Thursday, 15 June 2017

Home thoughts from abroad nu 4 ................ catching a train and borrowing a book

An occasional series on what I miss about the place where I grew up.*

Now when you leave the place you grew up and pretty much only go back for the odd short visit it becomes frozen in time.

Not so of course for my sisters and their families which of course is just how it should be.

All of which has made me come back to these two pictures of Eltham from the collection of Steve Bardrick.

They were taken by his grandfather sometime in the 1950s or 60s, and are just as I remember home and both in their way are special.

And the station is the first I would single out for having moved to Well Hall in 1964 I still made the train journey every week day back to New Cross and Samuel Pepys Secondary Modern School.

I can’t say I ever felt that happy about the school and so the walk up along the station approach was a mixed one and was something I did like the visit to the dentist.  You did it because you had to but it was never going to be something you chose to do.

Added to which as the trip was done during the rush hour the chances of getting a seat were never high.

That said the journey back was always something to look forward to and even now I can remember the train taking the curve past the signal box and pulling in to the station with that view of the woods above where we lived.

I never tired of it then and I still have fond memories of the scene  which signalled I was home.

The new station might be more shinny and look the part but the old one with its wooden booking hall giving out onto the platform and that cast iron footbridge are part of my Eltham.

And in much the same way so is the picture of the High Street offering as it does Woollies, the library and the electricity showrooms.

If you are of a certain age the old Woolworths will have powerful memories.
It starts with that special smell, continues with the wooden floorboards and those mahogany island counters and culminates with the sound of Apache or Telstar blaring out and those small round ice creams.

The library was to become one of my favourite’s haunts, a place you went when you needed to do some homework and better still the place to borrow an LP.

Even the electricity showroom was not without its charm with those odd shaped windows.

And by 1966 the library won out over the station, because in that September I had swapped schools and was going to Crown Woods, a place which will always be special.**

It was there I met friends that have stayed the course over the last fifty years and it was there that I discovered the magic of books, and history and a way of looking at the world which I have never lost.

All of which meant that it was looking down at the High Street from the top of the bus twice a day which pretty much took over from the walk up the station approach.

And then one day in the 1980s I returned to find that the station had moved, and later still Wilcox’s and Woollies were no more and even later still the Greyhound had been transformed

Of course there is that simple response that I should get back more often and there is much in that idea.

But even so I rather think I would still miss the old station and if I am pushed hard it will be that slow final pull into Well Hall with the view of the woods which were best seen from the old site.

And before I forget that look down on the Pleasaunce which in the summer would always be a place to stop and sit for a few minutes beside the old moat and equally old garden wall.

Location Eltham, London

Pictures; Eltham Well Hall Railway Station & the High Street circa 1960s from the collection of Steve Bardrick

*Home thoughts from abroad,

**Crown Woods School Eltham,

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