News: “Over the graves of the Druids and under the wreck of Rome,
Rudely but surely they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
Behind the feet of the Legions and before the Norseman’s ire
Rudely but greatly begat they the framing of State and Shire
Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stand till now.
If we trace on ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.”

-Rudyard Kipling
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Author Topic: Growing up and socialising in Kent  (Read 103696 times)

0 Members and 2 Guests are viewing this topic.

Offline Signals99

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 514
  • Appreciation 39
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #202 on: December 29, 2013, 05:55:32 »
Hi Ron
A saga indeed, well done, thank you for that. A long story at times convoluted, but never the less interesting.

Ron Stilwell

  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #201 on: December 28, 2013, 22:20:00 »
Please carry on Ooby :)

Offline oobydooby

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 139
  • Appreciation 43
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #200 on: December 28, 2013, 21:26:23 »
I have just finished reading your escapades Ron S, and noted with disappointment that your post on November 8th is the final instalment.  Thanks for the brilliant memories.

Since your adventurous tales have ended I would like to keep this thread open in a similar vein with my memories.  Unfortunately memories for me consist mainly of individually detailed incidents as I have a bad memory for people, names and streets.

Some time in the new year, happy new year to you all by the way, I hope to start with tales from my earliest memories in Rainham and Gillingham to 1955 ish, including "The amazing flying butter", "The great sweet shop raid" and "Coke in a perambulator".

I hope to follow up with my time in care at Tonbridge Wells and Manston which includes school football matches, school buses, adventures in Scouting and other amazing tales.

Then on to Herne Bay and coffee houses and my attempts (Failed) at courting before moving to Dover and the Five Alls.  Then just in case you are not yet confused enough, I will finish with my triumphant return to Gillingham where I finally decided to grow up before moving into the wilds of Hampshire.

That is as long as there are no real objections to me hijacking this thread.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline AlanH

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 363
  • Appreciation 22
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #199 on: November 10, 2013, 10:11:28 »
Hi Ron.
Your memories of Manston reminded me of when I went to Laleham on Northdown Park Rd in the late 50s. The school used to take us for outings in an old grey coloured ambulance and one trip went past Manston deliberately and very slowly and it didn't take a couple of minutes before a jeep came rushing up behind with flashing lights and a shouted order to "Get a move on". 
Obnoxious lot and we were banned from going down to Dreamland because of the type of people we may have met. That never stopped us and I and my mates met some strange ones there at times but never Yank servicemen. :)

PS. We had a few altercations with the "Dane Park lot" quite often.

Ron Stilwell

  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #198 on: November 08, 2013, 22:03:07 »
The Final part of this section.

In the fifties Dane Park was a wonderland for small boys, but has now become a green wilderness, apart from a particularly sterile-looking kiddies playground.  However, it was the site in the 1970’s of the first flight of my hand-built flying saucer.  This was a home built craft, made exclusively of thin card, in the classic 1950’s style.  It was composed of a circular fuselage about two feet in diameter, with a domed canopy on the top.  There were scoops all around the canopy, then the collected air was channelled down into the main body of the craft for downward thrust.  The way the scoops were arranged the air was designed to counteract the tendency of the aircraft to turn turtle when launched.  Once the flying saucer was completed I went down to Dane Park accompanied by friends and a few people who just wanted to see the thing break up.  We went to the south side of the park, on the highest point, and then launched it into the air with as much energy as possible.  It went high into the air over the park, performed a parabolic curve, diving straight into the ground, turning completely over as it did so.  The complex design was a total failure, and we went home with the bits in a carrier bag.  The whole episode was abortive but great fun.
I would go out further and further on my bike, exploring the countryside.  There was not much traffic to worry about and of course what there was didn’t travel at today’s speeds.  The other thing was the lack of fear of letting your children play outside.
One day a friend and I decided on a real expedition.  I’m sure that we didn’t warn our parents because I don’t think we had any real idea of where we were going to go.  Anyway, early one morning we set off from Waverley Road and cycled down to Birchington.  From there it was along the sea defences to Reculver.  Then it was off inland towards Canterbury, which surprisingly, didn’t seem to take too long.  Our goal there was the Cathedral.  We went in via the little Eastern garden and then explored the vast Cathedral and grounds, taking photographs.  I suppose that would have been quite far enough considering the ride back to Margate.  But no, we were full of energy and decided to push on.  So, from Canterbury it was off down the New Dover Road.  The ride wasn’t too bad; quite a straight road, and as we got near to Dover a lot of it was downhill.
Arriving in Dover was a bit of a disappointment.  Our idea of going round the castle was ruined as we had arrived too late and we now faced the prospect of riding all the way back to Margate with nothing to look forward to.  It wasn’t an easy ride as we had really exhausted ourselves on the hills around Dover.  We must have got home OK but the last I can remember was lying on the grass just outside of Sandwich with legs like lead, convinced I could go no further.

Ron Stilwell

  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #197 on: November 04, 2013, 14:15:03 »
Part thirty-seven:

Apart from the main carnival procession, many other events went on during Carnival week, but the one that really made an impression on me was a display put on in a large field in Palm Bay, by a team of visiting Cossack riders.
The field was set out very much like a chariot race arena, and in which the Cossacks demonstrated all kinds of horse-riding skills.  They rode along underneath the belly of the horse, presumably as some kind of defence tactic in battle.  They would come out in ones and twos, galloping up the field, hanging off the flank of the horse, reaching out to snatch flags from the ground, or using swords and short bows on various set up targets.
Sometimes I would cycle out to the other airport on the Island.  This was Ramsgate airport, which was a small grass strip roughly in the present location of the CO-OP Hypermarket at Westwood.  Ramsgate airport was used by De Havilland Rapide aircraft, which flew leisure flights around Thanet and East Kent.  In the summer there were booking kiosks on sea front for the pleasure trips and these would take people’s money and then bus them up to Ramsgate Airport for their flights.
Aircraft were a passion of mine and I really wanted a model aeroplane.  Imagine my excitement when Uncle Douglas  gave me a model glider.  The aeroplane was a beautifully made balsa wood and tissue paper model with about a three-foot wingspan.  It was almost as tall as I was!
Gliders are NOT the easiest type of aeroplane to fly and as usual I was too impatient.  I couldn’t wait to be taken out to a suitable flying area and so I tried launching it from the upstairs bedroom.  It wasn’t much of a flight as the glider soon lodged in a fruit tree halfway down the garden, sustaining quite a bit of damage.
I patched it up with the aid of balsa wood glue and paper patches and then started planning my next flight.  Over ambitious as always, I planned a powered flight, saving up my pocket money and buying two Jetex 50 rocket motors.  These were little metal cylinders, which were packed with a fast-burning compound that acted like a solid-fuel rocket.   I strapped these either side of the rear fuselage on a patch of asbestos and attempted a powered launch.  There were a few thrilling seconds of excitement as the plane rocketed into the sky, then the wings failed, folded back and the whole thing plummeted to earth, a flaming fireball.  I felt guilty for years after every time I met Douglas, hoping he’d never find out what I had done to his model.
Just down the road from the library was Dane Park.  For me, the special thing about it was to be found in the north-western corner.  I would enter by the western gate; turn left at the Victorian fountain, then down the path to the lake.  Once there I would head for the bridge, which was built very much in the Japanese style.  It was constructed across a small inlet of the lake, and it was here that fish would congregate, probably because they were used to being fed by people standing on the bridge.  I would hang over the side, watching the fish, and imagining great fleets of model warships navigating the lake.  I also mentally planned a network of miniature railway tracks that could run around the shore.  Sadly, economics and fanatical health and safety regulations caused it to be emptied, filled in and grassed over, although even today some of the concrete banks of the lake can be seen protruding through the turf.

Ron Stilwell

  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #196 on: October 31, 2013, 11:59:14 »
Where was I?  Ah, part thirty-six:

The television introduced me to all kinds of fascinating stories, and coincided with the flood of Science Fiction tales that appeared in the 50’s.
The Quatermass Experiment was one of the first series I saw, and extremely exciting, the basic indoor sets and special effects not detracting from a well-crafted sci-fi story of rockets and alien invasion.  The subsequent Quatermass film and TV series were very poor by comparison.
A couple of years later a new television series came along called the ‘Trollenberg Terror’.  It was another alien invasion epic, this time set on a mountaintop.  Scientists and mountaineers were trapped thousands of feet up a mountain and threatened by a deadly cloud.  Besieged by the aliens in an observatory above the cable-car station, the scientists fought to survive and to save the world from invasion.  The series was all the more fascinating because it starred a young actress called Sarah Lawson who I found disturbingly attractive!
Finally the time came when I was presented with my own bicycle.  Learning to ride didn’t take very long.  One of my friends from Garlinge came over to teach me, and we began outside my house in Waverley Road.  Off I went down the hill with him behind, supporting me, and before I knew different he had let go and I was on my own.  After a few shaky moments I was away and never looked back.  Suddenly my ‘range’ increased tenfold and I began to explore the Isle of Thanet with the rest of my friends.  One of the first places we went to was Manston Aerodrome.  It was then a base for the USAF and was like a magnet to us.  We were soon able to recognise the F86 Sabre jet fighter and the big B47 bomber.  The American pilots were very much ‘cowboys of the sky’ and flew the jets with obvious exuberance.  They would take-off and land in formation and often ‘buzz’ the airfield at ground level.  Crashes were not unknown and one poor family had the misfortune to be killed when a jet, which missed the runway, destroyed their car.  The rumour amongst us boys was that they had been beheaded by the crashing jet fighter.
One spectacular sight was the take-off of fully laden B47 bombers.  In order to get off the ground safely and quickly they had rockets fitted, and when these were fired the rocket-assisted aircraft would leap into the sky accompanied by clouds of smoke and a thunderous roar.
In those days there was much more security on the base and there were many armed guards with several of the roads through the airport being closed.  All along the main roads were Ministry signs warning traffic to keep moving ‘or else!’  One of the most impressive complexes built by the Americans was the bomb and armament store.  This was situated right on the edge of the air base with all the building protected by large blast ramps and barriers.  This complex is now the home of Charles River.  It was a popular rumour amongst us boys that the 'Yanks' kept their atomic bombs in there.
During the time we were going up to the camp there was a real ‘wild west’ incident at Manston.  Without warning an armed American Serviceman, Napoleon Greene, went berserk and killed three people and seriously injured seven others before committing suicide. During the incident, Cpl R P Grayer, a twenty-two year old RAF Policeman was shot dead by Greene as he desperately tried to rescue a young girl from the mayhem. Unfortunately, the tragedy increased later when Sgt J Sutcliffe RAFP collapsed and died of a heart attack.
The American soldiers looked very different from ours; in fact their military band even had chrome-plated helmets.  They made quite a spectacle when they marched in the Margate Carnivals, although I was also very keen on the Dagenham Girl Pipers!

Ron Stilwell

  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #195 on: October 26, 2013, 20:20:28 »
Part thirty-five:

In June 1954 my sister got married and moved away. This meant that I was ‘promoted’ to her room, except of course, during the summer when it was needed for visitors.
In these later years we still had some ‘Theatricals’ staying during the summer seasons, but they were usually with us for only as few 1 day. Some of these acts worked in the Hippodrome in Cecil Square, Margate.  They were much more modern acts, for instance one of them was singer Mike Sarne who later on had a hit called ‘Come Outside’ with Wendy Richards.  We would usually be able to get complimentary tickets for the shows but they were not often used.  One show I remember though was the day I realised that girls were not all the horrible creatures that I thought them to be up until that time.  We had a fifteen-year-old girl staying with us who was part of a dance act.  I went along to see the show with mum and dad and there she was, in tights and stage makeup gracefully pirouetting and leaping through her dance routine.  At that moment I felt the sensation that I normally associated with stomach ache - I was thirteen and in love with an older woman and she was sleeping in MY bedroom, on MY bed, while I was stuck out in the garden shed!  Of course I never even got to talk to her properly, blushing deep red when I took in the meals at dinnertime.  Before I knew it, she was gone on to her next booking, and never to be seen again.
Of course my heart was broken and I was devastated for at least a couple of weeks.  That was until I discovered that June Gunner, my best friend’s sister and our washer-up, was also a girl! We spent quite a few happy moments when mum was out of the way snogging in my chalet.  Up until that time I was literally terrified of contact with girls in fact I had solemnly sworn that I would only get married if I didn’t have to kiss the girl!
Unfortunately, like many attractions in Margate, the Hippodrome Theatre was badly affected by the lack of summer visitors during the fifties, and it closed in October 1958.
Every year, on Armistice Day, we would make the trip up to the Cenotaph in London for dad to pay his respects to his fallen comrades from the First World War.  We always arrived early so that we could get a good position in the Mall just opposite the Cenotaph. 
Our family was always very patriotic and we would stand for the National Anthem when it was played on the TV in the living room.  We were one of the earliest in our road to have a television, my parents getting it so that they could watch the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in the comfort of our own home.  At the back of the ‘cupboard under the stairs’ was a cardboard box that contained the flags and bunting and this was brought out on every possible occasion to bedeck the house.  We were by no means the only house to do this and so on days such as the Coronation the whole road would look quite festive.


  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #194 on: October 26, 2013, 16:42:17 »
Hi all,

I am trying to gain an understanding of where people socialised in Kent when growing up....... I would be keen to hear of any memories from all eras

I grew up in Sheerness 1942 - 1959.  In the 50s it was probably the best possible place and time for growing up (I have ever come across.) These are the venues I frequented.

3 Cinemas; 2 live theatres; 5 youth clubs; a Fairground all year with skating rink; on a Saturday night 3 dances with live bands; a cellar club (early disco); two sets of Tennis Courts; Putting greens; two swimming Pools; the Sheppey Judo Club; the 'Tanner Hop' in Queenborough on Wednesday, The Saint John's Band, the beach ..... the girls from London on holiday (who said that?) ..... not to mention Sheppey United FC !!

Ron Stilwell

  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #193 on: October 21, 2013, 20:58:08 »
Part thirty-four:

At home there were other changes. On the downside, Grandmother Hughes came to stay.  This did not make for happy families, as she was the most cantankerous person you could ever have the misfortune to meet.  Dad disliked her intensely and there were lots of rows in the house once she arrived.  One that I can remember was to do with the heat in the living room at the back of the house.  When we had visitors it was the only room that we could use for the family.  Grandmother insisted on having a fire lit and the windows shut even in the summer.  The heat used to hit you like a wall as you went in.  One day dad came in from work (he worked as a wine waiter in local hotels to supplement our income) and just hit the roof.  Of course it made no difference as grandmother had a skin as thick as a rhinoceros and just ignored him.
Both my sister and I would try to keep out of her way, but she would hear you no matter how quietly you tried to creep about. 
One day, Grandmother Hughes was coming in through the back door when the wind blew the door shut on her fingers.  The shock finished her off, leaving very few sad faces in our household.
Right beside the front door stood a tall mahogany hallstand, with pegs for hats, a large mirror, and down at the base there were two receptacles on either side for walking sticks and umbrellas.  They had zinc containers at the bottom to catch drips, dirt etc.  There was a covered wooden container just below the mirror for hatpins etc.
There was a giant mahogany table in the dining room covered with a heavy green table cover made of a kind of rubberised backing with a very odd fuzzy green Chenille surface. (very thick)  There was also an enormous mahogany sideboard with lots of mirrors.  There were two big oil paintings of woodland scenes, one on each side of the fireplace.  The carpet had a complicated design, which I used to use as either roads for my toy cars or as railway tracks.  Upstairs in the bedrooms each room had a marble topped washstand and on it were big bowls and jugs.  Each room had a large utility-style beds with half-round beading as decoration on the bed-posts.  This often went missing and mum suspected that it was stolen by one of our summer visitors.
The mangle stood just outside the back door.  It was very old, with rubber rollers that were massively out of shape due to extreme age and overuse.  The surface of the rollers was very hard and was covered with a crazing of minute cracks.  The mangle was on a raised concrete patio across most of the whole width of the house.  There was an outbuilding to the right that housed first a coal hole, next a room containing odds and ends, then, around the corner, an outside privy. 

Ron Stilwell

  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #192 on: October 18, 2013, 17:05:33 »
Part thirty-three.

The Stone Pier was another of my favourite stamping grounds.  It was really the commercial side of the harbour, and provided shelter and a safe mooring for fishing boats, pleasure craft, and as an unloading quay for a few small coasters, usually carrying coal or timber.  I loved the large cast iron cranes that rolled along embedded rails at the edge of the quay.  They were very rarely used, and were covered in rust, but I found them fascinating.
One of the high spots about a visit to the stone pier was the model railway that ran on the upper level of the pier from Droit House, known as the clock tower, and down to the lighthouse. A live-steam ‘Flying Scotsman’ type locomotive was used to haul the train.  It used to run during the summer months.
After the 1953 storm had wrecked the pier Margate, Pier & Harbour Co Ltd moved the railway onto the Iron Jetty and it was run there for about 10 years with a new D1000 Western Independence diesel locomotive built by David Curwen.  The railway was sold in 1975 and bought by a Cliftonville man called Arthur Pay.  For some years he ran it in his garden near Northdown Park, and I went on it at one of the Open Days he used to hold.  Today, the locomotive and rolling stock operates on the Royal Victoria Railway, Netley near Southampton where it has been since 2003.
Shore fishermen lined up along the raised section of the stone pier, trying to catch cod during the winter.  I did my own share of fishing on the end of the Pier, but nowhere near so successfully.  I used to sit at the foot of a set of stone steps that led down to the water just beneath the lighthouse, so I could drop my hook straight into the sea.  My fishing tackle consisted of a small rectangular wooden frame, around which the fishing line was wound.  On the end of that was a single hook, and a fishing weight that was made of lead, and resembled a grey coloured, oversize knobbly Polo mint!  I used bits of squid, mussels and worms for bait, but all I ever caught were crabs.
The lighthouse at the end of the stone pier at Margate was completely destroyed in the Great Storm of 1953.  An unfortunate combination of the storm, a northerly wind, spring tides, and a low pressure over the North Sea combined to wreak havoc along the North Kent coast. In fact although we didn’t know it then the storm was Europe wide, with over 500 people being killed in England and over a 1,000 in Holland.  I remember going down to Margate on the morning after the storm.
The whole of the Old Town was flooded with several feet of seawater and it reached right up to the Elizabethan houses in King Street.  Policemen were teamed up with harbour boatmen and punting along the flooded roads rescuing people.  Down on the sea front the whole coastline was littered with planks and debris from the pier and hundreds of shattered beach huts.
This meant a major change to Margate.  Up until this point there were so many ways for the trippers to come down to Thanet.  Special trains would run constantly down from London and even down from the north.  Coaches, or more correctly Charabancs would flood in by road along with lots of chartered red London buses.  There was also a big increase in the number of motorcars on the road and of course a great many motorcycles.  The Jetty however brought in hundreds of day-trippers and especially at the weekends, the ships would arrive with crowded decks.  The hordes of people would troop off down the jetty to join the multitudes of people flooding down the road from the railway station and coach park, all heading for Dreamland, the amusements, and to try to find a place on very crowded sands.  After the storm however this means of access was gone forever, and of course the attraction of walking the along the Jetty and the ‘End of the Pier Show’ was destroyed overnight.
In the early evening of a day in November 1964, fire swept the end of the jetty, destroying the pavilion, it was never rebuilt.  The jetty was finally destroyed in a storm in 1978.
The picture was of the harbour the day after the storm.  The lighthouse is missing and the planks came from the sun-deck and the iron jetty.  I think it was me on the left.

Offline helcion

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 261
  • Appreciation 30
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #191 on: October 15, 2013, 11:05:56 »
Ron    -

Re your 'The steamers coming alongside the Iron Jetty' photos    -

In your second photo I hope that is not a breaking sea behind the crew !
Could quite ruin the trippers' day . . . . . .

I remember the lower level beneath the pierhead, the pilot boat often used to tie up there when the harbour dried out & a 'job' was in the offing.

Excellent series of memories from you  -  thanks.


  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #190 on: October 15, 2013, 10:43:12 »
Somehow, I can’t imagine something like that happening today.     

Somehow, I can't imagine such inspired insanity happening anywhere but in Britain, either!  :)


  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #189 on: October 15, 2013, 10:03:56 »
What a wonderful day that must have been!  I can't imagine that happening today, can you?  With your descriptive account I could actually picture it certainly are a good storyteller Ron S.  :)

Ron Stilwell

  • Guest
Re: Growing up and socialising in Kent
« Reply #188 on: October 15, 2013, 00:31:19 »
Part thirty-two:

One red-letter day was when the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ocean dropped anchor in ‘Margate Roads’. 
That was a wonderful surprise as I had an exploded diagram of the warship on my bedroom wall, which had come out of the Eagle comic.
Along with many others, I was lucky enough to go out to the carrier for a tour with the 1st Margate Lifeboys.
We went out to HMS Ocean on the Margate lifeboat although I was disappointed that we did not go down the slipway in it.  When we arrived it was tied up alongside the pier on one of the lower iron jetties that were below the main decking.
 I don’t remember much about the trip out but once up on the deck of the carrier the parked aircraft captivated me.  There were the Hawker Sea Fury jets, and my favourite, the Fairey Gannett anti-submarine aircraft.  This was a large dumpy aeroplane with a big contra-rotating propeller.
I spent quite a lot of time down on the beach in the summer holidays, usually on the main Margate beach between the Sundeck and the Clock Tower.  In those days it was quite literally a problem trying to find a bit of sand to sit down on.  It really was the classic British seaside with donkeys, knotted hankies, striped deckchairs, buckets and spades.  There was something else as well, and that was an odd kind of camaraderie that still existed then, perhaps a rollover from the war?  As an example of that, I remember one bizarre day when a few boys had started to build a sand wall to try to keep the tide back.  A few dads and uncles pitched in to help and they had soon built quite a large sand dam.  After a bit you could see groups of boys and men coming in at the sides and extending the wall east and west, all the way from the Sun Deck to the Clock Tower.  Once that had got going it wasn’t long before almost everyone on the beach was pitching in to help.  Some men (obviously local) even went scurrying off home coming back with full-size spades and shovels. The dam had built up to really impressive proportions by the time the tide reached it, in fact in some places you couldn’t see over it.  Soon, of course, the waves began to attack the wall and hordes of people were racing up and down the beach trying to repair the damage.  They kept it up for about half an hour until the sea was almost lapping the top in loads of places, then suddenly a big break occurred near to the Sun Deck end.  Water flooded through the gap breaking down the walls on either side as it went.  There was nothing anyone could do so they all stood back, some now up to their waists in seawater, watching the dam collapse.  Someone called for ‘three cheers’ and everyone on the beach joined in, finally clapping each other as they went back to their places on the beach to rest and sunbathe.  Somehow, I can’t imagine something like that happening today.     


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