On this oral history interview you can hear memories of playing outdoors near Dalston Junction. With his family all lived in the area. Making money with Penny for the Guy and collecting glass bottles and newspapers. Moving to Victoria Park in Hackney, whole days playing football in the park. Sometimes there would be 50 or 60 kids playing.
He made lots of things, with his Dad and his brother. Adapting furniture, making new stuff out of old. Summer holidays we went to the Lido which was in the park. We would be there all day. We did pay to get in, but by the age of 10 to 15 we learnt to get over the wall without getting caught.
By the age 14 most of his money went on cigarettes. Some games he played with friends were Tin Tam Tommy and Knock Down ginger. Used to play conkers… Victoria Park was full of them and had a go-cart.
Coming to the end of school, he wore bell bottom trousers dyed red, motor cycle boots, grandad shirt, had long hair with a headband. The hippy look. [more below]
Oral History Interview
Before I was 6 years old most of my playtime was spent outdoors in groups of 1 or 2, sometimes more. They were neighbours, I lived in de Beauvoir Square, Dalston Junction. We kept to our side of the square….going to the other side was like going to a foreign country. My family all lived in the square, Mum, sister and grandmother. We did play games but I don’t remember them. I do remember making a guy and begging for money (Penny for the Guy).
Also collecting glass bottles because you could get money back on them. Also collected newspapers from neighbours and sold them at a yard. The man there would weigh them and pay for them. It was like Steptoe’s yard. There was a rag and bone man as well. I had a go-cart (well it was a plank of wood on pram wheels. When I was very young, my sister or brother had to look after me sometimes, such as taking me with them if they had to go to the shops. One time she forgot me until my Mum asked where I was.
I was 6 when we moved to Hackney and lived near Victoria Park, which is a big London park. Started playing with the other children as soon as we got there, just joined in the game. I remember whole days playing football in the park. Didn’t arrange anything, just turned up. Sometimes there would be 50 or 60 kids playing. In the 1950’s and 60’s there were a lot of kids around.
We had jackets for goalposts and whether the goal was in or out was usually decided by someone who was bigger than you.
There were 3 ponds in the park…one for rowing, another for paddling and one for model boats. We used to fish for sticklebacks.
We made lots of things, my Dad, brother and I. We’d sit at the kitchen table making models. And we adapted furniture, making new stuff out of old. When I was 16 I adapted a record player because I wanted better speakers.
Summer holidays we went to the Lido which was in the park. It isn’t there any more. We would be there all day. We did pay to get in, but by the age of 10 to 15 we learnt to get over the wall without getting caught.
I was getting pocket money now 2/6 a week ( pre decimal). I spent it on a bus fare to Mare St which was 3d and 3d back home. Then an Airfix model kit which was 1/6d. I got one every Saturday. Money left over would be spent on paint for the model. I also liked the figures…Robin Hood or war figures. They could be English, German, Australian or French. And there were tanks and other armoured vehicles.
Mum bought me comics such as Beano, Dandy and Beezer. We got some extra money by doing things such as going to the dentist. That was 6d or if a tooth had to come out we’d get a bit more. Things like running to the corner shop were just things we did.
We would build things from scratch. When I was about 8 I bought a kit of a Fokker Triplane and the picture on the instructions showed a fight with a Sopwith Camel with a Zeppelin in the background. I already had a Sopwith Camel so Dad said let’s make a Zeppelin airship. He always did things properly and to scale. We made it from tissue paper, balsa wood and cardboard and was about 5 feet long. I had a cupboard in the kitchen just for my building materials and it filled it. We lived in a prefab. It had 2 bedrooms and was quite spacious. The living room table doubled up as the battlefield of The Somme. English were at one end, Germans at the other. These were imaginary battles and the English usually won. We made our own barbed wire. When I was a bit older, probably 10/11 we did explosions. My father and brother both smoked so we had plenty of lighter fuel. We had some gunpowder, so the explosions were real. All cupboards in prefabs were metal. The bottom shelf of my cupboard was empty because I would build dioramas and explode them. My brother showed me how to make cannons and the Airfix magazine was full of information.
After the age of 13 I mostly went out in the evening although still kept all my models. At 14 most of my money went on cigarettes. I joined the Air Force Cadets in my last year at school which was illegal, as you had to be 16. This was because you had access to firearms. I did fire rifles and was a marksman. I left after a year and became a hippy, but I was in the band. I played trumpet and we did the Remembrance Day service.We paraded through the East End to the RAF church in the Aldwych.
I left school at 15, got a job and then I was never in. I got £6 a week wages and £3 of that went to my mum. I remember it being the 3 day week.
Friends used to come round to sit in my room and listen to my adapted Dansette. We had a huge gramophone which didn’t work but had good bass speakers. So I took the innards out, connected the speakers and it was great. Led Zeppelin sounded good. I spent my wages on clothes, going to concerts and marijuana.
I lived on one side of Victoria Park and worked on the other side. After a year I got the sack because I was late every day. I was late because I’d roll a number of joints and sit in the middle of the park smoking them.
Going back to when I was 14 I only remember going to one party. Some games I played with friends were Tin Tam Tommy and Knock Down ginger. Tin tan tommy was played with a flattened tin can as base, then you had to be tagged. If tagged you stood by the can but if someone managed to reach the can and bang it all were released. Knock down ginger was knocking at people’s doors and running away. We did it on our own street so everyone knew who was doing it. Another way was tying the knockers together with the cotton running across the road, so when a car passed all the knockers went together and we’d sit back and laugh. I had a fantastic pair of roller skates and we invented a skateboard by placing a Beano annual on the roller skates and whizzing along.
I had a go-cart, which was a plank of wood with 4 pram wheels. Then Dad made one modelled on a racing car, which had a top, a bonnet and steering wheel. It looked magnificent, but it would not turn left. He said it doesn’t work, so you can have one go around the block and then it will be broken up. and that’s what he did.
I used to play conkers…Victoria Park was full of them. We used to throw sticks up to get the conkers down and the ‘parkie’ would tell us off. He was a figure of authority.
My first girl friend lived the other side of the park from me, so the park was locked when I would be coming home from her place. I’d climb the railings to walk across but one night I was picked up by the police. There had been a break in at the cafe in the park so they were looking for someone. I explained where I lived but they had to take me to the address. So I arrived home in Black Maria.
As a teenager at school we played Black Jack, card games and stood around talking, trying to avoid being beaten up. In the first couple of years at secondary school I was the tallest and second fattest boy in the class. For some reason the ‘heavies’ used to protect me.
I went to Saturday morning pictures and the 2nd time there was picked out of the line to be an ‘official’, because I was tall. We got a torch, got in free and had to keep order. Basically telling the kids to shut up, get their feet off the seats and make them stand up for the National Anthem.
I was about 14 and coming to the end of school, when I was a hippy. We looked like John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I wore bell bottom trousers dyed red, motor cycle boots, grandad shirt, had long hair with a headband. My girlfriend was in grandad shirt and maxi dresses. We used to hang out in a little park near Victoria park, which wasn’t locked at night.
After I got the sack from my job, I went to the College of Further Education. The first day there a group of hippies asked ‘do you fancy some of this? We’re going to smoke round the back of the toilets’. That went on for the next 2 years. I didn’t really know what it was.
It was hard to trying to get hold of clothes and we’d go to 2nd hand shops. Things such as crocheted waistcoats and loons. Not anywhere much to hang out. Sometimes a parent would let 8 of us pile into a room and we’d smoke out of the window and play records.
I’d go to all night horror films. I was still only 14 but it was allowed. My parents would ask where I was going and who with, but they didn’t know that I was with the worst crowd. I started work at 15 then went to college when I was a bit older.
We went to open air concerts. Saw Pink Floyd at Parliament Hill Fields and the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. These were free concerts. Went to lunchtime concerts at the Lyceum which were very cheap.
My Mum used to moan about giving me bus fares and food money. But I walked and didn’t eat so I saved that money.
Two years later I got a full grant for art college. The first year I lived at home. I’d stopped smoking and stopped doing drugs, but used to drink a lot. There weren’t a lot of drugs at college. We worked hard at college 9 until 9 and four days at a time. The original Hornsey Art College was in Crouch End and there was no student union.
Leisure was seeing bands and going to big festivals. Didn’t ever do Glastonbury. We’d go by train and stay 4/5 days. In my 2nd year at college I went to the cinema a lot, mostly foreign films. I was about 17. One of the cinema’s was the Ritz at Finchley. Can’t remember the name of the other. Mostly only saw one showing of the film but at the Leicester Square Odeon I sat through 2/3 showings of ‘2001 a Space Odyssey’
Arranging to meet friends was just a ‘see you tomorrow’ or knock on their door as we didn’t have phones.
Back to roller skating when I was about 8 I had those skates until they fell apart, skating on the pavement or the road. When I was an art student we went to roller disco at ‘Ally Pally’. Shoes were a problem because we were all wearing platform soles which made it difficult with skates. We didn’t dance, just went round in circles and fell over. We did this every Friday for about a year. I was in a good studio for my foundation course for art college and we were a bit like a family.
Back to when I had my first train set, I was about 4/5. Dad made a special table for it which went on top of the table. I got the Scalextric when I was much older.
I was a student for 4 years, and when I went into working life my money went down.
The year I left college I had my full grant for that year untouched because I always worked as a student. Christmas time I was a postman, Easter I did painting and decorating, and in the summer I was a lifeguard. I’ve never been so rich as when I was a student. I got the job of a lifeguard at Tottenham Lido because I sounded big on the phone. After working for a couple of days at the Lido I realised you really did need to be big to work there. I was the only lifeguard there, apart from one who was a good cook, who wasn’t on bail.
When I was 9 years old and swimming every day at the pool, I had two ambitions. One was to be a lifeguard and the other was to be an art student.