Author Topic: Car free Downham?  (Read 2605 times)

David Line

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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 
Gareth Grove 1946 - 1954
Beechmont Close 1954 - 1966


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Re: Car free Downham?
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2008, 09:08:54 AM »
You are correct, David.  It was very rare for anyone living on Downham to be able to afford a car.  I think, by the time I left Downham circa 1970, only two families in the street could boast a vehicle although other streets were beginning to turn into ersatz carparks.

Of course, that's why we children could play in the street without fear of being knocked over, ticked off or considered a nuisance.  On the rare occasions a car came through the street, we'd simply stand to one side and watch in awe.

Add to that, the pleasure of the peace and quiet pre-car days.  Sigh, sigh.  Not of course, that our parents would have agreed, I am sure.  I don't doubt they would all have loved the convenience of not having to trudge to and from the train station or having to wait in the cold for buses.

I remember waiting at the bus-stop outside Lewisham Hospital one evening in the freezing cold for such a long time that when the bus came along, I couldn't move fast enough to get on and it left without me. 



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Re: Car free Downham?
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2008, 09:35:47 PM »
David - Hi. I remember being able to play marbles in the gutter outside my house in Shaw Road/Woodbank Road -almost certain death now for any child - and being able to run across the road without having to look left or right! I also remember that we could play outside without our parents having to worry if we were OK. I had an uncle who was a bit of a wheeler/dealer during the late fifties and I remember he turned up outside our house in a very smart and over the top (for then) estate car which excited all the local kids.  As I remember he was always into some business or other (legal, I am sure because he was such a lovely person...).  I also remember that one of our neighbours (ex-RAF) took delivery of a very nice sports car which in later years I discovered was a Morgan - something of a collectors item now I should think.