Homepage is http://shawweb.myzen.co.uk/stephen/index.htm
I was born in Wales, early in 1950, very premature and small. My life was saved by a new drug, tetracycline, of which I received- as a new baby- several large doses. These were to affect my life for ever after.
As a side effect of the oxygen tent I had an inward squint, and due to an infected lung was also subject to bouts of bronchitis.
In 1952 we moved from living with my fathers mother, into a new small council estate in Mickle Trafford (Springfield Lane), near Chester. My memories of this period of five years (52-57) include the small three class school. My sister was one of a very small band to pass the 11 plus exam, and returning to the school very many years later found her name inscribed on the roll of honour.
My father had a bike with a small child seat and we used to bike around. Chester Zoo at Upton was very close by and visited several times.
A neighbour had a tv set and we visited to watch- I especially remember the early US tv show DRAGNET and the BBC live play The Trollenburg Terror.
We visited the Odeon Cinema in Chester, which had an organ which went up and down, and a kids matinee with a talent show and sing-alongs with a ball bouncing over the words on screen.
Summer Holidays were a day trip to Rhyl on the railway from Chester, or a period spent staying with grandparents in Northop or Mold- I think I stayed more often at Northop. Travel to Mold was by train from Chester, but Northop involved a bus from either Chester or Mold. I don't recall a particularly frequent bus service at this time. Grandfather Jack had a lovely garden where he grew flowers and vegetables, on the remnants of great grandads house's garden. In 2004 it was an asphalt car park. We went blackberrying, or collected elderberries, strolling down the traffic free Green, and enjoying the then publicly accessible and enjoyable Park (now a very large golf course- the footpaths are there, but use at your peril of being clobbered by a golf ball). When she was a little girl Mum and her family enjoyed the Park too.
Gran had a wind up gramophone, and a tv set which had a lever to focus the picture! Initially the only electric was from the light sockets which ended up with many adaptors. There was no bath at Grans, except the tin bath in the kitchen, and only an outside toilet, so the high beds had room underneath for a chamber pot. The cooker was a Rayburn coal fired range.
If we went to Mold to stay with Nan, often for the day, we could enjoy the lovely street market, and on Sunday morning, when Nan had a religious service in her front room, we went walking around the countryside to the South. There was no radio or tv at Nans but she did have electric and gas and a bath (both my grandparents had largely unused pianos). The toilet was part of the house, but you still had to go out of the back door to get to it. The coal fire was lit with a gas poker. Pride of place on the mantelpiece was a stone encased clock, carved by my father's father. I still have the casing but with a new battery movement.
We spent some time in the Grosvenor Gardens, Chester; visiting the Cathedral; and walking along the River Dee. I well remember the strong smell of brewing (Greenall's brewery was in Northgate Street).
As Dad was working in the evenings and weekends at the Royalty Theatre as an usher, we also got to visit the theatre quite often. Sitting in the upper gallery- where I do not recall any seats, just a stepped floor to sit on. The flood lights had been rescued from WW2 use. I recall an early appearance by the Ballet Rambert. Amongst the variety theatre acts, an Apache Dance made a lasting impression on me- I think I was a bit young for such ritualised violence!
I saw many acts which were famous or became so- Alma Cogan and Nat Gonella come to mind.
During this period we paid a visit to my Aunt Nell in Slough, home of the Mars Bar factory and whilst there visited London - I have a photo of the family by the Victoria Fountain outside Buckingham Palace and what was then an obligatory photo of my sister and I feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square..
My bronchitis meant I spent some time in hospital in Chester, also for a "personal" operation, and an operation to try to correct the squint- I now have an outward squint instead, growing wider as the scar tissue thickens, and can never appreciate 3d movies! I do remember having the stitches removed from around my eye. Chester Hospital was quite primitive at the time, with open fires to warm the wards, smelly oil cloth table covers, and aluminium cups and plates. And a strong smell of disinfectant.Mickle Trafford Church of England wasn't in the village and was quite a walk away, but we did go to the odd jumble sale and bought some cheap toys and books. I recall a singer with a guitar. My personal cuddly toys were a green Scotty dog, home made from an ancient coat, and a smaller also home made stuffed black sock with shirt buttons for eyes and an embroidered mouth. From Mickle Trafford I still have a family ornament- a battered and not very special plaster horse which travelled to Singapore and back in the sixties.
Much nearer to our house - almost by the bus stop- was a Primitive Methodist Church. I think it was this church which had a "mission" which I attended and was given my own gospel (I think it was Luke, but the memory is weak...). Ten years later saw me admitted into Methodist membership, just before the Methodist church started to disappear and the churches were demolished. The Mickle Trafford chapel is a rare survivor.
By 1957 Dad had spent some time in London and finally we all moved to a rented house in Wimbledon whilst Dad worked as a Civil Servant also in London.
Wimbledon- we lived at 67 Gladstone Rd and I went to Dundonald Road Primary and Junior school. Even at the tender age of 7 I was able to cross a London main road and go to school on my own. Things have changed.
We used a nearby church hall for country dancing lessons; the dining room was a separate building which was also used to show films, and nearby was a park with some good play equipment including a very smooth brass slide. I met a girl there who gave me her address, but alas my mother threw it out - and again and again threw out my toys, I have no things left from my childhood. I have a couple of books and an ink pad from when I was 12. My wife also retains nothing from her earlier years.
I also attended cinema matinee performances on Saturdays - indeed we seem to have gone to the pictures quite frequently at this time. I remember the serial Zorro. Films seen around this time included tom thumb (lower case lettering intended there) with a very memorable whistling song.
Central London wasn't that far away and we seem to have visited most of the large galleries and museums. I remember the Radio and Television Show at Olympia where there was a demonstration of radio effects.
Our road had a small shop, which Mum used, and when the lady owner needed hospital treatment, Mum helped out at the shop. This lady was on her own with a daughter, Joan, who went to the cinema with me on Saturdays -
Our two families had a holiday in Clacton together. At this time we also visited Southend with my grandparents, Gran (May Hughes) and Jack.
On the corner of our road was a Woolworths which I frequented to buy sweets. It was from this store that I purchased - with my pocket money - my first camera, only four shillings and sixpence (23 new pence decimal) with 16 shots on 127 film.
In Wimbledon we had our own electric gramophone, I had a Triang two wheel scooter, and we had our first tv set- and when ill I was able to see the very early BBC colour test transmissions (in black and white of course). Shows of memory here would be The Army Game, Emergency Ward 10, Tug Boat Annie, The Invisible Man, Robin Hood, and the BBC Outside Broadcast shows.
By 1959 Dad was getting restless and we moved for just a short period- maybe seven or eight months- to live above a butchers shop in New Malden.
Here I attended a Church school. The library was nearby and I made good use of it, in particular discovering Science Fiction (Angus McVicar and William F Temple in particular) although also reading E Nesbit and Hugh Lofting. On the corner of our road this time was a new fangled ice cream parlor. Friday nights were special- fish and chip tea from the chip shop.
1959 was a hot Summer. It prepared us for our next move, as Dad took a job as a civil servant- in one of the outposts of Empire, Singapore.
We sailed on the P&O boat the SS CORFU, (not from the originally intended London, but from Southampton due to a London dock strike) quite soon to be scrapped in the Far East. I have considerable memorabilia of this voyage and have placed details of the trip including some company photographs and a ships plan on a separate web page linked to at the start of this paragraph.
In Singapore we stayed for a long period at a Guest House, Tresco, where we read the weekly overseas editions of the UK papers, next to a Chinese village ("kampong"). My sister and I attended an Army school.
At this time Singapore was not independent and there was a large group of British servicemen. It was not as safe as Dad had been led to expect- the ongoing war with the Communists was almost a secret war. Although Dad worked for the army, we went to army schools, and later lived in an army house, we were civilians. If Dad really had been in the army he would have received a campaign and commemorative medal.
About Nov 59 we finally moved to a flat at 190 Moulmein Road- then a quiet backwater very different to the thoroughfare it is today. This was not a British enclave but a mixed race area, with Indian neighbours above and alongside. I visited with an Indian lady teacher who played piano.Our next door Indian neighbour had a secretary with an interesting past, having been interned by the Japanese during the Occupation. The later British tv series about British women in a Japanese POW camp in Malaya (Tenko) was therefore quite interesting.
Christmas 1959 was odd- bright sunshine, 80 degree temperatures. We never did have any air conditioning, just wide open windows and slowly revolving fans.
And little lizards all over the place. And HUGE spiders. And snakes.
In Singapore we did not have a tv (tv broadcasting arrived on the island after we had left) but we did get our first tape recorder. Alas those tapes disappeared.Particular memories of the AKC (army) cinema; seeing Cinerama for the first time (three projector wide screen cinema), school in the mornings only. Very heavy rain!
We employed our first "servant" (amah) a young girl we were happy to pay well and who stayed with us for our full stay in Singapore.
We visited most if not all of the tourist spots, the Botanical Gardens with their monkeys, the Van Kleef aquarium, McRitchie Reservoir, the very strange Tiger Balm Gardens (coloured concrete depictions of the Chinese gods). We travelled just about everywhere by taxi, which was very cheap. Travel to and from school was by a bus operated by the Changhi Bus Company, chartered by the army.
Beautiful ice cream sundaes (and plates full of chips) at Singapore Cold Storage. C K Tang department store (very cold air conditioning!) where we bought lots of things - including some green Chinese plates I still own today. Tangs was then much smaller than the modern store it is today.