By Frances Pepper
(see picture gallery at foot of page)
I remember Friday nights because of the Market. It was in front of the Swan Hotel, where the block of flats is now. You could buy anything – meat, fish, rabbits, sweets and chocolates, biscuits, clothes, shoes, carpets, linoleum. You name it and you could buy it at the Market. Then of course there was the Lake. It was packed Saturdays and Sundays. You couldn’t get a seat if you didn’t go early. Most often we sat on the grass. We used to go on the boats – half an hour for sixpence. Mr James was the Lake Keeper, wearing a white coat and hat. Each boat had a number on it. When you heard him call your number on his megaphone you had to come back to the landing stage and give him your ticket. The boathouse was near where the shelter is now as you come into the A19 entrance to the Lake. In summertime on Saturday nights Askern Silver Prize band used to go onto the island and play all kinds of music.
Every winter from about November to March the Lake used to freeze over. I walked over the ice on my way to school. Skaters used to arrive, dressed up. They were really good just like watching Dancing on Ice. There were fairy lights round the Lake and people with barrows selling hot potatoes and roast chestnuts; also toys, balls and all sorts of things for children. Then of course the fair would arrive and we had a great time. It was where the White Wings Centre is now. There were swinging boats, bumper cars and coconut shies, roundabouts and all the things you find in a fairground.
Then, in 1939 war came. Owing to the blackout the market couldn’t carry on and there were no more fairs. We had evacuees home to Askern from London and Hull, even some children from Holland. Of course we had a lot of the military stationed in Askern. There was a big house on High Street. They were
living in that and all along Green Lane. We had a lovely Picture House, not far from the Church. We used to go Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, when the films were changed. We children loved the Saturday morning matinee, to watch the cowboys like Jean Autrey and Hopalong Cassidy. Of course we loved to see Shirley Temple. All the children went to Sunday School. It was where the fire station is now. It was a church school, but I don’t remember it being a school. We looked forward to the Sunday School Trip every year, when we went to the seaside. There were trains then from Askern Station. That was the only holiday many children had. The Parish Tea was held every year in The Hydro. (The Hydropathical Centre, built when Askern was a Spa). It was a three storey building, ultra modern. at the time, built near where Shakers is now) We had a lovely spread with lots to eat. Then there was a concert; a concert party came from Doncaster. The day ended with a dance. There was the Girls’ Friendly Society. The Vicar’s sister, Miss Rutter, Miss Rotherer and my mother, Mrs Stewart were in charge. We used to have concerts in the Church Hall. My mother used to write plays and we sang all the old songs, so everybody, joined in.
Each Wednesday night in summer everybody went to the Cricket Match. The cricket Field was at the end of Rushymoor Lane. There were tennis courts there too. All the families went to the match. The fathers all stood watching the match, whilst the mothers sat talking and knitting. We kids just played around. You could get cups of tea and ice cream. It was a good night with all the families enjoying just being together. We looked forward to when Fenwick Club came to play. Hartley Hall was their star player and he was really good. We had a lot of shops along High Street. There was a tripe shop, which also sold firewood. Stubbs shop sold everything. There was a hairdressers, a fruit and veg shop and a fish and chip shop, which also had a lovely cafe. Phillips Shop sold sweets and chocolates. Baines sold overalls and all things for the miners. We had a pit then; also the Coalite Plant. Most of the boys went to work at the Pit, when they left school at 14. Mr Feather repaired clocks and watches. The men used to go to The Billiard Hall for a game of snooker or billiards. Askern was a lovely place to live, with so much to do. ‘Those were the days’.
(Click the first photo to enter the gallery)