Author Topic: Introduction by a Newbie  (Read 16182 times)

Vic

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Introduction by a Newbie
« on: April 07, 2009, 07:13:08 PM »
Hi Everyone,
Please excuse me, I started straight in answering a post about the bombing of Sandhurst Road School without introducing myself on the website.
I have read the various forums and quotes about Downham with great interest. I grew up in Merlin Gardens having moved in there in 1935 and finally moved away in 1949. As a lot of the posts describe, we played all the childhood games: Aligobs, marbles ( in the kerb whilst going to and from school. high jimmy knacker against the lampost where Durham Hill meets Shroffold Road plus all the usual seasonal games: football on the green opposite St Luke's Church, cricket in the road where the game had to be temporarily halted whilst the 124 bus turned round before returning to Catford. On the green in Merlin Gardens a long brick air raid surface shelter was built for the flat dwellers, those living in the houses had an Anderson Shelter each in their gardens. We used to chalk a wicket or a goal mouth on the side of it and play long, furious games well into the twilight. No worries about children staying out late then. We also tore along the Council Ground on the 'bank' in Shroffold Road armed with imaginary machine guns and hand grenades 'killing' any enemy who got in the way.
I remember playing knocking down ginger along the bank where we tied two knockers together. However, Mr Beldham, heard us whispering in the porch and when we ran away he gave chase and followed us right up Durham Hill, along Moorside Road across to Lancelot Road through to Ivorydown and into Downham Way. We eventually gave him the slip by squeezing through the railings at St Barnabas Church! It was lucky that there were a lot of us about the same age to knock about together. Some names I remember: Jimmy Cole, Jackie Wormley, Gordon and Alan Wilton, Terry Lucy, Ginger Hill, Dickie Waterhouse, the Whybrow brothers, Roy Syrett, Peter Heaney, Bertie Fowles, Peter Crozier Kenny Clark and Johnny Walters. There were girls too! Betty Clark, Iris Eustace and Janet Pease. We all lived in either Merlin Gardens, Shroffold Road or Durham Hill. I also remember Billy Steel in Dagonet Gardens and Ronnie Pearson in Vanoc Gardens. Our rival 'gang' was the Dalton Gang in Roundtable Road.Of course, we were no threat to anyone and the confrontations we had usually amounted to a bit of name calling - we were never rude to adults and we respected policemen - if we ever saw one on Downham!
There, that is enough for openers. I look forward to reading lots of posts about Dah'num!
Regards,
Vic.

Splinter

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2009, 10:45:41 PM »
Hello Vic nice to read from another newbie. Whereabouts do you live now. It seems a lot of men left the esate when they went into the forces.
Born in Pendragon Road 1954 Family lived in house since 1935 Bought in 1970/1 Still own it.

Brenda

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2009, 09:59:09 AM »
Welcome Vic - and lovely to see all your memories.  What a marvellous description of all the fun and games you boys had.  Keep the reminiscences coming.


Vic

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2009, 07:35:57 PM »
Thank you for the welcome. I now live in Devon, but as I said in my last post I went back to Downham last year. I wrote to Merlin School (Ballamore) and asked if I could visit and look around the buildings I first saw 70 or so years ago. They took a bit of persuading, but eventually agreed. My old mate from childhood days, Gordon Wilton, came with me - he still lives in the area but not on Downham. We parked the car in Roundtable Road and walked back to the Admin block of the school which was once the girls' entrance. I was dismayed to see that an 8 foot high fence had been erected all round the school premises and we had to be camera identified before going in. The whole visit turned out to be utterly charming. A young black girl and a small white boy, Kia and Jack, took us all round the school, into every classroom and all the children were invited to ask us questions. They mainly wanted to know what it was like at school in our day. By prompting, one of the teachers got a small boy to ask me what happened in my day if we misbehaved. When I told them that we would probably have got the stick and our names placed in the headmaster's black book, a gasp went up from the class. I showed them a photo of me when I went to their school and was asked 'did you have to wear a tie?' I asked them what games they played in the playground - did they still do 'buzzing up' when two boys run along side each other arms linked behind with a third acting as driver? They hadn't heard of that but they still play release, British bulldog and statues. I went to my very first classroom at the road end of the single storey block and, of course, it had changed out of all recognition, but it still had the original corridor door!. I remembered that the caretaker in those days was a Mr Lawrence and he lived in the house next to the school going towards Shroffold Road. His daughter was in my class The best part of the visit was when we watched a singing lesson in the upstairs hall of children from nursery to year 1. They finished by all marching out smartly and  in line singing 'I can sing a rainbow' beautifully in tune - I was in tears! Sadly, we were not allowed to photograph the children, but I took plenty of the buildings and playgrounds. We had coffee in the teachers' common room and then finished the visit with more classroom questions. After that we went 'up the top' for something to eat. I hardly recognised the place. When I lived there, starting from the bottom of the shops on the right hand side were the post office, Wilsons - the various goods prices used to be written on the shop window with soluble white paint and we, as boys, loved to run past and wipe it off as we went - Gunners the grocers, Hammets the butchers, Boltons the sweet shop, Morrell and Dixons the chemists, United Dairies, Clarks and, on the corner, Whites lemonades nd ice cream. On the other side it was Snooky's Snack Bar, All Needs, Mr Witty the Barber, Pearks and the Maypole on the corner amongst others - as far as I can remember. We had a very good snack lunch in a cafe where Clarks , the greengrocer, used to be. I was amazed to see that the Downham Tavern had gone! Also, the library. It was good to see that the estate was relatively litter free and quite quiet. Merlin Gardens now has an electricity sub station in what used to be Jackie Wormley's garden and the two big oak trees that grew on the council ground out side Dickie Waterhouse's have gone, a car parking area built in its place. Some of the windows in the flats were boarded up and a boy at the school told me that Merlin Gardens was going to be knocked down! The broad, symmetrical pavement and neat privet hedges of my day have largely gone. It seems to be all wheelie bins and parked cars. However, I believe that the general state of all the houses, gardens and roads are better than when I lived there.
I returned home with many happy memories. Now, on Street View, I walk from Merlin Gardens down Shroffold Road, up the Green Steps, down Downham Way to Grove Park station then down Chinbrook Road, past Amblecote in to Chinbrook Park - or 'dahn the Chinnie' as we used to say!
'bye for now.
Vic.

Splinter

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2009, 08:22:44 PM »
Hello Vic, I went to Ballamore in the late fifties and things have changed since then. I`m not sure if the high fence is to keep people out or the kids in.
Born in Pendragon Road 1954 Family lived in house since 1935 Bought in 1970/1 Still own it.

Brenda

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2009, 11:17:23 PM »
A wonderful account!  I'm going to print out all these things - yes, yours too Splinter -and keep them in my Downham file along with dear Dickie's wonderful contributions.  And I have to say it is encouraging to read how enthusiastic the children were about your visit and that the estate generally looks clean and still nice despite the changes.  I thought that when I visited Google Streetview.

A Pendragon schoolfriend of mine recently went on a sentimental visit to our school and was shown around by the headmaster.  As with your experience, she was shocked to find high cyclone fences and security and had to go through a rigorous process before being allowed in.  It must be a sign of the times.

Hope you are going to share your photos Vic.
Bren

birdie

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2009, 09:45:49 AM »
Hiya Vic ..i dont know when you were at Ballamore school.I was there from1939 to 1944 .. a few teachers i remember were Mr Warner...Mr Rickets...the head Master was Mr Leavesley..and yes Mr Lawrence was the care Taker ..The school use to have a Night centre when i was there ...to let the people who were bombed out stay ((short term..))Yes i also Remember the Daltons (Wally Dalton). But  My freinds mainly lived in Pendragon Road .. I myself lived at 25 ((Next door to Splinters Family @27 )).. we all got on well together to..((But Splinter was Only a Twinkle  in his mums eyes then ))  haha she was 14 and me 9..a few names that lived in Pendragon was....Florrie Carrington..Silvia and Ronnie Smallwood.. Derik and Connie Langford..Bobbie and Beral Knight...Jeanie Barratt... Roy and Ray Carpenter...Alfie and Betty Donavon..Lennie Buck..Malcomb Williams...Googy Marshal.....((Winnie Carrol Splinters Mum))Terry and Silvia Swanson...(( Bill Starlings Me)) ((and John Hatton He died last year))...so where are all these people now ..does anyone know???  lets hear if you do ..
                                           By now take care Bill...

Vic

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2009, 09:38:35 PM »
Hi Birdie,
I went to Ballamore School in fits and starts through the war because of evacuation. I was sent to Burwash Common, in Sussex, with my sister who was 16, on the 1 Sep 1939 - I was considered too young to go with my two brothers to Folkestone. We came back in time for the Battle of Britain and then I was sent away to Chard, in Somerset, with my brother Ted. My father came down and took us home when he found out that our foster mother was entertaining many and varied men friends on a nightly basis! I saw a lot of the Blitz before going off to Northampton, then back home again when things quietened down in London. During the times I was back in London I went to Ballamore Road, Pendragon and Durham Hill schools. I remember Mr Bellamy and Mr Hookey at Ballamore, also a Miss Brett - a young student teacher who Paul Holmes (he lived opposite the school next door to the McQuades, Eric M was a very good boxer and his brother Brian was a good friend of mine) and I had an 11 year olds crush on her! There was a Miss Blake who was a bit of a Tartar, but a very good teacher. I remember Mr Ricketts. He used to read a book called 'Shep' to us and 'Emile and the Dectectives'. He always wore a very smart brown suit. Come to think of it, all the teaching staff looked smart. Nowadays they seem to slouch around looking like a lot of unmade beds! I ended up at the Central School in Churchdown and then the Doodlebugs started and I was sent to West Yorkshire. I found that a south London accent was a very dangerous thing to display to the local bullies and I went home from school with many a bruise and black eye whilst there.
During the Blitz, St Luke's Church was burnt out to shell when a few incendary bombs landed on the roof. during the 'mini Blitz in 1943 a huge canister of explosive incendaries landed behind No 20 Merlin Gardens. It was supposed to have opened at about 1000 ft and shower the area with bombs, but luckily it didn't. But it made a very big crater and a large lump of our living room wall fell off when it blew up!
When I came back from Yorkshire I went to the South East London Secondary Technical School in Lewisham Way on a 3 year building course.I joined the school ATC and spent most of my weekends at Biggin Hill - I was 15 by then of course.
I don't recall any of the names you mention Bill, except Wally Dalton of course, but I knew Charlie Hart, Raymond Henshaw, Norman Grace and Norman Whitton who lived in Roundtable Road near Pendragon.
Bren, I'll put some photos on line when I find out how to do it!
Cheers for now.
Vic.
 

mike

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2009, 02:40:01 PM »
Hi Vic - a belated, but very warm welcome to the forum. What brilliant memories, and the school visit report is fascinating. I have lived on Downham for around 18 years now, and have seen some changes in my time, some for the better, some perhaps not, so it is always marvelous to hear someone's perspective whose memory goes back that much further.

If you visit again, please do drop me an email and you would be more than welcome to pop in for a cup of tea, a chat, and I'd be fascinated to go round the estate with you.
Mike

Vic

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2009, 06:11:52 PM »
Thank you Mike. I'll sort out a couple of photos that I took on my last visit and email them for inclusion. I'll certainly take you up on the cup of tea offer on my next visit!
Vic

Vic

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2009, 07:31:21 PM »
Mike,
I've sent a few photos that I took on my last visit to Downham. I hope they turn out OK. Since starting to post on your website all sorts of memories have come flooding back. I remember that before the big surface air raid shelter was built on the green in front of the flats in Merlin Gdns the flat tenants used to congregate in the porch at the top of the flat entrance steps  during air raids. - I notice that there is a coded lock door there now. If things started to get a bit hot with the odd bomb whistling down we cowered in the big meter cupboard under the main stairs. I recall that we passed the time - usually about 3 - 4 hours talking and singing! Mrs Searle of 16 Merlin Gdns (top flat) usually led and we sang such ditties as 'Back home in Germany, a Plane would like to be, but British gunnery brought it down you see.......'
There was never anything rude; lots of old music hall songs and popular songs of the times. We never actually used he surface shelter except for a short time when Doodlebugs were very frequent.
As for home security.The front door Yale key was kept on a string hanging behind the letter box so you just put your hand through and drew it out. At night the string was looped over the Yale lock knob. In the time I kived on Downham I never heard of a break in or an affray of any kind. I suppose we were all at the same level and everyone looked out for everyone else.
Till the next time,
Vic

Brenda

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2009, 05:47:14 AM »
There is - or was at any rate - a BBC website where people have shared their wartime memories.  Food for thought for those of you who remember so much of those days.

Was your Mrs Searle the lady known as Ginger Doll?  If so, I have been in touch with her niece who lived in Woodbank Rd.  Ginger is still going strong - or was last time I heard.  Also think Ray Carpenter was in my class at Pendragon.

Got to keep this short. I keep losing internet connection and/or the computer turns off.  The gremlins are having a wonderful time.

Bren

Frank (hutchsky)

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2009, 08:45:41 AM »
Vic, an old friend of mine, John Nunn Ex Downham, Keedonwood Road and Durham Hill, is living in Devon, you might be able to contact him either here or Friends Reunited.
Born 1942 at Farnbrough Hospital Kent now living in Rockingham WA been in OZ since 1968. Ex Durham Hill School left 1957 lived at 84 Keedonwood Road 1948-1960

Splinter

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2009, 10:21:07 AM »
Brenda was that the Carpenter Family who lived in Pendragon they moved to the house in Roundtable but on the corner of Pendragon.
Born in Pendragon Road 1954 Family lived in house since 1935 Bought in 1970/1 Still own it.

Vic

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Re: Introduction by a Newbie
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2009, 03:06:29 PM »
Bren,
I hope I'm not beginning to bore you with my war stories! I'll dredge up some memories about the times just after the war when I was a teenager to tell later
I don't think Mrs Searle was called Ginger Doll- as far as I can remember she was dark haired. The Searle family lived above us in the flats at Merlin Gardens. Mr Searle (Fred) was in the army and there were two children, David and Phyllis. David was working and Phyllis went to Aske's School. I recall that Phyllis was a very attractive girl and all the older youths around Merlin Gardens had a great crush on her
One thing I remember was that Fred Searle brought his rifle home on leave with him - I believe they always carried their arms in those days - and after the Searles had been down the Northover pub for a few bevvies Fred Searle did some  practice rifle drill above us! It was about midnight and the thumps and bumps were terrible; my old man went ballistic hammering on the ceiling with a broom. All ended well however when Fred came down and apologised.
Vic.