Uncle Phil’s Cornor – Born in the late 1940’s – remembering the 1950’s (Winter 2020 edition)

Remembering incidents that happened and the friends that I made at primary school come to mind easily. The wonderful smell when making bread, creating hand puppets – the heads being made of papier-mâché and later watching mustard and cress grow. Another memory was in the cold winters having been given a half bottle of milk and then having to chip away the ice.

I made friends with several of the boys and we became a bit of a gang – Bobby Yates as the gang leader. I remember one time during the playtime break my back was used so Bobby could climb through a classroom window – I don’t remember why – but we were reported to the Head mistress Mrs. Cross. She had us sitting crossed legged on the floor of the main hall. I think there must have been six of us sitting there and she wanted to know who climbed into the class room.  If she wasn’t told, all of us would be punished. A message came along the line for me to give the answer ‘Bobby Yates’ which I did. Bobby and I were climbing an oak tree on The Mead allotments.  We were near the top and I was in front when I accidently trod on his hand, he thought differently and friendship slipped away – Bobby was killed in an accident at work in the 1990’s.

My favourite subject was History, taken by teacher Mrs. Horton and as I mentioned in the December addition, the only book in our house was the Bible. Mum did realise this and one time shopping in Mill Hill Broadway she saw a picture book on British history and bought it for me – I still have it.  

In the classroom of my first term at Junior school we started the day by calling out our times tables, we also learnt to read silently, not out loud, and there was a bookrack. I found a book on the conquering of Mount Everest by John Hunt who led the team in which Hillary and Tenzing got to the summit in 1953.  It was the first real book I read.  

We had a man teacher for the first time Mr. Washbourne he was a Canadian, he was great story teller, he only stayed for a year. Bobby Yates got us all to write to him asking him to return.  Our music teacher was a bit different. I used to enjoy singing, at Sunday School and Onward Christian solders was my favourite song.  My brother and I were sent there, I believe mainly, so dad and mum could have some time to themselves. Anyway, this music teacher, while a group of us were singing, picked me out as being out of tune, she was probably right but I was really upset – later at secondary school I came top of my class several times at music, but not singing!!! 

Maurice Laney was my best friend at junior school and when I first knew him, his family lived in Red Hill Lodge, Burnt Oak Broadway, opposite the Gaumont picture house, where us children queued for Saturday morning pictures. His family later moved into a block of flats in Deansbrook Road. The allotments, which the houses of The Meads encircled, were secured by a metal spiked fence, we used to climb over the fence into the allotments. Many of the plots had been left vacant and we went hunting for slow worms under the corrugated sheets as in those days there were lots them.

One time when climbing over the spiked fence, Maurice caught his trouser leg on one spike and was left hanging upside down.  We managed to get him up by cutting his trousers, no damage apart from to his trousers. I lost track of him after going on to Secondary School. 

Of course, there were girls at The Meads, Pamela Coombs and Marlene Nunn were my friends, Bobby Yates’s sister Ann was a year younger and there was Susan Gilbert, Bobby’s next-door neighbour, who he married in later life. Hazel Bloomfield was lovely and I was a postman with her dad Charlie at Mill Hill sorting office in 1967. Beryl Bolton was another of the girls I remember, as her older brother David was my governor(manager) at Hampstead Sorting office in the late 1960’s. We all lived in the Meads.

We lived in a three-bedroom house in The Meads.  My brother Dave 18 months younger than I, was keen on airfix models, Meccano sets and making things. He liked train sets as did my dad. I was more into collecting things like sets of picture cards. I got a lot of cards by playing up the wall.  You put a card up against the wall, as does your opponent, and flick a card to try to knock the card down, if you do all the cards flicked were yours. I had a bedroom to myself that was called the box room. Dad thought this room would be ideal as a room for a miniature train set spread. So I was put in the middle room with my brother. I don’t know what happened but 6 months later I was back in the box room, I think mum had something to do with it. I was a very nervous child, afraid of the dark and had bad dreams and was put on nerve tablets.