June 6th 1953 was the big day, the only TV in the Street was in our house and everybody wanted to watch the coronation on the 12 inch bush, the whole street had planned a street party. With the TV in our house, the party was in our front garden.
Rationing had just finished, good food was new to everybody, sandwiches cakes jelly and fruits apples orange and bananas, and then there was pops of all flavours. All the adults were in the house watching the coronation; all the kids were playing in the garden waiting to start eating. 3oclock arrived queen was crowned and the kids were starving, let the party begin!
The men had put bottles of stout in a big tub to keep cool, no fridges those days. Mum with all the women feed the kids it was the biggest and best party any would have for years. Over the next few weeks’ things settled back to normal except for the TV, children’s hour was the time for Roy Rogers’s, Hoppalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger. 5 oclock and every kid in the street wanted to come in and watch children’s hour, quite a big problem, try telling them they can’t come in.
With 1953 behind and 1954 plodding along dad settled into a routine. Jack shields was still working nights and feeding the animals in the morning, dad started his quest for a business of his own. 1955 saw the council house building program going flat out and dad decided he would leave the coop milk, he had the idea that with all the new houses being built, the new occupants would need a milkman. Thing were different those days everybody had a milkman.
His biggest competitor would be the Co-op so let battle begin, the way you paid for your coop milk was you went to a coop store and bought token which you left with your empty bottles, this way you were paying for your milk in advance. Dad’s idea was he would leave the milk all week and he would call on a Friday to collect the money, this way nobody was paying in advance. The business plan worked like this, collect milk from the milk marketing board dairy at six in the morning, then you deliver to your customers, on Friday you go round collect the money. The dairy sent a bill at the end of the month and this had to be paid at the end of the following month.
This allowed for the business to be cash positive, Once dad had decided what he wanted to do, he set about planning the exit from the coop, and plan the start of his new business, firstly he did the unforgivable, he asked his customer if he gave them a free weeks milk would they change to his round. Money was still in short supply and quite a lot of customers agreed, they would be two weeks better off.
Having set the date he gave notice and quit in April 1955. He joined Jack Shields at Lister Velvet on the night shift working 10 00 until 6 00 in the morning, he had purchased a small Bradford van so it was straight to the dairy pick up enough milk for his new round. At first it was less than six crates, the round he had at the coop was Walney Island so that was where he based his new round. From the first morning dad knew he could make it work, three new estates where under construction.
Himalaya Ave, Margate Street, and Rainey park, all were being built by a large council work force, it was as though the whole of Walney was being rebuilt. Every evening dad would visit the estates to see which houses were nearing completion, he would watch for the tell tale signs that the house had been released. Paint pot on the window sill’s bulbs in the light fittings paper on the windows, once he had seen movement he would visit as they say morning noon and night until he caught them in. He would offer one week free milk plus one week credit, this was all it took to get a customer.
The Co-op would try to dissuade dad new customers by saying he wasn’t reliable, but dad would deliver on time every day. With working nights at Listers it was finish at six, into the van and off to deliver the milk on time every day. At this time Vickers Armstrong were building new ships for the navy and attracting workers from all over the country, dad looked on them all as new customers.
Refrigerators were very thin on the ground, only shops had them, milk going sower was an everyday occurrence, before you used it you always put the bottle to your nose and give it a nif, The round was growing so fast, there was a problem with the Bradford van, the engine was worn out, dad went to see Percy Haslem the local garage mechanic, ‘what will I do Percy I can’t have it off the road’ ‘ring up Bradford, they do a reconditioned engine and they will fit it in a day’.
Bradford vans were called after the town they were made in BRADFORD, after arranging, the day came to fit the engine, Bradford was nearly a hundred miles from Barrow, it had to be a very early start! Before setting off he had to deliver his round, he arranged to pick up the milk in the early hours, the dairy was a twenty four hour operation.
Travelling to Bradford was a long way, with the engine belching black smoke, Barrow to Kendal on the A590 Skipton to Ilkley and Bradford on the A66, and eventually arriving at 10 am. It was an old mill used as a factory nothing fancy, by 5pm the engine had been replaced and it was time to go home, dad said of this day ‘never again’! Too much for one man, with a new engine the trip back was much better, after this the Bradford gave many more years of good service.
1957 was the year of the fire at Calder Hall, the nuclear power station situated at Sea Scale in Cumberland, thirty miles from Barrow. The fire could have been the worst disaster the World had ever known, a design fault in the cooling system meant that if the reactor over heated, very large fans had been constructed to blow cool air in to reduce the heat, it was only when the reactor caught fire they turned on the fans, instead of blowing the fire out they turned the whole thing into a blow torch.
The operators were told the fans would blow the flames out, after ten minutes of full power thing were getting worse, instead of cooling it was getting hotter! In the manual it forbid the use of water, under no circumstance could they use water, after what seemed like an age they were looking at a meltdown. Graham Holmes the operator on duty knew that on melt down, there would be a disaster like the world had never known, there would be a no go area as large as the north of England, it could have kill a millions of people. Everybody would die! Graham grabbed the fire hose, turned off the fans and took a deep breath, pointed the fire hose at the fire, whoosh and the fire went out.
Graham saved the day, but nobody would find out, the top secret D notice, meant silence, he was side tracked because he disobeyed an order, the government of the day tried to hush the whole thing up, only to come out years later. All fresh milk had to be poured down the drains as the radiation released had affected the milk, dad had to wait for milk to arrive from outside the area, this was the only time dad ever missed a delivery.
4th of May 1957 saw the arrival of Angela, number five, with this large family, his job at Listers, the allotment, and the now large milk round, something had to give! With great regret he gave his notice in at Lister and relied solely on the milk round. Jack Shields told dad he would be giving up the allotment, on his own without Listers dad had more than enough time for the milk and the allotment.
Granddad had a major accident on his motor bike, he was travelling along with his mate on pillion, there was a large pothole that he hadn’t seen, as he hit it, he lost control and hit a lamppost on the other side of the road, both were taken to hospital. Sam was in a bad way; his right arm was so badly broken it had to be removed. Dad had to travel to Lancaster to be at granddads bedside, Sam took an age to get over the loss of his right arm, no more darts snooker; it was going for a walk with Nora and playing dominoes with one hand.
With five children to support, it was good that the milk round was going well, he was selling three hundred pints of milk per day with a profit of four pounds a day, this amount didn’t sound too good until you times it by seven. £28 pounds per week when a police man would get only £10 per week, we were rich against everybody else in the street.
1958 saw the arrived of a brand new milk van, a flat fronted Austin commercial with sliding front doors. This was dad pride and joy, after finishing the milk round with the help of his two eldest boys, he would load up with the five kids and mum plus a very large picnic for a trip to the lakes, Fell Foot was the favourite destination. We would go most Sundays weather permitting. It was the time to enjoy motoring, dad liked to fill the van up with passengers, you could have called the van the first mini bus, milk crates with cushions on were lined across the van in rows. Cartmel races on whit Saturday and Monday were the big days out, hound trails in the morning, horse racing in the afternoon.
Dad would get up early, deliver the milk and off we would go, Whitsun was the time of the year for the rhododendrons around Holker Hall, there blooms were magnificent, people from Barrow would get the train and walk the two miles from the station. After picking up everybody we knew on the way, the kids would stand at the front around the driving seat so the gate man couldn’t see how many were in the back, once in it was kids to the fair ground and dad and mum to the beer tent, there would be hound trails up until racing started at 2pm. The hounds would follow the scent up the fells and around the hill tops and back, you needed to know the dogs in form and you could get good odds, dad always knew the good dogs, this was a good start to the horse racing, win on the hounds and you could have a good bet on the horses without losing your own money. I remember many times dad having big wins at Carmel, he would take us all on the fair ground before setting off home.
1958 also saw dad buy a milk round from James Robertshaw on Barrow Island, he paid the going rate of £10 per gallon, this was £10 for every eight pints per day delivered, the Barrow Island round totalled 35 gallons, costing dad £350 the price of a small house. Barrow Island is next to Vickers shipyard and made up of five story tenements known locally as Old Barrow. The purchase of this round changed everything for dad and us lads, the tenement owned by British Railways were a place where young couples could get a flat without having to have children, every week people would be moving out to council houses on Walney Island,
Kenneth sat the eleven plus and passed it. He started at the technical collage September 1959, for passing dad bought him a racing bike, after Christmas Kenneth joined the Barrow Central Wheelers cycling club, for the next seven year the cycling club became the centre of our lives for Ken and I, When I failed the eleven plus I had to buy myself a second hand bicycle, I was helping dad on Saturdays and Sundays and getting pocket money. With this bicycle I would travel to Old Barrow everyday to catch people moving in, dad would pay me 10 shilling for every new customer, with this money Ken and I could buy parts to build proper racing bikes. Dad joined in by helping us to get the best deals on parts.
With all the new customers the money started to build up and dad and mum where looking for a new house, they would go looking at properties all round Barrow and Walney but it was difficult to find a property that fit the requirement. Dad wanted somewhere to run a business from, mum wanted a nice four bedroom house to bring up what was a large and growing family. Pregnant again, Patsy arrived September 1962 to come-on Phil we must find a four bed roomed house.
5 Argyle St in the Salthouse area of Barrow came up for sale, it seemed the ideal house, there was a dairy with large fridge room, a large yard and garage that could hold four cars, the big problem was it was only three bed rooms. When mum went to see it she could see it was ideal for a large family, the rooms where large, the front bedroom could easy hold two double beds. We moved in late 1962, the house was in need of decorating but basically in good repair.
Kenneth and I were very pleased as we were going to Old Barrow on our bikes before school, it was much shorter travelling to Old Barrow from Argyle St than it was from Brow Avenue, we would set off at seven thirty, and race each other to meet dad at eight o’clock, dad would set off on his round after listening to the American forces news on the radio at four thirty, he would deliver with the help of milk lads his round on Walney, and arrive to meet us at eight, we would spend the next forty minutes running up and down flights of steps with milk, this was some way to get fit.
When we moved dad gave up his allotment, some nights he would go to the local whippet club to watch the races, he loved dogs and wanted to own one, Brian Fiscally owned a whippet named Stride On, he wanted to buy a pup from a good breeder, dad went halves with Brian to buy March On. After many months of training it was time to race, whippet racing is on a handicap principle, new dogs start mid field until they win, if they win the start box is moved back, if they lose they move the start box forward. March On won one race after another and was soon a scratch dog, meaning he started at the back on every race, there were other clubs in Dalton Ulveston and Millom, they each had racing on different days of the week. The only way was to travel around different clubs to get good odds on the bookies, my job in this was to go with dad and fizzer, and before we got to the races they would drop me off, and I would walk about a mile to the course and arrive just before the race, this stopped the dog getting to excited and also stopped people seeing March On before the race, he looked every bit the best dog in the race.
With all this success dad and fizzer decided to have a challenge scratch race putting up £100 for the winner, March on had never been beaten by any scratch dog, invitation where sent to all the whippet clubs in the north of England, on the day of the race dogs arrived from all over Lancashire and Yorkshire. The races were in three heats and a final, all went well for March on in his heat, and a dog from St Helens romped home in his heat and put a right cat among the pigeons. The trouble was in whippet racing the difference between a whippet and a grey hound is the height at the shoulders, whippets in Barrow had a maximum height of 20 inches, in St Helens it was 21 inches. Dad knew the big dog from St Helens was going to win, dad being dad decided to bet against his own dog, March On being a local dog was favourite with the bookies, dad put enough money on the big dog so when it won he would not be too much out of pocket.
The milk round had now become a family business, Kenneth and I work Monday to Friday before school and took turns to work Saturday and Sunday, Trina and Sharron would help with collecting the money on Thursday and Friday nights. With all of us trying to get new customers the round was growing daily, It was a seven day week, no holidays or days off, dad would finish by ten each morning, he would rinse the van out to stop it stinking of sower milk, the dairy would deliver milk at eleven o’clock each day for delivery next day, this was placed in the fridge room to keep it fresh. Dad enjoyed the afternoons he would go to the Waterloo and the betting shop, some evenings he would walk the whippets with Brian Fizakely, and others nights he would be in bed by 10 o’clock.
One Saturday morning I was with dad when he had to return to one of the customers because the customer had been out when we called for the milk money and he owed two weeks, dad knocked at the door but had no response so he knocked harder, eventually the door open and the man of the house started shouting at dad. After a short exchange dad thumped the guy on the chin, knocking the guy to the floor, their then was a discussion with dad standing over him holding him by the scruff of the neck. Eventfully dad let go, the guy stood up put his hand in his pocket and paid for the milk. Dad returned to the van in a right old mood, he told me later what had been said! The guy had said why are you banging on my door, dad told him he wanted two weeks milk money! The guy said you will get nothing so b-off saying I was out in Burma for six months while you sat on your arse. That’s when dad hit him and went on to tell him he had spent five years in Burma. That was the first time I heard about Dad being in Burma, he never used to mention anything about it.
It was now the swinging sixties Beatles Stones and Joseph Locke dad and mum were big on Andy Williams, there was lots of “ you can turn that rubbish off” to us kids, we would watch top of the pops to dad saying they can’t sing and they need a hair cut. After the arrival of Patsy the family was complete and mum was as happy as she could be.
Ken and I started racing our bikes with Barrow Central Wheelers in early 1963, dad was very encouraging and helped us by running us around, We had to have the right cloths as well as the racing bikes. Any extra cash was needed to buy the racing shorts jerseys shoes track suits, with us working every morning and weekends dad made sure we were able to manage. After twelve months racing on Wednesday night and Sunday morning Kenneth was really good for his age, I was every young and I struggled to keep up with the other guys, some of the club members were very good one even rode for England, John Bettinson was a draftsman working for Vickers Armstrong, Ken and I would see him going to work in the morning on his racing bike, we were so impressed we just wanted to copy him, that year he rode in the tour of Britain for England.
Dad was so impressed with him we would get the Express every morning to see how he was doing. When the tour was in the lakes we all went to see it, I couldn’t believe the spectacle of all those guy trying so hard to win I was hooked, after that day I just wanted to win, we would go training every night with John Bettinson and the rest of the racing squad.
1964 another good year for the Parkinson family Ken and I stayed with grandad and grandma in Carnforth while we were racing in Morecombe, it was the first time we had been away from home on our own, dad gave us the weekend off. I remember the racing Ken and I did really good as school boy racers and the club as a whole won many of the races after this we had the real bug for racing, the next outing was to the I O Man, we flew from Squiresgate airport Blackpool in an old Dakota aeroplane a leftover from the war. The Dakota was converted to carry passengers, on arriving at the check-in desk their was a weighing scale you had to sit on with your luggage and your bike, everybody was weighed so the plane was not overloaded.
The tannoy called us to go to the plane for boarding this meant pick up your bike and luggage and walked across to the plane, the pilot and co pilot took our bikes and packed them in the back of the plane, some of the string seat had been removed to give extra space for the bikes, the cases were packed in the hold, on take-off the noise was deafening, it only took 35 minutes to get across the sea, quite long enough in string seats and vibration shaking the wits out of you. On arrival the airport was just a small building with no room for all the passengers coming from all over the country for the cycling week and those going home from the motorcycle TT races it was bedlam. I remember the trip to Douglas on the bus everybody had to shout hello fairs as we went over fairy glen, our B&B was a large Victorian house in a large square of large Victorian houses, we slept four to a room in bunk beds, meals were served in a large dinning room, when the bell sounded you had five minutes to get to your place or miss your meal, Moorage the girl from Glasgow waited on tables and was very popular with the lads in the club, meal time were a highlight of the day, but the food wasn’t.
The racing was the best quality, all the best amateur and professional riders were involved five times tour de France winner Jacques Anquitell and all the professional team were there it was like a circus they flew in on special aeroplanes the day before the race, it was so exciting all the razzmatazz
Before the main race the amateur I.O.M International race was our big one the club had a team led by John Bettinson, Three laps of the TT circuits 110 miles, after two laps we were in the grandstand when John Bettinson came though in a break of six riders, we couldn’t believe our eyes, three minutes passed before the chasing pack arrived. On the next lap John attacked on the mountain and went clear on his own, I can still hear the commentary all these years later “John Bettingson of Barrow central wheelers is out in front” We all were up on our feet cheering as he came over the line ahead of a mass sprint for second place. This put our club on the map as a major player in amateur cycling, I raced in the schoolboys race and was well beaten by a guy called Sid Barass (later super Sid who went on to win stage sprints in the Tour de France)
The professional race was won by a young Eddie Merck’s his first professional race, Eddie went on to win five Tour de Frances, many say he was the best cyclist ever. All the professionals were staying in a large hotel at the bottom of our road, Ken and I hung about outside waiting to get autographs, I bought a pair of cycling shorts of Anquetal, they were my pride an joy for years We went to the I.O.M another two years, nothing could keep us away
Dad always encouraged us, even when it meant starting the round really early so we could get to the races, He would travel with us to the local races when ever he could, we always liked it if mum and dad came to watch us. My favourite was the Wednesday time trial Ten mile and Twenty Five mile, we travelled to Ulverston on our bikes and raced, the idea is you start at one minute intervals and race against the clock over a set ten mile or twenty-five mile coarse. After the race we would all travel back to Barrow in a mass bunch, it was like racing with the best cyclists in the country, we could mix it with the best. 1964 a member of our club Mike Cowley was a member of the British Olympic road race team back from the Japanese Olympics, It was a ten mile time trial, Mike started off one minute behind me, I was determined not let him catch me, with teeth clenched and only thinking go go go I stormed down to the ten turn and was on my way back when I noticed he was still a minute behind me I put my head down and just turn the peddles as fast as I could, with toe clips you pull up as well as push down on the peddles, it was a perfect night and everybody was flying I passed two men and could only think of staying ahead of Mike, at the finish I was still ahead infact I was more than two minutes ahead of our Olympian. 21 minutes 47 seconds a coarse record, I was just sixteen and I had beaten one of the fastest men in the country, Dad said that’s my boy.
One of the reasons for Ken and I’s fitness was the flats on Old Barrow, we would ride to meet dad racing each other all the way, the flats were four story high and we had to run up and down delivering bottles of milk from a twelve bottle hand crates, the flats were in blocks, twelve to a street and their were eight street, running three at a time up and down the steps must have built our young muscles then we would sprint to school usually late and get the cane for our trouble. One of the masters was caning the late comers, it was my turn, I put my hand out and the master looked at me and instead of caning me he ask me to go to the head master, I had been late a few times in the last few weeks, I waited outside the heads office thinking I was in for six of the best.
This year at school was different to the other year because I was the only person in my class to stay on for the extra year, I had to go to classes with the A stream, because of my maths I could tackle some of the courses. I would be able choose the lessons I liked (maths technical drawing metalwork) were the ones I got G C Es in.
Mum always liked to know how everybody in the club was getting on, Dad knew all the guys and would pile us all in the back of the milk van to get us to races, when Ken got to seventeen he took his driving test, after passing his test dad bought us a big old car to go to the races in. The Morris Oxford was a big version of the Morris Minor, Ken was driving us to Workington for an early season race, as we travel towards Millom, the car was hard to handle on the wet road, those day before M O Ts if the tyres were hard it didn’t matter if the was no tread. We came round a corner at speed and went straight though the hedge and into the field, hitting the ground with a bump, we stop dead in the mud and just as we thought we had got off lucky our bike complete with the roof rack came shooting off the roof, wheels frames peddles were all bent and we were sat their looking as the bikes crashed into the field, their would be no racing that day.
Mud was everywhere we were walking round picking up bit of bikes and trying to put the roof rack back on, when we tried to move the Morris it was going nowhere, I went off to the nearest farm it was early morning and raining, the farmer was not to pleased to see the hole in his hedge and a car up to its axle’s in mud, before he would get his tractor out to pull us out he wanted to know who was going to pay for his hedge, Dad to the rescue, I ask to use the phone to ring dad, he was not home when I rang but mum answered and said dad would ring when he got home.
When the phone did ring the first thing dad said was, “are you hurt Mr Hutchinson asked me into his office “now tell me why you are late “I’m sorry sir but I have to help my dad with his milk round before school” “couldn’t you leave earlier, then you wouldn’t be on the late list” “I do try sir but this morning the bridge was up” “right go to your class and don’t worry I read in the news about you represented Lakeland in the schoolboys cycle race” I never got the cane again. My last” I said we were all OK but the car wasn’t to good he said it doesn’t matter about the car as long as everybody is safe. He told the farmer “I will come with the money for the hedge” because of the way Dad spoke to him, the farmer said “don’t worry you can send it in the post when I find out how much it will cost”. The tractor arrived with chain and before long we were on the move and back on the road, the tractor had bent the bumper but the farmer had a big sledgehammer , before long we were on our way home.
When the bill arrived for the hedge dad said it was a small price to pay for a lesson leaned and never mentioned it again. When I was sixteen I was driving the milk van to get used to driving, I left school with three G C Es thinking I would get a job in Vickers or an apprentership in a local garage, I went for three interveiws for appenticeships in local garages and Vickers, after being offered a job as a fitter and turner in Vickers I asked Dad if I could stay working for him? I had left school in the June and was to start in Vickers in the September, nearly Three months to make up my mind, the day before I was to start in Vickers Dad agreed that I could carry on working with him.
The milk round was a great job for a budding cyclist, I would be finished by 9 00am and out on my bike by 10 30, when the winter started I looked for a part time job, not much fun training in the winter, Dads friend Bob Wright had opened a cash and carry warehouse and was looking for staff, I went for an interview and got the job as vehicle unloader, no fork lifts those days, we would have vehicles queuing up all day long. Every Friday a 32 ton truck from Heinze would be waiting at the the door to be unloaded, we had to unload all twenty pallets of beans/soup by hand, The driver would pass the boxes to me and I would have to throwe the cases along a line or stack the boxes on empty pallets, sometimes we stacked them over ten foot high.
Another job was to unload sides of Polish bacon, my job was to wash the sides with salted water in a tin bath, in those days bacon was cured not refrigerated, it smelt like the worst smelly feet, after a good rub down in my bath it was the best bacon you could eat. We would hang the sides up and they sold like hot cakes, all this and my morning round added up to a very healthy training regime. I stayed at the warehouse thoughout the winter and enjoyed the hard work, cycling in the winter was an adhock affair, going to the lakes on a bike and finding the biggest mountain and carrying your bike to the top, their would be groups of walkers with all the mountain climbing gear, after climbing to the top we would try to ride down the rough stuff.
April the beginning of the cycling season saw me starting training as fit as a butchers dog 1964 was a good year for both ken and I.
Ken got a job with post office telecommunications later British telecom, starting as a trainee technical officer, a year on the tools then off to collage in Lancaster, while in Lancaster Ken stayed with dads sister Joyce, I had been in Kens shadow, all of a sudden I was on my own, Ken made lots of friends and would travel to Manchester for nights out, very in for a lad from Barrow, Weekends became time to catch up with what Ken had done though the week. The twisted wheel club in Manchester was to place to go in the sixties.
10th of June 1965 was my seventeenth birthday, in those days there was a long wait for driving tests, Dad sent off for a driving test for me before I was seventeen, It arrived for the 17th June, this meant I only had one week to practice (I had been driving the milk van for months before I was seventeen) The test was on a Saturday morning at 10 oclock, this was a good time for a test, we were up early me doing all the driving on the round.
The milk van only had one seat the drivers seat, a wooden box used to store the eggs was the passenger seat, the instructor to one look at it and said this wont do, its not safe if you make an emergency stop the eggs will be every where, I said that it had been there for years and had never moved, he looked at me shock his head and got in. One hour later with all the eggs safe and the test finished I sat there thinking yes or no he looked at me smiled an said I am very pleased to tell you your test was successful you have passed.
With Ken in Lancaster all week I had the Morris Oxford to go out in, now the Morris was not the best car in the world. The best bit was you could get six people and all the bikes on the roof, I was now very popular with all the lads at the club, their was a new attraction in the form of girls, I had four sister and all their mates to look after, the day after I passed my test I had my first crash, taking a run at Hawcoat hill not allowing for wet roads and a sharp corner left me facing the wrong way sliding into a parked car, this is the quickest way of learning to drive properly. Knocking on the door to tell somebody you just wacked their car is a whole new experience, take into account this is a policeman’s car and you grow up fast. Telling him I just passed my test was a hoot, I thought he was going to go ballistic but he saw the funny side especially when I told him I would pay for the damage, the car was an old ford popular worth about twenty pounds so I offered him five pounds to bye a new bumper that I had dented.
Five pounds would easy bye a new bumper from Fords, P C Jones never brought a bumper and every time I saw him the dent was still their! He always waved and laughed every time we met in the future. Five pounds was what it cost to find out you could turn any bad news into good news. The milk round change with me helping with the driving dad and I would work alternate week ends I would work Saturdays if I was racing on the Sunday morning and dad could take mum away for weekends. Dad had worked every day for twenty years!
After my epic ten mile time trial I was going like a train in training, we went to the I O M, and I was hoping for a big win in the junior race, This time we were to sail from Liverpool to Douglas, their was racing on the proem at New Brighton, my race ended in a bunch sprint and I was in the lead with one lap to go thinking I’ve got this! I was passed by the bunch in the last 100m that was to be my last race. In the I O M I was larking about on a trampoline when I came down the side frame with my right thigh. The pain was un believable I ruptured the muscle and could not walk for six months without a walking stick, the rest of the week was like a blur nothing seemed to add up I was in so much pain I just wanted to go home. As usual the lads did well I wanted to get back on my bike but my thigh was so painful I could not do a full revolution of the peddles.
On returning home I could not drive or help on the round, dad took me to the physio who worked for Barrow football, he looked at my leg and said it was the worst case of rupture he had seen, after a month I could drive but was still in pain, I had to pack in working in the warehouse and just wait for better times, it was after about four months I still had a walking stick when I got a job with Inter Rentals a local TV rental company, my job was to drive the delivery van, delivering new rental TVs. The boss a guy called Doggie Wilks had everything a great big house just outside Ulerston, It was a Georgian mansion with large park and indoor swimming pool. On my first day I was given the keys to the warehouse and the code to the alarm, I remember the first time I went in and turned the alarm off, I thought this is really nice of them to trust me, The warehouse was full of new televisions and my job was to go into the shop in the mornings pick up the delivery notes and the Morris 1000 van go to the ware house and pick up the TVs to be delivered, the large boxes were really heavy and I would deliver the TVs and set them up, I would put a 13amp plug on the wire and plug into the electric then plug the Ariel in, the next bit was quite difficult turning in! I loved going into the shop to look at the new TVs radios and tape recorders, upstairs there was a work shop with two guys repairing TVS, they would take the micky out of everybody.
One day I went into the repair workshop and saw something I had never seen before, a portable cassette tape recorder! I was looking at it and the lads were taking the micky, put it down you cant afford it! bad move when I want something price is the last thing to say! I was looking at it and thinking that will just fit under the seat in the Mini I was thinking of buying, radios were only just getting popular! Until then eight track tape plays were all the go for though with the money, you couldn’t record, you had to bye recorded tapes. We had a Grundig radiogram at home, I would record the top twenty on Sunday night and all my albums, my Mini was the first Mobil disco, everywhere I went crowds gather around listening to all the latest music.
I loved the job until the day came for a stock take in the warehouse, the first I knew something was wrong was people talking about a robbery, the police arrived and everybody who had keys were called in to answer questions about the warehouse, I went home and told dad what had happened, he was the first to realise that I and the others with keys had been set up by Doggie, he had been creaming the company and blaming all the staff with keys, I left soon after and went to James Robinsons auction rooms, at the age of eighteen I would work as a porter all day from nine till five and after five I would deliver the good in the milk van. This went on for some months, my day started at four thirty, milk until eight thirty, auction room nine until five deliveries until seven thirty. Jack Robinson the owner of the sale room was in his late sixties, He had taken over from his father in the family business and was real old school in his appearance, He had been to young for the first war and to old for the second He was a good fair boss as long as we had the sale room tidy and and every two weeks the auction
This is the start of my business life, with the use of the bedford CAV van I could quote for the delivery of furniture from the sale room to the homes of customers, I had to get the charges right, to cheap and I would spoil the job for everybody. At first I charged just less than cooksey removals who had the contract for taking the furniture into the sale room, I then found out I could charge more if I delivered after five (first lesson in giving the customer what they wanted) and charge for it!
When Cooksey found out what I was doing, they complained to Mr Robinson that I was doing removals without a licence! Armed with the hand book on :A: licence I had to prove to Jack Robinson that because the van was less than 3.5 ton it didn’t need a :A: licence. After convincing Mr Robinson I was not braking any laws it was back to normal,
My income at this stage was £3.00 for milk round after keep plus 35 hours @ £0.30 per hour £10.50 and money for deliveries, total take home after keep £30 per week ( a tradesman would earn £20 per week without keep) I was now earning twice what most people in Barrow earned. The first thing I did was to buy the mini traveller I had been looking at in a local garage for £350 to replace the Morris oxford, in 1966 a mini was everybody’s dream
Cooksey had removal vans and also large arctics delivering for the new toilet roll factory, Bowater Scotts new factory was producing large amounts of toilet rolls and was paying good rates for transport, Because Cooksey was so busy he allowed me to do small collection going into the sale room, with dads help I would collect goods from around the Barrow area on my way to work, with the extra income I started looking for a removals van instead we bought a new larger milk delivery van, this was 50% larger allowing more furniture collections. My new roll collecting and delivering goods allowed me to advance my furniture removal ambitions, on the personal front I had a busy social life.
To update my work and social life I was up early 4 30 in the morning worked until 8 30 delivering milk, started collecting furniture to go to the auction rooms at 9 30. Dinnertime was 12-1 00pm I would go for dinner to local cafes and occasionally to the new Chinese restaurant, for 2 shilling you could get a three cause meal soup curry and a banana fritter times were a changing. With cycling behind me I started looking at the local talent, I remember going to the local coffee shop, I would take me little sister Patsy she was a little sweet, at two years old with long curly hair everybody stop to talk to her (what a way to pull the birds) I met my first wife there she stopped to talk to Patsy and it was a start of some very happy years with Kathryn Brown !!