Plaistow In The 1940s & 50s - a Memory of East Ham.
I was born in Sutton Road, Plaistow (Plaster to us locals) in 1944 and from the age of 4 I was free to roam. Things were different then! Barking Road for all the shops, and the pubs. Rathbone Street market on a Saturday, when it was down Rathbone Street not on the Barking Road. Seeing all the stalls with food overhanging the edges of barrows, which if you were quick or very little could be yours for the taking. If you were slow it used to hurt around the earhole something rotten. Up to Hermit Road for the park, which in the summer was a long day playing football or cricket or whatever. Mostly though it was playing in the street. No cars to worry about then. We had a lorry down there sometimes when Bill Keiller brought it home to have a bit of lunch or something. The only car was at No 1. We also had three different debris where houses had stood before the war. We didn't know we were playing where people had died. If you wanted something like a cricket bat my dad would make one, there was always someone with a ball. If not, a tin can would do until someone did have one. We knew everyone in the street and in most of the other streets. School was eagerly awaited and I can still remember my first day. I know it was winter because I was all wrapped up, so well wrapped I could'nt get it off and the teacher had to help. I remember another little boy crying his little heart out at being left by his mum. In later years Peter was to become a very tough biggish bloke. We walked to school despite the weather, 4 inches of snow on the floor only meant snowballs. I was still friends with some of those kids 30+ years later. Open front door was the norm then, you pushed it open and yelled out who you were and walked on in. Occaisionally you interrupted something, but everyone laughed and you came back later. I had an elder sister who apparently used to try and swap me for dolls or similar. I had a dog (well my dad did but I called her mine) and she was my constant companion. She would often just be laying off to one side but always watching. I have a pic of me, her and my sister talken around 1948.
As I got older and started working, the area started to change, whole streets vanished and often replaced by high-rises. There was so much concrete around in those days. We had started watching West Ham as soon as we could buy our own tickets. A whole crowd of us were there regularly from 59 onwards, Ted was manager then. It was only when he went that we prospered, no slight to Ted intended there. You saw the crowds walking to and from the game on a Saturday, loud boisterous and ever good hearted. Maybe not so if we lost but if it was a "good game" we were not too disapointed. The game really was all important, not the winning as it is now. As we walked along the crowd picked up or dropped off (depending on wether we were going or coming) people at pubs all along the way. Very few women if any then. Kids by the hundreds, it was an amazing site to see little "uns" being passed over the top of a crowd and placed gently along the wall which was almost on the pitch in them days. Never a child was hurt by crowd crushes then. there was always a big fist to punch the ball away if it came too close during the game. I moved out of East London when I got married in 1969 but I can close my eyes even now and picture it all. If we went to Stratford we could visit the street of a thousand smells. There was Max Factors, Clarnicos, Oxos, Lesneys, a glue works and a bone place. Plus others.
All that is now gone and the new Olympics site occupies their former locations. Which would I rather visit today? People were broke but happy with their lot then.
It was said that Londoners would steal the fillings out of your teeth. Well yes maybe.
Where I live now someone stole the turf from a kids' playing area. Which is the lowest, I ask?.
A memory shared byon Apr 7th, 2011.
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