Elaine`s Memories of Tarpots
I find as I grow older that many, often detailed, memories from my childhood and teenage years remain firmly stuck in my brain whilst I sometimes have difficulty remembering the events of last week. Of course, I am not alone in this quirk of memory. By stirring people`s early memories we can all learn a great deal of local history. Personal memories often involve not just people but roads, buildings, shops, schools, jobs, events and the changes that were taking place during the time remembered. Many people I have interviewed over the years find it quite therapeutic to sit down quietly and to recall old times. One such person is Elaine Mynott whom I met for a chat in the White Hart one lunchtime recently. She very kindly allowed me to record her reminiscences here.
Elaine Salter, as she then was, lived in Croft Road, South Benfleet, between 1960 and 1971. Later she moved on to Thundersley, Hadleigh and Leigh before returning to Thundersley. Croft Road is situated in the most northerly reaches of South Benfleet on the Thundersley border. Nowadays thousands of schoolchildren and their parents know the road as the home of Appleton School.
RUSHBOTTOM LANE SCHOOL
Living close to Tarpots during the impressionable period of her life, between the ages of 7 and 18, provided Elaine with a variety of entertaining experiences. Her school initially was Rushbottom Lane School and to reach it she had to cross the busy London Road under the guidance of Mr Hayes (or was it Haynes?) who was the school`s crossing patrol officer. Her first teacher was Miss Atkins who controlled and taught a class of 48 pupils. Elaine thought of her then as very ancient indeed. “She frightened the daylights out of me but was probably the best teacher I ever had,” Elaine told me. She puts down her own respect for good grammatical English to Miss Atkins. The 48 children were divided in two, 7 year olds and 8 year olds, and the teacher set one group`s work then moved to the second to set their work and spent every school day dodging from one half of the class to the other. The school floor was covered in a sort of brown industrial lino which in hot weather gave off a most unpleasant smell. Possession of a swimming pool was one feature of the school which Elaine always felt was remarkably up to date, although it did have some extremely draughty changing rooms.
Across the road from the school were flat fields and marshy land which Elaine and her friends never fancied because it was so mucky. Later, as we all know, a huge estate was built stretching from Rushbottom Lane to Manor Road.
THE CLUET & PEABODY FACTORY
On the north side of the London Road, between Lambeth Road and Kennington Avenue, stood a very large factory employing many local people including Elaine`s sister. It was known as the Shirt Factory although other items of clothing were made there. Cluet & Peabody made the Arrow 2 shirts, a popular brand at the time. One of the firm`s biggest orders came from Keddies, the Southend department store. The mainly female workers would emerge at 4pm and there were always school children waiting outside for their Mums to finish work.
THE SHOPPING PARADES
On the opposite corner of Lambeth Road was a busy garage. The men who worked there particularly enjoyed the times when the women workers emerged from the factory and wolf whistles were not uncommon in those non-pc times! Between the garage and Rushbottom Lane was a row of shops as there is today but Elaine remembers particularly a grocer`s shop with a very large marble counter. She also remembers the Library which then was just around the corner in Rushbottom Lane until it moved to the parade.
Elaine enjoyed shopping even as a 7 year old and it is the parade of shops on the south side of the A13 which she remembers best. On the corner of Hatley Gardens where the KFC is today stood two sizeable shops. In one Mr Alderton or Alderson attended to gents outfitting and in the other his wife served the ladies. There was a door interconnecting the two shops. About halfway between Hatley Gardens and the Tarpots Hotel was a butcher`s where the colouful Atkinsons held sway. Even in his later years Mr Atkinson had remarkably black hair whilst his wife had orange hair and bright red lipstick. The most important thing Elaine remembers about the Atkinsons was their willingness to help others. “They were lovely, helpful people,” she said.
JUDO, PICKLED EGGS & SAVING STAMPS
At the back of the Tarpots Hotel in Benfleet High Road was a hall and here Elaine recalls taking judo lessons although for the life of her she cannot understand why she went. At a break half way through the sessions she and the other youngsters would pop in the pub to buy either crisps or pickled eggs. Again, Elaine is somewhat surprised now to think that pickled eggs were so popular amongst the judo enthusiasts.
On the other corner of High Road and London Road was a garage where Elaine`s father filled up at 3/6d a gallon. (Those were the days!) Further up the High Road was a biggish general stores with a post office at its rear. Here Elaine along with many others purchased saving stamps at 6d each or, if more money was available, 2/6d.
When the family moved in to Croft Road in November 1960 there were some established bungalows but the rest of the road was unmade. Their house was one of a group of new bungalows. Among her memories of the road Elaine recalls Mr Chapman who had a very long garden which he kept absolutely immaculately. Where Appleton School now stands it was still all fields in 1960. Elaine and her pals had a secret den. It was an old derelict weather-boarded bungalow hidden behind a jungle of trees and bushes. Amongst the things left behind by the former occupant was a suitcase which was open and spilling out large numbers of postcards [Shock! Horror! Ed.] which were presumably lost to any archive.
Sometimes Elaine and her friends would go wandering across the fields as far as Kents Hill Road. One “attraction” en route was a large, smelly, stagnant pond with an old willow lying across its width. Here, out of sight of adults, dares were regularly issued to take the precarious journey across the willow without falling in the pond. One day disaster struck and Elaine slipped and fell into the revolting gloop and when she arrived home her disgusted mother literally hosed her down.
Aged 11, Elaine`s next school meant a bus ride instead of a walk. She started at King John School just one year before Appleton opened but remained at the former until she left school. At that time King John was short of accommodation for its increasing population of pupils and the school hired the Hollywood Restaurant for some of its classes.
PINK SHRIMPS AND TOOTHACHE
One delight for Elaine, and I suspect a good number of her age group, was indulging herself once she received her weekly pocket money. Clutching her 2 shillings she would go to Rawlings in the High Road, an open all hours place reminiscent of Ronnie Barker`s Arkwright’s. The Rawlings grandma would be seen sitting “on a stool peering at us and frightening us” and presumably watching out for schoolchildren who “nick” things. Here Elaine would indulge herself in Pink Shrimps, Yellow Bananas, Black Jacks and Fruit Salads. This would be followed at weekends with regular awful toothache.
In those days you could return an empty lemonade bottle and receive money for returns. Elaine with Alan Rawlings, a son of the owners, and others discovered crates of empty bottles stored at the back of the shop. They tried it on and were discovered whereupon they were chased by the shopkeeper. In a rather foolish effort to escape they climbed trees. Here they lodged listening to angry shouts from below, “Come on down!” Of course, eventually they had to descend ignominiously to earth.
In the archive we have pictures of the area spoken of by Elaine but they are either from well before Elaine`s time or they are very recent. We would love to see some pictures from the 1960s and 1970s with which we could add illustrations to this article.
The archive is very anxious to obtain more pictures of the Tarpots area and Rushbottom Lane. If you have any and would be willing for us to scan them and return them quickly, please let us know. Date does not matter. Whether the photo or postcard is ancient or something from the late 20th century we would love to see them.