RAY SWAIN

Childhood Memories thoughts and reflections

To commence my personal memories, I will try to give an idea of the area as I was lucky enough to grow up here. We kids had no worries we just played until we were tired. We were all friends and we made our own games as as we went along, often adopting games that had been passed down from generation to generation. We had Gas lamp-posts in the road which served many purposes in our games, from cricket wickets - for tying skipping ropes to - as goal posts for football - for climbing up and swinging from the ladder bar - as a hoop stand for throwing old bicycle tyres over - a base for run outs, and many other streetgames. It was also a place for birds to perch and also the gaslight attracted many moths at night. Needless to say the lamppost was also frequented by many dogs and also as a resting place for the men coming home from the pub. Its funny if you saw a drunk he was always holding on to the lamppost. We also knew the men who came to light them and to clean the glass and replace the mantles. You can honestly say that in the summer holiday we were playing in the street from dawn until dusk. We could not wait to get out and play (No TV or anything then) and in the winter, when we always appeared to have snow on the ground for weeks, the lamppost would become a snowball target. I cannot remember the glass being broken by any of us kids. We had bows and arrows and catapults to play with ( home made by us). Things really were so different from today even to the shops for we had no supermarkets then.

Everybody had regular local shops they attended and this was no more apparent than in West Green Road which had some wonderful old shops and the shopkeepers seemed to know who's kids you were as did the local shops just across from Summerhill Road in West Green Road and at the top of the road in Philip Lane. From these bygone days if I were to say; Cadges - Caves - Reeds - David Griegs - Marshalls -Quinns - Kirbys - Pontons - Canes - Browns - Cooks - Coates - Rudds - Raphaels - Shailers -Lances - Rosie in the Cosy - MMoss's - Lewis's - Kerrs - Sat Clark & Davies - Summerfields - Bens - Coopers - Greens -- Broocos - Berrigis - Breakspears - Hill and Knowers - Wests - Gunners - Bass's - Sewells - Westcotts - Strakers - Heward & Deans -Swiss House - Matthews - Ma Cottons - Acee Charging Station - Norlands - Myers - Wellings - Christopher Pearce - Timothy Whites - Loovells - Williams Brothers - Smilies - Day's - Robbins - Old Brown Jug- Beavis's - Victor Values and many more. All these shops were within walking distance from Summerhill Road.  I am sure that many of the older residents will know what these shops were, what they sold and where they were situated. ( To test my theory lets have your answers to the above to see if I am right).

Today I was outside when the dust cart came and the smell was really terrible and this is 2003. I never knew a smell like this when I was a kid !  The smell lasted hours after the dustcart had gone as it had been dripping all along the road. It occurred to me then that perhaps when were young food was never wasted. The meat bones were put into stews, potato peelings and such were composted or wrapped in paper and put at the back of an open fire to save the cost of coal for heating. Stale bread made bread puddings. Empty Bottles, newspapers, old rags and woollens were collected by us kids to take back to the shops or to Rag and Bone merchants to earn our pocket money. Nothing was rarely wasted. We could not use much of the money we earnt to buy sweets since they were on ration and we had limited numbers of coupons. So it was more likely to spend our money on nails, staples, string and bamboo canes and the likes to make our Jiggers (Soap Boxes) and bows and arrows. We would sometimes take a train from West Green Station, before the line was closed, to Alexandra Palace. We loved the old steam trains and the wonderful carriages. The steam in our faces and that familiar smell that went with it still invokes nostalgic memories today.

We would also love to sit around the night watchman's fires as road works had to have a night watchman on site in those days. They made Tea and Toast on their fires which burnt in a brazier or more often old oil drums. These were much safer times and I suspect today they would more likely get mugged !  

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