Cap guns and Tree swings.
Growing up in South Green in the 60's & 70's
I was born in Billericay, but I have now lived in Hampshire for 25 years, as I am now 50, that means I spent half my life in Essex , and, like all middle aged people; get nostalgic for the past, and only rarely have had the chance to re-visit the old places.
Of course I never realized it at the time, but Billericay was a great place to grow up, and I suspect it still is, despite the negative publicity and notoriety from certain TV series.
My earliest memories are of our home in The Redinge in South Green in the 1960’s. It was a small semi detached bungalow, and my parents moved there from my grandmothers house in Walthamstow in about 1955. They were amongst the first residents in the road, and used to get the 251 bus from the Kings Head to Ilford everyday to work, along with many other residents as very few people had cars.
My mother had to give up full time work when my brother and I were born but had several part time jobs over the years, so money was often a bit tight. I went to nursery school at the South Green memorial hall, I remember playing in a sand pit in the garden at the back of the hall that overlooked Patricia Gardens . Other memories are of cold snowy winters and getting dressed in front of the coal fire (no central heating then), our first rented TV from Visionhire in Billericay high street, hiding from the Daleks and the Cybermen behind the sofa (at one point I had to leave the room as I was so terrified).
Then there was “Ashey” I’m afraid I don’t know her full name, but she was a lady who used to look after us children, she would scoop us up, probably half a dozen or so from The Redinge and surrounding roads and we would walk while she pushed her big old bike, I think to Gatwick House on Bell Hill and them home again in the afternoon. This was all unofficial, naturally. For some reason I will always remember the rag and bone man, and Moys coal delivery lorry, and particularly, of being terrified when a Lightning jet fighter flew over, the noise was so terrifying, that I ran indoors crying, well I was only 4!
I can’t speak of The Redinge without mentioning Miss Chesney, an elderly lady who lived with her twin sister. The only way to tell them apart was that her sister was a heavy smoker, and kept herself to herself, and the other was rather prim and heavily involved in the church where she was Sunday school teacher, the Sunday school was at Great Burstead, where the jovial vicar was the Revd Geoffrey Holley known to us as Jolly Holly.
In Tyrells Road was a small Co-op, even though I was only about 6 years old, I would be sent to the shop with some coins to buy groceries, and was told to remember to give the number for the “divi”. It was much safer in those days, much less traffic, and no-one worried about young kids being out on their own.
I mentioned this to a colleague at work, his child is taken by car to school, collected by car from school, and never goes outside without an adult, how much more freedom we had in those days.
I still have a vivid memory of being sent to buy extra milk in those triangular cardboard cartons, and a lady showing everyone a brand new 50 pence piece (they were first introduced in October 1969) and comparing it with a 10 bob note, and asking, “how can this coin be worth the same as this banknote?”.
As both my parents were working, and my older brother had moved up to the senior school, I had to get myself to school in the mornings. I was taken to school for the first few days at South Green Infants in Ganels Road , but after that I was on my own. When my mother had an early start for work, I used to walk on my own to school in all weathers at age 5, and get to school at about 7:30-8:00 which was long before anyone else. I remember a member of staff found me in the playground one cold foggy morning, sitting on a bench, all on my own. As it was so cold, I was taken inside to wait until school officially started. Apparently my parents got a letter from the school (of course we weren’t on the phone) expressing their concern that I was left on my own so early in the morning, their response was to write back and say that they had no choice because of work commitments, no social workers in those days.
Later I would move up to South Green Junior school, who could forget the formidable Headmistress Mrs Scott-Farthing, even the name was designed to instil respect, I can still remember her Humber Sceptre car. My teachers were Mrs Fraser, Mrs Carter, Mr Couzens and Mrs Rushton. The school then had four houses: Schweitzer, Keller, Curie and I was in Churchill. There was a fish pond in the central courtyard, my brother went to this school when it first opened, and once fell in the pond! Health and safety have now had the pond removed.
When not at school my brother and I would play on our bikes (second hand bikes of course) near the Kings Head, where there was a small piece of woodland on the corner of Mill Road , before the pub car park was extended. Sometimes we would cross over to Coxes Farm road and play in the fields, and catch tiddlers and tadpoles in the pond.
In 1969 we moved house to Kennel Lane Great Burstead. We bought our house from Len Atkins who was a manager at Balls Plastics / H J Peters, and he arranged for a couple of men from the factory and a Ford Thames lorry to do the moving. I had the exciting treat of riding in the back of the truck to our new house.
We were lucky to live in Kennel Lane , there were open fields almost opposite, and so many places to play. On the corner of Trinity Road was a small wooded area (it was actually an overgrown garden of an apparently abandoned bungalow in Church Street ) this site did not get built on until the 1980’s. Those long summer holidays were spent outside, with the Carpenter boys from Acors Farm, with our crowd of school friends playing with our cap guns, riding our bikes and our home made go-karts, climbing trees and making swings with bits of old rope. It seems so innocent now, no stealing or bad behaviour from us!
Once a year my mother would save up enough to take me and sometimes my brother to the seaside, to Southend on the 251 bus. The journey seemed to take forever, and we would then get another bus to Thorpe Bay as it was a bit “less common”.
It seems strange now, but to those of us kids in South Green and Great Burstead we regarded the Town as being rather a long way away. We had all we needed as kids in South Green, sweets, toys and cardboard reels of caps from Joslins or Sinclairs newsagents and puncture repair kits from main road garage. We would however go with our parents for shopping trips to, Woolworths, Kitts the hardware shop, Groves the tailors or grudgingly for an unfashionable short back and sides in the barbers in Holly Court , for which I would be sorely teased back at school.
Also in Holly Court was the toy shop Essex Playthings. I have a warm and fuzzy memory of one birthday when I was about 6 or 7. My parents must have been given some cash from my grandparents, or maybe I had been sick or especially well behaved. Whatever the reason, I was told that I could chose anything I wanted from one part of the shop window, which was an exceptional treat indeed, as we were not at all wealthy. I chose a Tri-ang metal lorry which I always treasured.
As kids we only rarely ventured into town, preferring to stick to our own little patch, except that is when the fun fair arrived at Sun corner or as a special treat, to get the 254 bus from church street to the station then to Lake Meadows, with just enough pocket money to hire a boat or buy an ice cream. It was a much simpler time, we didn’t have much compared to today, but we were happy and best of all, we were free.
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