IN our weekly pub column recently (A lost friend called John Bull, Saturday May 24) we looked back at the John Bull pub, which closed 20 years ago.

Today, we are grateful to one man who knew the pub better than most - having been born in the upstairs room.

Mick Waite, who still lives in York, was born in 1948, the youngest of Fred and Molly Waite's six children. Fred died suddenly only six months later, meaning Mick never knew his father, but family stories and photographs have been passed down the line.

"My dad ran the shop next door then took over the pub and for a while they had both businesses," says Mick.

The businesses had been run by Fred's parents, but after his father was killed in the First World War, his mother (Mick's grandmother) Kate Francis Waite took over the shop.

Fred and Molly then took over and moved into the pub shortly before it was rebuilt by John Smith's in 1937.

"The pub was very popular with bomber pilots during the war. There were a lot of Poles, and my dad would always say "see you tomorrow" when they left. When they said "not tomorrow Fred," he knew they were flying the next night."

He would give beer and packets of Player's cigs to the Polish Airmen and often used to say a few days later when they came back to the John Bull, 'Where's Jan?' or 'Where's Miloslav?' They'd say 'You won't be seeing them again Fred' - a telling moment."

Fred also ran a penny lending library from the pub, while the running joke among regulars was you could get served quickly or slowly - depending on whether you were served by landlady Molly Waite or barmaid Edith Rush (later Edith Warriner).

After Fred died, Molly moved on to run an off-licence in Mt Ephraim Street but the family remained in touch with friends from the pub, and when York City played Newcastle United in the 1955 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough in Sheffield, Mick recalls an open-backed lorry with 15 men on board set off from outside the pub.

"Mum pestered me to to go back one night before it closed and I wish I had not," Mick says. "Glasses were still out from the lunchtime and she looked at the terrazzo floor she used to scrub every day on their knees, and said it wasn't the same."