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Remembering the White House, and my grandparents in Station Lane
by Robert Wilson (formerly Tew)

     Reading about the White House behind Howard's Dairy and Tew's the cobblers brought memories flooding back, my dad Johnny Tew (known at Vange social club as 'Tubby') was I think a nephew of the proprietor of Tew's shoe repair shop in Vange and his father was also a shoe repairer in Pitsea. Their mum (my great grandmother) lived in the High Road at the White House behind Howard's Dairy. As a very young child I stayed at the White House before moving into a new house in Tangham Walk I think in around 1957/8 aged around 2 or 3. My vague memories of my great Grandmother are significant to me as she was probably born in the 1860s. I remember a wall behind the range in the White House as it was shiny black with the patination and of years of smoke and grime!

     My Dad and his parents lived in Coronation Villa which was on Station Lane next to a shop and close to the home of Greens Undertakers. I think all of this was demolished to make way for Tesco's. I have fond memories of visiting my nan and grandpa and of occasionally seeing my dad as he was separated from my mum.

     My mum's family were the Baxter's who lived in a street that was cut in half by Ford's tractor plant. I don't remember the name of the road it was either Rectory Road or Gardeners Lane. I seem to remember my mum did show me the site where their family house once stood.

     I remember playing around the moat behind the library in Whitmore Way and walking down the road past Holy Cross church and crossing Cranes Farm Road on my way to sneak into derelict gardens along the aforementioned road to find strawberries and gooseberries and walking along the back fence of the tractor factory towards the Arterial Road to find an apple tree with pear shaped apples (very nice too)!

     In retrospect I can imagine the arrival of the new town must have been a culture shock for the families that lived in old Basildon.

     I went to Springfield school and remember a great teacher called Mr Jerry and the caretaker Mr Venn. I also remember a visit from the King of Tonga which seems hard to believe but I checked it on line and the king at that time used to travel around and visit schools to promote Tonga.

     I used to go to the Saturday cinema club at the Century cinema; it cost sixpence (2½p) in old money and they read out your name and gave a token present on your birthday. Another memory I have is cycling along Honeypot Lane past Springfield school, over a flyover/footbridge then over the A127 along both Pipps Hill North and South then on to Crays Hill to do a paper round at the newsagents there (quite a dangerous journey for a twelve year old). I remember passing travellers in a layby who were using a cauldron suspended on a tripod, I had to bribe the gypsy boys with a fag to get past them.

     Another memory for me is playing on the green hills (now Gloucester Park). We used do go behind the square lake, up over those large mounds to find a more natural looking pond which had trees around or on a small island in the middle; the piles of spoil ran steeply down to its banks. We used to catch Great Crested newts and would often congregate together there with other small groups of children, I doubt if that pond escaped the landscaping of Gloucester park. On the way to play on the green hills we would sometimes play in the drainage culverts which were open and connected to the street rain drains I guess in Ghyllgrove. We used to squeeze through the bars covering the underground parts and walk a short way along to a manhole cover, we didn't venture any further.

     Later in 1968 my attention had turned to the town centre and Saturday afternoon discos at the Mecca Ballroom were all the rage. Cola and bread pudding were for sale at the bar and the entertainment included dancing competitions, racing around the dance floor on eccentric wheeled bicycles which rose up and down as the wheels went round and were hard to ride and steer. Prizes included harmonicas and possibly sweets. I met my first girlfriend in there and was very shy about all things relating to girls. I remember wearing a psychedelic shirt which was homemade by my mum and not being allowed out without neatly combed hair. On the day we left Basildon my mum wouldn't let me out when my new girlfriend called as she was afraid I would run away! The girl had brought me a new shirt as a present and was upset that I was not allowed out to see her, unfortunately we lost touch.

     I left Basildon in January 1969 to live in Cornwall and have only returned rarely.

Title: Remembering the White House, and my grandparents in Station Lane by Robert Wilson (formerly Tew).

Copyright: © Robert Wilson, August 2013.

Comments: This account was supplied by Robert Wilson for use on the Basildon History website.

Page added: August 2013
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