Tales of old Walthamstow - from John Kenneth Wisker (JK or Jakey) - Part 1


21-Jun-2010
I met John a couple of months ago, at a bus stop! We got chatting and I explained I was just on my way home from doing a cleaning job for an elderly lady nearby. He asked me if I would come and be his home help. Over the last couple of months we have become firm friends and when I have finished the hoovering and mopping John makes a cuppa and we sit and have a chat. Well, mostly John chats, about his childhood and growing up in and around Walthamstow.
I decided to see if I could find any old pictures of the area I could download and maybe have framed for him since the memories of his ‘home town’ seemed to fond. I found Walthamstow Memories and this week & when I went to John’s house I took a pen and paper!!!

Ali Froud

John Wisker was born in 1921. His father was John William Wisker and his mother was Amelia Alice Reason. He had an elder brother called Lesley (Surname Harvey as his mother was previously married to a Harvey) an older sister Amy and a younger sister Irene (Rene). Lesley married a lady called Molly and moved to Enfield.
John attended Markhouse Road School (mixed infants and juniors) until his class were moved to Coppermill Lane when Thomas Gamuel School closed and the Thomas Gamuel children were moved to Markhouse. John remembers that the Markhouse football team were very good and they all went to Coppermill where they beat Winn’s Avenue 3-1 in a final, receiving the Hornimen (Tea Company) shield for schools.


He remembers a play they put on at school about Highwaymen.

John left school at fourteen and went to work for Reliance Cords and Cables, Fingal Works in Staffa Road Leyton E10 as a strander. He remembers that his future wife, Grace Bryan (from Darnell, Sheffield) was there too as a winder. (Obviously at that time they were both fourteen and he did not know she would one day be his wife!) He left there after a few years and moved to Austin Suite Furniture, Argall Avenue, Leyton where he worked for twenty eight years and then was a postman working out of Fillibrook Road, Leyton until he retired in 1986.
He first took Grace out in 1939 and they were married in 1945 at Leyton Parish Church by the Rev. Hugh Biddel. They had one daughter, Janet, who lives quite near her Dad now.
When John was a young man he was in a Dixieland style band along with friends: Sid Smee, Harry Phipps, Bert Spender & Ernie Ronson.
John loves music and is a lifetime member of The Cinema Organ Club and has loads of tapes of old cinema organs from around the country. He was delighted to find that Grace was musical too, she sang in a choir at Capworth Street School.

As you can see John’s recall is fantastic. He remembers all the spellings of names and was most insistent that I wrote them down correctly! His memories of the various traders who used to ply their trade up and down the local streets are wonderful:

Mr Humphreys (Humphries?)
sold fruit, bananas in huge bunches, cartloads of plums and strawberries the women all bought and made jam.
Mr Stevens
the rag and bone man who also sold aeroplanes made out of ply wood.
George Reed
a great big man who was the coalman and made carrying huge bags of coal on his shoulders look effortless to a small boy! He also came round with a roundabout on the back of his wagon which he hand cranked and the local children could have a ride for a halfpenny, it held eight at a time.
Alfredo Constantino
the Dickiebirds ice cream man on a tricycle who shouted ‘Icey, icey, lovely cream’ and swapped the ice cream for hot pies in the evening.
Jack Corral
the vegetable man who delivered orders to customers.
The Muffin man
on Sundays a man who carried a tray on his head and sold muffins and rang a bell shouting ‘Get yr Muffins’
The Door-knocker painter
a man who came with a tin of black paint and would paint your door knocker black for a few pence, leaving a notice on the door to say wet paint.
The Window cleaner
he charged threepence and always asked for a "Change of water Missus".
The goat man
who brought two goats and gave goat rides for a penny, tying one goat to the fence and changing goats when the first one got tired.
(Unnamed)
A man who sold American comics, threepence for three.
The shrimp and winkle man
with a horse and cart, he came round at 4pm on a Sunday. On the back were tin baths with the shellfish in them and he sang "Come on you ladies, don’t delay! Bring out your plates for my little fishes! All caught by the seaside shore". His wife shouted "Shrimps and cockles’ they came from Leigh on Sea".
The salt and vinegar man
on a donkey cart with a block of salt and a jug of vinegar. The housewives would come out with containers. He would saw off some salt and decant some vinegar for a penny or tuppence. He would shout "V’negeranSalt".
The man from Pearsons the bakers
had a posh horse and cart and sold bread and cakes and you could order special loaves from him.



I am sure you will agree that John has a fantastic memory for details and names and I hope that if you put this on your site it will jog other people's memories. It would be wonderful if there are any descendants of some of John’s school friends or mates who might add to this or, indeed, if any of them are still around and would like to get in touch with John I would be happy to pass any messages on.
Ali Froud


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