In the black and white days of the 1960’s. The summers somehow seemed to be longer, warmer, and people irrespective of what they had or didn’t have, seemed happier. It was an era of change, and a time of demands for equality. No less so in the North of Ireland, as it was in America, and in the summer of 1969, there was more than a Bad Moon Rising, more than Something in the Air..
In the summer of that year, like most 11 years olds, I was excited but frightened of the step-up to senior school. We’d known no other school but St Comgall’s in Divis Street, (Alexander Street West), since wee tots, and the small hamlet we lived in known as the Pound Loney. The Loney, as it was known was our playground, and everything to us. There was quite a band of us in those times, and age; well although it was a big thing to some who had already reached their first teenage year. On reflection, there was still an innocence about them, and although they talked the talk, and walked the walk, and seemed wiser, they were as naive as we were.
These were as I’ve said, still the black and white days of the 60’s in Belfast, of black and white television, and a wireless, not a radio, no fridges, no central heating or double-glazed windows, and my bedroom window sill had ice on it throughout the winters. Icicles usually forming upon the window-frame, and a sheen of ice settling on the glass. Any family home that had two fireplaces lit, one in the hearth upstairs, were lucky, that was a luxury.
The homes were ancient, many of them having had three or more generations of the same family live in them, and grandparents were part of our everyday lives then, they were treasured, and they lived at home – not hidden away, or dumped in some old-age place to be visited at Christmas Eve. Family was important, and the old with a wisdom to them that some school teachers or Priests couldn’t match. Yet, our little hamlet was disappearing fast, making way for Divis Flats, and disappearing with it were many families and friends, and a way of life that was set in stone.
There’s no doubt that the 1960’s had an innocence to them. Something that was stripped from many of us when that decade handed over to the 1970s, with its bombs and bullets that did not discriminate, and killed so many. There’s also no doubt that the youth clubs of the early 70s, helped maintain a sense of normality for both kids and teenagers, away from the reality of a war going on around us, and many’s a puppy love began in those places. Some clubs even ran day trips, and weekend breaks during the summer holidays, and while those things can be lost sight of as we grow older, I’d like to thank all of those involved in Cullingtree road youth club for their commitment and dedication to every kid, teen, and sometimes older teens, that passed through those doors, and in the weeks ahead intend to write about that youth club in more detail, those who attended there, and the people who gave up their free-time to run it.
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