And that’s why a group of over 60-year-olds got together a little while back to reminisce about the ‘old days’. Over a coffee, beer, or glass of wine, they reminded each other of how different life was in the 50s and 60s when they were 10, 15, or 20 years old. They met because they all happened to live in Carrera’s Passage situated just a few metres up from the bottom of Engineer Lane just off our Main Street – a very narrow passage where, as you delve into the lane, you come across government flats: homes for many families including those belonging to our group of friends sitting together having a yesteryear chat.
“You know, there were no bathrooms in any of those flats,” Tommy says, “We bathed in zinc tubs which mum would fill with hot water boiled in a kettle. Can you imagine how many kettles it took to fill the tub?” Sergio remembers how two communal toilets in the patio served many families and there were no toilet rolls. You’d have to make do with newspaper or leftover brown paper from your shopping, and if you visited the loo at night, you needed to take a candle with you, because there was probably no light in the closet!
They claimed older males often had lady friends in La Linea.
Tony jumps in and is reminded that some parents wouldn’t let their kids use those communal toilets. “They claimed older males often had lady friends in La Linea and elsewhere during those years which seemed to be tolerated by their wives. The men tended to slip across the frontier on a Friday night for a ‘bit of fun’ and the fear was some would bring back with them diseases us kids to pick up from the toilet seats, so we used buckets in the home. Can you believe that happening now?”
Five patios made up the complex in Carrera’s Passage, not unlike similar areas found around the Rock, in the Upper Town especially and other places. At least not living in tin, Nissen huts where other families were domiciled, which were unbearable in the summer heat. The Carrera’s Passage homes comprised of just two or three, not very large, rooms each. “Yes, the flats were small, taken up by families of three, four, five and even six or more and there were also a couple of shops and workshops in the patios on the ground floor. I remember the smell of coffee beans coming from a tiny, sort of factory in one of the patios,” Tommy says.
The anecdotes and stories just kept on coming as the three former neighbours chatted about times long gone: games they played were also called to mind by Tony: “The sense of community was fantastic. We’d play games outdoors, especially in summer right there in the patios. Neighbours left their front doors open and sat outside. The grown-ups would play bingo and card games and we’d play hide and seek, marbles and football. The summer months seemed to be longer then, going on forever which we enjoyed, going to the Montague Sea Bathing Pavilion, where we paid four old pennies to get in, and Eastern Beach. There was a man called Mr Noguera in one of the patios who used to invite us to his home to practice singing and playing instruments for Christmas and other festivities and we’d have a great time. We were never bored.”
Tommy, Sergio and Tony had such a good time reminding each other of those halcyon days that they went on to organise a proper get together by inviting as many Carrera’s Passage neighbours – still around today – they could contact, and about 100 turned up for a meal and a whole bundle of reminiscences filling the atmosphere at a local social club. “It was an incredible Carrera’s Passage evening chatting, drinking, and talking about the old days, the really old days, with some of those present going back to stories and anecdotes of the 40s even.” Tommy tells me, “And it was such a successful night, it’s encouraged us to organise another one.”
Well, there are so many other neighbourhoods on the Rock who could organise something similar if they felt that way inclined. Passages, lanes, streets, roads and housing estates are aplenty on the Rock, so why not? We seem to be very good at getting together at Christmas with friends and families uniting, as do work places and other groupings, who meet for meals and fun nights with everyone having a good time. Once that festive season is over and we move into spring and the summer, that’s the time to get organised… cruising and country holidays apart, it can be the Remember the Old Days event! ‘Come and join us, suited for those in their 50s and over’ I guess the promo would read.
We only had a valve radio tuned in to Radio La Linea, La SER and Radio Gibraltar.
Today’s generations have their own fun with their iPads and other gadgets and they’re happy – it’s a reflection of the times in which we live… period! That’s the way it is and has to be respected. Yesterday, we only had a valve radio tuned in to Radio La Linea, La SER in Algeciras and our own Radio Gibraltar. Into the early 60s a black and white TV set offered a choice of just two or three stations. You could go to the cinema of course, but that was it. Tommy jumps in again, “Oh yes, entertainment of that type in those days was limited and I remember we’d make our own fun. We used to dress up in our mum’s and dad’s clothes and put on plays. Also, unlike these days, there was a lot going on in the streets, as I mentioned, playing outdoors and having a lot of fun playing all sorts of games and going up the Rock too.
Something else we looked forward to was going home for lunch from school and returning at about two when we were given an old penny or two to buy some sweets, liquorice bar or, if on the rare occasion we were given a little more, we’d get a Choco Prince, chocolate wafer or an ice cream on our way to class. It wasn’t much and we never complained. That’s the way it was!”
Well times change and it’s true, isn’t it? As you move on in life, not getting any younger, time flies, nostalgia builds, and reminiscing for many, is a wonderful pastime. There were tougher times of course, but pushing negative thoughts aside, one tends to recall those happy days of the past, filling your mind with pleasurable memories of days gone by… simply magic!