EARLY DAYS

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
'The chapter opens with the death of King-Emperor George VI and the accession of his daughter.
The chapter is dominated by Peter's strange experiences with 'the visitors', and ends with intriguing information about the numerous 'skeletons in the cupboard' of Peter's adoptive family.'
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,

'OUR PETER' 


As has already been indicated, the fifties were for Peter a golden decade, and Hounslow, where Peter lived during that period was, in some respects, like an English version of 'Bedford Falls' (see left). 
Bedford Falls, just in case you don't know, was the imaginary, perfect little town that featured in the James Stewart film, 'It's a Wonderful Life'; a film that was, by a strange coincidence, made in the same year that Peter was born.




follow the link below for.......
  

If we return to the 1950s, Jane and John found themselves with their own home, in a quiet road, yet within striking distance of both London and the surrounding countryside. 
More immediately, just across the road was a school and a general stores.

Inwood Park Paddling Pool 1950s
A couple of minutes walk away there was the High Street (see above) with its shops and buses.
Inwood Park Boating Pool 1950s
In the opposite direction, down a short, winding alley was Inwood Park (see left), with ornamental flower beds, tennis courts.
The park also had a football pitch, and a children's boating (see right) and paddling pool (see left). 

In the opposite direction, down a short, winding alley was Inwood Park (see left), with ornamental flower beds, tennis courts.
The park also had a football pitch, and a children's boating (see right) and paddling pool (see left). 

'ALLEYWAY TO THE PARK'
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014



A few times a day a large Imperial Airways airliner (see left) would drone lazily across the sky as it made its way to the airport, a potent reminder of the technological advances of the times. 



At about the same time as Janr and John settled in Hounslow, John's mother, Jane Crawford, some years after the death of her second husband, had bought a small cottage in the idyllic village of Wool (see left), in Dorset.

This cottage she named 'Burnside' (see right), (burn is a Scottish word for a small river or stream), as there was a stream at the bottom of the garden and a water wheel, although the mill no longer existed.


And just down the road from 'Burnside' was the famous Dorset beauty spot, Lulworth Cove, with the breathtaking and enigmatic 'Durdle Door' (see right).

Wool, of course is close to Bovington Camp, famous by virtue of it's association with 'Clouds Hill' (see right), the tiny Cottage, set deep in woodland, used by T E Lawrence towards the end of his life. 
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Jane was a neighbor and surprisingly also a friend of T E (see right), and as a result an odd and coincidental link between Colonel Lawrence, Dorset and John Crawford was created, the ramifications of which would become evident only a matter of years later.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO (16 August 1888[5] – 19 May 1935), known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18.



At the age of 46, two months after leaving military service, Lawrence was fatally injured in an accident on his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle (see left) in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill (see right), near Wool.

A dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control and was thrown over the handlebars.


He died six days later on 19 May 1935. The spot is marked by a small memorial at the side of the road.
Moreton Estate, which borders Bovington Camp, was owned by family cousins, the Frampton family. Lawrence had rented and later bought Clouds Hill from the Framptons. 
On Lawrence's death, his mother arranged with the Framptons for him to be buried in their family plot at Moreton Church.
His coffin was transported on the Frampton estate's bier. Mourners included Winston and Clementine Churchill and Lawrence's youngest brother, Arnold. A bust of Lawrence was placed in the crypt at St Paul's Cathedral and a stone effigy by Eric Kennington remains in the Anglo-Saxon church of St Martin, Wareham.

1937, though, was a fine Summer, and Jane and John, 'honeymooning', made that particular holiday a cycling tour, from, remarkably, Hounslow, in Middlesex to Wool, in Dorset.
The next time that John would be in Wool he would be in uniform.
Returning to Hounslow, just off Hounslow High Street was a short road called School Road, which led to Pears Road.
Number Fifty-five Pears Road was where Peter lived until he was twelve.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

It was there that 'little Peter', whoever he was, slowly evolved into Peter Crawford - the boy named on the birth certificate issued in nineteen-fifty at Brentford County Court (see left).
'Little Peter' was a timid, very sweet, pretty little boy (see left).
He was eager to please although not particularly honest and, it seemed, he was rather dreamy, and seemingly distant from the real world.
Being timid and sweet had obviously attracted John and Jane Crawford, and encouraged them to adopt the cute little chap.
The tall, slim boy with the olive skin, and the shock of jet-black hair flopping down over his forehead, who sat on the back of the removal van one gray Autumn day in nineteen fifty-nine, however, was very different.
With his piercing dark eyes, this Peter was far more confident, very self assertive, and strong willed almost to a fault.

Like his namesake Peter Pan , our Peter was by then cruel and lacking in any real empathy.
Barrie had said that he was very disappointed with the statue of Pan in Kensington Gardens because 'It didn't show the devil in Peter' (see left).
Well, by nineteen fifty-nine the 'devil' was definitely showing in our Peter.
And he was by then a boy who assiduously hid his more gentle, dreamy and wistful nature.
He had, over the years, become a strange boy - unsure of who he really was, or - for that matter if anything, including himself, was really real - but more of that Peter later.

PEARS ROAD 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Fifty-five Pears Road was a detached, Edwardian house. 
Next door to fifty-five Pears Road lived a family consisting of a husband and wife, Mr and Mrs Robinson, and their two sons Alan (see right) and Brian.
Unknown to Peter, until he found some photographs in his late teens, Alan and Brian had been John Crawford's favorites before Peter came along.
Possibly John was practicing for when Peter or some other little boy arrived, by sitting in the garden with Brian or Alan sitting on his knee.
Peter, however, never managed to get to know these two boys as the family left about a year after he arrived, and the new resident was a Mr Wilkinson. 




© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Now Mr Wilkinson (see left) was a very strange, and almost certainly a very interesting man, and Peter's adoptive father, John, spent some considerable time chatting to him over the garden fence. 
Mr Wilkinson must of been in his late sixties, and lived alone, his only companion being a huge, very patrician, blue Persian cat called Sheila (see right).
Apparently Mr Wilkinson had aristocratic origins, possessing monogrammed and crested silverware.
It seemed that this polite old gentleman had led a very interesting, if somewhat strange life.
He had apparently known Charlie Chaplin, when Chaplin was relatively unknown, and before he moved to the United States. 
Mr Wilkinson had also, it seems, known Alistair Crowley, (to whom he bore a striking resemblance), in his youth, although this was one aspect of Mr Wilkinson's life of which John Crawford thoroughly disapproved.
John had no time for magic, (even when it was spelled 'magik'), drug taking or questionable sexuality. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Aleister Crowley (see left) had been born in 1875, and had died in December, 1947 - (one year after Peter was born). 
Crowley was primarily an occultist, but was also an inveterate writer, a world class mountaineer, an ineffectual poet, and possibly a spy. 
He was an influential member of several occult organizations, including the Golden Dawn (see right), the A. A. (Silver Star), and the Ordo Templi Orientis, (O.T.O.).







© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
He is best known today for his magical writings, especially 'The Book of the Law' (Liber Legis) (see left), which is the central sacred text of his pseudo-religion known as Thelema.
This religion was revealed to him by a mysterious entity called Aiwas, in Cairo, a city well known to John Crawford, and much later to 'our Peter'.
He gained much notoriety during his lifetime, and was dubbed "The Wickedest Man In the World", and often attacked by the media. 
But that's enough about Aleister, - let's get back to Mr Wilkinson. 
Mr Wilkinson was always dressed in a black, three-piece suit, and wore a bowler hat when walking in the street.
Peter, not surprisingly, was nervous, if not frightened of this strange old man, despite the fact that it subsequently turned out that Mr Wilkinson was kindly disposed the the cute little boy, as we shall see later.
The house which Peter was to call home for about eight years was a house in the 1950s but not of the 1950s.
This was not because Jane and John were 'old-fashioned' - in fact far from it - the war , however, had preserved everything, as if in aspic, not just for the Crawfords, but for everybody.


The thirties, contrary to popular perception about the 'Great Depression', was not a time of unrelieved poverty and gloom, at least in the south of England.
It was a period of economic expansion in many areas, as the rapid development of new housing and 'light industry' in the south proved (see left).
The production of affordable electrical consumer goods, and affordable clothing and furnishings swept away the frumpy clutter of the Victorian and Edwardian periods.
Jane and John had been part of this consumer boom, and they had furnished their home with the latest designs of the 1930s.


However, a whole decade had passed in which consumerism had been crippled by rationing and shortages of raw materials and so, almost everyone was left with material possessions which were, in most cases, one or two decades out of date.
And even after the war ended, with the country crippled with debt, it took many years for new designs and new products to trickle down to the average person.
To encourage the British consumer market the government launched two initiatives - the first being the 'Britain Can Make It'exhibition in 1946 - (the year of Peter's birth), and the 'Festival of Britain' (see right) - (of which more later), in 1951.
So - don't be surprised if the description of Pears Road seems to be something from the 1930s - fifties design comes later, as you will see.


*'Britain Can Make It' (see left) was an exhibition of industrial and product design held in London in 1946.
It was organized by the Council of Industrial Design, later to become the Design Council.
Even before the end of World War II, it was recognised that post-war reconstruction of manufacturing and international trade of exported goods would require the widespread acceptance of industrial design as part of future British manufacturing.
Accordingly the Council of Industrial Design was founded in 1944 by the Board of Trade, as one of the first quangos.
In September 1945, only a month after the end of the war, the Council announced a national exhibition of design "in all the main range of consumer goods" to be held the following year.
This was the 1946 'Britain Can Make It' exhibition, organized largely at the instigation of the Council's director, S.C. Leslie.
The design of the exhibition itself was co-ordinated by Chief Display Designer, James Gardner.
The exhibition was held from September–November at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Part of the reason for choosing this venue was that many of the museum's main exhibits were still in their wartime evacuation storage, outside London.
The venue was undamaged by bombing, empty and available, and itself in need of an attraction to restore its pre-war visitors.
A popular reaction in the press was to term it, "Britain Can't Have It" as the country was still in the grip of wartime Austerity measures and the goods on display were intended for export.
Reactions of those attending the exhibition were varied between the general public, the design intelligentsia and the manufacturers.
Critics', such as John Gloag's, reactions were highly positive, congratulating the exhibition organisers both on the intellectual quality of their exhibition and also for the achievement of producing it during such a time of austerity.
The public's reaction was less sophisticated, but still positive.
Their view was generally that of simply wanting products in the shops that they could actually buy.
The only real criticisms came from established manufacturers who largely failed to appreciate the exhibition's attempt to emphasise design, and who still judged it as a simple shop-window display, of their same pre-war products.

But back to Pears Road - the house had a 'drawing room' in the front, reserved for special occasions, and special visitors.
In the rear was the main living room, where Jane and John relaxed, sat round the coal fire, listened to the wireless and ate.
Two doors led out from the living room.


One door, on the left, led to the bathroom, where the bath water was heated by a gas 'copper'.
The door on the right led to the kitchen, and from there there was a door leading to the garden.
In the garden was an outside toilet and the coal shed, and at the bottom of the garden was John Crawford's wooden work shed, built on a mound which had originally been the Anderson shelter (see left), a relic of the recent war. 

Over the well kept garden, with it's lawn and flowers, about once an hour, and large dark shape would drone – an airliner (see right) mainly BOAC and Pan Am Boeing Stratocruisers, and TWA Super Constelations - coming in to land at London's new Heathrow Airport. 
Of these aircraft, one in particular stayed in Peter's memory.

It was the Brabazon, (named after Lord Brabazon, (the then Minister for Air), it was the largest airliner ever built at the time.
When Peter saw it he was walking in Hounslow High Street with Jane.
It was the 15th June, 1950, just a few months after Peter had arrived in Hounslow, and this huge shape almost blotted out the light as it rumbled overhead.


That, however, was the last time that the ill-fated Brabazon (see right) flew, as it was hopelessly underpowered, and uneconomical to run.


The Bristol Type 167 Brabazon was a large propeller-driven airliner, designed by the Bristol Aeroplane Company to fly transatlantic routes from the United Kingdom to the United States.
The prototype was completed and flown in 1949, only to prove a commercial failure when airlines felt the airliner was too large and expensive to be useful.
Despite its size, comparable to a Boeing 767, it was designed to carry only 100 passengers, albeit in roomy conditions not generally found on modern aircraft.
In the end, only a single prototype was flown; it was broken up in 1953 for scrap, along with an uncompleted second fuselage.


And, as we shall see, the airport was to play a significant part in Peter's life, - but for the moment, let's return to Pears Road. 
Upstairs there were only two bedrooms. John and Jane's bedroom was over the drawing room, and Peter's bedroom was over the living-room, and therefore looked out over the back garden. 
The furnishings of Pears Road did not seem to have changed much since before the War. 

Starting from the rear of the house, the kitchen contained a thirties style 'dresser' (see left) in cream and pale green, which was the equivalent of today's kitchen units.
There was also a small gas-cooker (see left), and a stoneware sink, with a single, brass cold tap.
Two things which would be found in almost every kitchen today, however, were missing – a refrigerator and a washing machine. 


The bathroom contained a cast metal 'copper' (see right), for heating the bath-water – the water would then be taken out by the bucketful, and poured into the bath.
There was also a wringer for squeezing the water out of the clothes, after they had been washed, and, of course an enamel bath, with a single, cold-water tap. 

The 'living room' contained a dining table and three dining chairs in 'Jacobean' style, set against the wall by the window looking out over the back garden.





There were also two arm chairs (see left) placed snugly round the thirties deco-style fire place, which was decorated with pale brown ceramic tiles. 
There was, of course, no television, - that only arrived in nineteen fifty-three.
Instead of a TV there was a huge Art Deco, Bakelite 'wireless' (radio) (see right), set high on a wooden shelf, presumably to stop Peter playing with it. 

The room had soft brown and green, geometric art-deco wallpaper on the walls, and was lit by a central bulb hanging in an opalescent art-deco bowel, suspended by chains from the simple ceiling rose (see left). 
Where the door opened into the 'front-room' there was a cupboard under the stairs.
While this had probably been used as protection from air-raids, when the weather was too cold to brave the Anderson shelter, it was converted, on Peter's arrival, into the 'toy cupboard', and equipped with some lights so that it could be a little refuge, and a place to play. 
The 'front room' was decorated in a similar style to the 'living-room', but with better quality wallpaper.


As far as furniture was concerned, it contained a side-board, (see left) which matched the table and chairs in the 'living-room', plus two 'easy-chairs' and a heavy, oval upholstered stool. 
The room had a similar, but larger, tiled fireplace to that in the living room, and of course another opalescent art-deco bowel, suspended by chains from the ceiling rose. 
In the 'living-room' was a door by the fire-place.
This door led to the stairs, which ran through the middle of the house. The steep wooden stairs were covered with a 'runner' - a narrow strip of carpet in maroon with gray and black stripes either side.
At the top of the stairs was a landing.
Turning to the left, as you climbed the stairs, was John and Jane's room, and to the right was Peter's room. 
The master-bedroom contained a double bed, with an overhead light that could be switched on and off from the head-board. 
The bed, which always seemed very large to little Peter, was covered in a dark red satin 'throw-over' and a matching, heavily quilted and embroidered eiderdown.


The other furniture consisted of a wardrobe, which included a full length mirror set in the main door, and a dressing table for Jane (see right).
The dressing table had a beautiful rectangular mirror, with two adjustable side mirrors, and laid out on the dressing table were cut glass containers for make-up, and perfume, and an art deco pink enameled backed brush set (see left).
Both these items of furniture were finished in a strange, ebonised, matching late Edwardian style, which gave the whole room a very sombre atmosphere. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Peter's room was relatively sparsely furnished, with pale, creamy brown 'deco' wallpaper (see left), dark brown 'lino', (linoleum') on the floor, a bedside rug in a brown, deco style, and a huge dark chest of drawers, which contained, in its capacious drawers all little Peter's carefully chosen clothes. 
There was also a cupboard, with a cream and pale green door, built into the alcove by the fire-place, which contained more clothes, and various items of bed linen and towels, and by the window, which overlooked the garden, was an Edwardian style table.



And of course there was a single bed, with a wooden railed head-board and tail-board, again in simplified deco-style, and a metal, sprung frame on which was placed a thick mattress.
The bed had a similar satin 'throw-over' and padded and embroidered 'eiderdown', but for this room these items were a bright golden yellow.
And above the bed was a 'gas-mantle' (see right), but without the shade, a reminder of earlier times, as the house was by then entirely lit by electricity. 
The 'front garden' (which was always shaded, as it faced north) had a tiled path leading to the wooden front gate.
In the center of the garden was a huge, blue hydrangea bush. 
The 'back garden' was long and narrow. 



Looking down, away from the house, on the left was a path, edged with bricks. On the right was an area of lawn, closest to the house, and beyond that, behind some 'trellis-work', was a vegetable patch, which was all that remained of the wartime 'dig for victory' campaign (see right). 
Finally, beyond the vegetable garden was the wooden garden shed, built on the concrete foundations of the old Anderson shelter (see left), another relic of the recent war.
The shed formed the rear of the garden, and to one side of it was the 'back-gate', which led out onto the 'back alley' which ran the full length of the row of houses in that part of Pears Road. 
On the other side to the back alley was the garden belonging to Mr and Mrs Downing.
Mr Downing was an old Cockney 'army man', who had served in India and Hong Kong. 
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
In the Second World War he had been too old for the army, and had served in the Auxiliary Fire Service.
When Peter arrived in Hounslow Mr Downing worked at Heathrow Airport, in the stores, for BEA, (British European Airways - see left). 
Mrs Downing was a kindly, deeply religious, catholic Irish lady who worked as a 'cook' for the managers of the Sperry Gyroscope Company, which had a factory and offices on the Great West Road. 
The Downings had a daughter called Madeleine, (Mandy), who attended the local catholic, girl's grammar school called Gumley House.
As time passed Peter became quite friendly with Mandy although she was about eight years older than Peter. 
At the end of the back alley was an area of waste land, facing the Downing's front garden. By crossing the small area of waste land and climbing over a low brick wall it was possible to gain access to another back alley which led out onto Inwood Park Road, and from there to the Park itself.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Peter's very early days at Pears Road seemed to be confined to the house (see right), and Peter recalls well sitting in one of the arm-chairs in the 'living-room', with a tray resting on the arms to form a little table.
On the table would be Peter's meal, with his food on a red plastic plate, and his drink in a matching cup. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
A lot of Peter's time was spent playing with Chloé, the families' black and white cat (see right). 
To Peter Chloé seemed huge, but then Peter was very small. The cat was very good natured, and Peter and Chloé became very close.
Originally, it appeared, the cat was supposed to have been named after the cat in the Walt Disney cartoon 'Pinocchio', because Chloé had exactly the same black and white markings. 
Of course the cat in 'Pinocchio' was called Figaro (see left), but for some reason Jane had become convinced that it was called Chloé, - a confusion with the goldfish that was called Cleo - and so the poor cat was stuck with a wholly inappropriate name. 

Pinocchio is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and based on the story 'The Adventures of Pinocchio' by Carlo Collodi.
The plot of the film involves an old wood-carver named Geppetto who carves a wooden puppet named Pinocchio who is brought to life by a blue fairy, who tells him he can become a real boy if he proves himself "brave, truthful, and unselfish".
Thus begin the puppet's adventures to become a real boy, which involve many encounters with a host of unsavory characters.
Figaro and Cleo are Geppetto's tuxedo cat and goldfish, respectively, who do not like each other very much until the end of the film when Pinocchio becomes a real boy.
Pinocchio won two Academy Awards, one for Best Original Score and one for Best Original Song for the song "When You Wish upon a Star" - which eventually became the theme music of our Peter's Childhood, along with 'The Second Star from the Right' from 'Peter Pan'.

It is probable that Peter's first months at fifty-five pears Road were in the winter, as he seemed to spend most of his time indoors.
Subsequently Peter thought of that time as a warm, cosy and secure environment, and Peter was undoubtedly happy.
Probably it was a significant change from his previous circumstances, and Peter had the impression, looking back, that his adoptive parents doted on their 'cute' little boy, at least for the first few years. 
Most evenings, when John came home at about six o'clock, he would bring a little toy for his new son and, after a month or so, in the shed at the bottom of the garden he made a stout wooden box constructed from off-cuts to accommodate this ever increasing collection of toys.


'BATH TIME'
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
These, of course, were the days when father's 'made' things for their children, rather than just buying things, and John made many things for Peter in those early years. 
After the 'toy-box' had been made, the cupboard under the stairs was cleared out, and was reserved for toys, and later it became a little, secret, play area, often 'doubling-up' as a space-ship or a submarine. 

Friday night, of course, was 'bath-night', and always associated with 'bath-night' was the smell of Pears Soap - yes Pears 'Coal Tar' Soap (see right).
But Pears Soap was transparent, or rather translucent, and therefore it had to be pure, - and for Jane Crawford only pure soap would do - even if it was a little more expensive that ordinary soap. 
And so the days and weeks passed, and it seemed that life in the 1950s for a young child was quite predictable, being composed of simple pleasures and a regular, if not particularly exciting routine. 
There were, however, certain events that stood out, even in those very early days. 


for more original art by Peter Crawford see:


FEASTS and FESTIVALS 

Of course Christmas was important for a little boy. 
The first few Christmases for little Peter, however, seemed to merge together. 
Christmas presents did not seem to loom very large in these memories. Instead it is the Christmas tree and the decorations that seem to have had the greatest impact. 
The tree was always a real fir tree, which reached right up to the ceiling, meaning that for Peter the Christmas tree was immense.
The decorations, which were probably left over from before the war, were mostly made of paper. Compared to later Christmases there seemed to be very little tinsel and glitter. Those things that did glitter were pre-war, German glass decorations for the Christmas tree.
The only other glitter came from strips of lammeta, which were hung from the branches of the tree, in imitation of frost and icicles. 
Christmases were always celebrated almost entirely in the front room, where there was a permanent fire roaring in the grate. 

Even when the room was abandoned the lights, which were large, plastic and Disney style, were left lighted on the tree.
Like most of the decorations, these lights were pre-war, and consisted of 'antique plastic' bells, in various primary colours, with a small tungsten bulb. 
The room itself was decorated with home-made, paper-chains of coloured paper, and swags of twisted, crepe paper.
These chains and swags were run from the central ceiling-rose to the edges and corners of the room.
Also, in the corners, were elaborate colored paper decorations, forming balls and bells, which were quite large, being nearly a foot in diameter. 
Three very noticeable features of the Christmas season were the presence of fruit, nuts and alcohol, as these were all items that were absent for most of the rest of the year. 
Peter's presents were, in the early days, not very spectacular, being mainly clothes and books, as Jane was obsessed with getting Peter to read.

One of little Peter's favorite nights, in the early days, was Guy Fawkes Night.


1950s Fireworks
Now in the 1950s there was none of the 'health and safety' nonsense, which tries to get everyone to attend 'organized', 'safe' firework displays.
And strangely, all through his youth and teens, Peter never heard of any of his friends being injured on Guy Fawkes night.
And he never heard of the fire brigade being called to anyone's home.
This lack of accidents  however, was probably related to the fact that adults didn't get drunk, (as they do today) during bonfire night.
John always made a special event out of Guy Fawkes night.
He would collect huge quantities of wood to burn on a magnificent bonfire, and stuff some old clothes with newspapers to make a realistic looking guy.
In the week before Guy Fawkes night Jane would take Peter to Poulton's Toy Shop, on the Broadway, two or three times to buy a large collection of various kinds of fireworks.
And then, on the night, the fun would begin, and John would organize an excellent fire-work display.

THE FUTURE BREAKS IN - THE EAGLE 

Friday, the fourteenth of April, 1950, when Peter was five years old, was one of the most important days in that young boy's life. 
That was the day that the first copy of the Eagle comic appeared (see left), and was dropped, along with the Middlesex Chronicle, through the letter-box of fifty-five Pears Road, by the paper boy. 
Undoubtedly Peter was a bit young for a comic like the Eagle, but his adoptive parents presumably thought it would be good for him, and would probably help Peter with his reading - or more precisely his lack of reading, because at that time Peter could read very little. 
In the 1950s the Eagle was a completely new kind of boy's comic. 
The Eagle was the brainchild of the Reverend John Marcus Morris (see right). 
Marcus Morris was a rather unconventional, Anglican minister, who had started a parish magazine called 'The Anvil' (see left). 
Morris was unconventional in the sense that as a young man he took to canoeing down the Danube with a young friend in the nude; had a forty a day cigarette habit; and was rather over fond of alcohol.
In addition, in later life, when he became successful, he regularly indulged in exaggeratedly long business lunches at the best London hotels, and despite being married with children, appeared to see nothing wrong in getting involved with a string of mistresses. 
Before succumbing to such temptations, however, Morris developed high hopes for the Anvil, intending it to become a national magazine with the purpose of promoting Christian values in post-war Britain.
Unfortunately for post-war Britain, but probably fortunately for a whole generation of boys, the magazine was a complete flop. 

Undeterred, Morris turned his moralizing zeal to the question of children's reading material. 
At the time the news-stands were awash with what were generally known as 'Horror Comics' (see left). 
These were essentially imports from the USA, which typically featured stories involving violence, brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun play, physical agony, and gory and gruesome crime.

Not surprisingly they were popular with many children, but were a considerable cause of concern to many adults. 
Eventually a press campaign was mounted against these publications, and there was even an episode of Britain's most popular BBC television 'soap', the 'Grove Family' (see right), which featured the families' youngest child suffering nightmares after reading such a comic. 

The Grove Family (see right above) is a British television soap opera, generally regarded as the first of its kind broadcast in the UK, made and transmitted by BBC Television from 1954 to 1957.
The series revolved around the life of the family of the title, who were named after the BBC's Lime Grove Studios, where the programme was made.
The programme was written by Roland and Michael Pertwee, the father and elder brother respectively of actor Jon Pertwee.
As was commonplace in British television at the time, the series was broadcast live, and very few episodes survive in the archives, with only three out of the original 148 episodes still existing.
Peter Bryant, who starred as Jack Grove, went on to become a script editor and producer on the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who.
Christopher Beeny, who appears as a teenager in this show, went on to bigger fame in the 1970s series Upstairs, Downstairs, and actress Ruth Dunning (Gladys Grove), went on to win a BAFTA award for her work on Armchair Theatre.
In 1954, The Grove Family had drawn in almost a quarter of British people with a television.
The huge success of the programme spread to the Queen Mother, who said "So English, so real!"
Our Peter watched the series regularly - and it seemed to him to mirror his own experience of post war domestic life. 

Eventually Parliament acted, and such publications were banned by law, but not before the Rev Morris had started work on his new style of comic, which was intended to undo any damage to young minds for which the dreaded 'horror comics' may have been responsible. 
As a failed independent magazine publisher it was obvious that Morris needed professional help if he was to make a success of his new boy's comic. 
Now Dan Dare preoccupied our Peter right up until 1959 but, surprisingly, some years after Peter first 'met up' with Dan there was a rival. 
When Peter was eight, Jane, determined to improve his reading, bought him a book as one of his many Christmas presents. 

The book was called 'The Adventures of Captain "Space" Kingley' (see left), and was written by Ray Sonic.
Probably Jane thought that the Dan Dare comic book format was not encouraging Peter to read enough, and so she bought this book which, although it was well illustrated with 'black and white pictures by R.W.Jobson, was not in comic book format. 
Rather like Dan Dare, 'The Adventures of Captain "Space" Kingley' were set in what was then the distant future, in this case the twenty-second century.
The world had survived a nuclear war, and world government had been established. Sonin's vision of the future was somewhat totalitarian, although Utopian, and almost communistic. 
Earth is defended by a force known as the Interplanetary Space Rangers. 
The first story in the book was particularly designed to appeal to youngsters, as Kingley, still only a boy, 'stows away' on his father's space ship. 
As a result of this first adventure, young Kingley decides to become a 'Space Ranger'. 
The remainder of the book consists of a series of adventures, undertaken by the adult Kingley, accompanied by Shorty Rowe.
Shorty Rowe is described the book as being small and wizened, and Kingley's batman, housekeeper, assistant and No.1 admirer. In this way he is very much like Digby in the Dan Dare stories.
Like Dan Dare's Digby, Shorty had an accent, tended to be illiterate and used phrases like 'guvnor' ! 

Both Shorty and Kingley fly the Inter-Planetary Ranger's space rocket 'Comet', on a number of missions to defend the Earth against the 'Flame Men of Mercury', and the 'Mechanical Animals of Mars'. 
In addition they travel beneath the Atlantic Ocean (see left) and with upper lips ever stiff, put the solar system to right. 
Although 'The Adventures of Captain "Space" Kingley' featured lavish and very attractive artwork throughout, the only color was the front cover. 
Inside, the all-text stories added to the dull feel of the book, and the opening political rhetoric had an oppressive ring to it. 
Peter's attitude to the book was somewhat ambivalent.
He liked the art work, and the stories he thought were exciting and interesting.
The problem was that his private world could not cope with two alternative futures that were in many ways radically different. 
It must be remembered that for Peter the future was real, so there could not be two futures. His criteria for deciding which version of the future to accept was quite simple.
All he had to do was to decide which version of the future was the most realistic.
By this criteria Dan Dare won 'hands down'.
Dare's world had an internal consistency that was somewhat lacking in the world of the Interplanetary Space Rangers. 
In addition there was something a little cold and distant about Captain Space Kingley. 
Dan was a much warmer character - and Digby, as well, was decidedly 'love-able', compared to Shorty Rowe. 
The other great attraction in the Dan Dare stories was 'Flamer' Spry.
Peter could identify with young Christopher Spry, whereas in 'The Adventures of Captain "Space" Kingley' there was no younger character with whom Peter could readily identify. 

PROBLEMS 

As we have seen, for some of the early Christmases Peter was given books as presents.
These books were mainly Children's annuals such as 'Rupert Bear', 'Thomas the Tank Engine', some 'cowboy' stories, the significance of which may be clearer later, and of course the 'Eagle Annual' and later, when Peter was older, 'Space Captain Kingley'. 
Right from the beginning, Jane had been buying Peter the 'Eagle' comic each week - but there was a problem - Peter couldn't read - and he was over four years old. Not only could he not read, but he couldn't learn to read. 
Otherwise a bright, inquisitive, intelligent young boy; this was puzzling, although undoubtedly Jane had been pushing Peter too hard with regard to his reading. 
After a number of arguments and tellings off, it was obvious that it was not just a matter of Peter being unwilling to learn to read. 
In the end Jane decided that professional help was needed, and to that end she decided to take Peter to see the doctor. 
The trip to the doctor soon brought an answer to this puzzle.
Peter had something wrong with one of his eyes.
And this was a serious problem, which meant an operation, and a stay in hospital.

Strabismus (squint) can be either a disorder of the brain in coordinating the eyes, or of one or more of the relevant muscles' power or direction of motion.
Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other.
Difficult strabismus problems are usually co-managed between orthoptists and ophthalmologists.
It typically involves a lack of coordination between the extraocular muscles, which prevents bringing the gaze of each eye to the same point in space and preventing proper binocular vision, which may adversely affect depth perception.
Advanced strabismus is usually treated with a combination of eyeglasses or prisms, vision therapy, and surgery, depending on the underlying reason for the misalignment.
Surgery does not change the vision; it attempts to align the eyes by shortening, lengthening, or changing the position of one or more of the extraocular eye muscles and is frequently the only way to achieve cosmetic improvement.
The procedure can typically be performed in about an hour, and requires about a week for recovery.
Peter's squint was cured by a combination of surgery and vision therapy.

Peter, of course, thought he was being abandoned by the kind people who had been looking after him. 

Although the hospital; Hounslow Cottage Hospital (see left), was only a mile and a half away from Pears Road Peter had no idea how close to home he really was, and as we have said, as far as he was concerned he had been abandoned by the nice people who had so recently taken him into their home.

In 1875 a Cottage Hospital opened in Bell Road, Hounslow. It had been founded the previous year by Dr. L. de B. Christian.
In 1913 it moved to a new 2-storey purpose-built building in Staines Road. It had 20 beds. The Hospital Committee appointed a woman to act as a dispenser in the new Hospital, an innovation at the time.
During the 1920s the Hospital was extended and, in 1927, when it had 54 beds, a new Out-Patients Department and X-ray Department were completed and officially opened by Lady Joynson-Hicks.
The Hospital was dealing with a large number of road traffic accidents, mainly from the Great West Road, placing a great strain on the staff.
During WW2 the Hospital became part of the Emergency Medical Scheme (EMS). It had 97 beds, 30 of which were EMS beds.
In 1945, at the end of the war, the Hospital had 74 beds and 23 EMS beds.
Plans were made for an extension which would contain wards (bringing the bed complement up to 150), a new main kitchen, staff dining rooms, a new operating theatre and new Out-Patients and Casualty Departments. In the same year, the 'father of Hounslow Hospital', Dr L. de B. Christian, died.
In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS under the control of the Staines Group Hospital Management Committee, part of the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.
By 1954 the Hospital had been extended with the addition of three single-storey wards - one for men, one for women and one for children. It had 81 beds.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The result of his apparent 'abandoment' in Hounslow Cottage Hospital, for Peter, was interminable hours were spent sitting on his bed with Teddy, his only real friend, staring at the door, waiting to be rescued from another big, practically empty white room.
And there was no rocking horse to calm his fears, or pass the lonely hours, but only Teddy (see right) - and Teddy seemed just as upset and miserable as Peter. 
Eventually, however, Peter arrived back at Pears Road. 
The doctors now insisted that to make a complete recovery Peter had to 'exercise' his eyes. 
Peter quickly learned to read moderately well, in a mechanical, uncomprehending sort of way, but once he could read he had to sit in the living room, in front of the fire with Jane, and practice reading every day with a black metal bar held in front of his face. This was intended to make him use and exercise his recently 'operated on' eye.

In addition he had weekly trips to the hospital, where his eye was exercised by 'playing games' with various optical devices. 
These games consisted of such things as putting a bird in a cage, (superimposing an image of a bird onto an image of a cage), while the optometrist would deliberately move the cage each time Peter thought he had achieved his goal.
For a young child all this was incredibly frustrating and tiring, and Peter would often sink into rages of frustration, unable to understand why he was being apparently tormented. 
The main recipient of this rage was Jane, however, who was expected to get Peter to read for an hour each day, while holding this bar in front of his face. And this was obviously the beginning of the slow deterioration in the relationship between Peter and his adoptive mother. 
She had almost certainly had a 'starry-eyed' dream of having a wonderful, cuddly cute little boy as a 'son'. Instead she now found that she was dealing with a little, screaming, scratching kicking monster.
In less than a year her dream had fallen apart. 
John, however, saw nothing of this, and Peter was still the 'apple of his eye'. 
This frustration and anger would plague Peter for the rest of his life - apparently a deep seated rage at being cast out of his sweet world of simple pleasures into a world filled with incomprehensible challenges. 


SCHOOL 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
As soon as Peter had physically recovered from his operation he had to start school. 
The school, Hounslow Town School (see left), was just 'round the corner' from the house, in the appropriately named 'School Road' (see right). 
It was, to Peter, an ancient - that is Victorian - dilapidated building; smelly, dirty and uninviting. 
The school itself had been allowed to become run-down because, unknown to Peter, a 'spanking new' school was almost about to be completed just round the corner in the same street as Peter lived. 
On the first day Peter cried when he was abandoned, yet again - but this is not an unusual reaction for young children when they first go to school. 
School, of course, was an opportunity for Peter to make friends - which he did, with apparently very little trouble. 
The real problems, however, were with reading and writing. 
Peter still had problems, both with literacy and numeracy.
His eyes were still not working properly, and in fact he probably needed glasses, but he would not get these until he was thirteen. 
The result was that the teachers thought that Peter was a nice, compliant little boy, but that he was not, academically, very bright. 
And so the rage grew. 
Peter knew he was clever. Not just a little bit clever, but so much smarter than most of the other children, and very, very special. But his rage was carefully hidden under a surface appearance of 'sweet' compliance. 
But Peter knew, and strangely enough the other children knew that he was different - and even then some were nervous of him, and some admired him, but they all knew he was not like them - he was different, very different and even alien. 
For the first six months school days passed uneventfully. 

Peter settled reasonably well into the Dickensian school with its nineteenth century cast iron framed combined desks and benches (see left), old fashioned black boards (see right) and coal-fed stoves in one corner of the classroom. 
Then, the move to the new school was made. 
For Peter this was no problem. One morning he was simply take by Jane to the new school just 'down the road'. 
But what a change !
Light and airy, with all new desks, chairs, fixture and fittings, books, gym equipment - in fact everything !
And the school was surrounded by beautiful playing fields, with flower beds and bushes - it was, indeed, a child's paradise. 
And so life continued.
The school was physically ideal, but Peter was still considered to be not very bright, and was sometimes put into a separate group, which was given less demanding work, which he found demeaning and boring. 
If this had gone on, then perhaps Peter would have given up trying to learn and developed discipline problems as he grew older - but things were about to change - as we will eventually discover. 

FRIENDS 

At home, after the regime of 'eye exercise' ended, things became a little more quiet and peaceful. 
Peter made friends with some of the children living nearby. 
They were nearly all girls - which was just a quirk of fate, but could have had serious repercussions. 
Across the road, on the corner of School Road and Pears Road lived the Hicks family. They had a daughter, Janet, who had a father who was generally considered, in the neighbourhood, to be a 'bit of a tyrant'. She was two years older than Peter. 
Next door to Janet lived the Chandlers. Sylvia was the only daughter, and her mother was still in the Royal Air Force.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Mrs Chandler, in her WAAF, uniform was Peter's 'pin-up' from age six to ten, which may seen a bit 'kinky', but was true all the same.
As for Mr Chandler, Peter has no memory of him, which is not unusual as, at that time, fathers, husbands - adult men in general, were almost invisible, - starting out for work early, returning late, and having very little to do with children or the more domestic side of life.
Men in the fifties were aloof, quiet and withdrawn.
Of course many of them had been deeply traumatized by their experiences during the war, and so were quiet and withdrawn for deeper reasons which, at that time, Peter could not possibly have understood. 
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
On the same side of the road, but further down, away from the school, lived the Snowballs, (yes really - and no relation to the Simpson's cat). 
Linda (see right) was a sweet little girl who spent a lot of time with Peter, and she was one of the few people of whom Peter was really fond. 
Across the road, opposite Linda, lived the Barnyards. Their daughter, Susan, was 'one of the gang', but was always considered a bit 'snooty' by the other children. 
And of course there was Mandy. 
Four years older than Peter, Mandy became a good friend, and someone who helped to introduce Peter to some classical music, and some of the 'finer things' of life. 
There were also some boys, of course. 
Going up towards the school was Keith's house. He had three brothers, but when Peter and Keith were six or seven, they were in their late teens. 
Two more friends came into Peters life as he moved from the Primary stage to the Junior stage at school. 
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
These were David and John. 
Both boys had parents who had been in colonial service, David's father in the Kenya police, and John's father in BOAC (see left) in Ceylon, (now Shri Lanka). Both boys had been born abroad, and had grown up abroad, only moving to England when they were about eight. 
David was red-haired, freckled - not very bright, but fun to play with. 
John, on the other hand, had brown hair was slim, and very handsome for a boy of his age. 
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
In addition John spoke with a strange accent, which was a combination of Ceylonese - he had been brought up by an ayah, (Indian nurse), and Aberdeen Scottish, as that was where his family originally came from.
John had spent most of his early childhood frolicking in the warm waters of the Ceylonese coast, and it was his love of the water and swimming that got Peter addicted to swimming in his boyhood - but more of that later. 


HOLIDAYS 

Holidays were next on the agenda. 
Just before Jane and John had acquired Peter, they had had their 'last fling' with a luxurious holiday in Dorset. 

This was in the days before ordinary people went abroad for their holidays, but as this option was not open to them Jane and John had taken the next best choice and had a holiday in a 'five star' hotel on the south coast, in Dorset (see left). 
The next holiday, now with a little boy 'in tow', was a bit more 'down-market', and involved a trip to Newcastle and Edinburgh to visit Jane and John's relatives.
Northumberland, of course, has some very beautiful coastline, and the nearest 'seaside' resort to Newcastle is Southshields (see right) and Whitley Bay. 

The real purpose of the trip, however, was to introduce the relatives to the new 'acquisition' - or supposed 'family member' - Peter.
Of course, little Peter didn't go down too well - with his dark brown eyes, jet black, tousled hair and olive skin, and slightly upper-class English accent, this little boy didn't fit in with either Jane's family or John's family at all ! 
Despite this there were some happy days spent on the sands at Southshields - days which always ended with a wonderful fish and chip supper from 'Frankie's', the famous chip-shop on the sea front.
And, of course, this takes us to old 'stamping grounds' for Jane and John.
When the tide was out it was possible to walk to Frenchman's Bay (see right) - and what memories that place must have held for the couple with their new little boy - not that they could share such memories with him.
And a little further on would lead one to Marsden, and Marsden Rock (see left).


The rock is home to sea bird colonies, with thousands of pairs of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Gulls and Cormorants.
The rock is a 100-foot sea stack of periclase and Magnesian Limestone which lies approximately 100 yards off the main cliff face.
In 1803 a flight of steps was constructed up the side of the rock.

In 1911 a large section of the rock collapsed into the sea, leaving an arch similar to Durdle Door on the Dorset coast (and of course Durdle Door was just a short walk fronm 'Burnside' - the home of Jane Walker Senior)
The rock is reachable on foot during low tide, but is completely surrounded by water at high tide.
It is overlooked by the Marsden Grotto.
For Peter, at that time, Marsden Rock and Marsden Grotto were two of the most magical places he had ever know.
Of course he only ever visited at the height of Summer, and at low-tide, so he always saw it at its best.

There was another event that was very significant for Peter - not a holiday but a very important day out. 

In May 1951 the Festival of Britain opened on the South Bank of the Thames in London. 
undefined 
It was the brainchild of Gerald Barrie, and the Labour Deputy Leader Herbert Morrison, who described it as "a tonic for the nation". 
The Festival Style was described as 'braced legs, indoor plants, lily-of-the valley sprays of light bulbs, aluminium lattices, Costswold-type walling with picture windows, flying staircases, blond wood, the thorn, the spike, and the molecule.' 
It was undoubtedly a uniquely English take on the modernist International style, and echoes of the style could be seen in the new Junior School in Pears Road that Peter attended, and in the furnishings and interior decoration that Jane and John favoured in the coming years. 
Unlike the Millennium Dome which was forced on an unwilling and disinterested country by New Labour, under the direction of Peter Mandleson, (the man who gave the name Peter a 'bad name'), the Festival of Britain was a resounding success, and there were over 10,000,000 paid admissions to the 6 main exhibitions in 5 months. 

Three of those 10,000,000 were little Peter, and Jane and John Crawford. 
Jane and John had decided to give themselves a summer treat and visit the Festival, and considered Peter old enough to go with them, (otherwise he would have had to have been looked after by Mr and Mrs Downing). For Peter the Festival was an amazing experience.
Of course he didn't understand that it was the Labour Government's attempt to boost the morale of the people; morale which had been badly dented by the privations of the war, by showing them what the future might hold for them - a showcase, in fact, of contemporary British art, design, technology and science. 

And little Peter obviously didn't realize that, in addition, the Festival was held on the centenary of Prince Albert's Great Exhibition that had been held in Paxton's Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in 1851 (see left). 
No matter, Peter was captivated by the Dome of Discovery, and the Skylon, although he probably didn't notice Hugh Casson's Royal Festival Hall, where he would attend many concerts when he grew older. 
What really thrilled Peter, however, was the 'Fountain Lake' (see left), the 'Grotto', the 'Tree Walk' (see right), and the 'Guinness Festival Clock' (see left below).
What was so amazing about the Festival was the fact that for Peter it was like walking through the buildings and cities which Frank Hampson had depicted in his Dan Dare stories in the 'Eagle' (see right). 
Unfortunately all that now remains of that day at the Festival are some black and white photographs, and a glass ashtray, emblazoned with the Festival logo. 



Probably because Peter's debut with Jane and John's families had not been very successful, the holiday in 1951 involved a trip by train to the Isle of Wight. 
Now Peter didn't know it was the Isle of Wight, but did remember very clearly a time spent in beautiful countryside, and at clean sandy beaches. 
Jean and John stayed with friends on the Island, although Peter had no memory or knowledge of who those friends were. 
This was an idyllic holiday, and although Peter had no friends of his own age to play with it didn't seem to matter. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
It was during this holiday that Peter started to enjoy playing in the water, not only in the sea (see left), but also in a beautiful a 1920's Art Deco style lido (see right), that was near where they were staying. 
And so, after the holiday it was back to school for Peter. 
The Autumn came, and then the Winter, with it's inevitable fogs and snow, and then another Christmas, with its influx of toy soldiers, Dinky Toys and unread books. 
And so 1951 ended, quietly. 
The next year, however, would prove to be even more exciting - and strange.

Peter had been living at Pears Road with Jane and John Crawford for two years. 
Having had his operation on his eyes, and having started school, things had by then began to calm down a little, and Peter was able to settle into the new year - 1952. 

In 1952 we were truly into Andrew Marr's (see left) 'Land of lost Content' ! 
But first, early in the year there was a tragedy. 
The King-Emperor, George VI, (see right) weakened by the stress of the war, and a very heavy nicotine habit, developed lung cancer and died on the 6th of February. 
Peter was old enough to know that the King had died, and that his daughter, Princess Elizabeth would be the new Queen.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
This, however, did not mean all that much to Peter.
On the newsreel Peter saw Princess Elizabeth, (technically Queen Elizabeth), and Prince Philip returning from their trip to Kenya by 'plane (see right) , and being greeted by the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, and he saw the King's funeral cortège at Windsor. The Coronation, which would have a big impact on Peter, did not, however, take place until the following year. 
Now while England might have been a 'Land of Lost Content', there was still crime, although the levels of crime had dropped significantly since the war. 
During the war street crime, petty theft and racketeering had boomed.
After the war things change significantly, however.

Armed crime reached a peak of 47 incidents in London in 1947, but by 1954 this had reduced to just four cases.
The number of people sentenced to prison fell by 3,000 between 1948 and 1950 and overall serious crime fell by nearly 5 per cent per head of population in the five years after the war.
To put the situation in perspective, a commentator at the time stated that, 'Perhaps the most peaceful single year was 1951, with a low level of crime, especially violent crime'. 


One crime stood out in 1952, however, and that was the murder of a policeman by two teenage boys, one of whom, Derek Bentley, was hung. 
Crime, however, for Peter, and almost everybody who lived around him was just something that made headlines occasionally in the newspapers - it was not something that impinged on most peoples' lives. 
People had work, wages were good, prices were low, rationing was coming to an end, and there were more and more goods in the shops. 
After years of deprivation and hardship, life was finally beginning to look good for the majority of people, and the 'majority of people' included Jane and John. 

Peter was now taken by Jane and John to the cinema quite regularly.
Always in the circle - Jane insisted on the most expensive seats - and always with a strawberry ice-cream tub in the interval. 
And at the cinema there would always be a News Reel, as well as two feature films, a cartoon and some adverts - remember this is before most people had a television. 
So Peter saw the news, and remembered well seeing the fat King Farouk (see right), whom John Crawford had met during his service in Egypt, abdicating, and Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser (see left) becoming president of Egypt. 
Also in the news reels were pictures of British troops being sent to Kenya to deal with the Mau Mau uprising (see right), and America testing the first hydrogen bomb (see right below). 

Great events aside, Peter was still underachieving at school, but regardless of this he was continuing to make friends, and earn the somewhat nervous respect of his peers. 
By now his collection of toys had become impressive, and he had started to build his army of toy soldiers (see left), which would eventually reach about three hundred in number. 



The 'Eagle' - remember Rev Morris' comic - continued to drop onto the mat behind the front door once a week, but while Peter devoured the images of space exploration in the year 200, he was still having trouble with the words. 
1952 was a particularly significant year for Peter, however, although Jane and John never realized this.
It was significant not just because one King had died and another had been overthrown. 
1952 was the year that the 'visitors' first appeared. 



MYSTERIES OF THE NIGHT - THE 'VISITORS' 

The 'grown-up' Peter was browsing in Waterstones Booksellers (see right), St Margaret's Street, Canterbury, one Saturday in 1988 when he saw a book with a vaguely familiar cover. 
The cover design consisted of a portrait of a strange, oval face with huge dark olive shaped eyes (see left).
Peter felt that he had seen the face before but could not remember where. 
He casually leafed through the book, reading a few passages here and there.
It seemed, at the time, a rather poorly written science fiction tale by Whitely Streiber (see left); an author who was unknown to Peter. 
About a month later Peter was in the same book shop, and picked up the same book, having recognized the cover, and the title 'Communion'. 
This time he read a little more and realized that the book was not science fiction, but rather purported to record the details of a series of episodes of alien contact. 
Peter was interested, but was not prepared to pay the exorbitant price required for the purchase of the book. 
A few weeks later, however, he found the book in his local library; borrowed it and read it from cover to cover - and that book stirred up some very strange memories.


It wasn't that Peter had forgotten the events that he was remembering, but rather that they had gone to the back of his mind, and were only ever rarely recalled.
And these are those strange memories of things that happened so long ago, but were remembered so clearly. 
When little Peter had first arrived at Pears Road he seemed to have no fear of the dark. 
At night he would happily go to bed, with the door to his bedroom left just slightly ajar, and often, quietly sing himself to sleep. 
Whether or not the nights before he was brought to Pears Road ever held any terrors for Peter no one would ever know, as his memories of that time seemed to have been shut away forever. 
Then, after about two years, towards the end of the winter of 1952, Peter became frightened of the owls. 

'THE VISITORS IN HOUNSLOW'
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Now there were owls in the large oak trees in Inwood Park - trees that could be seen from Peter's bedroom. But Peter was convinced that the owls were flying from the park and perching on the window-sill of his bedroom.

Despite reassurances from Jane, Peter remained convinced of the presence of these owls at his window, and so he was allowed a night-light on the chest of draws in his room. 
Gradually Peter seemed to be less alarmed at the prospect of going to bed, but in reality he had just come to accept that his parents were unable to protect him from these nocturnal visitors, and so his experiences of the night became a secret, only known to him. 

As the nights passed the owls seemed to be able to get through the window and perch on the table standing under the window. 

It was then that Peter realized that they were not birds but small 'people' (see right), about the same size as he was, but with big heads and very big eyes, and it must have been the eyes that had made him think initially that they were owls – or perhaps they had disguised themselves as owls. 

'BEDROOM VISITORS'
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

These little people were extremely thin and in the dim glow of the night-light appeared to be greyish in colour.
At first they just sat and stood around, looking at Peter with their huge, dark eyes. Later they started to play and dance around in a strangely stiff, awkward manner. 
Initially Peter was terrified, but as the nights passed he realized that the visitors meant him no harm. 
Eventually Peter would sit on the edge of his bed and watch the little guys scampering about. Then he would get tired of their antics, get into bed a go to sleep.
Interestingly Peter was never awake when the visitors left. 
Now you may be asking yourself if all of this really happened - (and there are even stranger things to come). 
After all, many kids have rich fantasy lives and imaginary friends.







for more original art by Peter Crawford see:

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Peter, of course, did have his imaginary friends; 'Teddy' (see right), 'Doggy' (see left), 'Brumas' and 'Judy', which were his stuffed toys - and one bear-shaped hot water bottle.
But the visitors were not like imaginary friends - they had no names, and no identifiable personalities. 
Now while these nocturnal visitors seem highly unlikely, they are not necessarily impossible.
It was Isaac Asimov who stated that it would be wildly improbable if wildly improbable things did not happen. Things that would be on the far end of Laplace's famous bell-curve.
But if the visitors were not real, then where did they come from ? From what corner of little Peter's imagination did they emerge ?


Now it is true that Peter had been reading, or rather 'looking at' the pictures of the science fiction comic serial, 'Dan Dare' (see right), in the Eagle for over a year, and it must be remembered that to a six or seven year old 'Dan Dare' was a real person, and his adventures were real events.
But the aliens in 'Dan Dare' were the macho Treens (see left); nearly seven feet tall, well muscled, with green skin, and wearing copper space suits.
Nothing like the skinny, naked, sexless little grey guys that came to play in Peter's bedroom. 

It is also true that Peter had seen 'Flash Gordon' (see left) and 'Buck Rogers' (see right), at the Children's Saturday film club at the Odeon, but equally the aliens in those two science fiction serials bear not the slightest similarity to Peter's visitor's, and the emperor Ming is hardly a model for Peter's gentle 'Nordic'. 
There was one other film that had a strong impact on Peter during his childhood, and that was the well known American film 'Invaders from Mars'.
Peter saw this film with Jane and John in 1954 at the Odeon at Hounslow West (see right).


This film features a young boy who is woken from his sleep by the landing of a flying saucer.
Subsequently he is abducted by aliens, but once again these are hulking, macho types (see left below), who bear little or no resemblance to Peter's 'grays'. 

Also significant is the fact that this film was not released in the UK until 1954, some two years after Peter's experiences began.
  
The only other source of fantasy, other than films, available to children at that period, apart from Rupert Bear (see left), Andy Pandy, the Flowerpot Men and Muffin the Mule, were Disney characters. 

None of these fantasy character, however, seem like good models for Peter's visitors, apart of course for 'Peter Pan' (see right). 

Now Peter Pan, as we have already have seen, was the boy who would not grow up.
What made him even more special was the fact that he could fly, and also taught Wendy, Michael and John how to fly.
The trip to 'Never Land' (see right), flying among the stars, as depicted in the film, could be seen to be quite similar to Peter's night time escapades. 
The problem is that the film was not released in the UK until July 1953, and Peter probably did not see the film until 1954, probably around Christmas.


Peter, however, met the 'visitors' in 1952, before the film was even released in America. 
Today, of course, there would be 'Close Encounters' (see left), 'The X Files', 'Dark Skies' and 'Communion' (see right); but their images, somewhat significantly, derive from writers who were young at the same time that little Peter was having his nocturnal visitors. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
After some weeks of simply playing about in Peter's bedroom (see right), the visitors finally enticed Peter from sitting on the bed to sitting on the table by the window. 
The next step was to get him to sit on the window-sill.
Peter was then encouraged to get onto a strange metal frame floating outside the bedroom window.
Once safely on this frame, and accompanied by a couple of the visitors, Peter would be taken up into the starry sky (see left), on a breathtaking and exhilarating journey. 
These journeys had a profound effect on Peter, giving him a lasting love of the night sky and the stars. 
There was more to these trips, however, than just having a sight-seeing tour of the starry heavens.
The trips always ended in a small, featureless, grey room - a grey room that would come to haunt Peter much later in his life. 
There Peter would meet a tall, blond haired young man, whom Peter took to be a teacher or a scientist.
Peter would have long conversations with this person, although after these experiences he could never remember what these conversations were about.
While talking to this young man, Peter was always aware of a sinister looking robot standing in the corner of the room. 
After Peter's meeting with the tall young man, the small, grey entities would take Peter back to the metal frame, which would then gently ferry him back through the starlit sky to his bedroom window.
Peter would then return to bed, leaving the little grey guys to caper around by the bed until he fell asleep. 
If we accept Peter's memories as genuine, then he must be classed as an 'abductee' - one of the first of that ever growing band of individuals who claim to have been contacted by alien entities, and spirited away to some extraterrestrial environment. 

CONTACTEES 

While by now many hundreds of thousands, (perhaps even millions), of individuals claim to have been abducted, Peter's case is unusual for two related reasons. The first reason is the early date, and the second is the fact that it would have been almost impossible for Peter to have been influenced by any accounts of similar phenomena. 
Peter's abductions began in 1952. 

One of the earliest abduction accounts of the period was that of Villa Boas (see left), which took place in Brazil in 1957.
A later, and far more influential case was that of Betty and Barney Hill (see right) in the USA, which took place in 1961, and clearly described the 'Grays', who also appear in Peter's account. 

Whitley Streiber (see left), the author of the book that attracted Peter's attention in Canterbury, was the author who popularised the abduction phenomenon, in which the 'Grays' (see right) play a central part. 
In addition, although Streiber's fame is based on the abductions which he claimed to have experienced in 1985, Streiber's initial experiences of abduction date from the early fifties, when he was a young boy in San Antonio, in Texas (see right below), and it is significant that Streiber is only one year younger than Peter. 

It should be remembered, of course, that all these abduction accounts were published many years after Peter's first experience, and therefore could not have influenced him, unless we propose that Peter's subsequent knowledge of these accounts affected his memories of some other event. 
As a boy Peter did have some knowledge of UFO encounters.


These were the result of John Crawford becoming interested in contactee stories, and borrowing books from the Public Library by George Adamski. 
George Adamski was one of the first, modern contactees. 
Adamski was born in Poland in 1891, but he was just two years old his family emigrated to America to escape the crushing poverty and political uncertainty.
As a young man he spent some years in the American Army although little is known of the details of his early life. 
By 1944 he was calling himself 'Professor' Adamski and lecturing on Eastern Religions.
He and a group of followers had set up a small colony near Mount Palomar (see right above), in California; site of the giant two-hundred inch reflecting telescope. 
There they ran a tourist's café, and Adamski indulged in his hobby of amateur astronomy with his six inch Newtonian reflector (see left).

In 1946 Adamski observed his first UFO through his telescope but, significantly, it was not until 1952 that he was able to successfully take his first photograph of a UFO through his telescope (see right). 
In that same year he experienced his first contact with alien entities. These entities identified themselves a 'Venusians' and appeared to be humanoid, looking very similar to Nordic earthmen, and similar to Peter's 'scientist' or 'teacher'. 
Adamski was a prolific writer, and although most of what he wrote is now discounted, even by the most ardent UFO fan, in the 1950's he was a successful non-fiction author.
Peter, however, only got to read Adamski's books when he was about thirteen years old, and there is very little similarity between Adamski's Venusians and Peter's 'visitors'. 
There is, strangely enough, a strong and rather haunting similarity between Streiber's 'visitors' and Peter's experiences, although it must be remembered that Peter did not come across Streiber's account until thirty-six years had passed. 

Both accounts begin with the appearance of owls (see left), and both accounts involve nocturnal visits by small thin, gray entities. Equally both accounts involve a small metal frame as the means of transportation away from the bedroom, and both involve a small room where further encounters take place.
Where the accounts differ is with Peter's experience of the 'Nordic' and the 'robot'. 
Streiber, however, when describing his childhood abductions, which were taking place at the same time as Peter's experiences, describes how he was taken to a room where he received instruction.
Also, significantly, he describes how he saw a number of school friends at these 'lessons', although strangely these friends never discussed their presence at these 'lessons' when they met Streiber in the following days and weeks. Peter also had sessions of 'instruction', as he often thought of the tall 'Nordic' as a 'teacher', but he had no recollection of anyone else being present at these sessions. 
Peter's experience differs in one other important way that from that of most other abductees, and that is in the matter of sexuality, although this is possibly not surprising, considering how young Peter was. 
Villa Boas, a simple South American peasant, was abducted with the purpose of him impregnating a female extraterrestrial. 

Betty and Barney Hill were both given intimate examinations, which involved taking ova from Betty and sperm samples from Barney, and Whitely Streiber, when abducted as an adult, underwent an examination involving an anal probe (see left).
Peter, however, had no conscious memory of any such activity. 
Peter was never sure exactly how often the visitors came - after all, boys of that age don't keep diaries, or consult calendars.
The visits did seem to be quite regular, however, averaging at least once or twice a week.
Despite their regularity, Peter was never comfortable with the little 'grays' (see right), and in reality, despite the fact that they never hurt or threatened Peter, they always frightened him. It was different with the tall young man, and in retrospect, Peter felt that quite a deep relationship developed between the two of them, despite the constant and ominous presence of the robot. 
So if we presume, just for the sake of argument, that Peter's memories of the 'Visitors' were genuine, and reasonably accurate; then just who were these little chaps that floated into his bedroom. 
Early contactees, like Ballard, Adamski and King were convinced that their alien visitors came from Venus, Mars Jupiter, Saturn etc (see left).
Of course we are now pretty sure that the planets, apart from the Earth, are incapable of supporting life.
When this became general knowledge, in the sixties, aliens were generally reported to come from other stars or galaxies. 

An example of this was Betty and Barney Hill's aliens, who were supposed to come from the Pleiades (see right), or possibly Reticulum. 
If, however, the speed of light is taken into consideration then, unfortunately, it seems somewhat unlikely that aliens would travel for many years just to undertake gynaecological examinations of a small group of humans. 
The result of all these speculations was that later contactees, and those who wrote about them, started to suggest that the visitors might not be extra-terrestrials at all.


The new possibilities were that these beings could be time travellers, multi-dimensional beings, and most alarmingly perhaps, 'The Watchers'.
And who were or are the watchers ? Well this conveniently takes us into the realms of religion, and to the pseudepigraphical 'Book of Enoch', written in the Jewish intertestamentory period, where the 'Watchers', the Nephilim, were angelic or spiritual beings who mated with mortal woman, and were punished with banishment.
Not demons, and not ghosts, but 'all seeing' guardians – who no longer guard – but may now have some other agenda. 
If the little gray guys weren't the 'Watchers', then possibly Peter's tall young man was, but as to his purpose Peter was unable to tell, and we are equally unable to shed any light on this mystery.
Peter, himself, had no thoughts about who his 'visitors' were, and never spoke about them to Jane and John, or to his friends, as far as he could recall, but then that should not surprise us, for J M Barrie (see right) wrote that, 
'Children have the strangest adventures without being troubled by them, for what troubles a grown-up will never trouble a child'. 
Eventually, after about two years, the end came. 
Quite suddenly the tall young man announced to Peter that the regular visits were now coming to an end, although this didn't mean that there would never again be any contact. 
In one sense Peter was relieved.


The presence of the Grays had always been stressful for him, and he welcomed the thought of undisturbed nights.
On the other hand it was difficult to come to terms with the loss of his 'alien' friend.
But at least there was the knowledge that they might meet again. 
The tall young visitor kept his promise, but that story is for another time. 
The coming of the 'visitors' was preceded by Peter becoming afraid of the dark. Oddly enough, after the departure of the 'visitors' Peter was never again frightened of the dark. 


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
And strange to say, some months after the disappearance of the visitors, Mr Wilkinson (see right), the old gentleman who lived in the neighbouring house, gave Peter two gifts.


The first was a book; an old, Edwardian guide to the night sky (see left), giving a description of the skies for each week of the year, plus a planisphere set into the back cover. 
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Rather more significant was the gift of a red leather covered brass telescope (see right), in a wooden case, complete with two extra eyepieces and a table-top tripod. 
Now why such an extravagant gift, apparently coming from out of the blue? 
As far as Peter could remember he had told no one about the 'visitors'. 
But then just maybe he had said something to Mr Wilkinson - or perhaps the old man had seen something, late one night - or perhaps the old man just knew, after all, he had been a friend of Aliester Crowley
Of course Jane and John were far too polite to refuse, on behalf of their little boy, this rather extravagant gift.
Peter, however, was delighted.

Regularly, from then on, when ever the weather was warm enough, Peter would wait until the adults below thought he was asleep, and then slide open his bedroom window.


He would then place the telescope tripod on the table where the 'visitors' had once sat, gazing at him with their huge dark eyes, and point his prized telescope at the bright southern skies, peering at the glittering Pleiades and nebulous glow of Orion (see right), half hoping and half fearing that he would catch sight of his 'visitors' one more time. 
And perhaps Mr Wilkinson, on some summer night, would walk out into his garden and see Peter at his bedroom window scanning the night sky, and smile to himself, for perhaps he knew what the boy was searching for - and maybe he had even searched himself, in the same way, sometime in the past - after all, it would be wildly improbable if wildly improbable things did not happen.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
And so we should think back to the balmy summer nights; - the smell of freshly cut grass on the evening air, and the musty aroma of the warm earth; the endless reaches of the star-spangled sky, and the overwhelming anticipation of the approach of something alien and unsettling, and yet strangely compelling and familiar. 
And all this can induce a profound nostalgia, and not just in young Peter, but in so many of us, for such reminiscences may be something that many of us hold in common - if we could but just grasp some of the memories of those strange, magical nights so long ago - 'so long ago, and so clear'. 


SECRETS & MYSTERIES 

The 'visitors' were undoubtedly Peter's first, and possibly biggest secret. 
There would be other secrets in Peter's life, but the visitor's were undoubtedly the strangest. 
But Peter was not the only one to have secrets. 
Of course many families have secrets - 'black sheep' and skeletons in the cupboard, and Peter's adoptive family was no exception.
Early on Peter knew of at least three rather dubious facts about the family. 
The first was about John Crawford's brother, who Peter was supposed to refer to as 'uncle' Ralph. 
Peter only met Ralph, who was a merchant seaman, once, when Peter was about six, when Ralph visited Pears Road. 
'Uncle' Ralph managed to amuse Peter by playing a tune on a metal accessory tube that was part of the household vacuum cleaner. He then spent the rest of the evening drinking and talking to his brother; Peter's adoptive father. 
Peter never saw Ralph again, and Ralph never sent any letters, as far as Peter knew, and was never referred to by any member of the family. 
In later life Peter wondered if Ralph was homosexual, as he was not married, and homosexuality, at that time was not unusual among seamen. The only photo that Peter ever saw of Ralph showed him with two young French men, in Calais, so there is a possibility that this was the reason why he was never referred to, and apparently disappeared from the family history very early on. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The second 'black sheep' was Peter's adoptive mother's brother-in-law, 'uncle' John, who was a recovered alcoholic. Many years later, long after Peter had married, 'uncle' John became completely mentally unhinged, and shortly afterwards he died. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Perhaps the 'blackest sheep' of the family was Peter's adoptive mother's brother's youngest son, 'cousin' Norman. 
The first son, Richard, had been a boy, and Peter's adoptive mother's sister-in-law, 
Gladys, had then very much wanted a daughter. 



© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Instead she had a son, whom she called 'Norma' and dressed in girl's clothes.
Poor Norman grew up appallingly effeminate, and not surprisingly got himself a 'boy-friend', Jackie, as soon as he reached his late teens.
But more about Norman and his 'boy-friend' later. 
The most significant skeleton in the family cupboard, however, involved Peter's adoptive parents. 
At the very centre of Peter's appearance at fifty-five Pears Road, as the apparently adopted son of Mr & Mrs Crawford, there was a dark, unspoken secret. It was not, however, the secret that Peter was adopted, and it had nothing to do with how Peter had been acquired, but rather it involved what had happened before his appearance. 
Peter very quickly realized that in other families' mothers had babies, and that he had arrived at Pears Road by train, and was obviously not the son of Mr & Mrs Crawford. 
Jane and John's explanation of this was quite clever.
They made no secret that Peter was adopted, but made it clear that because of this Peter was very special, - because Peter had been 'chosen'.
Now Peter was indeed special, but not simply for the reason that he had been adopted. 
What Jane and John did not tell Peter, however, was why they had adopted Peter, and why they could not have a child of their own. 
Of course they couldn't tell Peter that; not at the age Peter was in 1952.
And so the secret was kept until 1985, which is well after this story ends. 
To understand what happened we need to go back to the war - that is the Second World War. 
John had been sent to the Middle East, and Jane was left on her own in Hounslow. 
Now Jane was not the dowdy lady that she later became when Peter was a teenager and a young man.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Then Jane (see right - Jane extreme left) was incredibly fashion conscious, and inclined to put on 'airs and graces', which she would later condemn in others, including Peter, as she grew older. 
Afraid of the bombing, Jane returned to Gateshead and her family, but did not fit in at all well with her already dowdy and unfashionable sisters, Mary and Maggie, who were strict Catholics, - after all there had always been a problem after Jane had married a Protestant boy. 
So Jane returned to Hounslow; let the house in Pears Road to an Air force sergeant, and went to London to stay with her sister-in-law, Gladys.
This, however, didn't last long as she felt that she was constantly under the surveillance of John Crawford's brother, Dick. 
Jane then met up with Joe, a nurse, who was a friend of Gladys. 
Joe lived with Tommy Kane, her boyfriend, who was an ex-soldier who had been invalided out of the army after being wounded at Dunkirk.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
They lived in a spacious basement apartment in Gloucester Place, quite close to York Street where Gladys and Dick lived. 
Joe, Tommy and Jane went out regularly to the Scotch House, a local pub.
There Jane met a presumably handsome, and possibly charismatic American Army officer - after all a good supply of nylons, during the war, could be very charismatic. 
Soon a relationship developed, and the officer would stay overnight with Jane at Joe's flat. 
Of course the inevitable happened, and Jane became pregnant. 
Now although there were undoubtedly many women, during the war, who had affairs while their husbands were away fighting, at the time no one thought too much about it. In the 'blitzed' cities of England no one knew if they would still be alive after an air-raid – so it was very much a 'live for the moment' situation.
All forms of illicit sex, including homosexuality among servicemen blossomed, and rates for venereal disease and unwanted pregnancies shot up.
There was, however, a time to 'settle up' and count the cost, when the peace came. 
At that time illegitimate babies were completely socially unacceptable, but then so was abortion, which was also illegal.
Divorce was almost as much a social disgrace as an illegitimate child, so while the divorce rate did rise after the war, many married couples dealt with the facts of wartime infidelity by simply ignoring it, and trying to carry on as if nothing had happened, in the hope that friends, relations and neighbours would do the same. 
Joe, being a nurse in Harley Street, was able to arrange an abortion for Jane, which the American Officer paid for, but the abortion went wrong, and Jane was unable to have any more children. 
Jane presumably hoped that the anonymity of London would come to her aid, and the whole matter could be covered up when she returned to Hounslow.
John, however, found out from a mutual friend, (or was it his brother Dick ?), while he was in the Middle East, and that's where Peter comes into the story. 

So Peter seems to have been the 'solution' to a collapsing marriage, or perhaps he was the 'fantasy child', to replace the child - who would have been his brother - who was lost, or more accurately, killed.
In a strange way Peter and Barrie (see right) were to some extent similar in this matter. 
Barrie lost a brother, and became for his mother the substitute, and therefore the 'fantasy' for the child who had died - the child who 'never grew up', like Peter Pan. 
And if Peter was a 'fantasy child', then was he really 'real', for what reality can such a 'fantasy being' really hold ? 

As Smee (see left) says in the film 'Peter Pan', "Tragic, isn't it ?". 
And of course Barrie, in Peter Pan, tells us that Wendy (see right) 'felt at once that she was in the presence of a tragedy.' 
And yes, tragic it was. 
Now Peter, as a boy was never told these facts, but a child does not have to have the facts spelled out to him to know that there is something secret and unsavoury in the air.
To Peter, Jane and John were not like other mums and dads - the mums and dads of his friends. Their relationship was strange and stilted, lacking warmth and spontaneity.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Equally, Peter was aware that the family in Newcastle, particularly on Jane's side were not only cool towards Jane, but had also taken an instant dislike to Peter, and seemed to view him as an interloper. 
In retrospect perhaps they thought of him as a symbol of that illicit relationship that Jane had had, or perhaps they had no knowledge of the abortion and thought that Peter was the illegitimate child, the dead little boy, as his dark brown eyes, olive skin and black hair showed that he was obviously not John's son (see right). 
Equally when Peter later met Gladys and Dick, and Joe and Tommy Kane, it was obvious to him that there was some 'unfinished business' existing amongst these people, although they showed him none of the animosity that he had received form Jane and John's families in Newcastle. 
So this was another factor that made Peter feel different, even if he didn't, at that stage in his life know why.



click below for next chapter
NEW ELIZABETHANS

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014




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