Thank you for accessing my website.
I have made several attempts to produce one using different styles and various types of content. This is the one which I am most pleased with.
Well, firstly because I have a very good memory and I want to provide a sustainable record about all I can remember about my life while I can still recall it clearly. Reminisence Therapy is all very well but many people are a bit ga-ga by the time they are asked to do it and their powers of memory may be failing, and they tend to dribble over the paper which makes it hard and unpleasant to read. I hope to avoid that problem by doing it while I still have all my marbles and control over my saliva glands. Anyway, this record is in electronic form and can not be spoiled as such!
Secondly, I would like my children and grand-children to know a bit more about me after I’ve gone. My sons have known me as a father, someone around all their lives, putting bread on the table and all that, but I would like them to know about how I was able to do that - through recounting the story of my life. My grandchilden know me as “Grandad”, to them an “old” man who loves them and plays with them. I have had a wonderful lifeand would like them to be able to know about it in later life.
Finally, I have alway been interested in social history. To me, knowing how people lived in the past is fascinating. So I am writing this for posterity. This is an ordinary persons account of the world of childhood and work over 60-odd years. I have had a wonderful life. I have been very lucky. I was a war baby and therefore grew up in the Forties and Fifties when life was fairly hard but there were such freedoms in those days. On Saturdays, I was travelling regularly to the London from Walthamstow by bus and tube train when I was 10 years old with a schoolfriend called Malcolm Bonner.We would visit the main Museums: the British Museum in Holborn, the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth and the Natural History and Science Museums in South Kensington. And all in the same day!
I was one of the "fortunate" generation. Two years too young to have to do the 2 years National Service; never having to fight in any war; all the benefits of the post-war prosperity which began in the mid 1950's; retiring ahead of the "baby-boomers" and therefore enjoying the benfits of an index-linked final salary pension.
This good fortune extended to my Education. At age 11, I went to one of the newly created Technical Schools created under tyhe Education Act of 1944. The school was organised along the lines of a Public School, with the pupils divided into four "houses"; Lister, Ling, Curie and Howard which were the names of world renowned scientists. The school was overseen by a Headmaster who was a Quaker. From his lead, the school exercised proper discipline; teachers were there to teach you NOT to be "best mates with you"; it was a place where you were expected to learn. Good exam results were the expected norm. This was helped by having teachers who were mature and knew how to teach. They would inspire you to learn by making the subject interesting, not in gimmicky ways, but merely through their own strength of personality and breadth of knowledge.
In the Sixties there were still Dance Halls where you could go and meet girls. The by-product was the opportunity to hear wonderful music beiong played by top notch dance bands and orchestras. When it came to finding a job, they were there in abundance. Spoiled for choice we were. No real need for a University education unless you really wanted it.
I have not "set the Thames on Fire" in terms of what I have achieved. I have ended up in retirement with a lot of brilliant memories, a good pension, a second home in Spain, a fantastic wife who has been my soul-mate for 45 years, three sons whom we are immensley proud of and four grandchildren who keep us young in outlook if not in body!
I do remember reading Bill Wyman’s book Stone Alone few years ago and finding out that, when he still went by his birth name of Bill Perks, he once worked in Royal Victoria Dock in London for meat importers W.Weddel & Co. When I read that I felt really chuffed. I thought “how many people know anything about the life that went on in the Docks in the early sixties?”
For I too worked in Royal Victoria Docks. Not for W.Weddell but for the Port of London Authority at about the same time, in an office a few yards away from Weddell’s office at ‘A’ shed. Whether our paths ever crossed in the frantic daily melee of meat handling at ‘A’ shed is unclear - he didn’t mention me in his book so I guess not. But Bill went on to be famous as one of the Rolling Stones and left the daily grind of work in the Docks behind him. Whereas I worked there for several years, like hundreds of others, and have some vivid memories of that time.
So this is essentially a trip down my own personal MEMORY LANE; from my earlist childhood memories, continuing with my adolescence, my friends/girlfriends and my eventual marriage to the last of those girlfriends, the beautiful, graceful and incomparable Sandra Lesley Blake.
It also includes my memories of working life through the 60's,70's, 80's and 90's up until my retirement in 2007. It tells of the people who influenced me most in my life, and of the strateagies I developed and the risks I took in order, firstly to survive and later to move onto something better.
I hope that those of you who had similar experiences will identify with them. And for those who are still working or who are yet to start, I hope that it gives you some enjoyment in the sheer telling of the events, some of which, by today’s standards around Health and Safety, for example, could never occur now.
My early working life was spent in a predominantly male environment and the language used then was at times risque, homophobic and chauvanistic. I have replicated that language where appropriate in order to retain the authenticity of the events. There are therefore many expletives in some of the text. I have not used gratuitously offensive language for the sake of it. But, to try and convey Sid at George Ansons, for example, without using the exact expletives he used would not portray him as he was. So I apologies if you are offended by this but to my mind it is in keeping with the actual events and the culture of the times in which they occurred. these pages are protected by a password which I only intend to reveal to those whom I feel are mature enough to read them. Other pages contain some personal details which I do not want to be in the public domain. Again, these pages are password protected.
I could not have included some of the detailed narrative or comtemporary photographs which pepper this website without the goldmine of information which exists on the Internet. Where appropriate I have included the sources of the text/photographs used. At other times I have provided direct links to other websites rather than replicate the information on this site, thereby taking advantage of one of the most useful aspects of the Internet.
As an example,to be able to use Google Maps at street level to see once again places I have not set eyes on for 50 years or more has been a wonderful experience. So has finding old photographs of holiday camps in the 1950's, dance halls in the 1960,s and music from both eras. I have tried to put this all together to re-create as best I can what things were like back "in the good old days" of my youf!
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did creating it.
These webpages are peppered with references to trolleybuses, motor buses and steam trains. Why? well like many boys of my age I was an avid "bus-spotter" and "train-spotter". Bus spotting came first as it was possible to do this in Walthamstow to begin with and then move further afield as I got older. Train spotting was generally restricted to family holidays.
The variety of bus types in London during the 1940's and 1950's was enormous which made it a real hobby. "Ian Allan" published the definitive guide to the London Transport bus stock, with a fabulous technical description of each "class" ( eg RT, RTL RTW RF etc.) prefacing the fleet number for each bus. For a detailed description of London Buses of this era please refer to Ian Smith's fabulous website by logging on here
I am an East Ender by birth. Not a proper cockney, although my father was one as he was born in Bethnal Green which is within the sound of “Bow Bells’. No, I was born and bred in Walthamstow which in the 1962 was exclusively a white working class area in north-east London; I went to school there and got married there in 1965.
My earliest memories and experiences were of post-war austerity and general thriftyness. I inherited through my parents, and from my peers at the time, the values and moral codes that were the cultural norms of East End life at the time. It was, during the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s and into the early 1960’s, a truly wonderful place to grow up in. We kids were spoilt for choice in the availability of adventure locations and had the real freedom that allowed us to enjoy them to the full without our parents worrying about paedaphiles and the like.
I moved from Walthamstow to Witham in Essex in 1967.
This is the year that the Victoria Line Tube line was opened which linked Brixton in South London with Walthamstow in North-east London. For the first time it allowed passengers to travel directly from Walthamstow to the Central London in a matter of 25 minutes rather than an hour or more.
Before then, Walthamstow had suffered from poor transport links to Central London. The nearest tube station before 1967 was Leyton on the Central Line. The journey to Leyton meant catching a 69 or 249 bus which took up to half an hour. The tube journey from Leyton to Oxford Street took another half hour.
There were "red" buses which went directly to to London - the 257 to Liverpool Street Station and the 38 bus to Victoria Station. There was also a surface train line from Chingford to Liverpool Street with stations at Wood Street, Hoe Street and St James' Street. Finally there was the limited stop 718 Green Line service which ran from Epping to Windsor. It went through Walthamstow with stops at the Crooked Billet, Bell Corner and the Royal Standard and could set you down at a number of places in Central London; these included Baker Street, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch and Victoria Station. Until the Victoria Line opened this was the fastest way into London. It took about 45 minutes and the RF class coaches upgraded to operate the Green Line services were the epitome of luxury at the time.Travel on Green Line services, however, was more expensive that the other bus or train services. By comparison, the journey to the West End by red bus or train took at least an hour,either direct by 38 bus or by changing at Liverpool Street onto the Central Line tube.
I loved the Green Line coach. I would pay the extra fare just to ride in the luxury and the enjoy the limited stops. On most Saturdays from 1953 onwards, I would catch it at the Crooked Billet and go usually to Victoria and then use the tube to travel to South Kensington and visit the Science and Natural History museums. Coming home I would take the Picadilly Line tube to Manor House then catch the 718 Green Line service back to the Crooked Billet. Total cost - probably, from memory, about 4 shilling = 20p.
The effect on Walthamstow life by the opening of the Victoria Line was immense. It became instantly accessible from other areas of London and, attracted by its numerous good amenities and its vastly improved transport links, people other than the indigenous white, working class began to settle. This caused a gradual "white flight" by those able to afford to move outwards into Essex. As stated above, I became one of these; not for any racially-motivated reasons but because the Greater London Council were offering 100% mortgages to purchase your own house to those willing to move to the newly designated overspill town of Witham in Essex. Newly married and with an 18-month old son, I jumped at the chance. My link with Walthamstow was now more tenuous. Both our parents still lived in the Borough so we continued to make the occassional visit up until 1973 when our parents moved out to live elsewhere.
To read a more detailed account of my childhood recollections of growing up in Walthamstow in the 1950's please click here.
To read the accounts of other peoples recollections please visit John Knowles excellent website Walthamstow Memories
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