Kids today, eh!

You know how kids these days are all out of control, and in the good old days there was rarely any bad behaviour at all?

Here’s a first person account from a 1949 Manchester police officer, having been summoned a school where trouble was afoot. Did the police deal with it in the best way? You decide.

There were boys everywhere. As our lady informant had quite rightly said, there were hundreds of the little sods. Some were balancing on the railings, some were ripping slates off the shelter roof, windows were being broken and stones flying about. Some boys had even climbed the fall-pipes and were on the school roof. They were everywhere and everyone of them was up to no good.

Grouped outside the railings were many of their aproned mothers, each one hollering for her offspring, trying to rescue him (or them) before the storm broke.

Too late! Seargent Tommy Alker had arrived at the scene and, raising his stick aloft, shouted

“The bastards, the flaming little bastards!” Feathers ruffled like a turkey cock, he rushed to the school railings where the anxious mothers redoubled their efforts to encourage their children to escape. It was pure bedlam.

“Quick Number Eleven,” He shouted to Roy, “get round to the other side of the school. Don’t let any of ’em escape.” No sooner was Roy dispatched, than Tommy shouted at me “Ninety-six, watch this side of the railings. Keep it well-posted. I’m going in.”

With that he tucked his trousers into his socks, leant his stick against the railings and climbed over. There was instant panic in the playground, as the mothers continued to scream and, with Roy posted on the far side of the railings, the only means of escape was over the school roof. Some 20 boys had realised this and were desperately shinning up the fall-pipes. Tommy had collected his stick and took up the chase. I knew immediately that no arrests were imminent; corporal punishment was to be applied.

Nowadays we see little of it, but on C Division in 1949 it was quite acceptable and freely administered. As Tommy raced around the playground he looked fearsome; a powerful wild man in a blue uniform. Every time a boy’s buttocks came within reach, he landed them one with his stick, shouting “take that, you little devil”.

The pursuit went on for a full three minutes, and the scene was a mixture of hysteria and hilarity. Children were scattering everywhere, shouting warnings to each other, mothers were yelling and screaming their instructions, Tommy was roaring and Roy and I were laughing in disbelief a the antics being acted out in front of us.

Suddenly, puffing and panting, his face as red as beetroot, Tommy started chasing one 13-year old lad the full diagonal length of the playground in my direction. As they neared the railings, he caught the boy with his left hand and raised him from the ground, preparing to give him a hefty smack across the buttocks with his stick.

At this point, the overweight woman in the men’s carpet-slippers had floundered up to the railings and was standing by my side. She was breathing heavily but, when she saw what was happening, she found enough breath to gasp:

“Leave him alone you big fat pig, leave him alone, she’s mine.”

Of all the children milling around in the school playground, Tommy had chosen her Errol to make an example of. Tommy glared at her.

“Don’t touch him, Sir. Please don’t hit him, Sir.”

In seconds, she had elevated Tommy from the sty to the nobility.

“Don’t touch him, Sir,” she continued, “he’s been misled.”

“Don’t touch him?” Bellowed Tommy. “I’ll bloody well kill ‘im missis!”

And with that he raised the lad until his head was six feet from the ground and he was staring straight down into the Sergeant’s purple face. The boy was wearing a grey jersey and grey, below knee-length, short trousers, the fashion in those days, plus long grey socks and black boots.

Tommy glared at him. The Ardwick kid had never been so frightened. If ‘our Errol’ had been named after Errol Flynn, he certainly didn’t live up to the image.

At the sound of his mother’s voice, his face screwed up into a grimace, “Mam” he sobbed and then, clutching wildly at his groin, he let out a loud gasp as a stream of hot pee jetted out from under the left leg of his baggy shorts and splashed all over Tommy Alker’s barrel chest, followed by a stream of it down his tunic.

A crowd of women standing nearby looked aghast until one of them cried out

“He’s pissed on the Seargeant. Errol’s pissed on the Seargeant.”

With that, they all roared with laughter.

There was little else to do but try to salvage a little pride. The Seargeant climbed back over the railings, pulled his trousers out of his socks, adjusted his helmet, smoothed his damp tunic and raised himself to his full height.

“Right-oh, Number Eleven. Right-oh, Ninety-six. That’s taught them a lesson they won’t forget. That’s how we do it.”

from Cobbled Beat by Tony Fletcher

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