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Messages - billbaker

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General Discussion / As the board is quiet.
« on: June 15, 2014, 08:14:58 PM »
Some may remember back in the mid 40s on the little island in the centre of Peter Panís Pool among the trees there was a small hut with coloured statues of Snow White and the seven dwarfs, one Sunday afternoon a friend of mine named Kenny who also lived in Goudhurst Road and I hired one of the little paddle boats and were happily paddling around the pond when Kenny had the bright idea that one of the dwarfs would Ďlook really good in his mumís gardení, so we paddled round to the back of the island out of sight, Kenny stood up in the boat and attempted to jump ashore, slipped and landed up to his knees in the water, he managed to clamber ashore onto the island and with all thoughts of acquiring a dwarf now forgotten, tried to step back into the boat but only managed to push the boat further away and slid back into the water, after managing to haul him back into the boat, we paddled the boat back and started walking home, I couldnít stop smiling, Kenny kept saying over and over again that it wasnít funny and that his mum would give him a good hiding, on the way home Kenny was beginning to dry out and his legs, socks and trousers were turning a light brownish grey colour, I said goodbye to him at his gate and dashed home to tell my mum all about it.
Kenny didnít come to school on the Monday; apparently his one and only pair of school trousers were still drying out.

General Discussion / Re: The padded cell.
« on: May 11, 2014, 10:29:37 AM »
Hi Pam, you can read about it and see a photograph of the house at;

General Discussion / Re: The padded cell.
« on: May 10, 2014, 04:53:36 PM »
Hi Brenda, it does sometimes cause a few raised eyebrows when I jokingly tell friends that, yes, as a young lad I did spent a small part of my childhood in a padded cell in a lunatic asylum. ;)


General Discussion / The padded cell.
« on: May 06, 2014, 12:23:20 AM »
In 1945, across the Beckenham Road from Peter Panís Pool there was a large partly bombed building called Flower House, it was at one time the home of one of Lord Forsters sons. Vic Greenwood who lived on the corner of Goudhurst and Glenbow road and I were exploring the ruins like twelve year old kids do, one of the rooms still intact oddly enough was a padded cell, it had a small leather flap on the door and a large rusty spring loaded bolt on the outside, being curious I stepped inside to take a closer look and Vic, for a lark, slammed the door behind me, I yelled at him to stop messing about and let me out, I had visions of my mortal remains being discovered many years later, after what seemed like ages he managed to open the door saying he couldnít pull the rusty bolt back and swore he never heard me shouting, being locked inside a padded cell I suppose that was understandable.
I discovered some time later that Flower House had at one time been a lunatic asylum.

General Discussion / Re: Shops 'n' stuff
« on: March 02, 2014, 10:46:39 AM »
I worked for several years at the garage lower down on the other side of Bromley Road (in front of the Bellingham Swimming Baths), the garage was originally 'Kingslands' and later bought by 'Kennings Car Mart Ltd.' we motor mechanics were sometimes asked to make up the numbers in identification parades at Catford Police Station.

General Discussion / Spitfire crash at the OXO grounds.
« on: February 27, 2014, 01:03:07 PM »
Does anyone remember the Spitfire that came down on the cricket pitch at the OXO grounds in Calmont road on Sunday 20th September 1959? it was returning to Biggin Hill with a Hurricane after the flypast over London, my brother and I saw it coming down low over The Garden Gate Pub and the engine was misfiring, the Hurricane circled low over Downham and we could see the pilot quite clearly, by the time we reached the OXO grounds which only took us a couple of minutes, the spitfire had crashed right across the cricket pitch and the pilot was out and standing on the pavilion in his shirtsleeves having a cuppa with the cricket team who fortunately had stopped playing for tea, there were pieces of broken propellor scattered around and pitch.
The pilot was Air Vice Marshal (Paddy) McGuire KCB DSO OBE and the Spitfire was number SL574. it was later  repaired and is now in The San Diego Air Museum in California.
 Read about in at:!


General Discussion / Re: First newcomer in 2014 !!
« on: January 03, 2014, 03:58:21 PM »
Hello again Tony, I too finally arrived at Torrington station along with my brother Reg, carrying our gas masks and small suitcases, I was seven and he was twelve, we may even have been on the same train as your brothers, I too remember the small coaches lined up and heading off in all directions, around sixty evacuees from Downham finished up in the village of Dolton, I still keep in touch with several people in the village and with a couple of evacuees and have returned many times, all of us getting older now. I also put around fifty photographs on the Dolton village website, some with evacuees from Downham.
  Torrington station was closed by Dr. Beeching and became an inn and restaurant called 'The Puffing Billy'. I went to Torrington School from 1944 till 1945 and some children attending were from Frithelstock.
I did an interview about evacuation on Radio Devon in 2010 it's here at:
I can't recall any of the names you or Frank mentioned from Downham, I lived in Goudhurst Road which is a bit further down.


General Discussion / Re: First newcomer in 2014 !!
« on: January 01, 2014, 07:27:54 PM »
Hi Tony, where in Devon was your brothers Len and Arthur evacuated? I was evacuated to a village in North Devon, no doubt Len would have had to return to Downham on reaching fourteen years old as all evacuees did regardless of the bombing, one girl who was evacuated with us had to return home to Shroffold road on reaching fourteen and was killed along with her mother when a V11 landed on Woolworths in New Cross. I loved living in the country and stayed till 1945.


General Discussion / Re: London smog 1952
« on: November 30, 2013, 07:03:43 PM »
Hi Brenda, Re: the smog, I remember watching a tram conductor walking in front of the tram with a flaming torch, when the trams reached Grove Park, because trams were unable to turn round, the driver would go to the other end of the tram to drive back, the conductor then had to reverse the seats and swing the arm on the top of the tram around and connect it to the overhead cable again, it took her ages because it was impossible to see the cable above in the smog, many old people died with breathing problems that year, but at least after that it did cause the government to introduce the clean air bill.


General Discussion / Re: London smog 1952
« on: November 28, 2013, 12:08:44 PM »
My son restores vintage motorcycles as a hobby, this is his website  not doing bad for an old Downham boy. I often saw Henry Cooper and his brother George with their manager Jim Wicks in Bellingham when I worked at the garage, and saw him again occasionally when he moved to Hildenborough after he retired. I didn't know David Bowie was a Downham lad. My brother Harry lives in Brisbane, he moved there back in the late 50s. we keep in touch on Skype.

Regards, Bill.

General Discussion / Re: London smog 1952
« on: November 26, 2013, 11:55:48 PM »
Hi Frank, John Surtees was a customer of ours when I worked at the garage opposite the Catford bus garage, he lived in Callender road, Bellingham with his mum and dad at that time, I went with some of the lads from the garage to his house a couple of times when he raced motorcycles to look at his bikes, he was a really nice guy, he and his dad had a motorcycle shop in Forest Hill, he told me his mother had been a dispatch rider during the war.


General Discussion / Re: London smog 1952
« on: November 26, 2013, 05:05:40 PM »
Hi Frank, so it was you making all that noise over the back!  ::) I had a Triumph Thunderbird in 1953 then in 1960 bought a Ford Zodiac which a year later was stolen from outside my house in Goudhurst Rd. :'(  was it you who did that walk through the tunnel that went from the playing fields behind the council yard, under Bromley road and came out in Old Bromley Rd? I did that same run when I was 12, years later I was telling my son about it and he told me he had done the same.
Was Brownie the greengrocer opposite Woolworths? I gave him two pet squirrels in a cage at one time.
 Do you remember when you could buy bags of broken biscuits from Woolworths?


General Discussion / Re: London smog 1952
« on: November 25, 2013, 09:25:35 PM »
Hi Frank, perhaps I should say Hi neighbour!! looking on Google maps number 84 Keedonwood Rd. backs on to 47 Goudhurst Rd. so your back garden backed onto my parents house, I moved back there again in 1953 on leaving the army...Small world.


General Discussion / London smog 1952
« on: November 23, 2013, 03:51:45 PM »
Remembering the London smog in December 1952. I came home on leave to Downham on a 48 hour pass, heading back to Aldershot on the Sunday evening the smog was so thick it was impossible to see the pavement and the smog made it deadly quiet, I left Goudhurst road, made my way up through the four posts and crossed over Downham Way thinking if I kept one foot on the pavement and one on the road I could walk to Grove Park Station, I crossed over Moorside road and heard the noise coming from The Tavern, (the smog didnít appear to have stopped them drinking), then crossed over Capstone road, eventually I heard more noise, thinking this must be from the Baring, it turned out to be the Northover pub, still walking with one foot on the pavement and one on the road Iíd forgotten about Northover road, finally I managed to reach Grove Park, surprisingly the trains were still running and soon after leaving Waterloo Station the smog had cleared.

General Discussion / Re: Downham Tavern closure
« on: October 05, 2013, 01:25:36 PM »
I understand the lemon was arrested, sectioned and ended up in the drink...a bitter end Geoff.  ;)

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