Jackie Howarth's Memories of Hockley (Pt 2)

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Photo:Plumberow Mount, c1992

Plumberow Mount, c1992

Mavis Sipple

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Hockley in the 1950’s was a small village surrounded by woods and fields. The shops were all situated on one side of the road; there was a butcher, a baker, a grocer, a greengrocer (Mr. Tucker) and then, of course, the ironmonger.

The fire station was in the middle of the village. When the siren went off the village would come to a halt and the shopkeepers left their customers to go on duty as standby firemen. We children loved to watch them hastily trying to climb into their fire gear. The local Bobby would know all the children by name and he was held in great respect. As a teenager returning on the last train from Southend after a night at Victor Sylvester’s dance hall, the policeman would always say, “Goodnight Miss Wright.”

Life was very free. We had great adventures on Hockley Mount, rolling down the hill was always fun, and playing in the beautiful bluebell woods, sitting with friend on the railway embankment eating wild strawberries and waving to people on the steam train.  I loved to stand on the walkway bridge at the station as the trains went through, to be enveloped by steam from the train. My clothes were often speckled with coal dust, which didn’t please Mum. I loved the occasional special journey on the train to Southend, and was fascinated by the sash windows, the knotted rope luggage racks and the white headrests which were used to keep the upholstery clean.

I enjoyed walking to the Smithy near my grandparents’ house in Harrogate Drive to watch the horseshoes being prepared on the anvil and fitted on the horse’s hooves. My grandparents lived about three miles away from us at the other end of Hockley. We were able to take a shortcut there across the fields and stiles. Even at a young age we always felt safe. Hockley Woods was a place I loved. I had great adventures there with friends, the Brownies or simply by myself.

My sister and I were Brownies and then Guides. Meetings were held in the Congregational Hall in Bramerton Road in the centre of Hockley. We always remember walking home in the dark one night down Plumberow Avenue, with only a few houses, and only dim gas lamps to light our way when four men carrying a coffin passed us on the narrow path. It was a little scary.

I went to Hockley Primary School and although I had to walk nearly two miles each way, this never seemed to bother me. Sometimes if I had a couple of pennies I went to the sweet shop at the top of the hill near the school. ‘Sherbert Dabs’ was my favourite followed by honeycomb and Fisherman’s Friend. That shop will remain in my memory forever, such wonderful colours and smells.

I remember the sloping desks in the schoolroom with a bench seat attached. We used ink pens whose nibs would split and scatter ink all over your work. I loved being the ink monitor filling the pots, but I disliked being the milk monitor because of the sour smell. When we were in the top class being prepared for the Eleven+ (not that we were aware of it at the time).

We were allowed to use a small part of the wood at playtime, a perfect place for ‘Kiss Chase’.  We played many games in the playground including Hopscotch and skipping. I loved my years at school, and in particular I loved Mathematics and nature lessons. The teachers were very strict. My only upset was when I passed the 11+. I was ostracised and called ‘posh’. Only one other girl passed the exam and she was the fat smelly girl in the corner. Kids can be very cruel...

When I was eleven we moved into a newly built bungalow in Bramerton Road. By that time I was attending Westcliff High School and had a long journey to make on the no.7 bus. The local boys were horrid and I lost many a school beret, as they were thrown out of the window. One girl had her plaits tied together round one of the posts and it took us most of the journey to untie her. She cried all the time.

As a teenager enjoyed the dances in the Village Hall every week. I earned money by serving in the local greengrocers every Saturday. I remember Mr Tucker well. He was a kind man and one of the standby firemen. I enjoyed serving, but I disliked the smell of the boiling beetroot. I got told off when I made up the ordered boxes of fruit and veg. as I would never put old stuff in the boxes, particularly when I filled the box for Mrs. Zisserman, the local doctor’s wife.

It was many years later when I became a teacher that I got to know Hazel Zisserman well, as we worked together at Eastwood School for many years. I sometimes went mushroom picking as a young girl, at the local mushroom farm then located behind Potter’s Hardware. Then there was Pea picking at the local farm, backaching work!

By 1953 Hockley was changing rapidly, with new housing estates, shops and schools. The innocent days of my youth were disappearing, but the influence of that friendly village will remain forever with me.

This page was added by Mave Sipple on 28/07/2012.
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