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Author Topic: Growing up and socialising in Kent  (Read 58711 times)

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Offline Ron Stilwell

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #172 on: October 03, 2013, 15:18:45 »
Part twenty-six:

Back at school I was having slight trouble with the choir.  I had joined mainly because there were some nice girls in it, certainly I didn’t have any singing talent or ambition.  I used to stand at the back and just make out I was singing but that didn’t last forever.  I suppose that I must have uttered a few raucous notes in an enthusiastic accident.  Anyway, Mr Hayward, the music teacher, must have smelled a rat as he told us all to line up in front of the piano and sing a few bars solo.  There I was, hanging on the end of the line hoping that time would run out, but it was no good and soon there I was, squeaking out my version of ‘Fire down below, boys’.  Mr Hayward didn’t let me get very far, and that afternoon my career with the choir was over!
In the corner of the playing field, just above the gardening area, there were some abandoned air-raid shelters.  These consisted of raised mounds with sunken entrances, and made an ideal fantasy play site for us first years.  It was about the time of the appearance of comics introducing Superman, Spiderman etc.  Superman was also on Television, with the ‘Adventures of Superman’ starring George Reeves running throughout the late 50’s.  Despite the rather over-weight super-hero, and his ill-fitting tights and costume, the series was great fun and very popular with the boys at school.  We became obsessed with the idea of super-powers, and on one bizarre occasion all the kids collected on top of the old air-raid shelters to play ‘Super Heroes’.  Each of us chose our own name, such as ‘Biscuit Man’, ‘Metal Man’, Blancmange Man’, etc. and also a special word which we used to turn on our special powers.  It must have been a rare sight to see us charging about on top of the air-raid shelters with our coats draped over our heads as mock capes and shouting all kinds of gibberish.
Another ‘mass game’ occurred spontaneously one winter after a huge snowfall.  The playing fields were deep in snow and we had a great time playing snowballs.  After a while us smaller kids realised that the oldest kids had rolled up loads of giant snowballs and were building a fort at the top of the field.  The gauntlet was down - it was the oldest kids of the school versus everyone else.  It would be a walkover as we outnumbered them four to one.  It was Rourke’s Drift, and we were the Zulus.  We all charged their fort shouting and yelling.  But we could only carry a couple of snowballs and being small we couldn’t throw them very far.  Before we got into range they were pelting us with showers of big snowballs, which of course they had stockpiled behind the walls of their redoubt.  Soon a lot of our supporters turned to run and our advantage in numbers quickly evaporated.  Those heroes foolhardy enough to press on (not me!) were captured as our foe charged out of their fort, grabbed an enemy and proceeded to fill his shirt and trousers with snow.  There was no further attempt to assail the fort!


Offline Ron Stilwell

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #171 on: October 01, 2013, 19:38:21 »
Peterchall, I think those signs are worth much more than that.

Part twenty-five:

The maths master Mr. Tuppen was nowhere near as approachable as the others, although perhaps I say that because I had problems with mathematics.  Mr. Tuppen was a man with very fixed ideas and he was not afraid to transmit his opinions to the class.  Supposedly a maths class, it was not uncommon for him to explain the finer points of politics to us.  One such occasion, which sticks in my mind, was a time when there were quite a few strikes going on.  Mr. Tuppen explained to us how anarchic strikes were.  “You will never see a teacher go on strike,” he told us confidently!
One maths lesson was completely lost when he got into an argument with a boy about his grammar.  The lad had come out with a classic double negative.  “I haven’t got none, Sir.”
“That means you have got some,” Mr Tuppen explained.  But it was no use, the boy repeating his phrase with some determination.
You could tell that Mr. Tuppen was just as determined to straighten this out and so he set out his case.  The lad however stood his ground and just wouldn’t have it.  He knew what he was saying and he wouldn’t be swayed.  They were still at it when the lesson was over and we all trooped out.
One very memorable teacher was Mr. Tullett.  He was the gardening master and looked very much the part of the weathered countryman.  He just used to potter about in the school garden attempting to teach boys to grow turnips and such like.  I was amazed to find out later that he had been promoted to headmaster!
The science laboratory was my favourite place in the whole school.  It was literally crammed with fascinating items including all kinds of creatures preserved in formaldehyde.  I seem to remember that one of those was a human foetus but I have no idea why or how it came to be there.  Now of course all this kind of thing has been cleared away in favour of modern teaching methods and requirements but I wonder if anything in the modern science classroom stimulates interest the way that ours did back in the 1950s.
The school had no swimming pool and so Mr. Cork the headmaster had arranged for us to take swimming lessons in the swimming pool of a private house in Westgate.  I was quite grateful for this, as I had nearly drowned in the sea when I was a couple of years younger.  I was down on Margate beach with some friends and was messing about on the slipway just to the left of the Sun Deck.  Somehow I slipped off and found myself in deep water.  I went down a couple of times and swallowed quite a bit of water.  It was just my luck that one of my friends who could swim noticed what was happening, dived in and pulled me out.  Anyway, when the opportunity to learn came up, I took the chance gladly.
Unfortunately the school didn’t use the pool for very long because of bad behaviour by some of the classes.  Nothing to do with me, of course!



Offline peterchall

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #170 on: October 01, 2013, 19:17:10 »
I’ve still got 16 of the Whitbread inn signs (metal) collected at the time of issue, often by cycling round Kent from pub to pub – what a pain it was having to do that. :)
There is a set of 12 for sale on the internet at the moment for £55.60, so I’m probably sitting on about £75.

The subject of cigarette cards reminds me of the ambivalent attitude we had towards smoking when I was growing up. It was generally acceptable wherever you were – in fact it was expected as a mark of ‘manhood’ (although not ‘womanhood’, because ladies smoking in public was usually frowned on!). It was as much a social nicety to offer a cigarette when being introduced to a man as it was to shake hands or to suggest a drink. I remember being sent by my grand-dad to the off-licence of the Morden Arms, Rochester, to get a packet of Woodbines for him when I was only about 7 or 8 years old; I got served so it must have been socially acceptable and legal.

On the other hand, the hazards of smoking must have been at least nodded at because cigarettes were sometimes called ‘coffin nails’ and it was unacceptable for children to smoke. A classmate at Rochester Tech School was punished – I think expelled – for smoking.

I was about 15 when I bought my first packet and my mother found them in my jacket pocket – she wasn’t in the habit of going through my pockets at that age, so I don’t know why. I was told off, not for smoking, but for trying to hide the fact that I did (“do you think we are unreasonable parents?” was mum and dad’s line). To introduce me to ‘manhood’ – or at least one aspect of it – they bought me a cigarette case. How times have changed!

Another aspect of manhood worried mum all the time; “Mind what you’re up to with the girls” was familiar advice as I went out! :)
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Offline ann

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #169 on: October 01, 2013, 14:10:15 »
I also had a collection of Whitbread inn signs, printed on metal; they became highly sought after, and still fetch a good price today. I sold one recently, the proceeds paid for a good niight out at an expensive venue.

See my avatar!  Doubt it is worth a meal though.

Offline sheppey_bottles

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #168 on: October 01, 2013, 13:21:44 »
Although I did not go to school in Kent (but I spent most of the summer and weekends on Sheppey) I do remember the games that were played at school. Being just a little younger than some on here we used to play with Tea cards (Brooke Bond) and the main game was throwing cards, normally towards a wall, until a card landed on another, you would then win all cards on the floor. We also played penny against the wall, where you threw a penny or halfpenny and tried to get it as close to the wall as possible to win. you would do this with just one coin or best of three etc. We played Conkers of course but never saw Marbles played at our school. In the playground we used to swap tea cards to make sets up and also sold/swapped spare conkers that we had collected. Regarding the collecting of ciggie cards they are more valuable if they are NOT stuck in an album. I have a Film Stars ciggie album that is stamped Sheppey Mineral Water Co.. which I treasure. I am sure we used to buy the albums from the corner shop to put our tea cards in Peterchall. Hop scotch was another game we played.

Offline Signals99

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #167 on: October 01, 2013, 10:12:07 »
Hi, the fag card blog has opened memory's door once again. Anyone recall Turf cigarettes that had a type of card printed on the inner section. They did a series on aircraft.
A similar game was played at St Margaret's, Rochester that involved milk bottle tops (the round cardboard type with a hole in the middle) very much in the idiom of 'fag cards'.
I also had a collection of Whitbread inn signs, printed on metal; they became highly sought after, and still fetch a good price today. I sold one recently, the proceeds paid for a good niight out at an expensive venue.
So if you have any fag cards/inn signs please get them valued prior to selling them. You would be surprised, pleasantly, at their value.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #166 on: October 01, 2013, 10:03:03 »
A quick net surf shows sets of cigarette cards to vary in value from about £5 to £800, and has reminded me that albums to hold complete sets were available. Can anyone remember where we got the albums from, and if they had to be paid for?
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Offline ann

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #165 on: October 01, 2013, 09:00:16 »
I can remember the 'fag' cards. It was a game the boys played in the playground at school.  I seem to recall that there was a cycle of the games played, or seasons.  There would be 'fag' cards, then marbles, conkers etc. and each would have separate spells when they were played.  As for us girls, well I did play marbles (but not at school) and I collected and saved the pretty ones. There was skipping of course, but I don't really think we had seasonal games like the boys did, and  I remember playing fivestones (this then led on to 'jacks' in the 60's which was my daughters generation), and at junior school there was always 'kiss chase' - funny the boys were never keen on this!
Talking of 'fag cards' I remember my father had a collection of old Wills and John Player ones from when he smoked.  Not sure of value now, but certainly worth more in sets than individual cards and some sets worth a great deal more than others. Depends on the rarity of the particular set I believe.

Offline smiler

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #164 on: October 01, 2013, 08:38:50 »
    With the fag cards there was a variety of games to play the one pc describes was "kissems", then there was "knockemdowners" where each player leant an equal amount of cards up the wall and then took it in turns to skate a card to knock "em" down the one knocking the most down won them all. There was "fervems" which was who could skate their card the "fervest".
    We collected and played with not only fag cards but by cutting off the front and back of the cigarette packets (10s) you would get 2 fag cards to use, of course using these you would only play for other fag packet cards not the real thing. Hope this makes sense to those who never played.  :)

Offline peterchall

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #163 on: October 01, 2013, 07:15:40 »
Again one memory evokes another, so thinking of throwing things brings to mind competing for ‘fag cards’.

Each player flicked a card against a wall from about 4 feet away, and if it fell on top of another card that card was won by the player. I think just the smallest overlap was enough to win the card. Other details, such as how ‘uncovered’ cards were dealt with, or how many cards were thrown in one session, are buried in the depths of my memory. Does anyone remember?

Collecting ‘fag cards’ was a serious hobby, and I was handicapped because my dad rolled his own and cards didn’t come with tobacco – I think my main source was my maternal grand-dad, who smoked ‘ready mades’.

All I can really remember is that I had a large hand-bag full of cards, including many complete sets: a set of 50 was worth much more than 50 times a single card. Eventually I grew out of such ‘childish’ activities and ditched them - what is a set of cigarette cards worth today?
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #162 on: September 30, 2013, 13:58:05 »
Another memory resurrected :)
The advantage of darts cricket was that you could play it on your own, by throwing first as bowler then as batsman. The last time I remember playing it was in my dad's pub, when it was closed.
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Offline smiler

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #161 on: September 30, 2013, 13:34:49 »
Haven't played it for a long time now but one of my favourite games in the pub was cricket on the dartboard. You had any number of players, more the merrier made two teams and away you went. Toss up for choice, chalk up 11 lives then first player in batting team threw, anything scored over 40 counted as runs. Then first bowler went for wickets, outer bull (25) was 1 wicket with bullseye counting as 2, this went on till all wickets were down or batting team declared and teams changed round. Haven't seen it played for years but then again don't see much darts played in bars nowadays.

Offline Ron Stilwell

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #160 on: September 29, 2013, 17:18:14 »
Part twenty-four:

Another one of my favourite subjects was English for which my tutor was Mr Sullivan.   I loved writing stories and so I particularly enjoyed doing essays.  My problem was that I found it impossible to get my thoughts down in a couple of pages.  As soon as I saw the subject I would see it as a full-scale book and nothing Mr. Sullivan could do would stop me producing a string of unfinished work.  I feel quite sorry for him really because he really did try to help.  Mr. Sullivan’s classes were held in the school library.  At first this impressed me but I soon realised how limited the library was.  I found the same at the public library, which was, then in a nice old building in Victoria Road, Margate.  The children’s section was in a kind of low-level annex, which also served as a town museum.  I was excited by the museum exhibits but not by the books in the children’s library.  As soon as I could I was borrowing from the adult non-fiction section, which I found much more interesting.  The museum, however, could always hold my attention.  I would wander around the display cases each time I visited the library, but my favourite part of the collection was the magnificent local fossil collection that had come to the museum in the Rowe bequest. 
Dr. Rowe was born in 1858 in Margate.  Arthur Walton Rowe was a famous palaeontologist, specifically an expert on the Chalk of East Kent.  He carried out the zoning of the Cretaceous, showing that by correct fossil identification it was possible to identify time zones within the chalk strata.  He is particularly noted for his work on the Micraster genus (a heart-shaped sea urchin).  He lived at Shottendane, and died in 1926.  His house was bought by the Railway Convalescent Home in 1927.
At King Ethelbert’s school, another teacher who attracted my sympathy was Mr Mansey, the art master.    When I was at the school we had quite a few kids in the class who could draw, and there was one lad who had a real future as an artist.  Mr. Mansey was in his element, teaching the finer points of perspective and brush techniques.  It was obvious that he was a teacher who really cared about his subject.
I returned to the school many years later to meet some of the teachers I remembered and went to see Mr. Mansey.  It was quite a shock to see someone who had quite visibly shrunk mentally.  He was supervising a class of children who were making clay pigs, except that the only way that I knew that they were supposed to be pigs was when Mr. Mansey told me.   “These are the best kids in the school!” he lamented, going on to explain that he hadn’t seen anyone with any talent for years.  “I’m just riot control now,” he added unhappily.



Offline Ron Stilwell

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #159 on: September 26, 2013, 23:02:21 »
Part twenty-three:

Even at the age of twelve or thirteen I must have realised the value of older books because they were the ones I concentrated on.  By the 1950’s book publishing was going through a bad patch.  Poor quality photographs had replaced hand coloured engravings and even the quality of the paper and binding had deteriorated.  I suppose they called it modernisation - I’ll take the ‘out of date’ books any time!  In any case, a book from a hundred years ago has become a historical document.  Although perhaps no longer current thinking, a science text from the last century is a fascinating insight into the history of that branch of science, and books on natural history are almost invariably packed with tissue protected illustrations of the most exquisite quality.
One of the reasons that I liked Mr. Horvath’s shop was the pricing policy.  Nothing was marked and so you would have to take your books up to him to have them inspected.  He would examine each one carefully, looking at the title pages and leafing through each one, and then he would turn his attention to you and look you up and down.  By now you were sure he was going to ask a fiver each for them and so it always came as a shock when he handed them back and said ‘Penny each?’  I often wonder if he had a different pricing policy for people he liked or whom he thought would look after the books.  Or just maybe he thought that they were junk like everyone else!
I remember one occasion when I took my prized collection of foreign stamps along to his shop to sell.  “Why do you want to sell these?”  he asked, suggesting that because it was nearly November 5th that I wanted to buy fireworks.  “No”, I assured him, telling him that I needed the money to buy my mum a birthday present.  “Well I can only give you ten shillings - are you sure you want to sell them?”
I left the shop clutching a ten shilling note and minus a stamp collection that had taken me years to accumulate.  Five minutes later the money was spent on fireworks.
Almost an institution in the area, Mr. Horvath was always to be found in the front of the shop chatting to a continual stream of friends and acquaintances.  I would often eavesdrop on the conversations, and I can remember one particular story because he would repeat it ad infinitum.  It appears that there used to be an ice-skating rink in Dreamland that was quite popular.  You couldn’t get a pair of second-hand skates for love or money, and they would therefore command quite a high resale price.  One weekend, in 1920 Mr. Horvath believed he had a stroke of luck.  One after another, people wandered in and sold him pair after pair of ice skates.  By the end of the weekend he had acquired 20 or 30 pairs and he was already counting the profits.  Then he found out that the rink had closed!  Those pairs of skates hung from the ceiling all over the shop when I saw them in 1950, and there they remained until he retired and the shop closed down.
I found his retirement quite a sad affair.  When I found out it was going to happen I went down as often as I could, buying books as quickly as my pocket money would allow, but it was an impossible task.  There were so many books there that I wanted and not enough time or money.  What made it worse was that I found out that most of the stock went for pulping!  Right now on the shelves above me are two volumes of ‘The National Encyclopaedia’.  I have never found any more of the set but they are well worth keeping for the beautiful engravings inside.  Mr. Horvath still lived above the empty shop for quite a while, and as I passed I would see him sitting in the upstairs window gazing out over the square he had traded from for so long.

Offline Ron Stilwell

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Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #158 on: September 24, 2013, 19:58:37 »
Part twenty-two:

I had a very poor record with sports at school; in fact the only event that I enjoyed at all was the cross-country run.  There were about two hundred of us in the race, and we ran a course that took us along Canterbury Road towards Birchington, turning left into Spurgeon’s Homes.  We ran through the grounds, then out along Park Road.  The route then took us along the East side of Quex Park, until markers indicated that we turned left again across the fields towards Westgate.  We passed the most enormous dung heap that had leaked a noxious brown liquid right across the track, which we splashed through quite cheerfully, carrying the smell on our plimsolls all the way down to a housing estate on the outskirts of Westgate.
The very last part of the course took us down the lane that separated the school’s playing fields from the Ursuline Convent school grounds.  This led us to the finishing line, which was right beside the back entrance to the school.  By that stage of the race, the field was well strung out, with a few boys a little way behind me, and one lad just ahead.  Determined to make a race of it, probably because there were teachers watching, I waited until there were only a few yards to go and then put on a desperate spurt, dashing past my opponent just before we crossed the finishing line.  That small victory gave me great satisfaction, putting me in 35th place out of 200.
My most lasting memory of that school was of the interior of the science lab.  It was filled with exciting things, and especially a row of locked glass cabinets filled with specimens preserved in formalin.  On the top of the cabinets were some big glass jars that contained the remains of various animals and even a human embryo!
Science was always my favourite lesson, and I used to hang around the lab after class hoping to be asked to give the teacher a helping hand.  This was a subject I could understand, and it was explaining for me the answers to so many questions that had puzzled and interested me.  We learnt about the planets and stars, about energy, about the atom and molecules, and how plants and animals were structured.  What could be better!  My reading tastes changed quite a lot.  I was still a regular visitor to the public library but now I haunted the non-fiction shelves and the reference library.  I also started to frequent second-hand book shops in search of bargains.  One of my favourites was ‘Horvaths’ in the Old Town Square in Margate.  This was a wonderful old shop of a kind that doesn’t seem to exist anymore.  It was quite a large shop that seemed to stretch back for ages, but you could never see the rear of the premises because of the piled up stock.  It was full of narrow passages lined with all manner of second-hand items, but I was really only interested in the books which took up most of the left-hand side of the shop.  Derogatively termed a ‘Junk Shop’ by my parents and most other people, ‘Horvath’s’ had a veritable storehouse of irreplaceable material.  I am sure, thinking back, that old Horvath had bought most of his book stock many years before, because so much of what was there was dated from the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s.  What I and most other dedicated ‘book worms’ liked about this kind of shop was the chance of discovering something really special amongst the dusty shelves.  The tidy, carefully sorted shelves of a modern bookshop just don’t have the same appeal as you know that the proprietor has already found those little gems and either priced them out of your reach or passed them on to a specialist dealer.

 

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