Thursday, June 1, 2023
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Poem: Growing up in Armley late 1950s

Reader Martin Patterson has sent us this poem about growing up in Armley in the 1950s, the Lyric Cinema, Armley Feast, Armley Baths and Silver Cross prams …

Growing up in Armley late 1950’s
It was an awesome sight on a misty morn
When the huge face came into view
It was the first time I had seen the Clock School clock
I was only three foot two
My first day at the Infants
Pump bag in my hand
Hung my duffel coat up in the cloakroom
Found a box that was full of sand
I then Sat down on the Coco mat
Crossed legs and folded my arms
Teacher reads us a story
About animals living on farms
I’d never seen the countryside
I was born in Arma lea
Which is really strange when you think of it
Cos a meadow was called a Lea (Ley)
My spelling gets much better
As the school days roll along
We draw with big fat crayons
And we read books like Janet and John

We say prayers every morning
We get a bottle of milk as well
But something keeps on bothering me
It’s an awful horrible smell
Apparently it’s Phillip’s Yeast
A factory further up
So that’s what the problem is you see
It nearly makes us throw up.
There’s another factory behind the school
Less than a 100 yards away
And this will cause untold misery
For ever and a day
There is another smell I like
But It’s not the smell of Yeast
It’s when we are walking up Town Street
It’s the smell of Armley Feast
First you walk past Ivy’s
The fish shop on the Moor
You can smell the fat and the vinegar
Wafting through the door.
Then you can smell the Diesel,
The oil and caravan smoke
The colourful trucks belching out their fumes
It nearly makes you choke
Then there are the other smells
The Burgers, the Hot Dogs
The Candy Floss and onions
And those Bloody awful Bogs
The lights and noise are brilliant
On all the fairground rides

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Dodgems, Caterpillar, Speedway
And the Helter Skelter Slides
The rides are all too big for me
So I try to Hook a Duck
A Goldfish will do for me this time
Or maybe a coconut
I know that when I am older
I will be going back to the Fair
To stand on the bars on the Speedway
With the wind blowing through my Hair
To sing along to the records
With my mates to join in the fun
To maybe hold hands with a girlfriend
You know it’s great when your young.
We cut through the streets past Blakeys
The smell of molten iron and steel
Like a forgotten age from centuries past
The scene is so surreal
The Tannery is on the left
The smell of leather and hide
It’s always the same on Modder Ave
A bad smell on either side
We cross the road to Armley Baths
Where I will eventually learn to swim
The older kids,towels underarms
Waiting to go in.
The windows are always open
High up and out of reach
The steam billows out from the washhouse
You can smell the Chlorine and the Bleach
We are walking down Tong Rd now

The Lyric on my right
Carry on Constable is Advertised
Showing at seven every night
Saturday matinee tomorrow
Roy Rogers here I come
So I pick up speed on my trusty steed
Whilst my hand is slapping my bum.
We had to use our imagination then
When we were only young
We didn’t have much money at all
But we always had loads of fun
The simple things would please us
Skipping ropes and tors
Spinning tops with coloured chalks
Knocking on peoples doors
Kick out can, Hide and seek
Hop Scotch,Rounders and such
It’s a good job all these games were free
Cos we never had that much
I’m going in now to watch Hucklebury Hound
And my favourite character Yogi
I’ll be out later on till half past nine
I’ll be playing on me Bogey.
Ps..Anybody got a Silver Cross Pram they don’t want..I could do with a couple of big
TARA for now….


  1. No need for explanation – your poem expressed Armley perfectly. My family came from the place, in fact my three cousins went to the Clock School and lived directly opposite at the top of Esholt Place. I, on the other hand, made it ‘big’ and grew up in Wortley – Lower Wortley, which name tells a story in itself.
    I spent my weekends over in Armley, usually lighting fires under Players Please sheet metal posters and melting gas tar on them. On Saturday afternoons we went to the matinee at the Palace Cinema near the park. The building is still there, but heaven knows what goes on in it now.
    You mention the smell of yeast which pervaded the whole of Armley. That came, of course, from Sammy Ledgard’s brewery next to his bus depot behind his public house, the Nelson.
    So much more to say. But no. It’s for my memories. I loved every minute of those wonderful days. Thanks for the poem.

  2. Thanks for your delightful poem, Mr.Patterson. I was with you all the way. My mum went to Armley Park School and she worked for a time at Phillips’ Yeast.
    I grew up living in the street beside Armley Baths so I am very familiar with all your mentioned locations. Much of my “courting” was done on the back row, upstairs at the Lyric Cinema in the late 50s. My school was Armley Church till September 1948 when 11+ took me to West Leeds Boys’ High School. I visited the area only a short while ago – how it has changed. It was so disappointing.

  3. All that was so true. Lovely reading it. My sister worked at Blakeys later. I can just see the little baths at Armley Baths. The little doors that I never went in but where my mam used to for a bath, think it was called the slippey bath. I never wanted to go downstairs to changing area. Can see it all now. We lived in Fitzarthur Street and I went to St Bartholomews school. I remember Christmas holding on tight to the glass bowl that my mam had made, walked all the way to the school and never dropped it. My sister did as well. I remember Friday nights in summer and everyone sitting on their steps, we had cream soda and dandelion and burdock, then had a bag of chips from down the street. Oh could go on……..


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