Thursday, 2 March 2017

Growing up in Eltham in the 1950s ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 11 ..... .Neighbours and friends, and holidays at the Kent coast.

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

Living on the other side of the path that separated the bungalows was Mrs May Brooks and her son Bill.

She was very often popping in to see mum for a chat. Her husband had left her for another woman, and she was very bitter about the way she was treated.

She was obviously lonely and needed to talk to somebody about her life. Mum was a great listener and did not have the heart to send her away. She would come over at some inconvenient time and it seemed to me that she was always there.

To me, she was a serial moaner and went on and on. As she came into the house I went out. To be fair, she was good hearted and Mum liked her. Her only redeeming feature to me was her son Bill. Bill was about 23 and he played the piano in a musical act with a guitar player.

They did gigs and shows all over London and the South East as semi-professional musicians. I never went to see them play as a group. They sang and played in close harmony and were, by most, considered to be a class act.  I am not sure but their stage name was “The Bell Tones.”  (I Think).

At Christmas time, mum and dad would invite May over in the evening to join us, and if Bill was around he would come too.  Now dad’s playing on our piano was not very inspiring but when Bill sat down to play I was overwhelmed by the power and excitement of his playing on our upright. I was so amazed that our piano could produce the sound he got from it.

The music bug hit me hard and set the spark that would lead me into the wonderful world of musicians later on in my life.  Bill went and worked at the Telecom factory with dad and ended up a manager.

The other side next to us was the Stark family and they had a daughter Olive and a younger son Peter. Olive was the same age as David and so he became a playmate of hers. Olive’s dad had his own business.

He was in the clothing trade and they were a lot better off than us; he had a motor car and a caravan at Seasalter in Kent.

They became good friends of mum and dad and in the summer they would let us have the use of the caravan for a week to have a holiday.  We had many holidays at Seasalter and Mr Stark would take us down and bring us back in his car, I think it was a Riley to me a very exciting trip.

We would go down into Kent on the A2. On reaching Rochester and going across the Rochester Bridge, we had pointed out the castle, the cathedral and the flying boats moored in the river at the Shorts aircraft factory.

Once we got to Seasalter we settle in and start having fun. Mum and Dad were very fond of cockles and Seasalter was famed for them. Dad, David and I would go out with a bucket and as the tide went out we would gather them up and bring them back to be cooked in a big pot.

With a drop of vinegar and pepper, Mum and Dad would tuck into a feast. The evenings were spent walking around with mum and dad stopping by at the local pub “The Blue Anchor” for a drink, David and I would sit outside with our lemonade and packets of Smiths crisps.

Then it was back to the caravan and to bed. Those days were to me, wonderful, hot summers and a sense of freedom to do just what you liked.

A day at the seaside 1947

The photo shows the Newport's on holiday at Pegwell Bay, with me aged 15 growing up with a crew -cut haircut and thinking that I knew it all.

Mother with the box brownie camera.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Picture; from the collection of Eddy Newport

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