I lived in Cuthbert St, and when I was about 11 or 12 (1951-2) I was a member of “ Our Gang” of which there was about 30 of us. We used to hold our meetings in the Bombed Shop. There was 3 Bombed shops in our part of town. Theses shops were empty and derelict and were all blast damaged from German Bombs during the war. Our favourite shop was the one In William Street as it had 2 floors with half the staircase missing. Making it hard for intruders to get upstairs. Also we could get into the loft and stick our heads out of the holes in the roof, which was a great vantage point, as we could spot any enemy or the police streets away.
On the opposite corner from here was a working men’s social club called the Buffs. This was a very popular drinking haunt for seaman and shipyard workers and was nearly always full with maybe 200/300 people. Anyone buying beer to take home would have to pay a deposit on the bottles and also the wooden case and the deposit would be handed back when the empties were returned. This was 3 pence on each bottle and 12 pence on the case. The Buffs had a small cellar so all the empty case’s were stored in the back yard. Next door to the Buffs was Joyce’s Café another popular place with the workmen as they sold good wholesome meals and were not overpriced. In the back yard of Joyce’s were 4 huge Bins, which contained all the slops and were emptied weekly by local Pig Breeders.
One day at a gang meeting some bright spark suggested that when it got dark we climb over the Buffs back wall and steal some empty cases then take them round to the front door and get the deposits back off them. So after much discussion and deliberation as we were all broke we decided to go for it. As soon as it got dark about 15 of us went over the wall. We passed over a lot of case’s but trying not to make it too obvious. All the cases were then passed by human chain to the Bombed shop, we then decided to return 10 cases and keep the rest for a rainy day. So off we went in groups of 2 at a few minutes’ intervals. When confronted by the doorman we would say that our parents had a party at the weekend and gave us the bottles to return in lieu of our pocket money. We then went and bought Ice cream and Candy and cigarettes and had a ball with our hard earned money. After a few weeks of this we started getting a bit cagey, as we had started to get too greedy and were even going over the wall in daylight at weekends. On the neck of each bottle was a label stating that this bottle was the property of Hebburn Buffs and the deposit had been paid. So after another meeting we decided to boil some water and steam off the labels, which enabled us to use other outlets on alternative days. This meant the Buffs one night then the Progressive Club a couple of night later, then the Gasworkers Club later then the Liquor store and then the Quay Club. But all good things come to end. One night we were over the wall when suddenly the back yard security light came on and the door opened. Out came the club Steward who was about 10 feet tall. Well there was panic stations and it was every man for himself. Boys climbing all over each other to escape. About 6 of us went over Joyce’s wall and lo and behold right into the slop bins. We were up to our necks in Pigswill. So can you imagine what The Moma’s & Papa’s said when we all got home.
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