Laura Forrester - A few Memories...

14-Feb-2010 : This morning I sent you a message via William Morris School, but wasn’t quite sure whether you were the correct John Knowles; then I learned about your website After seeing some photos on the site, I am now sure that my favourite teacher was in fact your father!

     For years and years I have waxed lyrical about your dad who was my favourite teacher of all time and must have driven my husband demented.

     Do you remember visiting your father’s class of ten year olds with your silk worms? I had never seen or heard of silk worms before that day but can still remember now that they live on Mulberry leaves!!! Your father must have been so proud to have introduced you to us, because I remember him saying that you were on holiday from university. I thought he said Cambridge but I couldn’t find you on that website.

     I finally put my thinking cap on and decided that back in the late fifties and early sixties most people did not have cars. Consequently, teachers must have travelled on buses or trains to work. I knew Mr Knowles had previously taught at Woodside School before coming to Coppermill Lane Juniors, so decided he must live in Walthamstow. If you went to university, then you must have gone to one of the grammar schools in the area and hey presto! I suspect sadly though that your father must have now passed away, so I am not able to tell him what a wonderful man he was. Am I right in thinking that you have a younger sister who must be about the age of 54 ish?

     I have attached a photograph of the class in Coppermill Lane taken in the spring of 1963 (see it here ). I know this date to be correct, because that school was closed at Easter in 1963 and everyone was sent up to Stoneydown Park – in my case just for the summer term, until I went to Beaconsfield Senior School in September 1963. I am in the front row sitting crossed legged and third from the right.

     Looking back, I am sure the last time I saw your dad when I was eleven he would have never in his wildest dreams have thought any of us kids would have amounted to much, but I would have liked him to know that I did do quite well for myself – not bad for a kid from Walthamstow!!!

     If you have a photograph of your father taken around the time when he was my teacher, from 1962 to 1963, I would really like to have a copy of it, as you will appreciate the only photo I have of him is not very clear. The photos on your website only come up as thumbnails.

     The last time I was in the Walthamstow area was very sad, as all my childhood memories have been destroyed. I moved to Wanstead in 1964. The council in their infinite wisdom have demolished the whole of Coppermill Lane Infants and Juniors, together with Beaconsfield Senior School. The Elms House, which was further down Coppermill Lanetowards Sandy Alley, was knocked down years ago – that would not have been allowed today, as I am sure it would have listed building status. I would have loved to have a photograph of the Elms House, but I doubt anyone has one. The family who owned that must have been extremely wealthy, as their land stretched from Coppermill Lane right across to Ferry Lane which, as you may remember, is the continuation of Forest Road from the Royal Standard down to Tottenham.

     Do you remember the old Walthamstow Baths at the top of the High Street? They really were the old fashioned baths, as they had separate baths in cubicles and people could hire towels and have a bath.

     My husband was an apprentice engineer at Hawker Siddley Power Transformers (Fuller Electric), which has also gone and is now a housing estate. How sad!

Laura Forrester - A few more Memories

17-Feb-2010 : The family who lived in the Elms House in Coppermill Lane up until the early 60’s had a St Bernard dog. Occasionally at the end of the school day they used to walk the dog along the pavement for the children to pat the dog and give him a cuddle. He was a lovely gentle giant. The school also held their sports days on the Elms grounds.

     We were lucky to have school swimming lessons and were taken to the Old Walthamstow Swimming Baths at the top of the High Street next to the Central Library on a rickety old bus not dissimilar to the St Trinian’s bus. Not like the plush coaches of today. The bench seats were hard stretched leather on steel legs with brown linoleum floors – very uncomfortable. The old Swimming baths had wooden changing cubicles along each side of the pool and it was prudent to close the double doors on the changing rooms because swimmers jumping in from the side of the pool obviously splashed people’s dry clothes.

     I remember the horrible tyrant Mr Smith with his broom and when you were taking your 25 yards or one length certificate used to push you away from the edge with his broom whether you were in danger of drowning or not. Age the age of 10 there were four of us wanting to swim for our one mile certificate – I can't remember how many lengths it amounted to now but just swimming up and down interminably became pretty boring. So under the watchful eye of Mr Smith I decided to alternate my lengths with a different stroke ie two lengths breast stroke, two lengths back stroke etc. At the end of the mile as I climbed out of the pool quite exhausted Mr Smith told me I had failed. When I asked why he told me I had not kept to the same stroke. What an absolute ----------- Why couldn’t he have shouted out to keep to the same stroke! Much later in life I met someone from a different Walthamstow school with equally bad experiences and memories of Mr Smith!

     I too remember the Sarsparilla stall outside the Como Café which sold Rossi’s ice cream. Just up the road from that was Manzies Pie and Eel shop with the stall outside and I stood absolutely fascinated by the swift action of the man gutting the eels. I have never eaten an eel before or since although my father-in-law used to love Tubby Isaacs jellied eels from the Mile End Road in the East End.

     From the bottom of the High Street on the left was the Co-op chemist with Woolworths next door and further up Colne & Deacons the ironmongers was an Aladins cave and the stall opposite which just sold bananas where the stallholder stood on top of the stall holding court selling hands of bananas like an auction in reverse “come on girls, I’m not asking five bob or even half a crown – gimme two bob that’s all I’m asking etc.” I did hear but I don’t know how true it was that he found a foreign spider in one of his boxes one day which gave him quite a turn.

     I took my children down the High Street one day and showed them the cinema in Buxton Road where on a Saturday morning whilst queuing to go in we used to gouge out the soft yellow brickwork with our sixpence or to get a narrow deeper hole screwed our Yale key into the bricks. It's a wonder the building hasn’t been undermined and fallen down!

     Three quarters of the way up the High Street on the right was the pale blue coloured Carlton Picture House which after it closed down became a shop in about 1966 called Daylins. But that didn’t last too long. Further up on the left was a traditional looking stone built church. Selbourne Park ran from the side of the swimming baths through to Selbourne Road where Wilsmers the timber company ran a business next to the railway line.

     So many memories brought back from an innocent moment in time when street doors were left open all day and we played hop scotch on the pavement, weasle, marbles, football, rounders or roller skates in the road – yes in the road – hardly any cars around.

     I feel guilty taking so much of your time so I will end here. But thank you again for the photos, I really appreciate them. With kind regards

Laura Forrester

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