Click on the pictures to enlarge them.
Married life for Donald Jack Gowing and Winifred May Deacon started at 15 Ruthven Avenue, Waltham Cross, (Hertfordshire) in 1940. Although neither are now with us, their early days together were recalled by Donald Jack, one spring day in 2001, Bridlington the East Riding of Yorkshire. I have reproduced his words as told to me as accurately as possible.
"I first met Win in 1936 when I was living at 103 Sewardstone Road, Chingford, she was about 19 years old and I was 16 or 17. Our paths first crossed at the Sewardstone Village Mission Hall. It was either a Wednesday evening meeting or a Sunday meeting, we both used to go to the same ones. (Whether that was by accident or design was not made clear). Win used to go with her sister Lillian and some other girlfriends and I went with friends of my own, in those days it was not acceptable to be alone with a member of the opposite sex. I was already working for Sopers farm (Low Hall Farm) seven days a week, and that didn't leave much time for a social life. At the time Win was living at Queens Grove Road, Chingford and later moved to Pretoria Crescent, Chingford. We used to go cycling a lot, we went everywhere on bikes, it was easy, there was no traffic about in those days and cycling was not only a cheap method of transport but also every youngsters favourite pastime.
At the time Win was working at Woodford as a nanny, she used to cycle to work everyday seven days a week. At, or just after the time we met, her employers who were very wealthy people, moved to Thorpe Bay near Southend. Win went with them for a time as a "live in" Nanny but the child's mother died and the father took over raising the child with the assistance of a relative. Win soon found a new employer, again in Woodford and things settled down. She was taken on holiday with the children on several occasions, again as a "live in" nanny and she stayed with this employer until they moved out of the area. Win finally gave up working as a nanny about 1938/9, it would have been about twelve months prior to our marriage. She then worked as a housekeeper for an old Lady in Beresford Road, Chingford (near the station) until we were married. To my almost certain knowledge these were the only occupations she ever had. I often remember Win going down to the station in the late afternoon/early evening to meet her father John Benjamin. He used to work in Stoke Newington in a paper processing plant, he had something to do with the watermarking of banknotes and it eventually costs him his life. He died of lead poisoning and it was classed as a "work based" injury.
Sarah Ethel Gowing, Alfred Peacham, Donald Jack, Winifred May, Bridesmaid Lilian Deacon, John Benjamin and Annie Elizabeth.
Win's father, John Benjamin was not over keen on us getting married but did not put up stern resistance. We were married 23rd March,1940 and Win moved in with us (Sarah Ethel, Raymond Leslie and myself) at Waltham Cross, (Hertfordshire), at that time my mother was working at Murex in Waltham Cross and I had already joined the Co-op (Enfield Highway Cooperative Society) and was reasonably confident of a secure future. The Co-op promised me, that in the event of my being called up, I would have a job to go back to when the war was over and although it was an easy promise to make under the circumstances, it was kept. Audrey was born in January and in February of the same year I was called up to the R.A.F. The rest, as they say, is history."
Donald Jack's words end here regarding this part of his life but he wrote retrospectively about his time with the RAF and was able to add more information as a result of attending several RAF reunions where he re-established friendships he made during those uncertain times.
Win and Don had a short time together before the Second World War took Don away. They were living at 15, Ruthven Avenue, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire with his mother, Sarah Ethel, and her brother Raymond Leslie. Audrey Ann was born 6th January, 1941. Donald Jack received his orders to report to RAF Cardington (near Bedford) in February and later was ordered to report to Blackpool and from that point on he was in the hands of the RAF.
Donald was soon on his way, first to Lincolnshire, then to RAF Benson in Oxfordshire where he worked on his first aircraft (a Wellington bomber) and then out to the Middle East. He stayed there until mid 1943, moving around and generally staying out of trouble, before leaving for Malta. From there it was on to Sicily stopping at various towns and villages, with a brief sojourn around the slopes of Mount Etna, and then on to Italy. In these few years Donald saw more of the world than most people see in a lifetime, he travelled from Italy, back to Scotland, England, the Orkney Islands, Belgium, overland to Germany and finally back to England and civilian life. The date was about November 20th, 1945.
Donald Jack has very vivid memories about his time with the RAF, some happy, some not quite so happy. I have reduced those years to two paragraphs but the full story, in his own words, can be read here.
In the mean time, life in England had been no bed of roses, Winifred May was living in a new house, with her mother in law, her mother in law's brother, and a new baby, and the world was at war. Waltham Cross escaped fairly lightly compared with areas to the south in London's east end but nevertheless for the people at the time it must have been a very traumatic time. The pictures below show the devastation in Ruthven Avenue when a land mine landed on waste ground opposite the houses and exploded, destroying the concrete road and showering debris over a wide area and causing unbelievable damage. Although their house was not directly hit, it still suffered damage, and the Family was moved out to temporary accommodation. No one in the family was hurt.
The pictures to the right and below show all that is left of Messrs Chadwick and Shapcott's Acorn Brush Works after being struck by a V2 rocket on the 2nd January 1945. The grounds of the Acorn factory backed on to the gardens of the houses in Ruthven Avenue. The picture to the right was taken one hour after the strike, the lower picture was taken twenty four hours after the strike. The Acorn factory's address was 173, High Street, Waltham Cross (virtually where Homebase is now) laid back from the High Street. In between the Acorn factory and the High Street was the Sturla's Brass Foundry, situated almost on the High Street, opposite Swanfield Road.
The family were re-housed a little later at 9, Ruthven Avenue and stayed there for a few years before moving on to 9b, Balmoral Close, but not before the birth of Keith John in 1945 and Sandra Evelyn in 1947. (Pictured below, with Audrey Ann). Donald's mother Sarah Ethel and her brother Raymond Leslie stayed at 9, Ruthven Avenue until 1952 when they moved to a newly built house in Springfield Road, Waltham Cross.
Balmoral Close was a fairly large cul-de-sac off Park Lane, a short walk from the centre of Waltham Cross, the solid black line of the railway line to Liverpool Street can just be seen to the left. The road still exists today with new houses in the place of the flats. In 1948/9 there were five blocks of large "flats" all designed to the same pattern. They were hastily built prefabricated structures thrown up by the thousands at the end of the the war to provide living accommodation for those who had been "bombed out". They were simple, very basic but had all the services including an inside toilet, something many still thought of as a luxury at that time. The five blocks were constructed in the shape of the letter U around a large green space. Each block was three stories high and divided into three sections, each section consisted of six separate flats, two on each floor.
The new address was 9B, Balmoral Close, B block was the first block to the left upon entering Balmoral Close. There was never an A. block. These flats are remembered with something less than affection by those that can recall the time spent living there. Keith John remembers vividly the water pipes running along the walls on the OUTSIDE of the building, frequently used as a step ladder by the children and every winter time the water freezing and the pipes bursting. Donald Jack recalls the rain leaking through the roof when the weather was particularly bad, not unusual you may think until you remember the family were living on the middle floor!
"I started school at Trinity Church School, Theobalds, the school building was behind Trinity Church and while I was there a new school was built along Crossbrook Street. It opened in late 1952 but I never went there, instead I was sent to Kings Road in Waltham Cross, the school my sister Audrey and brother Keith had attended. I have never understood why I was sent to Trinity, perhaps there were too many children for Kings Road to manage this particular year? I also remember attending a tap and ballet class which was run by a Madam Miandi (not sure of the spelling) The hall was somewhere near the old Boys Club in Stanhope Road that Cliff Richard used to frequent. I still remember my Mother walking me down Park Lane in the red dancing skirt we all wore for dance competitions or special events, it had shoulder straps that kept falling down. Very annoying."
Birthdays were a special treat for young Audrey and Keith, they both remember with fondness Don setting up his Bingoscope projector and showing a selection of Disney films for them and their friends at parties and other special occasions. The living room at Balmoral was long almost like two rooms knocked through into one (although that was not the case) and it made an ideal home cinema. Sandie remembers seeing the films shown against the wall near the fire and Keith remembers the patterned wallpaper being visible through the film. In the early day of home projectors the lamps were not very bright so the films had to be shown in complete darkness to be appreciated, especially if the screen is a wall with patterned wallpaper! The family still have the Bingoscope projector and six of the films, Mickey's Robot, Beanstalk Mickey, In the Spider's Net are amongst them, all are Pathescope 9.5mm. Sandie does not recall having a film show at her birthday parties even though she remembers Audrey's and Keith's. It is possible the films were too old or too dated by then or maybe Don was too busy for such frivolities but Sandie always liked to be outside for her birthday parties so the reason might be simply that. Certainly the younger ones Terry, Colin and Tina never saw the films and were not even aware of the their existence until many years later.
Pictured right is Sandra Evelyn, Audrey Ann, and Keith John. Both Keith and Sandra are regarding the camera or the camera man with deep suspicion but to Audrey it is all "old hat", as the first born she has seen it all before. The picture dates from about 1948/9.
These were the years of austerity. The war had ended in 1945 but rationing was still strict. The Ration Book ruled your life, even children had them! Individual allowances were set at a level hard to believe by todays consumer driven society: Meat - between 1s. (5p) and 2s. (10p) per head, per week, Bacon - 4 oz. (113 gm) to 8 oz. (227 gm) per week, Tea - 2 oz. (57 gm) to 4 oz. (113 gm) per week, Cheese 1 oz. (28 gm) to 8 oz. (227 gm) per week, Sugar - 8 oz. (227 gm) per week.. Milk was rationed (unless your father worked in a dairy) and one egg per ration book was the norm, if they were available but they frequently were not. Bread was rationed from 1946-48 but potatoes were only rationed for one year, 1947. That must have been a bad, bad year.
The 1953 Coronation celebrations in Balmoral Close. In the background are the "Flats". To the left is the end view of "B" block where the family Gowing were living at the time, three girls, two boys. Robin Hood in the picture is Keith John.
After the birth of Colin Richard in 1955, the flat, as large as it was, was now too small. An opportunity arose, somewhat suddenly it appears in retrospect, of a brand new four bedroomed house at number 12 Briar Close in Cheshunt. This would mean extra travelling to work for Donald and different schools for the children.
Briar Close was a small cul-de-sac in a new estate bordered by Church lane to the north, the New River to the east and Churchgate road to the west. The southern boundary was Dewhurst road which was extended to Church lane and split the estate into two. Unlike today where the roads are laid down before the houses are built, both Audrey and Keith remember well struggling through mud and building waste, unmade and unnamed roads looking for their new home. Audrey recalled the March evening she cycled to Cheshunt after finishing work at Enfield Wash. The strange unlit roads looked nothing like the place Don had taken her in the car a few days before. Keith John remembers being told of the move just before leaving for school, at ten years old he was given precise instructions of what to do after leaving school that March afternoon. Although the house was new, the garden was an absolute disaster, exactly as the builders had left it.
Keith John remembers being told of the move just before leaving for Kings Road school one morning. At ten years of age he was given these precise instructions: When you finish school do not come home. Get the bus to Churchgate in Cheshunt and ask the conductor to put off when you get there. Cross the road and walk along Churchgate to Dewhurst Road. Go down Dewhurst Road until you reach Birchfield Road. Go up Birchfield Road and into Briar Close. Knock at number 12. This he did and Win answered the door. "Why are we here?" he asked her. "This is where we live now" she answered.
Donald Jack was given his instructions to the effect of footpaths, washing lines and the like, as some sort of track was needed to cross from one side of the "swamp" to the other, during this period he drained a duck pond and in digging over the garden in the spare time he managed to find, he unearthed enough good quality bricks to built a small structure in the garden to use for coal storage, and lay a sound footing for a conservatory on the side of the house. The garden was levelled off and some was grassed, paths were laid, three trees were planted, an apple, peach, and Victoria plum tree, over the years all three trees bore fruit of varying amounts.
The two pictures to the left are a good example of before and after in the garden. Clearly visible are the bricks still left after Donald Jack had built the "coal bunker" (In the picture behind Terry's new car). The other picture shows the wonderful display of dahlias and the wooden fence Donald built to give the house a little privacy from the adjoining footpath.
This was the garden I grew up in. It was huge. Number 12 Briar Close was a four bedroomed, corner plot and consequently had almost four times the amount of garden the adjoining houses had. I can remember many different garden layouts, greenhouses came and went, fences to keep the children away from the fruit and vegtables came and went, growing plants in my little plot of garden and that of my brothers and sisters, the strawberry patch, the rhubarb patch, blackberry bushes, green beans, peas, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, lettuces, radishes and so much grass to play on. Dogs and cats being born in the coal bunker which became a home for the pets when we fitted an electric fire in the place of the coal fire and we no longer needed the coalman. Three wheeled bikes, two wheeled bikes, trolleys and go-carts, the huge footpath that ran alongside the garden that lead to all corners of the globe. Such was my world.
Using up the bricks and dispensing with an abundance of topsoil in one fell swoop was achieved by slightly raising a section of the garden, and building an ornamental brick wall around it. Whatever Don did in the garden or in the house it was always done in a shirt and tie.
At work Donald Jack received further promotions and things were generally looking good for the family. The kitchen was redesigned to make room for a washing machine and refrigerator. The coal fire was replaced by an electric one as already mentioned but central heating was unheard of and we often woke up in the winter months to a cold bedroom and the condensation freezing to form ice on the inside of our bedroom windows.
We had two toilets, one up, one down, common place now but this was an era when many houses still had outside toilets, and a single bathroom. The living room was not exceptionally large but large enough. We had two three seater sofas and two armchairs and a TV. The dining room had a fold down eight seater dining table which was used every Sunday. A story often told is of Tina (born February 1960) able to walk under the dining table for many weeks until one day she had grown that inch too much and banged her head.