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Basildon Stories
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My Memories
by Martin Twelftree

     We moved from Charlton, South east London, when I was six years old. It was about 1957.
I remember sitting in the back of the removal van and arriving at our new home in Linford Drive. Everthing seemed so green, bright and new. Our new home was a transfer because my dad had to move from London for health reasons. He got a transfer from United Dairies to Howard's Dairies in Pitsea. I remember going with him one day to help. It was in Vange up where Middle Crockerford is today.

     I remember lots of unmade roads. My brothers and I used to go out in our school holidays, what we called exploring. We used to go miles walking. I remember one day walking to the ford in Wash Road. Another time I remember going to the sand pits which has now become part of Basildon golf course.

     Also I remember going to the old swimming pool on Vange wharf.

Firman's Dairies

     When I was nine I started work as a milk boy for Sonny Firman who ran Firman's Dairies. He was our milkman at that time and I used to pester him to help him, and in the end I got the job. I used to help on Saturdays and Sundays. We seem to cover a big area.

     Firman's Dairies was situated at Westley Hall farm in Homestead Drive, Langdon hills. Westley Hall at the time was owned by the Whitbread family and Mr Firman used to rent part of the farm for his business.

     Mr Firman had a fleet of about five Bedford vans which mostly came second hand from Cottis the baker in Langdon Hills. I remember Mr Firman being very popular in Laindon at the time. We used to drive through the High Road and he used to be waving to many people. He was also known for his whistling as he went about his day. One day I remember we parked at the junction of the High Road Langdon Hills and Milton Avenue (which is about where Valence Way is today). There was an off licence on the right of Milton Avenue and a doctors to the left. The area of Milton Avenue was known to the locals as "The Jungle" as the area had many plotland type homes and there were no made up roads, so when it rained hard it was like a swamp. Another time I remember Mr Firman let me take the hand barrow to deliver to the bunglows down in the dip of Woodgrange Avenue (where Shelsey Park is today). I was gone for a while and Mr Firman thought I had got lost but one of the customers had given me a glass of orange as it was a very hot day.

Laindon High Road

     I remember Laindon high road with shops on both sides of the High Road. Shops like Collings, Toomeys, Parkinson, The Laindon Hotel pub, the old post delivery office, the Laindon cinema, Peacheys greengrocers. Mr Firman had an account at Toomeys for his petrol and opposite was a cafe where we used to deliver the milk, and many a time we used to stop for a cup of tea and toast and dripping.

     Laindon High Road was like a little community with many shops on both sides of the High Road. Parkinson's garage on the corner of Somerset Road, which had two petrol pumps outside and used to sell car spares and push bike bits etc. On the other side of Somerset Road was Markhams Dairies which had a milk vending machine outside where you could buy a carton of milk. Somerset Road was unmade at that time. Opposite Somerset Road was the western end of Laindon Link where to the left was the public convenience, next to that was a big timber yard. This would be where Little Oxcroft is today. On the same side was more shops and then the Laindon sorting and post office then more little shops till you got to Northumberland Avenue, which had the Winston club on the opposite side and is still there today.

     On the opposite side from Markhams Dairies were shops till you got to Aston Road. At the bottom of Aston Road was Laindon Community Centre which was destroyed by fire sometime in the eighties. On the other side of Aston Road was Toomey's garage which was the Vauxhall main dealer. Next door was The Laindon Hotel which was a public house.

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Page added: February 2007
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