‘NOTISE OF THE Masked Avengers
SEVVY PARK BELONGS TO US
SO GETOUT OR YOU’LL GET AN ARRER
UP YOUR BUM’ (183)
Toxteth Tales tells the anecdotes of Hayter’s childhood growing up during the Second World War in Liverpool 8. It is with no doubt then that I can confidently say Hayter’s younger years were filled with heaps of fun and mischief as the memoir is nearly entirely situated around the tales of his rascality along with the help of his four best friends. As previously discussed within my analysis of Hayter’s intended purpose behind this memoir, it seems that we can suggest the memoir situates itself almost entirely around happy memories regarding his childhood to enable a sense of nostalgia which he wishes to always remember. It is this that I will be continuing to explore as the memoir overflows with anecdotal memories of the fun and festivities Hayter and his best friends found themselves a part of.
To begin my post on the fun Hayter experienced as a child I must first begin by clarifying who Hayter roams around Liverpool 8 with- his best friends. Hayter describes them within the opening pages of his memoir suggesting the direct impact this group of boys had on little Spud’s childhood. He says, ‘Terry, with Billy and his brother Georgie who lived just across the street, and Tommy who lived further down’ (15) were his group of ‘inseparable best friends’ (15). Hayter comments on their bond as children saying that ‘Terry, Billy, Georgie and Tommy were the most important characters in my world’ (16). This small little gang of boys were all-around six or seven years of age and all simultaneously experienced a childhood growing up during the war-torn Liverpool that created the likes of bomb sites which the children describe as ‘a paradise for [them] to play in’ (26).
As a boisterous gang, the five of them got up to some mischievous activities that Hayter recalls within different chapters throughout the memoirs. It seems that Hayter only looks back on these memories with fondness as the memoir situates itself around his favourite anecdotes. Within the chapter ‘Saturday Matinee’ Spud and his friends attend the Tunnel Road Picturedome to watch Tarzan. The cinema was perhaps a ‘favourite escape’ for the working-class people during the war as it contrasted the ‘everyday lives at work [with] the luxury it [the cinema] afforded’ (Bourke, 151). This would explain the huge crowds that flocked to the Tunnel Road cinema as Hayter recalls ‘the queue gradually swelled and scuffles broke out as latecomers tried to sneak in’ (45). For Hayter and his friends, however, they seemed to enjoy the violence and the adventure behind the Tarzan film as Terry describes ‘in lurid detail’ how ‘A croc’dile’s gorrim and dragged ‘im underwater; rippin’ ‘is guts out’ (44).
Although the cinema itself seemed a middle-class activity that offered a luxurious setting, as described by Joanna Bourke, it seems that the working-class cinema goes were still subjected to a different experience than that of the wealthier. Hayter describes the cinema in detail creating a magical atmosphere but, he still describes the shortcomings of the rundown Tunnel Road Picturedome. He says, ‘A few of the lights weren’t working but the splendour of the place was awesome’ (46). When the seats were full the usherettes picked ‘the smallest cinema-goers and they usually ended up two-in-a-seat’ (46). Regardless of Hayter and his friends ‘It was a wonderful place’ (46).
In the final chapter of the memoir titled ‘The Masked Avengers’ Hayter describes a group outing to ‘Sevvy park’ that turns sour. Sevvy Park, or otherwise known as Sefton Park, is a beautiful public park in South Liverpool which remains today as one of the more popular outings for Liverpool’s residents and tourists. To Hayter and his gang, however, it was theirs and theirs alone. This chapter tells of the boy’s desire to mark the Sevvy as their territory of which if anybody stepped foot within, they would get ‘an arrer up [their] bum’ (183). This hilarious anecdote shows truly how mischievous young boys can be as they call themselves the ‘Masked Avengers’ (182) and fight for their favourite playing spot. Towards the end of the chapter, their Sevvy Park gets infested with people and the boys think it is up to them to scare them off. Hayter recalls Terry ‘dragging’ a young boy who was trespassing ‘towards the stream’ (191). Suddenly, their victim’s big brother ‘crashed through the bushes’ and ‘started pummelling [billy] about the head’ (195).
Often the fun and festivities within the memoir revolve around violence and boyish mischief. Perhaps this is a gender role that could be explored. Growing up surrounded by violence and pain would surely leave a legacy on the youth that experienced it. Perhaps war increases violence in its youth through the process of habituation. Children become more disposed to violence and adapt to it suggesting that Hayter and his friends are often seen to be fighting due to their awareness of the time in which they were borne. In the post-war period ‘high levels of violence are expected and explained as a consequence of the war’s effects on individuals’ bodies and psyches and on a society’s culture’ (Rosemary, Kennedy. 52). Perhaps then the violence we see in the boy’s mischievous ways can be arguably linked back to their habituation of a war-torn Britain.
To Hayter fun and festivities is what constitutes his memories of growing up in Liverpool 8. He focuses on these slices of fun memories as he wishes to encapsulate everything, he loved about growing up in Liverpool during this period.
Bourke, Joanna. Working Class Cultures in Britain, 1890-1960: Gender, Class and Ethnicity. London: Psychology Press, 1994
Gartner, Rosemary: Kennedy, Liam. ‘War and Postwar Violence’. Crime and Justice. (2018): 1-68
Hayter, Kenneth. Toxteth Tales. Lancaster: Palatine Books, 2017