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Laindon in the 1950s and 1960s - Part 5
by Brian Baylis

     It was in the 1980’s and I was having a drink with 2 workmates in a pub just outside King’s Lynn in Norfolk, when 2 members of the Salvation Army came in selling their ‘War Cry’ paper. When the lady approached me I enquired about tracing people from years ago. I then said I had once lived at Laindon and wondered what had happened to a fellow Officer named Norman Shelley. The Lady then told me that her and her husband also came for Laindon and had been at that wedding. We got talking and it turned out they were the Barbers who had the shop at the corner of Almada Avenue and Green Lane. I remained friendly with this couple for a while and before they moved away from the area. I did admit to them as to what we had done after they closed their shop, but they forgave us. It was some months later and without warning, they left the area and I haven’t seen them since. I am sorry because they truly were Lovely people.

     Going back to my schooldays and my last year at Markhams Chase, this was in Miss Last’s class. I remember she used to have a continuous cough. A girl who I think was named Jennifer, used to get Miss Last a glass of water each time she started coughing. One day Jennifer was off school and somebody else got the water. When Jennifer returned and Miss Last started coughing again, there was an argument between these two girls as to who was getting the water. Miss Last was coughing too much to stop them. In Miss Last’s class, we were encouraged to write a diary of what we had done either the day before or over the weekend. I remember one lad whose name was Stephen Chapman, and a regular reader of his diary to the class. I sure wish I could remember more names from those days. In my entire time at Markhams Chase and when we went up to the High Road, I remained mates with one pupil in particular. That is Tony James, as I know him. His real name I was to learn in 2004, is not Tony, but another that I will not divulge. For some reason, I always thought his birthday to be 26th January. It took until 2004 to find out it is actually on the 28th January. When I left Laindon in 1964, I lost touch with him, but never really forgot him.

     Every Saturday morning if we weren’t at our Grandparents, I would go to the ‘Radion’ with Barry and Martin with whom we played daily seeing as he lived next door to us. I was mad on Cowboys and Indians (as well as railways) and when the chance arose to enter a competition to meet my idol Roy Rogers, I so much wanted to win. The winner was to be the Best-Dressed cowboy one Saturday Morning. I had a lovely cowboy outfit and borrowed an old metal gun from Martin. It was nothing like a cowboy gun, but then the winner was the late Robert Riggs, another cowboy fanatic and who was genuinely, the VERY Best-Dressed. I still say that even today. It was a shock to me though, when in 2004, I learnt that Robert had died of Cancer in 1997.

     I can’t remember the year it all started, but when the Laindon Link was first cut, we kids used to play nearby so as to watch the men working on the big earthmovers. We even played on the earth mounds and pretended we were soldiers. I know some of us were playing at soldiers and throwing lumps of earth as if they were Grenades. That was until such a time when I got hit smack in the eye by one and ran home again crying my eyes out as the saying goes because it hurt so much. On one occasion while we were playing, an adder suddenly appeared from the grass at the same time as Dad came along to get us home for our dinner, so he found a lump of wood and killed it. He knew I had a fear of snakes, but I can still remember him taking it away and throwing it well into a field. I can also remember the concrete being put down to make the road surface and a team of men levelling it out with a long plank with handles either end and on the sides. This took place between the bottom of Tyler Avenue and Bluehouse Farm pond where we sometimes went fishing for Sticklebacks.

     It was during the summer of I am certain 1957, and I remember the Laindon Link was by this time open, when my brother Barry, Martin Hale and I went out on our bikes and instead of just going to the recreation ground in Berry Lane or the station to watch the trains like we generally did in the summer, we went off to Southend on our own. I left them there and cycled home again. I was pushing my bike up the incline of Laindon Link from Basildon, when, the next thing I knew was Mums brother was alongside me on his Lambretta Motor Scooter and asking me why I was not riding my bike? He ended up putting it across the back, I sat on the pillion seat, and he took me home. When I got indoors, Mum asked where Barry was. I just casually replied: ‘Oh I left him in Southend with Martin.’ Boy when I went to bed, my backside was SORE. My dad gave me about six lashes of his belt.

Laindon High Road Secondary Modern School

     Like everybody else, when I attained the age of eleven, I started at Laindon High Road Secondary Modern School. My Headmaster was Mr. J. H. J. Woodward. Mr. Woodward, was one very good man and just a matter of two months after starting there, I got into trouble with the local Police and eventually, it went to Billericay Juvenile Court. Had it not been for the glowing school report from Mr. Woodward, I don’t think for one minute, I would have got off so lightly. I got a Conditional Discharge for the crime. I have often wondered what happened to the ‘Victim’ and since spoken with his Mother. As far as she was aware, the matter was forgotten about.

     My first teacher at the High Road was Miss Jollyman and she made it known to the entire class, she disliked me. No matter what I did, when I did it, she had to criticise me and especially my handwriting, when she wrote in RED ink across the entire page of one book, ‘This is the very worst Handwriting I have EVER seen.’ Then broadcast it to the class. At the start of the next term, I had been shifted out to a lower class and then my Form-Master was Mr. Hughes. I can’t remember very much about him, other than that he was on the short side in height, smoked ‘Senior Service’ cigarettes and taught History. My second year, I was in Mr. Poole’s class. This man, I had tremendous respect for, as he was the VERY BEST teacher I ever had at school. I was during my time in his class, the Class Monitor. I next went into Miss ‘Slapper’ Harris’s class. Miss Harris was nicknamed ‘Slapper’ because if any of the girls ever did wrong, they were sent to her and she would slap them round the face. My last full term at the ‘High Road’ was spent in Mrs. Gay’s class and she was a lovely lady.

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Page added: January 2005
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