Feature from 2008Continued…
The next house move took Ernie to probably his most known address, and his last permanent home; 12 Station Terrace. Although well known, it was tricky to pin down, mainly because of its many names. Not only was it called Station Terrace, but also Station Cottages, and Station Row on the ordnance survey maps of the time.
Station Terrace was a small collection of narrow houses, perched on the embankment within spitting distance of the railway line close to Ardsley station. Thanks to local historians we managed to find several pictures of them showing just how close they were to the line. Ernie lived at number 12, the end house, furthest away in the pictures.
Ernie was still touring local pubs, but now as ‘Carson and his little wonder’. He was known for going into pubs and dancing on the tables, not only for the entertainment of the locals but also for money and gifts. Once such incident provided the young Ernie with a budgerigar, whish he sadly lost when his mother opened a window to let in some air.
Station Terrace was demolished sometime between 1971 and 1976 to make way for the new M62 motorway. All that remains is a single railway sleeper, acting as a gate post that marks the start of the road up to the house.
As Ernie perfected his dancing and joke telling, his schooling slowly took second place. The local council banned him and his father from performing in the area in a bid to get the boy back to lessons. Ignoring the council, his father, insistent his boy would perform, took him further afield and began touring the pubs and clubs in nearby Wakefield and Ardsley.
His first school would have been Thorpe Junior and Infants school, later he attended East Ardsley Boy School. This later school was demolished in the 80’s to make way for a business centre. At the time local residents asked the developers to keep the schools foundation stone and maybe incorporate it into the new building.
Luckily the developers agreed to this, but sadly something went wrong, or they were not interested in the local heritage. The stone was used, face up on a small patch of earth, surrounded by bushes and plants in the developers idea of a garden. It can still be seen, if you pull the bushes back and are prepared to get your hands dirty.
In March 1938, Ernie was entered into a local talent contest in the nearby town of Morley. The contest called “Chuse ‘Ow” was to be run for a week and the audience would get to select the best to go through to the grand final on Saturday 19th.
The contest proved very popular with all kinds of acts entering and all kinds of ages. 8 to 29 year-olds, sang, danced, joked and mimicked their way through their routines hoping to win the grand prize of 3 guineas.
Ernie managed to get through to the final, with his name, then Earnest Wiseman, being mentioned in the local newspaper. It was a very close final but Ernie managed to win, the newspapers proclaiming; his comedy song and clever tap dance routine ‘brought the house down’.
This may have been his very last amateur performance as later in the month he was getting rave reviews for his performance in the Nignog Review at the Bradford Alhambra. He was now almost a star, or at least half a star.
Soon after in 1939 he auditioned for the famous variety entrepreneur Jack Hylton, for a place in the touring youth show Band Wagon. So impressed was Hylton that he took him on straight away, and set off on tour all around the country.
Ernie never returned to live with his parents again, he practically lived with Hylton. Later in 1939 his parents moved to 17 Oxley Street, Leeds and Ernie did go back for a few months to visit, but did not settle. As soon as Hylton sent word he needed him back, Ernie left for good.
Still touring, they would hold auditions at every town and city they played, and it was in Manchester in 1939 that Ernie sat by the side of Hylton and watched a young comedian that stood out from the crowd. His name was Eric Bartholomew.
The boys quickly became friends and remained so for the next 45 years, forming one of the best known and best loved comedy double acts ever.
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