Two Petrol Pumps
My Grandparents lived in a house on Broughton Street.
As a child I clearly remember how small the living room was. The front door had a curtain draped behind it to keep the draught out. The fireplace was the center point. They burned coal then. To the right side of the fire was a cast iron oven that was heated by the fire. On top of this was a hot plate, a kettle always rested at the back of the plate, ready to be brought to the boil. Everything in the house was heated by the fire, all the old terraced houses used coal for heat and cooking back then, the valley had a serious smog problem.
In a recess next to the oven, a large tin bath hung from a hook. This was filled on Sunday nights with boiling pans heated from the plate above the oven.
The house had one cold water tap, and a shallow stone sink. There was a row of toilets at the end of the street; they stood behind a petrol station that had two pumps. My Mum once confided to me, as a child, she and her pals used to unhook and sniff the end of a nozzle. She said the fumes made them dizzy.
The years I'm recalling here were from, 1956 to 58, when I was aged between four and six.
Both of my Grandparents died in the same year (1960) from lung disease contracted after working for far too many years in the cotton industry.
Twenty years after their deaths, on a visit to Hebden Bridge, I was in The Bottom Shoulder, I was introduced to a couple of hippies, the pair, both total strangers, had shown an interest in my brand of popular herbal tonic. When we left the bar, I followed them across the bridge, and we turned right toward Broughton Street. By a staggering coincidence, they lived in my Grandparents house.
Of course the fireplace and oven had long before been ripped out; and indoor plumbing had been installed. The living room had been painted entirely white, and a large round paper lantern hung around the light bulb hanging from the ceiling. That evening I found out, the hippies had come to Hebden Bridge, from the Home Counties.
For the past twenty five years, I've live in South East Asia, and during that time I haven't been back to England or Hebden Bridge. The place I remember isn't there anymore.
Last year I came across a Hebdenite in a hotel in Hong Kong, he was talking loudly in a southern accent about himself, he kept going on about Hebden Bridge. I told him about my grandparents, and about how I'd been born there. Turned out he's lived in the town for four years, he said I couldn't be a real Hebdenite, told me, I'd been away too long.
He was probably right.
David H Bridges