Author Topic: Downham memories  (Read 15387 times)

Del

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Downham memories
« on: March 14, 2011, 04:36:07 PM »
Hello! My name is Derek Slade & I’ve enjoyed reading others’ memories of Downham on this site. I lived in Geraint Road from birth until the age of eighteen, when I went away to study. My dad had moved to no.18 with his mother, from Deptford.  He married my mum, and they had three sons while living there: me (the oldest), John (two years younger) & Colin (two years younger than John).

Shortly before we moved from no.18, the council dug up a large oak tree in the front garden: I think its roots were going under the house & causing subsidence. They had to dig a large trench round the house, which when it rained filled with water, giving the appearance of a moat – very exciting to us young kids!

When I say we moved, it wasn’t very far: next door, in fact, to no.20, which I think had been occupied by Mr & Mrs Morbey & Pauline (who I see is a legendary contributor here), who moved up the road. Mr & Mrs French moved into no.18, with their children, two of whom were Christine & Mickey, who had a reputation as a bit of a wild lad, though I don’t know what he did to gain this. Our neighbours in no.22 were Mr & Mrs Knight, two lovely people who I seem to recall were both very small & somehow made for each other.

Mr & Mrs Vaughan lived at the corner of Geraint Road and Gareth Grove with their three sons – Kenny, Ronnie & Tommy. Among the children I’d play with were the following.
From Geraint Road: John Anderson & his sister Linda; Micky Day; Peter & John Barlow (for a while the Barlows kept a horse in the back garden, and sometimes we’d see Mr Barlow running up the road with the horse, presumably to give it exercise, though I think he got more exercise than the horse); John & Leslie Smith (Leslie was learning to play the saxophone at the same time as I was starting out on the guitar, & we’d occasionally play together – God knows what sort of racket we made). From Gareth Grove there was
Alan Rixon & his sister Janice, and also Steven Haley and Vincent Grimmet, who were slightly older than me; I think they were the first people I knew to go on to university.

There was a sad character we nick-named Dog-end Bennett, who lived in Ivorydown. He got his name from his habit of picking up the ends of discarded cigarettes & putting them under the cap he always wore. We were very frightened of him & would never walk along the pavement outside his house, but cross over to the other side of the road; even then, we’d hurry along.

I attended Launcelot Infant & Junior schools. The Infants hall looked out onto a well-kept garden, and I vividly remember being blissfully happy one day at Assembly when the sun was shining & we were singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. A new Headmaster arrived at the Junior school while I was there, Mr Bailey: his motto was “Work hard and play hard”. It was the first time I’d heard that phrase.

My most memorable teacher in Junior school was Mr Barclay, a tall, imposing man who had us stand behind our chairs before going-home time & recite our tables; he also coached the school football team and one year we won two trophies. It was the same year that Spurs (I think) won the “double” & it was our proud boast that we’d got there before them.

I was a milk monitor for a while in the Juniors. This would involve fetching the crates of milk bottles from the playground, where they’d be simmering in the sun, and then wheeling them round the classrooms on a trolley.

After Launcelot, I went on to Malory, where I was in Merlin House. We kept our books & lunch-packs in lockers that strangely couldn’t be locked. For years afterwards I had a recurring dream in which all my things had gone missing from my locker.

Among the teachers I recall are

•   Mr Oliver (English), who married Miss Bird (Biology)
•   Miss Stenning (Art), who was reputed to have been photographed for the “racy” magazine Titbits
•   Tim Hall (Metalwork); he called one of my pieces of work “an abortion”, which I’ve never forgotten nor forgiven. He was also in charge of the school basketball team
•   Mr Morris (Head of Science); his daughter taught Physics for a while and, shamefully, we once set fire to a litter-bin full of paper in her lab
•   Mr Licorice (Chemistry), who memorably told us one day that we’d find examining our own faeces an educational experience
•   Mrs Skinner (English) & husband (who taught RE)
•   Mr Orme (Geography): he would draw chalk circles on his slipper to leave a “target” on the backside of anyone he slippered
•   Mr Chitty (History)
•   Mr Warne (French)
•   Mr Bartram
•   Mr Clarke (English)
•   Mr Jennings (English)

On the whole I enjoyed my time both at Launcelot & Malory, and I think I received a pretty good education. There was a lively Music department at Malory & they often put on productions. I remember being in “The Beggar’s Opera” and “H.M.S. Pinafore”.

I did two weeks’ work as a supply teacher at Malory before starting my Teacher Training course. Two of the longest weeks of my life! One lad, who I had asked to keep quiet, said he’d see me at the gates after school: it was clear it wasn’t so that he could congratulate me on my teaching. I was heartily relieved when he didn’t appear as I made my way home that day.

I did a paper-round for a good few years, from a newsagent in Grove Park. I was got the job by a school-friend, Graham White. On my first day, a Sunday, he offered to show me round the streets if I’d accompany him on his round first. When we’d finished his papers he suddenly discovered he had to be somewhere else, so I was left to find my own way round, which took ages. One lady came to the door & said I was so late the newspaper was “history”.

I also worked as a bottle-boy at the Downham Tavern. The Public bar, though poorly-furnished & with a linoleum floor, was much quieter and more sedate than the Saloon, which had a plush red carpet & more comfortable chairs. There was one chap who sometimes sang in the Public bar, accompanying himself with a tray, which he would hit over his head as percussion: that wasn’t quite so quiet & sedate! There was also a regular customer who would give me “old” penny-pieces in return for me sneaking him bottles of light ale, which he would add to his half-pint of bitter.

At the end of an evening session I’d often stop off at the fish & chip shop just down from the Tavern with a friend who also worked at the pub, for a bag of chips & those bits of batter that gathered at the bottom of the frying tray. Soaked in vinegar, they were delicious!

On occasion I had to collect glasses and bottles from the Bal Tabarin, a large hall adjacent to the Tavern. Usually this was during bingo sessions, so I’d have to make as little noise as possible, not easy with both hands full of glassware; but I also recall working when Acker Bilk (who of course played his big hit “Stranger on the Shore”) and Billy J. Kramer (without the Dakotas) performed in the hall.

My mum’s now in a nursing home in Bromley & I regularly drive through Grove Park on my way to visit. It’s extraordinary how many fast-food shops there are, though I’m pleased the fish & chip shop survives: it was even better than the one further up Downham Way, referred to above.

One abiding memory of Downham I have is how beautiful the brickwork of the houses would look when there was a blue sky & the sun was out.

It’s been enjoyable for me to set down these recollections & I hope some of them at least have been interesting to read. And no doubt some of you will be able to point out where my memory must have played tricks on me!

Brenda

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2011, 04:23:13 AM »
Wonderful, Del, to read of your memories of Downham and your positive experience of your schooldays.  You might have heard me laugh loudest about Mr Licorice and wonder if his prophesy came to ...ahem ...fruition.  Did you stick to teaching? 

What years were you living on Downham.  I lived in Durham Hill from 1948 -1970 and - like most of us here - still think of it has 'home'.  There was a beautiful oak outside the house next door which caused subsidence. I can't remember when our house didn't have cracks in the walls and sometimes the doors would jam shut and at other times we couldn't shut them at all.  That oak was eventually felled and that block of houses demolished.  That was a few years ago, and many years after I had left, but it did awful things to my heart when I heard about it!

The last neighbours we had there were a Mr and Mrs French but I have no idea if they could have been the same people as your neighbours.

I do so hope you are going to share more memories - I've thoroughly enjoyed reading t his lot.  Keep up the good work, please.

Bren

Pauline

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2011, 06:26:59 AM »
Hi Derek

Good to hear from you.  Yes we lived next door to you for ages, and then you moved a few doors up.  My Mum went to help your Mum when your brother Colin was intent on arriving before the Doctor got there.  I recall you had cousins called Carol and Jean, and for one of my birthdays I was given a twin pram and the dolls were named Carol and Jean!  I remember the Vaughans, and was most upset that my Mum wouldn't let me go hop picking with them.
We had thaqt huge Oak tree in our garden, and I was saddened to see it had been felled.    Please remember me to your Mum.  My parents have already passed.  Mrs Markie used to keep me informed of what was happening in Geraint Road.  I still hear from her, but most of the people we knew have gone, either moved or to a better place.
Born 1944 in Geraint Road.  Launcelot and Churchdown Schools.  Moved to Western Australia in 1988.
Two children, 6 grandchildren, 3 dogs, hundreds of snakes, spiders and lizards.

Vic

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2011, 06:54:19 PM »
Thank you Derek, for your reminiscences. I think that my time living on Downham must have been some time before you were there. I was born at 10 Ballamore Road in 1931, moved to Merlin Gardens in about 1936 and then I left to join the RAF in 1949. The clue is in your mentioning Malory School; I've never heard of it! I Google Street Viewed it and I see that is on the site of what were school playing fields in Lancelot Road - I see that it is now part of Haberdasher Askes - one of the new academies. I remember the area in Lancelot Road well as I had an aunt that lived in the middle of the first block of houses past the playing fields. There was a barrage balloon site in the field quite close to the road. As boys we would often stand and watch the crew struggling to control the wayward balloon in a strong gusty wind. Our vocabulary of bad language was definitely increased from the frustrated shouts of the airmen (and airwomen) during these observations. There was another balloon site in Verdant Lane opposite the shops (I recall the very good fish and chip shop there) and both sites often lost there balloon due to bad weather or clumsy handling. If the balloons were close hauled ie close to the ground we surmised that no air raid was imminent, but if they suddenly went aloft we expected an air raid warning within 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the balloons never went aloft on the day the school at Hither Green was hit - there was no warning so the low flying raiders had virtually a clear run in.
I didn't intend to sally off into war stories! Welcome to the fold!
Vic.

JSmith

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2011, 03:12:19 AM »
Hi Del  Welcome too Downham On line. The place where we can share memory's from the past. I lived on Churchdown Road so I did not know those living "up the top". Keep it up with your stories.  smiffy.
Born 1945 Churchdown road.

     You can take the Boy out of Downham,but you cant take Downham out of the Boy.

Del

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2011, 06:49:45 PM »
Thank you for these welcoming responses. I lived in Geraint Road without a break from 1949 to 1968, then intermittently while on holiday from university. It's difficult when talking to my mum, Pauline, as she has dementia; I was sorry to hear that your parents had passed away. And Brenda, yes, I was a teacher (in a college of further education) for over 30 years.

Pauline

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2011, 05:04:57 AM »
Thank you for these welcoming responses. I lived in Geraint Road without a break from 1949 to 1968, then intermittently while on holiday from university. It's difficult when talking to my mum, Pauline, as she has dementia; I was sorry to hear that your parents had passed away. And Brenda, yes, I was a teacher (in a college of further education) for over 30 years.

Looking through my photos I realise I have a photo of your brother when he was tiny, on a mat!
Born 1944 in Geraint Road.  Launcelot and Churchdown Schools.  Moved to Western Australia in 1988.
Two children, 6 grandchildren, 3 dogs, hundreds of snakes, spiders and lizards.

Splinter

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2011, 08:34:53 PM »
and that was taken only last week
Born in Pendragon Road 1954 Family lived in house since 1935 Bought in 1970/1 Still own it.

Pauline

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2011, 01:59:33 AM »
and that was taken only last week

Very quick!!!!!   ;D
Born 1944 in Geraint Road.  Launcelot and Churchdown Schools.  Moved to Western Australia in 1988.
Two children, 6 grandchildren, 3 dogs, hundreds of snakes, spiders and lizards.

Vic

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2011, 08:54:03 PM »
'Jus' like that!' With apologies to Tommy Cooper.

Pauline

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2011, 04:38:43 AM »
'Jus' like that!' With apologies to Tommy Cooper.

 ::)
Born 1944 in Geraint Road.  Launcelot and Churchdown Schools.  Moved to Western Australia in 1988.
Two children, 6 grandchildren, 3 dogs, hundreds of snakes, spiders and lizards.

micky

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2011, 06:34:23 PM »
Del
Hi there mate this is Mike Lee. We were in 1X through to 5X at Malory and we were friends with Kenny Glennon, Peter Hart, Maurice Hobin, and a few others (Joyce Humphries, Betty Piefinch, Janice Rixon, Beryl Jones, Gail Simpson) - blimey the more you think about it the more you remember.
I fondly remember Downham as my Mum was brought up in Capstone Road (no 52) and we lived there for some years when I was small. I remember the Downham Tavern and the Bal Tabarin (I saw Cliff Bennet and the Rebel Rousers there among others) I lived in Lewisham and used to catch the 36b bus to school.
Malory was a great school and many others - Richard Ladd, Ray Bennett, David Willett, Graham White, Raymond Snowdon, Geoffrey Williams)
The teachers you wrote about I also remember well. Mr Crooks and his fabulous English lessons and the time we went to see the Beatles at the Finsbury Park Astoria.
I meet with Peter Hart and Kenny G every six months for a beer. E-mail me and join us - it would be great to chat over "the old days"
seulnom@gmail.com and then we can swap tel. nos.
Do you still play the guitar, what about Barry Humphries and his drums?
Mike

hoppo

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Re: Downham memories
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2011, 10:43:48 PM »
Great to read all the memories of yesteryear,  Heres another one for all you up top downhamites! The parade of shops.... there was a fish shop ? after work it was closed and in the doorway was an icream man selling his wares, he was there in all weathers rain shine snow and plague.......... ? That was my uncle albert from waters road I think he did it because he had lots of daughters!... one of them was my cousin marylyn Nash she was a dancer and used to go to the goldsmiths center and put on shows . we used to play on the waste ground at the back and one day we thought it a good idear to tunnell under the fence after digging for some time we uncovered the amunition of the home guard. we split it up and I for one found out about playing with this stuff and butnt my hand I was lucky as later in life I had a man working with me who played with the same stuff and lost two fimgers ........ sweet dreams