Streatham Growing Up In The 50s And 60s - a Memory of Streatham.

Born in 1947, I grew up on Babington Road, Streatham. I remember the Home Guard a few houses up and Robin Hanson and I would play on the search lights left over from the war when we were four or five. There were three bombed houses on our road all at the top near Ambleside Ave where we would play. I went to St Leonard’s primary school. Mr. Sopper was the Headmaster and then Charles Stewart took over. There was one teacher, Mr. Keeling who had a missing thumb and a slipper called “Charlie” that you would get on your backside for doing something really bad. On Ambleside Ave in the 1950’s there were three shops, Mrs. Cornish the greengrocer, Mr. Whittles the grocer and down the dip was the sweet shop with the butchers, iron monger’s and bakers just round the corner. Waitrose came in on Streatham High Road about 1957, the first of the supermarkets and that began the killing-off of all the small family owned shops.
There was little money for extras in the late 50’s; many of the kids had no bikes. It was common to share a pair of roller skates by pinching a bit of someone’s fence, strapping it to one skate, putting your bum on the skate, outstretched legs and rocket down the dip or the small park at the top of Babington Road, opposite the Manor Arms Pub. All the old dears would shout and wave their bags at us as we tried to dodge in between them. Every other Saturday morning we would go to the pictures at the Regal or the Odeon, it cost sixpence and we would watch a loony-tunes cartoon followed by Batman, The Purple Monster or a western like Poncho and Cisco. It was only an hour and a half but we looked forward to that Saturday morning.
Firework night was a treat. I remember buying penny bangers and twopenny canon-crashers. We would foolishly light them and put them in milk bottles to blow them up – they never did! On choir night, during Guy Fawkes, we would sneak round the back of the church and throw a couple of bangers inside the church, all dangerous stuff looking back but we all did it!
I left St Leonard’s in 1958 and went to Tulse Hill Comprehensive in Brixton. They stuck me in the grammar stream because I passed my 11+. None the less it was a brutal wake-up call as to how different secondary school was compared to the tiny church school on the corner of Mitcham Lane and Ambleside Ave. To get to Brixton I would cut through the flats on Babington Road and catch the in-frequent 95 or 57 from Mitcham Lane, or walk down the dip past Rickett and Cockerel the coal merchants toward Streatham Station and catch a plentiful supply of buses coming up from Streatham Garage, the 159, 109, 133 are numbers that I recall.
Getting older and getting interested in girls they had Saturday morning at the Locarno in 1961 and 1962. We would hang out at Smiths the record shop afterward and listen to the newest singles. The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens was a hit record then. The bowling alley opened up about the beginning of 1962 and between that, the Locarno and The Rumbling Tum Restaurant, Streatham Hill was THE place to hang out. In the summer of 1962. I remember meeting two brothers whose parents were rich and retired in the country, Dave and John Furneaux. They had their own maisonette just off Russell’s footpath opposite Streatham Station. We would all hang out there. I met Jeff Paul there and he and I would try and chat up girls on Tooting Bec Common and the Ice Rink in the summer of 1962. Then there was the dance hall above Burtons on Streatham High Road by Shrubbery Road. Names I remember are Barry Gilham, Gail Massey, Ed Niece, Pauline Russell, Vivienne Eldridge, David Haines, Lesley Van Doorne, Tweedy Wild, Felicity Oliver, John Penny, Julie Payne, Robin Hanson, Susan Glass, John Vyse, Margaret Earl – Streatham in the early 60's was an amazing time, where have all those friends gone?

A memory shared by Paul Chandler on Mar 8th, 2012. Send Paul Chandler a message.

 Comments & Feedback

Thu Dec 22nd 2016, at 9:09 pm
Carole Parker commented:
Hi, we communicated before, but it's nice to read the above again. 4 years ago, that means we are now even older 😂😂
Wed Mar 22nd 2017, at 8:05 am
hazelathome48 commented:
It was so interesting to read Paul Chandler 's account of life in Streatham in the 50's. I was born in 1948 and also went to St Leonards primary school, leaving in1959. I remember the two headmasters well and Mr Keeling, who used to take us swimming at Streatham Baths. I lived in Woodleigh Gardens neater to the Odeon cinema, but walked to and from school twice a day, coming home for lunch. My best friend, Linda Clarke lived in Ambleside Avenue and we're still good friends today. I didn't pass my 11 plus and was sent to West Norwood Girls school, a train ride from Streatham Hill Station, whilst Linda went to
Streatham High School. I spent lots of time in Streatham Library and went to a youth club, which for a while. Was above Burtons. My mother had worked in a grocery shop called Coopers, opposite the Odeon. The shops I recall are Sharmans, Henrese, Pratts ( where they still had a man operating the lift) and Lotus and Delta shoe shop, where they x-rayed your feet inside the shoes your Mum was going to buy for you! Oh, and Sainsbury, where it was all very clinical with white tiles and shop assistants wearing muslin head scarves tied up on top. I also knew Margaret Earl. Others I knew were Nigel Bowler, whose Dad was a fireman at the station near St Leonards church, Therese Webb, Gillian Cornish, Carole Breed and Margaret O' Loughlin. Our annual treat was to go to Streatham Hill Theatre to see a pantomime. My teenage years were also spent at the Ice Rink, about 3 or 4 times a week. I often want to go back and wander down the High Street, but there's not a lot of available parking! It was a happy time and we had a day off school to see our new
Queen when she toured the country the year after her coronation. We stood outside Pratts to watch her go past and it's the only time I've seen her.
Tue Apr 2nd 2019, at 12:43 pm
lcantwell commented:
Addendum to my previous post. In the flats (Busby House) at Aldrington Road (Mitcham Lane), as kids we would play on the building sites (6 years after the war) and melt down the lead used by the builders and sell the bars for 3d (threepence) each....we used to play "dare" crossing the main Southern Railway line and play run-outs which could last for hours.....
The flats were council (LCC) and kept in order by "The Porter)...he lived on site and was responsible for gardening, cleaning and sweeping the roads and had a uniform...(can you imagine that today)...as kids we made his life a nightmare...we used to scrump apples from the gardens of the private houses and on one occasion, I was probably seven years old, scrambled over a fence straight into the arms of a policeman who have me a "gentle" slap on the face and warned me to behave or he would tell my parents...(can you imagine that today?)
That was England in the fifties, halcyon days for children, maybe not so much for parents who were struggling after the war.....

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