Mike Connelly – more memories

On looking through the mountains of information we have collected for the history, we found some more recollections from Mike Connelly (see this link for the original piece added to the website in 2015)

Some memories of Tollerton, 1938 – 47 –  Additional recollections:

Starting at the bottom end of the village, I remember Mr. Muir’s garage on the corner.  One day, after returning on the ‘buses from South County Primary School, West Bridgeford, we children were greeted with the sight of a smashed up Ford Model C, fawn in colour, in the junction with Tollerton Lane.  We learned that it had been in collision with a large American army lorry, and that the car driver had been killed.  He was believed to have been driving to London, and so was unlikely to have been local.

Opposite the garage, on the other corner, was a large open space, at the back of which were two adjoining shops.  The butcher was on the left, and  Anderson’s general store on the right.  They sold everything imaginable, and it was my habit to buy a large bottle of Corona ( which had the porcelain stopper with a bright red rubber washer on it, retained by a wire clip.) It cost me sixpence (my pocket money) and twopence was given back on the empty bottle.  Dandelion and Burdock was my favourite. The trick was to shake the bottle, then drink the lot in one go.  It made for some fantastic burps!

Lenton Avenue and Bentinck Avenue existed, but were unfinished, ending in fields near Mr Brooker’s  farm. Tollerton Lane itself had houses and bungalows up the left side as far as the first left hand bend.  Then there was an open field, with a tall hedge and trees bordering the road, until reaching Mr Grist’s house, which was the beginning of a row. The road at this point was quite narrow, and had deep grassy drainage ditches on either side. I believe that these have now been filled in and tarred over.  As far as I can remember, the next house was owned by Mr and Mrs Lane, with son Billy and an older brother.

Next came Mr Heason and son Brian. 

Then came Stanley and Peggy Heason, with Richard, Penny, and later, Hilary.

Next were Mr and Mrs Mowl, with David and Patsy.  Then Mr and Mrs Wayman with their son, Hugh.

There were several more bungalows, one containing Mrs. Webster, and the last occupied by June Burden and her family. 

The next feature was a field with a gateway and a hedge at right angles to the road. I believe that this is now the end of Burnside Grove.

Then came a feeder road, set back from and parallel with Tollerton Lane, which reached almost as far as Medina Drive.  There were large houses there, and one contained the Blower family, with sons John and Kenneth, on whose bike I learned to ride.

Returning to the bottom end of Tollerton Lane, and moving up from the two shops, there was a row of houses leading up to the first left hand bend, where there was a red telephone box, and access to the open fields.

The next bungalow was occupied by Sylvia Hind and her family.

Several houses along, there lived Mr Palmer, then Mr and Mrs Ball, with sons Tony and Adrian, who sometimes had a cousin, John Lawler, staying with them.

Next was Mrs Jones, who taught me how to pickle mushrooms. I lived in the adjacent house, Frankley Croft, with my parents, John and Lily, and my sisters, Shelagh and Eileen.

Our neighbour was Mrs Wathis, an elderly lady who gave me a broken piece of a wooden propeller which her son had obtained during WWl, and which was signed by various pilots – unfortunately unreadable.

Next was Mr. Hayday, a politician, and then about three bungalows, the last of which had a Land Army girl with red hair living in it.

A hedge separated the lane from an open field, and there were no more buildings until a stand-alone large house on the right, outside which was hawthorn tree with an old wooden fence underneath one of its branches.  By standing on the top rail of the fence, I couldn’t quite reach the branch without jumping.  This was very precarious, as there was a considerable drop into the field and there was nothing else to hold on to.  We lived dangerously in those days.

Partway down the field was a hollow surrounded by trees, known locally as “The Dell.”  It was a magnet for children, who were out of sight, once in the undergrowth.

Next along the lane was Mr Brown’s farm, where the whole village turned out to watch/help when the corn was threshed with the large steam traction engine and its many belts and pulleys.  The community spirit was excellent, perhaps because the residents were drawn together in the “Dunkirk Spirit.”  When the corn was cut in the fields, it was done with a machine, pulled by either a tractor, or more likely by two horses, as petrol was virtually unobtainable. The corn was automatically gathered in sheaves, or stooks, which were just bundles tied in the middle with binder twine.  Everybody who was able then took to the fields, and gathered the sheaves into pyramids so that they could dry, before being pitchforked on to carts for transportation to the farm.  An added bonus, during this activity, was the proliferation of mushrooms, which seemed to like the shady conditions under the growing corn, and or course, the rabbits which were exposed when their cover was removed.  Rabbit was a favourite wartime dish – but I was put off it for life after breaking a tooth on lead shot.  Another crop grown locally at that time was sugar beet, no doubt in an effort to increase the meagre wartime rations to which we were subjected.

In front of Hall Farm were two large old horse chestnut trees, with long swooping branches which hung nearly to the ground.  It was on these trees that I learned to climb, and even now, sixty years later, I am not averse to climbing a tree if I can get away without anybody seeing me.

Medina Drive was in the course of construction in 1947, when I moved from the area.  I remember Barry Watson and Marshall Hornby living there, with John Ullyett on the corner, at the top of the hill which dropped down to the church.  There was a long red brick wall down the right hand side, with fields on the left.  Behind the wall were trees, and, during the war, the camp which variously held German and Italian prisoners, the British army, and the Americans. There were never any problems between the locals and the camp inmates, as far as I know. 

The “S” bend at the bottom of the hill nearly prevented this article from being written.  Whilst ambling across the road between the bends, on my way to Sunday School, I was narrowly missed by a car which was travelling too fast.  The fact that cars were very rare in wartime, coupled with my inattentiveness, and perhaps that of the driver, may have caused me to be just another statistic instead of the fine fellow that I am………………….

A treat was to be taken to Nottingham swimming baths, either at Victoria, or Carrington Street (I think.)  There I learned to swim, and it was also there that John Ullyett lost his trousers…….. (see previous article.) Once, on a hot day, we went to the Mansfield Road Lido, which was open to the air, and very, very cold.

During the war years, the Harvard training two seater aircraft were always in the air.  Their approach to the airfield, and take off, depending on the wind direction, was over our back garden.  They were low enough to see the pilots, and on one occasion, one nearly took the roof off the house as it flew at right angles to the other traffic, struggling to stay airborne.  I remember seeing a four engined bomber falling in flames in the direction of the city, and also seeing an American Lightning in flames disappearing over Hoe Hill, leaving behind a dangling parachute.

My father, either in his capacity as a Home Guard member, or as a common sightseer, walked to Plumtree to see a downed Spitfire.

During the night time raids on the city, I was made to sleep in an airing cupboard, listening to the unsynchronized engines which told us that the bombers were German, and listening to the bombs detonating as they destroyed buildings and lives just five miles away. Visits to the city at that time were fascinating to a young boy.  Hose pipes lay in all directions in the streets.  There was water, dust, smoke, and above all, a terrible smell.  Rubble had been pulled to one side to allow vehicles to use the roads, and everywhere there were black plastic reservoirs to hold water for fire fighting.

Unbelievably, because of the fuel shortage, the very old buses which had been brought out of mothballs were fuelled by gas bags on the roof containing natural gas.  These bags were nearly as large as the old Guy buses themselves, and were bombs waiting to go off! Health and Safety?  What Health and Safety?

Another occasion which might have cost me my life was when, as a small boy, I discovered under my parents bed, a rifle, a Sten, a Bren, and a Lewis gun. I managed, with great difficulty, to cock the guns and discharge them.  Fortunately, they were not loaded.  Somewhere around that time, I found something else at the bottom of that bed – my new sister, who had arrived from under the gooseberry bush during the night.

My father was employed as a solicitor, and acted for the coal mining industry.  In 1947, he changed lanes, and moved us all to Devon, where we have lived ever since.  As you can tell, I often think back to my days in Tollerton.