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I think I started going to school when I was five years old. I never attended a nursery in those days as many parents [mums] did not have jobs and, unlike today, it was the man of the house who was the bread-winner and the wives stayed at home with the children. I think I started school late in 1949, after my birthday, which was in October, or maybe it was in the new year of 1950. Unlike some of the other children at the time I was quite illiterate and couldn't add 2 + 2 together, let alone read.

I attended Bannockburn Road Primary School, and was much of a loner there, as the other children didn't bother to talk to me, and I remember that no-one wanted to play with me.

One day, when I had been there for about a year or so, one of the teachers [Mrs West ] noticed that l used to play on my own, practicing running or jumping or just playing with toys. When she asked why I was not playing with the others, I told her I had always played on my own as no one wanted to play with me, and they called me a dunce. This led to her questioning the whole class and I got the blame from them for not mixing, as well as the other boys in the class calling me a tell-tale-tit. After a while I tried to join in the games with the other kids but I just got pushed away, which led to them to hit me quite frequently.

We used a galvanised tin bath in those days, which had to be filled with hot water from the kettle. We took our bath in the Scullery (kitchen] or in the living room, on view to everyone, and the bruises on my small body were very noticeable. When my mother noticed these bruises I told her I had fallen over. After a while the bruising got worse and my parents went to the school to find out the truth, which, unfortunately for me, led me to get beaten up even more! I remember the bullies well, one of the worst bullies lived at the bottom of Barth Road, where as, I lived in the top half of the road.

My parents eventually moved me to Conway Road School, [which was actually in Gallosson Road], which, I think, was early in 1952, when I had turned seven.
I had no problems with bullies at this school and made many friends, but there was always the odd one who wanted to fight.

My English and Arithmetic were still appalling, but, being a whole lot happier, I learnt things much more quickly. It was here that I met Colin Weightman, and many others, some of whom have long since been forgotten, although I remember my childhood sweethearts, ie: June Hood, Judith Blanch and Elaine Turkington. June Hood was actually my Country Dancing partner on many occasions, and in class she sat next to Colin's then heart-throb, Carol Dickens.

One could even get a tea-time meal after school was finished. A cup of cocoa and some jam sandwiches for the princely sum of threepence,(3d) if your parents had to go out for the evening, or you just wanted to stay for the games. These games were after tea, games such as billiards, or shuttlecock and a whole host of board games and puzzles, to keep you busy. In the evening from 7 pm there was also a Club Night where a whole host of activities took place.

A few years later I can remember days when Colin and I got up to no-good, and we also played the age old game of kiss-chase with many of the girls on Plumstead Common. They would run off and hide in the gorse bushes amongst the hollows at the rear of St. Nicholas Hospital. The idea was for them to hide and when we found them we were entitled to a kiss, but in these modern times I think the boys are looking for something more that just a kiss!

We also created a slide on the steep ground nearest to the road. We had an old mat and used to sit on it and slide down the hill. My parents got very angry when I wore a hole in the rear of my short trousers and my shoes were scuffed badly, as I used them as breaks.

Lakedale Road, (which, incidentally, was originally called Water Lane and then Cage Lane, way back in early Victorian times), ran northwards down hill, and divided the common into two parts, the East and West as we allocated it. On the west side there was a ravine pond, (the dirty lake) although more like a dirty old pond surrounded by a fence. Colin and I and a few others visited here during springtime, to get some frogs spawn. It was about 3 feet deep in those days, and at its most southerly end it was always dry in the late summer. There was always a hole in the fence somewhere where we could squeeze through to enter. There were frogs, toads, newts and sticklebacks everywhere in those days. I managed to slip and fall in one day and emerged with shoes full of smelly mud and remember everyone having a good laugh! Further west lies the Old Mill which dates back to the early 1700s.

To the south is where the Slade School now stands, but history tells us that long ago this was the site of the 'Three Horses Inn' and a brook used to run from here down to what is now Plumstead High Street. During this same period there are many tales about the East Side and the sportsmen who frequented the area. In early times [1700's] bears were not unknown on Plumstead Common, and were hunted, together with other animals such as otters, badgers and foxes, a shilling being paid for every animal that was slaughtered. Polecats and even hedgehogs were also hunted, and a fee of fourpence (4d) was paid for every kill.

During the early 1800's the Plumstead Sparrow Club sprang up, and every member was fined if they did not send in to the Treasurer at least six dead sparrows, many of which were taken from Plumstead Common.

Like many places, sparrows are now a rare sight on Plumstead Common, but it still holds lots of memories for my childhood days, from chasing the girls to playing football and cricket, and swinging on a rope secured to one of the large trees. I have also spent many days in the paddling pool on Wynn's Common, sailing various types of model boats and having good fun with my friends.

Wynn's Common has quite a bit of open ground and as a teenager this is where I used to fly my radio controlled Spitfire, which eventually flew off in a northerly direction towards the river when my batteries failed, and I never saw it again!

From Conway Road School, I went to Wickham Lane Secondary School in Abbey Wood, and quite a number of my class mates [including Colin] also attended this school.

I can remember paying a 1d or 2d bus fare until I reached 14, when half-fare passes were issued. The buses passed by the Church Manorway Girls school and it was not unusual to spot some of my primary school sweethearts.

Six of the bullies from Bannockburn School attended Wickham lane and they got quite a shock when they picked on me again as I had been learning Judo and Kung-Fu in my spare time, without telling anyone.

I passed an exam at this school, which allowed me to attend Woolwich Polytechnic, where I spent the rest of my school days, and gained my A levels. Later I attended night school to gain other qualifications, which was part of my apprenticeship training.

I still live in Plumstead, not far from the Common, and a walk from the Slade, down to the Ravine, and across to the east side, always reminds me of those happy Childhood days I spent there with Colin and friends, so many years ago. We didn't have any of the luxuries we enjoy today, they were for the rich only, but myself and my friends always say that they were happier days then.

Harry Layne, formerly Roger Herbert.

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