A Canvey Girl Part 2

Growing up on Canvey Island cont.

26 1947? Canvey Secondary School garden detail.

Eventually I went to Long Road school with Mr Benson, Mr. Devonshire, Mr. Corbett and scary Miss Gosling. “Yes most of my reports said ‘could do better”. Someone brought in a huge length of rope and we would spend all break and lunch times skipping. Later moving to William Read Senior School (segregated playground), with Mr. Fred Watkins, Slasher Eales, Mr Potter, Mr and Mrs Littlejohn and lovely Mr Goodfellow, to name but a few. I remember there was a quadrangle in the middle with plants and I think a water feature. I know we watched the drama group perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream there and it was magical. I joined the choir and the evening class and we performed the “Gondoliers” in the old Hall that was fun. We eventually moved to the new Furtherwick Road school “Canvey Secondary Modern” and actually started to wear a uniform – the Blue and the Gold and as I recall Mr Goodfellow even wrote a school song. We now had more teachers Mr Daniel, Miss Langstone, Mr Challis and Mr Potter (who was also at William Read) Mrs Dalrimple, you may remember more.

At the age of 15 I decided to join the Sea Rangers. I told Captain Cass and she thanked me for letting her know as many just left her troupe without a word. (Brenda Fenwick, Frank’s girlfriend had told me about the Sea Rangers). I had always been interested in boats and I spent many happy years with “Skipper” Madge Moore and the crew. We learnt to row, scull, canoe and sail and all the other jobs necessary for a Ranger crew. I had a wonderful time in Small Gains Creek  which was very different to what it is today. After leaving school at 16 having stayed on in the first extended year, I spent a very short time as a typist in a jewellers in Fenchurch Street, Alexander Clarks. The third day I was there the telephonist was taken ill, and I had to take over the switchboard! I had never used a telephone before in my life! I was petrified, I kept cutting people off! I soon got the hang of it however and was really enjoying it when she came back!!

The call of Canvev was too great and I sought a local job with Prouts the Boatbuilders in the office, then later as storekeeper and rigger (I was a bit of a tomboy). I used to crew for Roland if there was a race on and my fellow ranger Patsy Diamond crewed for Francis. In the bad winter of 63 I got frostbite on my left foot. I had always suffered from chilblains (anyone who has also suffered will know how painful they are). After three weeks off work I returned I used to bike home for lunch and Mum would put sliced raw potatoes on my feet to cool them down, by the time I had to leave to go back the potatoes would be black and crispy. But oh, the bliss!!

I had by this time met my husband to be, though he didn’t know it. Mr Venables the Chemist had bought “Skipper” a boat for her many years’ service. It was Reg Patten’s 21ft Dauntless and I went over with the crew to motor it back to Canvev. It was love at first sight for me but Keith took a little time to see the light, so to speak, however that’s another story.

I remember when crewing for Skipper in the Yacht Clubs Ladies Race. It was quite choppy. We were sailing the Dabchick and I had tight hold of the Jib sheets. I think we came in third, it was pretty exhausting so I came home, filled the copper for a bath popped my dinner in the oven (prepared by Mum) laid on the bed and promptly fell asleep. It was a good job Mum and Dad had decided not to stay in Hastings and came home as the copper was steaming the house out and my dinner was a burnt crisp!

Aunty Beet and Uncle Len Knapp were pioneers in starting up the Methodist Church on the Island I think they used to meet in the Co-op hall over the shops at Jones Corner. Later the Church was built in Waarden Road. Mum and Dad were members and I got married there.

My cousin Mary Knapp and I used to work at the Model Village in the summer taking over from Mr or Mrs Fenwick so they could go home to lunch. This was when it was moved to the sea front just below the Labworth Cafe. Before that it was on the corner of what is Oak Road. You had Longmans sweet shop, the Mascot then the Model village, opposite where Claxtons would eventually have a shop was an enormous set of brass weighing scales which you sat on at the other end the operator would sort out the weights calling out for all and sundry your weight! Consequently my Mum never got weighed!

We would go to the Rio every Saturday evening even when we finally got TV. We all loved the cinema. Boys from my class would sometimes wait for us to appear and my Dad would take them in with us if it was an A movie then they would silently disappear into the depths.

Both brothers had eventually married, Frank had emigrated to Australia and Brenda had followed him out a year later having finished her course as a primary teacher. Jim had met Yvonne Hesketh a twin and his friend Wallv had met Doreen her sister. They had a double wedding at St Katherines. I don’t know if it was the first at the church or not, it was presided over by the Reverend Fleetwood.

Mr Bill Hesketh was one of the bridge keepers who would open the bridge for Yachtsmen and the ship breakers yard further along Ferry Road. He was also instrumental in running the Canvev Boys Boxing Club on the seafront at the Bay Country Club (later the Goldmine.)

Pam Hollingberrv was my best friend and the family invited me to join them on holiday to Perranporth several times. The first was in a big bell tent which was pitched in a cow’s field. I don’t think the adults got much sleep with us girls giggling all night. The following year we had a caravan with Aunty Lie (Mrs Buckmaster). We had a great time playing cricket on the sand, watching the local talent (boys). Trips out in Mr Hollingberry’s Humber Hawk and our first Knickerbocker Glory (Pam’s birthday treat) and in Newquay a chance to try out surfing.

Living in The Avenue the road was unmade and on Firework night we would build a huge bonfire in the middle of the road (very few cars around then) Mr H would produce fireworks and sparklers for us kids and we would put spuds in the embers for later. You could not get away with that now.

I was always rather envious of friends who had grandmothers. Mine had all passed away before I was born. Mrs Brown’s Mother lived in Rayleigh and I would sometimes accompany the family to visit in Mr. Browns Ford humpback. Betty, David and Ian in the back and me in the front with Mrs B, poor Mrs Brown with my bony bottom on her lap. Granny Smith was a treasure she looked and was the perfect gran, small with white curly hair and sweet as could be, I loved those trips to see her.

Well time had passed on. Brenda and Frank had returned to England with daughter Vicki because of homesickness. Meanwhile Jim, Yvonne, children Michael and Susan, Wally and Doreen with sons Richard and Mark had decided to emigrate to Oz, this time flying out – no longer the 6-week cruise on board ship. This was about 1968.

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