Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Growing up in Eltham in the 1950s ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 1 .... school and things

The first in a series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

Schooling for me was at first at Henwick Road School, which was the other side of the main A2 Rochester Way, a very busy road.

Mother was not happy for me to go there as it was dangerous crossing the road. I went there for a few weeks but mum managed to get me into Ealdham Square infants School in Eltham.

It was about a twenty minutes’ walk from home, but I did not have to cross any major roads on the way. Ealdham Square was built in the middle of a council housing estate and at a guess was constructed around 1930.

I started in the nursery and thought it strange that we had to have a sleep in the afternoon. Fold up beds were put out and with a blanket, we were supposed to nod off for an hour.

I had far too much energy to do that and I hated it. No way could I fall asleep so I just had to stay there and wait until the hour to end. My concentration on lessons was poor and reading and writing was a mystery to me.

I and a friend went on our bikes for a ride to Woolwich one day. Going there, we had to pass the parade ground of the Royal Artillery with its huge expanse of green and a funny named road called Ha Ha Road.

I found that this it is what a sunken ditch is called to act as a barrier but it did not disturb the view as a fence would. Going past the RA parade ground, we saw the Garrison theatre famous for variety shows during the war.

Following the road into the town centre, we arrived at the ferry terminal. We paid our toll and pushing our bikes we went on board. The ferry was a steam driven paddle boat and it was a big thrill to see the big pistons pushing the paddles wheels round.

The river was very polluted then and when the wheels started to churn up the water the smell was bad. Getting to the other side, we headed east along the river until we reached the northern entrance of the Blackwall tunnel.

The tunnel at that time was a single carriageway with traffic passing each other and very dangerous for a cyclist to ride through. However, we went through and when a London bus passed you there was not a lot of room between its wheels and the kerb. Then it was riding back to Kidbrooke via Blackheath. When dad found out we did this trip I got a severe telling off not to do it again."

Back In 1951, when I was 10, mum and dad took David and I to London to see the Festival of Britain along the South Bank. The space age exhibits were very impressive. They had the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon, this was a cigar shape tube pointing towards the sky and supported on cables. It looked to me like a space ship about to be blasted off.

The Shot tower was used to make the lead shot for muskets and shotguns. This was done by pouring molten lead from the top of the tower and letting to fall into a water tank at the base to produce lead pellets.

The Festival Hall was an impressive building and had been built to be used by the performing arts, and it was to become the newest venue for classical and pop concerts. This is the only building left from that exhibition still in use today.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Location; Eltham

Pictures; from the collection of Eddy Newport

*The Newport’s 1951 at No. 58 Rochester Close Kidbrooke SE3.................

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