Friday, 25 January 2013

A childhood memoir

I lived in Swinderby Road, Wembley, from when I was born in 1944 until my first wife and I bought a house in South Harrow in 1966. From 1949 until 1955 I attended Barham Junior School and then moved onto Alperton Secondary Modern School, which I left in 1959 to start my first job. My memories before starting school are vague. There are a few. I have decided the focus of this blog will be my school years. At a later stage I will add the years 1959–1966.

Over the coming months I will post recollections as they come to me and, as I progress, I may go back and change them. As a local historian of sorts since the 1970s I know from the reminiscence work that I have done that the memory can play tricks on us. We telescope events, confuse years, people and places — which is why I am writing a 'memoir'. Over the coming months I intend to visit Brent Archives to look at the Electoral Roll for the period 1945–1966 and to work my way through archived copies of the Wembley News and Wembley Observer for the same period.

So what has prompted this enterprise. I have had in mind since my mother died in 2008. In the year before she divided up what family photographs she had between me and my two half-sisters, Roz and Jo. Then over Christmas 2010, my two grown-up grand-daughters, Laura and Natalie, got me talking about growing up in Wembley and how I met my first wife, Tricia, then my second wife, Susan. As a result I joined a 'creative' writing class in Beeston, close to where I live in Nottingham. I have been a published writer since the 1970s on matters relating to local politics and local history, mainly news and topical articles, and from 1984–2006, I was News Editor for Local History Magazine, a national periodical about local history, so I have fair idea of what I want to achieve with this blog. In a nutshell, I want to entertain and inform and, if I'm lucky, I will provoke some feedback as well.

I was also prompted by finding myself on two family photographs in the London Borough of Brent Archives (click here and scroll through a few pics of Howards in Brent Archives, a good few showing my Uncle Sid during the WWI — type 'Howard' in the search box), which were deposited a few years ago by my Uncle Frank. The two including me are wrongly labelled as to location and year. This is one of the photographs which I have in my personal possession:

I think it is from 1945, when I was aged one. It shows, from left, 'Pop' (my maternal grandfather), me, Betty (my mother) and Uncle Sid (Pop's brother and my Uncle frank's father) and shows the back of 36 Swinderby Road in Wembley. Pop was a self-employed plumber and central heating engineer, who traded as 'E W Howard & Son', having previously traded with his brother Arch, who was based in Pinner, Middlesex, as 'A E Howard & Sons' — the name given to the business by their father (my maternal great grandfather), when the business had a shop on Wembley High Road. It's a long story — the decline and fall of the Howards — which I may get round to telling one day.

The back of the house was still like this when Pop died in 1976. There was a wartime Morrison Shelter in his backroom workshop and the wooden bench in this pic was replaced by another Morrison Shelter not long after this pic was taken. The house was lit by gas downstairs and in a couple of rooms upstairs until 1959, when we finally got  electricity. I used to go to bed with a candle until I bought two stand-up ex-army torches when I was about seven. All these things are stories for another day.

Then I came across, Memories of Wembley: Growing up in the Forties and Fifties by Derek Addison and Tony Rock, published by Anchorprint in 2011. They both went to the same schools as me and Derek also lived on Swinderby Road at one point, but seven years before, and much of what they describe is and was familiar to me. My memoir will be, in many ways, more personal. I was never in 'a gang' and my childhood friendships were scattered because I knew children from Swinderby Road; school; The Church of God and, for a few years, the Cubs. My enduring friendships were developed as a teenager in the Wembley South Young Socialists but, this again, is another story I won't be telling in this blog.

Here I am then about to embark of something I have thought about for a good few years. If you find me and have memories from the same period, please add your own comments and memories.

Robert (Bobby, Bob, 'Dodo', 'Tubby') Howard.

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