Today’s Ellesmere Port paints a very different picture to the one artist DOUGLAS EDWARDS – now living in the United States – remembers as a child growing up in the 1940s and 50s. In the last of his this three pieces for the Pioneer, he shares his fond childhood memories of the town.
FROM 1943-6, Douglas Edwards used to walk along a cinder pathway at the bottom of Worcester Street, running alongside the old church, to the Church School.
“The less said about that grim place the better, for I was lucky enough to get a transfer to John Street Primary School in 1946 – a considerably less Spartan place, which had heating,” he explains.
Mr Edwards said: “So many characters seemed to exist in the Ellesmere Port I knew and so many have now, it seems, exited the stage of life.
“There was, for example, “Annie” of Cook Street. In an age when shops were closed on Sundays, should a bottle of lemonade or dandelion and burdock be needed with the Sunday lunch (Full Swing or Corona brands come to mind), there was always “Annie” to turn to.
“Entrance to her ‘shop’ was through the back yard and I cannot ever recall her unable to produce the kind of mineral water I was sent to purchase.
“There was also old Freddie, the crippled ‘newsboy’ who always had a good word for everyone as he shuffled along the town’s pavements from the Echo office in Meadow Lane calling out, “Exee-Echo”.
“This meant the Liverpool Express and Liverpool Echo had just arrived by bus from Birkenhead (escorted by an employee) and, in an age before televised football, these papers carried all the actual football results for Littlewoods or Vernon's Pools enthusiasts.
“Around the corner from the Echo office, and hidden behind a dilapidated wooden facade on Station Road, was a fish & chip shop (the name evades me) complete with a most compact condensation-covered corridor for customers to line up in.
“The place was so steamy and cramped but it served up the best fish and chips (although Russell’s in Church Street was also very good).
“It was a popular shop during and after the war years and, once served, the customers would very often take their orders and consume them over the road, in the permanently-covered fairground located on Westminster Road corner, alongside Wilson’s wood yard which ‘employed’ German prisoners-of-war.
“A few shops further along, in the direction of the Station Hotel, was located “Parkgate Fisheries”, a wonderful place for fresh seafood which was managed by a lovely lady.”
He says the old Hippodrome cinema was a “magnificent example of stately architecture”.
It had twin marble staircases either side of the foyer, flanked by giant oversize portraits of golden-age film stars, leading up to the expensive balcony seats. On the walls hung heavy maroon-coloured velvet draperies.
And if a film was very popular, the queue of viewers would stretch along Carnegie Street and around the corner into Station Road past Cheshire Furnishing Stores, all the way to Waters’ the Chemist (the predecessors of Laidlers) which was the last shop before the Vicarage grounds.
Ellesmere Port Civic Hall was the first building erected on the former Co-op field. In the early 1950s the Grange School, together with John Street School, decided to put together a variety show there.
Mr Edwards recalls: “Although by then, we were no longer at either school, a fellow art student and good friend, Alan Williams, and I were asked to contribute an act.
“Alan, who would later become a great fashion artist, and I decided to do a ‘sisters’ act wearing feminine clothing, miming to Sisters by Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen.
“I mention the Civic Hall because, in the mid-1950s, there was always a good Saturday night dance there with a full orchestra.
“Before I left Ellesmere Port in 1958, I often used to go to those wonderful dances – not necessarily to dance but often to meet friends like Alan or just to tap my foot to the terrific music played.
“That was in the days when boys and girls actually danced with each other, when there was a tune played that had a beginning and end, not a repeat of just one line.”