TOTTENHAM MEMORIES - RAY HOOPER
Some recollections of West Green Road, South Tottenham, N15
recollections relate to the period between approximately 1950 and 1970.
I lived with my father, mother and elder brother (David) at 169 West
Green Road which is directly opposite the southern end of Summerhill Road. I was born in
this house in 1947. Some of the people I will mention may still be around and living in
the locations I will mention. I apologise in advance for unintended libel or
misrepresentation. All of what follows is personal experience.
|On the east
side corner of Lawrence Road and West Green Road was the Dolls Hospital and
Coopers barber shop. I never had use for a Dolls Hospital but I did have my
haircut in the barbers shop on many occasions. I could perhaps write a critique of
barbers shops in this area of London.
My preference would be for Tonys in Seven Sisters Road. This is probably because it was frequented by some of the Spurs players.
Dolls Hospital & Cooper's Barber's
fact, I remember Dave Mackay coming into the shop on crutches. In terms of
decorative artwork I think Coopers was a cut above the others.
Rons in Newsam Avenue gave you a very basic haircut but perhaps the ambience was not
all it might have been.
One of my first memories of the area was when we came home from visiting my aunts and uncles in Haggerston, east London. We would walk home from either Seven Sisters station or the bus stop in the High Road. This would entail passing the Fountain Pub. One evening in the early fifties we passed the Fountain as usual on our way home. The old houses in West Green Road between the pub and Elmar Road were still there at that time. I believe these houses had been bombed out during the war. They were later replaced by the Turner Road flats. As we walked passed the houses we saw ahead something lying across the pavement in our path. It turned out to be a drunk who had left the Fountain and had not made it home. When we got home my Dad went back to find out if the drunk was OK.
|It turned out that the drunk had gone in the wrong direction. Dad helped him to his feet and set him off in the right direction. My Dad almost never went in pubs and it was the first of many times I heard my father cursing drunkenness. He had good reason as his own father had died of cirrhosis of the liver. Later on Dave and I had to be careful on this matter. Dad could get very upset with anyone having too much to drink.
The Fountain-West Green Road
shops by the corner of Elmar Road were a focus for many of us who lived in the area. The
corner shop was originally a laundry but later became a café. Next to the café stood the
confectioners, the favourite shop for all the local children. Ice creams, ice lollies,
frozen Jubblys, liquorice allsorts etc. were all sold there. On a Saturday evening my Dad
would often buy some Walnut Whips. I remember Mr Cane who ran the shop in the early
fifties and then it was taken over the Shaylers. After that there were several owners in
quick succession. There was a couple running it at one time who were not married
shock horror!! After them there may have been a retired couple and then at some point the
Messer family took it over. I think the lady was a widow with a teenage family. I think
the boys name was David Messer and my friends and I would sometimes go with him to
see Spurs play.
Finally, around 1966 the Messers moved on and the new owner was the son of the local undertaker who lived somewhere in the Downhills Park Road area. The owner (whose name I cant recall) had recently been married (his wifes name was Valerie I think). I became quite friendly with them as they were acquainted with a girl I knew who lived near Downhills Park Road. In the summer of 1967 I went away on a course at Crawley College and would often travel down on my Honda 50 on a Sunday evening from Tottenham. When I got to Crawley I would ring the owner of the confectioners shop to say I had arrived safely and he would convey the message to my parents. We did not have a phone at home
Next door to the confectioners was Marians, the greengrocers. I remember the greengrocers opening, but what was it before? The lady, Marian, was a redhead. Her husband went out very early to Convent Garden market each day. I think he was well versed in the trade. They had two boys both of whom were amateur boxers..
The West Green ( Formerly the Railway Tavern)
|Lastly, but most importantly, was Browns the grocers shop. I well remember the bacon slicer and cheese cutter. Errands I ran for my Mum were mostly to Browns and Marians. On a Friday night the Browns could be found in the pub (now the West Green Tavern) on the corner of Beaconsfield Road and West Green Road. The Browns shop was the fount of local gossip. One day, Mrs Brown came out of her shop and found me chatting to a girl who lived in Elmar Road.
was a bit concerned when Mrs Brown jokingly threatened to tell my mother. But my mother
had access to vastly superior intelligence from someone in Elmar Road. Mrs
Browns information would actually have been well past its sell by date!
Next to the grocers shop was house number 159. A Mr Stapleton lived there. I think his wife may have been disabled. He often asked me how I was getting on with my studies. There had been a Mr Wright living at 161 who ran a car hire business and garaged his cars close by. I have no clear memory of him. However, the Harris family moved into 161 around 1957-58. The couple had three boys John, Brian and Ian. I believe they had come from Scotland. John Harris was the same age as me and went to Seven Sisters Junior School. We became friends. John went to Downhills Central with me and we were in the same year group.
John and I often went to see Spurs play. Sometimes Johns Dad came along as well. My Dad was an Arsenal supporter. One day we were waiting for the bus at the High Road when a car drew up and offered us all a lift if we were able direct the driver (from Preston) to the ground and a parking area. It was the home game with Preston and Tom Finney was playing that day. We got to White Hart Lane pretty quickly on this occasion. Spurs beat Preston 5-3 and Tom Finney went off injured. We felt sorry for the chap from Preston. We were, of course, elated, but it was a pity not to see more of Tom Finney. On the way back, Johns Dad called into the Fountain and we found our way home down West Green Road.
After I went to Downhills I saw less of John as our
paths diverged a bit. Sadly, Johns father died in the late 60s. I met John again a
few years ago at one of the Downhills School reunions. Of course, he still supports Spurs.
|It was Christine who walked me to Downhills Central School on my first day in September 1959. After crossing Philip Lane she directed me up the side alleyway to the boys playground as she had to go through the Junior School playground to the girls playground for the Central school.
Footpath to Downhills Central School
I left her a friend from Seven Sisters arrived and asked me if Christine was my girl
friend. I denied all knowledge of her!! Fortunately, he was more frightened of what might
happen on his first day at senior school than I was. He forgot about my arrival with a
girl, so I didnt get teased. Christine got married while at West Green Road and
became Christine Edwards. She has performed a great service in organising the Downhills
Central School reunions over the last few years. I am still in touch with her.
The people who lived at 165 were not that well known to me. A couple and two older ladies lived there. I remember the man coming into our house once in the late 1960s to discuss something with my Dad. This something was the occupant of 167, Bill Chandler.
The house itself deteriorated on the inside and you could see that Bill was not in control. At some point Bill went into hospital and he asked my Dad to look after the house for a short time. My Dad was horrified when he went in and our suspicions were confirmed. This resulted in the meeting with the man at number 165. My Dad tackled Bill about the state of the house and he agreed to sort it out. Later on Bill divided the house and let the top floor and lived in the rooms downstairs. The garden remained a wilderness and the Anderson Shelter stayed but things improved inside.
I liked Bill, although he was a bit quirky. He once bought a motor cycle and sidecar. I saw him arrive at 167 on it and park it on his front drive. He placed a tarpaulin over it to protect it from the elements. The motor cycle and sidecar stayed there unused for a very long time afterwards. My Dad and Bill used to meet up at the newsstand just outside Coopers on a Saturday evening to buy a paper for the football results. My friend sold papers there as a Saturday job. He was in the 133rd London Boys Brigade based at Black Boy Lane with me. He also went to Downhills Central and was in the year above me. He regarded Bill as something of a character. My old friend is now a vicar and I guess meeting Bill was good early training. Our family occupied the lower floor at 169 West Green Road. The upper floor was occupied by my uncle Sid, aunt Ada and my cousin John who was a few months younger than me. Sid was my fathers younger brother and Ada my mothers younger sister. It was a case of two brothers marrying two sisters. They all moved to the house probably in early 1941. Sid was in the RAF at the time. He was a keen photographer. My brother was born in November 1940 at East Haddon in Northamptonshire. My mother had been evacuated there to a Maternity unit established for London women. She saw the bombing of Coventry from afar.
Practical Wireless magazine 1957
|My father had an interest in everything electrical and regularly bought Practical Wireless and Practical Television magazines. He made a radio and also attempted to make a television but he got slightly frightened by the EHT voltages and gave up. I think he may have witnessed an industrial accident at BERCO where someone was electrocuted. Anyway, this resulted in a cupboard full of valves, capacitors, coils and resistors. With the magazines this sparked (no pun intended) my interest in all things technical and scientific that has lasted a lifetime and provided me with a career
|In the early 1950s Dad kept chickens in the back garden as many people did to supplement their diet during rationing. I remember that the house had an old kitchen range but this was replaced with a small fireplace. Dad swore by oil heaters and we had two, one of which was an Aladdin to the old cylindrical design.
|Mum was an outworker for Mr Simmons who ran a small clothing workshop on the corner of Summerhill Road, directly opposite our house. The workshop was in a section of the upper floor of the McBirnies house that they let out. Mum also worked for a time at the laundry in St Anns Road. My Mums second bone of contention, shared by many, many others was the removal, in the war, of the iron railings which were never replaced.
Mr McBirnie's House - Mr Simmons workshop was on the upper floor
lack of iron railings at the front was significant because the north wind blows down
Summerhill Road and there are no buildings to deflect or impede it. It could get very cold
in our front room. The consequence was that the front of the house weathered very quickly.
Numbers 169 and 171 always looked more weathered than the other houses on that side of
West Green Road. They still do today. I suspect the iron railings might have helped to
consolidate the hedge and help protect the appearance of the house.
The Greens lived at 173 and as far as I remember they had no children living with them. The Chapmans lived at 175 and I came into contact with the younger Chapman, Raymond, when he joined the 133rd Boys Brigade. Somewhere in this section of the road lived a spinster lady called Annie. She was a bit eccentric. She often called at our house to talk to my mum about things she had noticed, usually utterly trivial. My Mum got a bit wary when she seemed to be developing an interest in Bill Chandler. My cousin John and I fell about laughing when we heard this one.
J. E Green's Builders Merchants
West Green Baptist Church - Today
the north side of West Green Road, opposite Avenue Road was Greens the hardware
store. This was where we purchased the paraffin for the oil heaters. It sold Esso Blue or
was it Aladdin Pink? This store would have been the ideal location for the famous two
Ronnies fork handles sketch. Walking back east we reach Dorset Road and
the Baptist Church.
|A youth club operated from the Baptist Church and I knew some of the girls who attended it, but I cant remember their names. The 2nd Tottenham Boys Brigade operated from the church and I knew Clive Hall who attended it. He was at Downhills Central in the year above me.
Boys Brigade - West Green Baptist
1960 and 1964, I did a paper round and also collected the money from their houses on a
Saturday morning. There was a lady customer in Dorset Road who came to the door in her
night clothes! Phew!! My fellow paper boys warned me about this. I thought they had been
pulling my leg.
The local policeman also lived in Dorset Road. His name was Weymouth I think.
Moving back towards Summerhill Road we would find the Car Showroom. Was this Mc Birnies business? He employed a salesman whose son was a friend of mine at Downhills Central. His name was Peter Grimes and he remembers when he and his father collected wood from cutting back the Elm trees which bordered Mc Birnies property. They sold the wood for fire kindling.
|If we now cross back over West Green Road and make our way to Elmar Road we come to the houses that backed on to the houses in West Green Road. Elmar Road was a quiet street the south side of which backed on to the railway from Seven Sisters to Palace Gates. Backing on to our house was Mr and Mrs Penny in Elmar Road. I remember them as a very nice couple who were always very friendly to me.
Seven Sisters Junction - The line to Palace Gates( Left) would back on to houses in Elmar Road
remember visiting them in 1963-64 after I had been on a cruise with the School to Vigo,
Casablanca and Lisbon. I showed them all my photographs. They were very kind people. Next
door to them lived a widow, Mrs Sitton. My mother frequently chatted to her and she was
the superior intelligence I referred to earlier. She knew a lot of people in
Elmar Road. Mrs Sitton was a nice, kind old lady.
Crossing over the bridge in Avenue Road brings you to Seaford Road. On the right hand side there were shops one of which was the newsagents Fishers. This was the shop from which I did the paper round.
|At first the round was Seaford Road and the Ida Road flats, Rosslyn Road and Avenue Road. I then got a round which included Higham Road, Downhills Park Road and the flats in Philip Lane. I did this round in the very bad winter of 1962-63. I needed a bike. So I took my brothers old bike and cleaned it up and made it serviceable. I got the parts from Matthews in West Green Road. The owner was Margaret Potts father. She was in my class at Seven Sisters and Downhills Central and met up with at a couple of the reunions a few years ago.
Philip Lane - Greyhound Road
The bad winter of 1963 - Not the time to be a Paper Boy
round was much better as the bag was lighter and at Christmas they were better tippers! On
Saturday morning I collected the money from all over the area that the paper shop served.
It was these part-time jobs that funded the cruise trip with the school in 1963. I
remember that it cost £39. My parents would not have been able to afford to send me, but
Dad did give me some pocket money for the trip.
Mr and Mrs Fisher who owned the paper shop were from the Rhondda Valley and he had been a miner. I assume that they bought the business as a result of a payout resulting from him contracting pneumoconiosis. He was often ill and had a bad cough. They had a married son who lived in Seaford Road and he was a policeman. The Fishers were a very nice couple and were always kind to me, but I got teased about Christine from Elmar Road!
Further down Avenue Road towards St Anns Church there was a Chinese family- the Woo Sams. Patrick was in my class at Downhills and his older brother Hubert was at Downhills also. Patrick Woo Sam has a claim to fame as he was one of the children in the film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. Patrick had time off school to attend the filming of some of the scenes.
Briefly returning to West Green Road and heading west from the corner with Avenue Road we reach some of the bigger houses. One of these was Dunhill the dentist. His son was my chemistry teacher at Downhills and I personally found him inspirational as I had a strong liking for science subjects.
|There are other people I can remember from the area. Harry was a man who came around the houses selling grocery and other items from a basket he carried with him. I believe Harry was a veteran of WW1 and suffered from shell-shock. There was another man I used to see on a bike in West Green Road who wobbled from side to side a lot. I always thought him to be another shell-shock victim. There was also the Peanut Vendor at the Spurs ground who seemed to suffer from the same affliction. One of the boys who played in the band at the 133rd Boys Brigade went on to be a professional musician. He was probably the only one from the band to do so.
'Harry' the Seafood man in later years
name was Derek Ginger Roll and he was a drummer (and very good too). He went
to Downhills Central and was in the year above me. He played with a group called The Riot
Squad which featured at the Swan Public House in Tottenham. I think they had a top ten
hit. He was in Davis Bowies band for a time. I saw Derek briefly a few years ago and
he is a roady and runs a trucking company.