Jean Robinson (nee Rooke)

Hello John. I have visited your site on many occasions as I love to read the memories of old Walthamstonians. I was born in Thorpe Coombe on 22 October 1948 and spent the first 22 years of life living in Waverley Road. I left Wathamstow when I married and moved to Benfleet in Essex. I spent at least one holiday with you and your father, as I was a pupil at Woodside Junior School between 1957 and 1960. We went to Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight two consecutive years. The holiday was organised by your father I believe and I know that you came along. It was the first time that I had been away from home and I can remember being a little anxious at spending a week away from the family, but at the same time being very excited at the prospect of my first ever holiday, Until then we had only ever been taken to the seaside for day trips by coach.

The ferry crossing was such an adventure. Crossing the sea seemed that we were going abroad. The holiday itself was a totally happy time and one of my most vivid memories is walking along the beach at Whitecliff Bay and collecting cuttle fish.
I have always held Walthamstow in a special place in my memories. Although I do not think I could ever return there to live as I love the open spaces around me now, I have always thought of myself as a Londoner and not an Essexite. My grandfather was quite a well known figure in Wood Street. He lived with us all my life in Walthamstow and was short man with bow legs who was always 'going down the road'.

He could be found sitting on the bench either outside the Swan Pub or in later years on a bench at the bottom of Havant Road, watching the world go by. He wore a flat cheesecutter cap and always wore a waistcoat and had a white tasselled silk scarf tied around his neck.

Living off Wood Street I recall the rag man who they called 'Nutty Turner'. I was never sure if Turner was his surname or if he was called this as he came from Turner Road. He was quite a jovial man who pushed a hand cart collecting any rags etc for which he could raise a few bob. On a Sunday a regular trader that came around the streets was the Winkle and Cockle Man. as he walked up the road he used to call out something like' Winkles and Shrimps Cockles 'urkrme'. Really not sure of the last word but that is what it sounded like to me. Perhaps it was 'stop me'. Grandad always used to buy half a pint of winkles and cockles and sometimes a half pint of prawns. He would share them with my family at tea time I am sure that this is where I developed my love of seafood. With winkles you need a pin to remove the winkle from its shell. Grandad kept his pin very handy push into the top seam of his waistcoat. The 'beauty spots' would be stuck all over we children's faces.

Grandad played a big part in our lives. On a Saturday morning he would walk from Wood Street to the High Street to try and find some bargains. He would take me with him. I could have only been about 8 and it seemed like a marathon walk. I loved the weekly trip. The High Street was full of character. We usually stopped for a glass of warm sarsaparilla like most people. I thought it was something intoxicating as I had never tasted anything like it before. We would then carry on down the high Street and buy perhaps half a pint of monkey nuts. These were for granddad and dad to share. We did not take part in eating peanuts until we were a bit older. We would then stop at various stalls on the way down, mostly the ones that attracted the crowds where they were shouting for you to come close and listen to today's bargains. This was probably the original Del boy and Rodney set up. Once we had reached the bottom of the High Street, Grandad would then take me to St James' Street station and we would get on the steam train back to Wood Street., just in time for Saturday dinner at the appointed time of 12.00.

This regular dinner time was something that my parents observed all of their lives. The only day that it altered was Sunday when we all sat down at 1.00. We may have all eaten our Sunday dinner at the same time but we could not all sit around the table. Our kitchen was quite small but there was a kitchen cupboard, the type that consisted of a tall unit with a double- door cupboard at both the bottom and top, and a flap that pulled own to reveal another storage area. Dad had to sit and eat his dinner 'on the flap'. The rest of the family squashed around the table. Without exception, we always had a roast dinner in those days. The joint may have been a shoulder of lamb or hand and spring of pork or perhaps flat top rib of beef, but only in later years did we have a chicken. Baked potatoes rather than roast potatoes were the usual accompaniment as they were probably cooked in dripping. Cabbage and cauliflower as vegetables. No frozen peas etc in those days.

I remember those early days with great fondness and have no regrets of my time living in Walthamstow. Perhaps one day I will revisit the borough and the many happy places of my past.


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