During the summer holidays towards the end of the war, I spent a lot of time with my brother in law George Bull. He had been injured during the Italian Campaign and repatriated to the military hospital in Sedgefield. After the war he re-trained as a joiner but had difficulty getting permanent work. He used to do jobbing work around The Village and I was his helper. When they started to build a large number of council houses south of The Village, he had more full time work and arranged for me to be started as an apprentice joiner. When mother found out, she was furious, there was no way that I was going to leave school before my term was finished, she squashed the whole idea.
My friend Raymond Davison had left school at age 14 and was working for a painting and decorating company in Hartlepool. Ray was not very experienced at this time, he used to spend most of his time stirring paint in cans for the journeymen to use. However people knew him to be working as a painter and he was asked to do some work for local people. Of course, they wanted to have their work done on the cheap where they did not have to pay journeyman rates. In my case, I had helped paint and hang wallpaper at home, and had about as much experience as Ray. We unofficially went into business to make some pocket money on the side. The customers supplied the paint, brushes and ladders and we painted several houses. The biggest job was on Station Road in Deaf Hill, near where Aunt Annie Shorthouse lived, we painted 3 houses and made thirty shillings each.
Ray had not really done any wallpapering and was asked to paper a staircase by two sisters living in Coronation Terrace, Trimdon Village. It was quite a struggle to paper this staircase, the wallpaper was thin (cheap) without much strength, the added weight of the paste was enough to tear the paper as we were hanging it on the wall. Ray was up the ladder and I holding the folded paper below supporting the weight, several times the paper would tear and come crashing onto my head. I do not know how many tears we had but we prevailed, overlapping the tears in such a way that the light did not make shadows on the wall. We never did another papering job after that one. The ladies were very pleased with the result and even gave us a bit of extra money for the job.
It was around this time that we started to go to Saturday night dances. Ray’s sister Nora loved dancing and used to go at that time to the Welfare Hall in Wingate on a Saturday night. She thought it would be a good idea if we tagged along, and a promise that she would teach us. To save money we all walked the few miles to and from Wingate. As we walked through Trimdon Grange and Trimdon Colliery we were joined by other friends, usually 10 to 12, and continued along a footpath across the fields to Wingate.
The dance in the Welfare Hall was popular with older people in Wingate who were in the majority, there were very few teens that attended. It was an “Old Time Dance” with a live band, teens generally preferred the “Modern Dance” in the adjacent communities. We were quick to learn the steps to the popular dances, Nora and her friends were true to their word and dragged us around the floor until we were good enough to dance with other people. Mother was also helpful, she had in her youth been a good dancer, she was a big help in getting the steps right. In a very short while we were doing the waltz, polka, two step, tango, veleta and marches. They also taught the reel type dances, the Lancers and D’Alberts.
I was always a shy person, especially around girls, but Ray was opposite, outgoing and easy to get along with. He had left school at fourteen and got to work in the real world with normal people. I was finishing my fifth year in the restrictive school system and although we had girls in the class, there was no fraternization. In fact judging by current standards, their class uniforms made them look like sacks of potatoes. Ray was not shy and he met a local girl Shirley. As a consequence, he arranged to meet her in the local park on Sunday afternoon where she went with her friends. There was nothing too serious about this relationship, just friends getting to know each other, but we did get invited to her birthday party together with other friends from the dance. I was the only person with a camera and would go along and take a few pictures. Taking pictures inside was difficult and required the camera shutter to be open for a time exposure while I lit magnesium powder in a special tray that make a terrific flash and filled the room with white smoke. The camera did not have synchronized flash, this was the “poor- mans” flash gun.