down_lane_map.jpg (88423 bytes)   Peter Smith his family lived near White Hart Lane, Tottenham. He told us about his early life in North London, the street markets, local traders and his family life. He also told us about the death and destruction in London during the earlier blitz when his Grandmother was killed and his Grandfather was seriously injured and about the V1 bombs which started soon after his birth.

During our recent event the subject of recycling was raised, it’s said that nothing is new and recycling although very much to the front nowadays, recycling is not a new thing and not much was wasted. Rag and bone men would come round and the local scrap yard would buy resalable items for a few pence, wire scrap and lead was particularly valuable but only the local villains could get that. Kids used to collect pop bottles as there was a deposit returnable on them, each shop would have its own rubber stamp mark on them so sorting them out was quite a task, a label from a broken bottle was quite valuable as it could be swopped over for a “foreigner”. Corona bottles on the other hand could only be swapped for a full bottle so that was left to mum when the van came round, lemonade, orangeade and cherryade but Tizer bottles with their big heavy screw tops were the best and could be exchanged for cash (2d) anywhere.
  Where I lived was a fairly modern three bed end of terrace house but was situated just across the road from what was known locally as the “Dust Destructors” but it was in fact the local Council yard. It was a big area with imposing wrought iron gates and in the middle of it was a vast brick built warehouse accessed by a ramp. Surrounding it were a number of buildings one of which housed a “cooking plant”. 

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  At 6am I was woken up by noise of bins being wheeled out by the road sweepers who would be making their way out down the ramp to sweep the gutters and pavements in the local area. It wasn’t the quietest place to live because soon after the rubbish collection trucks would start to move out, they weren’t quite as sophisticated as now, in those days as they were stacked with big open bins that had to be filled by the dustmen. As the truck moved along the bins would make a terrible rattle that used to wake the whole neighbourhood. But at least they came the same day every week at the same time but woe betide anyone who didn’t give a tip at Christmas, they could look forward to a few weeks of spilt waste.
  Every house was supplied with a dustbin and a food waste bin that was referred to as a “pig bin”; a white enamelled bucket with a lid attached to the handle. We didn’t have much waste in those days, things weren’t packaged like they are now, newspapers would be read

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by every member of the household and any that hadn’t been cut up and hung by a piece of string in the “out” house (The Mirror was best being quite absorbent but the print came off, perhaps that is too much information!), were taken down the “chippie” and exchanged for a bag of batter bits. Caviar to us kids then, potential heart attack nowadays. 

The pig bin was for “edible” waste, peelings, chop bones, or anything else that couldn’t be turned into Thursday’s soup. This was collected by the dustman and tipped into some of the reserved bins also on the truck.

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Back at the yard (opposite where I lived) the waste was separated; any rags (from rich people) were sorted out along with milk bottle tops, wood etc and any other useable items and sold off to scrap dealers. Milk bottles were returned down the road to a company called Milk Vessels Recovery, who cleaned, sterilised and redistributed them. Food waste on the other hand, from the “pig bins” went to the “cooking plant”. Here it was boiled up in great vats and turned into pig feed, it came out in a big semi sloppy brown mess that was put into open top containers to cool down. If the look was pretty disgusting the smell was even worse, I can’t described it to you but I hope I never encounter it again but by all account the pigs loved it. It was distributed out to local farms and council offices (apparently keeping pigs was a council tradition until the early „50s) on open back trucks which distributed the smell and a few spills throughout the area. It was known as Tottenham Pudding.

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'Tottenham Cake'

Just a few months ago I heard a programme on the radio talking about regional foods and one of those trendy cooks said they had heard of Tottenham Pudding and would like to get the recipe, they might like Tottenham Cake (obtainable at Greggs nowadays) , a sponge with pink icing on top but Tottenham Pudding! OH NO!


Article reproduced with permission of Peter Smith from original story published in the American Express Retirees Magazine - February2011

Alan Swain - December 2011


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