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Author Topic: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's  (Read 46360 times)

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Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #133 on: December 22, 2014, 21:25:55 »
While writing this next chapter I realised that I had suggested earlier that no harm had been done.  I was wrong; harm had been done to myself and at least one other person, and by omission perhaps several others.  Please bear in mind I was not quite 13 at the time and rather naive.  Had I reported the matter perhaps I could have prevented further harm to other children.  I relate this chapter truthfully and hope you accept my part in the affair as an innocent and scared child of the times.

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PB was a weedy kind of boy, much like me, but unlike me had very few pals.  It was not long before I became his friend and he used to walk to the bus stop with me after school before he went home. Each time we passed a particular road he would mention a friend who would give him drinks and sweets and suggested I should meet him.  I eventually agreed as long as I was able to get the bus home in time.  We walked along the street passing a few run down shops, eventually reaching a shop that had been converted into a house.  The shop frontage was still evident and the large window had dusty old curtains hiding what lay inside.

PB knocked on the door which was opened by a thin, bony man of about fifty years of age, whose name I do not recall, and we were led into a dingy, damp sitting room filled with an odd assortment of worn, dirty furniture.  Both PB and I were offered a beer which I declined and took instead a cup of tea and some biscuits.  PB then took me down into the cellar where I was told to look up through the grille.  Soon a girl in a school uniform stopped and there was a slight clink as she dropped a coin into a chewing gum machine followed by the clunk as a the machine dropped a block of gum into the tray.  I was not sure what I should be looking at until he indicated for me to look up the girls’ skirt.

I suppose I was very naïve in such matters I asked why I would want to do that.  When we returned to the front room we discussed with the man, who for arguments sake I shall refer to as Mr X, if I had had any encounters with girls and even though I was surprised and somewhat embarrassed at this line of questioning, I told them that I was really not interested in those things.

We finished our refreshments and left after a short while with an invitation to come back soon.  PB accompanied me to my usual bus stop and suggested that when, not if, I went back and there was a girl there, I should wait until Mr X went to the toilet and I would have time to talk and do things with the girl.  I was fascinated with this turn of events and wondered what would happen.

I returned home in time for tea and Bugs asked why I had been a little later than usual in getting back.  I told him that my friend had taken me to meet his pal and we had stayed for a short while.  Bugs said that if I wanted to go again I should get a written invitation so I could stay a bit longer.

A few days after telling PB what Bugs gad said he handed me a neatly written note from Mr X inviting me to tea the following week, which I handed to Bugs that same day.  So it was that the following week found PB and I knocking on the ex-shop door once again to be greeted by Mr X.  In the front room was a lavish spread of sandwiches neatly cut into triangles and platefuls of fresh cream cakes.  Beside the sofa were two crates, one of beer and the other with assorted bottles of R Whites fizzy drinks.

On the sofa sat a girl of about 8 or 9 who, I assumed would be either Mr X’s daughter or another guest.  What PB had mentioned after my first visit here had completely gone from my mind.

We enjoyed our tea: Mr X, PB and the girl drinking beers while I had some cherryade and cream soda.  In fact I made rather a pig of myself on the cream cakes, and at the end of the meal PB said he had to get home and I was left with Mr X and the girl.  Shortly Mr X said he needed the loo and disappeared into the back room.

Very shortly the girl, head bowed and bleary eyed which I assumed was the effect of the alcohol, began sliding along the sofa towards me and then began touching my inner thigh.  As she began undoing a button on my trousers I recoiled with shock, telling her that she had to stop.  Thankfully she did so and after a minute or two the toilet was flushed and we heard Mr X washing his hands, after which he re-entered smiling at me.

“Well, I guess it’s time for you to go home,” he said showing me the door, and so I left rather hurriedly.  Behind the now closed door I could hear Mr X shouting shrilly at the poor girl who was crying loudly.  I was too scared to do anything and walked back to Manston, shaking all the way.  Bugs must have realised by my demeanour that something was wrong, but I was too scared that I might be in real trouble to say anything.  I went to bed early and hid under the bedcovers and still trembling fell into a fitful sleep.

The next day PB dragged me aside and told me in a language I dare not repeat here that I was useless and not worth wasting time on.  He told me that Mr X had been watching through a peephole in the wall and was angry that nothing had happened.  He had beaten the girl for not trying hard enough and almost come to blows with PB for bringing a useless person such as me there in the first place.  He also warned me that if I said anything the police would get involved and I would probably end up in jail.  I was in fear of prison, after all my record thus far was not the best, so I remained silent throughout my time in care.  Later, in adult life, I mentioned it to my mother but until now it has remained only with me and her.

I was afraid and ashamed and with hindsight I wish I had said something to Bugs and possibly have saved the girl and other kids from that nasty man.  As it was I never visited Mr X again, and soon forgot, or chose to forget, the incident had ever happened.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #132 on: December 22, 2014, 17:23:03 »
Despite my protestations, when we returned to school following the Christmas holiday, I remained in class 1B.  Alan on the other hand, whose birthday was in November, moved from the junior school to Hereson seniors and was placed in class 1C which meant that at one year and five months older I was in the same year as him.  He was quite content in his class and fitted in well with the boys but both of us wondered why this situation was allowed to continue.  My bad behaviour continued throughout that term although my truancy record improved but was only because of the cold weather, after all it was warmer in class that wandering the streets and countryside in the snow.

Easter came and with the weather improving I was looking forward to getting out and about in the warmer weather when we returned to school after the holiday.  Thus when I returned on the first day to class 1B I was surprised to be told by my teacher to report to class 2A.  I had no idea why but when I knocked on the door and entered, which was at that time common courtesy, I was greeted cheerfully by a slim well-dressed teacher and directed to an unoccupied desk.

“As you may realise,” said the teacher in a straight forward manner.  “Unfortunately for two terms you have been placed in the wrong year and the wrong stream; the error has now been corrected and I hope your behaviour improves befitting your new status.”

I was astounded.  Had my protestations finally been effective?  I was not to discover the reason until over 50 years later.

When I was taken to court the previous year an error was made in my date of birth and I was believed to be born in 1947, so that when I was made a ward of the court I was on the record as being a year younger than my actual age.  Despite numerous attempts by the authorities to verify my correct birth date, my mother continuously refused to provide a birth certificate or indicate where I had been registered.  During the eight or so months since I had been placed in care mum had moved to several addresses in an attempt to avoid police and social services from getting any information.  How they finally got my birth certificate is not in the documents I received in 2014.

I was advised by my new teacher that as I had lost almost a whole year I would have to ‘get down to it’ if I wanted to catch up with the rest of the class.  So ‘get on down to it’ I did, and worked harder and with more determination than I ever had before.  Gone was the rebel in me, I had finally found my rightful place and became the perfect student.  I suddenly found new friends and fitted in well with them, after dinner and before the afternoon lessons we would often play a quick round at the pitch and putt course at Dumpton, the only sport I really ever enjoyed playing.  Some of us would meet up at Ramsgate and go swimming or watching the boats leaving the harbour for sunnier climes.

One ‘friend’ in particular was not such a friend and took me down a particularly murky path.  Happily I realised what was happening and no harm was done.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #131 on: December 16, 2014, 15:53:14 »
Although my behaviour at school was quite intolerable I was rarely punished.  Detention was never an option because the Manston boys had only a few buses they could catch in the allotted times set out on their bus passes and even when I fully deserved a rap over the knuckles or a whack on the backside with either of the aforementioned rules, it was rarely administered.  At the end of the school day we would walk twenty minutes or so to the bus stop and catch a normal service bus back to Manston: we could catch any bus between four and 5.30pm.  Outside of these times meant a long walk home.

Often after school, on days when I had been especially disruptive, I would be summoned to Mr. Johnson’s office at the main house.  We would sit and chat for a long while about my behaviour, Mr Johnson listening sympathetically, while I let out my feelings, sometimes angrily but mostly with in frustration at my feeling of inadequacy.  On one occasion Mr. Johnson asked what my father would think if he knew what I had done, which made me even angrier.

“I don’t have a father!”  I snapped.  “For all I know he’s dead, I just don’t care.”

This was true:  my father had left home before Alan was born so I did not have any memories of him at all.  He had deserted us and left us in poverty, and as such deserved nothing but our loathing.  Strangely, Alan did not feel this way.  He wanted a father and wished he had not lost the one who left before he was born.  We both had needs, he to find out all he could about our father, I to be allowed to forget he ever existed.

Whilst I was the lonely rebel, Alan was the complete opposite.  Although not bright he settled into school and worked happily to his abilities, never absent and always cheerful, mixing well with other children and adults alike.  I found solace in books, an old battered guitar and a harmonica.  I would sit on a dustbin in the yard strumming while the other kids would be off playing somewhere, or sitting in the study reading another true story of heroism from a great flying ace.

Throughout my bad times the one constant was my friend Moose, who supported and remained with me for the next two years until his parents were finally given back custody and he left the home and my life forever.

With Christmas fast approaching many of the children were looking forward to a visit by their parents as others expected to go home to their parents for the holiday.  Alan and I had no such expectations, he was not happy that neither mum or an absent father would be visiting.  I on the other hand cared not a jot about father and, although sorry that mum would not be visiting, I accepted that her finances were such that a visit would be out of the question.

On Christmas morning with almost half of the children from each cottage elsewhere we opened our presents.  Expecting very little I watched as the other kids one by one gleefully took their gifts and tore away the wrapping, gasping with unfettered delight at their gifts.  When my turn came I was handed two parcels by a smiling Bugs and Jif.

I opened the smaller one first and was pleasantly surprised to find a set of three harmonicas, one in the key of C another in G and the third in A.  I was quite happy to forgo the second, much larger parcel, and play my new harmonicas.  After a few minutes of playing both Bugs and Jif suggested I open the second package and with encouragement from the other children, I reluctantly knocked the liquid from the each in turn and replaced them in their individual boxes.

I began carefully removing the wrapping but as soon as I saw the picture and legend on the box I stared in amazement at what I saw.  Opening the box carefully I beheld the most exciting gift I had ever seen.  A fur lined leather case, an ornately decorated leather strap, a set of strings, a tuner and the most beautiful, polished brand new full sized acoustic guitar I had ever seen.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #130 on: December 15, 2014, 21:40:03 »
Errata.  I started that first term in class 1b not 2b, looking further into my record I find I was a year out in my recollections.  Apologies for the error.

I could never understand why winter sports and games, when the weather was harsh and snow lay on the ground, we schoolboys had to wear shorts and, more often than not, short sleeved shirts, whereas during the warm summer long trousers and long thick jumpers were the required apparel.

Cross country running!  Now there’s a misnomer.  The nearest thing to countryside we ever saw was the front gardens of a few posh houses and an occasional tree set in the middle of the footpath near the centre of town.  I despised the thought of running on the hard pavements and crossing tar covered roads simply to run in a circle to arrive back from whence I started.   I was not afraid to run; far from it.  I could outrun a farmer with my shirt full of apples or pears scrumped from an orchard, I could even outrun the foreman from the coke yard at Gillingham whilst pushing a pram laden with purloined coke.  No, running was not the problem; it was pointless running that I disliked.

Invariably I would run the first half mile or so then, when I was sure the games master was not in sight, I would slow to a brisk walk which I would continue until nearing the end of the course when I would pick up the pace and romp home feeling quite refreshed.  Whereas the main body of the class would complete their run in 20 or 30 minutes my efforts would use the best part of 2 hours.  Eventually I took to carrying a book with me and would read a few chapters on my stroll.  On one occasion I became so engrossed in my reading that I very nearly reached the outskirts of Margate before I realised where I was.  By the time I arrived back at school the day had finished and all the boys had left for home.  Most of the teachers and half of the county police force were engaged in a city wide search, so I was told by the school caretaker.  I quickly changed, without taking the obligatory shower, and made my way back to Manston.

To say I was a disruptive at school would be an understatement.  I complained often and forcibly each time I was sent to the headmaster that I should have been in the second year, and while sympathetic he insisted that I was not old enough to be in that group.  It was only after I had retired and researched my history that I discovered why I had been placed during the first term in the wrong age group, but at the time the only part of schooling I really enjoyed was playing truant, which became even more frequent as this and the second term progressed.

School dinners, when I actually was at school were, for the boys from the children’s’ home free, which was somewhat of a bone of contention for the fee paying majority and was another reason for the almost daily ribbing. There was always an opportunity for second helping of ‘afters’, or pudding, and if there was any remaining after all they boys had been served, dinner supervisor would ask if anyone would like seconds and a sea of eager hands would shoot up, mine included.

Invariably I and other boys from the Leys would be selected first to a chorus of protest.  The supervisor, who in those days would be a teacher working on a rota, would explain that we boys were unlucky and had no parents whilst the others had families to go home to every night to have a decent meal.  The inevitable ribbing was worth suffering for the lovely second helping of jam roly poly, spotted dick or, my favourite, gypsy tart.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #129 on: December 10, 2014, 16:41:13 »
Schooling throughout that first term was hard, not because I found the work too difficult, it was that it was so simple as to be boring.  I found it hard to concentrate or take interest in the lesson at hand, but still able to complete all academic exercises and tests quickly and easily.  As with my clean, new uniform which seemed to make me a target for ribbing, so my academic abilities brought what could only be described as a jealousy from almost all of my classmates, which led to even further ribbing which, as the term progressed became outright and constant bullying.

I was not a big lad then and to say I took the bullying in my stride would be untrue;  I may have hidden my feelings, but deep inside me I had a dread of facing each new day at school.

Compulsory games were another thing I despised, particularly football which I hated then as I do still to this day. Cross country running, I considered a total waste of time since that and football both had no academic merits whatever.  Often I would be told by the games masters that I needed to toughen up:  just as often I would wonder why!  Even PE or PT- physical education or physical training – take your pick, tended to be an annoying distraction to me.

On one occasion we were ordered to do a series of exercises on the equipment starting with a spring onto the horse.  From there we had to take a rope handed to us by the gym teacher and swing out then drop in a graceful arc to the floor, back curved back arms raised above the head, followed by a forward roll on the mat and on to the next piece of equipment.  As we lined up, me being pushed to the last place as usual, the gym teacher ordered the first boy to start off.  The boy took a run at the springboard and landed well on the horse, grabbed the rope and took a not too graceful swing to.  The next boy was then ordered to start his run.

In theory this should have given each boy a chance to clear the next obstacle before the following boy reached it.  In practise this proved not to be the case, and before it was time for me to proceed there were at least two, sometimes three boys running on the spot waiting to work each piece of equipment.

“Go Hayes,” ordered the master, and I went!

I hit the springboard, bent my knees as we had been shown and landed perfectly on the horse. I took the rope which was handed to me and swung out in a perfect arc and landed on my feet, took a forward roll and sprang to attention at the end of the mat.

“Well done, Hayes,” called the master, “now go back to the start and wait!”  I wondered what I had done wrong as I walked dejectedly back to the starting point.  Soon the rest of the class had reached the end of the course, leaving me sweating with fear at the start.

“You blithering shower!” bellowed the teacher with a roar which shook the walls, “can’t you lot do anything right?”  I cowered in dread; if he was angry with the rest of the class, how much more furious could he be with me.

“You, Smith,” he ranted at one boy.  “Can’t you walk along a balance beam without falling on your backside?  And Jones you must be afraid of heights on those wall bars?”  He continued his rant, forcibly pointing out the faults of several boys in turn.  “You’re all a bunch of fairies, you can’t even swing off the horse and do a forward roll without making a complete mess of it all!”

He turned towards me as I cowered even more:  what terrible wrath would I be in for from this fuming demon!

“Well done, Hayes,” he said calmly.  “Now show these clumsy dolts how to start properly.”

All eyes fell on me!  I felt strangely pleased that my efforts had been good enough to be used as an example of how it should be performed.  “Off you go Hayes, and show ‘em what you’re made of!”.

I took the short run up and hit the springboard dead centre, sailing up and onto the horse.  I took the rope and swung out, misjudging my swing in the process.  I released too late, but still tried to curve my back as I had done so well before, then started the forward roll.  Unfortunately I was still in mid flight and landed on the back of my neck on the hard wooden floor.  I am sure I heard my neck crack alarmingly as well as the laughter of the entire class of clumsy dolts  before I blacked out.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #128 on: December 08, 2014, 15:21:18 »
I have difficulty in placing all the events at Manston over the next three years in correct chronological order which, like the description of the Vulcan, although true, may have occurred in any of the three summer holidays I spent at the Leys.  I shall thus include my memories in no particular order, although they fall into three distinct areas.  Days at school, holidays and after school events, and these will be in no particular order.

All too soon the holidays were over and both Alan and I faced our first day at school.  Alan, being two years younger than I, would be attending the junior school whilst I would be at Hereson School for boys.  I think Alan was a little apprehensive as this would be the first day at a completely new school.  I on the other hand was not in the least concerned.  My record of attendances at previous schools was not exemplary so I thought that I could easily play truant if I decided it was not to my liking.

Mosse, my newly found best friend had instructions to make sure I got to the school and was taken to the correct class, then at the end of the day was to make sure I got back to the Leys safely.

A group of fifty or so of us walked accompanied by one ‘Uncle’ to the end of the road where a bus stop stood beside the small church with its small tower which housed a single bell.  When the bus arrived we all scrambled aboard; we all carried bus passes upon which were our names and ages, although mine had no age printed on it.  They also had the name of the school which we were attending stamped on them and the bus routes and time limits in which they were valid.  I seem to remember they also had photograph of us in our uniforms.

The bus took us along Manston Road towards Ramsgate, and at some point en route it turned left into a short road at the end of which was a turning point and a school.  This was the drop off point for the juniors and as Alan alighted with the ‘Uncle’ who had accompanied us and half of the younger children, he seemed a little nervous, but with a little encouragement from me and ‘Uncle’ he walked into the school.

The rickety old bus then made its way back along the road, turning left at the end, continuing on its way to Ramsgate, where we were dropped off.  The few senior girls went off in a small group and soon took a right fork in the road as we boys; breaking into smaller groups of our own, took the left fork walking at a leisurely pace towards Lilian Road and Hereson School, a walk of some 20 minutes or more.  One boy, older than me, turned off shouting his goodbyes to the group he had just left.  He was a Roman Catholic boy and was heading towards the RC Church School of St. Augustine`s, if memory serves me correctly.

We arrived at the gates just as the large bell fixed high on the outside wall rang:  most of the school knew where their respective classes were so Moose took me into the hall where four teachers stood.  He then retreated into the bowels of the school leaving me with a group of about 60 boys whose names were called alphabetically and assigned to one of three teachers; these I learned later were the batch of first year boys of 1a, 1b and 1c.  Soon they were led away by their respective teachers leaving me alone with a rather stocky, thick necked man in a well worn tweed jacket and scruffy, un-pressed trousers.

“And you must be Hayes, Anthony,” he grinned.  “Follow me, you’re in 2b!”

His broad accent indicated that he was not from Kent.  “My name is Mr. Edwards,” he continued as I followed him through the double doors, into a corridor flanked by classrooms on both sides and up a flight of wide stairs to another corridor almost three times the length of the first.  “You will probably call me Taffy behind my back, everybody else does, but don’t let me hear you or it’s six of the best!”


He strode purposely through a heavy door into room five where a crowd of boys were chatting loudly, waving their hands about energetically.  As the doors swung shut, hitting me fully in the face, the room hushed.

“Come in for goodness sake, Hayes,” called Mr. Edwards as I held my sore, possibly broken nose.  “Stop fooling around!”

I was directed to a desk next to an extremely thuggish looking hulk with an evil grin permanently affixed to his face.  Most of the boys, this being their second year, were wearing last term`s uniforms, obviously well worn and not looking their best.  On the other hand, I was smartly dressed in my brand new uniform.  Thus I stood out like a sore thumb, becoming for that first week the object of 2b’s scorn.

That first day I learned about the two rules, the first a wooden one a yard long, the other, smaller wooden one a foot long.  Each was use to measure and draw lines, the bigger one with chalk on a blackboard, the smaller on paper with a pencil.  That was not their primary purpose, however, they were designed mainly for punishment, the larger being used to whack across ones backside, the smaller on the palm or knuckle of the hand, not mine I might add, mostly the thuggish brute next to me, thankfully.

The rest of the morning was spent mainly with sorting the weekly timetables, in which room each subject would be taught and by which teacher.  After the school dinner, more of which I will write later, we were treated to a double class of English and a single class of maths, both of which I enjoyed thoroughly.

At the end of the school day I met up with Moose and we made our way back to where we were dropped off by bus earlier and caught the returning bus home.  That, then was my first day at Hereson.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #127 on: December 06, 2014, 17:35:17 »
By the time we reached Manston after the weeks’ holiday, the next cottage, 7/8 had departed so they, like us, had no idea where they were heading.  There were, however the other cottages, and before too long the story that they needed welly boots and heavy rain coats had spread far and wide.  We warned all and sundry that they would be housed in tents for the duration no matter what and the weather in Hastings was always stormy.

The following week it was the turn of 9/10 who had to be almost forcibly dragged onto their coach.  As they disappeared round the corner the 7/8 coach arrived and our story was soon put to rest, as 7/8 soon related that they had arrived at Shear Barn Farm and had been billeted in luxury caravans for the duration.   So it was that every cottage from then onwards got to be in luxury caravans.  It seemed to be just our luck to have the indignity of being bunged in a leaky tent!

The next five weeks of that summer were spent exploring the countryside further, meeting and chatting with the local farmers or sitting at the edge of the airfield as close to the runway as we dared watching the huge transporters carrying Volkswagen cars.  Street signs in and around the airport began to spring up with strange words on them, fahren auf der linken and and other such incomprehensible stuff, which I guessed at the time were to tell foreign drivers to drive on the left.  On one occasion as we crossed the airfield near the start of the runway there was a great, deafening, roar and through the heat haze we saw a heavy jet slowly rise into the air at a very steep angle and slowly disappear into the sky.  We stared mesmerised at this screaming beast until all that remained was the slowly fading roar and our ringing ears.  This was the first and only time we saw a Vulcan at the airfield and it was the only time we saw a jet powered aircraft fly at Manston as well.

Occasionally we would be taken on little outings by the staff, usually Bugs and Jif, but most of the time we were left to our own devices.  Saturdays when we had pocket money we might visit Ramsgate and go swimming at the lido, at other times we would walk to Broadstairs where there was a 9 hole practice golf course and for a few pence one could hire a putter and a heavier iron and compete amongst each other individually or in teams.   If we had no cash or had nothing better to do the boys would organise a game of cricket or just kick an old ball around, the girls would play tennis on the court or the usual skipping or juggling balls against a wall.  Occasionally we would play a game of kick the can or make some French arrows, much the same as many children just about everywhere in England would do in those heady days.

However, all things come to an end, and School loomed ever closer!
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #126 on: December 03, 2014, 13:44:22 »
The rain beat mercilessly on the tent as the wind threatened to take it over the cliffs and into the sea beyond while seventeen boys huddled in the middle of the groundsheet as the torrent from uphill, directed by the trench, leeched under the walls, swamping their sleeping bags and saturating their rucksacks and contents.

Finally, unable to suffer the onslaught further, the soaked, bedraggled boys deserted their tent and sought out Bugs’ caravan.  After hammering on the door for several minutes Bugs appeared in his pyjamas and dressing gown, rubbing his eyes and yawning.

Seeing our obvious distress Bugs grabbed a torch and ran towards the tent.  He slid a few yards then slipped over, continuing his headlong journey on his backside until he reached the trench which stopped him dead in his tracks.  Struggling to his feet he scrambled up the hill, now as wet and bedraggled and certainly muddier than we boys.

“Come on boys he yelled,” above the approaching thunder, and led us up to the reception building.  Reception was close so Bugs told us to wait and he disappeared through the door to the clubroom where a band was playing that year`s hits.  The music stopped abruptly and we heard muttering through the thick door which opened shortly afterwards.  Bugs appeared followed by about fifty men.

“Wait here boys,” called Bugs as he swept through the outer door and into the night, followed by all the men.  As we waited we were invited by a lady to go into the clubroom where we were told to sit on the floor in front of the stage.  The band, most of them seemingly not much older than most of us began playing rock and roll as a few members of the residential staff appeared with piles of towels.  We were led to the club toilets where we got ourselves dry before Bugs appeared carrying a selection of trousers and pyjamas which we readily and happily donned.

Now dry we were once again taken to the front of the hall and sat on chairs in front of the stage where the band were still performing.  In the meantime staff had opened the kitchen and soon presented us all with a bowl of hot soup and a roll which we consumed gratefully.  Other staff had raided the store room and had made up beds with piles of blankets in the cellar below.

When we had warmed up and had enjoyed a free concert we were ushered away to the cellar to settle down for the night.  As the sound of the band reverberated through the ceiling we tried to sleep, but it was an impossible task and we lay wide awake in the darkness talking above the noise into the early hours of the morning when the noise from above died down and the camp and we boys went to sleep.

We were awoken at 8 o’clock that same morning and, protesting loudly taken to the restaurant for breakfast, still in the clothes we had worn in our makeshift beds. During breakfast we were greeted by families and individuals, mostly children, telling us whose trousers or pyjamas we were wearing, and before long we had learned the full story of events from the night before.

Bugs had leaped on the stage and appealed for help from the patrons and almost all the men immediately offered assistance.  Whilst some had followed Bugs to the tent and rescued our sodden belongings, others had taken some of their own children’s clothing from their caravans so we had something to wear.  Staff had been called in to make the beds and soup as others took our wet clothes to the onsite laundrette where they were washed and dried ready for the next day.  We found many new friends that night and their kindness and efforts throughout the next few days is testament to a much kinder time than that of our busy commercialised world of today.

We spent the next night in the cellar but in the meantime an old caravan that had reached the end of its’ useful life and about to be removed from the site was brought into service and one that was not being used was prepared so that we would be more comfortable even though we were a bit overcrowded.  The main thing is we were dry and warm for the rest of the week.

Apart from this little hiccup the holiday went well.  We spent a lot of time exploring the fields and cliffs, swimming and visiting the delights of Hastings.  We visited the Abbey at a village called Battle on the outskirts of Hastings and the site where the famous Battle of Hastings took place.  I mentioned to our guide that it was a fortunate coincidence that the actual battle took place at Battle, but it should have been called the Battle of Battle, which caused great jollity.

Another event worth a mention was the Mystery Tour, a typical piece of seaside fayre at the time, in which you go on a bus or coach and are taken to a destination which is known only by the driver.

This particular all day tour had been booked by KCC but they were not advised or aware of the destination.  This was at the coach company’s discretion.  We boarded the coach early that morning and off we went, we followed the coast eastward and after crossing into Kent were well on our way to Canterbury before Bugs decided to ask the driver what our destination was to be.  He was told we were headed to Ramsgate, so after much heated exchange between Bugs and driver, it was decided that Dover was the best alternative at this late hour.

This was to be my first visit to Dover castle, but certainly not my last, and was probably what first got me interested in historic buildings.

After  an hour or so exploring the castle and keep we had a picnic lunch before being taken into Dover to wander along the front to view the ferries plying their trade before returning to Hastings.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #125 on: December 02, 2014, 16:18:04 »
My apologies for the delay in continuing my story, I put it down to writers block, a fine excuse but pretty reasonable considering I have been loathe to put pen to paper recently.  Finally the creative juices have begun flowing once again and I am ready to enter the fray, so here goes!

"We're all going on a summer holiday"

During the week following the sports day preparations in our cottage got under way for our annual summer holiday.  Each cottage would be taken to the same destination over the next six weeks and this year it was the turn of 5/6 to go first and our destination was Hastings.  We were going to be staying at a caravan holiday village called Shear Barn Farm at the quaintly named Barley Lane just on the outskirts of Hastings and you can imagine our excitement as we boarded the rickety coach on Saturday morning.  Certainly for Alan and I, this was our first real summer holiday, a great adventure.

We arrived at the park and the girls were taken to their caravans, three in all, and the boys were taken to an open, steeply sloping field from where there was a breathtaking view of the sea.

“Where are our caravans, Bugs?”  We asked, a little concerned at the apparent oversight.

“You don’t need caravans,” laughed Uncle Basil, a grin on his face.  “You’re men; you won’t be sleeping in girly caravans!”

Behind us the coach driver had climbed onto the roof of the old charabanc and was tossing down our rucksacks and a few heavy looking muslin bags.  These contained a huge tent, poles and guy ropes and, according to Bugs, were to be our home for the next week; at least that was the plan.

The next hour was spent struggling to erect this huge military style tent, a remnant from Bugs’ RAF days.

“Pull these main guy ropes back,” ordered Bugs, taking a rope and pulling it back.  “That way you won’t trip over them and they’ll hold the tent in high winds.”

Following his instructions and with a few light hearted “Yes, Sir, Corporal, Sir’s”, we finally had the tent erected to his satisfaction, although we were not too sure that it looked safe since it leaned downwards towards the cliff edge at a rather steep angle.

“Just one more little job to do,” Bugs called cheerfully as he strolled towards the reception building, calling back as he disappeared round the corner, “then we can get some dinner.”   That final few words cheered us somewhat as it was now approaching the middle of the afternoon and we were getting a little hungry.

He returned shortly thereafter pushing a wheelbarrow carrying a dozen or so garden spades and forks.  He explained that we had to dig a horseshoe shaped trench a foot or so uphill of the tent so that in the event of heavy rain the water running downhill would be diverted around the tent, keeping us dry.  In theory this was a sound idea:  in practice, as you will see, our efforts were in vain.

First we were told to take the top few inches of turf and put it in the wheelbarrow so that we could replace it at the end of the week.  Then we dug to a depth of six inches or so and put the soil and lumps of chalk in two piles about 10 feet away from each side of the tent.

At about five o’clock, when Bugs was satisfied with our efforts, the ground sheet was laid and our rucksacks were put in the tent. 

“Time for dinner lads,” called Bugs cheerily, grabbing the wheelbarrow full of garden tools and heading off up the hill.

Dinner time for us was from about noon ‘til one, so at five o’clock we were well on our way to death by starvation!  We followed Bugs round the side of the reception building and were told to go to the nearby toilet to get cleaned up.

The reception was in actual fact just a small part of the building, the rest housed a clubroom and bar as well as a restaurant, and we were to have most of our meals here.

When we entered the restaurant we couldn’t help but notice that the girls were already there eating a tea of freshly cut sandwiches and cakes with fine pots of tea and jugs of juice on all tables, all very delicious looking.  As we sat at our tables the staff plonked rather sad looking dried up fish with soggy chips and wrinkly peas in front of each of us.

Amid the expected cries of protest we were to that the girls had eaten their dinner at the right time and were now having tea, whereas our dinner had been waiting in the ovens for five hours.  Hungry, we devoured everything on our plates before we were allowed to have some bread and jam and cups of tea.

After dinner, or in the case of the girls, tea, and a short rest “to let your meal go down” we were taken down the hill to the cliff edge where we descended some steps to the beach where we were allowed to paddle for a while  and explore the rock pools scattered about.

After an hour or so of exploration we began the steep climb back to the camp.  “Where are you sleeping tonight, Bugs?”  Someone asked as we neared our tent.

“In that caravan over there,” he replied, “with Jiff and Dee.”

So much for us “men in a tent” and “girly caravans”!

 The wind was picking up and storm clouds were gathering as we retired for the night.  Perhaps Bugs’ guy rope settings and trench might get tested before the night was over.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #124 on: October 14, 2014, 20:22:43 »
Southborough

When my brother and I first arrived at Southborough we were in the clothes we had been wearing at the time we appeared for sentencing, and were those we had been wearing for at least three or four days prior to that at home.  These were our only clothes and were laundered in an old tin tub at the weekends ready for the next weeks wear.  I was wearing my oldest brother’s ‘hand me down’ shoes, my younger brother wore those that once were mine, and before that my eldest brother`s.  They were badly fitting but all we had: mine were wearing thin on the soles and my younger brother’s actually had worn so badly that they were of little protection even in light rain.

Thus, on arrival at Park House we were provided with clean, but not necessary new clothes, included were vests, a garment which we had never seen or even worn before.

I recall that the next day we were taken to Tunbridge Wells and were measured for correct fitting shoes. When measuring our feet, the salesman commented on our deformed toes and, in hushed discussion with the House Parent who had accompanied us, he suggested that due to the abuse our feet had suffered in regards to poor fitting shoes at a very young age, it was likely that remedial action would be only partially successful.  Moulds were made of our feet and we were invited to return in a few hours when the shoes would be ready. After a walk around the town we ended up at the Pantiles and were taken to a small café where we enjoyed an afternoon tea with a few cakes, as I recall, a rare delicacy, before we finally found ourselves back at the shoe shop. This was the first time in our young lives that we actually owned a pair of new shoes and with the supports fitted they were extremely comfortable and like nothing I had ever before experienced. Sadly, the salesman was correct, and the second smallest toes on both my feet remain badly deformed to this day.

At the home there were rules and these were not, to my knowledge ever broken.  It would be fair to say that once the rules were explained there was no question or protest, we simply did not attempt breaking them; they were simply accepted and adhered to.  In the three months I was there I do not recall any infringements or punishments of any severity.  Most of the children were orphans or from broken homes and were used to a hand to mouth subsistence, so to actually have three good meals a day, as well as pocket money and fairly good fitting, clean clothes gave us good reason not to misbehave in case we were punished and sent away to somewhere that did not provide such comforts.  Yes we could be naughty at times, but any punishment would involve simply being sent to bed half an hour early or losing part or all of your pocket money, which was then returned to you the following week with that week`s money, meaning you had twice as much to spend.  (This usually meant many sweets were shared in the dormitory on a Saturday night for a midnight feast.)

Every morning at 7.00am we were woken and were allowed an hour to make our beds, have a strip wash then get dressed before an 8.00am breakfast.  On reading my records, supplied by the Kent County Council under the freedom of information act, it was recorded that I was rather effeminate in my demeanour, which probably explains my reluctance at the time to be seen naked among so many boys.  In fact, from the very beginning I would hold back until most of the boys had finished in the wash room before I would enter wrapped in the largest bath towel I could find so that by the time I had washed most of them would be downstairs in the dining hall.

On schooldays (Monday to Friday) breakfast would be over at about 8.45am and there was just a short while before assembly.  This was similar to those at all schools in those days and consisted of a prayer followed by a hymn, a talk or sermon by the head houseparent, a second hymn and prayers followed by the Lords’ Prayer, after which we were dismissed to go to our respective classes.  There were two rooms permanently used as classrooms and the dining room served as a class for the youngest children who needed more space for their activities.

Dinners were the same as dinners at most schools of that time, nourishing and delicious.  Meat pies, shepherd’s pie, pasties and stews were served from large rectangular tins in huge portions, whilst mashed, boiled or sometimes roast potatoes were spooned onto the plates from equally large pots, as were various vegetables, two types every day.  You never knew whether it would be cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts, carrots or peas, all were slapped on the plate whether you like it or not!  This was followed by ‘afters’ which could be anything from treacle sponge to chocolate pudding or apple pie all served with lashings of custard.  Sometimes we would be served cold apple pie with cream, fruit or jelly with ice cream, or my all time favourite gypsy tart.  Please don’t ask, I believe it was made with condensed cream with some flavouring on a pastry base, thick and sweet and creamy, the taste was really indescribable and totally scrumptious!

There were three classes, generally conforming to the three age groups of school at the time, these being infants, juniors and seniors.  There was no streaming so each class had children of various ages within the age ranges described and of all abilities; the infants were aged between about five and seven or eight, the juniors aged up to 11 and the seniors from 11 to 14 years of age.  Those of an above average intelligence were held back and those below average had difficulty in keeping up, the only ones to benefit were those children who were in the middle bracket of each class, so to speak.

Although I had spent some two thirds of my entire school life up to this point playing truancy, it was a surprise to discover that I was well above average for my age and was placed within a few days in the senior class where I fitted in well.  I also latched onto a boy in the junior class who was having great difficulty in learning, and I would help him before breakfast, during morning and afternoon ‘playtimes’, and during the lunch breaks.

A report from the home to KCC Social department recorded my involvement in helping this boy and there were recommendations that some changes in the system could be implemented to assist those who were having learning difficulties.  I do recall some of the older children were seconded to the two younger classes as what would these days be called class assistants.

At the end of the school day there was about two hours free before tea was served.  The older children were allowed to stroll around Southborough and play in the nearby park, whilst the younger ones remained within the grounds.

Tea was usually a light meal compared to breakfast and dinner:  usually something cold such as sandwiches or salads, with bread and butter, cold squashes or hot tea.  Other times it might be beans on toast or fried bread, toast and jam and so on.

By today’s standards it would seem we were indulging in extremely unhealthy and fattening diets, but this was offset by the fact we spent most of our free time burning off any excesses in sports and outside games.

Following tea everyone had some homework to complete for marking the next day.  I would once again help my young friend with his.

Bed times were in four stages, younger children would be sent off at 7.30pm and would have a strip wash before bed.  They would be followed at 8.00pm by the next age group, who again would have a ‘strippie’, the third age group who were all required to take a bath at least twice a week between ‘strippies’, and finally at about 9.30 to 10.00pm the oldest group who had to take a quick bath every night.  I discovered that, as we boys got older, we gave off body odours which were unpleasant to the girls, and as the girls got older, they gave off body odours that made the boys bodies do strange things, hence the older you got the more baths you had to take.  Suffice to say, when I enquired; the nurse said I was too young to understand what these so called strange things were: and indeed so I was.

During the week if an item of clothing was particularly dirty or soiled it was replaced with clean one, but those of us who were able to remain pretty clean by the standards of the day, would need a change of clothes only on Saturday.  As well as a set of clean clothes we also had to remove the bottom sheet from our beds and use the top sheet on the bottom and add a clean sheet on the top, so each sheet would serve as a top sheet for seven days and a bottom sheet for the following seven.  Everybody had to take their clothes and the sheet downstairs where they were taken by a houseparent who inspected them before dropping them into a large laundry bin.  Both the boys and the girls under pants were scrutinised, I was never sure why!

Following breakfast each Saturday pocket money was doled out to each child, the amount depending on the child’s age.  The oldest and some of the slightly younger responsible children had the whole day to themselves.  We would often travel unaccompanied into Tunbridge Wells to go swimming at the municipal baths. Others would go to Saturday morning cinema, either at Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells.  There were no restrictions providing there were no reports or complaints from anyone in authority, there never were!  When we were hungry we could either buy something to eat, or travel back to Park House and get a sandwich.

The younger children were escorted by the house parents on little outings and trips, either to local parks or further afield to the cinema, swimming baths and other activities.  If they were in the local parks a picnic lunch was supplied, if further afield each child carried a packed lunch in a satchel.

Tea was much the same as any other day, after which the older children were allowed to study or rest in a small room set aside for them as the youngsters played in the garden or in the large playroom.  Bed times were slightly later than those on schooldays.

On Sundays after breakfast we had to sit quietly and read from the extensive library of children’s books for all ages before being gathered together to walk to church.  We would arrive at about 9.45 and be led to the front where we would be herded into the first two or three rows of pews.  The service would start promptly at ten o’clock and at eleven all the children including some local residents and some from the Dr. Barnardo’s Home nearby would take part in Sunday school classes until twelve.

Half an hour after dinner we were all taken to a local park where we would play rounders or cricket with the youngsters, while some of the older children were allowed to wander off and watch the local cricket teams in their whites play.  Sometimes we would take a bat of our own and play cricket using a tree as the wickets.  Another favourite ‘sport’ was hiding in the trees, often in the high branches, ready to pounce on the Dr. Barnardo’s kids as they passed by.  For some reason, never fully explained, they were considered the enemy and we were expected to beat them up or be beaten up by them.  Fortunately in all the time I was there we never saw a single Dr. Barnardo’s resident in that park and never became involved in any pitched battles.

Once again, tea and bed times were much the same as any other, which takes us back once more to schooldays and another week of excitement and adventure, for that is exactly what it was to a boy like me!
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #123 on: October 14, 2014, 20:21:17 »
Hi folks, have been rather busy of late, but am back and was preparing to continue my story.

Several months ago I contacted the Southborough History Society (apologies if I got the title slightly wrong) regarding information on childrens homes in the area so I could determine the name of the one I was sent to.  It was only when a reply to a freedom of information request to Kent CC was granted that I was finally able to piece together a little of my story.

I then gave the gentleman from Southborough History Forum a link so he was able to read it here.

Suddenly, from out of the blue, I received an e-mail asking if they could use the Southborough piece in their bi-annual newsletter, which I agreed to, they also asked if I could add something about the day to day life in the home, with particular emphasis on meals, bed times, discipline and punishment.  Thus I wrote a few pages from memory and with further in depth reading of the reams of information I had received from the KCC social services department.

I was determined to continue my story tonight but, making jam today, I dropped a bubbling jar of hot apple and blackberry jam onto my arm and hand.  I am unable to use my hand so will not be writing anything for a day or two, this piece is being written by my landlady, so I thought it might be an opportune time to copy what I have written for the Southborough History Society.

Here follows Memories of life in Park House, Southborough gleaned, as I have already said, from my poor memory and information supplied by Social Services.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline busyglen

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #122 on: July 24, 2014, 19:53:16 »
I could really picture this.....must have been great fun! :)
A smile is a curve that straightens things out.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #121 on: July 23, 2014, 20:48:51 »
The afternoons proceedings, and which cottage won the highest accolade is lost to memory through time and is not of much significance.  What I really mean is I don’t remember, except that 5/6 failed miserably!

The games however were not over, a huge inflatable ball of about 5 feet in diameter was rolled onto the football pitch and a horde of burly boys and equally burly girls in red and blue shirts ran onto the field.  This was the human ball match; a team made up of the biggest kids from the first three cottages were taking on a team from the last three. As Moose was taking part and since he was by far the largest person on the field, it seemed that his team was bound to win, even though there seemed to be more players in opposition.

The whistle blew and just about every player charged the ball.  Moose struck the ball hard and several players from both teams were sent sprawling as the ball wobbled and vibrated at the unnatural forces put on it.  There were no goals but with the posts removed from each end the idea was to get the ball over the opposition goal line to score a goal.

Like a tank, Moose lumbered towards the line pushing all and sundry aside, including some of his own team!  Just short of the line he stopped and turned to face the cheering spectators.  “Hey, Gabby,” he called.  Gabby was his nickname for me.  “This one’s for you!”
 
That short pause as he stopped was enough to give the opposition time to recover and begin pushing back. The ball caught Moose squarely in the face as he turned and he was sent sprawling face first into the ground.  It rolled over him and the opposition followed, some stomping Moose as they ran past.   Before Moose’s team could respond the ball was over the line and the first and only goal of the game was scored.  As the final whistle sounded the fifteen minute game ended and the dirty, dishevelled teams left the field of combat amid cheers and back-slapping.  It was not important who actually won, it was simply a bit of fun for players and spectators alike.

Moose plonked himself down on the grass beside my deckchair.  “Are you going to do the wheelbarrow joust?”  He asked cheerfully.

“Not with this ankle,” I replied.  “I can hardly walk on it.”

“Oh, go on!”  He laughed.  “You don’t have to walk, just sit in a wheelbarrow, it’ll be fun.”

At that moment Bugs appeared.  “Come on Tony,” he said.  “You’re first!”  Had I any inkling of what was about to happen I might have objected.

Hoisting me up he and Moose half carried me to the starting point of the race track where I was sat in a gardener’s wheelbarrow.  Halfway along the track the strange wooden contraption I have mentioned earlier had been set up and tied down with guy ropes pegged to the ground.  Mr Johnson was filling up the bucket with water from a hosepipe fitted with a tap and one of the other house parents was standing by the rope and pulley.

My pusher was from my own cottage and was about my age and just about as skinny and weedy as was I.  He handed me a broom and told me to hold it like a lance.  It was my job to aim the ‘lance’ at the hole above the bucket.  I could immediately see the flaw in this approach:  if the ‘lance’ actually went through the hole the angle of entry and the fact that it was tucked under my armpit meant it would get jammed and, inevitably tip the bucket.

The pusher grabbed the handles and, with me in the barrow, sped towards the target.  I raised the broomstick like a spear and when we were about to pass under the bucket I threw it with as much accuracy as I could.  The ‘lance’ hit the board with a sickening clunk and as we passed underneath I could sense the bucket tipping its freezing contents over us.  I hoped the pusher would get most of the water and his body would protect me.  No chance!

Luckily it was a hot afternoon and we were able to take off our shirts and were handed towels to get reasonably dry as the next two participants headed off to attempt the impossible.  It was at that moment I realised that even if I had actually got the broomstick through the hole and it had not even touched the sides, we would still have got a soaking.

The house parent who I had believed was holding the bucket steady whilst it was being filled was really there to tip the bucket if anyone actually did manage to do the impossible.  In fact he would sometimes tip the bucket in the opposite direction before players reached their target so they got soaked early.  Clearly everyone taking part got a good soaking, much to the joy of the spectators.  All the while the tannoys carried a running commentary, the commentator could hardly control his laughter.

Finally, the games were over and the commentator thanked the parents and local dignitaries for coming.  Then addressing the children he asked them if Mr. Johnson and the house parent who had held the pulley should show everyone how it should be done.  After a great deal of theatrical protest they were persuaded to have a go.  The bucket was filled and as if by magic several buckets of water were distributed to the still wet children.

Mr Johnson grabbed the handles of the wheelbarrow, and pushing the house parent charged towards the wooden contraption with a scream.   The never reached it.  A dozen or so buckets of cold water hit them and Mr. Johnson slipped in the now muddy ground.  That, however, did not satisfy the children.  More buckets of water followed and chaos ensued as someone turned the hose on them.  Amid the chaos I am sure several onlookers also suffered a soaking, but we did not care, this was after all a fun sports day!

Finally the day was over and the parents, having said their goodbyes, we made our way to our respective cottages to get cleaned up, by which time it we were ready for supper followed by an early bed.

Thus ended the great Leys Sports Day.

I had intended to finish this chapter now, but felt I had to say the way the house parents and Mr. Johnson pitched in during the entire day was indicative of how they treated us all the time.  Nothing was too much effort when looking after us and the genuine love they all showed towards us gave us a great sense of security and hope for the future, something which few of us had ever felt before.

And as a footnote:  Why was I named Gabby by Moose?  Well. In the forties and fifties there was a film star who was a bit player in many cowboy films, playing a grizzled, ornery cowpoke, invariably called Gabby.  His name was George Francis Hayes.  When he became a TV star he was billed as George ‘Gabby’ Hayes and eventually simply Gabby Hayes.

My name being Hayes it was natural to be called after such a kid’s favourite of the day.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #120 on: July 19, 2014, 15:09:17 »
I was busy cheering our cottage youngsters as they competed in the first series of races, the hoop relay, when Bugs tapped my shoulder.

“Time to get changed, Tony.”  He said, “You’re on soon for the egg and spoon.”

I sprinted into the cottage and up the stairs, barging through the girl’s dorm without stopping and hardly noticing the girls getting changed.  Within a few minutes I had changed into my shorts and shirt and put on my plimsolls.  Something in the back of my mind told me I should not have used the nearest stairs and flown through the girl’s dormitory, so I decided the better part of valour was to use the correct stairs back down.

I was soon on the field awaiting my turn to perform.  I had learned that each cottage vying to win the Leys Cottage Homes Cup for the next 12 months, and I was determined to win my events.  Most of the races were ran in heats with runners from each individual cottage running against their own cottage mates to determine the best runner who would then run in the final against the best from the other five cottages for the ultimate prize, a packet of sweets and points towards the grand total.

When it was time for the 5/6 egg and spoon race heat I stood at the line alongside my house mates and was handed a spoon and a potato which I hid behind my back, whilst digging the spoon into the potato until I was sure it was firmly attached and would not fall off.  Mr Johnson, who seemed to be entirely in charge of the proceedings made sure we were all lined up correctly, then raised a toy cap pistol in the air.

“On your marks,” he called then took a slight pause.  “Get set,” then a longer pause.   He fired the gun which failed to ignite a cap and we all started off.  Within seconds I was well ahead and glanced back to see my mates all trying hard not to drop their madly wobbling potatoes.  Big mistake!  I tripped over my own feet and fell forward, twisting my right ankle in the process.  The spoon with potato still firmly attached flew through the air, bounced a few times and landed at the feet of the mayor sitting in the seat of honour.

I lay in agony as the rest of the field passed with potatoes a wobbling before Bugs hoisted me up and over his shoulder fireman’s style and took me off to the side of the field and dumped me unceremoniously on to a blanket on the ground.  Shortly a uniformed man with a peaked cap and carrying white bag with a black cross on it arrived.  He slapped a cold wet cloth round my slowly swelling ankle.  The cloth was so icy cold it was just as painful as that I felt when I first tripped.  Bugs returned to ask how I was and the St John ambulance man assured him I would live, but would not be able to take part in any more sports that day. 

They carried me to a camping recliner so I could enjoy the rest of the proceedings from the sidelines, where I cheered on my team as they, more often than not, failed to win.  I cheered Moose as he vainly tried to remain on his bike for his qualifying heat, and screamed with laughter as he failed miserably, tumbling head over heels on the grass.  After retrieving his bike and wheeling it back to the starting line ready for the next race he trotted over and dropped down on the ground beside me, grinning and we chatted whilst cheering on our respective teams, he supporting cottage 1/2 and me 5/6.

At one o’clock, with all the preliminary races run, lunch was announced, with the finals, the jousting and body ball events to take place at two pm.  The parents and their offspring began drifting towards the community hall where caterers borrowed from the local schools with help from the Aunts from the cottages had prepared a sumptuous feast, or so I was told, as I was still unable to walk there to get my share.  Moose’s parents strolled over and asked if I would like them to bring me some food.  Not being sure of what was on offer I asked for anything with chips and they left, with Moose in tow, for the hut.

When they returned they were carrying two huge trays weighed down with food, one carrying chips, sausage rolls, beef burgers and a bowl of salad, the other with cakes, bowls of tinned fruit and an opened tin of Carnation milk.  As we sat enjoying our meal I wondered if life could ever get better.

All too soon it was time for the second part of the sports to begin and Moose’s parents strolled off to their seats, leaving Moose and me to our own devices.  Moose said he was taking part in the body ball event, the first three cottages were playing as a team against the last three cottages.  I asked what body ball was and moose told me I would have to wait to find out. At that moment the mayor, who had been walking about and generally chatting to all and sundry walked across purposely.

“Time for me to be off,” he said, reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out a spoon with a potato still wedged onto it.  Handing it to me he said “perhaps next time you might consider playing the game you might find it less painful!”

“I’d never win that way,” I replied.

With a conspiratorial wink and a smile he walked away leaving Moose and me grinning from ear to ear!
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

Offline oobydooby

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Re: Growing up in the late 40's to the late 60's
« Reply #119 on: July 06, 2014, 13:09:19 »
I hope I have not kept you in suspense for too long, I shall now continue.

Sports day arrived and after an early breakfast the male house parents and older children were tasked with setting up the trestle tables and the younger children set out the chairs, some round the tables, others along the entire length of the marked out track three rows deep.  I was surprised that so many parents were expected.

Excitement mounted as 10 o’clock approached.  Children of all ages were happily chatting about their mums and dads, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grannies, it seemed most of Kent, including just about every corner shopkeeper and factory worker was attending.

A boy of my age known only as Moose who had become a close pal asked if my dad was coming.

“I don’t have a dad,” I replied.  “As far as I know he’s dead!”

Moose was a broad shouldered giant of a boy who had been nicknamed, according to him, when he was a new born baby; the name had stuck and was extremely appropriate.  His size, however, was not reflected in his gentle and sympathetic nature.

“Your mum will be here though, won’t she?”  He asked.  When he saw the look in my eyes he put his massive arm around my shoulder.  “Hey, want to meet my mum and dad, they’re divorced but they both come to see me on sports day, they should be here soon!”   He turned to Alan, “You coming?”  He called.

“Nah!”  Alan replied.  “I’m going to play with my mates.”  He walked away with his friends, all about his age, whilst I walked with Moose off to the bus stop at the end of the road near the small church.

We sat in the bus shelter chatting and shortly a bus trundled up and circled round the war memorial to pull up at the stop.  About 20 people alighted, Moose stood up, eagerly searching the alighting faces; his parents were not among them so he sat down as the bus drove away towards Ramsgate.  We chatted on and our conversation turned to the events we were each taking part in.

When I mentioned I was racing in the egg and spoon race he laughed.  “They don’t use eggs,” he grinned.  “They break too easily if you drop them.”

“They should hard boil them then,” I replied.

“The shell still breaks,” he replied, “that’s why they use small spuds!”

At the mention of potatoes I hatched a plan to ensure success in the race.  I would dig the end of the spoon into the potato, just enough to ensure it was securely held and then I would be able to run without dropping it, leaving every other competitor in my wake.

“I’m in the slow bike race.”  Said Moose.  “I won’t win, never do, keep falling off!”

I had never heard of the slow bike race and was not at all sure how it was run.  Moose explained.  “You have to ride as slow as you can without falling off or you’re out, you have to keep in your own lane and if you go over the line you’re out.  Last one over the winning line wins!” 

“Another thing,” he continued.  “Don’t get a fixed wheel bike; they’re harder to ride so slowly.”

A fixed wheel bike was just that:  a bike without gears with its chain connected to a cog which was in turn fixed to the rear wheel.  If you pedalled forward the bike went forward, if backwards then it went backwards.  As the mechanism was fixed the pedals were always moving in the direction of travel so you were unable to free wheel unless you lifted your legs clear of them.  When cycling downhill if you picked up speed and were going too fast there was a tendency to lose your footing on the pedals and they would turn so fast and crack the back of your legs, a quite painful experience, take it from me, I learned the hard way!  Fixed wheelers also, in most cases came without brakes, simply because if you wanted to stop you pressed on the pedals to slow them down, a sort of half back pedalling which, in theory, slowed you to a gradual halt.

Another bus circled the war memorial and stopped.  Again, Moose’s parents were not on it.  Moose didn’t seem to be too worried.  “There are extra buses today,” He explained.  “They put them on just for the sports day.”  I had wondered at the frequency, the previous Saturday there had been only one bus every half hour.

Shortly after the bus had disappeared round the bend another appeared.  “I bet they’re on this one,” Said Moose:  and they were!

Whilst ‘Mrs Moose’ was a small, petite woman her ex husband was a great hulk of a man.  Moose introduce me to them and ‘Mrs Moose’ shook my hand daintily.  ‘Mr Moose’ had a grip of iron.

“Tony is in the wheelbarrow joust,” said Moose and his mother’s eyes glinted gaily.

“You’ll enjoy that, Tony.”  She laughed, “It’s such fun!”

I liked both of Moose’s parents, they were genuinely interested in me and all four of us chatted happily as we walked the short distance back to the Leys.

Gradually more people arrived and seats were filled.  Some parents sat on blankets with their children and as 11 o’clock approached, three posh shiny black cars appeared from between cottage 5/5 and 7/8 and drove onto the tennis court which was being used as a car park.  The third car carried the vicar of the small church with his curate and the Congregational minister.  The second car carried, so I was told, the local village councillors.  They all converged on the leading and grandest car of the three as the door opened and out stepped a man wearing a heavy golden chain and a black suit.  I assumed he was the mayor of Ramsgate.

As the mayor met with our superintendent, Mr Johnson, he was led to a point at the centre of the running track before the assembled masses to make a short speech before declaring the sports day open.  With stirring marching music coming from the Tannoys, the grand event was finally under way.
©2014 A Hayes

Astronomers always look into the past.

 

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