Post-war London, early fifties, renovating, recuperating, rebuilding,
Clearing away the rubble of the bombed-out ruins!
Do you recall the way of life we had in those Spartan Years?
The pride, the politeness, and the manners we had, even in our youngest years.
The things we were taught, the experiences we sought.
The relationships we had with our parents and one another?
Do you remember???..................................................................................................
Early in the mornings, head-scarved housewives down on their rubber mats, kneeling,
Not praying but scrubbing at the welcoming steps, until they were gleaming.
The dray-horses pulling heavy carts of coal or vats of beer,
The rag-and-bone man’s hand-bell echoing down the hollow streets with cheer,
The milkman’s clippity-clop as he delivered his bottles with gold, red and silver tops.
Running after him with pails and dust pans, scraping up his pony’s drops,
The peddler on his heavy tricycle, sharpening knives and blunted scissors,
The postman on his red bicycle, whistling, delivering long a-waited cards or letters,
The dustmen, our bins collecting, and into their smelly noisy trucks, emptying,
Both the grocers, the bakers and the ice-cream makers, on their rounds competing,
The friendly constable on his beat, the blue clad bucket holder, up a ladder, windows cleaning.
All the daily goings-on of George the Sixth’s reign peaking.
The garden allotments with their rich varieties of vegetables,
Saturday morning chores, shopping in the local market, getting lost,
The fragrance of lavender furniture polish, on the banisters and the stairs.
The chimney sweeps’ arrival always kicking up a stir.
Helping to make home-made jams and wines, hanging washing on the lines,
Wobbling on a chair, struggling with the iron mangle if the sun decided to shine!
Listening to comedy shows and evening dramas on the bakelite radio,
or scratchy classical music on the wind-up black square gramophone,
Lying in bed straining to the crystal-set headphones’ buzz,
Doing as you were told, never being allowed to make a fuss!
When walking down the road, touching cap to passing ladies,
Taking the kerb side always, when accompanying female acquaintances,
Stopping, head bowed with respect when a hearse drew nigh,
Opening doors for female adults, never thinking to ask ‘Why’
In all seasons, dressed in grey knee-length shorts, matching socks and choking ties,
In winter, wearing capes and sticky reeking oil-skin hats that kept you dry.
With your toys on the carpet, sitting in front of the blazing coal fires,
Eating home made cakes, or apple and rhubarb custard covered pies.
Weekend trips or visits to or from family and friends that lived by,
Musical evenings by the piano, everybody singing or having a try,
Being hidden out of sight when you started to sob or sulk or cry.
Those hated weekly bath nights with pumice-stone scraping off the grime,
With the loofah and the back-brush adding punishment to the crime.
The outside toilets with the non-absorbent paper and its grease-proof shine.
Going to the sea-side, slot machines, donkey riding on the sandy crowded shoreline,
Trying not to look at the cheeky post-cards, but giving them a peek,
Getting special permission to stay up late for the annual fun-fair’s treat,
Or the circus on the Common and being in awe at the acrobats feats
Curling up in bed at night, tired after missing your afternoon sleep,
Finally dropping off after counting all those hundreds of sheep.
Dreaming and looking forward to another adventurous day!
Begging to God that on the morrow, it wouldn’t rain,
Hoping that you could finally go out with your friends and play!
Part 2. Early to middle fifties-on
Do you remember? The Monarch’s death, everyone sad and somber and dressed in black,
Mourning veils and symbolic arm-bands on everyone’s coat or jacket,
The young Queen’s coronation, the flags, the public feasts and celebrations,
Seeing her in the flesh as she passed by smiling and waving, in her glittering procession,
Realizing that a new era had now begun!
Scrambling and rummaging through the still gaping craters or the air raid shelters.
Re-playing out the recent war, based on stories you thought you heard,
Not understanding anything of it, it all sounded so foreign and so absurd,
Going to Saturday morning ‘flics’ at the local Odeon cinema,
Watching Flash Gordon and Loony-Tunes, and Popeye the Sailor Man cartoons,
Candy-floss and lolly-pops, ice-cream and bubble gum that wouldn’t make balloons,
Buying ‘fish and chips’ soaked in vinegar wrapped in yesterday’s news,
Roaming the nearby shops saying ‘Hello’ to all the jovial keepers and their crews,
Annie in her junk shop, the butcher, the baker, and the cobbler who mended our shoes,
Mr. Darling, the milkman with his beautiful young teasing daughter named Sue,
The corner off-license owner who sold his liquid goods to not just a few,
The delicatessen’s window with its cheeses, both yellow and blue.
The chemist who was an expert on every disease and ailment, especially Asian flu,
For your ‘tuppence’ pocket money buying comics that were not new,
Lending them to mates or swapping when you had read them through and through.
The seasons of friendly contests with collected serial tea or cigarette cards askew,
Oven-baked vinegar soaked conkers, dinky racing cars, yo-yos and marbles too,
Blackening your boots, opening rare tins of chocolate-all-sorts, not knowing what to choose,
Playing hop-scotch with the girls and skipping in couples over their rope,
The hated drilling dentist who preferred gas-extractions over proper fillings,
The barber who cut your hair and sold ‘extras’ if you were willing,
Your local group of friends up to harmless mischievous dealings,
Snatching a glimpse of a girl’s anatomy if you all paid her a shilling!
Glaring at the sparkling new motors and side-car combinations appealing.
Growing-up, being less amazed or surprised, getting wise to the facts of life’s temptations,
No longer being an ‘innocent’ boy! Discovering vulgarity and pubescent sensations!
Strange new feelings and ‘activities’ you were told would make you blind,
‘Cowboys and Indians’ and ‘Hide and Seek’ and similar childish pastimes being left behind,
Having soap-box, roller skate or scooter races if there was no money for a bike,
Having ‘banger’ throwing battles once a year on Guy Fawkes Night,
Building enormous dangerous bonfires which gave everyone a fright.
Lighting up the sky and almost burning everything else in sight,
Sneaking home unseen, stink-bombed or ruffled and bloodied after getting into a fight,
Firing pea shooters, water pistols and catapults aimed at a balsa-wood box-kite,
Fishing, or boating in the pond, skating on it when frozen over,
Climbing the tallest tree naked for a bet if you were chosen,
Swimming in the 'penny bare bottoms' just for the sensation,
Sticking potatoes up exhaust-pipes so you could enjoy the explosion,
Scrumping apples from someone’s garden if you got the notion,
Sometimes just larking around with pals and causing a commotion,
Unaware of the daily risks you were constantly taking!
Enjoying every blessed moment of your childhood peaking!
Wanting desperately to mature quickly, experiments seeking!
Just trying to have a pre-sixties good time!
Do you remember now, the sounds, the smells, the sights, your life,
before you reached your teen-age prime?
Barry Gonen -All Rights Reserved