History Focus – Growing Up in Teddington Part 4

2nd June 1953 – a most memorable date as the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. We had recently acquired a television set, something of a record for my dad as he was not renowned for taking the lead in new fashions. The set itself I believe was a Baird and was a rather odd shaped piece of furniture. It was rectangular and stood upright with a screen that seemed to be about 12” square. We then placed a high magnifying screen in front of the main screen to obtain a bigger picture.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as my dad had told me about Coronations, having lived through two himself, but he had never actually seen one, except for some film clips on Pathe News. I was getting ready to witness the celebration from my favourite chair when a long procession of neighbours and parents’ friends all trooped into our front room and positioned themselves around the TV set.

Needless to say I was relegated to the floor and I seemed to spend a good part of the set fetching and carrying cups of tea from the kitchen.

I remember the smooth silver tones of Richard Dimbleby as he followed the procession into Westminster Abbey. What a loss to broadcasting he was on his death in 1963. This was the first Coronation to be broadcast in Great Britain and the whole world was looking on. The sheer spectacle of the event was quite breathtaking and it seemed as if the world was there inside the TV screen. The weather was not particularly good with a steady rainfall from leaving the Abbey to going to the reception at Buckingham Palace. One guest in particular, Queen Salote of Tonga stood out. She refused to raise the canopy of her carriage and continued waving to the crowd of thousands as the procession made its way on the five mile journey. She must have been absolutely soaked. Definitely a day to remember!

My First Bike

I’ve always been under the illusion that every boy looked forward to his first bicycle. This didn’t really apply to me but nevertheless I was told that I would be getting a bike for my birthday (?) I cannot recall how this came about but sure enough about the time of my birthday, a two wheeled vehicle appeared. It was not a new bike and had all the appearances of being an “industrial” bike. This was perhaps because I had to share it with my dad’s shop. Let me explain, his newsagents part of the business covered a huge area of Teddington – there were 14 separate paper rounds. Not all of the paper boys/girls had bikes of their own and hence “mine” was called upon to be used by whomever. Not only that but if any one of the said paper boys/girls called in sick, then yours truly was summoned from home,(without having had a chance to eat my breakfast) to fill in the missing link. The route could have been any one of the fourteen and by the end, I had a fair working knowledge of Teddington. If it had looked a bit battered before it came to us, the bike certainly did look somewhat worn a few weeks later.

When we first got the bike, I could not ride and so I took it up to Bushy Park and muddled around on the grass until I got the hang of it. I had managed to get a clip or two around the ear from the park keepers for cycling on the grass. However with my new found confidence, I set off into the park to gain experience. When I came to the boating lake, there was a small wooden bridge crossing the stream that fed into the lake. Rather than dismount, I proceeded to ride across the bridge but for some strange reason I could not hold a straight line and steered myself off the bridge and into the water. I am sure that some people must have helped me and bike out of the water but I have no recollection of that now. All I wanted to do was get home and change into some dry clothes.

I don’t fully remember what happened to the bike. It seemed to be used more and more on shop business although my dad had his own bike. I think it was stolen or not returned after a mission and that was the end of that.

My Dad’s Shop

My dad’s shop was a Newsagent, Confectioner, Tobacconist and Stationer and was at No 17
The Causeway. Originally this shop had been a confectioner’s in the hands of my uncle, Harold Hobson and my dad had the corner shop, No 23 as a newsagents. As a result of wartime bombing, No 23 became unsafe and the block of 19-23 had to be pulled down. My dad and my uncle combined their businesses at No 17 until sometime in the 1950s when my uncle and his family decided to return to their home town of Wolverton, leaving my dad solely at No 17.

It was a very busy shop and had, as I have mentioned, 14 paper rounds around the town. On Saturday mornings I was required to help out in the shop as this was one of the busiest periods with customers coming in to settle their newspaper bills. One of my tasks then was the banking and I would have to take the last few days takings along to the other end of The Causeway to Barclays Bank. In those days the entrance to the bank was at the junction of the Broad Street and The Causeway. It was not until many years later that it moved to be from The Causeway itself. I don’t know what the general public thought, seeing a young boy producing wads of money and sometimes coins from a shopping bag and passing them across the bank counter. Would Health and Safety allow that to happen today?

At first I missed not going to Saturday Morning Pictures at the Savoy but I soon settled into a routine and got used to the regular customers. As I grew older, I also had to relieve my dad for his tea and run the shop alone for about an hour. The evening trade was vastly different to the Saturday with a strong emphasis on daily horseracing. Customers would buy the evening papers; there were three of them – The Star, The Evening News and The Evening Standard, to find the day’s results. Some of them would leave bets for the local bookmaker to collect – there were no licensed betting shops in those days. Some of the customers would wait for my dad’s return, reading the papers in the shop. Others would pop in and pass a small parcel across the counter to clear their “slate.” The parcel would usually be a dead rabbit and no questions were asked although it was obvious that it had come from Bushy Park and was offered in payment or part payment of their various accounts.

The earliest form of barter was alive and kicking in the 1950s.

It may be that some of you have similar memories of growing up in the area of Teddington in the 1950s and I would be interested to read these if you would like to share them.

Ken Howe is a local historian and author of several books. howe64@btinternet.com 020 8943 1513