Childhood memories of Christmas in South Shields

A lovely seasonal image from 1952.
A lovely seasonal image from 1952.

It’s described in song as the most wonderful time of the year, and for many people it certainly is – and remains so.

The sense of anticipation and excitement among young ones (and the not so young) remains as palpable as ever.

John Carlson's book of old South Shields photographs.

John Carlson's book of old South Shields photographs.

Today local historian and regular Time Of Our Lives contributor Dorothy Ramser looks back to her own childhood, and the “wonderful” times she shared with her family, the famous South Shields butchers Dicksons.

“Christmas in the ‘olden’ days was just as magical for a child as it is today, although with less presents,” says Dorothy.

“Part of the run-up to Christmas was seedless grapes and a little box each of individually wrapped tangerines.

“I think they came from Quigleys in Fowler Street.

“I remember watching my sister decorating the sitting room with bright paper chains and paper bell shapes that folded out.

“The chains were strung from one corner of the ceiling to the other.

“I recall coming down the stairs, the first Christmas I can remember, feeling the anxiety and expectation at every step in case Santa was still there.

“Then stretching up on tippy toes to the handle of the lounge and pushing the door open to reveal the Christmas tree with twinkling lights and gaudy baubles sparkling, and a little pink wooden piano and stool in among the brightly wrapped parcels, which I pounced upon and started banging enthusiastically on the keys.

“Heavy footsteps sounded and my mother appeared in her nighty and grabbed my hand ‘but Santa’s been!’ And the reply ‘he hasn’t finished, now get back to bed’...

“Once Santa had actually been, there was the dash to the pile of gifts with your name on and the quick assessment to be sure there were selection boxes in among the presents and annuals like the Beano, Bunty, Noggin The Nog or Rupert The Bear.

“Back from church, in your best clothes, the house would smell of frying bacon and the turkey cooking in the oven.

“For reasons known only unto her, my mother always referred to the turkey as ‘the duck’. It would never fly again, that’s for sure!

“I remember the silver sixpence wrapped in greaseproof paper hidden in one of the buttered scones in among the Christmas teatime delicacies.

“You always tried to sneakily lift a lid to find the right one with the money in.

“I also remember lying on the carpet in front of the coal fire, eating chocolate, watching a black and white film on a tiny screen, the sound almost drowned out by the snoring figure of my dad in a paper hat, slumbering in the armchair with a tankard of beer being warmed on the hearth.

“We never did manage to get our lips wet. He always, despite giving the appearance of deep sleep with rumbling sound effects, remarkably managed to grab your wrist just as your mouth opened expectantly for the first mouthful of beer.

“Anyone would think he was pretending to sleep!”

What wonderful memories, thank you Dorothy.

And just in case you need a last-minute stocking filler, how about South Shields From Old Photographs by John Carlson?

Published by Amberley Publishing, priced £14.99, the 96-page book is jam-packed full of photos showing images of Shields from long ago to the more recent past.

There are loads of familiar places and lots of faces to look at throughout the book, which has been lovingly compiled by the author.

It will make a smashing Christmas present. Contact Amberley on 01453 847823 for more details.