Growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s I was brought up by my mother ‘Marion’ daughter of my grandparents ‘Bill’ and ‘Hilda’ and have fond memories of been in the house, yard and workshop of ‘Walkers Coaches’ in Hexthorpe, Doncaster a car repair and luxury bus business.
Hexthorpe was home the Doncaster Plant works, where the Mallard and Flying Scotsman steam trains were made. Over the road Mick McManus lived, the wrestler, down the road Cat Weasel the wrestler lived. Both entertained millions of people on ‘World of Sport’ on a Saturday afternoon. Cat Weasels son was the first to break my nose in an accident at infant school, but thats another story.
From the age of 11, I would get on a 30 minute bus ride to work on a Saturday morning for 50p pocket money – work he says – hinder more like. Climbing the workshop for bird eggs or playing with the guard dog, a dog no man could get near. Seen as they were all called ‘King’ and were mad ex over the hill Police dogs. Still happy memories.
The yard was always filled with what we would call Vintage Vehicles, some even old for those days. The bus fleet would always be changing and Grandads pal ‘Herbert’ would turn up with fag in his corner of his mouth with his greasy flat cap – just imagine ‘Andy Cap’ to sign write the old London buses or latest AEC. The was the right man for the job as he was the one who hand painted the Mallard and Flying Scotsman! He was even brought out of retirement to paint them! Me and my sister ‘Helen’ would often be found running up and down the buses dinging the bells or sitting in the front pretending to drive a bus.
Days out with Grandad was special, he always had a Jaguar car for posh occasions, he always wore a Trilby and he always had mint imperials in the dash board to keep his mind from when he packed in smoking and there was always a dog sat in the back seat panting over our shoulders, dribbling with his little pinky out as he was so excited on a trip out. Trips out were usually to garages to pick up spares, or the engineering shop or a scrap yard. Little did I know I would repeat the same many years later! Not a fond memory for my daughter ‘Emma’. As she says ‘you always dragged me around some mates of yours dirty smelly garage’!
When the council did a compulsory purchase on the property my grandparents moved, but I still called each weekend to help out. When I started work and was mobile on my Scooter or car I passed from work most nights for tea and usually a cup of tea full of Whisky to warm me on the dark colder nights for the journey home.
One day I called and found my Grandad dead on the floor, not the best memory, my best mate! I didn’t realise at the time! He was everyones best mate – their house was always full of visitors, with stories and laughs that I didn’t appreciate at the time. Something I took into my later life and make sure I do as much as I can for my grandkids so they have the best fun with stories and learning they don’t get at school, fond memories of Grumpa!
And then there was my Nanna, been the oldest grandson and after some firm words from Mum, I visited her what seems like all the time. Having tea or taking her for a ride out for tea as my kids were growing up. She was someone I could talk to, we could talk for hours about up’s and downs of business as she was the only member of the family who had always been in a self employed business. The last car she drove me in was a Morris Minor van which smelt of dogs – thats the reason I have the same van and that also smells of dogs – just because of her, not the dog smell but the fear of driving with an old women, thats what you think when your a teenager! But Nanna was just like the Queen mother and Grandad chauffeured her around in one of his posh cars with his suit and Trilby! If he wasn’t in his suit he was in his overalls and shirt and nothing else, it was how it was! If he wasn’t in the garage he was next door in the kitchen in his arm chair mostly asleep guarding the tradesman entrance – the back door.
I then found out my mum had a few Morris Minor travellers – so I have one of those as well………. see memories! Simple happy times with memories, not this crazy, non stop stressful world we have to live in now! Each vehicle has a memory, a love of something shaped in metal and rubber and plastic – engineering of old and something to show how bloody clever people have been over the years! Today it seems all we hear is how stupid people have become – killing off the world, a worry I have for my grandkids!
And then there was my Dads – Dad ‘Allan’ he was an actor you know! He was an acting parent with his wife ‘Vivian’ my step mother in a some of the first St Trinian’s films with Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell and Joan Collins! He was best mates at school with Harry Corbett and together they created Sooty and Sweep, who both went to my mum and dads wedding! And we still have the photos.
I still remember visiting Grandpas house, I opened the door and he was there! Harry Corbett, the one – if not the most famous person in the world for 6 year old kid! God I was so scared, but asked where is Sooty and Sweep? And the reply was ‘they’re asleep in the van out side’.
Alan was director at the Arts Center in Doncaster and would get free passes to the shows and I remember been taken backstage to meet Harry Corbett and was led passed tea chests full of Sooty and Sweep and Sue puppets – Oh Christmas wasn’t real!
I have other fond memories, Grandpa Allen moved into a farm with his new wife in Retford. It wasn’t a real farm it was a toy farm, with a Shetland ponies and ducks and geese and cats and dogs that would just walk in the house and sit on the seats. They made a pond to play in, in the field that I swam in with all the duck mud, without buildings with straw bales to make dens. A place my Dad would take me to a few times a year after mum and dad separated. And thats a memory that I never forgot, a place in the sun, climbing and exploring and having fun. A place where I broke my arm falling out of a tree!
Today – I have my own little play farm with ‘Alice’. ‘Meadowcroft Farm 4 little 1’s’. A place I restored back to a farm dating back to 1776! An interesting place for me and my memories, a place that puts a smile on my face even in the darkest winter nights. A place where I hope the grandkids have memories of fun and sunny days, hanging around, exploring and enjoying life like I remember, getting wet and picking fruit. And enjoying the little animals that teach them so much. Each little animal on the little farm has a story, something they won’t appreciate now but in 20 years they will. It’s a place for parties, camping, stories and smiles be it with the micro pigs, pygmy goats, Alpacas, Donkey, Cats, Dogs, Chickens, Ducks, Sheep and Fish and then there’s the wild animals that frequent the place, down to the rats, mice and noises from the woods or just teaching them how to light a fire or cut the grass or dig a hole!
Memories – good ones and of course lots of bad ones, but the good ones write off the bad.
Scooters became my life – my business, starting off from the mod days of the late 70’s! But theres more to life than Scooters, today it’s a fashion, a way of life! For me its the same old, same old, been there done it and reinvented it over and over again. As soon as you turn your hobby into a business and have to charge money the hobby has gone! I’ve seen good times and I’ve seen bad times, it’s been a 30+ year roller coaster of life – privately and in business. I’ve been so stressed in business I ended up in hospital and was told twice by consultants Ill be dead in a year – I was 32! 20 years later, I’m still here, just! No idea why? I live hard, play hard and collapse hard. Grandpa had a heart attack at 55 and died, dad had one in his 50’s and survived. The Scooter business has so many taken in this way – why I don’t know it’s not the best business to be in. The competition is hard. In this modern horrible world we live in, some people are the lowest of low evil people – but work it out and it’s a hand full that spoils it. We have 15’000 happy, nice customers and a hand full that ruins my life! Talk to any self employed business man and it’s the same story.
Dad – he left when I was young, he didn’t just leave, he went to America to find his mother who left him on a door step in London in the war! And he never came back and remarried. At the age of 26 whilst he was in the UK in the RAF, he started Kayak Slalom racing. Today they start at 4-6 years old and work up to your peak at 26. He won the RAF championship 3 times when Slalom was a massive sport. I still have memories, sitting in a boat or playing in a river and swimming all the time. When I was 15 I raced and won and went through the ranks. Years of watching and learning and been sat in a boat far too big for me.
Then I found a job. With money in my pocket – Scooters, Mods and girls took over! Even my travelling all over the country train spotting stopped. When I became ill the doctor said ‘what do you do to relax’? My answers were not so enlightening to him! He told me to do something – get out in the open – get some fresh air, do some exercise, try a sport! I’d already beaten myself to death mountain biking in the early years where no one would ride with me as they kept falling off and breaking bones. Little did I know I was beating my self up with personal problems at home. So I shut the shop on a Saturday came out of a 25 year retirement and started Kayaking again – but oh no not in a de stressful way! I had to win! Something thats built into me, and my parents! Me and Dad designed a new Kayak, something dad does well and blow me I became the British champion not once but 4 times! It was only an accident at the Isle Of Man TT that stopped me doing it the 5th time! Okay okay it was for the Vets as I was in my 40’s, but I had to beat some of the people who are now in the olympics! But it was something to keep me focused away from work that can get you down. Again there’s memories, driving everywhere, camping, training, designing gear – something else I did away from Scooters! Bike gear, outdoor gear – I never stop. I seem to get my head into something and thats it – I’m obsessed.
It’s the same for my collection. I’ve always had Scooters, some I’ve ridden, some I’ve restored, some I’ve done nothing with and sold. It’s all part of the business. Mainly I’ve just worked on other peoples Scooters. When your that busy, you get no time to enjoy the hobby and your locked in a dark workshop working non stop for other people. It was the same when I ran a race team – you’re working all week on the race bikes, at weekends your catching up on paying work whilst the racers are away having fun and your not!
At work I’m serious, every job is done to the best of my ability. I tend to get everyone else’s crap that Mr Bodger has had a go at – if in doubt, don’t do it, it will cost you more in the long run. Don’t let the silly facial photos put you off, it’s a bit of light hearted fun – out of work I like a laugh – but I take no shit, I can’t be doing with computer keyboard warriors, drug dealers, criminals or people who threaten me or my family or to burn my house down! And I can’t just talk about the weather and I’m rubbish with small talk. I’m really hard to get to know, I need to know you first – and for this people call me all sorts especially arrogant! I’m not, I just can’t be doing with shit!
Keep sliming people and remember theres no need to run around like chickens with no heads on.
It’s a collection, it’s my collection, it’s not a museum, it’s me giving back some memories for those interested. They are not for sale, but everything has a price, if I can make a little bit I can put it back in the collection.