Richard Ballard – my early years

Retford Market Square

Sharing some more memories from my past

As many people have found, the COVID-19 lockdown gave us time to think and reflect, and I’ve found myself reminiscing about my childhood and early adult life, so I thought I’d write down some of the things I remember well.

Born in 1952, my childhood was unremarkable except that I was brought up by a single mum along with my 2 older sisters. My mum worked on a farm in the village of East Markham. I have never met my father as he disappeared before I was born. He was suffering from what would probably now be labelled as PTSD after his experiences in he had been through the 2nd World War. He was unable to settle back down down to civilian life after the war, so he left. I am a big believer in what you have never had you have never missed, and my mum did everything she could to look after us all, working 7 days a week with every 4th Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday off.

The house we lived in in the 1950’s had only 3 light bulbs, no hot water and a loo just outside the back door. Our hot water came from a kettle on the fire and a small back boiler which was heated by a log fire. I remember bath nights on the Sundays, when mum ran a bath for all of us, with about 3 inches of water in it, and I was the 4th one in! My clothes were all 2nd hand from jumble sales. I used to help on the farm and I also did a paper round, grass cutting and garden tidying, for various people in the village, all to help to make ends meet. I used to walk to school with other children and when I was 11 years old I was delighted to get a 2nd hand bike for Christmas.

Childhood memories of Retford

In my childhood days, mum would take me to Retford market when she had a Saturday off. You can see a recent image of Retford Market Square above and we used to go, the square was packed with stalls. Visiting the market was a real treat, with stalls selling everything you needed – and a lot of although the stalls selling things we couldn’t afford. The first supermarket opened up in Retford in the mid 60’s, I think it was called ‘George Mason’. We also used to shop at the hardware shop ‘Curtis & Howells’. The Co-op had what seemed a massive department store, again full of things we could only look at and imagine what it would be like to own them.

Traffic used to go through the main street of Retford ‘Carolgate’ so town always seemed busy. There were two plant nurseries cum garden centres on the bus route into town, one was ‘Barkers’ and the other called ‘Normans’ also a Dr Barnados children’s home, the ambulance station was right in the middle of town. Kettlewells Buses were where ASDA is now. There was a Lincolnshire/East Midlands bus depot in town, no one-way streets and only one set of traffic lights! On nice sunny days I would be allowed about an hour in Kings Park, to play on the swings and slides, whilst mum went around the market again. There weren’t many facilities in the village where we lived, but I’m not complaining, there were trees to climb, dykes to dam, dens to build and fields to roam in.

A typical day for me in the early 1960’s After helping to milk cows from 6am I would do my paper round, then cycle 3 miles to Tuxford secondary modern school, where I did quite well, ending up in the top stream. I vividly remember my first PE lesson when I was given a pair of plimsolls by the school to wear in the gym. At 11 years old, this was the 1st pair of new shoes that I had never owned, I was so proud of them. I would do my jobs in the early morning, bike to school, bike home, do some more jobs then go up to bed. Then I’d start all over again the next day. I never felt hard done by as a boy though, as I always had what I needed, I was never hungry, was often cold but that was just how things were for a lot of families at that time. My birthday is the end of August and, as I could leave school in the term that I reached 15, I left aged 14 years and 10 months.

So what happened next? I’ll be sharing some more memories in my next blog, coming soon!

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