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More Tales from Yesteryear

After leaving Bostall Lane School I went on to Wickham Lane School. After school we would raid the local cake shop and get a bag of stale cakes to eat on the way home. Sometimes I would get a hair cut at Mr Pims; he looked like Capt. Mainwaring (pronounced Mannering) from Dad's Army and had not a hair on his head, but he had some magic lotion made by himself and the last I saw him he had ginger hair sprouting out the top of his head.

The local ice cream maker was Mokes' cornflower ice cream at Wickham Lane; they used to cycle all around the Abbey Wood and Plumstead area.
 While at Wickham Lane I was picked to sing in the London Schools Choir, made up from London schools. We practised, I think, at Conway Road School.The concert was held at The Woolwich Tabernacle, Beresford Square.

The Headmaster was Mr. Wale. He had one arm and one leg owing to injuries received in WWI. In spite of this he still managed to cane. Another teacher was Mr. Hack, very appropriately named. There was Mr Griffin who was a very good teacher and a very fair man. After the death of his first wife, Mr. Wale married my cousin Betty, who was the local Girl Guide leader.

We would go collecting conkers in Plumstead Cemetery at Fanny on the Hill until we were  caught coming out of the main gate; why we came out the main gate I don't know, as we had climbed the wall at the back to get in.

My sister Joan, four years older than me, went to Church Manorway School. She worked at Cuffs, in Powis Street, later. When I left school I worked at the RACS in Powis Street. There was a dentist in Powis Street by the name of Moss. I read somewhere that his son was none other than the great racing driver, Stirling Moss.

My father also worked for the RACS at the LINKS, Plumstead Common, for many years, serving his time in the army during the war years and then going back after the war.

One time, during work at the Co-op in Powis Street, I was up on the roof to watch the fly past over Buckingham Palace. I saw two of the planes collide. One crashed into the Arsenal. It all seemed to happen in a flash and to this day I wondered if I had imagined it!

Most of my family have been connected to either the Co-op or the Arsenal over the years. My mother, Ivy, worked in the Arsenal during the war on munitions. My grandfather, Julius Breuer, was an army man who finished his working life at the Royal Dockyard Woolwich, after returning from St Helena, where the Zulus were exiled after the Zulu war.

My mother also worked at the Royal Artillery Barracks tailoring for the Army. This was during the Army recruitment years. She used to tell us how the new recruits would line up for hours, in all weathers, waiting for their uniforms.

John Sullivan, an uncle, was a Tug skipper and worked for Mitchels on the Thames. He also only had one leg, which he lost when his tug capsized and was lucky to escape with his life.

I also used to go to Charlton Football Club. My sister was involved in the social club and disco dances. Although not an ardent supporter, I did go quite a few times, and also to their social club. It was at this time that I got TB, for the second time, and all the Charlton team signed a team photo for me. I am sorry to say that I have not got it any more as I gave it to a young boy who was less fortunate in life.

This happened at the time that Sam Bartram was their goalkeeper.
I worked in the Powis Street Co-op, down in the basement, with the pots and pans. One day at the shop I meet Mr. Morrison the MP and carried his goods for him to his car parked in Hair Street. I can't remember if I got a tip or not, but by the look of his car I don't think he could have afforded it.

I also worked at other branches, including the Lakedale Road branch.
My father and I used to cycle from Belvedere to work, in all weathers, about five mile each way. Later, I bought a Vincent Firefly motor, to fit to my bike, from a shop in Plumstead  High Street. It was a wonderful little machine; in fact I still have one today. Latter on I passed it on to my dad, who rode it for many years, as I went on to bigger things.

It was on my journey to work one day that I witnessed an unfortunate accident. A horse and cart, whilst delivering to the school in Elmley Street, had the horse bolt and go  through the fence above Plumstead Station and down onto the railway line. This was not the first horse that I had seen bolt, usually frightened by a tram.

John Miles



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