Author Topic: ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?  (Read 333 times)

Chalkie

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ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?
« on: October 08, 2019, 04:35:31 PM »
 [font=]Our Neighbours[/font][font=] [/font]
[font=]When I was growing up in Harper Street, Short Strand, east Belfast during the 1970s we had the nicest neighbours you could ever meet.  All of the families got on so well that an outsider would have staked their life on us all being related.  But that was the same in every street in our area because everybody looked out for one another.  If there was a kid who needed minding, or picking up from school, feeding or even if a baby needed looking after for a few hours and its nappy changing, there was no shortage of free help.  [/font]It was true friendship and community spirit, but much more than that, it was an unbreakable bond which tied the families in our street together.  Our families did not interact and socialise the way families do today because we simply did not have the money to do so.  Such was the strength of community in our street that no matter which house you lived in, or whether the man of a particular house was signing on or lucky enough to be in employment, no family ever spent a day searching for their next meal. 
[font=]We were an inseparable bond, treating each other equally.  [/font]If one family had more than another, then they shared what they had with their neighbours because every family was living on the knife edge of survival.  There were no tiers of society in the Short Strand because if you lived in the district, regardless of whether you were born there or not, then you were one of us.  We had your back covered because we knew all too well that one day we would be calling on you to stand beside us, whether that call was for financial support or for the safeguard of our families.  You know what?  I really miss those days of my childhood but what they taught me has helped make me the person I believe I am today.
[font=]In No.40 beside us lived John and Bernie Close.  I admired John Close so much because to me, just like Danny Young across the street, he was someone I looked up to, someone that I one day hoped I could aspire to be.  They were my early, real life boyhood heroes.  Mr and Mrs Smith (Matt and Maisie) lived next door to us in No.36 for as long as I can remember and were still there when I left the Short Strand in 1989.  Matt Smith was a lovely man, a real gentleman.  In fact Matt and my Dad were practically like brothers as both would do anything for anyone if asked.  Matt was retired and was one of the few in our street to own a car but he did not own an old banger; he always had the latest Vauxhall.  Come to think of it I think he worked for the Vauxhall factory in Belfast and so enjoyed a generous staff discount. [/font]
[font=]The first car of his I remember was a brand new Vauxhall Chevette which he got when it came out in 1975.  Vauxhall started selling the car on 1 May 1975 with an asking price of £1,593.  This may not sound like a lot of money nowadays but in 1975 it was an absolute fortune: the average price of a house in the UK in 1975 was £10,876.  Matt bought himself an orange 2-door hatchback saloon.  I know what you are thinking. An orange car in the nationalist Short Strand and why didn’t he pick a green one given where he lived!  But aren’t green cars supposed to be unlucky?  [/font]I don’t believe this, as I used to own a British Racing Green Hyundai Sonata 2.0L GSi.  Now that was some car.  The Chevette was a classy wee car even for an old man like Matt!  In fact it was the best-selling hatchback in the UK from 1975 to 1978 (the Ford Fiesta was not launched until 1976). 
[font=]And of course 1975 was the year the pop video was born, with a 7 minute rock opera complete with visuals which gave Queen their first number one single, "Bohemian Rhapsody."  That video mesmerised me every Thursday night on Top of the Pops and it occupied top spot in the charts for 9 weeks from 29 November 1975 to 30 January 1976 when Abba’s “Mamma Mia” took over the No.1.  And how beautiful was Agnetha Fältskog?  She was a cracker and I fancied her like hell. [/font]
[font=]The first ever car I can recall my Dad owned was a 2-door Vauxhall Viva, which was powder blue and had a 1.2 petrol engine.  After the Viva I remember a red Austin Morris.  In 1976, my Dad bought himself an orange Ford Cortina Mark 3 GXL.  When Dad arrived home with this beast, complete with a hard vinyl black roof I can remember thinking: “[censored] me, we’ve won the pools.”  [/font]This car was the top of the range 2.0 GXL petrol version which, unlike most of the Mark 3s, had a combination of cloth and vinyl seats - very fancy!  And it had four round lights at the front, chrome door handles and circular chrome mirrors.
[font=]The Cortina was the car all the Ford salesmen drove, but you had to work your way through the ranks of the L model and the XL model.  [/font]Only the executives had the 1.6 and 2.0 GXL models.  They were the crème de la crème of the marque.  And it had a sports steering wheel with chrome bumpers.  If I had to describe this car to someone who was born after the 1970s, then I would say take a look at the red Gran Torino with the white stripe in the 2004 movie “Starsky and Hutch” and it might come close to my Dad’s Ford Cortina 2.0 GXL Mark 3.  Mind you, if you asked my Dad what colour it was he would say it was Sebring Red! 
[font=]Dad used to collect me and David from Saint Augustine’s in his pride and joy and I can tell you now it had heads turning.  In 1977, Matt Smith exchanged his Chevette for the newer model - only this time in a glossy black.  [censored] me, that car was gorgeous, no wonder he cleaned it every day.  And if I was playing football in the street, I made sure my mates knew that Mr Smith’s car was out of bounds.  On Sunny days that car sparkled like an expensive diamond.  [/font]
[font=]Great memories of living in my old area where my baby sister, Danielle, still lives in Harper Street.[/font]
[font=]Just one of the memories I have written about in “Kicking Through The Troubles- How Manchester United Helped To Heal A Divided Community.”[/font][font=][/font]
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[font=]http://empire-uk.com/kicking[/font]
[font=]John White, formerly 38 Harper Street [/font]

GandT

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Re: ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2019, 09:32:40 PM »
Harper Street and part of the Mountpottinger Road were all that I could recognise. Came our of St Matthew's, passed the school and looked for at least part of the old Seaforde Street - there was zilch I could recognise. Used to walk a girl up Harper Street, back to the old Beechfield works after her lunch - lovely girl, good times and great people!

Chalkie

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Re: ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2019, 11:42:08 AM »
Nice memory.

Barnet

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Re: ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2019, 01:17:28 AM »
Hi John hope you doing well, John Close is my cousin, no better man

Chalkie

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Re: ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2019, 10:24:16 AM »
Hi.

I met John & Bernie in India Gate a few weeks ago.

Tell them, I said Hello.

GandT

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Re: ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2019, 02:40:11 PM »
Hi John hope you doing well, John Close is my cousin, no better man


Now I am going really far back here but I remember a man called Harry Close who was a friend of my late father and my mother. Harry, if I remember correctly was a bus conductor or driver and although it is a very vague memory I recall a very jovial, red-faced man with glasses - may or may not have been a relative but strange how the mention of a name can bring us back to things we imagine have long gone from the memory!

Chalkie

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Re: ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2019, 02:10:15 PM »
 Saint Matthew's Community Centre sat on the corner of Mountpottinger Road and Madrid Street in the Short Strand.  The centre always showed a movie every Saturday night over the summer, a good way of keeping us kids off the streets and from getting into bother with the Brits.  [font=]On the Monday, a poster would be put up inside the centre advertising that weekend's showing.  If it was a film you really wanted to see you acted like an angel all week and did everything your parents asked you to do because if you didn't then there was no chance of you getting the money to go.  I still remember watching "Westworld" and "Steptoe and Son" in the centre and I am sure that is where I met a certain Mr Bond, "The name's Bond, James Bond" for the first time when the super suave Sean Connery played 007 in "Diamonds are Forever" in 1971. And wasn't the theme tune to that movie brilliant, although there was no way I was going to tell my mates that I liked Shirley Bassey. She was an oul doll and you may as well have told your mate you fancied his sister.  And no matter how good looking you thought the sisters of your mates were you never ever told your mate.  You dared not admit to liking them as the slagging you got was like slow torture, it went on for ages.  I can remember one time forgetting myself and saying to my mate, John Dignam, that I thought his older sister, Maureen, was a cracker.  As soon as said it I knew what was coming next.  I got some slagging from him and from the rest of my mates when he told them what I said even though I knew half of them fancied her too but didn’t have the balls to admit it.  The next day when I called to his house he answered the door.  He looked at me and walked back down his hallway and shouted upstairs: “Maureen, there is somebody at the door for you.”  I could have killed him there and then.  When Maureen came downstairs and saw me at the door, standing like a right eejit, I hit a powerful Redner.  She just smiled and went back upstairs.  My Dad liked Shirley Bassey big time - to my Mum's annoyance. [/font][font=][/font]
Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting [font=][/font]
One particular movie was the Daddy of them all in terms of the action on the screen and off it. In 1973, "Enter The Dragon" was released and a certain Bruce Lee was its star.  When that poster went up everyone was talking about it.  Bruce Lee was “The Man” at the time and before he burst onto the silver screen the only fights we had seen in movies were those between Cowboys and Indians (not real fights I know) and 007 beating the crap out of some foreign bloke.  Bond had a black belt in Martial Arts but this only existed on the pages on Ian Fleming's spy novels.  Bruce Lee was the real deal.  He was a skinny wee thing but not the type of boy you would take his last sweet from.  There was so much hype about “Enter The Dragon” that the centre had to sell tickets for its screening in advance.  Tickets were strictly limited to 150 but not because of any Health and Safety legislation in force at the time.  The centre only had 150 fold-up chairs!  Thankfully I got my hands on a ticket; some of my mates missed out.  [font=][/font]
I couldn't wait for the week to pass by but it dragged on.  Finally, the big night came and the 150 of us who were stood outside the centre in a queue that stretched down Madrid Street were buzzing with excitement.  Some kids were standing across the road with a stool in their hands probably hoping that the men in charge on the door would take a backhander and let them in.  If there were more than five in a family in our area it was not uncommon to find a stool in the home which the smallest kids sat on.  You could only get five-seater suites of furniture and even if you could get a bigger one there was no danger of it getting into the living room.  Our living rooms were just not that big in a 2-up, 2-down terraced house.  We used stools in our house.  The movie was brilliant and Bruce Lee was awesome in it.  Anybody who messed with him was going to get the [censored] knocked out of them.  And you would not have messed with Han’s (he was the baddy in the film) female bodyguards in the movie because they could all handle themselves too.   [font=][/font]
When we all piled out onto Madrid Street at the end of the movie, fights broke out everywhere around me.  Suddenly, everybody thought they were flippin’ Bruce Lee, even the wee skinny dying-looking kids were shouting "Hi-Ya" as they tried to take somebody's head off with a high kick!  Picture the scene in the movie when Bruce was being attacked by Han's men (that real baddy Oharra had already been sorted out by Bruce earlier in the movie).  Well Madrid Street resembled a Martial Arts tournament that night, ok admittedly a very bad one, as kids everywhere were getting their melt knocked in.  I saw one kid get a Karate chop to the throat.  He went straight home for his big brother to sort the other kid out.  That is what kids did back then when they lost a fight, went and got their big brother to exact some revenge for them.[font=][/font]
A few of my mates were dirty wee scrappers and just like when they were boxing in the local hall, they never really abided by the rules in this Kung Fu scrap.  One of my mates in particular was getting the face slapped off him by this kid who was really dead quick with his hands and I could see that he was getting [censored] off big time.  [font=][/font]
As I said, my mates didn't exactly play by the rules, so this kid was on the receiving end of a move I doubt was in the Kung Fu hand guide: a swift kick to the balls.  That was the end of that particular contest.  Even the kids who didn't get in to see the movie joined in - thankfully minus their stools.  You can put a £1 to a penny some clown would have made a set of Nun-chucks out of them. So one family would have been down a stool and some kid in the house would have ended up losing the chain from his bike just to make them things.  I even saw some kids doing the Crane move long before the Karate Kid ever used it.   [font=][/font]
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I did like Karl Douglas’s song, Kung-Fu Fighting:[font=][/font]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TgoF-ccdGM[/size][font=][/font]
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Now Saint Matthews Community Centre sat directly in front of the police station and I am sure the Brits who were watching events unfold loved the free entertainment on show.  There we were beating the crap out of each other instead of chucking stones at them and all because of a movie.  Stupid I know but it was great craic at the time.  Mind you that was the end of Kung Fu movies at the centre as too many parents complained about their son getting a right good hiding.  Our next movie was "Carry on Abroad" possibly followed by "Steptoe and Son Ride Again."  "The Exorcist" is another movie from 1973 that I will never forget but not because one of my mates sisters could spin her head around.  A certain Denise Gray (Denise was a friend of the Lundy sisters from my street) more than made my head spin a few times.  Denise was shy but she was really beautiful and in my book she was easily the best looking girl in the Short Strand.  But Denise and I never became really close despite how much I hoped we would.  [font=][/font]
"The Exorcist" scared the [censored] clean out of me no end.  I think I watched the last 40 minutes of it peeking through my fingers as my hands were covering my face.  Yeah, I know a 14-year old should have not been watching an X-rated film anyway but Mary Whitehouse wasn’t on the door that night it was shown.  And as for that soundtrack to it by Mike Oldfield, "Tubular Bells," it still gives me goose pimples today if I hear it on the radio.  “Enter The Dragon” caused a lot of fights in the street long after we had seen it in Saint Matthew's Community Centre.  It only took an argument over a song in the charts or a bad tackle in a game or to get things going.  Anybody who squared up to another kid regardless of age or size was always greeted with “Who the [censored] do you think you are, Bruce Lee?”  Then the fight would kick off.  [font=][/font]
And just when we thought the Kung Fu capers had died down, Carl Douglas released a song entitled “Everybody’s Kung Fu Fighting” which went to No.1 in 1974.  Yeah thanks for that Carl because everybody was Kung Fu fighting again but the expert timing was definitely missing.  I read a newspaper report in April 2011 that Jamaican born Carl criticised police on the Isle of Wight for arresting a man who performed his 1974 hit single.  The man was arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated harassment.  It was reported that the man was arrested after a Chinese passer-by overheard the song being performed in the Driftwood Bar in Sandown and made a complaint.  Douglas, aged 65 at the time, said: “I couldn’t believe it. This is not a racist song. It’s a happy, kicking, disco song.  I have Chinese cousins and my sister is married to a man called Tony Chang. Why would I sing a song that could be interpreted as racist?”  A spokesperson for Hampshire Police said they had received a complaint from a 32-year old man of Chinese origin who claimed he had been the subject of racial abuse.  [font=][/font]
That Chinese guy was lucky he wasn’t living in the Strand in 1973 because one of the most popular TV programmes was called “Love Thy Neighbour.”  The two lead male characters were a white guy, Eddie Booth, and a black guy, Bill Reynolds.  Eddie called his neighbour “Nig-Nog,” “Sambo,” “Choc Ice” and “King Kong.”  Bill in retaliation called Eddie “Honky” and “Snowflake.”  Mind you Eddie didn’t like any foreigners and referred to Indians as “Gunga Din” or “Ali Baba” whilst Chinese people were called “Fu Manchu.”  So if foreign nationals were being called these racist names on British TV in 1973 can you imagine what abuse a Chinese guy living in our area may have got?  I say may have got because I can’t remember any racists in the Strand, we had more pressing matters to keep us busy like the Brits and our Protestants neighbours!  I bet the Brits would have even given this Chinese guy some abuse though.  Speaking of racism “Till Death Us Do Part” had been on TV since the mid-1960s and its main character was Alf Garnett, played by Warren Mitchell.[font=][/font]
Alf was bigoted, racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, anti-Irish, anti-Catholic and his remarks could cut to the bone.  God only knows what he would have called the Chinese as I can’t ever recall him referring to them or Indians for that matter in the episodes of the show I watched.  Alf was quite simply a xenophobic East End dock worker but the show was funny and I loved it when he called his daughter’s boyfriend a “Randy Scouse Git.”  Interestingly, Warren Mitchell is Jewish.  A Chinese Catholic in the Short Strand, now I would have loved to have seen that when I was a kid.  I bet he would have been a handy mate to have with you when you left Saint Matthew's Community Centre on a Saturday night!  [font=][/font]
Thankfully a new Bond movie came out in 1973, "Live and Let Die," and this also had a great song with Paul McCartney and Wings singing the theme tune.  McCartney had ditched The Beatles by this time.  Surprisingly, James Bond had changed nationality from a Scot, Sean Connery, to a Brit, Roger Moore (we never referred to the Scots or the Welsh as Brits, just the English).  The beautiful Jane Seymour (Denise looked like a younger version of her) played the lead female role in the movie and we all knew what Bond would be doing with her in the movie.  When I say we only referred to the English as Brits that is not 100% accurate because we once had a Welsh Regiment stationed in the Strand during their tour of Northern Ireland.  It wasn’t too long before they were called Brit B. .s too.  I don't think any Scottish regiment ever served in the Strand.  Can you imagine the abuse they would have been given if every single one of them supported Glasgow Rangers?  There would have been murder.  Let's not forget that as kids we slagged each other mercilessly in the Strand if you had a girlie colour in your shirt or jumper so can you imagine the abuse a Brit in a skirt would have got?  Doesn't really bear thinking about does it? [font=][/font]
Saint Matthew's Community Centre didn't show many war movies and certainly none in which The Brits won.  You would stand a better chance of seeing “Emmanuelle” than you would “Battle of Britain,” “The Guns of Navarone” or “The Dam Busters” for example.  However, movies such as “The Great Escape,” “Bridge on the River Kwai,” and “Zulu” were shown.  Anti-British you say.  Of course we were. However, American war movies were on the viewing list such as “Where Eagles Dare” and “Sergeant York” and any John Wayne movie.  My Dad was a huge fan of John Wayne and a coloured portrait of The Duke hung above our fireplace.  Mum liked him too and I thought he was magnificent in “True Grit.”  What a classic movie that is.  Although our centre didn't show too many Brit war movies I can remember my mates and I glued to the TV when “Colditz” was shown from 1972-74. I never bought the board game, “Escape from Colditz,” though, as Subbutteo was my favourite game and then Striker.  [font=][/font]
Other great movies shown in the centre included “The Magnificent Seven,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”  The latter movie has a superb musical score from Ennio Morricone and up until recently I used the main theme tune from it as my ringtone.  I love that theme which sounds like a Coyote calling out.  In fact any movie starring John Wayne or Clint Eastwood went down really well with everyone.  Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” series of movies were fantastic for us kids to watch and some of the things Detective Harry Callahan (played by Eastwood) said found their way into our school playground.  Most fights at school began when one kid said to another: “Who do you think you are looking at [censored] Face”?  That was enough to start a scrap.  The first of these movies which brought us Detective Callahan was “Dirty Harry” and it contains the classic line from Harry: “I know what you’re thinking: Did he fire six shots, or only five?  Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off. You’ve got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well do you, punk?”   We quickly used the word punk in a lot of our sayings long before we had even heard of “The Sex Pistols.” [font=][/font]
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Just one of the memories I have written about in my book about growing up in Belfast during the Troubles -  “Kicking Through The Troubles- How Manchester United Helped To Heal A Divided Community.”[font=][/font]
 [font=][/font]
Kicking Through the Troubles by John White[/size][font=][/font]

penn

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Re: ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2019, 04:43:04 PM »
Hi John

Just got your book, can't put it down brings back a lot of memories. I live in the strand, came from Altcar Street live in 16 then moved to 41 Moved away 1975 after the Strand Bar attack, which my Father died in Arthur Penn. Moved to London then came back to live with my Grandmother Mrs Thompson 16 Sheriff. Went to Saint Augustine School from 1978 - 1983, came back to London married 1986. Still married. I had some good times at Saint Augustine[/size] .[/size]
[/size]
Stephen Penn[/size]

Chalkie

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Re: ARE YOU FROM THE SHORT STRAND?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2019, 10:32:19 PM »
What’s your name?
Where are you living now?
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