I was born in one the 10 prefabs in this area, a plot on the corner of Carleton Road & St Georges Avenue; 8 were on this site, and 2 faced us on the other side of Carleton Road.
They were erected in 1946, my parents and sister were among the last to move in, and all the brick debris had been thrown along the gardens until it landed in our garden. My Dad took it all to the end of the garden and buried it, and there is still a large bump there now on the very corner of Carleton Rd and St Georges Ave. We had over twenty lime trees around the garden, which was quite large, larger than any of the others there. Our house number was 83b Carleton Road.
I was born in February 1947 in the living room next to the coal fire, as power cuts were frequent due to the big freeze of that time. The amenities like the immersion heater, the built in fridge, and the gas boiler washer were terrific at that time. Kids we invited in were amazed to be given ice blocks from the fridge on a hot day. The coal fire in the winter produced copious hot water for baths without the use of the immersion heater. All in all, it was a brilliantly designed little house, and we were devastated to be moved out in June 1958 to the confines of a flat.
When we moved out in June 1958 the entire prefab estate was demolished and a block of flats was built on the area. As a result, we lost touch with most of the neighbours, who had always been congenial and helpful, a real small community.
We had several people in the street who became noteworthy.
Dallas Adams, who was my age and lived at 79, became a professional actor as an adult, and, sadly, was one of the first UK AIDS fatalities.
Brothers Peter and “Dixie” (real name Clifford) Dean who lived next door to us (at 83a) also achieved fame. Peter became an actor, and was a household name for many years as “Pete Beale” in Eastenders. Dixie, always sports-mad, became a professional boxer under the management of Jim Wicks, who also managed Henry Cooper, one of our finest boxers. Dixie had success early on, but a broken hand eventually led to him retiring (to be a pub owner).
We were directly opposite Holloway Prison, and the huge castellated tower of it was the main sight from our front room window. Unaware that it had been purpose built as a prison, (both Oscar Wilde and the suffragettes had been inmates there), as children we always speculated on its previous history as a castle, as that is what it most resembled.
Huge areas of Carleton Road had been bombed, and as kids we enjoyed the freedom of playing on the weed overgrown spaces which had big dips in the ground where the basements had been. We were always building “camps”on them with old planks and sheets of canvas.
Every November 5th, the large bomb site opposite to us on the corner of Carleton Road and Crayford Road was home to a huge bonfire. I see from the 1895 map it had been a Mission Hall but this had been blown away when the houses that previously occupied our prefab site had also been destroyed. Anyway, it was always known as “The Vicar’s Dump”, as the Reverend Billows, minister at nearby St Georges Church, was in charge of it.
Every year, a deputation of local lads, Peter & Dixie Dean among them, asked his permission to have a bonfire there. He always granted this, and from then on a huge stack of timber, old sofas and bedding and god knows what else (sorry, Vicar!) accumulated in a strangely neat pile, usually about fifteen feet high and the same in diameter. On the great night it was lit and a mass of people came to view it and set off their fireworks round it, Dixie would bury spuds at the edge of it and nothing ever tasted as good as those jacket potatoes !
Looking back now, I cannot envisage today’s youth having the patience not to set the fire alight early, or having the skill to build such a neat heap.
My Dad was a window cleaner, and a bit of a pyro-maniac as well. Every November 5th he would bring his short ladder home from work, and climb up on the flat prefab roof to launch our rockets from the milk bottle launching pad. He could thus claim that our rockets went higher than anybody else’s. And despite having a bonfire the size of a small house just over the road, we would always have our own conflagration, that left a big charred circle in the lawn till next spring.
On the day King George VI died, several men came and erected a telephone box on the end corner of St Georges Avenue, directly behind the end of our garden where our “dump” was (the pile of debris from the bombed houses that my Dad covered over with earth.) Only four, I watched the men working while playing on my bike in the street, and when they had gone, knowing that the King had died, and that there would be a change in the design of the crown for the new monarch, I asked my Mum whether they would have to bring a new phone box with the new crown on it. She said “No, don’t be silly.”
We Pisceans are always a bit pedantic, apparently.
New crown or not, the new phone box was a boon for us, all we had to do was walk down to the end of the garden, jump over the wall off the “Dump” to “Our” phone and ring our relatives!