Kent History Forum

News:
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Author Topic: Growing up and socialising in Kent  (Read 62838 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Ron Stilwell

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Appreciation 13
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #187 on: October 13, 2013, 11:49:30 »
Postcard showing the position of the lifeboat house.

Offline Ron Stilwell

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Appreciation 13
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #186 on: October 13, 2013, 11:47:29 »
The Royal Sovereign

Offline Ron Stilwell

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Appreciation 13
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #185 on: October 13, 2013, 11:45:52 »
The steamers coming alongside the Iron Jetty.

Offline Ron Stilwell

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Appreciation 13
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #184 on: October 13, 2013, 11:42:21 »
Part thirty-one:

Life on the end of the Iron Jetty was always interesting.  Each time the tripper ships such as the MV Royal Daffodil came alongside the pier the whole edifice shook and moved to and fro a good few inches!  That was because many of the iron jetty supports were rusted through just below the water line.  The service from Tower Pier to the Thames Estuary was opened in the summer of 1946 by the arrival of the Royal Eagle. Throughout the 1950s, the Company ran a three-ship service with new MV Royal Sovereign, MV Queen of the Channel and an old Royal Daffodil. With the decline in passenger numbers, especially with the loss of Margate pier the Company decided that they could not carry on.  On December 20th 1960 they announced the closure of the service and the sale of the three ships. This ended 160 years of Londoner’s sea cruises to Southend-on-Sea, Clacton, Margate, Ramsgate and the near Channel Ports.
At the end of the jetty there was a second lower deck that most people missed.  This was approached by iron stairs, which took you down beneath the main decking.  The lower deck was a maze of planked decking amongst a forest of beams and iron girders.  Apparently popular in the Victorian era it was now mostly deserted except for small boys, boatmen, and fishermen.  We would go down to catch crabs and to dodge the waves which would come splashing over the deck especially if a ship came alongside the pier.  Eventually we would have to retreat to the upper deck because the whole lower section would be flooded twice a day by the high tide.
Another favourite pastime on the jetty was a tour around the lifeboat house.  The building was about halfway along the jetty, just far enough out to make sure that there was always enough water below to float the lifeboat on any state of the tide.  The lifeboat was housed up at about the same height as the main jetty decking fully ready to slide down the slipway at any time.  Viewing was possible from two levels, either on the floor of the lifeboat house so that you could examine the hull and propeller or up on a raised platform at deck level and which allowed you to see right into the cockpit.  There were photographs of earlier lifeboats and crews around the walls, and an ornate plaque listing all the rescues that the Margate Lifeboat had carried out since the 1850’s.
Quite often when we were in Margate or down on the beach we would hear the warning maroon go off and we would race to the jetty to watch the crew run down the jetty to the lifeboat house and then see the lifeboat slide down the chute, hit the water in a tremendous shower of spray and then race away on its rescue mission.

Offline Lyn L

  • Established Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1109
  • Appreciation 83
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #183 on: October 11, 2013, 16:02:07 »
Oh good  :) I'm loving the story telling. The part about you singing The Indian Love Call, had me tickled, reminded me of when I was learning to play the trumpet for The Girls Brigade band I was in. It must have been excruciating for my parents (and the neighbours when I and my friend who lived a few doors away) would both practise in our gardens !!
I also lived in a guest house RS, perhaps that's why the 'guests' stayed out longer than necessary  :)
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life tryi

Offline Ron Stilwell

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Appreciation 13
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #182 on: October 11, 2013, 15:49:13 »
Thanks busyglen.  I started in hospital when I had a bad case of pneumonia, and I thought it was a good idea to put memories down for my children.  Then my older sister joined in and it snow-balled.  I have trimmed it a bit for the posting here because some is family stuff, and I decided to stop at the age of 'majority' so I didn't frighten the chickens, but.... more to go yet.

Offline busyglen

  • Established Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1051
  • Appreciation 69
    • Westminster Village
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #181 on: October 11, 2013, 14:27:50 »
You've really got the knack of telling a story.....I can hardly wait for the next episode.....you should put the episodes into book form for preservation.  :)
A smile is a curve that straightens things out.

Offline Ron Stilwell

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Appreciation 13
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #180 on: October 11, 2013, 10:17:06 »
Part thirty:

Management of the entertainment at the end of Margate Jetty was in the hands of Eric Bloom.  Eric and his wife would come down to Margate at the start of each summer season and stay at our boarding house.  He would handle the bookings of the various variety acts. 
Eric himself acted as master of ceremonies, did a mind-reading act with his wife, and also performed his own magic show for children in one of the outer kiosks.  To be honest, as a magician Eric left a lot to be desired, but everyone seemed to be entertained.  My problem was that I knew how he was doing the tricks and that spoilt it for me.  He would sit in the back yard at home and practice his magic, and I would be called in to act as his audience or helper as needed.  Sometimes Eric would attempt to show me simple tricks, but I was never able to attain the necessary ‘Sleight of Hand.’  Of course it was all trick rather than magic and I suppose it taught me to question things much more than I had before.  Perhaps I should be grateful to him; certainly I have never been able to watch a magic act in the same way since.
The mind-reading act had to be seen to be believed.  They worked it with code words, but I found it unbelievably corny.  Eric’s wife would stand on the stage wearing a blindfold, and Eric would pass round the audience asking for items to be identified.  If it was a watch he would urge her to “Hurry up, we haven’t got all day”, a wallet would be, “If you don’t get this one we won’t get paid”.  The amazing thing was that the audience didn’t seem to notice, and they always got a good reception.
The times when I went to the show the music was provided by a Ladies string quartet of violin, double bass etc., but I understand that the Gerry Allen trio played there at some time.
Most of the acts were what my mother used to call ‘Highbrow’, for instance a husband and wife act who were a singing duo and used to perform songs such as the ‘Indian Love Call’.   My parents probably regretted that I had seen this act as I would perform my own version of the song on the stairs at home.  I would stand at the top of the stairs and squeal, “When I’m calling you .......oooh....oooooh.....oooh,” then I would race down the stairs to reply,   “I will answer too .....oooh......oooooh.....ooooh.”
It must have been torture to listen to!
My sessions with Eric lead to greater things.  After a while I became a part of the act, although in a rather underhanded way.  We used to drive over to Ellington Park in Ramsgate where I would help him unload his gear onto the central bandstand, and then when he was nearly ready I would make myself scarce.
Eric would start his act with a ventriloquist’s doll with which he was quite good, even throwing his voice so that it sounded as though the trees were talking.  Then he would continue with some simple magic tricks.  This was the cue for me to join the audience.  I would sidle in at the back and wait until he was ready to ask for a helper.  Most of the kids would put up their hands to volunteer but it was always me that he picked.  Anyone else up on the stage would be almost sure to notice what was going on and spill the beans.  My Saturday trips to Ellington Park didn’t last, as Eric found a little girl to fill my shoes.

Offline ann

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 417
  • Appreciation 50
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #179 on: October 10, 2013, 08:43:10 »
As usual Ron's memories have triggered mine.
'Christmas was a time when dad would hang up stockings for us, and inside there would be an apple, an orange, and then strangely, a piece of paper, a stick of wood and some coal.  The idea being that we should get up early and light the fire – just his little joke!'
I too used to get fruit, usually a tangerine or two, in my stocking, but the bit about the coal on top really struck home.  My dad used to tell me that at Xmas when he was a boy, (he had 5 siblings) whoever got a lump of coal on the top of their stocking knew it was their turn to go down and llight the fire.
I remember the wallpapering of the ceilings (and the polystyrene tiles that followed this trend).  The paper was usually heavily embossed with patterns and if there was any scraps over I would colour them in. Would sit for ages doing this. Such simple pleasures!

Offline Ron Stilwell

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Appreciation 13
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #178 on: October 10, 2013, 00:52:15 »
Part twenty-nine:

During the winter there was usually decorating to be done.  There would be no visitors, and Dad would usually be unemployed in the winter months.  They never had anyone in to do the decorating, preferring to do it themselves.  The first to be done was stripping the old wallpaper.  I would be allowed to help with this and for a while would happily soak and scrape, sometimes having the satisfaction of pulling off a big strip of paper.  I got bored with the job quite quickly though.  However it was always fun if Mum and Dad had to wallpaper the ceiling.  As far as I could see, any attempt at trying to make a long strip of wet, limp paper stick to the ceiling was sheer folly, but they were always prepared to have a go.  Out would come the paste table then, when the strip was properly pasted, dad would gather it up and climb the stepladder.  It usually went well at first, but then when dad moved along the suspended plank, smoothing it out, it would start to drop off the ceiling and hang in big sagging loops and mum would be underneath with brooms trying to hold it up.  When the inevitable happened, with the strip of paper tearing or dropping to the floor they would begin to blame each other with recriminations, the argument getting louder and louder and carrying on for ages afterwards.
Dad usually had a problem with electrics, and it didn’t help that everyone used to sit and watch him whenever he did anything like wiring up a plug.  He always used to try to follow the instructions but even so, when he put the plug in the socket and turned it on, there would be a bright flash and the lights would go out.  Perhaps he was colour blind because I noticed that he always used to wire up the earth to the live terminal.  I would never have dreamed of saying anything though - that wouldn’t have been a good idea!  I wonder how many times I heard my mother say, ‘little boys should be seen and not heard’.
At Christmas time the decorations and tree were always put up on Christmas Eve, and then it was time for Dad’s electrical genius to show once again.  The Christmas tree would be set up, dad would check out the Xmas lights and arrange them carefully around the tree.  When he switched them on the lights would fuse – every time!
Christmas was a time when dad would hang up stockings for us, and inside there would be an apple, an orange, and then strangely, a piece of paper, a stick of wood and some coal.  The idea being that we should get up early and light the fire – just his little joke!

Offline Ron Stilwell

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Appreciation 13
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #177 on: October 09, 2013, 00:56:33 »
Part twenty-eight:

One variation in diet that I enjoyed was when mum and dad were away for the day and Jayne had her chance to do the cooking.  My favourite was cheese and potato pie – probably Jayne’s choice because it was the only thing she knew how to cook! A fair bit of the equipment used in the guesthouse seems to have come into our possession in various, dubious ways.  Mum and dad were first in service to a well-to-do family in Surrey and later went to work at Poplar Schools in Hutton.
In 1836 the new Poplar Poor Law Union was formed to administer the local workhouses. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, and in 1906, the Poplar Guardians erected a training school for around 700 children on a 100-acre site at Hutton in Essex.  The land cost £101 an acre but lacked a water supply, drainage system and road access.
This, together with the ornate design of some of the buildings, contributed to the unusually high final cost of the project (£184,280), which was one of the last of its type to be erected.  The buildings took the form of a "cottage homes" village arranged around a large green.  Five double cottages for boys stood at the west of the green and five for girls at the east side.  In the middle of the boys' cottages stood an elaborately decorated dining hall (the girls prepared and served meals in their own cottages as part of their domestic training).
The single-storey building was surmounted by a bell tower, and a terra-cotta frieze adorned the top of the bay at the eastern side, one part depicting St Leonard — possibly a reference to St Leonard’s, Shoreditch.  Shoreditch Borough seems to have made use of the school.  The interior was equally ornate, in fact, during a House of Lords debate on 4th May, 1906, concerning the alleged extravagance of the Guardians, one speaker remarked that 'the beams in the Dining Hall would do credit to an English Cathedral.'
Forty acres of the site were used as a farm where children worked to provide much of the school's food.  Five hundred fruit trees were planted, some of which survive in the gardens of houses on Colet Road in Hutton. The school had no uniform as such.  Boys wore knickerbockers and tunics, or trousers and jackets, while the girls wore blouses with frocks, jumpers and print pinafores.  Boys were trained in small 'shops' in the trades of boot making, tailoring, carpentry, baking and gardening.  They were also encouraged to learn a musical instrument and join the school military band, which was of a high standard.  Older girls trained as domestic servants and were taught cookery, needlework and laundry skills.
On 14th May, 1919, Queen Mary and Princess Mary visited the school. They watched a physical drill by the younger children and toured classrooms and training shops before enjoying a musical performance by the school band and choirs. In 1930, control of the school passed to the London County Council. In the 1950s, the school`s farmland was sold. In the 1970s, the school was taken over by the Inner London Education Authority.  In 1974, following changes in the law relating to children in care, the school's intake fell considerably. The main school building was sold to Essex County Council for use as an adult education centre. By 1980, only 40 children were still in residence and the home was closed. All the children were placed in foster homes, with the last child leaving in March 1982.
Various pieces of china, kitchen utensils and cutlery had identifiable marks from these places!  Dad, of course, also used to work as a waiter and many useful items would arrive with the names of different hotels stamped on them.  Harry was a skilled silver-service waiter, but his preferred job was as wine waiter, which he considered to be a much higher-status occupation.  He worked at the Chez Laurie on the main road between Herne Bay and St Nicholas, and for a long time at the Beresford Hotel, Birchington.  There were also special events that were held in the Winter Gardens, Cliftonville, and at which he was usually head wine-waiter.
One of the major items in each room were large china water jug and bowl sets.  We had a number of these, enough to equip quite a few rooms.  My sister and I suspect that these came from a large house where my parents were in service, or from Poplar Schools.


Offline busyglen

  • Established Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1051
  • Appreciation 69
    • Westminster Village
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #176 on: October 08, 2013, 11:49:37 »
I still add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to green veg today.  My mother always did and I copied her.  One day I forgot and I didn't like the wishy washy colour that the greens ended up!
A smile is a curve that straightens things out.

Offline ann

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 417
  • Appreciation 50
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #175 on: October 08, 2013, 10:05:51 »
..... shelling peas, stringing beans and peeling potatoes.  I had to look out for peas with maggots inside and throw them out.  Usually maggoty peas floated in the water when the peas were washed in a bowl.  I would eat lots of the peas, especially the small ones which were very sweet, and I would often chew the pods of very young thin peas.  I would also eat raw broad beans, and nibble at the furry insides of the broad bean pods. I would have to top, tail and string the runner beans, but I wasn’t allowed to slice them.  Gertie was a very good cook, even if the food was a little plain by today’s standards, but as usual for the time, the vegetables were cooked for hours, and were very soft when dished up.  To retain the green colour she would add bicarbonate of soda to the saucepan. 

Again memories triggered.  On Sundays my job when young and at home was to shuck the peas ready for lunch (and I used to love to eat them raw) and to top and tail and string the runner beans (dad was the only one allowed to do the slicing as no one could match him for how thin he sliced them) I was also in charge of the mint sauce.  I would be sent outside to pick it from the garden, and then pull off the leaves from the stalks and chop it up finely.  It would then be put into a small pot with vinegar and sugar! (This reminds me of dad who would put vinegar and sugar on lettuce). I can remember being told to add bicarbonate of soda to green veg. but until this post had not realised why.  I overdid it once and it came out slimey!

Offline Ron Stilwell

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 152
  • Appreciation 13
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #174 on: October 07, 2013, 23:19:00 »
Part twenty-seven:

While the guest house was operating, during the summer months mum and dad slept downstairs in the back room and I was moved out into the garden where I slept in a ‘chalet’.  This was my mother’s description for what was little more than a garden shed.  In the earlier years before my sister got married, I slept downstairs with mum and dad and Jayne was outside in the chalet.  With only a three bed-roomed house it was obviously not possible to have many visitors staying overnight.   Our two double and one single bedrooms were hardly enough and so most of our guests were ‘farmed out’ up and down the road in various friend’s houses, just coming to our house for meals.  For this ‘luxury’ a family paid £10.00 a week for what was called half-board.  This consisted of breakfast and a two course evening meal.  (no starters in those days in our guest house).  Whatever they thought, our visitors used to come back year after year and most became great friends.  I think that it was the food that attracted them, as mother was quite a good cook.  It was fairly plain in today’s terms but there was plenty of it and it was well prepared, and mother was always concerned about presentation.
There were often little treats to be had, especially during the summer season when the guesthouse was fully booked and there was always more food about.  I especially loved being allowed to scrape out the cake-mix bowl.  There were always interesting things in the larder to be consumed, including preserves in Kilner jars on shelves at the back of the cupboard.  These contained all kinds of fruit bottled in syrup.  In those days most fruit, apart from oranges and bananas, was only available in the shops for a very short seasonal period, and the preserves allowed us to enjoy them throughout the year.  There was of course, still tinned fruit available.  As mum and dad were running a guesthouse it was economic for them to buy catering size foods and on one occasion that proved to be just too much of a temptation.  One day, when there was no one around I nipped into the larder and took out a couple of large tins of fruit.  One was fruit salad and the other was sliced peaches and they were the big A2½ size.  I went behind the settee with them and opened them both up, eating the whole tin of peaches and a bit of the fruit salad, only stopping when I felt sick.  I might have got away with it because there were always plenty of tins in the pantry but stupidly I left the tins and the spoon behind the settee!  Once caught I was hauled in front of the Gestapo, but I had invented a magnificent defence which I was sure would get me off the charge.  Of course I was found guilty and duly punished!
During the school holidays and at weekends I would have to help out, shelling peas, stringing beans and peeling potatoes.  I had to look out for peas with maggots inside and throw them out.  Usually maggoty peas floated in the water when the peas were washed in a bowl.  I would eat lots of the peas, especially the small ones which were very sweet, and I would often chew the pods of very young thin peas.  I would also eat raw broad beans, and nibble at the furry insides of the broad bean pods. I would have to top, tail and string the runner beans, but I wasn’t allowed to slice them.  Gertie was a very good cook, even if the food was a little plain by today’s standards, but as usual for the time, the vegetables were cooked for hours, and were very soft when dished up.  To retain the green colour she would add bicarbonate of soda to the saucepan.  Once the meals were ready I would have to act as waiter.  After that I would have to help June Gunner, a young girl who was employed to do the washing up.  She lived in Westfield Road with her mother and brother Keith who at the time was my best friend.


Offline AlanH

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 314
  • Appreciation 26
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #173 on: October 05, 2013, 09:23:12 »
Ron's memories of being a choir boy remind me of mine as a young lad in St Margarets church choir. The organist was a chap by the name of Rogers so he was nicknamed by us as "Roy" after the comic cowboy.
I can't remember the vicars name but occasionally the Very Rev. Mortimore gave the sermon and I swear half the congregation fell asleep listening to him as his voice rose and fell as he bought down the wrath of God upon us sinners.
I was apparently one of the worst sinners as they would only pay me half of the pittance due to me for singing (if that's what I did!!!) at weddings as according to Roy Rogers I spent all my time ogling the brides so even then my mind was not on the job......or at least not on the job I was hopefully going to be paid for. :-)
AlanH.

 

BloQcs design by Bloc
SMF 2.0.11 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines