SHUFFLE OFF TO BUFFALO


My parents were always very hard up and short of money with three children to feed and clothe, and like a lot of people in the Gorton area had to resort to going to Pawnbrokers with anything remotely valuable to get a little money to tide them over until the next pay day.

The only article of value in our house was my Father’s best suit. It was kept for him to wear on special occasions or a visit to the Labour Club at the weekend.

After the weekend the suit wasn’t worn by him again and it went in “hock” at the Pawnbrokers. Then it would be redeemed on Friday for him to look fairly respectable for his Saturday evening and Sunday lunchtime sessions, propping the bar up at the Club during political discussions on the state of the nation.

Every Monday morning the suit would be carefully wrapped up, in a brown paper parcel, ready for despatch to “Kellets” on the corner of Robert Street.

My mother never went on this errand herself, she couldn’t face the parade of our poverty to the neighbours. She asked my eldest brother to go this dreaded, shameful errand but he refused, knowing everyone was aware of its obvious destination.

I was considered too young for this onerous task and escaped the ignominy of the journey to the shop with the three balls outside displaying its trade.

My other brother, who was slightly older than me, volunteered to go this demeaning errand before he went to school. Alfie went straight out of the front door in spite of my Mother’s request for him to go out the back way down the entry so that he would not be noticed. AIfie wouldn’t have any of that kind of subterfuge - down the street he went with my Father's best suit tucked under his arm, striding along the pavement whistling “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”, wearing a pair of trousers with a patch on his backside that didn’t even match the original material, the affluent nosy neighbours peeping behind lace curtains didn’t worry him not one iota.

He was feeling very pleased at this time, he had just passed a scholarship for Whitworth Street High School and no one was going to spoil it for him. Wbitworth Street School was one of the best schools available for children of working class parents at the time. To my clever happy-go-lucky brother a trip to the Pawnbrokers to get half a crown on his Father’s best suit was only a minor hurdle to get over before starting a new phase in his life, so we could all “Shuffle off to Buffalo” as far as he was concerned!

E.S. Jackson.


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