I was born on 30th June 1943, the second daughter of May and George Lane. They were renting the upstairs rooms of No.14 Summerhill Road and I made my entrance into the world there. My mother told me of the day, only months after my birth, when the force of a bomb landing nearby blew out the windows of the flat and she threw my sister Norma and I onto her bed, throwing herself on top to protect us. Because of the damage, our family were forced out of this home and we all moved in to No.10a, the home of my maternal grandmother, Maud Miller, known affectionately to our extended family members as ‘Auntie Polly’.

My grandfather, Richard Miller, had died of leukaemia a month before I was born, aged about 50. He had driven a funeral director’s coach and horses and when my grandmother died over 20 years later, my aunt found the top hat and tails he wore for work, packed with mothballs, in a chest in her bedroom. Before moving to 10a, they had run a greengrocers shop in Wood Green with the help of their eldest daughter. After his death my Nan got herself a job in the stores at JAP and worked there until she retired. She had married quite young and had two children, my mother (born 1915) and her elder sister Maud. Maud and her husband, Fred Jones, who had one son Ronnie before the War and another, Geoffrey, after, already lived with Nan, so 10a became quite crowded.

japmotors1914.jpg (60798 bytes)

JAP Motors ( J.A. Prestwich) factory in Northumberland Park Tottenham.   The firms best known product was the one-stroke JAP motorcycle engine

After the war, when I was three, my parents managed to obtain a council flat comprised of the upstairs rooms of a terraced house in Tynemouth Road and we finally moved out of 10a to a home of our own. But that was not the end of our time in Summerhill Road, which was our second home for many years, just as Auntie Maud was our second mum. My father was invalided out of the Army and worked as a butcher. However, ill health meant he often could not work or was in hospital. My mother worked full time in a shoe factory to help make ends meet. As a consequence Norma and I spent all our school holidays at 10a, as well as visiting every Saturday with my mother. As a family we spent all our Christmas and New Years together there.

Norma, being three years older, had made more friends before we moved. My best friend was Marilyn Stephens, second child of Maisie and Bill Stephens who lived across the road from Nan. Her father owned the butcher’s shop in Philip Lane. I also played with Chrissie Swain and the twins and called their mother ‘Auntie Ethel’. I remember being fascinated by a tin bath containing frogs that the twins were allowed to have in their back garden. We would go and play in the Piggery with the Carter girls but I hated the smell and would try and hold my breath. Mrs Carter was very nice and when we went into her house I always thought how tiny it was compared to 10a. One day we were climbing on the hay bales playing hide and seek and I fell off into a pigsty. Luckily I landed on my feet but I was really scared. Norma has related the story of the baby pig that chased me down Summerhill – I can remember reaching my Nan’s side gate and, finding it locked, standing with my back to it screaming at the little pig to go away.

We would pick up slate from the ruins of the bombed house on the way up to the Piggery and use it to play hopscotch. We played leapfrog and many other ‘street’ games. There were bushes behind the front wall of 10 and 10a and we would hide under them, making camps and playing cowboys and indians. There were also lilac bushes there that smelt beautiful when they flowered. We would climb onto the brick wall that ran between 10a and the Livemore's at No.12 and balance along its length to jump down into the back garden and let ourselves in when Auntie Maud was out. She worked part time in a newsagents/tobacconists, while her husband drove a furniture removal lorry.

Nan’s home at 10a had been divided from the original larger house that included No.10. Nan told me that 10a had originally been the servants quarters when the house was all one. Nan kept chickens for the eggs and for the pot. Norma, my sister, was afraid of the chickens and would never play in the back garden if they were out of their pen. There were also rabbits bred for the pot. One time my Uncle Fred brought home a goat and Nan tethered it to a peg on the lawn with just enough rope for it to reach the strawberry patch – which ensured that us kids did not pinch the strawberries!

I remember the old fashioned wooden dresser fixed to the kitchen wall and the big kitchen table where Auntie Maud made lovely cakes and puddings. For many years, the kitchen and dining room had ranges in the fireplaces and there was a stone boiler in the kitchen that heated water. Monday was washday and Auntie Maud would scrub clothes on the washboard, soak white sheets in a tin bath containing Reckitts ‘blue’ and turn the handle of the huge mangle to squeeze the water out of everything. The kitchen would be full of steam.

One Monday Norma and I arrived to find the house empty, washing everywhere in the kitchen and blood spattered over the floor. Eventually Auntie Maud arrived home with young Geoffrey sporting a bandage on his hand. He had apparently tried to mangle his finger!

We would get shouted at when we took shortcuts to the 41 bus stop by running through McBernie’s yard on the corner. I hated walking to Philip Lane and passing the slaughterhouse on the corner because you could hear the animals squealing.

Over the years 10a lost a lot of the old trappings – the ranges, the blackout screens on the windows, the stone boiler, but it always remained at the heart of our family. In 1956 Fred Jones died and a year later my father died, but Nan, Maud and May pulled together, supporting one another. Nan passed on in 1964 but Maud took over the tenancy until her death. Ronnie had married and moved away so Geoffrey then took it on until he died at the young age of 40.

Summerhill Road and its inhabitants will always hold a special place in my memory


(Note from Ray Swain: I would like to add that in the last 3 months of Maud Jones' life Shirley, Norma and May came from Hemel Hempstead every Saturday with Bob and Mike to see Maud. So the house was full again which really made Maud happy. Shirley was a real brick to her aunt. Each week she would do all the week's ironing , which really was a lot, and she spent hours doing it. Geoff needed lots of shirts for his job and his shirts were not easy to do, plus all the other things, it really was a task. Maud was one of the old school who had a passion for washing and everything had to be ironed which made Maud very happy, knowing Shirley had done it for her.

Little things mean so much ! )



back_button.jpg (3190 bytes)