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My Memories of Beeston - by Bert Toon


Bert Toon was born in Beeston in 1931. After National Service, he worked at Ericssons for a while before emigrating to British Columbia, Canada in 1956. Bert has been an avid follower of this site, virtually from its inception and, over the years, has contributed by offering comments and names to photographs. Now, he is keen to put his memories of Beeston down on paper so that we can all share them. He has many photographs too and we will look forward to seeing them here. Thank you, Bert!

Here are the first two installments in Bert's own words. Great stuff, Bert - we look forward to future installments.

Floods I was born in 1931, in Beeston Boilers general foremanís house, in their gardens at the corner of Hawthorn Grove and Queens Road. My grandfather was Clem Lee, general foreman at the time. We lived there for three years until my grandad had a stroke and passed away. We had to leave the house and moved to 58 Henry Road, along with my grandma Lee and her sister who was in her 70s. There was a flood in Beeston about 1933ish (see Queens Road on the right), so we all had to move to 177 Station Road where I lived until 1949 when I got called up.

I remember the Majestic Cinema being built across the road as I used to go and play in the sand piles as I had a cousin working on the site and it was OK!

At 5 years old I had to go to school at Nether Street. I was there until the war broke out, then onto Church Street, then on to Venn Hall on Dovecote Lane, behind the Baptist Church. When the air raid sirens started we all had to file across the street and go into air raid shelters on the rec. From then on, it was Beeston Fields Boys School. My memories of a few teachers - Mr Roberts (headmaster), Mr Swaby, Miss Critchlow and her rabbits, Miss Wilson, Mrs Silvertand, Mr Merchant.

Here are my early memories of Station Road from Queens road to High Road There used to be chip shop next to the creek that ran under Station Road to Broughs the builders' yard. Over the creek there was Regent Hall with a dance floor upstairs in the building, where my Dad used to play in Ted Whitby's dance band. Then Middle Street with the White Lion pub on the corner, Morris's paper shop and Ma Bailey's junk shop, opposite a fish and chip shop and Peels on the corner. Then up to Foster and Pearsonís timber yard, then a row of shops to the High Road.

I joined the Boys Brigade in 1941 when I was ten. My dad's brother in law was a officer Mr Arthur Johnson. The Captain was Mr Charlie Williams. Great memories of the club - more later.

Going back a few years. I remember the fire at the Humber factory on Queens Road. It was at night and my dad and mam took me to see it. We all stood in the toffee shop doorway across the street.

Beeston Lido Living in Beeston was safe in those days. One of the highlights in the summer was going down to the canal, swimming at the bridge (This was known as 'Beeston Lido' and is shown left, in the 1930s). There was a caretaker there with two changing sheds and steps down to the canal. When a barge was coming he used to blow a whistle and we had to get out fast. At the weekends, the banks at the bridge were full of families picnicking - great times!

My Dad, his brother and four friends started the Beeston Toreadors Carnival Band. He was the drum teacher, uncle Dan the rhythm section, Frank Fern was Drum Major. I also had an uncle and aunt in the band. Some days the band formed up on Boiler Company Sports field, marched along Queens Road, turned left on Station Road, over the railway crossing and past the Jolly Angler pub to Ellis's farm, where thy practised. After the pub it was all farm land to the locks. After the band finished they went up to the Jolly Angler for a refresher! The children played in the swings and slides outside having lemonade

My Dad played with Ted Whitby's band for 18 years then went onto the Grange Farm restaurant at Toton were his brother had a small band for parties, etc. Dad was the M C for the functions.

Going back a few years, my mother was a Lee family member. she had three brothers and one sister. The brothers - named Sam, George and Harold - all worked down the Foundry as molders, along with my Dad and all my Lee cousins. My grandma Lee had two brothers who were butchers on the High Road, one who had a tobacco shop in the Roman Jewelry shop next to the Prince of Wales pub

Before the war, times seemed ok. Dad was a big match angler and, in season, his Sundays were mostly spent fishing down Trent, always near Attenborough bend. After 12am we all trooped down to see the weight and took him a few sandwiches and bottle of tea. When the fishing season was out,Sunday night was a family walk - one week it was up Wollaton road, over Derby Road, up Sandy Lane or 'Devil Steps', to Wollaton village, to the Admiral Rodney pub for a rest, then all the way back, picking blackberries on the lane. Another Sunday it was along the Trent, over the gravel pits to Attenborough, stopping at The Blue Bell for a rest. They had a play area with swings and slides for the children. One I did not care for was the walk up Humber Road, turning right along Fletcher Road and through a path alongside a brook which I think was Pasture Dyke which joined Tootle Brook that went to the paddling pool, then along side the boulevard to Lenton were it met the River Leen.

Bomb damage When the war broke out I was 7-years-old. At Station Road we had an air raid shelter in the garden with two bunk beds and seats. Dad was a Fire Warden. When we had a siren go off we got up and went down the shelter. There wasn't much room as my grandma Lee and her sister plus a little sister who was aged about three were all there. One night, in April 1941, we were in the shelter. Dad was out doing his watch when a few bombs dropped on Queens Road and Mona Street - one near the Queens pub and the other in Mona Street. I remember my dad coming to the shelter saying he was going to check on Mona Street as my grandparents lived there, along with two aunts who also lived in houses down there. He came back after a while and said the house next to my grandad had had a direct hit (see right). It had missed their house but blew my grandparents out of their bed. Dad brought them round to Station Road where grandad died the next day. He had had a heart attack. Grandma went back after some damage had been repaired.

I remember one Saturday dad took us to the cinema in Slab Square in Nottingham. At the bus stop after the show there were two ladies and four children crying at the stop. Dad asked them what the trouble was they said they were from London and had been bombed out and had an address in Beeston. Anyway, we all got on the bus and when we got to Station Road, dad said come on in for a cup of tea and rest a bit. The two ladies were sisters and both had a boy and a girl. To cut a long story short, one family stayed with us and the old couple next door took in the other family. Their husbands were firemen in London and could not leave. The 'cup of tea' lasted 18 months!! They went back to London but about six months later there was a knock on the door - it was the family again. They had been bombed out again and said can we have our room back. Finally, they went back and remained good friends right to the end.

Any way, during the war dad played with Ted Whitby's dance band. One of the locations. the Premier Dance Hall above the Long Eaton Co-op at the bottom of Park Road, Chilwell was a regular night on Saturdays and I used to go with Mam and Dad. Mam sold tickets at the door and I used to go into the menís cloakroom and give them a ticket for twopence. As most of the dancers were American soldiers from their camp in Wollaton Park and they liked tipping, often they would give me a shilling or more and say 'keep the change'. Who was I to argue with a soldier - it paid for my Wakes Week in Blackpool!

Iíve got pictures of Boiler Company floats in the Beeston Wakes Parade starting on Markhams Field were Roundhill School is now. Bands and floats, along with various clubs, marched down to The Square turned right onto Middle Street, then down Dovecote Lane to the Rec where there were tents and rides for the kids. Bonfire Night was held on the same grounds. There was always something to do in Beeston.

In my next installment, I will go over Boys Brigade days and the rest of my family, on the Lee side.