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Author Topic: Blue Town Boy  (Read 6311 times)

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John38

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Re: Blue Town Boy
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2014, 21:38:44 »
When I look at Google Earth and links on KHF, I become aware of how far removed I now am from the Isle-of-Sheppey I grew up in; in time as well as distance (I avoided using spatiotemporal although it is quite my favourite word). Both the Canal and Moat, for example, went coast to coast when I lived in Blue Town.

The ‘characters’ have all gone of course. The Kennett brothers who were the cobblers who’s shop stood opposite the ‘Waterman’s Arms’ were quite ‘posh’ in their way. That is to say they were rather genteel and well-mannered and owned a lovely varnished motorboat that was moored adjacent to the pier.

Similarly Charles Street had its share of ‘posh’ people who had fallen on ‘hard times.’ There’s a photo of Charles Street on kyn’s website http://www.sheppeywebsite.co.uk/index.php?id=101. Close to the second car from the left is a large white window which belonged Mrs and Miss Weeks’s shop. The shop is at the juncture with Sheppey Street, and had a large window in that street as well. I remember it as a sweet shop, but given that sweets were rationed leads me to believe it was a grocers. Miss Weeks was quite frail but somehow she managed to run the shop and nurse her mother who was bedbound.

Next to the shop you can see a house with hanging baskets. In here lived old Mrs Rolf. Her son Freddie went on to be the Leader of the Council. When Mrs Rolf was dying, she made a request that her house be rented to, ‘The little Welsh family in School Lane;’ and so we moved to Charles Street. In those days it was simply a row of terraced houses – nice to see it graduated to ‘cottages.’ We left this house in 1952 as we won the lottery … or so it seemed, for we got a brand new council house in Hawthorn Avenue.

The next time I saw the house in Charles Street was in 2012 – 60 years later. We knocked on the door and the lady who answered told us that she had moved there in 1952, taking over from a Welsh couple! They had brought up a large happy family there, she told us. She had bought the house and at the time she did, the whole of Charles Street was up for sale at £1000. She invited us in, but I refused. To have entered would have brought back awful memories of the dreadful violent times we had there … the demon drink!

It was interesting to note that across Sheppey Street, by the shop, there remained a single line of very special cobbles. They had been the goal line on which I had saved many goals and the crease from which I had bowled for England. Opposite the cobbles was a large wooden ‘garage door’ which never opened. It was against that I hurled the tennis ball whilst representing my country!!   The door also remained, intact, on my 2012 visit.

Because there were no cars at all in these roads, street games were the norm. Against the garage door we would place three pieces of wood, about 12 inches long, with a fourth across the top: like cricket stumps. The kids would split into two teams. The team ‘bowling’ would take it in turn to throw the ball at the stumps, when they knocked the stumps over, the bowlers scattered. The job of the other team was to stop the bowlers’ team rebuilding the wicket and they did this by touching the bowlers with the ball: once touched you were out. The ball would be hurled between the fielders as they pursued the bowlers. A bowler would nip in and put up a stump and probably get a thick ear from the ball thrown at them. I think the game was called, “Canon.”

Alas, the Blue Town I visited in 2012 bore little resemblance to the Blue Town I grew up in.

Minsterboy

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Re: Blue Town Boy
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2014, 13:32:13 »
Thanks CDP, I knew it was Jessie something and as I recall the inside was like some dark and dusty throwback to Victorian times. He even bought some rabbit skins that my father was going to throw away.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Blue Town Boy
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2014, 13:13:45 »
There is a danger of repetition here insofar as I feel I wrote a lot of this earlier – when I first joined KHF, forgive my poor memory.
I felt the same when doing my life writing, but those previous posts were for topics on specific subjects, whereas threads on this board are ‘stand alone’ ones giving a complete picture.

It would make difficult reading if you covered it by providing links to other threads, so don’t worry. If you’ve forgotten whether you have put something on here already, so have most of the rest of us :)
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Offline CDP

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Re: Blue Town Boy
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2014, 12:46:01 »
The collector/buyer of the milk bottles was Jesse Light and I think his large storeroom was on the right hand of a passageway in Russell Street.
He was the main " Any old Iron " man on Sheppey.
The solution to every problem is a.) time , or  b.) another problem.

Minsterboy

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Re: Blue Town Boy
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2014, 06:16:13 »
For so many of us now, John38, when we look round at what we now personally have in our old age, it's almost hard to believe that our lives ever begun in such poverty and hardship. It's also often hard to convince some of the more modern generation as they look at our decent cars and nice houses, while drawing their various benefits and feel hard done by, that we have ever had to struggle, they often think that we have always had it that good.
These life stories from the likes of yourself, busyglen and others and my own memories of living in such poverty in Unity Street in Sheerness in the early 1950's, are proving to be a valuable account of social history from many years ago now.

I certainly recall seeing older men picking up up "dog ends" from the pavements when I was a kid and even tried such a "roll up" myself once when I was around 10-11, but after coughing my lungs up, could never understand why people smoked - perhaps that was the reason that I have been a lifetime non-smoker. In those days though, there was always someone that would buy what would now be simply thrown away for nothing. I remember wandering the streets and alleyways looking for jam jars, lemonade bottles, milk bottles, etc, to take to a big and ancient old building in either Rose or Russell Street where the owner, I think called Jesse something, would give you a few pence for them. 
I also recall following American sailors around the town, pestering them for chewing gum, which was like gold dust to us, but they always had packets of in their pockets.

John38

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Re: Blue Town Boy
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2014, 22:18:32 »
There is a danger of repetition here insofar as I feel I wrote a lot of this earlier – when I first joined KHF, forgive my poor memory.
 
We’d moved to Queenborough in about 1943, and when my father was demobbed from the Royal Navy in 1946, we moved to Blue Town and School Lane. It had sounded romantic when my mother told us the address but in fact it was no such thing. Life was to become primitive: a wooden house with one living room and one bedroom.
           
           There was a large cast-iron range and a gas light in the living room and that was the total facilities. A cold water outside tap at the each end of the courtyard was the only water supply for five families. An outside toilet at each end similarly served the five houses – flushed by buckets of water.

The house was basically furnished: a scrubbed table with four chairs and a sofa that had been left there by the previous tenants. The sleeping arrangements in the one bedroom, for parents, my sister, me and my baby brother were primitive.

I don’t intend to elaborate on it, enough then to say that my father had had a rough war (Atlantic & Arctic Convoys and Burma). He had a major drink problem and had difficulty staying in work, and domestic violence was the order-of-the-day … we were all the casualties of war. The State weren’t interested and benefits were yet to be invented! That then is the context from which I tell the story. Little eight year old boys, however, don’t live in the moment but rather in their imaginations, so if we were poor – I didn’t know it.

Life in Blue Town was to become the adventure that was to shape my life. I learnt very quickly that there is only one thing worse than a drunken, violent father … and that was a drunken, violent father with nicotine starvation. I became the expert at picking up cigarette ends in the street … loitering when the Dockyard turned out was the ‘best of pickings.’ I’d unpick them (pinching out the burnt ends) and mix the tobacco up in an empty tin.

I loathed wet days, it ruined the ‘butt-end’ harvest. I soon learnt to stockpile. My stockcontrol was such that I could sell the odd ounce for a few pence – they assumed I had stolen it I suppose. Every penny went to my poor mother, “Don’t tell your father!”

My main job was ‘beachcombing,’ gathering wood to fuel the range which was the only heating and cooking facility we had. My patch ran from Rats Bay, by the pier, to Westminster Gas Works…or…in my mind, The Spanish Main. I got so efficient at chopping up the driftwood that, just like the tobacco, I could sell the surplus. By 9 years of age I was a ‘trader’ who added digging/selling bait and selling mussels to my portfolio.

Although I gave most of the money to my mum, I now began buying books from Woolworth’s at a half-a-crown each. ‘Treasure Island’ was soon followed by, ‘Kidnapped,’ ‘Midshipman Easy,’ ‘Hereward The Wake,’ ‘ Coral Island,’ ‘Masterman Ready’ etc. These books led me to the library in Trinity Road, Sheerness. I became a reader who really wanted to travel the world … little did I know what lay ahead.

busyglen

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Re: Blue Town Boy
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2014, 16:27:20 »
Very interesting John38.  Hope there is more to come?  :)

Offline peterchall

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Re: Blue Town Boy
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2014, 15:28:24 »
My 'Uncle Joe', the boatman on the pilot cutter who used to take me out with him in 1938, lived in Blue Town. I remember a 'weather boarded' house - I think only creosoted, not painted. Does that make sense?

I vaguely remember him having a huge tortoise with a crack across the back of its shell where it got run over by a lorry!
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John38

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Blue Town Boy
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2014, 19:41:09 »
The map of Blue Town that Kyn so kindly supplied for me was really interesting for two reasons: firstly it supplied the street names I had requested; secondly, it showed a version of Blue Town that had vanished long before my time. This was equivalent to showing the cover picture of a jig-saw to a person who had inherited the jigsaw from which many pieces had been lost, for so many of the buildings had gone.


As kids we called derelict buildings or spaces where buildings had been demolished – ‘bomb-sites’ or ‘bombed out buildings,’ although I realised much later that they weren’t. Not surprising that we called them by such names given that most of us had been born before or during World War 2. We had other terms that I still use today, for example, I still call elder and sycamore ‘bomb site trees.’ 


In East Lane  there was a large open space where the houses had been removed – although their ‘footprints remained’ –. A similar one existed in the block marked BM10.90 on Kyn’s map: The junction of Chapel Street and Union Street. These spaces held little significance throughout the year, until Guy Fawkes Night when each provided the site for a bonfire. This was the only time the kids divided into warring factions.


 In the build up to the big night, we, the East Lane fire builders, would steal from the Union Street fire and vice versa.  Once or twice the ‘enemy’ fire was torched before the 5th, but that was soon stopped, as it spoilt the fun for too many and the older community closed ranks against it.


One of the most obvious changes to the old map was The School, which is shown at the bottom left of ‘Kyn’ map. In my time the original school site has been replaced by the Police Station. The school itself had moved to Chapel Street – on the right as you look at the map – and replacing the mid two-thirds. The back of the school lay in Bell Lane (Bull Lane?) but there was no access from the back, although there were high windows. The lane was renamed School Lane, and became our home in 1946.


The purple boundary line along the bottom of the map falls along the routing of the high Wellmarsh Wall, which was smaller, although similar, to the Dockyard Wall. Where the wall crossed the bottom of Sheppey Street and for the width of the road, the height of the wall dropped by 50%, as if there had been a gate there once.  Whereas the bottom half remained brick, the top 50% was strongly secured railings: high round bars with spear like tops. This was the only weakness in the wall, and we kids exploited it. Over the years the cement had been rubbed away until one of the railings could be moved out of its seating. The bar could be pushed to one side and a child could squash through and drop down into the Wellmarsh.


Once over the wall we would push our way through ten foot of undergrowth to a road that was hardly ever used. We would cross the road into high trees and undergrowth. The trees were very large and here I first got a love for tree climbing. The trees lay in a 20 foot strip, on the far side of which were lots of football pitches, running tracks, a large pavilion and tennis courts. On the far side of those was another road that led down to the guardroom. Over the road was the furthest boundary: the moat and the high moat bank.


For months on end we were welcome to use all the facilities of the Wellmarsh and at other times we were banned. I’m not sure what the governing factor was, the CO, the ground-staff or a combination of both. This led to two different modes of play: we were either playing football or cricket for England or, on being banned, we became secret agents.


The favourite spy game for most was hiding up trees when the ground-staff chased after us. It’s amazing, but searchers seldom look up!


My own secret spy game was to walk along the Blue Town seawall towards Westminster until I reached the ‘Sluice.’ I’d then nip through the hole in the fence, across the railway line, through the other fence and out along a precarious pipe and then up onto the Moat bank. I would then crawl the length of the bank, in and out of slit trenches – hiding until voices had passed by, until I reached the main Moat Bridge into Sheerness, two hours later. Here I hid in the long grass until the bridge was clear, then out onto the big pipe that ran along the edge of the bridge, and through the railings. Once on the pavement of the bridge, I walked into Blue Town, passing the sentry as I went. I felt really clever … until I got home and my mother had to get the green from the grass off my clothes.

 

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