When I was a youngster in the 1960s I spent a great of time with my Grandfather. We used to go shopping together in Liverpool and, when my Grandmother was out of the way working in a Thornton’s shop, we would get up to all kinds of mischief. I was always sworn to secrecy of course but being the age that I was, I couldn’t keep a secret to save my life. During one of our expeditions over to Liverpool he lost me in a tailor’s doorway and the memory of that day still haunts me even after all these years.
My Grandfather worked for a very old fashioned and well established estate agents and he was expected to be turned out in his best bib and tucker. Because of this, we spent many a Saturday afternoon, while my Grandmother was working, parading around tailors shops and gentlemen’s outfitters as they used to be called back in the day, looking for suits, shirts and ties.
One Christmas time, while we were standing in a tailor’s doorway, was when it happened. I was standing next to him while he was looking at the latest suits and I can only assume somebody came and stood between myself and my Grandfather. I assume this because a small time later, I looked up, expecting to see my Granddad, and was shocked to see a stranger standing next to me. I stepped back from the window and looked around.
My Grandfather was nowhere to be seen.
Now in my child’s mind, I thought he had wondered off and forgotten that I was with him. So I raced off in the direction I suspected he had gone. When I got to the end of the road there was still no sign of him and I was beginning to panic. I would guess I was about 10 years old at the time and Liverpool was a big, scary city. I started walking down the road towards where I thought my Grandmother’s shop was located and, thinking I recognised a few landmarks, turned left and right and every other which way but loose.
By this time big panic was setting in!
As I walked down towards the next corner I spotted a policeman coming the other way. Looking back I am amazed at how logical my thinking was but I decided I would walk up to the policeman and politely tell him I had become separated from my Grandfather and could he possibly assist me in locating him. Very grown up of me. Well, that’s what I thought I would do, but when I got closer to the policeman all of a sudden the tears started and something like; “I’ve lost me Granddad and I don’t know where he is,” came out of my mouth amongst great sniffles and sobs.
The policeman very calmly asked me where I had last seen him and took me back to the tailor’s window where my Grandfather was frantically looking for me. We were reunited and I was sworn to secrecy – not a word must be uttered to my Grandmother, otherwise my Grandfather would be in the doghouse for the whole Christmas holidays. Needless to say, as soon as we met up with my Grandmother later on, I told her all about my adventure with the policeman and about getting lost and Granddad forgetting about me and leaving me in a tailor’s doorway. Well, what can I say? I didn’t do it on purpose, I was only a child at the time. It goes without saying, my Granddad spent Christmas in the doghouse.
However, there was one thing about this whole incident that was bothering my childish mind and it was something I had never noticed before. Policemen wore very tall helmets back in the 1960s and I didn’t know why – so I asked my Grandfather. The man with the Wisdom of Solomon would be able to shed some light on this I was sure.
So I asked him.
My Grandfather told me that because policemen walked around all day on their beat they had nowhere to put their sandwiches for lunch and so, using some very inventive thinking, they wore those tall helmets so they could put their sandwiches underneath. Furthermore, many people thought that the large badges on the front and top of the helmet was a sign of the police officers authority but my Grandfather discouraged this belief. If you look closely at the top of the helmet you will notice a raised area; this, so I was informed, was a thermos flask where the policeman put his tea or coffee and there was also a little button hidden on the badge at the front of the helmet and when pressed this dispersed the hot drink into a cup.
I was astounded. I told many friends and relatives that story and for years was always surprised when they laughed – I could never understand it. My Grandfather was a wise man who, through years of experience, knew many secrets that other people were not aware of. Other people were ignorant and just didn’t understand that my Grandfather would never lie to me.
For years, I believed the story he had told me.