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Basildon Stories
Laindon in the 1950s and 1960s - Part 2
by Brian Baylis

     After the new Post Office and Sorting Office, there was a large house. This was one of the homes of the Berry Boys & Boxing Club run by Fred Nunn. I eventually joined it but not to take up boxing. Next to that and up a flight of 4 large steps and 1 small step was another sweetshop I knew as The Primrose. I have a postcard bearing a photograph of this same shop. We never went in there very much because we were scared of the lady that ran it for some strange reason. After that, there were another series of shops including a grocers and ‘Harris’s’ the gent’s hairdresser. Dad would never let us use them as he said they were too dear. We always had to go to Bert Upton over Langdon Hills every 2 or 3 weeks to have our hair cut. One day I disobeyed dad and went to Harris’s. Dad went spare when I told him and so he sent me to bed early. Just past them, there were some more shops including Henbest’s, another sweet shop and then the others I can’t recall what they sold except the last one which was another shoe shop and I remember they sold Clark’s shoes. Then there was Essex Road, another unmade road going up the side of it. Across from there was Carey’s another Timber Merchant. After their yard, there was a toilet block with the ‘Gents’ next to the timber yard and the ‘Ladies’ next to where the Laindon Link started. I can’t recall what was where the Laindon Link started, but I seem to think it was just wasteland.

     Going back to Townsend’s corner, next to their shop was a small field fenced off and I have no idea just how long it was distance wise, but only short and then the first Laindon Post Office stood for a while I had my first Savings Book from there and the book number was LAINDON 3622. I had this Savings Book for years and kept this same number. That first Post Office was then converted to Barclays Bank. Next to that was Denbigh (as spelt) Road then there was a shop I strongly believe was T. E. Collings another Hardware store. I can remember going into here to get a gallon of paraffin for the heater at home. Then came a series of shops and those I recall are Clark’s a toy and bike shop, a butcher, another greengrocer and Moorcroft’s a clothier. I am certain the last shop in that block was of a plumber, then there was a gap and Reed’s newsagent where I bought 4 postcards of Laindon for 6d each back in the late 50’s/early 60’s. They were the very last they had of them and I still have them today. Next door to Reed’s was a grocer shop we then knew as Green’s Stores. Mum would often get the weekly shop in there. Years later, this shop became known as Parkinson’s and so the corner of Durham Road where this shop still stands, became known as Parkinson’s Corner. Just turning this corner and going down into Durham Road, there were 4 or 5 little shops where we took old clothes and to the ‘Rag man’ who gave Mum a few coppers for the rags. At the bottom was a Printers whose name escapes me. Opposite these was just a wall. From what I remember, the road went slightly to the right at the very bottom as we knew it and there were houses there. We were never allowed down there.

     Talking about these shops, each and every Christmas when I believed in him, I asked Santa Claus for an Electric train-set, but always got a clockwork set. As we know they had to be constantly wound up to make them go. I don’t know what made me like trains, but over the years, I could often be found on or near to Laindon station watching the trains, hauled by ‘Stanier’ Standard Tank 2-6-4’s either stopping at the station or as they occasionally did and thunder through. Many a time when they stood in the platform, on the ‘Up’ road - that is London bound - I would stand on the bridge so that as they steamed out, I would get a beautiful face full of that smoke. One Saturday evening in about 1958/9 while Mum and Marlene were on their way back home from shopping in Romford, Dad went down to Clark’s and bought Barry and I, our very first Electric train set. Looking back now, I think it was mainly for me because Barry has never truly had the interest in railways that I have.

     Back into the High Street and from Durham Road, we had a small number of little shops beginning with Surridge and Dawson Printers and I remember there was ‘Charsley’s’ shoe shop and a café. I was in class with David Charsley. The others I can’t remember what they sold. From the café to the pavement there was a wall. Next to that was a rough driveway and at the back was ‘D. C. Jeakin’s Removals’ yard/depot. The other side of the driveway, there was another wall and their furniture shop. I remember Mum and Dad buying a drop-leaf table and 6 chairs from there. Next to them came the now very sadly demolished ‘Laindon Hotel’ with the football ground to the back. Oh what memories of Laindon United playing at home and Dad on the gate collecting the entrance fee of all of 6d for adults and 3d for kids. A couple of names of players I recall are: Spud Murphy, Barry Pidgeon and his brother whose first name eludes me. The ball was of leather and when it was wet, it was heavy. I can remember when on a few occasions, we had 1d on a corner. Four of us selected a corner and every time a corner kick was taken from that corner, the others each had to give 1d to the one who chose it. One Saturday while watching "United" playing at home, Mum decided to join us and perhaps give the lads some support, bearing in mind, she had never seen a football match before and knew nothing about playing or what was required to win apart from goals had to be scored. During the course of the game we were all cheering "United" on and when the very first attack came upon the goal nearest to us and by United, Mum turned to Dad and asked: "What's up with that guy in the jersey? He won't let the ball go in the net." The laughter that followed was loud and one fellow spectator then turned to my Dad and said: "Here Frank, why don't you take the missus home and teach her how to play football?" We have very often referred to that day and so laughed. In fact, even though Mum passed to Spirit in 1987, we still talk about it. Bless Her Heart, because we all still miss her.

     From the ‘Laindon Hotel’ there was a garden that was fenced off from the main road. Beyond that and set back from the pavement was a small bungalow type building that was being used as an office for Charrington’s Coal Merchants. Then there was a small space for customers to park their cars, well those that could afford them in those days. Then there was ‘Toomey’s’ garage where they sold ‘Cleveland’ petrol at 1/6d a gallon and that was the highest price. They also carried out repairs to cars. Then the MOT came in and they did them. Next to them was Aston Road, which eventually led down to the very first Community Centre. Across Aston Road from Toomey’s were another set of shops. The first was ‘O. Shead’. The wall at the side of their shop (Aston Road side) had two advertising boards and in a photograph I have, they are advertising ‘Sanpic’ so I think this may have been another grocer type shop. There were another five shops including Shepherd’s bread and cake shop/Restaurant. The cakes were nice, but also dearer than Cottis’s prices, so Mum would never buy cakes from them.

     Next to Shepherds was Laindon Fire station with two tenders based there. I can still picture the siren at the top of the pole and hear it going off when there was a fire somewhere. I have seen a similar ‘Fire Engine’ as we called them, to the bigger one of the 2 they had and it was in grey. Laindon also had a little Land Rover type tender as well. If ever there was a chimney fire in Tyler Avenue, Basil Drive, Buckingham Road or surrounding roads, the fire brigade refused to attend because the roads were unmade. Only once do I recall seeing them come up Winston Hill to a fire in Sandringham Road and across from Rutland Road, which were both just beyond Byron’s shop. That was when a house almost opposite Rutland Road caught fire. Byron was related to Ernie and Dolly Byron who lived in a big house, with a huge yard on the corner of Rutland and Sandringham Road.

     After the Fire Station, there were more shops and the ‘Laindon Recorder’ office. One of these shops was another hardware/decorating shop but what the other shops sold, I can’t recall. Then there was a lovely little building and this was known as ‘Laindon Memorial Hall’ where ‘The Revellers’, led I believe by the late Fred Penson Snr. and his family, put on some very good shows. It was while we were in there on Thursday 30th January 1958, a very foggy night, when a lady came in and told everybody there had been a train crash in Dagenham. When we eventually arrived home, we were told our next-door neighbour Billy Bedwell had been on one of the trains that had collided, but he was safe and reported to be sitting on Dagenham East station awaiting transport home.

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Page added: January 2005
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