1948 and we were now progressing into our teens. The War had finished three years earlier but we were living in a period of austerity. The benefits of peace were still a long way off. To quote the Government slogan, `export or die`, all our material good things in life had to go abroad to pay off our war debts. Rationing was still with us.
However, my age group had known nothing else. We were still at school so our interests were as yet simple.
We all loved football and our favourite teams were either Hibs or Hearts. Every alternate Saturday afternoon we would attend Easter Road or Tynecastle.
My own preference was the Hibs. I loved to see the likes of Gordon Smith, and Jimmy Cuthbertson, established players with the club and the youngsters just breaking through, Laurie Reilly and Bobby Johnstone. This team would peak a few years later with the renowned forward line of Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond. To this day I can still name the eleven players.
By 1950 I had joined the Leith Branch of the Hibs supporters association. It met in the Painters Society Hall in Yardheads. Home or away, we would support the team. I was a complete fan.
During the week we would attend the cinemas or just play football in the `Coppy`. Life was just so simple until we all left school in 1949. Then life took a turn for the better. We all started to earn some cash from our jobs. We began looking further than our own doorsteps.
By now we were beginning to look at girls in a different light. One of our favourite places to meet with them was at the Grand cinema in St Stephens Street, Stockbridge. We never attached much importance to what was being featured, rather we used the cinema as a meeting place.
During the films, we would all promenade around the theatre, chatting up girls we fancied. If we were lucky, we might be able to see them home (bagging off, to use the colloquial term) and possibly arrange a future date. The cinema staff gave up trying to usher us into sitting quietly and watch the film. The Grand became known as the mecca for dating.
Greyhound racing in Edinburgh was confned to the stadium in Beaverhall Road. However we would view the races from the old Bailey bridge that spanned the Water of Leith just to the rear side of the totalisator board.
Each Wednesday and Saturday evenings racing would take place. There were many like us who used the bridge just to watch how their previously laid bets with the street bookmakers fared.
We would often pool our monetary resources and set ourselves up as `bookies`. Taking bets from others based on the odds that we could see quoted on the tote, we took our chance. Often or not we ended up having to pay out our all, in other words we were skint.
Other times we did win, and with the extra money we made our way to the ground entrance in time for the last few races. The doors had previously been opened to allow the losing punters to make an early exit. We slipped in then. There we would place our bets with the bookies inside the ground.
On our way home we would buy some freshly made pies and rolls from the all-night bakery that was nearby.
On the Sunday afternoon, we would congregate in the open stairwell in the buildings nearby the `Coppy` known as the new buildings. They had been built in the thirties. Here we would play cards, the favourite game being Brag as we sat on the cold steps. Other times we would play Pontoon. Sometimes we would congregate in Mrs Strachan`s house for the cards. Katie, was generally bed-ridden and as her son Doddie was among our group, she was only too keen to join in. i think this helped her to pass the time. We would gamble away our previous night`s winnings.
We never got involved with the more adult Pitch and Toss that was often clandestinely played in the `Coppy`. This was asking for trouble for often the police would raid it and take away those that were too slow in avoiding them.
By this time the docks had been opened up again for casual visitors. The ships that used it in the fifties were more numerous than they are today. It was quite a thrill going there viewing all the comings and goings with the registration ports of these ships stretching our imaginations.
Sometimes during the summer months we would take our dip in the Forth just to the north of the Imperial Dock at the Martello Tower. This tower had been built during the Napoleonic war period and it stood just a short distance from the land. It could be approached by foot at low tide but today it is now landlocked. The `tally toor` was a favourite of ours.
When the weather was imclement our swimming was done at the `vicky`. Mostly it was on the male only evenings, but occasionally we would attend the mixed bathing on Thursdays. The period was limited to one hour per session, but in quiet times it would be continuous. Dependent on the attendant present. Some were only too happy to bring out the brass handbell and give it a loud clang to herald time for drying and dressing.
Our local dance halls were the Eldorado in Mill Lane and the Assembly Rooms in Constitution Street. The latter was our main venue. On Monday evenings we would all troop down there for our `jigging`.
This was the time before the `teddy boy suits` came into fashion. Here I would meet up with all my workmates from the shipyard. Often differences of opinions would arise and occasionally erupt into blows being thrown, not with them, but with others. The `Valder` boys from the Fountainbridge Cafe of that name, and the Jubilee gang of boys from Granton
As well as my own friends, my workmates always ensured that support was there if required. I never at any time felt threatened. This worked for us all. The resident band was Alexanders.
Later we would go to Michaels Cafe in Tolbooth Wynd for coffee or cokes. Sometimes we would venture further up the Kirkgate to Alberts fish restaurant for our bag of chips.
Often when money was tight, usually mid week, we would just stand around above the `Coppy` and talk about anything and all things. The girls would often join us. Right opposite from where we stood was the nurses` home of Leith Hospital. Sometimes some of the nurses would carry on conversations with us as they sat at their windows. One in particular was nurse Frizell. She came from an Indian family. She had nursed me during my stay in the hospital in 1950 and had become attached to my family. She had in fact visited my parents on several occasions. She would often call out my name as I stood with the boys. She was somewhat older than me, and I became a little bit disconcerted about this. My mates would wind me up by telling me my little nurse calls.
Despite our regular card schools, we sometimes ventured up town to visit the museum in Chamber Street just for something to do. It cost nothing but the tram fares.
The Mound in Princes Street was another haunt. This was used on Sundays by orators spouting on all subjects under the sun. It was fun just listening to the rantings and often we jeered the speakers.
As I mentioned before, the Capitol cinema would organise song competitions and also Health Films.
Other films on a Sunday were just taboo in Scotland at this time. Probably sounds boring now, but then it was just taken for granted.
Junction of Kirkgate, Tolbooth Wynd, Water Street, and Charlotte Street . 1950s
Port of Leith Motor Boat Club
This club met in a hall in Tolbooth Wynd immediately above Edgars, the motor cycle shop. The members all had their boats moored on the Water of Leith at the side of the old Hawthorns yard.
Some of us became associate member of the club and would be invited to join the others as they messed about in their boats. Most of these boats were converted from old lifeboats that were procured from the ship breakers yard at Inverkeithing.
This used to take place in the `Eldo` each week. We would saunter down the side of the State cinema to where an emergency exit door to the stadium always seemed to be open. From outside this we could catch a view of the bouts. The entertainment provided by the participants was always appreciated by us. At our young age we never doubted the how genuine it was, only later did we discover it was a well rehearsed routine.
Waiting long enough we would catch the wrestlers as they left carrying their holdalls. They invariably distributed signed photographs among us. I can still recall the names of many. Bert Assirati, Blondie Gordon, Cocky Knight, Black `Butcher` Johnston, & Les Kellett among them. Les would sometimes stand in as referee. Mr McGourty owned the Eldorado and he was always in attendance impeccably dressed in his evening suit.
Although we were under the age for drinking alcohol, we never really tried to obtain it as such, but we did partake of it on occasions, especially at New Year time. As for smoking, the dangers of it were not apparent then but it did not really interest us in the main. Some of the lads did have the occasional cigarette but this was only to impress the girls. I never began until I was 23 years of age, but now I am contented with a pipe.
By 1955, the Edwardian suits were making their entrance. This was in junction with the rock `n` roll music introduced by Bill Haley. Like many of our contemporaries we were eager to don the gear. Burtons in the Kirkgate was our main supplier of drape suits and drain pipe trousers in charcoal grey, sky blue or whatever.
With our hair styles based on the Tony Curtis look and the D A to the rear, we were caught up in the fashion. Great Junction Street was our main promenade thoroughfare. We were the bees knees depite the despairing attitudes of our parents.
We enjoyed the period as much as anybody, but our time together as pals was drawing to a close.
Some of us had served our two year National Service and on returning were no longer teenagers. Our lives had been intertwined since before the War, but now ties were being loosened.
Some of us had found girl friends, others like myself had gone abroad. Despite the attempts at getting back together, our lives had taken a different course.
In compiling this narrative, I have attempted to relive those days. Now looking back, I think we had a great time together, and I for one would not have changed it for anything.
Some of these guys are not around anymore, but if I am fortunate in any that are who might read this, then I would dearly love to hear from them. Heres Hoping.