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My family moved to Carnegie Tower in November 1967, when I was 10. Carnegie Tower was the first of the 4 tower blocks to be built in Alexander Street. Previously in that area, there had been streets full of old small shops and tenements where families lived, mainly in cramped conditions and sharing outside toilets with neighbours. I was an only child and we had lived only a few hundred yards away in a one bedroomed first floor tenement flat at 76 James Street. By the time we moved to the multis, there were only 2 tenants still living in the building where I was born and had lived with my Mum and Dad.
Moving to a brand new house was very exciting. We had an inside toilet for the first time in my life (and my parents’) and I also had my own bedroom. Most of the people who moved to the multis then, had come from similar houses and for the first time had new spacious homes, with storage heating, fitted carpets and most of the houses had a magnificent view over the river Tay. There were 10 flats on each landing and a total of 110 homes in each block. They were the tallest multis in Dundee at that time. Some of the flats had living rooms upstairs, which was a new experience for us. When we entered
through our front door, there was the bathroom and 2 bedrooms and the stairs leading up to the living room and kitchen. The rooms were all massive, compared to what we had before, especially the living rooms and an amazing amount of cupboard space.
One of the happiest memories I have of living there, was when we used to play rounders in the black square between Maxwelltown and Carnegie Towers. There were around 20 or more kids all playing together during the summer holidays and our Mums and Dads would sometimes stand on their verandas watching and cheering us on.
Another thing we sometimes did was play in the lifts. Having an elevator to your house was a fabulous new experience for us children and the temptation to jump in and out on different floors was too much to resist. However, if Mr McDonough who was the caretaker back then caught you doing that, it meant a severe telling off and the threat that he’d tell your Mum, so we had to be very careful not to get caught!! Even sometimes when we weren’t mucking about, and just taking the lift to our house, he would make us use the stairs, because the lifts were often full and it meant adults had to wait until it returned back to the ground floor. We had the option of using the other lift, if ours was too busy, but that meant as it only stopped at alternate landings, people had to either walk up a stair or down a stair to arrive at your own landing.
In the main area of the building, was the laundrette and as most of the tenants didn’t have their own washing machine, this was brilliant. There were 2 big machines and a spin dryer. You had to put your house number on the notice board for an allocated time each week and there was hell to pay if someone sneaked in and took your Mum’s usual time, before she had a chance to put her name up. I remember clearly having to help with the laundry every Tuesday after tea and I wasn’t allowed out to play till it was all done. Other tenants were able to use the spin dryer anytime it was free for hand washing they did in the kitchen sink, but sometimes there would be a queue to use that, because the person who was using the machines had to be finished with it first. You then brought your clean washing back to the house and hung it on the clothes horse in the kitchen to dry. (There were no tumble dryers in those days).
Right next to the laundrette there was a playroom and we spent lots of rainy days in there, playing elastics or “firies” with skipping ropes. It was a great room, especially for the younger kids, keeping them safe and relatively warm.
There was a rota for washing the landings and the stairs and everyone had to take their turn or the neighbours spoke about them!!! There was a little board that was passed through the letterbox on each landing from neighbour to neighbour every week, and when it was your turn, the stairs had to be swept and washed at least once as did the landing and bin recess area too. The bin recess area housed the chute, where you put your rubbish down and it was forever being blocked by people who would try to stuff rubbish down that was too big.
Another thing I remember very well, was when it was Halloween and we went guising. The multis were a perfect place; we would start from the top floor (No.21) and knock on each door on every landing all the way down. None of us were cold or wet and we would manage to work our way through the whole block, before we had to be home.
One thing that was missing was a play park in the area and so we started a petition and took it to the Lord Provost and a year or so later, construction began to create the adventure playground which was situated between Carnegie and Jamaica Tower. Adventure playgrounds were very new back then, we had always been used to swings, roundabouts and chutes in our playgrounds and this was very different, but still lots of fun was had.
I have great memories from when I was a child, we were never indoors watching TV, always outside running around even if it was just up and down the stairs, knocking on friends doors asking if someone was coming out to play.
I know the multis had to go, but I watched the demolition with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat, thinking of those happy times.