We lived in a flat above my father’s curtain shop. The twenty years leading up to the First World War saw Hessle Road become one of the busiest in the city. Every conceivable kind of shop lined the main road and my father’s shop was well placed to become a very successful business.
I started to learn the piano at the age of 7 (and for your information that is the best time, in my opinion for a child to start to learn). I reckon it was a rather disastrous time for I hated it. I have learned through teaching that most children at that age do think there are better things to do. After a year or so I went for my first exam and what a flop that was. I was asked during the test to play the scale of Eb Major and all I could do was sit there without responding. However, not being daunted, my parents kept my nose to the grindstone and on I persevered until I reached the age of 14 or 15.
My father was a very forceful person and I was put into a fee-paying school in Hull where I was born, at the age of 10. Here I learnt Latin and French. The tuition was good in as much that the French teacher was the daughter of the headmaster who was a Frenchman by birth.
However, I was a bit of a tearaway at school always getting into punch ups and very near the bottom of the class. An example of my misconduct for which I always got the cane, was to dip blotting paper into some ink and flick it at one of the boys with a ruler. On the plus side, I enjoyed sport and was a very good gymnast. During one fight, I got a black eye and my mother was so disgusted that I was sent to ‘coventry.’ With no friends to talk to, I resorted to studying in the second year of school. While standing out in the front of the class as a dunce one day, the door opened and a boy came in with a handful of certificates.
Even with the improvement in my schooling ability, my parents thought it was a waste of money keeping me at school and at 14 I left .
There was no love lost between my father and myself and my father always tried to force me to do well. Up till then, I had gained an interest in radios as in 1926; Hull got its own radio station. Already at 13, a friend had taught me how to wind electrical coils and solder joints for crystal sets that we made. One day I tried to set up an extra electric light in a dark part of the house, but only succeeded in dimming all the other lights.
I also learnt how to build a quarter-size billiard table and how to play billiards and snooker. We used to collect empty beer bottles and get back one penny for each one from the off licence.