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Contemporary 'Childhood' Observations

I dare say that if I was to rack my brain hard enough I could put together a tale of my latter childhood days. I was born into Printfield Terrace, just up from the Fountain at Woodside which I remember very little of other than traipsing across to the wooden sheds next to the railway line on Elmbank Terrace where some guy had a sort of early Pet Shop with Budgies and Canaries, rabbits, dogs and various rodents.  I must have been around five when we moved to the then 'new' Rosemount Square, and yes, I could probably put together something about our playground among the damp, urine and shit smelling, redundant air raid shelters next door or of our death defying 'luge' run down Jacks Brae on home made sledges of sheets of corrugated iron, cardboard boxes, any flat bit of wood, even large frying pans or any other material that was flattish and of low friction value and of our ongoing street battles with the Baker Street gang where we stood facing one another at the crossroads of South Mount Street and Baker Street hurling stones at one another hoping for a 'kill' but succeeding only, on one occasion that I remember, in shattering the large plate glass window of the 'chipper' on the corner.

The new housing estate on Garthdee Road was my next stop in 1951 and that was like living in the 'coontrey ye ken' to me a toonser. Now that was fun as we had the Dee just at the bottom of the field across from our house and we played for hours every day on its banks and explored upriver toward the  mysterious 'Stewarties Island' which wasn't really an island but more a small peninsula. The river, fishing for tiddlers, playing cowboys and indians among the trees along the bank or commandos crawling on our bellies through the thick tall grasses and shrubs on the 'Blue Hillie' across the river where we even snuck up on the Crown and Anchor players if you remember from previous mails. Great fun indeed.  But, sadly kids don't do enjoy these experiences now. With the wider distribution of wealth in society parents have bought off their children with gadgets, gizmos and branded fashion so kids no longer have the vivid experiences that we enjoyed in our surroundings by using our imagination and ingenuity.   Douglas P

I have found a little time to respond to the various contributions re King Street end of Aberdeen. That whole part of the city was indeed the original heart of it.  Yes it was the East End and working class and less in our young days but it was the hub of life for  a majority of Aberdeen folk and most if indeed not all of industry was located there originally, principally because of the harbour no doubt. Engineering shops on King Street and Spring Garden come to mind for a start and I am sure that lots more can be added to them for this area.

The Junction of King Street and the Castlegate with 'Birnies Corner Cafe' post the Glass and China Shop.  Directly opposite was a pet food store with magnificent aromas of dog biscuits - Spratts - and edible we found after we filched them - to the left just beyond the Bank which now converted to a grandiose interior pub.. Much interlacing of tram rails here for a conductor to shift points with a lever.  Just beyond the church on the left was West North Street and Calders Corner Shop Entrance is opposite that. Nigh opposite the Don bound tram and the tram stop in King Street was the Post Office.  Just into W-N St was the 'Hairy Bar' an affection name for something more aptly named as the Aberdeen Arms.  Jaywalking is an an economy of effort for distance in Aberdeen.  The open Attic Window towers above the adjacent Bank offering fine views over the harbour.

Interestingly enough Ed's comment re Birnie's stirred my mind a little. My Grandfather Cosimo Pacitti arrived as an economic migrant in Glasgow in 1874 at the tender age of 12 no less!  He entered the country under the 'Padrone' system of migration where a previous migrant who had established himself in this country returned to his homeland and offered to take the children of relatives or friends back to his adopted country for a new life. The young person had to agree to live and work with this person for a period of three years, being fed clothed and housed and I suppose paid a paltry sum by the padrone. My Grandfather does not show on census records until the late 1800's but he appears to have left the padrone and worked on in Glasgow where he met my Grandmother Anastasia Scaglione, herself an economic migrant from Italy. They married on 9th Oct 1888 in St Andrews Cathedral Glasgow and moved to Aberdeen where he set up his first shop at 22 East North Street. They also lived on the first floor above the shop where they raised all but one of their 14 children. About the turn of the century he moved shop to 232 King Street which is across the road from where J W Henderson's Engineering shop would have been. He moved again around 1910 to 11 Urquhart Road which was at that time the northerly pedestrian route to the Beach area and he operated there until his untimely death in 1928. He also used to operate an ice cream barrow around the area on various days and I know that my father used to work some of his rounds from time to time. Strangely enough I recall the 'mannie Hay' in the Plan Room at Hall Russell's telling me that when he was a kid he knew an ice cream 'mannie' who pushed a barrow in Fittie that had the same name as me but swore blind that his name was John! At this time  I was not aware that my Grandad had operated a barrow in Fittie and said that John would not have been the true name of an Italian. But the 'mannie Hay' being the 'mannie Hay' insisted that he was right and that John was indeed the name. Of course passage of time taught me that the common parlance in Aberdeen for a foreigner with an unusual or difficult to pronounce given name would be dubbed 'Johnnie' as in 'Ingin Johnnie' It was later confirmed to me by my brother Cosimo, a city architect at the time, that one of his colleagues who was raised in Fittie confirmed that it was indeed my Grandad who pushed the 'barra in Fittie'  I doubt however he was much of a business man as this person went on to relate that in that era the working class were indeed very poor people and had little money to spare if any and as a consequence as kids they would approach my Grandad and ask if he would give them an ice cream, for say a penny, when it actually cost tuppence. He would put away the cone from his hand and drop a couple of scoops of ice cream on a wee piece of greaseproof paper instead of disappointing them. There is a lot more to relate such as  the aerial bomb which hit my Grandmothers house at 28 Urquhart Road on July 12th 1940 which probably hastened her death in Dec that year, but that is for another time.

The Cafe at the corner of King Street and Castle Street was indeed owned by one Joe Birnie, son of Italian immigrants and good friend of my father who helped Joe in the shop on Saturday Nights. Birnie was not as you may suspect his given name but an adopted name. It was this same good friend that advised my father, when bent on renting the shop on Kirk Brae Cults to set up an Ice Cream Parlour, not to do so as it would never work out. I often wonder why. That shop turns out to be the grocery shop operated originally by Sandy Murray's father and now his brother George as it is the only shoppie on Kirk Brae. I at a much later date of course dated Joe Birnie's daughter Monica, a product of the Convent School at Queens Cross who had a Morris Minor.

Fraser, your Grandad's shop was on the corner of King Street and  West North Street was it not ? If so I do not quite recall the bike shop but I do remember the same shop being occupied by J N Stewart the flooring contractor where Eric Wilson, nephew of Stephen Wilson  the baker, friend of Ron and Central School / Accies FP scrum half, worked as an estimator /  surveyor. It was he who gave me a deal, or so he said, on some lovely Malayan Keruing hard wood parquet flooring for the hallway of my new home in Stonehaven in 1973. It still lies there today now hidden from view by a carpet at the request of my dear wife who couldn't stand the constant noise of heels clicking on the wood surface. I recall my embarrassment when Eric gave me the actual price of his 'special deal' of £145. I was only just a year married, had a mortgage on a £8,500 house and a salary of only £2,100 and like all others, no savings.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013