Thursday, April 18, 2019

Christina Barden and Geraldine Halloran with the Waterford News & Star’s Ronan Morrissey.

“YOU look like a bit of a weirdo” advises Belvedere Manor woman Christina Barden after agreeing to an impromptu interview with an unidentifiable reporter last Wednesday. The Sycamore Terrace native’s words weren’t as unkind as they appear in black and white – she was merely advising the reporter to swing a lanyard around his neck so he looks less like somebody trying to preach or pawn money from passersby.

Thankfully, Christina, flanked by her lifelong friend Geraldine Halloran, was unperturbed by his approach, or unperturbed enough to decline the discussion after popping into the local shopping centre for a quick, mid-morning browse.

The pair know each other since childhood when Christina’s grandmother was best friends with Geraldine’s mother, who lived around the corner on Hennessey’s Road. If either woman needed to access their friend’s house, the key was always left for them to use, although this wouldn’t be uncommon between neighbours during this friendly era.

“They’d take in washing for each other, put out bins, everything,” Christina remembers. “There was two boys and two girls and I was the oldest. Our baby was the boss! We’d pass the time playing out on the road. There was no such thing as playing indoors back then. We’d play knockadolly, if I was caught my mother would kill me! She’d keep me in but then she’d get fed up and throw me back out again!”

Geraldine, who lives at Cluain na Laoi today, agrees and says she has nothing but great childhood memories when she lived with her parents, 10 siblings and two aunts, who she also referred to as her mothers.

“We had the flat root houses across from us and when we were children we’d get great entertainment just from looking out the window from our bedrooms at about 9 o’clock. All the neighbours looked out for one another and I remember we’d put the rope up on a pole and we’d swing around it with no fear.

“I remember my mother buying us roller-skates and we would go down the hill at the bakery by Roanmore Park without any pads on or anything. We’d play hopscotch which you never see kids playing nowadays – you really had to make your own fun.”

You couldn’t go for a stroll in the thriving inner-city communities without a conversation, something which has been somewhat lost today. A lot of students live on her street today and while she praises them and says they have never given her any hassle, the old neighbours of yesteryear are no longer around.

“Joe Reville’s shop would’ve been the main meeting point for people in the area. There was a telephone box there and I remember when I was younger older fellas would go down there with their guitars and strum them, having a bit of a session. It was great and it’s a pity that all that is gone nowadays.”

Both girls attended the Presentation and neither minded it although both left at the age of 15 to contribute to the family purse.

Geraldine went into Phelan’s Cake Shop in the city before moving on to the Tower Hotel as a housekeeper. Eventually, she picked up a job in Kromberg and Schubert where she was never bored with work or the social gatherings staff regularly enjoyed together.

“It was hard work and you worked for your money but it was a great place to be and very well run. The social club was brilliant. They would run weekends away to Liverpool and the bus would pick you up and drop you off at the factory. We had our own dinner dances and every weekend there was something going on. We were never bored.”

Christina’s first job was in the Wimpy towards Arundel Square and she thinks she received £30 a week at the time giving her the impression she was loaded, although much would go to her mother.

Geraldine recalls: “I remember my mother would give me back something from my wages but we appreciated whatever we got. We thought we were great then afterwards going into town on the weekends buying a skirt or a top in Cassidy’s or Dunnes Stores.”

Christina enjoyed 23 years in the Glass Factory where she had a few uncles, an aunt and a brother working as well and she jokes that she couldn’t tell some of the stories from working there as they are unpublishable.

When they did have some free time and a few pound in their pockets, the girls would venture in to town for a few drinks in pubs which are no more, with Paddy Fleming’s on the Glen being Geraldine’s local.

“It was kind of a Coady tradition, my husband’s mother was one of them, so we used to meet there every weekend for a big sing-song on a Saturday night. Then we might head down to the Stone Court or Egan’s. The Stone Court was a nightclub on O’Connell’s Street just up from where Garter Lane is. Before the Stone Court we’d go to the Bridge Hotel where you had Breen’s nightclub and Peppermint Grove.”

“You’d have them white lights in there and if you stood underneath them your teeth would be shining,” Christina adds.

Both say that they no longer spend time in town at night anymore because it’s so different to the one they frequented even 15 years ago. When they were younger they knew everybody and were never subjected to any hassle which they feel wouldn’t be the case today.

“There was no messing or anything,” Geraldine says, “you’d go in to listen to the bands, have a few drinks and that would be it, you’d go home.”

“We used to walk from the Ard Ri to Lisduggan which is a good walk and nobody would bother you,” adds her friend.

Geraldine, who has spent the last four-months doting on her first Grandchild, was heading home as her Godchild was arriving after crèche while Christina would spend her Wednesday relaxing and perhaps catching an episode of A Place in the Sun on the television.

“I think I’m going to buy one myself,” she says with a hearty laugh, “I’ve nothing in my pocket but I often say I will!”

In conversation with Ronan Morrissey

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