Just Miles
The Memoirs of Percy Harwood

Page 4

A farm worker called Juke came in every day fora ploughman's lunch and always ordered two pints of beer. One pint he always downed in one and the second pint he sipped through his cheese and bread. Bully Mansbridge was also a regular caller. He was a cattle and horse dealer, He drove a Model T Ford. There was always a tale to tell.

When my hair needed to be cut I was sent to Albert Payne's shop on the comer of Queen's Road and High Street. It was 4 pence in those days. Men would have their Sunday morning shave, five to six sitting in a row. There would be a training boy barber who would lather their faces in turn. Then Mr. Payne with his cut-throat razor would shave them. Mr. Payne and his brother were also interested in sea diving. They had a boat called Nancy Lee, fitted out for deep sea diving. Another schoolboy, Fatty Clark often went out with these divers and helped crank the pumps to provide air.

My next barber was Sam Ryan. His shop was in Clarence Road, near to Osborne Road School. He was also a member of the East Cowes Brotherhood Band. He was a skilled violinist When he was not busy he would bring out his violin, even if he was half way through cutting someone's hair One day he told me he was going to retire He bought a bungalow at Alverstone, near Sandown, for £400. I asked him if I still called on him would he still cut my hair. Of course, was his remark. So for many years I called on him. The strange thing was that at East Cowes he only just managed to get a living but when he retired he was busier than ever. He would always tell a good tale. Sam was a Cockney and I remember one of his stories well. A customer came to Sam on a Saturday morning fora shave, "Lend me half a crown and III pay you back on Friday". Sure enough Friday came and the money was repaid. On the following Monday again he asked for the half a crown. Sam obliged and this went on for fourteen years. Son on the Friday when the half a crown was repaid Sam gave him back the money saying, " You keep it. I'll give it to you. You already have it for five days and I have it for two."

These were now the War Years 1914-1918, World War 1. My father was called up to the Transport Corps driving a Tbomeycroft Solid Tyre lorry. I remember him coming home on leave once in his army uniform he seemed so big.

My mother was determined to keep open the cycle shop, we hired out cycles, there being no buses, and as the war went on spares were difficult to get hold of and repairing the cycles became a problem, mending broken free wheels was one! New ones were not available so repairs were done on the kitchen table. I remember she had to remove a cover plate, this had a left hand thread, the plate being removed followed by the ball bearing pawl and springs, the springs were usually broken and when reassembled as children we had to tie them with cotton round the pawl to keep them in position, with the cover plate now back the cotton was cut so that the pawl and springs could work.

I remember my Mother saying that "Brown Brothers " (these were our spares suppliers) were unfair by not supplying her with spares. I suppose that is one reason why I buy little or no spares from Brown Brothers even to this day.

Putting on pram tyres was another problem, most of the roads were gravel, this would cut and split the rubber tyres like shoes that needed mending. The rubber came in various diameters 25ft in length, there was a coiled wire running through the middle. It was the practice to cut the rubber about half an inch short of the circumference of the wheel, again half an inch of rubber cut from each end. Leaving the half inch coiled wire protruding with one end of the rubber in a vice, winding the rubber left handed about six turns, bringing the two coiled wires together slowly letting the wire unwind-allowing the two coils of wire wound into each other making a joint, because the rubber was cut short of the circumference it stretched over into the rim of the wheel. Because most of the roads were gravel we had plenty of punctures in our hire cycles-and it fell to myself mend these on a Saturday morning up to 10.15. We made our patches from old tubes.

The war had ended and Dad went back to his postman's job and running the shop between times. He started at 6am and delivered to 10, this was called the county round, something like a 12 mile walk, he was expected to walk , the post office would not supply him with a cycle so he used his own. His second shift started at 12 and finished at 2pm , completely round the town collecting. His third shift started at 6pm and he took the mail from East Cowes to West Cowes railway station for the train to Ryde, the place from where the mainland mail was despatched. All this in a two wheeled wicker basket. When the tide was out it would be too big and heavy to push up the bridge slopes, but there was always a willing hand to help push.

My sister Eve and I were always up very early and on our cycles, we used to find dad delivering letters, I would give him a hand running in and out of the houses delivering letters. This only stopped when we both learned to play the piano. We had one Piano upstairs and one Piano downstairs. We were made to practice every morning before going to school. Our first teacher was Miss Lee, who lived at the Trinity Wharf House at the bottom of Ratsey's lane. The first year it was all scales and theory , most uninteresting, never playing any tunes,although I was never gifted I did learn music, for which I am for ever grateful customers would come into the shop in the evening and often my father would say "Come indoors and have a glass of wine"- My Mother was always making wine, Blackberry, Parsnip and Potato were some of the many! If 5 to 6 people were invited in we would end up having a musical evening and singsong.

My father had now bought an Indian motor cycle and side car, we certainly had some hairy rides and to get from East Cowes to Newport or Ryde was quite an achievement. It was quite often motorists were stuck tinkering on the roadside and we always stopped to give a hand.

Picture of Harwoods fruit shop  c1900
Percy Harwood's grandfather outside his shop probably 1897 (Diamond Jubilee year) as the shop appears to be decorated.