Growing up in the 1940s
The street where we lived, Bennett Road, had a bomb dropped on it in 1944. Five houses opposite ours at number 14 were demolished and people were killed. The houses were rebuilt in the 1950s.
Crumpets and a parrot
My grandparents lived at the end of Bennett Road at No.1 Bristol Street. Their names were Mr and Mrs Richard Mason (they were my mother’s parents). Next door to them was the crumpet factory which made crumpets for sale in the winter months and coconut ice in the summer. As my Nan was well in with them, she was always well supplied with crumpets and coconut ice. The local men called the factory the ‘crumpet crumpet factory’ on account of all the young women working there.
There were very few motor cars in Bennett Road. The first I recall belonged to a Mr and Mrs Boston who won the first prize on the football pools of £75,000. I doubt you could buy a house there nowadays for that sum of money!
There were two corner shops. No 1 Bennett Road was a small grocer’s shop owned by a Mrs Smith, who kept a huge red parrot. She sold the shop to a Mr and Mrs Bridges, who maintained the grocery side. Mr Bridges worked locally as an electrician. At No 2 was a shop that never seemed to get it right. It was a fish and chip shop, a hairdressers, a bicycle shop and much else.
My father worked at the Hotel Metropole for a short time after he was demobbed. He was their printer and printed up all the embossed menus and other cards. He then joined the Prison Service and was at Pentonville and then at Lewes Prison.
My brother Anthony and I both went to St Mark’s School. At that time the headmaster was a Mr Pinchin. I remember few of the boys at the school other than Billy Ingham, with whom I was always fighting and getting into trouble. We were friends nevertheless. There was one Jewish boy at the school who was subject of much ribbing. I remember that the grown-ups were very derogatory about the Jews who lived in Marine Gate as they supposedly stashed food in the war when everyone else was severely rationed. I see now how the seeds of racism can so easily be sown into young minds.
Armoured vehicle park
There was an armoured vehicle park on a piece of waste ground in Roedean Road, just behind Rifle Butt Road. Old tanks and personnel carriers were stashed there, providing much enjoyment for the local kids, who got smothered in black oil clambering about in the army’s old vehicles. When the tank park was cleared, they built the fire station there.