If the 1950s were my defining years, then the 1960s have gone down in history as ‘The Swinging Sixties’. American singer Roger Miller summed it up well with his song ‘England Swings like a pendulum do’. That swinging feeling quickly spread throughout the country. Starting in London the fashion industry took off in Kings Road, Chelsea and Carnaby Street. The young men, many with long hair, sideburns and Zapata mustaches paraded the streets wearing flowered shirts, chiffon scarves, whilst the girls shocked the older generation (at least the women, but not the men who quite enjoyed seeing their ‘Mini’ length skirts} Designer Mary Quant was the Queen of Fashion and models Leslie Hornby (known as ‘Twiggy’ due to her very slim body) and Jean Shrimpton (known as the Shrimp) were the models all the girls and photographers, particularly David Bailey followed.
All of this was accompanied by the music scene which really exploded with popular singing groups such as The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits from Manchester, The Animals from Newcastle, The Moody Blues, The Move and Spencer Davis from Birmingham, The Rolling Stones from London but without doubt the Capital place of the music scene was Liverpool which gave us The Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black, and The Beatles. It really was a social revolution in Britain which subsequently had a big impact around the world.
Whilst this new revolution was making headlines Kathy and I decided that it was time for us to take the plunge by leaving Wedmore Road and start looking for our own property. It wasn’t long before we found one which looked suitable. It was a two bedroomed mid terraced house in Bedford Road, Ruislip Gardens. It was priced at £2,750, a sum which at that time was beyond our means unless I took out a mortgage. It was fortunate for us that Shell had a Mortgage arrangement scheme with the Halifax Building Society whereby Shell Employees could obtain a mortgage without the having to pay a deposit first. This meant that I was able to obtain a one hundred percent mortgage loan for the whole £2,750 asking price of the house. This loan required a repayment of £15 per month which was a lot of money out of my monthly income at that time. Many of my work colleagues thought it a bit reckless on my part but after much financial deliberation on our part, which was helped by my brother Bernards advice telling us that it was generally accepted that putting money into bricks and mortar was a good investment, we went ahead and bought our first house.
The layout of this house comprised of two medium sized bedrooms, a similar size lounge with wood block flooring, patio doors leading out to a back garden lawned with flower borders on either side. The garden was fenced on both sides and at the back, there was a paved car parking area which could be accessed from a back alleyway entrance from the road. The kitchen was of a reasonable size with a coal/coke burning boiler supplying the hot water, a good sized larder, the usual sink, cooking facilities, and storage cupboards were all there plus the back door leading out to the garden. To complete the description there were stairs leading to the landing and the two bedrooms plus bathroom and toilet.
Whilst such a house was small and somewhat lacking in luxuries it was ours and we were very excited and happy to move in. Bedford Road was a long road with many similarly designed houses in it and ours, number 62, was roughly halfway down it. It was no distance for me to walk down to Ruislip Gardens Underground station for my daily commute to work. Shopping facilities were a bus ride away in Ruislip or nearly Ruislip Manor. Likewise, we were also only a short car ride from Greenford and visiting Dad which was also convenient. We were also lucky that our neighbors were pleasant and fortunately they also had a baby boy of similar age to Chris. We settled in and gradually when time and finances allowed started to make some alterations to one or two rooms by decorating and painting etc. It was a labor of love and very satisfying. Another thing we did was buy two bicycles, one for Kathy and one for me to which I fixed a safety seat behind my saddle for Chris to sit on. With a haversack containing some refreshments upon my back and Chris safely strapped into his back seat the three of us would ride off beyond the blue (sometimes!) horizon. The only downside to this was that sometimes Chris got a little too excited on the back and would kick his shoes off bringing our convoy to a grinding halt for the necessary replacement of the said shoes.
In 1962 another life-changing event in our lives happened when in May Kathy went into Queen Charlottes Hospital once again and on Saturday the 5TH she had another baby boy who we named Martin Charles. It so happened that it was the FA Cup Final on that day and my cup runneth over when my team Tottenham Hotspur beat Burnley 3-1. What a wonderful unforgettable day that was. I’m pleased to say that Martin eventually followed my example and became a Spurs supporter when he was old enough to understand football better. But not only did he support Spurs later in life he actually played at White Hart Lane in a charity match to which Kathy and I attended as the proud parents along with Martin’s two children Laura and Michael. I was allowed onto the pitch before the match started and took some video footage for future viewing at home. It was lovely for me to stand there and reminisce about those far off days watching Spurs playing on this pitch back in the 1940/1950 days and here I was now watching one of my sons playing on this hallowed ground.
Our family was now complete with two lovely healthy sons and life moved on. We finished our cycling days when later that year my brother Bert rang me to tell me his neighbor was selling his car and Bert wondered if I might be interested in buying it. We managed to scrape together the £27.50 asking price and purchased our first car. This was a classic six-cylinder 1937 built Lanchester 14 hp two-toned grey/blue color saloon with real leather seats, a running board on each side of the body and a spare wheel encased in a cover attached to the back of the car, above an iron grid which folded down to which a suitcase or two could be attached with leather straps. Another feature was a small cog wheel on the dashboard to which a winding handle was attached. By turning this handle, the windscreen would open from the bottom outwards thus letting fresh air in which was a boom on a very hot summer’s day.
But the biggest feature of this quality car was the method of driving it. It had what was called a ‘Pre-selector gearbox’ There was a gear lever on the steering column showing the choices of N for Neutral, D for Drive, 1 for first gear, 2 for second gear, and 3 for third with R for reverse. It didn’t have the normal clutch foot pedal to press down and then slowly releasing it to engage your selected gear. There was a foot pedal but this was called the gear engaging pedal.
The method used to drive the car was to pull the gear lever down to the required gear, i.e. 1st and press the gear engaging foot pedal right down to the floor and immediately release it, you were then in first gear but nothing further happened until you selected D for drive, and released the hand brake whereupon the car silently glided away in first gear. Once you were on the move you pulled gear lever to 2nd gear but you weren’t in second gear until you depressed, and released the gear engaging foot pedal again. This method of selecting the required gear and operating the foot engaging pedal in and out was all you had to do to drive. It was easy and effective but although it took some time for me to adjust to this method, I eventually mastered it. The car was smooth and comfortable and served us well throughout the years 1962/63. The only drawback was that it did swallow up the petrol and oil too much so after those two years we decided we couldn’t afford to keep it any longer.
Fortunately for us, my neighbor admired it and was willing to buy it off me. We agreed upon a price of £15 and the deal was done. Now the big snag for my neighbor was that he couldn’t drive. Like me, he didn’t have a garage to house the car so I drove it around to his back garden and parked it there for him.
Although he couldn’t drive he thought it prudent to run the engine once a week to ‘just to warm it up a bit’ This became a ritual to see him every Sunday climbing into this beautiful car, wearing a pair of large leather gloves and he would start her up and just sit there letting the engine idle as he imagined he was driving through the leafy lanes on a warm summer’s day being watched and admired by other drivers.
I told him it didn’t do the engine any good to do this practice but he wouldn’t listen so I gave up. As the winter months were fast approaching, I also advised him to put some anti-freeze into the car but he just smiled and didn’t bother so I gave up the struggle and let him carry on in his Walter Mitty dream world.
The end result was inevitable, he ruined the engine and the lack of anti-freeze cracked the block. As he couldn’t afford to pay for any repairs, he was forced to get a couple of men to come around to break up the whole car. It was very sad to see this desecration of a lovely classic car by these two men as they took their sledgehammers and systematically smash the windscreen before moving onto the bodywork. The whole vehicle was smashed up and then thrown onto their lorry as scrap and taken away for disposal.
Our time in our first house came to an end in 1965 when we decided to move from Ruislip to a newly built 3 Bedroom semi-detached house in Fleet, Hampshire. It is worth noting that my brother Bernard was right in his advice to us about investing in property because after our five happy years living in Ruislip, the house we paid £2,750 for was sold for £4,750, making a profit of £2,000 which was a lot of money to us.
--End of Part Forty --