More memories of Sheila Houlton (Updated 18/12/07)

I remember all your contact in 2002 when we had the final school reunion. I met up with people (girls I remember in short skirts and white socks, and boys in short trousers!) who had all grown into lovely people and had come from all over to meet up with old school friends.

I am in touch with Evelyn Lott, Eileen and Jean Rivers, Pat Richardson, Pat Davies, Edward Wooldridge and met Carol Slade and Donald Collins at the reunion.

My sister's friend in Tankerton sent the details of your site to her, and to another friend of hers, and they passed it on to me. My Maypole years were wonderful and a more idyllic childhood I couldn't have wished for! We were such a community in those days of wartime and into the 50s that it would be sad for it all to be forgotten. Mrs. Wibley, dear lady that she was, organized a trip to Margate or Ramsgate every year and it was the highlight of our lives.

There are so many memories I have. I went to school with Tony Winter; a very kind and 'gentlemanly' boy, even as a child. Will Beck said that Tony's chauffeur-driven car would take him to school each morning and called for Will (on Denton Terrace, not 100 yards away) to give him a lift to school, too! I moved away at the age of 10. The picture shows which used to be put on in "The Hut" were always joyfully received but I can remember being told when one was due and I said, "Will there be Laurel and Hardy?" Only to be told, enthusiastically that this was so. I was terrifiedof them! They always got into such scrapes that I would sit through it all in absolute agony.

I believe my niece's (almost) daughter-in-law's mother lives in one of the bungalows at the bottom of Beaconsfield Road right now. How strange, the connection as our family, just prior to my birth in 1942, lived in the same bungalow! Maypole House was a beautiful old house and we were all sad when it was pulled down. My sisters and brother used to work on the market gardens which belonged to the Winter family, and picked bushels of tomatoes, etc. Mum went to work at Rolex as their Cook when the new factory opened. Mrs. Rivers and Mrs. Ball also worked with her in the kitchen. I believe these ladies are now all gone.

I wonder if anyone out there remembers a dark-haired, shy girl who was brought into our classroom (those born in 1942) one day, and we were told her name was Elizabeth (Chapman, I think) who had come from Singapore. We'd not heard of Singapore - well, most of us hadn't - and certainly the significance of it was lost on us. Elizabeth lived at Coldblow and we were asked to be very kind to her. I remember her as being a brief interlude in my life. I wasn't asked to look after her as I lived on the Maypole but she was with us for only a brief period and then disappeared. What happened to Elizabeth?

Anyway, I do hope the site is visited by many people. Long may it continue, and thank you for your efforts.
Best regards, Sheila Lusher

Another memory is of taking eggs (camouflaged inside a woolly jumper wrapped around them) to Mrs. Challice - and braving the large alsation chained in the yard - and she would give me a packet of something equally disguised, to take back to my mother. The package contained tea, which was rationed, of course, and since we had chickens and they had more tea than they wanted, it was a straight swap! This happened quite often and I suppose I was chosen to do the errand as I was little (born 1942) and wouldn't draw too much attention. I didn't know about black market rules in those days and when I did hear the words, I visualised everyone in black clothes, under black awnings, with scarves over their faces! Innocent help between neighbours seemed much less intriguing.

Does anyone remember Mr. Pope with his dapple-grey horse going up the middle alleyway between Beaconsfield (where they lived) and Baldwyns Roads? Sylvia, the second daughter, used to whistle her way all up and down the alleyway and would drive my Dad mad. It was when she started to yodel that he nearly blew a gasket. Happy days!

A memory which is in the depths of my mind is that of someone called Granddad Fielder. He used to 'charm' warts away and honest injun, he charmed one of mine into disappearing. I can remember Mum taking me to see him and he chanted over it something like, "When the moon fades, your wart will fade." I can't have been any more than 3 or 4. I remember his funeral (I think it was his) and there was a black carriage with glass sides, drawn by black horses. I can see it in my mind's eye, passing the end of the alleyway, going along Heathend Road.

More added 28th January 2008 -

My Maypole years are stored in a 'rosy' pocket of my memory. I'm sure no other children had as good a time as we did, isolated as we seemed to be from the surrounding big towns of Dartford and Bexleyheath. It was an adventure to go down the 'dip' to Old Bexley and stamp our feet along the alleyway from Coldblow to the cemetary of St. Mary's Church in Bexley to buy fivestones but I had to be six years old before I was allowed to go with Eileen Rivers (3 years my senior). I remember walking over the Heath to Crayford Dog Track with my Mum and Dad once or twice (and I would have been about four years old). One night a thick fog had come down before we returned home. We used to have a treat of fish and chips from the shop in Crayford and were glad of the warmth of the chips in our hands. Dad was worried about finding our way home and I, being quite certain of our safety, said, "Don't worry, Daddy; Jesus will guide us home." I didn't understand the silence and the choking which followed, until I was quite grown-up!

E mail received on the maypolehistory website April 2008

It's so lovely to be in touch. I'm also in constant touch with Fran Gemmell (known to all of us as Frankie back then) who also came to the reunion. I was enjoying Fran's memories of Baldwyns Park and the shops 'down the dip' and remember the fish-shop people, the Co-op (Mr. Chip in the Butchery section) and the Hendersons who had the newspaper/sweet shop which grew into a large emporium in the early 50s. In the first bungalow past the off licence lived Michael Bean. His father, I believe, was in the diplomatic service and I never saw him but Michael and I used to play after school in his back garden, in which there was a dene hole. We were very careful to avoid that. I have an absolute hatred of going below ground and avoid the underground railways in London. There was an air-raid shelter outside the school gates when I was a child. We used to enter down a few steps and it wasn't deep - in fact the ground was mounded up over it. It always smelled so horrible and although I was the first up a tree, I always hovered around the entrance of that place. Do you remember the air-raid shelter? There were some large trees there, as well. I don't know when it was all levelled.

19.4.08 Taken from Sheila's profile

I was born in 1942 and had the most wonderful childhood, with Dartford Heath being an extension of my back garden. I married John in 1961 at the age of 19 and we had almost 46 years of marriage which was cut short last year by his death. I live in the house we moved into as newly-weds and will do so until I can no longer cope with the D.I.Y. indoors and out. Mum and Dad had a mobile cafe on the Heath for about four years. Does anyone remember the day an Army battalion arrived for refreshments at Dad's cafe, and blocked up the whole of the road from Denton Terrace to the A2? I was the youngest of 6, having four older sisters and a brother. The oldest of my sisters died in 2002. That was Joan, who produced the 1947 pantomime Snow White. Audrey (sis) was the Principal Boy, Barbara (sis) one of the dwarfs and I (only 5) was the fairy who opened the production. Happy days!

More added 26th May 2008

Having read Stuart Grieve's memories of the school, he mentions Miss Torrey. She became Mrs. Hinckley. Mrs. Poole was my first teacher, with her prematurely white hair and her blue suit, I loved her. Miss Bean was next in the chain and did, indeed, have a whiskery chin. She wore her hair in a tight little bun and wore a navy striped costume (suit) with a long skirt. Miss Butler came next. She was tiny and blonde and we we all romanticised about her marrying Mr. Davies as they used to ride off on their bikes across the Heath, on the way home. Mr. Davies was a wonderful teacher: best ever, I thought. He brought Worzel Gummidge and Saucy Nancy to life for us, with his readings. He was a giant of a man (to we little-uns) but so kind and fair. Mr. Davies' classroom was next to Miss Butler's. Then came Mr. Rees. He was a small Welshman and quite vicious. He would throw chalk, books, the board eraser, a shoe - anything which came to hand if he thought someone wasn't paying attention. He once kept me in at lunchtime because I had committed the sin of needing the toilet during a lesson! My father arrived at five past twelve and told Mr. Rees what he thought of the situation! We won't go into that. Then, there was Miss Burr in the top class. She was Miss Gaspar's friend and they were very much a team. She was very strict indeed and every week, we had a test to determine our class position. Miss Gaspar I avoided! When I left at the age of 10 to move to Dartford, I was most surprised to find out that I had 'passed the prelim' which was the first part of the 11+ but had not known I was doing it! The weekly tests at the Maypole had prepared me well. However, no Grammar School for me; I went to Dartford West and then the Tec, where I was very happy. Some teachers make schooldays enjoyable but we all remember those who don't!

See what Sheila says about herself on Friends Reunited

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