memories were our terraced house with its rabbit hutches, chickens,
loganberries and runner beans in the back garden. Where, in
the winter of '47, (me only two and half years old) the snow
was so bad that it piled up so high in the yard that the grown-ups
were concerned about access to the outside toilet! The snow
was level with the roof of the 'lean to' which housed the toilet.
Toys were mostly made of tin 'hand me
downs,' a doll's pushchair, the oven, from a visit to Santa
at the Co-Op, Powis Street, Woolwich. Plus my train set, a wind
up one, that constantly ran off the rails, which broke up if
not flat on the lino, and my green tip truck.
Granddad's house was the other side
of the High Street, in Benares Road. Bigger and better than
ours, it had its own bathroom! Apples and pears grew in his
garden and his allotment, that grew soft fruits and vegetables,
Many years earlier, my mum and her brothers and sister used
to walk from this house across fields to Welling and Bexleyheath,
not many houses then, and would pick wild strawberries on the
My older sisters would take me to the
Public Library, in Plumstead High Street. Sometimes we would
climb the stairs to visit the museum. Memories of me giving
this museum some pottery I thought might be of value to them!
The Clinic, where warts on my hand were cauterized, was here
too, along with the baths and swimming pool, where I learnt
to swim. Long gone now.
My sisters used the baths, but my bath was located on a nail
in the yard! Once a week this was brought down for my weekly
bath (rest of week was 'top 'n' tail' in the butler sink.)
Brookdene Park, not far from granddad's
house, had lovely gardens and a skating rink. Oh, how I loved
my roller skates. My pal Kathleen and I would go there for most
of the day during school holidays. A drink and a sandwich, wrapped
in an old tea towel or brown paper, would keep us going.
When at home, we would play hopscotch, shops, skipping or chase.
( This generally would be us tormenting the boys 'till they
ran after us. a favourite past time was trying to find where
their camps were, over in the 'ollow.)
We'd climb trees, roly-poly down the grass slopes, spy on the
courting couples and generally run amok on Plumstead Common.
The paddling pool had originally been part of a large lake,
(until it was bombed in WWII) in the summer it was a magnet
with mums and kids. Every seat, bench and bank was covered with
people and paraphernalia.
Bird's Nest Gully was a lovely place
to go during the long warm summer days.
My sister used to play tennis and nearby the older folks had
their game of bowls. There was a little kiosk for drinks and
ice cream also.
In the early 50's there had been a bandstand and people would
take a Sunday stroll to watch the band. The Globe cinema, nearby,
was small and reputed to house the smallest organ in the South
East, possibly even, in the whole of England!
My favourite place though was the swings.
(Slade swings) It was here that Alan Stannard, a boy in my class
at Conway School,
gave me one of his mum's blue curtain rings to wear. I was presented
with it on the round-about, but, by the time I had made it to
the swings, his older sister Ann had claimed it back!
Sunday was Sunday School. I went with Bert, Tony and Fay (Hooper.)
Pam was too little to attend. I still have a Ladybird book presented
to me during 1949 for good attendance.
heaven and hell!
First day memories were of children crying and clinging to their
mother's coat tails. But, I was fearless and excited, and thought
them stupid. Hadn't my mum, dad and sisters done a good job
with the 'big build up' at home, of how wonderful school was
going to be!
We played with toys in the reception
class by an open fire, complete with fire-guard, that generally
had a pair of knickers or pants drying on it! This fascinated
me, as toilets were adjacent to this class.
So, I became toilet attendant, asking
if anyone needed the toilet and flushing it after they had used
it. I'd play with the water in the hand basins afterwards, everything
being conveniently at child's height. Mrs. Moy, our teacher,
put a stop to this past-time! (No wonder school reports were
to say later, (Anne could do better if she didn't waste time
with those around her!?)
Camp beds, in the afternoon, were for
us to nap on. If we slept, a few smarties were our reward. Raymond
Scarf wasn't sleeping when he pulled the rocking horse tail
out, but then neither was I 'cos I saw him!
I thought I was the only Anne in the
whole wide world, and there I was confronted by lots of other
Ann(e)s! It was Miss Nicholls who told me my name was spelt
the 'Royal Way'. (Something my sisters never let me forget!)
Mr. Bull, the Headmaster, used to drill
the boys after assembly. I think it was his army training coming
through. I don't think I ever saw him without a flower in his
Stuart Bowman and I got reported playing
'Knock-down-Ginger? on the way to school. Summonsed to Mr. Bull's
office we were terrified. Placing his hand on his Bakelite telephone,
he announced that he was going to phone our father's at work.
He was going to inform them of how 'inconsiderate' we had been.
(My father and he used to drink in the 'Brewery Tap' on Lakedale
Road. Dad in the public bar with his cronies, Paddy & Jock,
and Mr. Bull in the Saloon.) Needless to say. we crumpled up
and cried that we would never do such a thing again! With this
promise we were dismissed. (He had explained to us that elderly
people may have lived in the houses, taking forever to answer
the door, due to their infirmities. This had the effect of making
us feel really guilty.)
Mr. Given and Mr. Montgomery had both
been in the army also. They never seemed to smile and were strict.
I once forgot to knock on a door when entering a room and caught
Mr. Montgomery in an embrace! This was with Miss ......, her
of the twin-sets, pearls and peaches and cream complexion. Mr.
Given frightened me no end, by shouting and looking very menacing.
Was he afraid I might snitch on him? Possibly.
An incident that happened to me at school
resulted in me carrying guilt for a long time afterwards. It
all started as a joke, that backfired on me. I'd hidden the
class dinner money in my desk, this was in response to a 'dare'.
Most of the class was in on the joke. Teacher had gone to the
staff-room and left the coppers in piles on her desk. I was
to 'present' the money to her once she noticed it missing. However,
she came back into the class in a bad mood, (we had been noisy).
Fear gripped me, as I could see the joke wasn't going to work.
So I stupidly kept quite. She asked where the money was, and
getting no response, she asked us all to open our desks! Obviously,
the money was in my desk, still in its piles. Oh. the shame
that followed, as I was hauled in front of the class. She slapped
my hands with a ruler ( everyone was impressed by thus later,
as I think I must have been the only girl in the whole school
to ever get the dreaded ruler.) I had to repeat that, ?My hands
are thief's hands.? Also, I had to write on the blackboard lines
to this effect as well, ( not to be rubbed off either!)
This stayed with me for years and I felt branded! Terrified
mum and dad would find out too. More punishment would have been
in store for me. They would have agreed with my teacher.
Looking back, I don't think my school pals saw me as a thief.
A lesson was learnt by us all on how not to be so stupid! I
never took up a dare again, not along those lines anyway! I
had learnt that one is always responsible for ones actions.
I would have been eight or nine years old at the time this occurred.
Most of school was fun, though I'm not
sure I paid attention to the lessons in the way I should have.
Making new friends, feeling sad when
they moved away. We once had a boy from Canada, Richard Crossley,
in our class. Elaine Turkington and I both loved him and his
accent. Back then 'accents' were a novelty, as people didn't
travel far, least, not us working classes anyway. There was
a boy, older than me, who used to give me shiny conkers. I nicknamed
him 'Conker' as I never knew his real name.
Another memory, quite clear, was sitting
in the hall at school, waiting for the classroom selections.
Petrified, that once the 'A' stream names had been read out
that it was all down-hill and perhaps I was going to end up
in the 'C' stream. Thank goodness that doesn't happen nowadays.
Mr. Reeves used to wear check suits and a happier soul you couldn't
wish to meet. I loved him to bits (unlike afore mentioned Mr.
M. & Mr. G.) Mr. Given saw that the likes of 'Rakey' a boy
in our class, got the cane. Once, after a severe whacking across
this boy's hand, Elaine and I were reduced to tears seeing his
swollen fingers Parents would be up in arms if that happened
now, and everyone else too.
Mr. Harrison was school caretaker and
was housed in the cottage situated in the corner of the school
playground. An old air raid shelter was there for a while and
we were warned to give it a 'wide berth'.
Miss Sims was school helper, she would
bathe your already scabby knees whenever you fell down, comforted
you when bullied and helped find lost property.
Corner shops were later lost to the
Supermarkets. I remember Morgan and Grace, in Plumstead High
Street, where you could get broken sweets and biscuits for next
to nothing. The Co-Op has always been in Lakedale Road. I used
to attend a Monday Club, after school, in the Co- Op hall. It
was there that I watched the Coronation on on TV as we didn't
own one then, back then in 1953. A tea was laid on for us as
well. We also had a street party, in our lower part of Sladedale
Road, for this Royal event. Rose White won first prize as Elizabeth
the 1st, she looked fantastic, as only a three year old could.
Lee Sach won second prize as the 'doggy in the window', after
a popular song at the time, 'How much is that doggy in the window,
woof, woof! (the one with the wagglely tail.)
The trams and trolley buses will also
be forever etched in my mind. We didn't travel far them days
and Mr. Dixey was the first person I knew, in our road, to have
a car. I think it was a black Wosley. His son's, Doug and Geoff,
who also went to Conway
School, and I went for a ride in the car to Woolwich and
back, a very exciting experience for me.
'Tadpoling' was another past time,
at the Ravine pond. I was there with Colin's younger sister
Ann and some other children, when Ann's older brother John came
along and threatened to pour the jar of tadpoles we'd caught
over our heads! His mum chased him with the broom handle when
she found out about it!
I can remember most of the names of
my classmates from both schools. Pam Musto, her dad owned the
'Radalec' radio and TV repair shop near Plumstead bridge. Janice
Ludlow of the Fish Shop, Plumstead High St.
I remember Mr. Lewis's toy shop in
Lakedale Rd. He had a goose that laid a golden egg in the window.
I thought it a superb toy (this was in late 40's, maybe to 50/51.)
The Plumstead Fire Station and the engines, boots, poles, uniforms,
all gleaming. The newspaper stand was also situated there, on
the corner of Lakedale Road and the Plumstead High Street of
an evening, busily selling the 'Star 'news and Standard' evening
papers to the workers returning home from their work. This was
where granddad would meet us and sometimes he'd give me a thrupenny
bit or a silver sixpenny piece. I'd buy ice cream, flying saucers,
sherbet dabs, toffee apples and sometimes sticky buns or colouring
books. I recall the pet shop in Plumstead High St. and the parrot
they had there, it pecked a hole in my finger!
I remember the thick grey fogs, open
fires, making toast on them with the toasting fork and 'Uncle
Mac' on the wireless.
All these are fond memories of childhood
days. A bit confusing at times. 'Grown ups' in the main had
such high standards and I think most of us were afraid of them.
They in turn were 'thrown' when the 60's came. Not many of them
around now to see the advancement of 'progress and changes',
which is just as well I guess.
Ann Reen (nee Clarke)