Once upon a time in Openshaw: Growing up in the 1960s

Once upon a time in Openshaw there were two friends, not just friends, but the best type of friends you could ever be to one another.

Janet S and Janet B both grew up in Openshaw in the 1960s and they told me about their precious times together growing up in the heart of industrial Manchester.

The two Janets became friends while attending Elysian Street Junior School and became inseparable throughout their years ahead. They both went on to Ardwick Technical High School and made memories to last.

These days the two Janets, both retired, live in different parts of southern England.

They try to see each other as much as possible and still attend old school reunions whenever possible. Whenever the two best friends have a get-together it’s always in Manchester and never ‘down South’.

By chance I got talking to Janet S while scrolling through Facebook and was so excited by her stories of Openshaw -where I’ve lived for 53 years, holding some special memories close to my heart. But the two Janets’ stories of the sixties will bring back memories for us all of when we were growing up, I’m sure.

The longest ice slide in Openshaw

We often got snow turning to ice in the early evenings of Winter nights. The long winter of 1962 through to 1963 went on for months of snow and ice – that was too good to miss for two little 10 year olds. We would go out about 8 pm and continually slide down Meech street and from Staton street to Dunston street until we got it like a sheet of glass.

There were very few cars around our streets in those days and it never entered our heads that we could be posing a real danger to an early morning motorist.

Friday nights were the best as we looked forward to getting up Saturday morning and playing on our slide. Inevitably, one lady from Meech street would come out with her packet of Cerebos salt sprinkling it along our slide that then turned it into slush. However, one morning in February 1963, we found our slide was still intact… maybe she’d run out of salt?! And so, it proved a good opportunity for a photo. 

Janet S, sliding down Meech street aged 10 years old.

Friendly rivalry

There were specific separate schools for Church of England and Roman Catholics back in the 1950s and 60s. In Openshaw we had Elysian Street C of E Junior School at the top end of Greenside Street Park, as it was then. St Vincents RC Junior school was at the bottom end of the park. We all played together out of school, in the streets, in the park, etc.

We never let religion divide us at all; never gave it a thought…until the snow fell! Ha ha ha! We all piled into the park during lunch break where it was suddenly THEM and US in mega snowball fights held in the middle of the park with each side trying to get the other to retreat back to their school end of the park by snowball bombardment! 

Suddenly I heard Janet B scream out and as I looked across I saw white snowflakes on her face turning red as blood flowed down her face. Someone had scooped up a stone in making a snowball, surely by accident, as they rapidly made more snowballs. It hit Janet straight at the top of her nose splitting it on impact.

Everyone from both sides ran to see what had happened and to help if possible. She was rushed down to Ancoats Hospital by a teacher in the car to get stitches put in it. She still bares the scar to this day but says now, “My glasses cover it these days!”

Bonfire night

One of the best highlights of the year was Bonfire Night. We spent a full week in October half term school holidays by going out ‘Logging’, as we called it  collecting any bits of wood and things we could burn on 5th November (or the nearest Saturday to it).

‘The Piggy was a stretch of open land between Timperley Street and Victoria Street. We stacked our wood and when it got quite sizeable we were scared to leave it unattended for fear of being raided – the term we used for being robbed by other local gangs.
Our arch enemy was Smiggers Gang.

They seemed to have bigger lads than our Piggys Gang, so anyone we left to guardour wood just did a runner if Smiggers came calling. They may have had a bigger wood pile by 5th November but we had the best mums who brought out all the treats; home-madeparkin; roasted chestnuts; treacle toffee; jacket potatoes. It was a magical night for us Openshaw kids.

To be continued…

Janet has so many fond memories there – I can relate to the bonfire night story. I also got Janet S to have a go at my This or That game and she obliged with the answers below:

Tea or Coffee – Coffee

Aerobics or Yoga – If pushed, aerobics

Long walk or Pub – Long walk

Book or e-Reader – Book

Beach or City break – City break

Vinyl or Downloads – Vinyl

Horror or Comedy – Comedy

MCFC or MUFC – Oooh hard one, City!

Cats or Dogs – Dogs all the way

Night Owl or Early Worm – Night owl

And finally, what is your favourite season? – Autumn

Did you grow up in Openshaw? Drop us a comment or send your nostalgia stories to [email protected]

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