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Anne Clarke remembers.

First 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, was nearby.
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 way.

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.

School was 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 button-hole.

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)



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