Born And Bred

A Memory of Barking

The summer of 1959 goes down as the hottest in my memory. It started at the end of April and continued right through until the end of September. I was ten years of age that year and I spent most of that glorious summer hanging out with my pals over the outdoor pool in Barking Park. I remember bus drivers and conductors who had finished work at the adjoining bus garage, asking the girl on the turnstile if it was possible to hire swimming gear so they could grab a swim before going home. All were disappointed of course. Barking council arranged with the pool staff for the pool to remain open until 9.30 at night to give more people a chance to get a swim and cool down.
The bikini had just become the height of swimwear fashion and my pals and I soon devised a way to get our first glimpse of the female anatomy. The girls would make themselves comfy on their towels and we would wait until the chosen victim turned onto her stomach and released her top. We would give it a few minutes and then one of us would run past her and empty a swimming hat full of water onto her back. The cold water hitting her baking flesh would make her jump up in shock and it would be some seconds before she realised that her top was still lying on the floor. Her audience of ten year old boys would cheer as loud as possible before legging it to safety.
Another ploy would to be to bet someone to run from the entrance of the men's changing room to the exit by the fountain. The bet would be for a frozen jubbly. As the poor victim took off for the exit, the rest of us would shout as loud as possible to draw attention to the fact that there was a boy running naked around the pool. Just as he reached the exit door and safety, someone would slam it shut so his only option was to leg it back to the entrance door with the rest of us drawing as much attention to him as possible. I must add that we all fell for it, it was amazing what you would do for a frozen jubbly in those days. High jinks, mischief, call it what you like but it was just a bunch of small boys having fun. Very happy days indeed.
I loved living in Barking. I thought it was the best place in the whole world and as we all got older we could walk through the town and know everybody and everybody knew you. Gasgoine youth club had to be the best youth club in the whole world and so many local bands were formed under the stewardship of Cliff Early and Graham Scott.
I was born in St Pauls Road in the old ARP wardens huts. We then moved to a prefab in Bradfield Drive before being shipped off to the new Thames View Estate. We moved back to Bradfield Drive when I was 9 years of age and that is where we stayed. My immediate neighbours were the Duggans, Barkers, Davidsons, Shoves, Brays, Scotts and the Waddingtons, Jimmy and his sister Barbara. I am only too aware of the bad press that Jimmy got later on in his life but I can truthfully say that he and Barbara were the most popular kids in the street and organised everything. Jimmy in particular made sure that us younger ones were never left out of anything and I will always remember him for his benevolence and his humour.

A memory shared by Chris Bowers , on Jul 27th, 2011.

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