Friday, 3 March 2017

Growing up in Eltham in the 1950s ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 12 ..... following my friend to Crawley and beyond.

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

Crawley, 2007
My friend Peter Sales (lived in Tilbrook Rd) had moved to Crawley in Surrey with his family as his dad had started a new job there.

Crawley was a new town development with new council house estates and coupled with plenty of jobs encourage Londoners to move out and start a new life in these towns. Stevenage, Harlow, Milton Keynes were some of them.

Peter and I were friends out of school as we lived very near to each other. We would spend time just talking sitting on his front doorstep and I got to know his mum who would give us drinks.

I was going to miss him when he left and it was suggested that I go and visit him during the summer once he had moved down there.

The summer of 1955 and on my own with a road map and some sandwiches I set out. This was going to be the longest cycle journey I was to undertake ever, and I was a little apprehensive to what was lying ahead of me.

The journey took me onto the A20 down Wrotham Hill to join the A25.  I went through Seal, Sevenoaks, Westerham, Redhill, and Reigate. Pass the new Gatwick airport and finally, on to Crawley I must have been in the saddle for about three hours.

To me, this was a horrendous trip and by the time I got to Peter’s house I was knackered. Peter was pleased to see me and after a quick meal, Pete wanted us to go to Brighton on our bikes.

Woolwich, 1950s
Another bike ride was not what I had in mind, but I did not have the bottle to say no as Pete had made up his mind that this is what we were going to do. So on our bikes we went and cycled down the A23 for another 30 miles to Brighton.

How I did that journey I do not know to this day. Once we got there, Peter had the bright idea to go on the roller skating rink and we had a session. After a while, we rode back to Crawley and finally, I got to bed. I was really knackered by this time.

The next day we spent some time exploring the local area and said my goodbyes and cycled back home to Kidbrooke.

I never took that trip again as I was not sure if Peter would put me through all that again. I did not see Peter until many years later when my wife Jo and I were invited to his 60th birthday party in Crawley in 2000. Since then Pete and I have been pen pals via the internet, he now resides in Florida USA. I asked him for any memories he had of the Poly and this is his reply.

The following is an extract from his letter. January 2006.

Woolwich, 1950s
“I had to leave Woolwich Poly early. I can’t say I was ever ‘athletic’ as a boy. I remember well doing that weekly run around Well Hall, at the Poly’s sports ground; starting down Westhorne Ave., through the alley by the railway line and past the Well Hall park area.  I also did play Rugby for a while as a wing three-quarter. I was even roped into a hockey team for a short time.  

Yes, Sid Sillett and I were in the same class. I regret that I was a lazy student; easily distracted and became one of the ‘terrible four’, comprising Sid, Leonard Borrow and Fred Dolling. We were always mucking about and getting into trouble. 

If you remember we were in the Poly ‘extension’ on the opposite side of Powis Street and the main building.  If you came out the gate and turned right there was a ‘sweet shop’ on the corner which was strictly ‘out-of-bounds’ during school hours. The only time I was caned was the day we broke that rule, and got caught!

If I remember correctly, we had a teacher called Mr. Bird. {Me” Mr Bird was, in fact, Mr Starling ‘Birdie’ was his nickname”} He was a little weak on discipline and we made life miserable for him with bird whistles’ and other rude noises!

Probably my worst ‘prank’ was at the end of one term, which you remember was traditionally a day off (after making that cycle or bus ride to school for assembly).

Woolwich, 1950s
The ‘terrible four’ decided we would take a look around the store Cuff’s right on the corner of Powis Street.  One of us shoplifted a water pistol much to the shock of the others, and of course, the idea of us all grabbing the same so we could enjoy squirting water at each other became paramount. 

As I remember the first three were easy pickings, but number four needed a careful diversion – the operation was successful.  

We played around all day and I remember that on the way home my prime concern was “I can’t take this pistol into the house as Mum will want to know where it came from?”   

The pistol was either thrown away or stored somewhere – can’t remember but I always regretted that incident and feel guilty about it to this day!”

I remembered another story at, or at least outside the Poly. At lunchtimes, the terrible 4 would sometimes catch the Woolwich ferry one way and walk back under the Thames in that pedestrian tunnel.

It was around Guy Fawkes that I remember we were walking in the tunnel when, if I remember rightly, Leonard Borrow actually let off a 'banger' in the tunnel.  The resulting explosion was amazing and the few people in the tunnel 'ran for their lives', including us.  How we got away with that I just don't know – we ran up the stairs to avoid the lift attendant and caught the boat back.
Peter Sales

The last year at the Poly was the best. I was doing well and at last, the teachers starting to treat us as if we were adults and school was a more relaxing experience.  We got on with our homework and put in the effort.

By this time the examinations came round I was put in for the First Year National Certificate and a few Royal Society of Arts examinations. I passed most of them but failed English and Maths. The Nat. Cert. was the most important to me as it was now a dead cert that I would get my apprenticeship at Kolster Brands. I had an appointment with the firm towards the end of the summer and duly left school in 1956.

As nothing was going to happen for a few months dad had found me a job to go for. He said “If you think you are going to lounge around all summer then you better think again”. and followed up with” I want you to start work, now!”

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, The Newport’s 1951 at No. 58 Rochester Close Kidbrooke SE3...........

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures;Queen's Square, Crawlwy, 2007, Hassocks5489 at English Wikipedia, and Woolich in the 1950s, Beresford Square, date unknown courtesy of Steve Bardrick

No comments:

Post a Comment