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Stan Graham

Stan Graham

Freelance Journalist
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County Arcade

County Arcade, Queen Victoria St, Leeds, UK

I apologise for beginning with a cliché but the Arcades are what sets Leeds apart from other cities and since being refurbished they have led the way to our being seen as a class act instead of the grubby northern town we were in the fifties and sixties. I chose the County Arcade in particular as, if it hadn’t been for the Mecca Ballroom which used to be where the Reiss shop is now, I wouldn’t be writing this because that is where my mum and dad met. My dad was the manager so he got the first pick of the dance partners including my mum who was a stunner, sadly I take after him. When I was about six or seven they would take me there and we would sit on the balcony with a pot of tea, there was no alcohol served in those days, whilst watching the dancers and listening to the band. A kind of embryonic Strictly.

East End Park

East End Park, Leeds, UK

Before I started primary school my dad used to work away and my mum had a job in Lewis’s department store on the Headrow where Sainsbury’s, T K Maxx, Argos and Home Sense are now. We existed in a back-to-back slum off East Street and I would be left in the care of the elderly couple who lived to the rear. On fine days George would take me on walks to either go fishing with a net on a stick in a stream along Red Road or Black Road. I think that these must have been local names as I can’t find them on the map, but they were at Knostrop. The other place we would haunt was a grassy bank in East End Park where we would sit and have a sandwich whilst watching the trains go past below and marvel at the antics of the shunting locomotives in the goods sidings. It is overgrown by trees now and the view obscured. The trains are not powered by steam any more either.

Roundhay Park

Roundhay Park, Mansion Lane, Leeds, UK

Speaking of parks, this is in a league of its own and, unlike East End, it is very user friendly. Nowadays there is everything from the cool vibe of Oakwood to Tropical World, a selection of gardens, two lakes and the natural amphitheatre where rock concerts have been held since the eighties. The things I remember it for are that it was the tram terminus and the venue for Children’s Day. When the tram ground to a halt the conductor would pivot the seat backs so that the passengers returning to town were facing forwards, obviously the process was repeated at the other end of the line. Children’s Day was an annual gala held in the arena early each summer. There would be floats and a parade along with an inter-school sports competition. I never troubled the selectors at Richmond Hill County Primary so I would sit on Hill 60 with my mates eating sarnies and drinking pop, two habits which probably explain the first part of the sentence.

New Briggate

New Briggate, Leeds, UK

I am taking liberties here as this, less than salubrious, short street has played a large part in my life during childhood, adolescence and now in my dotage. When I was a nipper, my grandmother would take me to the various pantomimes in Leeds which meant the Theatre Royal, the Empire and the Grand. The first two are history but the wonderful Grand Theatre is going from strength to strength thanks in no small part to Opera North and Howard Assembly Rooms which are currently undergoing a major upgrade. I am lucky enough to occasionally be invited to write reviews on some of the productions staged there. On the corner of New Briggate and the Headrow is Sports Direct but when I was a teenager it was the Odeon cinema, a huge 1930’s picture palace with a stage in front of the screen occasionally playing host to the pop groups of the early sixties. The shows comprised half a dozen chart acts of the time who would perform two or three of their hits, the last twenty minutes or so being filled by the star. I have seen Roy Orbison and The Searchers, more times than I care to remember.

At the other end of the street is the block where I more or less lived between 1965 and 1968. There is a row of businesses there now which at the time were our patch. I went to Leeds Central High School on Woodhouse Lane so at lunchtime my friends and I would sneak out and go to the Riviera Coffee Bar in the cellar beneath where Chicko’s is presently situated. There is a tunnel which extends underneath the road and that was our domain. We returned almost every night and at weekends as well. Sometimes we would pay a visit to the posher Carousel Coffee Bar which was in another cellar underneath what is now SMKD. In later years we had the odd beer in the Wrens but it was mostly the coffee bars for us.

Nowadays New Briggate is where I catch my bus home but I have been know to ‘accidentally’ miss one or two so that I could enjoy a beer in North Bar or a glass of wine in Remedy.

York Road Library and Swimming Baths/Princess Cinema

York Road, Leeds, UK

I am an only child and there were no kids of my age in the street, in fact there were very few kids in the street full stop, so when I was at primary school I would take myself off to York Road Public Baths in the holidays. I was always the first into the swimming pool and would stay until my fingers wrinkled and the lifeguard kicked me out, there were no session times in those days, you just turned up and swam and as I was normally the only one in there I didn’t have to contend with those who were just messing about. It was a hot Bovril from the machine and then next door to the library where I would swap my books, hopefully not having wet the old ones too much when I was getting changed.

The buildings are still there and are now a branch of The Gym who I am pleased to say have restored the original features at the old entrance although the swimming pool itself which once protruded to the rear is now the car park.

Just round the corner on Pontefract Lane was the Princess cinema where I would go for the Saturday morning matinee most weeks. It showed westerns and science fiction films eliciting cheers and boos from the kids in the audience. The custom was to take sweets in with you which were obtained from the Penny Tray in the shop near by. If Leeds United were playing at home and my dad was in the mood, we would go to Elland Road in the afternoon. I mention all this to illustrate how times have changed. The chap who used to own the sweet shop was called Jackie Overfield and it was not unusual for him to serve me in the shop on Saturday morning meaning that I saw him twice in one day as he also played on the wing for Leeds United!

I also have fond memories of the ‘Prinny’, now a fish and chip shop, as my mum would take me there to watch a ‘proper’ film most Wednesday evenings. As I have said before, she worked in a department store and Wednesday was half-day closing so she had time to come home and get us both ready to go out.

The Kardomah

Lloyds Bank Briggate, Briggate, Leeds, UK

This is where eating out started for me, and I have such fond memories of it. It was one of a chain, and I think that there might be the odd one left somewhere in the country. It was situated on Briggate where Lloyds Bank is now although it only occupied the half to the left of the current entrance. The ground floor, appropriately enough, sold packets of coffee and tea with the downstairs being a waitress service coffee house. My dad and I would go there most Saturday mornings. If he was meeting up with his business partner we would sit in one of the booths and have a coffee and toasted teacake whilst they got up to speed, if they were not meeting we went up to the cafeteria on the first floor for a self-service breakfast. I would have still been of primary school age and it was pre-Prinny days but I was enthralled when we sat with some of his friends who told tales (in more ways than one) about their exploits of the week in exotic places such as Burnley and Derby. What really sticks in my mind though is the amazing taste combination of grilled tomatoes and potato croquettes. Very sophisticated.

You have probably gathered that I could go on forever about Leeds and what it means to me but I will call it a day now as they might want to put some other content on the website as well. I haven’t really touched on Central High School, which I hated, and Park Lane College, which I loved, even though it was only a few Portakabins in a Victorian schoolyard when I was there so much more intimate than it appears to be now.

Please enjoy your time in Leeds and I hope that you make some great memories of your own here. At least yours will be in colour rather than black and white.

How do you do. I am Stan Graham, a freelance journalist ever open to offers, and I have been writing about food, drink, theatre and other forms of culture in Leeds and its environs for several years now. I imagine that I am somewhat older than the other contributors to this feature, the deadline coinciding with my 70th Birthday.

I was born in Leeds and spent the vast majority of my childhood and adolescence in the city. Even as an adult I have lived either in, or within striking distance, of the place except for a few months in London, but as I was a student I would hitch-hike up the M1 every other weekend to get my washing done and cadge a couple of quid from my dad. A fit of ambition saw me working in Birmingham for six months in the midseventies but nothing materialised so it was back home again.

By definition some of my places in Leeds have changed beyond recognition or simply disappeared altogether but, like the city itself, I am forward looking and don’t dwell on the past even though the invitation to submit an article in this section has given me a chance to reminisce somewhat.

In my childhood and youth it has to be said that Leeds was not the prettiest place in the world but it is home so I love it. I also cherish the way in which we have embraced those who have settled here over the last century and a half in times of turmoil in their own countries and who have paid us back amply with their contribution to life in Leeds.

I was asked to write about six places but I have taken a few liberties so I hope that you will indulge the ramblings of an elderly gentleman. Enjoy!

County Arcade

I apologise for beginning with a cliché but the Arcades are what sets Leeds apart from other cities and since being refurbished they have led the way to our being seen as a class act instead of the grubby northern town we were in the fifties and sixties. I chose the County Arcade in particular as, if it hadn’t been for the Mecca Ballroom which used to be where the Reiss shop is now, I wouldn’t be writing this because that is where my mum and dad met. My dad was the manager so he got the first pick of the dance partners including my mum who was a stunner, sadly I take after him. When I was about six or seven they would take me there and we would sit on the balcony with a pot of tea, there was no alcohol served in those days, whilst watching the dancers and listening to the band. A kind of embryonic Strictly.

Address: Victoria Quarter, 10 Queen Victoria St, Leeds LS1 6BE
East End Park

Before I started primary school my dad used to work away and my mum had a job in Lewis’s department store on the Headrow where Sainsbury’s, T K Maxx, Argos and Home Sense are now. We existed in a back-to-back slum off East Street and I would be left in the care of the elderly couple who lived to the rear. On fine days George would take me on walks to either go fishing with a net on a stick in a stream along Red Road or Black Road. I think that these must have been local names as I can’t find them on the map, but they were at Knostrop. The other place we would haunt was a grassy bank in East End Park where we would sit and have a sandwich whilst watching the trains go past below and marvel at the antics of the shunting locomotives in the goods sidings. It is overgrown by trees now and the view obscured. The trains are not powered by steam any more either.

Roundhay Park

Speaking of parks, this is in a league of its own and, unlike East End, it is very user friendly. Nowadays there is everything from the cool vibe of Oakwood to Tropical World, a selection of gardens, two lakes and the natural amphitheatre where rock concerts have been held since the eighties. The things I remember it for are that it was the tram terminus and the venue for Children’s Day. When the tram ground to a halt the conductor would pivot the seat backs so that the passengers returning to town were facing forwards, obviously the process was repeated at the other end of the line. Children’s Day was an annual gala held in the arena early each summer. There would be floats and a parade along with an inter-school sports competition. I never troubled the selectors at Richmond Hill County Primary so I would sit on Hill 60 with my mates eating sarnies and drinking pop, two habits which probably explain the first part of the sentence.

New Briggate

I am taking liberties here as this, less than salubrious, short street has played a large part in my life during childhood, adolescence and now in my dotage. When I was a nipper, my grandmother would take me to the various pantomimes in Leeds which meant the Theatre Royal, the Empire and the Grand. The first two are history but the wonderful Grand Theatre is going from strength to strength thanks in no small part to Opera North and Howard Assembly Rooms which are currently undergoing a major upgrade. I am lucky enough to occasionally be invited to write reviews on some of the productions staged there. On the corner of New Briggate and the Headrow is Sports Direct but when I was a teenager it was the Odeon cinema, a huge 1930’s picture palace with a stage in front of the screen occasionally playing host to the pop groups of the early sixties. The shows comprised half a dozen chart acts of the time who would perform two or three of their hits, the last twenty minutes or so being filled by the star. I have seen Roy Orbison and The Searchers, more times than I care to remember.

At the other end of the street is the block where I more or less lived between 1965 and 1968. There is a row of businesses there now which at the time were our patch. I went to Leeds Central High School on Woodhouse Lane so at lunchtime my friends and I would sneak out and go to the Riviera Coffee Bar in the cellar beneath where Chicko’s is presently situated. There is a tunnel which extends underneath the road and that was our domain. We returned almost every night and at weekends as well. Sometimes we would pay a visit to the posher Carousel Coffee Bar which was in another cellar underneath what is now SMKD. In later years we had the odd beer in the Wrens but it was mostly the coffee bars for us.

Nowadays New Briggate is where I catch my bus home but I have been know to ‘accidentally’ miss one or two so that I could enjoy a beer in North Bar or a glass of wine in Remedy.

York Road Library and Swimming Baths/Princess Cinema

I am an only child and there were no kids of my age in the street, in fact there were very few kids in the street full stop, so when I was at primary school I would take myself off to York Road Public Baths in the holidays. I was always the first into the swimming pool and would stay until my fingers wrinkled and the lifeguard kicked me out, there were no session times in those days, you just turned up and swam and as I was normally the only one in there I didn’t have to contend with those who were just messing about. It was a hot Bovril from the machine and then next door to the library where I would swap my books, hopefully not having wet the old ones too much when I was getting changed.

The buildings are still there and are now a branch of The Gym who I am pleased to say have restored the original features at the old entrance although the swimming pool itself which once protruded to the rear is now the car park.

Just round the corner on Pontefract Lane was the Princess cinema where I would go for the Saturday morning matinee most weeks. It showed westerns and science fiction films eliciting cheers and boos from the kids in the audience. The custom was to take sweets in with you which were obtained from the Penny Tray in the shop near by. If Leeds United were playing at home and my dad was in the mood, we would go to Elland Road in the afternoon. I mention all this to illustrate how times have changed. The chap who used to own the sweet shop was called Jackie Overfield and it was not unusual for him to serve me in the shop on Saturday morning meaning that I saw him twice in one day as he also played on the wing for Leeds United!

I also have fond memories of the ‘Prinny’, now a fish and chip shop, as my mum would take me there to watch a ‘proper’ film most Wednesday evenings. As I have said before, she worked in a department store and Wednesday was half-day closing so she had time to come home and get us both ready to go out.

The Kardomah

This is where eating out started for me, and I have such fond memories of it. It was one of a chain, and I think that there might be the odd one left somewhere in the country. It was situated on Briggate where Lloyds Bank is now although it only occupied the half to the left of the current entrance. The ground floor, appropriately enough, sold packets of coffee and tea with the downstairs being a waitress service coffee house. My dad and I would go there most Saturday mornings. If he was meeting up with his business partner we would sit in one of the booths and have a coffee and toasted teacake whilst they got up to speed, if they were not meeting we went up to the cafeteria on the first floor for a self-service breakfast. I would have still been of primary school age and it was pre-Prinny days but I was enthralled when we sat with some of his friends who told tales (in more ways than one) about their exploits of the week in exotic places such as Burnley and Derby. What really sticks in my mind though is the amazing taste combination of grilled tomatoes and potato croquettes. Very sophisticated.

You have probably gathered that I could go on forever about Leeds and what it means to me but I will call it a day now as they might want to put some other content on the website as well. I haven’t really touched on Central High School, which I hated, and Park Lane College, which I loved, even though it was only a few Portakabins in a Victorian schoolyard when I was there so much more intimate than it appears to be now.

Please enjoy your time in Leeds and I hope that you make some great memories of your own here. At least yours will be in colour rather than black and white.

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