Monday 1 January 2018

Eric-the-Viking (my dad)

I'm taking a little diversion from my usual topic.  My dad, Eric-the-Viking, passed away, unexpectedly but peacefully in his sleep on 1st November 2017.
Without any further introduction, I'm just going to post something that he wrote, back in 2003, when Ian, (RE, my brother) suggested that Dad write his life story.  I've left the formatting, grammar and positions of chapters just as dad wrote it.  As much as  it is in my nature to beggar about with it, I feel it would lose its authenticity if I did.
First, a photo of my dad and then straight into his story.

Cobblers Awls, a Load of Balls 

By Eric Hotson


I was having a few pints during October 2003, in Wetherspoons (The Old Yarborough Hotel) with my youngest son Ian and a few friends. At the end of the session Ian and I were left to mop up the last two pints. During the conversation he mentioned about his young days and queried “Why did we move to Caistor? All I can remember is one day I was living at Cleethorpes, the next day I was living at Caistor. I was only six years old.” I replied “It’s a long story and if I try to explain now, we will both get pissed as well as skint and need carrying home”. Ian agreed and said “That wouldn’t be a bad idea but why don’t you write your life story”.


Susie, the one-eyed old sow ran out of the cart.  There was a terrific bang.  Susie laid shuddering and shivering on the concrete yard.  She was hoisted up and her throat slit right down to her belly and through to her tail.

I was born on the 16th of August 1938 just before the Second World War and this is about the earliest instance I can remember.  I presume that I would be about five years old.  Before this, I have memories of being woken up by the warning siren and taken down to the air raid shelter at the bottom of the garden of 63 George Street, Cleethorpes where I had resided since leaving 11 Edward Street in 1940.  The shelter was shared with our neighbours Dicky and Sylv Bacon and Ronnie and Vi Blyth.  Nobody seemed to be bothered about the bombs.  Dicky and Ronnie enthralled us with old yarns and assured us that “Jerry” was aiming for the dock area in Grimsby.  This turned out to be true and Cleethorpes hardly got any damage. 

Occasionally we would hear the drone of an engine and have a look out of our shelter.  “It’s OK, it’s one of ours,” became a knowledgeable and assuring phrase.  One morning, however, it wasn’t.  Dad looked up and spotted a stick of bombs being dropped by “Jerry” on his way home.  Dad picked me up, and next moment, I was hiding under the bathroom sink with Mam and Dad.  Bombs do not come straight down – they go with the momentum of the plane.  These apparently landed near Sussex Recreation Ground.

It was 1943 when I started school at Thrunscoe Infants in Highgate which consisted of two classrooms wedged between Thrunscoe Senior Girls and Senior Boys.  I had my first school fight when I was six.  I knocked a kid’s glasses off who was giving me some lip outside school, and I was immediately surrounded by six big kids from the senior school – thirteen year olds.  I was lucky – fortunately the leader was a mate of my big cousin Harry.  He must have told them to leave Eric alone.

One day I can remember us all being paraded in our Mickey Mouse gas masks, and sent into a truck and out the other side to test the masks.  For all we young kids
knew, it could have be genocide.

Before going on about my time at Bursar street junior school, I must mention about my Granddad (Fred) and my Grandma (Liz) Hotson. Both were born about 1876. Fred was a Meggie, and a plasterer’s labourer; Liz was a country lass from Saleby near Alford Lincolnshire. Her parents are buried in Saleby churchyard. They had five children – Fred, Nellie, Albert, Wilfred, and Clara. I have good memories of both because I was eighteen when Granddad died in 1956 and twenty four when Grandma died in1963.

There are many legends about Fred who certainly was not a gaffer’s man.  He christened the foreman as “The Gaffer’s Henchman”.  Once, the boss Mr Houghton caught Fred resting on his shovel;

“Are you having a bit of leisure then, Fred?”
“There’s neither leisure nor pleasure on this job, it is over-hard work to call it leisure and, as for pleasure, there’s not enough pay at the end of the week” replied Fred. 

Another time, Fred was having a walk around Humberstone Avenue on a Sunday afternoon when Mr. Houghton pulled up to him in his big new car.

“Would you like a lift back to Cleethorpes, Fred?”

“Are you enjoying your ride?” replied Fred.

“Yes” came the reply.

 “Well I’m enjoying my walk.” And, with that, Fred put his hands firmly back in his overcoat pockets and carried on walking.

The plasterer for whom Fred laboured was called Mr. Cross (Crossy).  They worked together for years and never spoke to one another – it must have been some long-standing feud.  Despite no conversation, they were apparently the best plastering team at Wilkinson & Houghton.  Fred always had the planks and trestles, tools, mortar and plaster in position at exactly the right time.  Even though Fred disliked Crossy, he came to his defence if there was a dispute. There was a complaint about some work and Crossy was due for a telling off and possibly the sack from Mr. Houghton.  Fred had kept quiet while the gaffer and Crossy were arguing until he strikes up, “Hold hard a minute, let’s go back to the site and have a look at the job”.  So off they trooped back up the road on to the site and entered the particular house.  On viewing, Fred said “Don’t blame Crossy because it is not our work!!”  Then Crossy, and Mr. Houghton stood back aghast.

“How do you know that, Fred and what proof have you got?”

“There are no brown streaks in the plaster” replied Fred.

They nodded in agreement because they all knew that Fred chewed thick twist at work and spat in the mortar and plaster.

Another time, he pulled Mr Houghton out of a hole when he was having trouble satisfying a posh lady customer. He had sent the painters to whiten this lady’s washhouse/outhouse. They had been on and then back again but she was still far from happy.  Mr. Houghton took Fred to one side and explained the situation asking if he could have a go.  Fred duly went to the house, mixed a tub of lime and lathered it over the ceiling and walls all the time thinking “That’ll teach her to moan”.  He left the job in a hell of a state.  While Fred was relaxing over a pipe of bacca, she came back from shopping;

“What a wonderful job you’ve done Mr. Hotson – thanks very much.  Here’s five shillings for you” (about twenty pints in those days).   

His wife Liz was a country lass who moved into town with her sisters Edie and Ginny to find work.  Liz got a job in service at the Cliff Hotel this is probably where she met Fred.  I was very close to Grandma Hotson staying there when my Mam and Dad went out; this being mostly on a Friday night.  She told me many stories, some of which I may recall later.  This one that comes to memory was when she was in service at the Cliff Hotel.  She was slopping out the bedrooms on the top floor and had this bucket of slops.  Instead of going down the corridor to pour it down the bog, she threw it out of the top window and it landed on a tripper – he probably went back to Yorkshire telling them that cows fly in Cleethorpes.

I cannot remember much about my other Granddad (Harry) and Grandma (Betsy) Smith because I was only about aged seven and nine respectively when they died.  They had seven children; Barbara, Ellen, Charlie, Betsy (my mother), George, Bill and Jim. They were a good family but a lot different to the Hotsons both in wealth and politics – a lot closer, clunch and secretive.  My mother did not tell me about the old days.  She spent a lot of her spare time gossiping with her sisters amongst themselves the “Smiths”.  I was either out playing football, cricket, trying to run a four-minute mile; at my Dad’s cobblers shop or drinking cocoa and eating bread and butter at Grandma Hotson’s.

I started at Bursar Street Juniors in September 1945 just after we had won the war.  I hovered between A and B streams for four years until passing the 11-Plus in 1949, and going to Clee Grammar.  Mam said that I liked school – I hated it except for Tuesday afternoon, football day on Sussex Rec.  Fifteen minute walk there, thirty minutes football, fifteen minute walk back then back to the lessons.


My best mate John Swaby and I always went home to dinner.  Mostly, we would dribble a tennis ball along Bentley Street, Fairview Avenue, and William Street to George Street and back to school. You lost a point if the ball went on to the road.  A copper would often stop us and tell us we were not allowed to play football in the street.  We tried to convince him that we were training for the school team and that we would eventually be playing for Town in ten years.  Our explanations always fell on
cloth ears and, after he had taken our names, we switched to Plan B for a few weeks.  Cut down the passage and dribble along Crow Hill Avenue.  Occasionally, we had a compulsory half-time which meant a scrap with the Crow Hill Mob.  One of them used to bite which wasn’t a worry other than he had bad breath!!  Late home for dinner in bother with Mam.  Dad didn’t care as long as we had won the scrap.

Saturday was the best day of the week.  In the morning, football on the fields on our little Wembley  (now Richmond Road and Oslear Crescent).  Dad would take me to see Town after dinner.  They were in the First Division for the two seasons after the war (1946/7 and 1947/8).  My parents used to tell me that they had been a top First Division side in the 1930s so, as a young lad, I could not understand why we seemed to be losing all the time, and on the slide to relegation in the 1948 season.  This brings me round to a question for quiz night.

“Which team stopped Manchester United doing the double in 1948 by taking three out of four points from them (and then got relegated)?”

The answer of course – Grimsby Town.

I was at that the home game with United, on the Pontoon Stand rails, having reached the age of nine and being allowed to go with my cousin Harry.  Town played well and drew 1-1 after losing our centre forward Lew Armitage after twenty minutes.  We beat United 4-3 away late on in the season before they went on to beat Blackpool 4-2 in the F A Cup Final at Wembley, but only finished second in the league. Town were winning 3- 0 at half time, but slacked off in the second to let United draw level. Town got the winner near the end. Scorers for Town were Cairns 3 Blenkinsopp 1. Other games that I attended that season include:

Town 0 Liverpool 6 (Stubbing hat-trick)
Town    Stoke         (Stanley Matthews didn’t play)
Town 2 Hull 2 (The Raich Carter free-kick) A three foot high bullet.)                           
This was either Division 2 or the FA Cup.                                                   Town 1 Spurs 1
Town    Middlesbrough    (Clough running the show) Division 2
Town 1 Arsenal 4
Town 3 Portsmouth 2      (Johnson’s two long throw ins)

Sunday mornings were OK.  Take the dog out and then down the prom in the arcades searching out slot machines that had gone mad and into paying out – these were very rare.  The gangsters that owned them were not stupid.  Dinner then Sunday School at St Peters and then on to the Sunday dispute. “You can go on the prom but you cannot play football on the sands on a Sunday”. These were Mam’s exact words (she was very religious).  Dad wasn’t bothered but I think he took me to one side and told me to do as Mam said.
Perhaps it was his way of letting her think she was the boss?  I gave in (one point to the adults) but would have loved to have joined in those 20-a-side games played every Sunday opposite the railway station when the tide was out
Back at Bursar Street Juniors, I seemed to arrive in 4B and not 4A where you were more or less a racing certainty to be destined for Grammar School.  This year was a lot more pleasant – at last.  We were taught by a teacher that liked football, Mr Tom Brown.  Rumour had it that he played for Scunthorpe United in the Midland League before the war.  There was no junior school league football but he managed to persuade the Headmaster to enter a team in the Asher Cup.  We George Street lads needed no training because we played every day in the street, on the field or on the sands.  Our team did well beating Holme Hill, Carr Lane and Weelsby Street to reach the semi-final.  We lost this 1-0 to Victoria Street on Clee Fields – somewhere near Salvesens cutting today.
Somehow, I passed the 11-Plus whereas some of the stars in 4A did not.  I think they must have suffered exam nerves whilst I simply went in thinking “just another day at school”.  Throughout, I was always good at arithmetic – they only started to call it mathematics when I got to Clee Grammar.  At the interview with Colonel Thomas, I told him I wanted to become an Accountant.

As I mentioned earlier, my Grandparents Fred and Liz had five children.  Wilfred (Wilf) was my father and attended St. Peter’s School.  From eleven, he used to help Mr. Chris Leeson in his cobbler’s shop at 53 Mill Road (Near the corner with William Street).  On leaving school aged fourteen, he duly went to work full-time for Chris who was himself about twenty-five.  They had a good working relationship and Chris taught young Wilf how to do high quality repairs.  They enjoyed good leisure time with their motor bikes and a game of football in the street at dinner times.  I think Wilf was Best Man at Chris’s wedding.  In 1931, Chris’s wife became pregnant and put pressure on Chris to make Wilf redundant as she had to give up her own work and faced with another mouth to feed.  Wilf was happy working for Chris and had no wish to leave, but there was no alternative. Then an opportunity arose to take over Mr. Clayton’s shop at 62 Coronation Road for £80 – a lot in those days.  His assets were about £20 and an old Pearson Sopworth motor bike.  Neighbours in Edward Street collected some shoes for repair so that he had work to start on his first day there.  He worked hard and was able to pay off the £80 within his first year in business.  At this time, he was also courting his future wife, Betsy, who helped him to clean the shop out.  They married at Old Clee Church in 1933 and their only child (myself Eric) arrived 16 August 1938.  World War Two broke out in September 1939.
When first married, they lived in Grandma Hotson’s front room, at 9 Edward Street until number 11 next door became available three months later.  At one time, Wilf’s sister Nellie lived at number 7 with her husband Joe and children Barbara and Alan, Granddad and Grandma and daughter Clara lived at number 9 and Wilf, Betsy
and myself at number 11 – much like Happy Families or, maybe Monopoly?  The rear alleys of these houses backed on to Conway’s bottling store.


Wilf worked hard in his shoe repair business for eight years until war broke out in 1939.  He went for his Army medical and passed A1 but was considered too old at thirty years old and also was in a “reserved occupation” – needed to maintain Services footwear.  All those fit and not in the Services were expected to join “voluntary auxiliary services”.  Both Wilf and Betsy did “Fire watch” and Betsy joined the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS).  Wilf duly got an Army boot-repairing contract and also joined the Home Guard (“Dad’s Army”).
There was also a civilian effort called “Dig for Victory” – Wilf took an allotment up a track opposite Wendover Rise on Taylor’s Avenue and entered into partnership with his mate Fred Richardson (“Curly”) rearing pigs and chickens.  This venture was to guarantee food on the table for the family during rationing.  Wilf had been brought up on sheep’s head broth when times had been hard during the Great War. Everyone in the neighbourhood saved leftovers and swill which leads to the adventures of the “swill round” i.e. pinching fellow pig-keeper’s swill if you got round early.  One day, Wilf and Curly were going to tend to the stock and found two eight-stone sacks of potatoes (like gold) at the track entrance.  They put a bag each on their bike handlebars and wheeled them up to the copper sheds.  Wilf then suggested that they tip out the spuds and burn the sacks but Curly felt the sacks were every bit as scarce as the spuds.  Wilf explained that, as the spuds were not theirs, they should remove the evidence and Curly praised him as a “crafty little devil”.

Curly was strong and a jointer with the Electricity Board.  He was a good mate to Wilf who himself was 5ft 3ins and eight stones wet through but wiry from his hard upbringing.  Curly was streetwise round the pubs especially the Cliff, the Notts, the Fish and the Queens in Sea view Street and kept a watchful eye over Wilf.  One night, they finished a session with four mates and came out of the Fisherman’s Arms back way on Wardall Street.  Curly suggested a race to the bottom of the street for “half a dollar” (two shillings and sixpence), and as they lined up ready to go, Wilf felt a tap on his shoulder.  It was Curly, winking and whispering,

“Hang back Wilf; it’ll be worth half a dollar to see them silly devils run”

Another night, in the Dolphin, Wilf had given some leery geezer a backhander and it was developing into a scrap on the sands.  Curly knew that this geezer used unfair tactics such as cosh and knife and that he was renowned for hitting a mate with a shovel on a building site.  He duly got between them and peace was restored.

The chickens and pigs were kept in adjoining huts divided by a door.  Curly had been on to Wilf about leaving the hatch open to see if they would mix.  Though doubtful, Wilf agreed to do so and – next morning – what a site!  Feathers everywhere and chickens missing.


Though strong, Curly possessed a compassionate side and asked Wilf whether they should get the Vet to the old one-eyed sow Susie to treat her bad eye.  Wilf
disagreed, and said, “She will see all she needs to see between now and Xmas!” Curly replied “You cruel so and so”.    There was a dartboard in Wilf’s cobbler’s shop around which they congregated for practice before going to the pub.  Games were always played for a pint so Wilf and Curly would be warmed up ready for action.  Sometimes, the soldiers billeted in Cleethorpes would pop in for a game. Once, during these practice sessions, Curly pinned a fly to the board.

There are a few more stories about Wilf in the Home Guard that I knew about before Dad’s Army came on TV – we may add these in later.

I started at Clee Grammar School in September 1949. It was a well run school but I was struggling to keep up academically.  A line from the school song went

“…some excel in the field of learning, some in the field of play…”

I will just say that I enjoyed myself in the field of play; football, cricket, boxing, cross-country and athletics.  Academically, I should have dropped all subjects after a year except for maths, geometry and woodwork.  I became famous for the record low of four out a hundred for Algebra.  As for Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and “As You like It”. If you didn’t like it, you had to lump it!

One day, when we were playing football in Mollison Avenue (off George Street), the new bloke who had just moved in to the corner house came outside to have a word with us. We expected another old, moaning so-and-so but, not at all.  He was very polite and said we could go in his garden to retrieve our ball as long as we did not tread on his flowers.  We told him that we were not that bad as his fence was six feet high.  He then introduced himself as John Martin, maths teacher from Carr Lane and Captain of 1st Clee Boy’s Brigade, who were short of members. We agreed to attend the following Friday – it turned out OK; a bit of drill, a bit of religion and plenty of sport.  We then recruited most of our George Street gang thus helping Captain John to form a solid company.  There was nothing like this at St. Peter’s C of E to where I had been sentenced since the age of five.  I was worried that Mam would object but she didn’t.  I sort of kept myself “in” at St. Peters by occasionally attending Evensong thereby qualifying me to practise on their Youth Club table tennis table.  The business deals and out-of-school activities happened between 1952 and 1954 and probably affected my school work – or –were the lessons themselves a boring rest between my activities?  Without school, my mate John and I may have burnt our selves out by the age of sixteen! I left in 1954 and went to help my Dad Wilf in his shoe repair shop. I had been helping for the last two years after school and during the holidays on the bench and taking errands.  Moreover, whilst at school, I used to sell sweets, comics, foreign stamps etc to other kids.  Out of school hours, I earned extra money on several schemes – collecting lemonade bottles for the 2d deposit, taking tripper’s luggage from Cleethorpes station to their boarding house, chopping firewood from fish boxes at half a crown a bag and doing other kids’ paper rounds when they wanted a day off.

 Some of the raw material for these schemes were acquired under the “right act”. Who you know; and not what you know. 


My mate John Swaby and I were never short of money.  This enabled us to go to watch Town (nine pence in the boy’s paddock), to watch wrestling at night on the Pier (one shilling) and to play snooker at several billiard halls (six pence for thirty minutes).  Always “loser pays” mainly at the Ideal (now the Sunnyside in Grant Street), the Tower, the Garth, the Chantry and the Primitive Methodist’s Men’s Association Club in Charles Street.

So, though not academically clever, I certainly had a good work rate, was well streetwise and knew that doubling your money was at least a good way of survival when I joined my Dad’s business.  I began to realise that Dad had experienced cash flow problems for years within the business.  For twenty-three years since 1931, he had always worked long, hard hours and had built himself up a reputation for quality work.  Shoe repairing came easy to me and Dad was a good tutor with bags of patience although we could have done with more modern equipment to make life easier – that was to come later.  I became really interested and perhaps the weekly wage of £2 – 10s was an incentive.

Dad was having difficulty paying for his materials.  The bank manager at the Midland, in Sea view Street was always asking to see him to discuss his overdraft which was never above £50.  Dad was getting increasingly more fed up with these interviews and used to say that the bank were tight; forcing you to more or less have £1 collateral for every £1 they allowed you to overdraw.  Some richer people wanted an account in order to pay for their shoe repairs each month end and this did not help our cash flow as some failed to cough up until the end of the next month!  I could have cleared the overdraft with the cash I held from my various wheeling and dealing. But instead, I bought myself a 125cc BSA Bantam motor bike for £50 from Freddie Frith in Victoria Street, Grimsby

Our shop was full of shoes on shelves awaiting work in a daily order.  I got stuck in and did all the easy jobs of which I was capable.  I also helped Dad with the more difficult jobs. We worked overtime until 10pm at night and, after a month, had caught up the backlog whilst still doing the daily intake of work.  Granddad called in twice daily and would then return home to advise Grandma that “Eric was working like a black” – such a comment would be termed racist nowadays.

The BSA Bantam began to come into play. I used to deliver the shoes and collect the cash. This also had a knock on effect as the customers used to give me some more work to take back to be done. I made two boxes. It was sacrilege to buy something if you could make it yourself, and fixed them on the back frame to carry the shoes. Two of dad’s old school mates who were farmers, Tom and Joe Fletcher, used to visit Dad with their repairs. They where dour, I knew not to speak unless spoken to. I just carried on working but listened and learned. I got a shock one day. Tom and Dad had been discussing property, when suddenly Tom addressed me, “What do you think boy? What’s best, freehold or leasehold?”

I replied “Freehold because you don’t pay ground rent.”

Then Tom said, “Do you know another hold?”

“No Mr Fletcher, only in wrestling”

Tom said “Well the best hold of all is called Hand Hold: Hand hold of the money and don’t forget it. And another thing boy, money’s no good to you but, it’s one hell of a job if you want some and you haven’t got any!”

This was already happening, things where beginning to look brighter with business. Within a year, we had paid all our creditors and paid off the overdraft at the bank. I then took over the books, banking and running the business when I was 17. With dad’s skills and reputation, my work rate and my ignorance of academic skills, we had worked a near miracle. Years later, Mr Stagg (“Staggy”) as his old school mate Charles Ekberg used to called him) told me that I was a nasty little lad, standing there not budging an inch waiting to be paid. Despite this Mr Peter Stagg was okay, never owed us a penny and a very keen supporter of Grimsby Town FC.
My accounting system was legal and honest but not apparently recognised by the Institute of Accountants and Merchant Bankers. The takings where reconciled each day and added up on a Thursday night. Dad and I took our wages and the rest was paid in to the current account at the Midland. This began to mount up and we decided to pay some of it into a reserve account in amounts of £20-40 according to who needed paying out of the current account. In 1956 we took C.H. Turner, the insurance man’s advice and got on four wheels. We purchase a 1954 second hand Ford Popular for £280 cash. The Geezer on the Cashiers counter at the Midland seemed a bit reluctant to hand over the money.

Trivia question for quiz night could read “How much in 1956 does £280 represent in today’s (2009) money?”

My guess after using my pints of beer per pound is about £8400.

Between 1956 and 1962 we had a lot of work and employed some youths straight from school and taught them the trade. Some went on to start their own businesses and others stayed until they could find a better job. We also took over some other cobblers who where either retiring or giving up business to go to work on the developing Humber Bank factories. These takeovers where unsuccessful but not complete financial disasters. We closed the two non-viable shops but kept the property at 73 Ladysmith Road, Grimsby that we where buying for a further four years.


Socially during this period I was playing table tennis for British Railways in division 1 of the Grimsby league. I practised a lot to keep up to the standard and completed my drinking apprenticeship in the old club rooms in Carr Lane. In about 1958 we formed a football team whom I played for mostly as an inside forward. I cannot remember how many games I played but funny enough I remember the games where we won and I got on the score sheet. I have played on Bradley, Barrets, Sidney Park Extension, Titans, and Laports near The Works, Immingham where the Precinct is today, St James’- back of Bargate, The Grange (Waters Works off Chelmsford Ave) and Humberston down South Sea Lane. From 1960 to 1962 I did not play many games because I was serving my country doing my National Service in the RAF. So far I had escaped as I was an apprentice Cobbler until I was 21 years old. Eventually they caught up with me on the 16th May 1960, when I was told to report to RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire for recruitment and kitting out. I had no choice except for 2 years in prison as a conscientious objector: so I duly became 5077803 AC2-HOTSON E. The intake was a mixture of regulars who had signed on for between 3 and 9 years and national service conscripts. We were segregated on different tables for our first taste of RAF food. I made some sort of derogatory comment to the National Service lads about the regulars, which caused a laugh and broke the ice, as most where moaning about the food and having to leave good, well paid jobs, and being reduced to earning £1-4S-0d  a week.
The Corporal called Ron who was in charge of us was OK. He marched us round in ranks of 3 to the various equipment and clothing stores. Every item was duly marked 5077803. We where only here for about 3 days and all us national service lads had to salute for ten shillings. During the evening we got the odd game of table tennis and snooker in the NAAFI. We also walked round the two massive hangers that had been used to store the Airships R1 and R2 between the First and Second World Wars. We then went by train to Birmingham and we where met by RAF buses and taken to RAF Bridgenorth in Shropshire for eight weeks basic training.  As soon as we got off the bus at Bridgenorth; the drill instructors started shouting at us….

“From the right number”
“Form ranks of three”
“By the left, quick march.”

…onto the Airman’s Mess for some grub. It wasn’t too bad once we got used to the routine. As near as I can remember, a typical day was: Reveille 6.30am, arise, ablutions, make bed pack, clean bed space and down to the Airman’s Mess at 7:30 for breakfast. 8.30am on parade and inspection, a bit of drill and march down to lectures and administration.

Weapons and ammunitions.  When I got on the rifle range I was holding a 303 rifle casually ready to fire. Corporal Gunn (what a name for a gun instructor) shouts at me “You’re not playing a guitar Hotson; you’re supposed to be firing a rifle!” I fired a Bren gun, changed the magazine and fired again, letting them go all at once. Corporal Gunn disapproved telling me I should have fired in short bursts. I told him. “If you’d have been a German you’d be dead.”
He replied “If there’s another war Hotson I’m going to make sure that I’m on the other side”.

First Aid and Life saving   If someone has an accident or is drowning in the river the first thing you do is send for help, before attempting to save life or go to their assistance.

 The VD Lecture. You don’t get it from toilet seats, you get it from the girls that come down to Bridgenorth on a Saturday night. They are known as the “Wolverhampton Wonderers”.

RAF History Battle of Britain.  The Dambusters and how we built car parks in Germany from the sky. A bit of poetic license here from my old Polish friend “Denis the Gas” from Caistor who I drank with from 1975 – 1995.

More drill and rifle drill - “Attention! Stand at ease! Stand Easy! By the Left quick march! About Turn! Up two three! Down two three etc”.  It seemed endless! However there where plenty of tea breaks and we where fed three times a day. Evenings were mainly general ‘bulling’ the kit in the billet, then down the NAAFI for a pint and a game of snooker.

Near the end of June the King of Thailand was due on a Royal visit to London. Extra bodies where required down at RAF Uxbridge for the guard of honour. We were paraded on the square and informed that all those above 5ft 8in will be completing the final 3 weeks of basic training as part of the guard of honour at RAF Uxbridge, London. About 8 of us knew that no way would we make the height, but we tried and stretched ourselves as high as we could to qualify. We where right and over a few pints in the NAAFI the general opinion was, “We were going to stay at Bridgenorth doing all this bull and drill for another three weeks”. Next morning on parade it was announced that all us below 5ft 8in where also going to RAF Uxbridge (as an admin. Party) for the RAF Regiment, Ceremonial Flight.

This turned out to be the biggest skive ever. Whilst the big kids where drilling for three weeks, all our tasks were to keep the billets clean for the RAF regiment. A National Service Corporal who was very easy going and laid back was in charge of us. More or less, it was just a work parade after breakfast; then he left us to it. It was an easy ride.

This Essex lad, Chris who worked in the City in Civvie-Street offered to take us for a guided tour of pubs in Soho. Myself and my mate Grimmy John, Scunny Steve, Grantham Allan and Ginger Jock from Glasgow, didn’t need asking twice. So the following Saturday we hopped on the tube and went into London. Chris gave us good advice, saying,  “Don’t drink pints like you usually do; stick to halves, that way we can get round more pubs.”  He took us round all the seediest places, down back alleys and all over the place. Looking back we must have looked a bonny sight strutting round in RAF uniforms. What a brilliant night, and to this day it is colloquially called ‘Half Night’. We caught the tube back to Uxbridge and began to make our way back to camp. We where all merry but not drunk, when for no reason at all Ginger Jock starts shouting and stumbling about. Some of the lads wanted to leave him; one even said “Let him get locked up!”- This brought myself and Grimmy John (who was quiet but as strong as an ox and had been “Grimsby Freemo Street-wise” since he was twelve years
old) into action. The other four lads went on ahead. Grimmy John got hold of Ginger Jock and I used my communication skills keeping the coppers happy. I told them that we where both fisherman in Civvie-Street and we’re used to these capers down ‘Freemo’ every time we landed after three weeks in Iceland. We got him back to camp safe and sound. Ginger Jock was all apologetic the next morning and after completing our daily tasks he took Grimmy John and I down the NAAFI for a few pints.


Basic training was now finished after the three weeks down at Uxbridge. The National Service Corporal who we had hardly seen; addressed us before we left. He told us the rules about 36 and 48 hour leave passes and what time we where allowed off duty officially. Then adding “That’s the rules and get as much other time off as ever you can”.

After a few days home on leave in Meggie’s and down the old British Railways Club in Carr Lane; I received a letter and was told to report to RAF Freckleton (Medical Training Establishment) near Blackpool. I thought “What are the RAF going up to now? Surely they are not going to try and train the cobbler to be a Doctor?” Grimmy John went to train as wireless operator but when I arrived at RAF Freckelton I met up with Scunny Steve and Grantham Alan who had also got the same posting. I was not interested in the practical or classroom training whatsoever. It was like being back at school again. I just fooled around (which I found easy) trying to get thrown off the course. I enjoyed myself socially mainly because I had the use of our 1958 Ford Anglia. Dad agreed it was okay as we also had a 6CWT Ford Thames van for business.

Off duty I was able to get a job at the Garrison Pub near Preston and then I introduced Scunny Steve to the job to help. The gaffer was an ex-army sergeant called Matt. He was okay and told us that if the customers asked us to have a drink, don’t be greedy and have a pint; just accept half a pint and then they will ask you again. A pint of Lions Mild was 1s-1d, staff price of 6d for half a pint (2.5 new pence). After closing time we used to stay behind for staff drinks with Matt and his wife Ann and the barmaids- a Lancashire lass called Linda and an Irish Colleen. It was alright until Matt started shouting mainly at his wife Ann. I used to nudge Scunny Steve and say “Time we got back to camp.” With the extra money earned at the pub we could afford to drink at Blackpool on a Wednesday night usually arriving at the Tower or the Winter Gardens after the pubs kicked out. We also saw Tottenham Hotspurs 1960/61 Double Team beat Blackburn Rovers 4-1 at Ewood Park. The entrance fee for the main stand was two shillings (10p).

I think I was at Freckleton for about 8 weeks, before after a few verbal battles with Squadron Leaders and Wing Commanders they took me off the training course and posted me to RAF Hospital Nocton Hall near Lincoln.


I arrived at RAF Hospital Nocton Hall in October 1960; this was the ideal posting, 36 miles on the rat run via bomb alley to Cleethorpes. So when I got time off on 36 and 48 hour passes I was able to get home and help Dad with the shoes.       The original old Nocton Hall which I supposed was built in the eighteenth century and would have been owned by the country squire or some other titled gentry. The hall was now the Princess Mary’s nursing Sisters’ mess. The Americans built the actual administration and hospital buildings during the 1939 to 1945 World war. The hospital had twelve wards each having beds for eighteen patients. Each ward was staffed in order of command on each shift:

In charge-  
1 Princess Mary’s Nursing Sister
1 Senior Technicians (the chevrons where upside down)
1 Senior Aircraftsman (who had qualified at Freckleton)
1 Gopher/Cleaner/General Dogsbody (IE Self 5077803 Hotson E) actually once I got known, the Civvie police on camp called me “The Doctor”
1 Civvie Kitchen Women (all local country lasses)

Soon I was to meet some good mates, a mixture of national service and regulars. None of ‘us and them’ now, we where all in it. Some had got life sentences, others in for 6 or 9 years. Lucky Hotson 5077803 has only 18 months to put up with it.  My main mates were:

Union Miner – Bob Croft from Worksop
The Camp Butcher – Bob Paterson from Bonnyrigg near Edinburgh
“Cuzz” – Mick Crossley from Winterton.
The Camp Storeman – Geordie Derek from Penrith
AC2 Leiper- Aberdeen Bob
“Shaggy”- Bill Dunnett from Leeds

Before being assigned to a ward I had to report to Station Headquarters and complete various administration paraphernalia. I was greeted by Sergeant Hogg. When I put a tick against football, table tennis, and tennis as my favourite sports he was overwhelmed as he was in charge of both the camp football and table tennis teams. He asked, “Was I available to represent the station?” That was OK by me. After the interview I was eventually told to report to the sister in charge of ward 7 and this was the Officers’ Ward. Even today the RAF still has this class distinction: Officers’ Mess, Sergeants’ Mess and Airman’s Mess.  Us lads on the wards used to joke that we must all be different blood groups. However I was soon to get to know that the Airman’s Mess served the best food as it was the same kitchen that supplied the hospital. About every three months you had to do fire picket, as well as working on the wards. This meant kipping in the billet next to the fire engine shed for a week. You also had to report at 1800 hours to station headquarters. This was known as fire picket parade.


The first time that I did fire picket I got put on a 252 (a charge). I was doing the late afternoon shift 1700-2000 hours. This officer had been having a bath and somehow had flooded the bathroom. I was enthusiastically doing the mopping up and forgot all about reporting to fire picket parade. I got notified that Warrant Officer Jones had put me on a charge and I was requested to report to Station Headquarters next morning at 0900 hours. I reported early, met my sports mate Sergeant Don Hogg (we’re on first names now!) and explained my problem and genuine excuse to Don. He replied, “Don’t worry Eric, the Adjutant is taking the charge; I will have a word with him. Just be as smart as you can- ‘Cap off’ and all that, when spoken to and asked to explain, tell him the truth and plenty of yes sir, no sir and three bags full sir- you’ll be okay.” Sure enough the Adjutant who was very strict announced “Charge admonished.” Later I learned that Warrant Officer Jones was not too pleased. The Cobbler- ‘the Doctor’ had made him look an idiot.

Whilst working on Ward 7 several of the patients were Squadron leaders, Wing Commanders and Group Captains who had been pilots in Lancaster’s during the 1939-45 World War and some who had been in the Battle of Britain. Also there were younger pilots who had ejected from modern day aircraft. They weere mostly diagnosed as suspected slipped disc in the back. The treatment was boards under their mattress and bed rest. Urine bottle and bed pan delivery jobs for Eric the Doctor.

The kitchen women where mostly from Nocton or nearby villages. I got on great with these lasses, plenty of kid’em.  Spud and veg talk and “do pigs and chickens mix?” etc.

One lass, Joyce used to shout and get on to most of the national service lads. I met up with her when I was moved from the Officers Ward 7 (I never got to know why) to Ward 5. This was the Airman’s broken bones and operations ward. We lads always helped the kitchen lasses with the serving and washing up. That way, we could always have any leftovers whilst working. Sort of dining in RAF’s time.  Then as soon as we were off duty, it was back to the billet, change into civvies and down the Star and Garter pub at Metheringham or the Wagon and Horses at Branston or, into Lincoln.

Anyhow, I had been on Ward 5 for about 3 weeks and getting on really well with Joyce. So one day after we had got the washing up done; we were in the little rest room she was having a fag and I was doing my John Arlott impressions with a pipe of St Bruno; when I ventured to ask “How is it Joyce that you swear and are nasty to the lads but you are really nice and polite with me?”

She replied “That’s easy Eric, you’re such a silly and daft little devil it wouldn’t do any good. It would go in one ear and out the other. Then you would reply with something even dafter.”

Chief technician Frank Padley was in charge of Ward 5. There was a Sister higher than him but she didn’t like me because I used to play hide and seek with her when we clashed on night duty, she could never find me.  An SAC called Polly Parrot had his kneecap (patella) taken out. He had kept it as a souvenir and one evening he happened to say “Put this kneecap in the steriliser Eric when you go off duty.”

I carried out his request and didn’t think anything of it until the next morning, when I reported for work. It wasn’t long before Chief Tech. Frank shouts “I want a word with you Hodge!” He always called me Hodge, I don’t know why. So I said “Course you can Sarg.”  I always called him ‘Sarg’ as a sort of repost to him calling me Hodge.

“What’s the story about the patella in the steriliser?”     I replied “Oh yeah, Polly told me to sling it in the steriliser last evening when I went off-duty. Have you got it Sarg?”


“Yes Hodge, I’ve got it alright, I have also had to clean all the grease out of the steriliser as a result of you’re stupidity.”

I tried to get a word in to say something like, “What a waste, we could have made patella soup”. But it was no use, he just carried on and on trying to give me a telling off, wasting his time as well as mine. His words where just landing on cloth ears, like water off a ducks back. His face was going redder and redder. When he eventually stopped for breath I managed to get a word in.

“For a start Sarg, watch your blood pressure. Don’t carry on any longer or else there is a danger of us falling out. You better put me on a charge or get me slung out of the RAF and have done with it.”  This stunned him, the fact that I was concerned about his health. He smiled and said,  “Hodge I don’t want to charge you, but please promise me that you won’t do it again”.  Also I am sure the fire picket incident with Warrant officer Jones must have been discussed at length in the Sergeants Mess.  Something like, “Waste of time charging Hotson, he will only talk his way out of it”. Good old Frank! We got on ok right until I got demobbed.

Looking back although I was not interested in the nursing side; the tasks that they gave me which were within my capabilities. I did them without moaning, with enthusiasm and speed- serve the meals, wash up, dish out the urine bottles and bedpans- clean the bath and the bogs as well as trying to entertain the patients, and Staff with my communication skills.  I was always willing to do errands around the hospital such as fetch the meal trolley from the mess, go fetch so and so’s x-rays, take this patient to theatre, take this to the path lab, “Can you get these bets on?”, go fetch these drugs from medical stores; where there was a nasty little sergeant. Very often I would get carried away on these errands, talking to different people and was away from the ward quite a while. Old Frank- Sarg. Never bothered; probably he was pleased to get me out of the way.

When it was my turn for night duty, the patients used to request the “Cobblers’ Reveille”, this was one of my self taught skills- hurling a stainless steel bedpan the length of the ward at 06.00 to wake them up.

One of the perks when I worked on the Officer’s Ward was the Half pint bottles of Younger’s Beer. Their ration was one bottle with their evening meal. They used to mount up in the fridge for various reasons; some patients being on antibiotics, some had been discharged, some where due for operation next morning or they had just come back from theatre. Once evening, on the late shift there was only myself and Shaggy Dunnett on duty. The bottles of Younger’s had mounted up to about a dozen. When we went off duty at 20.00 hours things where a lot tidier. Shaggy and I had supped the lot.


In 1961 we got a tip for “The Lincoln”. A horse called Johns Courts from one of the officers.  Shaggy and I raked up as much cash that we could afford. In those days the race was ran on the Carholme at Lincoln. That afternoon Shaggy was on duty but he instructed me to attend the meeting and put all of the cash on the nose. It won at about 25-1.  We won about a tenner each (about three weeks RAF pay). We were millionaires on camp for a few days. 

I went home to see Mam and Dad the following weekend. Dad happened to say that he had got two problems, so we went to the Crows’ Nest for a few pints and a discussion. The first problem, Dad had already sorted and just wanted to inform me.      He began to tell me this story, which in later years has become a legend. He began, “I have had a dispute with the Manager at the Midland Bank about the overdraft. I suspect there is some jealousy over us buying the brand new six seater Ford Consul. He wants us to transfer the cash from our reserve account to clear the current account overdraft. I have disagreed with him and told him to leave things as they are. He told me that he couldn’t do that, so I have told him to close both accounts and pay me what ever is left. Then he asked me what I am going to do. I told him that I am going across the road to the Natwest, but that is now none of his business. He then said that I would get no better service over the road. So I told him that it would be a change of faces and places. I am just fed up of being treat like a naughty little school boy for the last 30 years. So Eric, we are now banking at the Natwest; in fact they welcomed us with open arms”. I replied, “Well done Dad for standing your ground”.  I went to the bar for the refills, and then Dad continued. “The second thing is a problem, and we must make a decision before you go back to Nocton. Cleethorpes Council have been playing up about health and safety referring to the premises at 62 Coronation Road which we own. They said that they are now unsuitable due to us employing both female and male staff and having no toilets. We have been offered rented premises at 16-18 Cambridge Street which have two toilets and a more comfortable working environment. There are two large display windows so it would help us to expand into footwear retailing. The rent is £7-10s a week”. We got a few more pints down us, and decided to move. We actually moved there on the 15 June 1961 exactly 30 years after Dad had started business on his own.

Back at camp, after my 48 hour pass. Mostly we were short of money, but if desperate we could collect a bit of gear together and flog it down the Wagon and Horses at Branston. Then we would join in the killer at darts. This was quite profitable, although we sort of had to cheat fair. Shaggy was a star player. He used to whisper his number to Aberdeen Bob and myself. Naturally we laid off his number and tried to kill the rest. Shaggy nearly always won and bought the beer for the rest of evening. 


About November 1961 I was assigned to escort duty to take two patients in the ambulance to the RAF rehabilitation unit at Chessington on the outskirts of London. One was a Corporal and the other a Junior Technician. Both had had operations on their leg but were mobile with the help of crutches.  LAC Les Hill was the ambulance  driver from the MT Section. We left Nocton at about 10.00hrs. And picked up the A1 at Newark and made our way south. When the two patients had got to know that I had been assigned as their escort they had asked me if we would be stopping at a pub on the way. I had not mentioned this to driver Les and took him by surprise about 50 miles this side of London.

“Les, the patients need to stretch their legs; pull in at the next pub car park.”

Les being a regular wasn’t too keen in case he got into bother. But after I told him that I would carry the can for any trouble; he duly pulled in at the next pub car park. What a picture, the two RAF lads in uniform hobbling out of the ambulance on crutches and into the pub. The Corporal paid for two pints a piece; we had a game of dominoes and then back on our way to RAF Chessington.

We arrived at 16.00hrs. Handed the patients over, parked the Ambulance in the MT section compound, and went for an evening meal in the airman’s mess. Les and I caught the tube and went into London for a few pints and a game of snooker; and then we booked in at the Union Jack Club in Waterloo for a night’s kip. Next morning we had breakfast, caught the tube back to Chessington, and picked up the ambulance for the return trip to Nocton. Les got his foot down and the siren going- strangely, we were back by midday! After that I renamed him, “Fangio Les”.

Looking back I enjoyed the two years “fighting” for my country with the RAF both on and off duty. I represented the station at both table tennis and tennis. I played the double bass for the camp band- The Bob Patterson Trio. I took several WRAF and Civvie lasses out for the odd evening, but made very little head way. I must admit, I was on my best form “out having a Beer with the lads”.

I got demobbed 15 April 1962 beating the system by a month with some scam that I was able to penetrate mainly by using the ‘Hotson communication skills’.

When I got demobbed from the RAF in 1962 it wasn’t long before I met a girl called Geraldine (Ger) whom I married on 15 December 1962. We lived with her parents in Station Avenue, New Waltham until Proctor Brothers had got the bungalow built at 17 Seaford Road, Cleethorpes. Dad had helped me to get the deposit of £450 together; the balance £4000 was on mortgage with the Abbey National. By then Dad and I were drawing £15 a week each for wages. The mortgage payment per month was £15-3s-10d.

A lot of things that I have done so far in my life had been to the disapproval of my mother, God bless her, getting married so quick and wrapping a big mortgage around my neck. I think according to her rules we should have courted for six years and then waited another six years before producing an offspring. However our daughter Frances “our Fran” was born 28th August 1963. I bet this got my mother and her two sisters gossiping at their meetings which were still about four times a week. Dad didn’t bother, because he knew I had always been in a hurry, that’s why we got the shoes done so fast.  That’s why I didn’t do well at the Grammar School. Rush the homework- get out to play football etc.

Since 1956 our yearly accounts had been done by JE Cross and Co. Fish Dock Road, Grimsby. In 1964 our accountant David Mitchell advised us to form a limited company. This was because we where expanding fast with a collection round at the same time as diversifying more into footwear retailing. This protected our homes if the business happened to go bankrupt. Dad and I had a joint saying “If we get in bother, then we’ll have to get out of it.” Now and again we did get wrong, but we always had the ability to get out of it. We kept working hard and drinking at the Fishermans, The Countryman’s, The Lynton, The Lifeboat, The Home Guard Club, The Railway Club, with the big business decisions being made at The Crows.

Dad was over the moon when Robert (Rob) was born on the 15th June 1966 (World Cup Year). We were having a drink in The Crows to wet the baby’s head, and suddenly Dad asked “How did you time it to the day Eric?”  I immediately knew what he was on about. Dad had this fixation about the 15th June. The day he started business was 15th June 1931, the day the business had moved from Coronation Road to Cambridge Street was 15th June 1961.

In 1969 Ian was born. We where still working hard with the business. I cannot remember how much I was earning, but it was nowhere near enough to bring up the family and pay the mortgage. Beer would be about half a crown (about 12.5p in today’s money). There where several discussions with my wife Ger at home and with Dad over a pint at the Crows. We were still paying rent of £7-10s a week for 16/18 Cambridge Street. The landlord Mr R D Lee the managing director of Grimsby Fish Meal offered to sell us the whole of the property which included 3 Wardle Street for £4750 freehold.

Although we had been banking at Natwest for eight years we had still not been able to get a loan to purchase the business premises. As I mentioned Ger and I needed more family income so we tried opening another shop near our home on North Sea lane to be run by Ger and her mother. We did not have any investment capital and had to rely on our suppliers for extended credit. It only lasted about 6 months because we couldn’t maintain enough cash flow to keep up the demands of our wholesale suppliers. It was a wrong move, but something that had been waiting to happen for a few years. The company owed £11000 to our creditors for supplies. At the annual company meeting in April 1970 our accountant David Mitchell explained that the company was on a precipice. By the time the meeting had finished The Crows Nest was closed so we pulled into the Weelsby Woods car park for a talk. The conversation went as follows. I said,  “We are in the mire! Mitchell says we are on a precipice”

Dad calmly replied “We better be careful we don’t fall off,”

All was not lost. Through opening this branch shop I met an old school friend who had this property on his books for general insurance. I told him about our difficulty in raising the money to buy 16/18 Cambridge Street. David was no flash Harry, just quietly saying,  “Just take out an insurance endowment policy with me and I will find you the money.” I left it to him, just signing the paperwork as it turned up.


So May 1970, we owed £11000 for stock, and about £4500 for the property. But now we owned the freehold property which turned out to be a good buy. My wife Ger had always helped and supported me with the business over the years since 1962 decorating the shop out, reorganising the sales area and helping in the workshop when we where over-run with shoes repairs. By now my parents where near to retirement and nicely settled in their bungalow at 20 Terrington Place (near the Crows for Wilf). They were very good grandparents and would willingly look after our children if Ger and I needed to work at the shop, or have the occasional Saturday night out at the old Royal Air Force Association Club in Abbey Drive West, Grimsby. When they stayed, they were well watered and fed by Grandma; but I think they found her a little strict. Nothing serious, just sort of back to “You can’t play football on a Sunday”! But this was offset by Granddad fooling about with them, especially when Grandma used to shout at him, and tell him off.

So we are now at rock bottom, “Up the creek without a paddle”! At our Nadir etc.  Dad said that he would leave it to Ger and me to sort out. He also mentioned that although Mam and he could not help financially; they would support us in any way that they could.

Ger and I had a meeting over a few pints, and Rum & cokes, and decided on the following action.

1.  Sell 17 Seaford Road. (We got about £6000, and came out with £1500)
2. Convert upstairs at 16-18 Cambridge Street, and 3 Wardall Street into a three bedroom flat. (We got the work done for £2000. We got a grant of £1000 from Cleethorpes Council.)
3.  Discontinue the collection round.
4. Make the staff of four redundant, and run the Business, Family only. (I was able to get them all some cash from the Government Redundancy Scheme.)
5. Find a tenant for 76 North Sea Lane. And move all stock to Cambridge Street
6.  Carry on doing top quality shoe repairs.
7. Trade up market selling men’s and ladies’ all leather footwear.

Family and domestic wise; we built a patio over the yard between the two buildings, took an allotment at the back of the Cemetery. The beach, promenade, and the open air bathing pool, Sussex Rec. and Bee’s Riding School easily compensated for the kids not having a garden to play in. This was Grandma’s main worry.

There were not many in the Pool early one particular Sunday in April 1973 when the water temperature was 54 Fahrenheit. Only Rob and myself; we were outnumbered by the staff. Good Days! Cheap! A good Job! We had not got much money!

The watering holes were mainly, The Fisherman’s where George Lane (Ginger) was at the Helm. The Clee Home Guard Club where I used to pit my limited Snooker skills against the Team Players, and occasionally The Crows Nest on a Sunday lunch.


 At the Home Guard, the beer was Younger’s Tartan, 15p a pint.  They also sold Brew 10 which was cheaper and a cheek! They ought to have paid us to drink it!

It took us about 4 years to pull the business round, and get us on an even keel. As well as paying all trade creditors, and the bank overdraft; it also included paying off the mortgage of the whole building. So in 1975 Ger decide that she had had enough of being a “Townie” and wanted to move to a place in the country that had some land. As for Myself, I would probably still be in Cleethorpes, “Worshipping” at all the local pubs and clubs.

We didn’t owe anybody, and owned the property, but didn’t have any money. We had always run the company legally, reconciled the daily takings, and banked three times a week. Our annual accounting results always were available within a month of the auditors receiving our information. By now J.E. Cross and Sons had moved to Abbey Walk, eventually being amalgamated into Forrester Boyd & Co in South St Mary’s Gate.

How are we going to raise £10,000 to buy a place?

I rang my old school pal David. He sent his “Winger” to see me at the shop, and he told me to have £200 cash ready for next Thursday. We searched round, and somehow raked up the £200; gave it to the “Winger” who deposited in my name with The Halifax Building Society and then he said,  “Now go and find yourselves a place. We will get you the money, and cover it with an Endowment Mortgage Policy”. Dad couldn’t believe it and said, “Seems just like the old school tie; it’s not what you know, it’s who you”. Of course they required the last three years trading accounts. From our efforts over the last four years; everything was in order. We realised there would be Corporation Tax to pay at a later date.

We soon found a place within driving distance to work. We moved to Caistor on Ian’s birthday 29th August 1975

          Ian: now you know how you got to Caistor!

8 North Kelsey Road was a two bedroom detached bungalow standing on half an acre of freehold land which we bought for £10,750. We used it as three bedrooms by using the front room as an extra bedroom with the dining room doubling as the living room.


Personally I was quite happy living above the shop at Cleethorpes; but Ger wanted to move into the country to start a hobby of breeding Cocker Spaniels.  Also Fran had sort of completed her apprenticeship of mucking out horses at the Silver Shoe in Sea View Street, and riding them on the beach.     We did the normal things that are associated when a family flits, getting the kids into new schools and registering on the local doctor’s panel etc.  I clocked in at the Talbot pub within six hours of our arrival in Caistor.  It wasn’t long before Ger and I started planning a different layout of the half acre, with the help of my brother in law Bill Morgan and some local labour from the Talbot. We carried out the following over the next two years. Added a 12 x 15 Foot kitchen extension, the Talbot tug of war team uprooted the 9 tree orchard, made the large back garden into a paddock built a 12 x 18 Foot Stable with leftovers from the kitchen extension and old bricks and beams scrounged from Kendal’s Demolition in Grimsby.  Fran bought a three year old palomino (part Arab) for £120 from Nev and Joan Chapman. Bought a horse box for £900. Ger soon got two breeding Cocker Spaniel bitches.  We also had a pair of rabbits and half a dozen hens to keep us in eggs.

I soon became a regular at the Talbot and seemed to mix in ok with the locals and the Irish lads who had settled in Caistor since coming over to work on the land in the fifties and sixties.  After about a month Mrs Smith, the barmaid had a quiet word with me. She gave me some sound advice in a Caistor country accent “Eric, they all like you; now just be careful about what you say about anyone in Caistor because they are nearly all related.” I signed on for the Talbot’s darts B team which consisted of mainly long distance lorry drivers.  I got a game if they were short – then the marker had to watch out!

Dad and I sponsored the Talbot tug of war team by making them some leather belts to support their backs. I also had the use of a crew bus to take the team to local village competitions.  I did have a go on the rope once at the old Caistor hospital garden fete. I was beat after one pull, and told myself to “Stick to dominoes, snooker and drinking.” I played snooker down at Lysaghts Sports and Social Club in Holton le Moor, and used ‘Top House’ The Fleece Inn as an alternative to the Talbot.


As a family we hardly ever went on holiday, although I think I can just remember driving a Ford Dormobile to John O’ Groats, via Edinburgh and back in about six days. Friends, relatives, and our customers in Cleethorpes used to often ask “Why don’t you go on holiday Eric?”  My standard reply was “I’ve been on holiday ever since we flitted to Caistor on 29th August 1975”.  Ger used to get involved with the horses and drive Fran to local shows or Gymkhanas etc.  I was quite happy taking Rob
and Ian down ‘Meggie’s and occasionally on bank holidays to Mablethorpe or Skegness. They were good lads, after they had had the half day outing, and a treat they used to say, “We’re ok Dad; let’s get back to Caistor before the Fleece and Talbot close.”   Brilliant, so foot down and back to Caistor.  I was always busy wheeling and dealing in footwear and cobbling boots and shoes; just working like every bloke to provide for the Family.

About 1987 the shoe repairing was beginning to get less and less due to cheap throw away footwear. The big stores had already taken charge of the retailing.  I was getting some aches and pains from standing at a bench and machine for 35 years.  I tried a few things to make the job viable but eventually ceased trading on March 31st 1990.  I paid all that the business owed and locked the shop door for the final time. I took the Books to Forrester Boyd and as I was going into their office I remember thinking to myself, “I am free, it is like being let out of prison; this is the last time that I have got to do this”.  The last six years had been disastrous.

As well as enjoying myself in Caistor, I was a keen supporter of Grimsby Town FC.  I used to take the lads with me so that I could keep an eye on them.  Eventually they lost interest so that just left Dad, and myself, until Fran sold the horse and decided to be a Town supporter.  At this time, Dad had retired, Fran had left school, and against her mother’s wishes had kicked the catering course at the college into touch.  She was helping me at the shop, mainly at first to keep her out of her mother’s way.  We worked well together manually and on the clerical side. We were both company directors of  W & E Hotson Limited.

I’ve been following Grimsby Town FC since 1946-47 Seasons when they were in the old First Division. 1979-80 season, taking Dad and Fran to the match will always be my favourite Season. Also in my opinion the team managed by George Kerr was the best team town ever had in my lifetime.  I know this statement is open to argument, but that is my opinion.

Put football team here.

I joined the ranks of the unemployed the following Monday.  I reported to the job centre in Victoria Street, Grimsby.  I explained the situation to the receptionist. I had ceased trading after 35 years due to the business no longer being viable. She was very nice and understanding and handed me over to a ‘resettlement officer’.  He was a young chap who had just left college. After I mentioned about my aches and pains from continually standing for 35 years, he made me an appointment to see the Employment Service Medical Doctor in Hull.  I also signed numerous forms so that I would be able to get my fortnightly giro. I then realised that I am only Eric Hotson by birth. I am now ZS016024B.  I caught the bus back to Caistor and straight into the Talbot. The first pint didn’t even touch the sides! The giro arrived exactly fourteen days after the date I had ceased trading.  The amount was £78.80 (i.e. £39.40 per week). Not much but better than nothing. A fortnight later when I went to the Job Centre to sign for my Giro, I was interviewed by a very nice young lady who asked me if I had got a CV.  I miss heard her, and thought she said CD. I replied, “Course I have; what do want? Status Quo, Rolling Stones, or Pulp.” She smiled and said,” Mr Hotson you have obviously miss heard me; a CV it means Curriculum Vitae, but never mind we will look into it at your next appointment”. I felt sorry for the poor lass; but honestly I didn’t know what she was on about. I just about recognised the words as Latin which I hated at school. When I got home I contacted our Fran over the meaning of Curriculum Vitae. Later she rang me back saying, “Dad, I have rang my old school friend Christine who has a Honours Degree in Latin, and she assures me that translated accurately, it means “Story of Life.” I think to myself, more ammunition for my next interview.

I seemed to take to being unemployed just like a duck takes to water. It gave me plenty of time to visit friends and relatives, who all agreed that Dad and I had worked hard over the years.


I got the appointment to see the medical officer in Hull.  His diagnosis was that I have an umbilical hernia and also a slipping left costal cartilage and that I am only available for light duties and no heavy lifting. He advised me to consult my local GP.  On consulting my GP he realised immediately that I needed a rest and signed me off sick.  I took the sick note with me to the job centre on my next signing day.  They soon informed me that I was nothing to do with them now and sent me over Newmarket  Street Bridge to Crown House in Nelson Street. It turned out that I was about five pound better off on the sick and also saving me the hassle of signing on every fortnight.  This lasted for about three months before the employment service sent me to one of their doctors who advised them that I was fit for light duties.  So I started sending for job application forms. I can remember the first one that I was enthusiastically filling in one evening.  I came to the part where you are required to tick the skills that you have acquired over the years of employment. I came to a sudden halt. Communication skills?  Our Rob happened to be around so I asked “What are these communication skills that they’re on about?” Rob gave me an instant reply,  “Don’t worry about that Dad, you talk to everybody!”

I applied for numerous light jobs but always seemed to get the well typed negative replies. I registered with the ‘Job Bus’ which came to Caistor every Thursday morning and learned some computer skills until it was time to meet cousin Harry at The Fleece or The Talbot.

I gradually became semi computer literate and registered for the employment service job match scheme.  Basically they paid me £75 per week as long as I did some part time work and tried to find another part time job. I helped my daughter and son-in-law (Fran and Chris) in their memorial business.  This was mainly driving and minding the office and showroom which gave me access to a computer.  I was able to get another part time job with a computer company. This was driving the boss around who had lost his license through drink driving.  This lasted 5 days as there was a fault on the car’s fuel system.  He started blaming my driving which I didn’t agree with.  We parted company without any animosity. He was a good bloke about the same age as our Fran. I called the five days, an exchange of knowledge.  He taught me some more computer skills; I gave him some business advice and taught him the eleventh commandment.  “Never get caught,” for the next time he decides to drink and drive! After the six months job match scheme I did some voluntary administrative work for Caistor Limited.  This was a regeneration outfit with about eight on the committee.  All were very well educated (at least a degree apiece) and in well paid jobs. None of them drank at the Talbot or the Fleece so we didn’t have a deal in common. But I had the use of the computer and got on ok with my main contact the company chairman who was deputy headmaster at Caistor Grammar school. My main duties were, opening the office for two hours each day, writing up the minutes, and notifying the members of the next meeting.


Ger and I had drifted apart over the years, which lead to divorce in 1994. There was no mud slinging then, and I am certainly not going start any now. My view was, as soon as everybody gets on with the rest of their lives, the better. This lead to the sale of the bungalow, leaving me homeless. So in autumn 1995, I packed my gear in two black dustbin sacks, and my son in law Chris gave me a lift to Cleethorpes. I moved into my mother’s spare room at 20 Terrington Place DN35 9EH.   After sorting my gear; I went across to the Crow’s Nest for a pint, and immediately became accepted into “Skint Corner” by “Chairman Mush”, and the rest of the Crow’s Nest “Mafia”.  Most of them knew Dad and me from the Coronation Road and Cambridge Street days where we had traded as W & E Hotson Limited. So the Cobbler has come home to roost. The gang also accepted my friend Floreen who I had become associated with over the previous four months. Sadly she passed away later during the year.  Those that are still living from the Smiths (Mam’s) and the Hotson’s (Dads) family already knew about “Our Eric’s” new situation. They all began to help me in their own way, but not financially. I didn’t dare tell them that I was about £4,000 in dept. I was able to reciprocate to them by carrying out any tasks within my capabilities. Mam’s brother Uncle Bill didn’t want to drive any longer, so he let me have the sole use of his 1.3  four door Renault. In return I used to take him, his wife Auntie Iris, and Mam to Freeman Street Market on a Tuesday, and Friday; and other family visits where ever they wanted to go. My dad’s oldest sister Aunty Clara had remarried to Frederick Dayton (Uncle Fred) who lived in Grimsby. They introduced me to The Angel Hotel in Freeman Street where Fred was a regular 6 days a week- Sunday being his day of rest.

About once a month he came to visit me at the Crows and I introduced him to all the lads and lasses. By now I am a regular follower of the Crows Nest FC and also support them in all their charity efforts raising money for Dr Mack’s Cancer fund. 

Shortly before Mam passed away in April 2003 my eldest son Rob had come aboard at 20 Terrington Place. I am happy in my present situation. If I keep in good health, and the Good Lord spares me; I hope you can all put up with me for another 10 years!

 I have written this story on A4; but my thanks go to my computer wizz-kids; son Ian, granddaughter Vicky (company secretary) and “Stats Man” Paul.


A few more family memories:

Ger – My ex-wife, helping me to produce and bring up three great children.                            The one day train excursion to Knaresborough. 
Fran- The walk down to the match and granddads “clear round”.   “The good times are over.” – But not yet I hope!
Chris – Working together on shoe repairs and headstones.   Snooker on a Friday night and dropping me off at the Fleece.   The odd officious bastards that crossed our paths. Taking me to Leicester when Floreen passed away.
Rob – The monkey bike.   “Do what you wanna do, do what you wanna do!”   The old “Batho”    Brighton Slip always coming home wet through, “I fell in!”
Ian7am Sunday Scartho Baths.   “Do Rabbits and Labradors mix”?   The one day outings.   Fleece 6.30pm Sunday.    Grimsby 5   Brentford 1, on and off the barrier in the Pontoon.
Vicky- The tramp round Canada Lane, and back via the Fleece.    Making Pastry.
Paul - Introduction to the Crows Nest Mafia.   Granddad’s Minder.  “Squelch Allison.”
Harry “Cuzz” About 1948 Camping in the Cow field at Holton- Le- Moor.   About 1951 sailing in your self manufactured canoe from “The Fitties” and getting ship wrecked near the old bathing pool.
Leyland and Julie – “Oggie oggie oggie”.     The tour of Freeman Street pubs, and clubs and walk back over Clee Fields.
Eric the Viking  

With Mum and Paul & Katie at their Wedding.

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