My name is Beryl Cox and I was born in the City
of London Maternity Hospital which is within the sound of Bow Bells. I lived in Canning Town and Plaistow
for my first thirty years. In those days it was not very easy to find accommodation as such a lot of houses
were in ruins due to the war; but my husbands parents had been bombed out and the Council had taken
over - requisitioned - a house in Barking Road, which, it is not hard to guess, was and is the road from Plaistow
The house number was 415 and Bill and I lived in the top three rooms, plus a lovely large attic with a window through which
it was very interesting to peer into the West Ham Central Mission's Queen's Gardens, where Queen
Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) visited and watched the young people who attended the church parade
around the perimeter of the lawn. During this time, his Mum and Dad, and Bill and I clubbed together
to buy a little weekend bungalow in Langdon Hills.
Kenrose, Western Avenue We used to take the 697 trolley bus to Plaistow Station and a steam train to Laindon,
and walk the narrow winding pathway for about 30 minutes to Kenrose in Western Avenue. We had a case with
nappies for the baby, and things for the other two little boys, and food enough until Sunday afternoon. It was
very pleasant walking among the little houses in their own ground, where the gardens were tended carefully,
having beautiful flowers. Not that gardens were not looked after where we lived, but they were small
gardens, mostly at the backs of houses, and which we could not see, with front doors and bay windows
bordering on the street.
In our small 'shack' there was no running water; there was a tank outside to catch
rainwater. The toilet (earth closet) was in a wooden shed about 3' x 3'. I cannot recall in those days being over
fastidious about handwashing, but this evidently did not disturb our peace of mind, or cause any trouble. There
was no washing machine, of course or television. In fact I don't think we had a radio. We have some very
nostalgic photos of the children playing in the grass, and my mum and Bill's mum sitting in deckchairs in
the garden. I doubt if there were many deckchairs in the gardens where we lived.
It was very peaceful, the only noise coming occasionally from the gramophone of
the family in the next plot playing appropriate old tunes and songs. They came down for the weekend and had
a wind-up gramophone. I think officially we weren't allowed to sleep in these shacks, but most people did, and
also had a tent where necessary. And, of course, we could take a week's holiday there. It was a long way
to walk back to the Laindon High Road for shopping if we were there for more than a weekend but somehow I
managed with the baby in a little pushchair which we called the 'taxi'. This had two wheels and no brake. I also
recall buying some bread from a little shop I discovered at the top of nearby First Avenue. My
husband was marvelous. Having no sight and as yet no guide dog, he kept on the narrow path to and from
the station, but there were no mishaps.
Then my husband had to take a job out of the area. In those days he was a switchboard operator,
and we had to move to the new Heartsease Estate in Norwich. Several moves later we found ourselves
back in Avondale Road, Vange, and then Vowler Road, Langdon Hills. It is appropriate to mention here
the name of our house when we lived in Vowler Road. It was 'Ataahua'. Yes, just like a Sneeze! No matter
how carefully I wrote our house-name on correspondence, many people just could not believe in such an
unlikely name. Its spelling caused quite a few problems. I did count the variations one day, there must have
been about thirty, the most amusing being Alleluja. Shortly before we moved out the house was given a number,
No. 39, along with everyone else in the road but I do not know if the occupant still uses its unusual
appellation, or if it is less trouble just to use the number. The suggestion was made to me that Ataahua was
an old Maori word; perhaps someone could enlighten us.
Our sons were very adaptable; and one year found themselves having to go to three different schools, one boy when he was only five. It was
adventure to them, perhaps and they all did well at all their schools. I remember well the concert at Pitsea
Junior, during which 'Johnny Todd' was played on the recorders and sung. This was so popular that an
encore was demanded with much clapping.
The headmaster of one school to which the boys had to go, misjudged the ability
of one of them and put him in a lower standard. Fortunately, in the exams. he attained 20 more marks above the next
pupil and subsequently attained a place at Fryerns Grammar School.
We eventually moved in 1969 to a nice corporation house in Yardeley, Lee Chapel North, where
it was near enough for me to walk to the market, with my daughter in a large pram on which I could
carry several shopping bags. On two occasions in this busy market I was able to rescue a small child in
distress, having lost her mum.
Click here to read on