Mr. William Mason was a bachelor living at No. 26 Elm Street Jarrow. He was in charge of the level crossing at Albert Road (The Pontop Railway) carrying coals from the various pits to the Jarrow Staithes – the year about 1927. Times were hard for my Mother. I don’t know how it came about, but Mother took on the job of keeping house for him at Elm Street, and so we moved yet again, probably from Pine Street.
So we Four joined him in a 3 roomed house with scullery, and where we all slept I can’t remember. There was a very large folding desk bed in the living room and 2 bedrooms. However everything was above board and the sexes weren’t mixed. I don’t think there was other than a friendly relationship between my Mother and Mr. Mason. She was a good housekeeper and he was kind to us all. Another person in our life was a Mrs. Wrightson who had formerly been housekeeper to Mr. Mason. I truly can’t remember much about her except that she came to live with us at 29 Grange Road West, which was a much bigger house. For a few Sundays she took Harold and me to Jervis Street Chapel and which is mentioned in Barton’s Book. The Chapel was demolished some years ago.
Mr. Mason wore a “Big Boot” one leg being shorter than the other due to a “Botched up” operation on his hip many years ago. He could when at Grange Road West play our new Piano. He was a big man but his touch on the keys was gentle and soothing.
On duty in his cabin at Albert Road and when a “Set” got held up with infuriated motorists, Horses and carts and Pedestrians waiting for the crossing gates to be opened, he would deftly and with a long Rake remove large amounts of best coal from the nearest wagon in front of his window. Some of this was for the stove in his cabin, the rest was made into tiny parcels tied up with string, and any member of the family who came within calling distance was given a parcel to carry home. Iris always made sure that she was not involved, but Mother, Harold and myself brought many parcels home at one time or another.
At teatime and back from school either Harold or me took Mr. Mason his tea to the cabin, usually Boiled Ham sandwiches, and which ham was purchased at Burnett’s shop in Western Road, i.e. when we were living at Grange Road West just a short walk from Western Road. I can’t remember Iris ever having to “Take Tea” to the cabin; she would be about 12 or 13 years old.
Mr. Mason was a prudent man who owned the freehold of 26 Elm Street and 29 Grange Road West, and also had shares in the Jarrow Co-Op. His check No. Was 10, Mothers 11096 and Aunty Annie’s 7424, and these numbers like my Army number in later life remain forever in my mind.
Every New Year’s Eve he provided a great spread for our “First Footers” and us Large Spice and Rice loaves from the Co-Op and a very large bottle of Taragona Wine. Harold and me were allowed to stay up one year and fell asleep under the living room table. When we were older, in our teens, we took part in the festivities.
When Mr. Mason died during the War with what was known as “Sugar Diabetes” he left both houses and all his savings to my Mother, and his Gold Hunter Watch to my Brother. All this to the chagrin of his Brother Jack who was a “Waster.” This generosity was a great boon to my Mother and who had looked after him in his long illness. I was away in the Middle East so that the last time I saw him was the morning I left home after my embarkation leave. He was in bed and gave me a fond farewell. He was a good man.
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