‘Streetwise’, by George

In a previous article for Heid O’ the Hill, I tried to describe how I recalled living in a tenement “room and kitchen” at 1 Prospecthill Street between 1945 and 1954. In this article, I hope to give a reasonably accurate account of my memories of the street as seen by me aged about 4 to 9.

My younger brother and I seemed to be allowed to play on the pavement near the close mouth, apparently unsupervised, although I suspect we were actually being looked after at all times by someone in the neighbourhood, such was the closeness of the immediate community. I had several aunts and cousins living within 200 yds of N0.1.

There was an Aulds Baker shop at the corner of Prospecthill Street with Ann Street, and on the opposite corner was the side of the Overton Bar. On more than one occasion we watched the Aulds delivery man deliver bread and cakes to the shop, on a bread board ( 30″ X 60″? ) balanced on his head. Sometimes he stopped and gave us each a “rock cake,” which was a luxury, ensuring I would always remember “George the baker”.

I think there was a side door to the Overton Bar (?), and there was a delivery hatch in the pavement, covered by two large metal hinged plates, presumably locked on the inside. It was entertaining to watch the dray horse and cart arrive loaded with beer barrels. The delivery hatch trap door would be opened giving access to a short ramp into the basement of the Bar. The delivery man dumped two very large canvas straw filled “cushions” on the ground at the side of the cart, and pushed the wooden beer barrels off the cart on to the cushions, then rolled the barrel to the ramp and down to the barman inside the Pub. Often while he did this he gave the horse a nose bag to feed on. The only other item I recall relating to the Overton Bar, is that residents on the ground floor of N0.1 would complain that courting couples coming from the bar at night would often enter the close in the passage between No. 1 and No. 3, and also out to the back green area, (known as the dunny) and remove the gas “mantle”, or turn off the gas light,in order to get some “privacy”.

On the opposite side of Ann Street was a block of 4 or 5 shops, from right to left Billy Campbells newsagent next to Nile Street, then Meg Brackenbridges greengrocer shop, possibly another shop I can’t recall, then Joe Baldinis cafe, and at the end of the row George Simpsons barber shop.

On a Monday and a Wednesday, if my parents could afford the 2 pence cost, I would excitedly go to Billy Campbells about 5 to 6, and buy a copy of “tomorrow’s” Beano or Dandy comics ahead of their release date. My father always bought the Sunday Post, which included the essential OOR WULLIE, THE BROONS, and BLACK BOB with his shepherd master Andrew Glenn. I have always remembered the pleasant smell of Campbells shop, which I now think was from to the paper/ink of the publications spread out on the wide counter. Baldinis cafe I only recall as providing ice cream, with a splash of raspberry. However I did hear my older cousins praising his “hot peas and vinegar” dish. Simpson the barber cut my hair in an unflattering short back and sides, and used a board supported on the arms of his barber chair to raise the height of children, much as they do today. A haircut then always left you with an itchy neck and back.

Further down Ann Street was another group of shops, between Wellington Street and Holmscroft Street, these included a butcher shop, which displayed bowls of “potted heid” in the window, and a rail with dead rabbits hanging on it, quite disgusting by today’s standards, but necessary at that time due to meat rationing. It was in this shop that I feared for the safety of the man operating the ham slicer, with end pieces so near to the revolving blade that I was sure he would chop off his fingers.
Today, so many products are pre packed, but in 1950, most things – tea, vegetables, sweets, biscuits, fruit – all had to be weighed , and you could save a few pence by buying broken biscuits , chipped fruit or damaged tins, as many items were damaged in transit. Opposite the entrance to Holmscroft School, on the steep part of Ann Street, was a small general store. There was a period when I spent all my pocket money, 6 pence, on 3 packets of strip chewing gum, with 4 small colour picture cards of film stars. Just as today’s children collect football/power rangers/pokemon/star wars etc. cards .

Nearer to Roxburgh Street, was Willie MacMillans electrical shop, where my dad to take the radio accumulator once a week to be charged, at a cost of about 6 pence. The last place I would like to refer to is the slaughter house, or in todays language, the abattoir. It was situated at the bottom of Ann Street, behind Crown Street, and near to the railway line. Naturally this was another place frightening to a young boy, realising that animals were killed there. Its location can be worked out from the attached postcard illustration, which includes the spire of the Mid Kirk in Cathcart Square.george streetwise

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