Growing up in Kemp Town
My earliest memories are of my parent’s pet shop in High Street, just off St James Street. My father had completed his teacher training at St Bart’s but had then decided to open a pet shop. I remember the shop was full of budgies and canaries in cages, in the window we had terrapins in tanks and the back yard was full of goldfish in old roll top baths. One day my father brought home a monkey. I released him from his cage and he swung from the lampshade to the curtains and back again, throwing bits of banana at my mother. She was not amused and very glad when it was sold the next day. My dad bought a fridge. The first one we ever had, I sat and ‘watched’ it make ice cubes.
My grandparents ran a guesthouse in Abbey Road and also from this time I remember a trip from the Palace Pier on the boat the ‘Anzio’ with my grandfather and one of his pals. There was a bar on board; my first sip of whisky.
In 1957 my grandfather was admitted to hospital where he slowly died. Visitors to hospitals in those days were discouraged and only allowed on Wednesday afternoons. ‘The past is another country, they do things differently there.’ Thank God we’ve changed that!
Age six, I moved with my parents to live with my grandmother in Kemp Town. There must have been all of three cars parked in Great College Street then! My mother worked at ‘Bramptons’ the butchers. Among the famous people who shopped there was Dora Bryan the actress. My grandmother however went to the butchers in the Co-op because ‘he had been good to her during the war’. Under-the-counter liver and sausages – the mind boggles! I forget the name of the grocer but remember the red bacon slicer, butter pats and broken biscuits.
Saturday morning pictures were the highlight of my week and on your birthday you got a card from them and free entry! Gabardine mac fastened only at the top and a stick from St Georges Church gardens and Zorro kept the baddies out of Kemp Town. In the sweet shop they made fizzy drinks by putting a flavoured stick into a bottle of water and then connecting it to gas tanks. It cost one penny!
The Banjo beach and Peter Pans was the centre of the summer. One year I heard a young girl sing on the stage. Years later my mother told me it was Julie Andrews! Sneaking in to the Lido at Black Rock was also a summer favourite. We combed the rock pools at low tide for lost fishing tackle, spent hours undoing the ‘birds nests’ and then fished with these hand lines.
Walking home from choir practice at St George’s one evening people were coming out of the houses to spread the news of the assassination of JFK. Even as a child I remember thinking that something momentous was happening. Come to think of it, choirboys were paid quarterly; they still owe me my last quarter’s pay!
We moved away. I forgot Brighton until I stumbled onto your web site.