I was born in England towards the end of the second world war in 1944. I lived in Bexleyheath at number 12 Rowan Road. I recall being sent off to Sheffield shortly after to get away from wartime London.
My early years are a bit of a haze to me now (old age) but I recall being told that when in my pram in the front yard of Rowan Road that a German Shepherd dog that lived across the street always “guarded” my pram. I have a faint recollection of it’s owners calling it home but it would not leave my side. Maybe that is why I have a love of dogs and have never (well rarely) been without one. My first dog in England was a “sausage dog” and my father named it “Penny” because of what it did on the floor when we first brought it home. 🙂
I spent a lot of time playing in Danson Park, great times fishing for sticklebacks and newts and I named our property in Tasmania “Danson Park” after my fond memories of that lovely huge play ground with it’s Manor house, swimming baths, tiny kids railway and lake with rowing boats on it which I loved. Every year the Circus and Fair used to set up there and I loved the fun of the fair.
Not many people owned cars in those day (1944 – 1955) so playing games in the middle of the street was the norm. Myself and the local street kids used to play soccer and cricket in the street, much to the endangerment of the local’s windows. At the top of Rowan Road where it joined West Street was a large demolition yard belonging to George Chaplain and it was full of bricks, rubble and iron where we were allowed to play and build “houses”. No such thing as OH&S then. We played “Cowboys and Indians” in Chaplain’s yard among the bricks and rubble making “camps” with the bombed building refuse. Mr Chaplain and the workers had no problem with us kids playing in their yard.
I used to attend The Salvation Army and went to the weekly club there. I remember my father saying “You have to go to Sunday School….. pick one”. So I thought The Salvation Army looked like they had more fun than the others so opted for that. I loved the youth activities provided and as I grew older the girls there grew more attractive.:-)
I also used to visit my cousins who lived in Warren Road up near the clock tower. Their uncle had a roadside cafe on the Rochester Way at Ruxley Corner and a car, and it was here that I learnt to drive in his old Wolseley and later new Ford Zephyr. At this time I was 14 and used to drive him into London to go clubbing after we closed the cafe. He would smoke his cigars and indulge in a few too many drinks safe in the knowledge that I was there to drive him home. I used to help in the cafe on a weekend and I guess it was this experience that guided me into the Merchant Navy joining Port Line (this link will tell what happened to these beautiful ships.. so sad) as a steward. I really wanted to be a cook but got in the wrong line and ended up being a “Catering boy” with Port Line at 15 and 10 months of age.
I recall the “Silver Lounge” reputed to have been run by Italians who were interned during WWII, what a great place when you were a kid with ice cream cones, Knickerbocker Glories, banana splits etc. Then there was the fish and chip shop on the other corner and we would get “crackling”, the bits of batter that got left in the fryer for something like one penny. You can read some posts about Bexleyheath on our forums and also contribute. Just click this link.
I attended Pelham Road and Graham Road schools where I managed to stay in the top class of each year. Maybe at the lower end of the 30 or so students but at least I made the grade. It was not for my love of study as I really hated subjects such as history, French, sport and R.I.
The class pictures sent to me by David Scudder have several “blanks” in them. If you can help fill the “blanks” please contact me.
On Broadway was the local church “Christ Church” and running up the side of it to the cemetery was an arcade of Horse Chestnut trees which at the right time of year yielded a large crop of “Conkers”. I was a pretty good conker player and competition was fierce to see whose conker was the longest lasting. We had all sorts of “tricks” to make them invincible such as soaking in vinegar, par cooking in the oven etc. I guess not many kids play conkers today with all the new technology that has evolved..
I joined the local “Sea Cadets” unit, “TS Caprice” which had a headquarters just off The Broadway up a street called Trinity Place beside The Trinity Baptist Church . and used to enjoy trips to the docks and other lakes competing in rowing events. I note from the net that the unit is still in operation. This drew me to a love of ships and the sea and For a time in Tasmania my wife and I owned a beautiful sloop called “Ibis”, built of Tasmanian Huon and Celery Top Pine.
Google Earth is a wonderful invention and it is great to “walk my mind” around the streets where I grew up. Does anyone remember all the “Bombed building sites” near the station and the Crooked Log pub and “United Dairies” which was in West street with a whole stable of horses. I see on Google Earth it is now a large industrial site. In fact I guess I would have a hard job recognising The Broadway as it all seems to have changed. Bexley woods was another great kids play place I guess they are gone now.
A long lost classmate David Scudder recently contacted me through this site and has been an absolute wealth of information and pictures of Bexleyheath then and now. Thanks David.
Also Keith Magnus who lived in Rowan Road and Michelle Exton who lived in Woolwich Road have made a contact after all these years, so if any of these names “rings a bell” contact us NOW. We would love to say Hi to you.