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Topics - David Line

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General Discussion / Downham Schools
« on: October 05, 2009, 10:48:17 AM »
Various contributors to the site have mentioned their schools on the estate, favourite or wholly disliked teachers and other memories. Does anyone think that it might be a good idea to assemble memories under one "topic roof" perhaps for present and future generations of pupils to get a flavour of Downham education during the middle years of the last century?

Perhaps I could start the ball rolling with Rangefield Road School during the middle 1950s. It was under the headmastership of Harry Gell whose sadism and copious nostril hair was something to be believed. He was also a war hero of sorts and, I believe, commemorated on a plaque in Catford. I was summoned to be caned on numerous occasions for such heinous crimes as booing at a player in a school football match who had committed a foul, being half an hour late for school (at this time I was staying with an aunt in Catford while my mother was in hospital) as there was simply no buses arriving, and for a fight in which I took no part and was totally innocent. People who say "caning did me no harm" are simply idiots. After all these years I still wrangle at the injustice of my treatment and the humiliation it caused.

Things were not all bad at Rangefield Road despite the outside toilets, draughty classrooms, poor lighting, and scratchy pens which left ink blots all over your work. Miss Costello was the prize of the teaching staff - best described an ancient crone had I known the meaning of the two words at that time. She had warts and hair growing from them. Having said that she embued a love of language in her pupils, laughed with them and encouraged their imaginations. Mr and Mrs Rees were both teachers at the school. She would arrive on her bicycle each morning while Mr Rees more lavishly reached the school gates on his motor assisted cycle,  a bicycle with an engine encased in the rear wheel. His son - who was a pupil in the infants school - rode a on a small saddle fixed onto the crossbar. Either in 1955 or 1956 Mr Rees committed suicide.

During the school year various seasonal activities took place in the school playground. For example May 1st (or the nearest school day) saw maypole dancing in which my good friend Eric Oxburgh always managed to get his ribbon entangled. Empire Day was always celebrated as was harvest festival, Battle of Britain day, etc etc.

During break time there was dinky car racing, marbles, cigarette card flicking, conkers and, of course, burning holes in the wooden fence using plastic magnifying glasses given away with the Hotspur.

General Discussion / Car free Downham?
« on: December 19, 2008, 02:46:06 PM »
I have no idea what the roads of Downham are like today but I can imagine them (correct me if I am wrong) being bumper-to-bumper with parked cars. In the 1950s a car in Downham was a rare site, so-much-so that as a youngster I paid particular attention to them.  Virtually all were pre-war and in poor condition. In Gareth Grove There were just three vehicles that were regularly parked there - A small ex-WD lorry owned by Mr Grimitt, a Swallow Sidecar bodied Austin 7 usually parked halfway up the road and which would now be worth a small fortune and, shock-horror!!, a brand new 1954 Austin Cambridge owned by Mr Hamilton who was a coal merchant and delived to the estate with a horse and cart.

I have vivid memories of car owners during the winter months stepping out with paraffin heaters to place on the road under their cars to stop them freezing overnight. I also remember during the Suez crisis, when petrol was rationed, the number of local vehicles which passed-by emitting a haze of blue-tinted exhaust smoke - a sure sign they were running on a petrol-paraffin mix.

Perhaps a more common sight was the proliferation of motor assisted bicycles. Small engines were either strapped onto the back of bikes and transmitted power through a roller onto the back tyre or formed part of the rear wheel assembly itself. The trade name Power Pak comes to mind. Our window cleaner employed such a lethal machine as this, riding the roads with a ladder over one shoulder and only one hand on the handlebar throttle.

Are there any more similar tales?

Happy Christmas

David Line 

Notable Downham Residents (past and present!) / Notable Downhamites
« on: October 10, 2007, 08:34:32 AM »
Could I suggest a new forum is added to Downham Online. Contained on existing pages is a wealth of historical information about Downham which could be vital to future research on the estate. Sadly it is scattered amongst other postings which means it is virtually impossible to unearth without scrolling through scores of of less relevant material ( I am certainly guilty of adding to it ).

Why not kick off with memories of notable Downham characters with a forum allocated to just this subject? There has already been much mention made of Doctor Nathaniel Hockman who I believe deserves his own thread. There must be many like him such as Teddy Taylor (of the Teddy Taylor quintet) who was born on Downham and ran a successful band during the fifties and sixties and became a regular session musician for such radio programmes as Easy Beat and Saturday Club.

I would like to think we could assemble details about ordinary folk who, in one way or another, impacted on life in Downham. Even people like my uncle, Albert Afford who was a gas meter reader on the estate for nearly forty years. His claim to fame? It is said he frequently got more than a cup of tea when he read a housewife`s gas meter!

David Line

General Discussion / ME109
« on: March 25, 2006, 11:37:32 AM »
Putting together my family history there is one event for which I would be grateful for more information. My sister, now deceased, was at Lancelot Rd School when, coming home one afternoon to 63 Gareth Grove via (I think) Ivorydown Road in (again not sure) 1942 was subjected to a machine gun attack from an ME109. The family story is that this particular aircraft had shot-up a school in Catford after escorting a bomber raid and killed a number of youngsters. Presumably, after a Happy Hun day and on his way home for schnapps and sauerkraut, the pilot decided to take a few more pot shots at his enemy, none aged more than about 10. My sister dived for cover under a hedge and survived with no more than a few scratches and bruises. The question is, were there any casualties from this attack?

David Line

General Discussion / Downham Memories
« on: March 08, 2006, 04:01:56 PM »
I thought I might pass on a few memories before the passing years erode the grey cells.

Changeover - In the early fifties I can remember a white bearded gentleman at the "bottom of Downham Way" who, armed with an incredibly long bamboo pole, would haul down the pick-up of the tram as it made the sharp turn into (I think) Bromley Road en route to Catford and then re-connected the pick-up to the overhead wires. In the early 1990s I caught a bus at Grove Park and absentmindedly asked for a single to the Changeover. The conductress thought I was quite mad.

Can anyone remember Dr Nathaniel Hockman who had a surgery off Downham Way. He was a superb GP who treated all my childhood illnesses - mumps, measles, chickenpox, etc - with great sympathy?

There was a large field at the back of Gareth Grove (now occupied by a school). In the early fifties the remains of a barrage balloon winch stood rusting in the centre of the field.

Childhood friends at the time included Theresa Perrot, Vincent Grimmit and Ann Hamilton (her father was a coal merchant with horse and cart serving the state and lived in Gareth Grove). Does anyone know them?

David Line

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