I can remember the barrage balloons
on Winn's Common by the old Accession hall. These large silver-grey
objects up in the sky during the Blitz and used in conjunction
with the anti-aircraft guns.
These were quite close to the Ravine
cafe. I remember the ice cream sold there at the cafe, made
by an Italian. I was an apprentice gents hair dresser at the
Co op. Later, when qualified, and after national service, working
in the Plumstead Common area, I was cutting his hair one day
when he told me how he had cut his finger and how the plaster
fell of his cut finger and dropped into the mix! Why he should
elaborate with me about this I don't know as it wasn't in his
interest. He came a few times to get his hair cut before I moved
on to some where else.
I remember a neighbour, Mr Beacham,
a real character. We had a mutual interest for a while, even
though he was a lot older than me, as I was only a young teenager
and was friends with some of his older children. I had a James
Captain 199cc motorcycle. He had a 98cc Excelsior. We both had
problems with these bikes misfiring. Years later I realised
the fault with my machine. It needed a coil. I shudder to think
but at that time I could never have afforded the 35 /- for a
new one! However, during one afternoons work on his machine,
he took it twice round the block. Sladedale, Goldsmid, Lakedale
Roads and down again to No.103 Sladedale Rd. Quite pleased with
himself he said, " I may even get it taxed and insured.......!"
Mr B., as many would address him, had briefly worked as a postman.
Rumbold's corner shop was down the hill
from us in Sladedale Road. Next to them were lock up garages,
tucked away in the corner, owned by a Mr. Russell, a Russian
who spoke only in broken English. He had been an engineer on
rotary aero engines during the first world war. He was very
kind to me and helped me with his mechanic knowledge when I
was tickering with my old Rudge 250 cc motorbike that I kept
at his lock-up. One day, when he found me tinkering with this
old bike whilst I was reading the Rudge manual, he said to me,
"That's no good, you need the bible!" I restored two
types of Rudges, a Rudge Rapid 250cc and two Rudge Ulsters,
the later with the help of the Rudge Enthusiast Club. Hugh 'Ugh'
Porter was the Rudge club chairman, a wonderful character. He
lived up in Vanburgh Road, near the old Globe cinema. Ugh worked
nights as a proof reader for the 'Motorcycling Magazine' and
rode his Rudge Special, with side car, to and fro from Plumstead
to central London for many years. I used to spend many long
hours at Ugh Porter's house chatting, about motor bikes with
a friend, Tom Flyn, who lived in Goldsmid Street, who's dad
was a member of the I.R.A. and used to be seen walking everywhere
with cycle clips on.
A neighbour, Roy Penwarden, had an
A.J.S. 350 cc motorbike and would regularly be seen polishing
it out in the road in front of his house, at No. 81. He would
use his mum's lavender wax polish. Another neighbour, Johnny
Milson's uncle, said Roy spent more on polish than on petrol.
I often played with a girl named Florence
(Florri) Picton. I'm ashamed to say that I once fired an orange
pip at her from my catapult, hitting her on the cheek, injurying
her, as she was walking to Sunday School. I fired it from a
considerable distance away and it was an unfortunate fluke that
it actually hit her. I could have caused her serious injury.
Her dad was outraged and confronted our dad, who later smashed
my catapult to pieces. I would like to apologise to her now,
all these years later, I'm so very sorry Florri.
I had a great collection of birds eggs
as this was a hobby that I really enjoyed. I had an older mate,
Dave Waller. We would go over into the hospital grounds, or
explore Bowman's Wood, Bostall Woods and Abbey Wood marshes
for birds eggs. When a nest was spotted I'd climb up to it and
carefully take an egg. I'd put the egg in my mouth as I climbed
back down. I would then prick the ends of the egg with a thorn
or a pin and then 'blow' the egg. This was done by blowing into
the small hole in the top of the egg and as you blew in one
end the yolk and contents were forced out the bottom end, leaving
an empty egg shell that could not go bad. This specimen was
then added to the other eggs in our collections. We both had
quite large collections, which were carefully kept in boxes
lined with cotton wool. My collection grew quite big over the
years and I was very proud of it.
We played on the common for hours. There was a particular Park
Keeper we kept alert to. We nicknamed him 'Gritty Whiskers'
and we avoided him by running off when ever he was spotted.
I was very young at the time and it was a big adventure out
in that great outdoors.
I recall Mackingtosh's minerals, the
best mineral waters in London, especially their Ginger beer
and their Cream Soda! It was made at their local firm, situated
at the back of and next to the Alma pub, off the lower end of
King's Highway. I also remember Moak's ice cream, I recall it
being sold mainly over in the Slade area. It was an icecream
that had lumps in. This firm was later bought by the Co op.
The owners, the Mackintoshes, would occassionally visit our
next door nieghbour, Sally Ridge, and her son George.
George worked as a blacksmith at Cross
Ness, opposite the Ford Motor Company on the River Thames. He
cycled all his working life to Cross Ness from 69 Sladedale
Road. George, when young, was a very good footballer. Charlton
Athletic wanted him to sign up with them. He had silver medals
also for Ping Pong, before it became known as table tennis.
He was also a very keen cricket player and gave my younger brother
Colin his old cricket caps. These caps had extra large peakes,
of which Colin loved to wear.
George's mother, Sally, had the most
magnificent Dresden ornaments, which she would proudly show
me. A few larger and very beautiful porcelain examples, of the
like of which I have never seen since, stood on her living room
sideboard for many years. She had purchased them in the early
1900's from Petticoat Lane. They would be worth a huge amount
of money today.
I remember how my mum would toil at
the doing the washing in the back yard. Even on hot summer days
she would be working away doing the family washing in a galvanised
tin bath. her arms would be working away, scrubbing the heavy
blankets, along with the pile of family clothing and towls etc.
She would then hand rinse everything before putting it all through
the big old mangle.
Mum would ask me to turn the handle
and would often chastise me for not turning the handle fast
enough, she'd say things such as, "Why can't you even manage
to do this for me!" I would say to her,' Why can't you
use the bag wash mum?" and her stern reply was," What!
and mix our washing with other peoples dirty washing!
The 'Bag Wash' was a service that called
on homes on a regular round, calling at the neighbours. I recall
the name of the firm was Palmers Bag Wash. Their van would slowly
struggle up Sladedale Road . I remember their slogan that was
written on their van. It said, " Why kill your wife, let
us do it for you!"
The first house up from Welsh the greengrocers,
on Parkdale Road, was the home of the Marshall family. Mrs.
Marshall made toffee apples and sold them cheaply to us kids.
She also worked at the Plaza cinema, along Plumstead High Street.
If she spotted me entering the cinema she'd have a word with
the box office and I'd get in free. She was a lovely lady, who,
like her husband, were always friendly to all.
Their son Howard, who was older than
me, often took me swimming in Plumstead baths and afterwards
we'd go to a cafe, close to the Police Station on the High St.
He introduced me to black coffee and lemon drink. Howard was
the first person to tell me that I should put a parting in my
hair! He had a younger sister Marrion, who in later years I
met at the East Ham Town Hall dance with two of her friends,
Eddie Tracy's sister, I forget her name, and Valerie Atkins
from Roydene Road. ............ I really liked Marrion.