The event was organised several months in advance and our contributions were collected weekly. It was an enormous undertaking and the organisers put in a huge amount of time and effort.
Woolmergreen lies just to the east of Markhams Chase school. Its pedestrian roads extend out from a large square with a shop in the middle. (Looking to the north from the square, St Nicholas Church can be seen high up on the hill). Like many roads at that time, the numbering system wasn’t easy to follow. We lived at number 69, opposite number 49. I was occasionally asked by people knocking on my door, “where is number 70?” I had lived there several years before I discovered it was on the opposite side of the square, just about as far away from number 69 as you could get, which just didn’t make sense to me.
Early in the morning, dozens of trestle tables were put in place, covered with red and white paper tablecloths and decorations; it looked very attractive but sadly not for long. It was an extremely blustery day and the tablecloths and decorations were soon ripped off by the wind. There was a huge turnout despite the inclement weather and the square was soon filled with children, their families, friends and neighbours. Flags and bunting were flapping around continually having to be re-secured. Some broke away and went flying, disappeared skywards or got caught up in the trees.
The daytime party for the children consisted of a children’s entertainer called Miss Raindrop, fancy dress competition and tea party, followed by music and dancing.
’The Steve Harding Band’ band played live in front of ‘Greenies’ shop. All local lads comprising Terry Steward, lead guitar. Steve Harding, rhythm guitar. Kevin White, bass. Eddie Smith on drums and Lenny Smith, vocals. A low-walled garden outside the shop was used as a makeshift stage where the loudspeakers were set up. I shouldn’t think there were any health and safety regulations in place at the time. The band played around midday, then packed up and went off to play at another gig in Cromer Close, Laindon.
The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves despite being almost blown off their feet by the wind in between the intermittent rain showers. There were dozens of entries for the fancy dress competition with many brilliant costumes. The winner was a toddler dressed as Elton John whose costume included a pair of enormous sunglasses. He really did looked the part and deserved his prize.
The entertainment continued with an evening party for the adults. However, torrential rain didn’t improve conditions at all. We could hear the music from our front door step but decided not to risk a soaking by walking along to the square. I later heard that a local Scout Master helped out by erecting a large tent for the partygoers to shelter in.
For several days afterwards, bunting and flags were still hanging from the tops of trees, along with a silver homemade shield that had been part of someone’s fancy dress costume.
It may not have been the best of weather, but I believe that somehow made this very special event even more memorable.
Below is a two and a half minute cine film that I took on the day:
Chowdhary School gave each child a commemorative medallion as a keepsake of the very special day.