The family had always been poor and were getting poorer. The pawnbroker (‘uncle’) had always been a central figure, not just within the family but in the whole area. As my dad’s employment got more and more sporadic, ‘uncle’ was used more and more. Dad had one suit and a silk scarf which spent more time in the pawnshop than anywhere else.
Every Friday, if dad was working, he would come home and I would have to rush to ‘uncle’ to retrieve his suit. The suit would be worn to the pub on the corner of New Road that night. During the week, from Monday morning onwards, home for the suit was Dalglish’s pawnshop on Dorset Road. I would run there, breathless, through the alleys, desperate to reach the shop before four thirty closing time on Fridays. Everyone used the pawnbroker but there was still a stigma attached to it. Even at a young age I’d check to see whether anyone who knew me was around before sneaking through the side door.
Frank the pawnbroker was a hard, sly man. Often he’d have some fun by telling me he was closed. I’d panic at the thought of the good hiding I’d get at home and cry and plead with him to give me the suit. Finally he’d relent, full of invective, and give me the suit. “You’re a bloody nuisance,” he’d say, sneering, and I’d rush home with the suit for my dad. Monday mornings were always worse. I’d be sent again to pawn the damned suit. Then Frank would pore over the thing, looking for stains that would decrease the value, offering a pitiful amount. “I can’t sell this thing,” he’d say. “Tell yer mam she can have two pounds for it.”
Again I’d beg, telling him we’d be evicted, but he’d smile maliciously, place the suit on the three-pound shelf and give me the two.