Where We lived

In 1953 we moved to 7 Arthur Road in Rainham in Kent. It was a chalet bungalow with two bedrooms upstairs (I had the front one and my brother, the one at the back). My parent’s bedroom was downstairs at the fromt of the house and the other front room had a billiards table in it. At the back of the house, there was the living/dining room and kitchen. We also had on that level a bathroom/toilet. Over the bath was a multipoint water heater ( a geyser) which gave hot water, not only in the bathroom, but in the kitchen as well. Like most houses, we did not have central heating, just fireplaces. Double glazing was not even thought of. In the winter, it was quite normal to find ice on the inside of the windows in the bedrooms when you woke up.

It was uncommon back then to have wall to wall carpet. We had wooden floorboards, stained (varnished) of course, with a carpet in the centre and a rug in front of the fire. This was fine in the summer but in the winter keeping warm was much more of a challenge. Like many homes in the 1950s, we had a coal shed and the coalmen used to bring the sacks of coal from their lorry on their backs, round to the back of the house and tip them into the shed. I remember the coalmen being almost as black as the coal from the coal dust that leaked from the hessian sacks. Watching Mum or Dad light the fire was always fascinating. Once it was laid and a match applied, they then used a draw plate to get it going. This was a thin, flat piece of galvanised iron with a handle on the front of it that covered most of the fireplace. There was a gap at the top which they covered with paper to get a extra good draught. This made the fire roar as the flames shot up the chimney. On more than one occasion, the paper itself would catch light but was quickly extinguished.

We had a reasonable size back garden which had a mature cherry on the right hand side, a Conference pear tree in the centre and a damson tree at the bottom of the garden. Also at the bottom of the garden was a shed on the right hand side. I remember making camps by propping pieces of wood and polythene against the side of it. I never stayed in any of them after it got dark though.

Hard to imagine if you go back there now that at the end of Arthur Road, just past the top of Orchard Street was a small bit of waste land and on the other side of it, a path that went all the way down to the church in Rainham (St Margaret’s). Just the other side of the path were the woods.  On that bit of waste land was an old car, rusty, no windows or wheels but to me and my friends it could go anywhere. I would drive that car time and again.

Of course, looking back, it seems there it was always summer and me and several friends used to play forever in the woods. They wwere the normal games of course, soldiers or cowboys and indians. We only came home when we were tired or hungry and naturally in need of a good wash. The second world war had not been over that long and there were some bomb craters in the woods which made the games all the more exciting.

Normal life in the 1950s was different than it is today. Many homes did not have fridges and food was bought almost daily. Milk was delivered to the door in the very early hours and there was a bread van that came round (though I can’t remember the how often). I do remember getting a lift in that van once from the shops in Maidstone Road. Another occasional visitor was the ‘rag and bone’ man who just to come up the road on his horse and cart shouting an abbreviated version of rag and bone, ‘nbone‘.

One other weekly caller was the Corona lorry selling bottles of pop! Every week Mum would buy two or three bottles of various flavours, lemonade, cherryade, appleade, American cream soda. The last one was my favourite.