A conversation with a new facebook friend set me thinking about some of my old neighbours in the Drive and how close we were in those days. Today we live on a farm and our only neighbours are our landlords. Though even if we lived in a busy residential street, I doubt we would be as close to those around us as we were when I was growing up. Many of them were known as aunts and uncles to us kids and any of them were there for us in any way they can.
My nan moved into the council house when my grandad became caretaker in the village hall around 1956 and my parents moved in with her when grandad died in 1961. When I arrived two years laters our immediate neighbours were, to one side Ted and Jean Dyson. A lovely older couple who often invited me round to sit and chat and get sweets. They were just like an extra (great) Uncle and Aunt to us. On the other side originally were the Russells. Their daughter Val went on to marry Nobby Dalton of the Kinks. I was quite young when they were there but just about remember Val from then. As it turned out our paths would cross time and time again in later life both on the music scene when I went to see John’s 80s band Cuckoo’s Nest and then when we worked together at Fitzpatrick.
The Russells moved away when I was about 5 and the Tredgetts came in. They would become lifetime friends and June is just about the last one left in the Drive. Russ and I were almost exactly a year apart in age and hung around together all the time until we went to different secondary schools really. We built camps, whacked each other over the head with branches and plastic rifles, and went off exploring the district and getting up to all sorts of minor mischief.
We had an accomplice. Diagonally across from my house (or 5 houses round if you counted) were the Games. A large family with six kids (I hope I just counted right), the one closes to us was Steph. For a few years in those heady days of the late sixties, the three of us were almost inseparable. Sure there were others who came and went (e.g. Jeremy Coacher who lived next door to Steph, then when he moved out and the Fitzgerald’s moved in, Dennis joined us for a while) but we were the three. Steph’s dad Doug, was a nursery man and I have fond memories of driving round in his old grey van (An early transit maybe – I don’t really do marques and models) and playing at Steph’s aunt’s nursery.
Next door to Doug and Joyce (Mrs Game) was my other nan and grandad, my dad’s parents. Also my dad’s sister who married quite late and still lived at home when I was young. There was no shortage of places for me to have lunch if my mum was working and my nan was away.
Anyway, I could go through the rest of the street and mention the Blackfords, the Braces, the Hoskins, the Statukeanis (And no the spelling isn’t right) and the Phipps. Wyn Phipps may also still be around, she certainly was a couple of years ago. But if you didn’t know them they won’t mean much to you. So I’m going to spend the last few minutes of this post looking at the big photo (below and a large version at the bottom) taking at the Coronation party in 1953.
I’ll just flick over a name a few people. Old Goffs Oakians can amuse themselves by naming the rest. So, at the far left are Mr and Mrs Burly, Mrs B. being in the wheelchair. This picture makes me realise how early on she was in the chair. I rarely saw her out and about when I was growing up and mostly visited her at her bedside in the little bungalow she lived in. At the back row in front of the next window are Mr & Mrs Hornsey. Thing with them is, they lived at the end of the road all the while I was growing up and they looked pretty much like that all the time. A lovely quiet couple.
The kids are hard for me to identify now without my mum’s guiding hand. I think the lad in the sailor’s cap with the drum was a Hoskins but, I can’t be sure. The big kids are easier! The man at the front on the left in the bonnet and pigtails is my grandad Bob Smith (I’m sure I’ve told you before that my mum was a Smith before she married my dad so my family was full of Smiths. Both my nans were called Edith Smith). The chap in the Pierrot costume in the far right was our next door neighbour but one, Wally Brace. He and his wife were also lovely people though with one exception. If we were playing in Russ’ garden and the ball went over into Mr Brace’s he transformed a bit like the Hulk. If we did kick the ball over we would first check the driveway for his car (A light blue Vauxhall Viva, I believe). If the car was missing we would pull imaginary balaclavas over our head and crawl Ninja like through their garden to retrieve the ball. It was a difficult mission. A stone fish pond dominated the ground and was surrounded by pots and planters everywhere. Should Mr Brace’s car be on the driveway we would hold a quick wrestling contest and then send Steph to ring the doorbell and say “Mister, can we have our ball back please?”
I can’t remember the name of the guy in the beret but I do not it was impossible to remove without surgery. He rode round the village of years with the beret firmly attached to hi shead and a little Jack Russel attached to his heel. My auntie Edna is in the middle of the picture in front of the chap in the back row with the glasses and behind the kid with the tiny Mexican hat. I think that’s her sister, my auntie Joyce, two to the right. Their mum, my nan, is the lady at the back between the window and the banner or whatever the cloth is. She is quite clearly standing on something as she was about 5 feet nothing in high heels.
Oh, and the lady on the far right who looks like she really doesn’t want to be there, is my mum! At least she showed up for the photo. Her mother, my other nan, doesn’t even appear to be there. Or maybe she’s taking the picture (ha-ha).
These posts are going to appear a little less frequently in future as I am neglecting some other projects. I’ll write one as the muse takes me and post it up. Thanks for listening.