Friday, May 12, 2006

The Catch.

Sarah Sheraton asked me if I knew her Father and it brought back a memory of him she would know nothing off.
It was boys own stuff and became a local legend among us lads for years after. Do you remember the Catch? and we would all be talking about the wonderful catch Ken made one warm summer evening on Norton Green.
I am adding the full story as a comment to this introduction.
Those days are long gone in the new age of ipods game boys and computers. All our life was outside the house now the young people never seem to leave the house, they are missing so much and will never know what it was like to make a catch in front of most of Norton on a balmy summers night.


Blogger Frank Mee said...

The Catch.

Place Norton Village Green,
Date Summer 1943.
Time evening.

A warm summer evening and we lads were on the green with the cricket pitch set up and a game in full flow.
We had come from our various schools by bus then changed from uniform to our short trousers and play shirts the outside summer uniform for lads.
We then did our chores before sitting down to a family meal and after clearing away, hearing the six o clock news which was a must for us all as we talked through every move made on both sides, we could tell the generals a thing or two.
So the evening was now ours.
Cricket was a very serious game to us and although it was wartime the local cricket club still played in a local league, us scamps played on the green.
The pitch was slightly sloped and tilted slightly too, the grass although well worn with our continuous play was longer than it should be.
We had a selection of bats, the stumps were two different sets so one set slightly taller than the other, that was it, no pads hard hats shin guards face cages or gloves. The ball was a well worn full size cricket ball heavy and hard, catch it wrongly and you suffered. Get hit by it and you bit your tongue to stop crying out and then played on. God we were tough.
We always had about twelve lads who all fielded, we knew our turn to bat and no one cheated, if you went out for a duck, hard luck you had to wait for the second innings.
There were seats all around the green always full of men and women out for an evenings fresh air. Courting couples would be walking up and down the green and then head down the old mill lane to the beck and the willow Garth a local trysting place, so we had a full audience often shouting advice of well caught, well bowled and even you great butterfingered clown on occasion. This game was going to be different.
I was keeping wicket Billy was bowling and Ray batting. Billy had bowled several slow lifters, the ball hit the centre of the pitch and lofted so the batsmen caught it with the top edge straight into my hands or the bottom edge straight onto the stumps. Between us we had decimated the batsmen and now Ray the big hitter was in.
The first ball went straight over the heads of the people sitting on the nearest seat who had all ducked in unison. The second one went down the road almost catching the "O" bus to North Ormsby standing at the terminus.
Then came one of those moments when time stops, everything happens in slow motion and everyone on that green held their breath. Billy sent a fast one, Ray stepped forward and gave a big double arm smack to the ball getting it right off the tip of the bat. The ball went straight up in the air, up and up, Ray stopped running to watch as Ken ran to the centre of the wicket and stood there with his hands cupped and still it went up, I had never seen a cricket ball go so high.
It slowly turned in the air and started to speed up as it came down, Ken stood his ground and I heard some one say sixpence if you hold it.
We all heard the thwack as it came into kens hand but then it went straight back up as he hurled it away, he had held the catch and the cheering must have been heard for miles.
Ken was holding his hands under his arm pits as we all slapped him on the back. The chap who had said sixpence if you hold it gave him the money and as he held his hand out it was red and sore. So legends are made.
For years after some one would say remember the catch and we would all talk about it again. Ken remembered it as he could not hold anything for a week.
Ken had committed and he was not backing out, he made the catch and was cheered heartily by all for doing so. That was how we played our games then, it was all or nothing.
I have painted a scene that probably never happens now in the days of ipods, game boys and computers. It was a different time and a war was raging but on a peaceful warm summer evening with most of the villagers watching Ken stood his ground and made a memorable catch. Could it happen today among a group of lads who virtually lived outside all summer, I think not. Your Dad was a hero that day Sarah.

Friday, 12 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
fantastic tale of derring do as we all have those memories as we never stood still when we were youngsters - there was always a game on somewhere with a "tanner ba" - until the local dog caught it and then we needed some more savings to get another one.
I'm sure Sarah will be even more proud of her dad.

Friday, 12 May, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Not derring do Tom, normality to us as you yourself will know, it was what we did then and to us was the way we lived.
The same gang of lads would be up to the eye's in mud playing winter football on the same green and enjoy every minute.
We played all the games in season add roller skating ice skating sledging and swimming in the local beck and cycling we were an activ e lot.
Kids of today miss all that and would not be able to keep up to the lads we once were Tom. Will they have such memories to recount in years to come I doubt it.

Friday, 12 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
you must have been rich to have bicycles - ice skates and all that equipment - we had our hob nailed boots and usually bare feet or sandals in summer and just made do - nowadays the kids have to have all the 'gear' before they would even think of playing a game of anything - no wonder they are obese, and bored !

Friday, 12 May, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

What a great story, in spite of the war, Frank! How come you never posted this to the "People's War" site. It would have been a fine addition to the website, especially if you'd put a photo of your pals.

These are the kind of stories I'm sure would have the younger children in schools interested when they are studying aspects of the war. I don't know if you have ever been invited to talk to children in the local primary schools. But if you haven't you certainly should be, and with stories like this I'm sure youi'd have the 'ipod genreration' absolutely fascinated!

You must really keep on writing these things down, or even make an audio recording if that is easier for you. Otherwise, once you head for the cricket ground in the sky (hopefully a long time in the future!) these kind of stories would be lost forever.

At a local studies level, a story like this would be of great value in years to come. In fact, I would say wartime accounts about the Home Front are as interesting to the younger modern generations as accounts of the great battles.

Saturday, 13 May, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Rich? I never thought about it as kids never do.
I was clothed when others were in rags, had shoes when others went to school in sand shoes stuffed with cardboard or in the Mayors boots as we called them given out by the education authority to children who's parents sent them to school bare foot. They were stamped and punched so they could not be hocked.I had food in my belly when some had only bread with dripping although we got bread with beef dripping and cocoa for supper and I loved it.
My bike was a Hercules and I got it for Christmas 1939 just before the Germans decided to get on with the war. It cost £4/19/6 and Peter once told me that was the equal to £250 today. I wrote up that story for BBC WW2.
My roller skates as were most of the others were ball bearing, the best, My ice skates were my Dads clip ons and he had them as a boy. I had my own cricket bat and some football boots you see I was an only boy with one sister, mother gave me the best and being an arrogant young sod I did not appreciate it at the time. It was years later I realised the sacrifices she made for me to have what I had.
Yes Tom I was rich in loving parents who must have gone without themselves to give me the good life. I suppose with it being wartime and they had seen it all before they thought I should not suffer for it.
My wish Tom is that I could bow my head to them and say a very meaningful thank you Mum and Dad but of course it is too late.

Saturday, 13 May, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Hi Ritson,
The answer to your question as to why I never wrote this up for the WW2 site is because I thought it would be of no interest.
In the early days Peter and I were told we should not be writing about wartime as we were only civvy's and kids at that what did we know. That was from a serving war vet and both of us very nearly gave up there and then.
If it had not been for my own children and Grandchildren asking me questions about the war I would never have started writing in the first place, so the writing has only been for the last three to four years.
Being new to it you think your life is uninteresting to others, add to that after the war for many years no one wanted to know.
I had been asked to speak in a school but it was in Sunderland and at 77 I dont want to be running up and down there, our schools have never asked.
The story of the Catch came about when Sarah asked about her Father Ken and the story came back as clear as the day it happend.
I thought it a fitting picture for her of her Dads tenacity and bravery, it took a very brave lad to stand under that ball with ample time to realise it was going to hurt, we would not have castergated him if he had stepped back, it was quite awsome.
The daily life of the village went on all the war even at the height of the air raids. Lots of us lost relatives and friends but normal life had to go on. I tried to give the idea of how we coped, easier for us lads and lasses than the grown ups by a long way.
I do keep writing but mainly to put in to files for the following generations who may wonder what G/G/G/Granddad did.

Saturday, 13 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank - you were indeed rich to have such parents - by the same token - we never knew that we were poor either, as we never accepted anything from anyone or any authority unless my parents worked for it.
I can never forget our Larry having a new pair of boots - he immediately went out and played a game of soccer - coming back with one sole hanging off - Dad got his gear out and mended the boot, Mother was upset and Larry put his arms around her and said - "never mind - I'll buy you all the shoes you want when I'm big."
When he played for Aston Villa a few years later - he bought her shoes by the dozen"
WE too were rich in the real sense Frank.

Saturday, 13 May, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Hi again Frank,

A lot of this kind of story you have put down here seem to be what a lot of younger kids would be interested in. One chap I interviewed a few years ago (now deceased) started getting asked to speak to children in Junior Schools. He would talk about the games they used to play, the food they used to eat, rationing, Sunday School outings etc.

At the end of the talks, he told me the teacher invariably would ask if they had enjoyed listening to him. They always used to jump up and shout something like "Oh, yes Miss! It's been brilliant!"

According to my friend (who was called John Skelly), Teacher then used to say to the class: "Do your grandparents ever tell you what they did when they were children?"

The answer from the class was usually something like: "Oh yes, Miss they do start on, but it's really boring. They always go on about the same things!"

Teacher would then say to the children that Granddad or Grandma would be telling them the same kind of stories as Mr Skelly. She used to tell the children to go and get Granddad or Grandma to write some of their stories and bring them into the class and they would listen to what they would say.

I think if their grandparents had died they were told to ask another older relative or neighbour. This approach seemed to work fairly well, or so I was led to believe.

There were some schools that registered as Site Users for the "People's War" website, and it appeared that they had asked grandparents and others in to be interviewed. Some of them seemed t oproduce a good dialogue and there were good stories added to the site. However, I know those of you who were Site Helpers noted on more than one occasion that some of the 'stories' ended up with very little content. It was such a pity with those ones, because they were a lost opportunity to make a really good lasting contribution, and get school children interested.

Never mind, Frank, just make sure you get your stories recorded for posterity! You could always try and see if the local Archives Office would like to take some of your stories.

I've been really surprised how many people have contacted me regarding something I've perhaps written about their Granddad, Grandma or other relative. For example, one gentleman and his wife contacted me via the "People's War" site asking if I knew anything about his grandparents.

At that stage, I had posted stories on behalf of people I know who had briefly mentioned other distant relatives of this gentleman. When I worked out who his grandparents were, it turned out his Granddad was a nephew of my paternal grandmother! As a result, I eventually posted quite a few stories to the "People's War" site, based on photos, newspaper cuttings, various family items and memories etc. There was actually a lot more information than I posted to the "People's War" I was able to let them have (ie outside the scope of a WW2 project).

So, keep up the good work, Frank! Just make sure you get your stories recorded for posterity! You could always try and see if the local Archives Office would like to take some of your stories.

Monday, 15 May, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much Frank for recounting a memory of my dear father.

Sometimes my father would talk fondly of his childhood in Norton during the war years.

He particularly mentioned to me the dedication and saccrifices made by his own parents. As you may already know, my father Ken had 5 siblings: Jos, Gordon, Roger, Ann and John. He pointed out to me that his mother would rise early to wash her boys' shirts in the poss tub, dry them outside and iron them *before* they got up! He always recognized that, compared to some other boys at the time, he always had shoes and good food and admired his own parents' hard work and comparative luck. (My grandfather Jos moved to the area to work as a boilermaker at I.C.I.)

One story he told with affection for his father. My grandfather promised my Dad that if he won the pools, he would buy him some football boots. One day he did win a modest amount on the football pools and the first thing he did when he got the money was to say to my dad, "Come on then, son, let's go and get those football boots". Not an enthralling story of course but to my Dad it was everything and he never forgot his Dad's kindness. in a time when shoes were a luxury for some.

He told me that some just did not have shoes and so he was fortunate to have parents who made saccrifices for their children.

His mother was extremely good at managing the household for food etc. and he never forgot that.

Norton Green was, to my Dad, a place of great memories. The greatest for him was when he got together properly with my mother Jean (nee Hatton from the same school - "the sec") at Norton Green. So much so that he asked that his and my mother's ashes be deposited there after his death. (Which I did...shhh [sheepish grin]).

Your first comment on "The Catch" was posted here on 12th May 2006. I am sure that it is no coincidence that you chose that day to write so fondly about my father as it would have been his 77th birthday.

Sincere thanks and best wishes.

Sunday, 03 December, 2006  

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