Random Memories of a Laindon Lad (Part two)
In retrospect the staff at the Radion mast have been considerable. One in the ticket kiosk, a projectionist, probably a minimum of three ushers and two in the background as janitors, maintenance etc., giving probably a staff of seven. Even assuming the roughly nine hours daily that it was open operated as a single shift, the seven day operation must have mandated a staffing level of at least one point five times the seven staff. Thus we come to at least a staff of ten or eleven. To afford such a staff plus upkeep on the building, rates, advertising and all the ancillary expenses that a small business encountered and still end up with a profit must have been a struggle. Perhaps update and maintenance suffered as a result, which might explain why, in some quarters, the Radion was referred to as ” the flea pit”.
Most ditches and streams seemed to run more less in a northerly direction. This seems logical as water must have made its gravity flow from Langdon Hills. It must have been an underground stream, which surfaced at the western junction of Berry Lane and Vowler Road. Flowing via pipe under Berry Lane the now quite substantial ditch (or stream in wet weather) made its way along the bottom of Mr. Hayes (the projectionist at the Radion) garden, along the bottom of a couple of back gardens in Raglan Road, turned and travelled under a small footbridge in Beatrice Road, and disappeared in the direction of the railway line. The storm sewers along the High Road seemed to be intermittently piped and underground and simply open ditch. They seemed to be covered up to New Century Road, open ditch until the Co-Op, covered in front of the various stores, until they were pretty much an open ditch from Victoria Road to the Fortune. Again, except directly in front of the various stores. The storm sewers all seemed to be on the western side of the High Road. I can remember none on the other side of the road. They must have gone underground in order to cross the A127 then re-surfaced to run as an open ditch to the (Old Fortune. Where the ditch/stream went after that I have no memory. Logically it would seem that it turned left and that gravity probably took It alongside the Dunton Road in the direction of Little Burstead. There was another quite boisterous stream in wet weather that flowed under the road at the foot of Noak Hill in the same general direction. Did these two streams eventually merge? I do not know.
At the foot of the final punishing ascent of the Crown Hill as the T junction (was it Lee Chapel Lane?), on the southeast corner of the junction was a large open field. In the middle had been built an ARP post. My father was stationed there and on several occasions I was allowed to visit there with him.
At Harry’s the greengrocer he also sold completed sets of cigarette cards. Usually fifty. On one occasion I spent my pocket money there and for the first time became acquainted with Jack Hobbs and a young, handsome number four batsman who became my hero from that date forward. Denis Campion. Interestingly, I think it is his grandson, Nick Compton, who opens the batting today for England with Alistair Cook. Denis Compton went on to bigger things (financially) as Brylcreem’s poster boy
Public footpaths were a bit of an enigma. They were supposed to be unobstructed and kept free for hiking but this was not always the case as recalcitrant farmers tended to become irate when their crops were trampled by bands of hikers. Sometimes the public footpaths had simply disappeared. There was the strange business of a public footpath sign situated just behind the bench where the memorial sat opposite the Hiawatha. It was placed Just over the fence close to Si Peter’s Bali It pointed in the direction between St Peter’s Hail and Greens Stores up toward Douglas Road. Who would ever use it I could not imagine. It was totally overgrown and impassable. Useless, presumably at some time it had a purpose. I wonder if the ancient rights surrounding public footpaths are still sacrosanct and what was the fate of this particular path.
On Sunday morning I delivered papers for Mr. Weedon. My route was the AI27, the mud paths behind the Fortune, on up to the Old Fortune and then the bulk of the route was up Nook Hill, I was always intrigued by the name of a house at the summit of Noak Hill, “Weldun”. As if to congratulate one on cycling up such a steep hill. There was always a large group of racing cyclists who sped down the nearly deserted early Sunday morning Al27 from the London direction toward Southend. Where they originated, who they were, and where they finished I never discovered. But there they were every Sunday without fail
The Winston Club seems to have survived the changing times which, as a working man’s club must be some claim to distinction. It pre-dates me but even to my knowledge it has been in existence for about seventy years. Not so its down market competitor. The Regal Club! The Regal was located in Pound Lane about fifty yards from St Nicolas Lane on the west side of Pound Lane. It was, in effect, just a one room wooden building. A tiny bar in one corner, a dartboard, and a few chairs and tables principally for the ladles. It was owned, or run at least, by a Mr, Nuth whose son, Alec Nuth, was a year ahead of meat Chelmsford Tech. My parents took us there a few times. The thing that stays in my mind about the Regal is that it had the most repulsive and evil smelling bog I have probably ever encountered (Are the facilities still referred to as a bog!)
Relph’s was our preferred chemist. They had a metal advertising sign on their wall. An obviously upper class rat in a dressing gown, reading a newspaper, seated in a comfortable chair is approached by a second rat dressed as a butler. The butler intones “Madame will not be dining, sir. She tasted Rodine for killing rats and mice.” What a simple age.
There were quite a few venues for dancing on a Saturday night but only one on Sunday. The Basildon Country Club adjacent to Donaldson’s. Presumably this was due to some vagaries in the licensing laws. Of course the intent on going to dances, usually with a few friends, was to meet girls. Invariably the first question directed to a strange girl who had accepted an invitation to dance was to ask where she lived. A quick mental calculation followed. If one was lucky enough to walk her home then two miles in the wrong direction followed by another three miles home was probably too far on a cold January night
In its day, Horniman was a big name in tea. Their principal form of advertising was large metal, predominantly yellow, signs on railway station platforms. Memory says that Laindon station did not possess such an advertisement but most stations did. They were ubiquitous.
I worked for Tetley in the tea business. One summer I was selected to play in the annual Tea Trade versus Rubber Trade cricket match at Hurlingham in west London. Great surroundings and a standard of living to which one could easily become accustomed. Only problem was that it rained all day.
I started work in London in I950 at sixteen years of age. Five years after the end of the war the bombsites had all been cleared of rubble but absolutely no rebuilding had yet commenced. Bomb sties were everywhere like missing teeth in a mouth. A large part of Mark Lane and Mincing Lane as they joined Fenchurch Street, apart of Billiter Street, around the Monument and Billinsgate, various parts of Bishopsgate and around Liverpool Street station as well as many of the warehouses along the pool of London, were all destroyed. In what, at one time, was the basement of Waterlow the printers on Worship Street and was now open to the elements, young lads played cricket during the lunch hour.
I think it was 1953, possibly November or December that the great smog descended. London, of course, lay in a bowl and when the weather patterns were still and prior to any of the clean air acts industry smoke stacks belched huge quantities of yellow poisonous and noxious fumes into the atmosphere. There the air sat, unmoving, as the smog grew thicker and thicker. Few people even attempted to get into the city. Of course as a young lad I considered it all an adventure. Buses made their way slowly with the conductor walking in front to indicate to the driver, via a torch, where the kerb lay. The very few people on the streets wore masks, usually just a tied handkerchief. Sound was magnified enormously. I remember walking from Fenchurch Street station to Gracechurch Street and hearing loud footsteps as someone approached. I could not see anyone and kept walking, more slowly. Eventually a man appeared out of the smog no more than three or four feet in front of me. The smog was that thick. It lasted perhaps four days. Afterwards, though not widely publicised, it came to light that over seventy deaths were attributed to the smog. Mostly older people. Subsequently environmental laws and clean air acts were passed and we will never again experience such smog.
We would go to the lily pond to catch newts. I can picture the lily pond virtually surrounded by trees except on one side. For the life of me, however, I cannot remember where the lily pond was located or how we got there.
In the few days after the rocket fell in Vowler Road a WVS van was stationed at the corner of Vowler Road and Berry Lane. The cheerful women there handed out hot cups of tea (free!) to the emergency workers, those without power and us very grateful lads.
The rocket in Fowler Road fell about sixty yards from us as the crow flies. Our roof was lifted up, turned about fifteen degrees and dropped back down. A tarpaulin was draped over the roof for the duration of the war and until we were given 2, King Edward Terrace. We felt like royalty my father had six or eight bird cages in which he kept about two-dozen canaries. The force of the rocket knocked the cages to the ground and the canaries escaped. For the next several days we would see them flying amongst the hedgerows and around the field. Then the native birds killed them off.
I always thought Stock was an extremely pretty village. Old houses, quiet, no stores except a newsagent. Three pubs! The Cock, the Bull and a third whose name I forget
Some time after the fall of the rocket, four men arrived (presumably from the BUDC but I am not sure) to replace our windows all of which had been blown out by the blast. One man scraped out the frames getting rid of the old putty and remaining pieces of glass. A second rolled the new putty in his hands to make it supple and workable. A third collected waste wood, made a fire, and proceeded to brew the tea. The fourth was (wait for it!) the supervisor. Even at that tender age I knew there was something wrong with that picture. In retrospect it seems a wonder how we ever won the war if that was industry’s norm.
Today’s educational system seems to mandate a “great job” just for turning up today. Everything seems to be deserving of praise even if it is a rotten job because “positive encouragement” must be fostered, it was different in my day at LHR. Each year was divided into four or five classes depending on the total numbers. The first year was thus 1A, IB, 1C etc. The A’s were the brainier lads and lasses and so on down the scale. It was all public knowledge and if someone’s feelings were hurt because they were put in a D class no one cared. The answer was simply ” get over it and work harder . ” At the end of our first year two of the tads were not keeping up and the following September they came back as member of 2B class, I cannot remember if we had two promotions to take their place.