Welcome to the Southend Timeline Community Archive
The Southend Community Archive is s new feature on the Southend Timeline, it is a place for you to share your own stories and memories of Southend-on-Sea.
So if you have a story or a memory and would like to share it please get in touch with us here:
Looking on at Summer's lost
Of ferris wheels and candy floss
Happy times wish you were here
To take the air on Southend pier
Peter Pan in evening lights
So many things just to delight
The photographs don't make it clear
How life has changed on Southend Pier
Canvey Island in the rain
Far of views to the Isle of Grain
And thinking France was very near
Through the telescope on Southend Pier
Naughty postcards ‘Kiss Me Quick’
Hot Dogs, onions, ketchup thick
Kursal Bingo ‘Full House Here’
Such happy times on Southend Pier
Rossi Ice Cream by the sea
The Floral Clock shows time for tea
As daytime closes, night draws near
And the lights come on on Southend Pier
And now I stand here in the sea
The evening sun sinks low at Leigh
The Peter Boat sells cockles and beer
To Summers lost on Southend Pier
By David Harley
Just at the end of the war, as I was going to bed, my father and his friend went out. The next morning there was a tin bath full of oysters in the house. My father said that he and his mate had been “scrumping” over at Paglesham oyster beds. The oysters were shared with friends and neighbours up and down Park Street. A rare treat in those austere days.
In 1947, (I think), a few ships of the American Navy paid a courtesy visit to Southend and were anchored east of the pier. I remember going down the seafront and seeing hundreds of American sailors in the penny arcades and strolling along the seafront. A friend of the family, who ran a car hire and taxi service, made quite a bit of money out of this visit. He used to pick a car load of sailors and take them to a club in Shoebury, at a £1 a time and the same to bring them back. It was not until I grew up a bit that I learnt that the Club was more than just a club but also a “House of Disrepute”. A £1 does not seem much, but when you realise the average wage was about £3 a week, this added up to a tidy sum.
The day after the floods of 1951, a friend and myself cycled down to Southchurch Park. Although there was still some water in places, some areas had drained and I have a vivid memory of the grass being covered in dead worms. I have never seen the like again. We then cycled to Hadleigh Castle, which overlooks Canvey Island. The sight of just the top floors of houses showing above the water is as clear in my mind today as when I witnessed it. A terrible scene.
I have always thought it a weird coincident that when the Gaumont Cinema caught fire, the Alan Ladd film, which had already started its week long run, was called “Hell Below Zero”. I know that it was re-opened very soon after the fire. I wonder if anyone else can remember the smell that lingered for ages after it reopened. A strong smell of kippers. I used to have great affection for the Gaumont as it was where I used to go to Saturday Morning pictures for 6p, rush home, have lunch, then straight back to the Gaumont and go up in the Gods for another 6p. Good days them.
I lived in Warrior Square from 1944 after our house in Rayleigh near the Weir was destroyed by a flying bomb, killing neighbours on either side and leaving my Mum and I buried for some hours in the Morrison shelter, which saved our lives but not that of my cocker spaniel. After living with my Nan in Rayleigh for a while, we moved into a flat in Warrior Square and I went to a little private school in Southchurch Road run by two elderly people whose names escape me.
During the time we lived there I remember taking part in a talent competition at the Odeon; this was run by Carol Levis who was well known for these events. I sang a song from the Bette Davis film Now Voyager called, I think, Would It be Wrong to Kiss - I did not win but developed a crush on one of the back stage workers which lasted for a little while. I remember all the meals we had a various times in Garons on the corner of Victoria Circus, and the little cinema in Southchurch Road on Saturday mornings watching its cartoons and the Lone Ranger and sometimes there were very hard, somewhat tasteless ice creams on sale.
In 1946 we moved back into our rebuilt house in Rayleigh and I passed my eleven plus and started at the Municipal College doing Commerce. I remember Mr Roberts, Mrs Young, Miss Dyson and our French teacher Miss Rogers (I think), we used to call her Polly Rogers for some reason and do impressions of her pronouncing the French words when she wasn't looking.I also was very attached to Miss Fee who sent me a lovely lace bedspread when I was married in 1952.
I got into trouble during cookery class, which was held at the very top of the building. For some reason I thought it would be interesting to throw a lettuce leaf out of the window into the traffic below, a thought not shared by the cookery teacher as I found to my cost. I did not finish the course at the College as my Father, who was in the army, was posted to Singapore and I had to go with him. So not taking my School Cert I never achieved my ambition to become a Vet, but instead met my RAF pilot husband in Singapore, married on my return to the UK and spent 53 happy years with him.
Just before the end of the last war (living in Westcliff-on-Sea), I would have been about eleven years old, my story begins.
In a garden next to where a nearby friend lived was one of many empty gardens run wild. In the middle of this garden grew a lime tree surrounded by masses of tall fleshy bamboo-type reeds.
Three friends and I decided to bend the reeds around the tree in the centre for support for our den.
After wall-thatching it we incorporated two windows of glass using clay as putty.
One boy’s father was a builder and gave us permission to use his large two-wheel barrow to collect an unwanted kitchener stove (the back was cracked), we manoeuvred it into out den with a stove pipe chimney going through the roof (having sealed the back with clay).
Although dark inside, we spent many happy hours playing records on my wind up gramophone whilst reading out comics on the floor waiting for a stew to cook ingredients, scrounged from our mums, on the stove. For fuel we had a rule that if a fence palling was hanging off we reclaimed it for the stove, - we never removed a panel that was properly in place.
The oldest boy joined the RAF a few years later and became a cook, I like to believe his cooking career was forged on out stove.
At the same time period of the den, along an alleyway nearby lived Mr Bingham in a workshop and a loft.
He mended and built bikes. Mr B let me use his bellows to heat the coke for metal-work.
He also owned a horse and cart and would remove a handkerchief from his pocket to tenderly wipe the horse’s eyes.
Upstairs, in his workshop was a no-go area for me as there was a small boxing ring erected where once a week older local boys would box. When Mr B would tend his horse outside, I would sneal upstairs to stare in amazement at the ring, he never caught me looking.