Ron Williamson

Growing up

"Getting a nice new toy, A Toy, one not two, nothing over the moon, and to get that other than Christmas time, well that would be a treat!

You'd probably get a toy for your birthday, but nothing in between. When it came round, Christmas you'd get a toy, but they was treats. I remember a big fire engine, a big fire engine I had, all made of pressed tin. A bloke on a motorbike, trains, we got train sets all this sort of thing. But they were not expensive, when I say expensive, nowhere near in comparison to what people did spend on toys; even in those days people spent a lot of money.

We would have toys, but not the expensive kind, and the girls nearly always got dolls. We used to have these cut out dolls, sheets that had a body of a man or a body of a girl, with flaps on them, and you pressed the dresses out and stick it over the top. And the boys ones would have soldiers on them, and we'd dress the soldiers up.

We played indoor games as children, pastimes really, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, chess, draughts all those things, you was encouraged to play these things, and as children, we'd sit and play at the table. We knew all the card games long before I ever left school, all the gambling games and all that. "

Daily Life

"There were regular traders came round. There used to be a greengrocer with his horse and cart.

There was one old fella he used to ride a tricycle, and when I say that, this was two wheels in front and one behind. And one day he'd come round with general household cleaning stuff, like doorsteps, stone step cleaner, all general cleaning stuff like this. Another day, particularly Fridays, he'd have fish on, and there'd be fish straight from the market, and he'd cut it up for you on his barrow just outside your house. Fish, and rabbits, he'd have them dangling on the sides there.

On a Sunday, he used to come round with winkles, shrimps and prawns, they was general Sunday tea for everybody. That was just something you did in those days, everybody had winkles and shrimps for tea. And of course muffins, they'd call them crumpets now. There was the muffin man come round with a big tray of muffins on his head ringing the bell.

You'd have the rag and bone man collecting old tots, shouting out and calling, and sometimes you'd have people give you a goldfish for a bag of rags, or a couple of coppers you see.

On Sundays, especially as a lad, Sundays was a real day of peace, and on Sunday afternoons particularly in the summer, families used to walk around this estate as a family, looking at the front gardens looking at all the flowers blooming etc."

Work

"I was 14 when I left school. I left school in the morning, went to the factory in Sydenham, the Aerograph Sprays, I went there and I got a job and started the following morning. So I left school twelve o'clock one day, and started work the following morning!

That was ten shillings a week I got for that. Being a docker's family, we were all expected to work in the docks at some time or other. When I went to work at Butler's Wharf, my first wages there I was still only just 14, my first wages there was seven and sixpence a week, 37 and a half pence a week. That's for forty-eight hours, eight hours a day, four hours on a Saturday.

We used to cycle from Bellingham my brother and I, up to Tower Bridge everyday, 'cause we couldn't afford the fair. Eight o'clock was the starting time, but you had to be there at half past seven, to start work at eight o'clock. Five o'clock knocking off time, and an hour for lunch.

As a boy you'd only do the odd jobs, sewing up bags and sweeping up. When I first started work, I used to fetch my wages packet home, and give it to my mother, and then she'd give you whatever she thought out of it. I used to get six pence, two and a half pence, for my pocket money for the week when I first started work.

What did I spend it on? Well, my girlfriend and me we used to go to the pictures on a Sunday night, at the Lewisham Hippodrome, tuppence each to get in and a penny bag of peanuts each, and a little cuddle in the back seat, and that was the pictures. And that was the pocket money gone for the week."

Free time


"The majority of our school holidays was taken up with just rambling out in the countryside. Bellingham, and I'm going back to the early years, talking about 1931/32, at the top of Southend Lane, it was no more than a country lane about twelve foot wide. No main drainage just a ditch down one side!

And all over there used to be a nine-hole golf course, and the rest of the land, between here and Sydenham were meadows where we used to play. There were two small, corrugated cabins, which used to be like a small local shop selling everything required, and they were two of the old country shops left over from years ago.

Summers days, they were lovely summers then! And you'd go down to one of the local bakeries, Lacombe's was one of them, and you'd be able to get a pen'orth or two-pen'orth of stale cakes. And these you uses to take on your camping trip up to Forster Park, and there you'd spend the day, having a bonfire and coming home in the evening, and that would be it."

"I liked all gardening in general. Flowers I loved the most, Chrysanthemums, I used to grow quite a lot. General gardening, there was nothing I disliked about it.

The Bellingham Horticultural Society did a lot of things for the children, we had flower shows there, flower shows each year. When I first was there, it was pitifully run down. Some of the allotments all round have been built upon since then. A lot of people had allotments in those days, and out the back of where I live now, there used to be twelve or fifteen plots, and I know that eight of them were continually cultivated. We use to grow all our own veg out there; it was quite a thriving society."

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