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Plotland Memories
by Ken Page

     Hy all you Laindoners, I lived in Ronald Avenue on the Berry Park Estate from 1944 until 1958 when we moved from the mud up to Berry Lane near Markhams Farm. We had a small three roomed weatherboard bungalow called Peacehaven built by my parents Charles and Mary Page over five years back in the thirties. They moved there from Barking in 1938; my brother Peter was born in '39 so he was running around when I arrived. The inside of the bungalow was lined with asbestos sheeting and the roof had asbestos tiles (nobody knew the health risks in those days). We had a bucket toilet in the usual small shed and over time a "scullery" was added and my brother and I had bedrooms in the loft accessed by a ladder. Lighting was by oil lights.

     For cooking we originally had a black grate wood burning stove and a two burner "valour" kerosine cooker and Mum cooked on the parrafin oil stove for a number of years until the coming of "calor gas", then she got a "proper" cooker, plus dad put in a Rayburn slow combustion stove and plumbed in hot and cold water fed from header tanks in the roof. We dug a "well" in the garden which was fed from the roof run off, then using a hand pump transferred water to the header tanks every few days. Primitive, but it worked very well. We took the Rayburn with us to Berry Lane; it may still be there even now.

     For kids it was a great place to grow up. We had a ball during the summers. Most of us in the area built "trolleys". That was a plank of wood with wheels attached and hurtled down the hills that made up the Dunton Estate. We built snowmen in the winters, held snowball fights with each other and tobogganed down the same hills that always seemed to be covered in snow. The "weekenders" used to come down from London and their kids joined in with us locals in the country activities. These would often include tadpole and newt catching in the bomb crater at the end of Ronald Ave, and another crater further away that we called the Lily pond for some reason. I went to Langdon Hills Primary school from '49 to '55 then to the "High Road", same as most other kids.

     In 1958 we moved to a property called Locarno in Berry Lane and Peacehaven was later demolished around 1960.

     Mum worked at Tollworthy's butchers near Durham Road for years then at Harrington's near Vowler Road. Dad was a postman in Basildon based at Vange Post Office. I worked there as a telegram boy for a while. Prior to that I started at Grant Best Printers in Durham Road for 50 bob a week and after a bit I changed to Smith Greenfields Printers also in Durham Road. I nearly burnt that place down one afternoon burning rubbish in a 44 gallon drum in the back yard. The wind blew ashes into their shed and the place went up in flames but fortunately the fire brigade were on the scene quickly and put it out but we lost the shed and I got a right old rollocking from old Sid Greenfield. Happy days.

Australia
     In '64 I left for Australia on a two year working holiday. I've been here ever since. I came back to the UK in 2000 and again in 2005 with two of my g/kids and will be over again in 2009. I like this site it's good to see all the interest in the "good old days". Although it's nice to have electricity and made up roads and all the other things we now take for granted, even in Australia, there are lots of names I remember on the site but after nearly fifty years the faces are growing dimmer. I do have both the '56 and the '58 long photos from the Laindon High Road school. Did they ever do those things again in later years?

More of my life in Essex
     Going back to my past in Laindon I feel I should add more of the every day things that took place. As a small kid I didn't have to do too much, not like my big brother Peter who was five years older than me. Poor Pete had to feed the chooks, fetch water, chop fire wood, empty the dunny bucket (that was a disgusting job not for the faint hearted). As I got older and bigger I got roped in to some of these chores and by the time I was five we had a couple of pigs in sty's in the back garden. The idea of my dads was to breed these critters and sell them off as baconners and keep a carcass or two for our own use. Rationing went on in the UK until the coronation in 1953 however living in the country it never really affected us too badly.

     Dad had a big vegetable garden and built two greenhouses, we also kept about 15 chickens so got plenty of eggs and the odd chook got knocked off when she stopped laying. We had a rooster so every spring we got a batch of chicks to carry on through to the next year. Dad worked at Sherwoods Paints in Barking and he collected the scraps from the works canteen to feed the pigs and the chickens, boy do pigs grow quick from squealing little piglets to porkers in a matter of a few weeks.

     When time came for the market dad had to build a temporary sty at the bottom of Second Avenue at Lower Dunton Road as the slaughter house truck couldn't get up to our house. With the help of the neighbours we walked the dozen or so pigs down to their temporary quarters to await the truck. This was accomplished but not without some trepidation because if the pigs took off into the blackberry bushes that would be the last we would have seen of them. However, we did manage this feat on a couple of occasions until in the end dad gave up being a pig farmer, I think it was about the time mum got a job at a local butchers shop.

     As typical kids Peter and I used to get up to all sorts of mischief. Scrumping was a favourite pastime, even though we had twenty eight fruit trees in our yard other peoples apples always seemed to taste better. All the neighbours with fruit trees were fair game for all the kids living on the estate and ours probably got raided by the other kids without our knowing.

     Wasps were a big problem if you had fruit trees. These nasty little buggers would eat the best plums, apples and pears right off the tree. Mum used to bottle as much fruit as she could and every autumn the old "Kilner Jars" were used for this. Our loft was full of bottled pears, plums apples and blackberries. She also made all different types of jams, plum, blackberry and greengage were the favourite, sometimes she would buy lots of strawberries and do a large batch of that as well.

     One summer there was a wasp nest in the ground near the path down Forest Glade, every sensible person did a detour around it, me and another lad attacked it with sticks one afternoon. Big mistake, these angry little stingers came out of the ground in their thousands, they attacked us with a ferocity I have never forgotten. One sting is painful, hundreds is absolute agony. I'm surprised now that neither of us was badly injured by them. I have never been stung by one since and I try very hard to keep it that way! Running home screaming to my mums shock at seeing me so badly stung, I was stripped off and just about bathed in TCP the cure-all of the forties and fifties. I never went near that wasp nest again and was very wary of them in our garden after that. We didn't have European wasps in Australia until the '70s, they came over somehow from New Zealand and are gradually spreading over the countryside. Typically Australian the damn things are much bigger than the UK ones and pack a real mean wallop when they sting!! I guess they are trying to catch up with all the other nasty stinging biting critters that live out here in Oz, lol.

     Regards to all in the Basildon area especially old school mates. Ken Page in Australia.

Title: Plotland Memories by Ken Page.
Copyright ©Ken Page, July 2008. Updated: October 2010.
Comments: This account was supplied by Ken Page for use on the Basildon History website.

Page added: July 2008
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