IN THE BEGINNING

This chapter tells of Peter's arrival in Pears Road, gives information about his adoptive family, and their history -
and describes how Peter slowly adapts to his new life in the setting of the early fifties.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012

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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012

'Not in entire forgetfulness, 
And not in utter nakedness, 
But trailing clouds of glory do we come...'
Wordsworth

The young Kahlil Gibran
'In the Beginning' - Well, what else could we call the chapter ?

How Pete really began, or exactly where he came from, for most people is a now a mystery.
As Kahlil Gibran (see left), a poet often quoted by those who wish to sound profound, when really saying nothing, wrote,

'Vague and nebulous is the beginning of all things - Life, and all that lives is conceived in the mist and not in the crystal !'.

Well, in Pete's case this is undoubtedly true, and like some cute little mythic hero, he springs into the world fully formed, with no conception or gestation; no father or mother.



PETER'S NEW FAMILY

John Stokes, of course, knew where Pete really came from, but he would never tell.
Brentford Magistrates Court
And now he is dead.
There was probably a time when some people could have explained what had happened, but by now all those people are certainly dead.
Perhaps there are some yellowing pieces of paper in some file tucked away in some cabinet in some archive - but that's unlikely.
From the present perspective it seems that Pete just appeared.
There was a birth certificate, but this was issued in 1950, and Pete was born in - possibly - 1946 ?
This 1950 certificate was issued at Brentford Magistrates Court, and gave the name of the child as 'Peter Crawford', the son of John Stokes Crawford and Jane Crawford, who was born on or about 31st December 1946 but, of course, he was not the real son of John Stokes Crawford and Jane Crawford, and he was not born on 31st December 1946.

Pete's Rocking Horse
And what are the first memories to which Peter will admit ?
They are of huge, silent, empty, white rooms, and a big white rocking horse - beautifully painted, which only Peter used.
Now this may be a memory of an orphanage - but orphanages, right after the end of the Second World War, were full of children whose parents were either killed in the war - or who had been abandoned - for some reason.
No orphanage was silent and empty - and if there had been a rocking horse, it would have had kids clambering all over it.
(later, after Pete went to live with Jane and John, John bought Pete a big rocking horse. But did Pete ask for one - or had John seen Pete's original rocking horse - or was it just a coincidence ?
There are a lot of 'coincidences' in the story of Pete - although one may ask if there really is such a thing as a coincidence ?)
So what was this strange, silent memory ?
Now this could be described as a 'false memory', or a 'screen memory' - but that may not be so.
It is a memory that Peter had from his earliest days, and Peter sometimes wondered if it was a real memory or if, perhaps, the real memories were blocked out.
If we are prepared to believe in the existence of the soul, then there is the possibility that it comes into being at conception or birth.
It is also possible, however, that if the soul in fact exists, then it may have some pre-existence.
To quote Longfellow, 'we come trailing clouds of glory'.
Perhaps these large, white empty rooms are all that a child's mind can make of that other place, 'before the beginning'  (see video above) - a place to which we may also return ?
And there is one other memory that Pete is prepared to recount.
It is not a cold, empty memory, like that of the white rooms, but a joyful memory.
It is on a hill, covered in grass and purple heather, and there is a beautiful red sunrise, (or sunset), and Pete is with a group of other children - the 'lost boys' perhaps ?
The children are all happy and beautiful, and very young, and they are walking purposefully toward the brow of the hill, and toward the glowing, red and purple clouds.
And then there is a journey in a green train, with two people that Peter didn't know, which ends up in the 'living-room' in a strange house, and a nice meal.
The plate that Pete eats from is red 'melamine', as is the cup from which he drinks his sweet tea.
That plate and cup, .along with a bowl for soup and 'puddiings' are specially for Pete - unbreakable - and 'cute' like Pete.

Heathrow Airport - Departure Lounge

Pete's 'adoption', as far as we can ascertain, took place in 1950, so Pete's childhood took place in the nineteen fifties, in a London suburb called Hounslow, near Heathrow Airport, (which was at that time just emerging from its wartime guise as a military airfield, to become an international airport), - and Pete was adopted by a couple called Mr & Mrs Crawford.


Jane and John Crawford
(early fifties)
Jane and John Crawford were lucky – very lucky - they had survived the War, despite John Crawford spending his war service in the Middle East, and Jane Crawford having to cope with the bombing in both Hounslow, Newcastle and central London.
Their wartime experiences undoubtedly caused them some significant emotional scarring, but in nineteen fifty, like so many relatively young people who had survived the war, they were hoping to start a new life in, what was for them, a safe and peaceful, post-war world.
But the world, that to our Pete seemed perfectly normal, was a world that had been traumatized by years of war, and almost all the adults in that world had been equally traumatized.

London Blitz
'Nine eleven' (remember?) may have traumatized many people, both in New York, and in many other parts of the world, but what we must imagine was a 'nine-eleven' almost every day for years on end, culminating in the London Blitz , the 'firestorms' of Dresden and Berlin, and the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
And on a lesser scale it was a world, for many years after that war, haunted by rationing, shortages, 'make-do-and-mend', and bomb-sites.

London Blitz
So the people who had decided to look after Pete, even although they had survived the war, were really not like the adults of today.
They had seen things and done things that most of us now would find hard to imagine, and hard to 'stomach', and had been forced to go through years of privation, danger and seemingly endless waiting.
So the peace was, to those people, very 'precious' (as Gollum would say).
Something that they had been barely able to hope for.
They were, for the most part, committed to make a better world for their children, but they would always be somehow disconnected and remote from those young people - their children.
Their experiences, about which they found it almost impossible to talk, would always separate them from those who grew up with no direct experience of the horrors and anxiety of war.
But who were these people who decided to adopt Pete - Jane and John Crawford ?
Of Peter's grandparents he only knew one.

Richard Walker Snr.
This was 'Granddad'; his adoptive mother's father. 'Granddad's' real name was Richard Walker, a master plumber & foreman of a small private company.
Strictly speaking he was a Victorian, having been born in 1876 in Edinburgh.
His work was one of the high technologies of the Victorian era, & his background could be found in the milieu which spawned many of those technologies; namely Scottish Presbyterianism,
Although fond of his whisky, he was, moreover, committed to hard work & the pursuit of a respectable & good living which would grant him independence & the respect of his peers.
For him, as for most people during the Victorian & Edwardian eras, with the exception of the upper classes, leisure was a rare commodity, taken, mainly for the children's sake at Christmas, Easter & Bank Holiday.
It was a precept of the Protestant Work Ethic that work, & success through work, were justified means for salvation.

That Satan made work for idle hands & that to work hard, bring up your family & leave them with a skill, a trade or a business so that they could follow in your footsteps, was a man's privilege & duty. The concept of working to finance periods of leisure & 'having fun' was totally alien to 'Granddad's' generation.
Although rather simply stated here, this attitude & philosophy was dominant among the lower classes during the decades around the turn of the century.
When, inevitably, the Great War (see left and below) came, it undoubtedly shook the foundations of these working class values, although not to the extent that it effected political, intellectual & aesthetic endeavours.




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Returning soldiers demanded 'Homes fit for Heroes' & there was even a General Strike in 1926 (see right), but still, as a result of education, the influence of the churches &, in many cases their own convictions, the majority of workers & small entrepreneurs continued to live by the values of the previous generation.




St Cuthbert's RC Church - Felling
Jane Walker Snr.
'Granddad's' wife, Peter's adoptive 'grandmother', Jane, was Roman Catholic, so their marriage, for that time, was unusual to say the least.
As was the custom, the children of the marriage were brought up as Catholics, which put an unfortunate barrier between Richard and his children.
When Richard Walker died in the nineteen sixties he converted to Catholicism on his deathbed, although as he was convinced during his final illness that he had won the Football Pools, and had taken to reading the newspaper upside down, this decision seems to have more to do with his rabidly Catholic daughter Mary, who was nursing him, rather than any rational deliberations or spiritual awakening on his part.
Aunt Sarah
Peter's adoptive mother was born in Jarrow, in 1914, the youngest of a family of five.
The eldest child of Richard and Jane Walker was Margaret, always known as Maggie.
The next was Richard, the only son.
Then came Mary, and finally Peter's adoptive mother.
Two years after little Jane was born her mother, Jane, died, and it was left to Maggie to bring up the family.
Richard never re-married, and the children undoubtedly missed the love and care that a mother could provide.
Peter's adoptive mother, being the youngest, and needing most care, was regularly farmed out to relatives, and most often to her great aunt, Sarah (see right), who lived in a huge apartment in Princes street, close to John Knox's house, in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh - Carlton Hill
Edinburgh - Arthur's Seat
Holidays were usually spent at the local coastal resorts of Cramond, Leith, Musselburgh or Port Seton, and on other occasions there were trips to Holyrood, the Castle and Arthur's Seat and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Interestingly, our Peter met Great Aunt Sarah, his only Great Aunt when he was a little boy, probably about six years old.
Of course, Peter had no idea of who she was, and strangely nobody told him.
Jane, Peter's adoptive mother, deep down, thought of herself as being essentially Scottish, and in later life, after a few sherries, or whiskies at Hogmanay, she would become maudlin, and start singing sentimental Scottish ballads in between reminiscences of those far off days. Undoubtedly the most secure and stable times in her life were spent in the cultured air and tranquillity of Scotland's noble capital.

Kaiser Wilhelm II
John Crawford
Peter's adoptive father was born in Gateshead (see left), on the twenty-seventh of January 1906.

Oddly he shared his birthday with the German Kaiser Wilhelm II (see right).
Although he boasted a Scottish surname of the finest pedigree, his links with Scotland were far more tenuous than Jane's.




His father's name was Joseph Crawford, and his mother was called Jane.
The family was Protestant; Church of England, and this was to cause problems later on when he decided to marry.




Jane Crawford Snr.
Joseph Crawford
Joe (see left), as he was always called, died while John was very young.
Jane, (yes, another Jane), Joe's wife, had five children.
The eldest was Richard, then came Ralph, then Winney, then Molly and finally John.
Wanting to provide the best for such a large brood, Jane quickly remarried.
He second husband was always referred to by John as Mr Wilkes.
It said much about the relationship between son and stepfather that no christian name was ever revealed.
Mr Wilkes died after a few years & Jane was once again on her own.
By then, however, the children were growing up.

King-Emperor Edward VIII




For the first four years of John Crawford's life he was an Edwardian - difficult to believe but true.
The First Word War, (known at the time as 'The Great War'), started when John was eight years old and ended when he was twelve - so, he was a teenager in the Twenties - a teenager in the 'jazz-age' - the so-called 'Long Weekend'.



   

The Thirties, however, was effected by the Wall Street Crash, and the Subsequent Depression.
Northumberland - where Jane and John were by then young adults, was badly hit by the slump, and Richard and John Crawford found it difficult to find regular employment in the area.

Hounslow High Street - 1937
The boys therefore moved out each Summer, and camped at Frenchman's Bay, and it was there that John Crawford met Jane Walker.
In nineteen-thirty-seven, the year of the coronation of George VI, (see left) Jane and John were married in Felling, near Gateshead (see right).
They then travelled South, to benefit from the continuing economic recovery in the South East, and settled in Barrack Road in Hounslow, Middlesex, as John was stationed at the headquarters of the Army Southern Command in Hounslow barracks.

George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death. He was the last Emperor of India, and the first Head of the Commonwealth.
George VI's coronation took place on 12 May 1937, the date previously intended for Edward's coronation.
In a break with tradition, Queen Mary attended the ceremony in a show of support for her son.
There was no Durbar held in Delhi for George VI, as had occurred for his father, as the cost would have been a burden to the Government of India.

   
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The TWENTIES and THIRTIES

There's no time for us. 
There's no place for us. 
What is this thing that builds our dreams 
And slips away from us ? 

There's no chance for us. 
Its all decided for us. 
This world has only one sweet moment set aside for us !

Freddy Mercury

It was in an atmosphere of growing political gloom Jane and John began their life in their new home in Pears Road.
Inevitably they tried to shut out the horror of what might be, in the pursuance of a well ordered and pleasant life.
John had an excellent posting at the HQ Southern Command, and Jane kept house and did the odd part time job as an accountant.
They saved assiduously and carefully and, in the summer of 1937, they returned to Northumberland in order to see relatives and friends.
For them, at that time, it would have been a long and expensive journey.
Arriving at Newcastle station (see left), and then by taxi to Gateshead and Felling, however they could discretely show their new found 'Southern' affluence.
In 1938 Jane and John invited Jane's father, Richard Walker, and her sister, Mary and her husband John Faulkner to see their new home in Hounslow.
During this visit some of the few surviving photos of Richard Walker were taken by Jane and John, as Richard posed in front of Windsor Castle, and in Richmond Park.

Richard Walker Senior
Richard (see right) undoubtedly enjoyed the visit, although he gave every indication of thoroughly disapproving of 'soft Southerners' whose morals were questionable, to say the least.
On one occasion in particular he suggested going out for a drink.
The 'Tankerville Arms' was close by, and so Jane and John prepared to go out.
Richard was staggered, however, at the idea of Jane accompanying them to a Public House, and John had to explain that 'down South' it was quite acceptable for women to be seen in a 'pub', and he was not prepared to go out and leave his wife at home.
Of course 'Southern' pubs had 'Lounge Bars', which were practically unknown in the 'North'.
Mary and John, not surprisingly, took the opposite view.
Photos of the time give the impression that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves; - the generation gap has always existed to some extent in recent times.

Runnymead 
Windsor castle
In addition to such major events there were also regular visits to local beauty spots such as Windsor (see right), and areas by the Thames, such as Runnymead (see left) and Chertsey, Richmond Park, or Kew Gardens, or various places of interest in London.
We, of course, know what the next two years would bring; they did not.
They could only guess, and this is another factor which makes the past so difficult to properly interpret and understand.
We always know, to some degree, what is going to happen next, so for us their future is always casting a shadow on their present.
This, of course is not occurring for them, so our perception of them is radically different from their own self-perception.
What would these particular characters in this story have done if they had had the knowledge that we now have of their future ?
Fascinating speculation perhaps, but of more importance to our story is the next event in the international drama being played out as John and Jane tuned in to the B.B.C in their new home in Pears Road, in Hounslow.


1938 was the year of the Anchluß.
Adolf Hitler, the Chancellor and Fürher of Germany had originally been born in Austria, and it was one of his many ambitions, for he was an ambitious man, to unite Germany and Austria into a 'Greater Germany'.
The Anchluß took place on the 12 th. March 1938.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart
On the 13 th. of March, Arthur Seyss-Inquart (see left), later Gauleiter of the Östmark, issued a proclamation to that effect, signed by Hitler, at Linz.
The following, day Hitler entered Vienna in triumph, and four weeks later the people of Austria sanctioned the Anchluß by a plebiscite, which took place on the 10 th. April.
Austria had ceased to exist as an independent country, and was known from then until the end of the war as the Östmark; the 'Eastern Province'.
At this point the danger of war became palpable.
Did most people in England understand the significance of the Anchluß - unlikely.
Many would be only dimly aware of the geographical position of the Östmark.
John Crawford, however, certainly knew of the significance of the Anchluß, and realised that war was probably inevitable - and that he would have to play his part in it.



Air-raid shelters were dug in Inwood Park (see right - the park close to where Jane and John lived - which would later become such an important feature in the childhood of our Pete), - and gas-masks were issued (see left).
As if anticipating the worst, John and Jane decided to take an extravagant and memorable holiday.
In retrospect it looks suspiciously like 'one last fling'.


In August, a mere five months after the Anchluß  they bought a white painted, clap-boarded 'house boat', engagingly called 'Puck' (Jane named the boat after the character played by the young Mickey Rooney in the 1935 movie 'Midsummer Night's Dream - Rooney obviously being the ideal image of the 'cute little boy', later to be brought to life in the person of 'Pete') - but at that time the little boy she was longing to give birth to - eventually.....


The house boat was moored at Horning, on the Norfolk Broads, and they spent a quiet holiday fishing, exploring in their little rowing boat and relaxing.
Today the Broads swarms with cabin cruisers and tourists, but then it was one of the quietest, most peaceful spots in the whole of the British Isles.
This was, maybe knowingly, John Crawford's farewell to England - and England that he loved dearly - and would never be the same after the whirlwind of war had uprooted some much - and not just lives and buildings, but values and traditions.

The Broads is a place that can reassure one of timeless values; calming the soul and relieving the many tensions of the day to day world.

A holiday only lasts a few weeks, however.
And so - what did they do for a holiday in 1939 ? Nothing.

In 1939 most people in Britain thought war would bring the end of civilisation.
It was their ultimate nightmare.
Their version of our nuclear holocaust, or more recently, ecological disaster.
Every age has this nightmare.


For the Ancient Teutons it was Götterdämerung (see left); for Saxon farmers, the Vikings emerging from the mists to lay waste to everything; for the pious of the Middle Ages the Second

Coming or the Black Death; for the Incas the arrival of Cortes (see right).
Every age has its ultimate fear.


In 1939 the ultimate fear for the British was the immediate arrival of thousands of bombers (see left), moments after the declaration of war, laying waste to every major city with millions of tons of high explosives, incendiaries and above all poisonous gasses, such as phosgene and mustard (see right).


Contemporary newspapers and magazines were full of articles advising people how to make their rooms gas-proof or how to deal with incendiaries, later endearingly nicknamed 'Firebomb Fritz'  (see right) when the initial terror had decayed into mere routine.

Fire Bomb Fritz
Whilst the average citizen was preoccupied with obtaining enough material for 'blackout curtains' or taping windows in order to reduce the effects of bomb blast, the government was panicking.

Top secret memoranda were drafted, detailing how it was believed that the population of major cities would dissolve into total panic and hysteria, after the first onslaught of bombing, flooding out of the metropolitan centres, causing havoc to the proposed mobilisation of the armed forces, and causing the collapse of essential industrial output and government communications.
The Government, at the time, saw only one way out of this appalling scenario, which was to turn on the civilian population and use the most violent means to regain order and control.
Such was the opinion of the British ruling class of the 'man in the street', and how wrong would the war prove this view to be; not only in 'blitzed' London, but also in Dresden, Berlin, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Such secret memos, however, were unknown to Mr and Mrs Crawford, and millions like them.
For most people Dresden meant china, and Nagasaki may well have been a character, a minor one undoubtedly, in the 'Mikado' or 'Chu Chin Chow' (see right).


What John Cawford did know, however, thanks to a good deal of propaganda, was that this war was going to make the 'Great War' (First World War) look like a 'side show', and that thanks to 'Mr Hitler' (see left) the new life that Jane and John were looking forward to was very uncertain.
The nightmare, however, contrary to everyone's expectations, did not come, despite the sirens sounding in London on that first September day of the Second World War.
Predictably, they were a false alarm, and symptomatic of much that was to follow, although Jane and John didn't realise that as they hurried down the narrow alley-way between Pears Road and Inwood Park, where they took cover in the public shelters which had been dug amid the peaceful flower beds and tennis courts.
Probably the main reason for the 'holocaust' being delayed was because 'Mr Hitler' did not have thousands of bombers poised and ready to destroy the cities of England.
More significantly, perhaps, Hitler did not, and never had wanted war with Britain - he quite liked the English, despite having fought them in the 'Great War'.
With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that once appeasement had lost its appeal, the declaration of war by Britain upon Germany was just a continuation of Britain's manipulation of the balance of power in Europe.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012
As if to confirm this, once war had been declared, on the pretext of defending the sovereignty of Poland, no attempt was made by Britain to defend Poland by landing British troops, and ironically, one of the final results of the conflict was that Poland was taken over by the USSR with Britain's tacit approval, despite Churchill's subsequent comments about the 'Iron Curtain' coming down over Europe.



At the time of the outbreak of war, John Stokes was at Headquarters, Southern Command, and on the night after war broke out, as John and Jane were recovering from their first experience of an air-raid shelter, there was an ominous knock at the door.


A Military Police motorcycle courier had brought a message that John was to report for duty immediately.
Thereafter there were many long night of work for John, as the ill-prepared army geared up for war.
It was probably about around 1940 John Stokes had to consider the possibility of being sent on active service.


It was September 1940 when Jane and John, for the second time, took a holiday in the tiny village of Wool, Dorset  - a holiday which, for all they knew ,might have been their last holiday together.



And so, Jane and John, and John's mother, Jane, spent those days in Dorset, in the fading sunshine of Autumn, as the time of parting drew closer by the hour.


Eventually, a telegram was sent to Pears Road, shortly after Christmas, informing John Stokes Crawford, No 1757860, where and when he should join his unit.
John was sent to serve in Egypt (among other places).


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her


Meanwhile, Jane, now on her own - for the first time ever -  returned to her family (see left below), near Newcastle, presumably to avoid the bombing which was expected to completely devastate London.


Later, for reasons which will remain, for the moment, obscure, Jane returned to Hounslow, but then 'rented out', (let), the house in Pears Road, and went to live with her sister-in-law Gladys Crawford, in York Street, near Baker Street in London (see right - this was a street and a house that little Pete, who has not yet entered this story, was to get to know very well).






And York Street was not a safe place to live at the beginning of the war.
Two weeks into the 'Blitz', on 18 September 1940, at around 12.05am, the junction of Baker Street and York Street W1 was hit by a high explosive bomb (see left).


But all things - good and bad - eventually come to an end - and the second war that Jane and John had experienced (they had both been children during the Great War) ended in 1945 - the year before 'Our Pete' was born  - somewhere............


______________________________________




© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012

Nostalgia is now a burgeoning business. People look back with fondness and affection to past decades, particularly the 'Swinging Sixties', and it is easy to accuse someone of looking at the past through 'rose tinted spectacles'.
This is not always the case, however.
Life, for most of recorded history, (and probably even before that), has been hard, brutal and, for most people, short.
Wars, famines, illness and death were the common lot of all people, and people's place in society was generally fixed, and the chances for personal fulfilment few and far between.
John Crawford always viewed the latter part of the first decade of the last century, - the period of his boy-hood, - as well as the 'twenties and early 'thirties, as particularly unpleasant and hard times, and was always harshly critical of people who talked about 'the good old days'.
For, Peter, of course, the days of his boyhood and youth occurred in the 1950s.
Surprisingly, the nineteen-fifties, unlike the 'sixties' have not always been thought of with warm nostalgia.
Now there are basically two ways for someone who lived through the fifties to evaluate that decade.
The first way is to study all the relevant books, memoirs, films etc. from the perspective of the twenty-first century.
The second way is to go back in memory and view it as a lived and personal experience.
Now the first way has been undertaken by many writers, sociologists and historians, with varying degrees of success.
The second way of viewing the decade in question is obviously in no way objective, and the lived experience of the fifties is unique to the particular individual, and the area where they lived, among the people of a particular class and culture.
Some have depicted the Fifties as a decade of social and sexual repression, cultural sterility and political stagnation.
A gray, pinched time of rationing, shortages and the inevitable stiff upper lip.
Others, and particularly those viewing the decade from the American perspective, have seen it as a 'golden age'.



Andrew Marr, (see right) a contemporary chronicler of modern British history, has succinctly described England at that time as the 'Land of Lost Content', taking the beautifully elegiac turn of phrase from a poem by Alfred Edward Housman (see left). Strangely enough Housman was one of J M Barrie's favourite poets, (later Housman was one of 'our Peter's' favourite poets also), and the line in question came from one of Barrie's favourite poems from the collection 'A Shropshire Lad', published in 1896, - 'That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, the happy highways where I went, - and cannot come again.'

Another line by A E Housman, 'the lads that will never be old', has an eerie ring to it, because it not only elucidates much of Barrie's enigmatic character, and the mystery of Peter Pan, but also looks forward to the fates of George and Michael Llewellyn-Davies, who both knew the line, and the poem well.
But back to the fifties.
Undoubtedly, in many ways it was a 'golden age', coming as it did after the carnage and misery of the war, and before the social disintegration of the late sixties and seventies, and the complete denial of society which occurred in the eighties and nineties.
For our Peter it was an oasis of calm, of security and of tranquillity, - but of course that is from a child's perspective, and probably many of the more unpleasant aspects of Peter's experience of that time have been conveniently filtered out.
While it was not such a secure era that everyone could leave their door permanently unlocked and open, in the assurance that everyone was basically good at heart, it was a time when people could 'pop out', leaving the door on the latch, and visit their neighbour, or the local shop.

It was also a time when the 'school run' was unknown, and all children either walked or cycled, un-escorted by their parents, but accompanied by their friends, to the local school in complete confidence.

While, when Peter was very young, there was still some rationing of food, paper and other items (see left), it was also a time when every child was entitled to a free school meal, and all children were given fee school milk during the morning break (see right).
In Peter's recollection, and this may only have applied to the kind of area where he lived, crime was practically unknown.


Peter cannot remember hearing about anyone's house being burgled, or anyone being mugged or attacked in the street, or on the buses or trains.
The streets, it seemed, never resounded to the sound of drunkenness, despite the fact that Peter lived near a high street, and there were three or four pubs near by.
Children went about the streets after dark without their parents being anxious, and apparently those children were completely unmolested.
Peter, himself walked to the local library in the evenings, and to choir practice after dark in perfect safety.
Children went to visit their friends, or went to the park, walking alone and unaccompanied, and young boys, including Peter, even walked or cycled to the local swimming pool in the hot summer months, wearing just plimsolls and swimming-trunks, which makes one wonder what all the paedophiles, who apparently now stalk our streets in droves, were doing in the nineteen fifties - (there were, however,  paedophiles in the 1950s, as we shall find out later).
This lack of public concern with regard to children, and particularly boys, being sexually interfered with is not just an impression that Peter seems to have retained.


An interesting article, recovered from an old copy of the 'Eagle' boy's comic, clearly demonstrates this attitude.
The article was entitled 'Enjoy the open air - cool off', and gives advice about the possibility of enjoying a swim 'when out for a hike or a cycle ride' - unaccompanied of course.
The two lads first talk to a middle-aged man on a bridge, apparently making inquiries about where they can swim in safety.

Then the youngsters are shown swimming in the brief style of trunks then commonly worn by young boys.
It would be difficult to imagine such an article appearing in a young person's magazine (there are no longer any 'boy's comics' as this would be 'sexist'), today.
There was only one murder in the area where Peter lived during his entire childhood, and that was of an old man, set upon by teenagers with the reported motive of robbery.
In this way the Fifties were a very different, and possibly would say better decade than the decades that have followed and, although we are only looking back fifty or sixty years, some aspects of the fifties are sometimes difficult to imagine.
Wages, of course, were low by modern standards, but then so were prices, and undoubtedly people didn't have the modern amenities that they have now.
Although Peter's house was number fifty-five, there were not actually that many houses in the road, as part of the road was occupied by a factory, and part by a newly built school and its playing field.

There were probably about thirty houses in all in the road but, when Peter was a boy, only a couple of people in the road had a car, and then they were only second hand models.
Also, Peter's house was one of the few in the road that had a bathroom, and none of the houses had running hot water or central heating - everybody at this time had coal fires.
A couple of houses didn't even have electricity, (that belonging to Mr & Mrs Draper in particular), and retained the old gas lighting.
In addition, when Peter was very young, refrigerators, washing machines and vacuum cleaners were few and far between, and so a 'woman's work was never done'.


The idea of mobile 'phones, of course, had not even been conceived, and even Dan Dare, (more about him later), living in the twenty-first century managed to get by without one.
Even private telephones were practically unknown for working-class people, although there were plenty of public call boxes, which it seemed were never vandalized, and almost always worked (see left).
As a result, people were not constantly at the beck and call of family, friends, neighbours and employers, and people could settle down in the evening and be confident that they would not be disturbed by the unpleasant ring of the 'phone, or the bizarre 'ring-tone' of a mobile.


Everybody, however, seemed to have a wireless (see right 'Art Deco' example of the wireless at Pears Road), and it was the wireless that for at least Peter's first three years at Pears Road was the only real entertainment, apart from books and comics.


Only a few people had a gramophone (record player), and most of these still played twelve inch records, which ran at seventy eight revolutions per minute, and were made of easily breakable shellac (see left).





As a little boy Peter would look forward to visiting his neighbours, Mr & Mrs Downing, who possessed a huge, (well it seemed huge to him), 'Art Deco' 'electric' radiogram (see right), on which he would be allowed to play Mario Lanza singing songs from Sigmund Romberg's 'the Student Prince' (see left). 

Just before the outbreak of the Second World War the BBC had launched a television service, which was limited to London (see right).


With the outbreak of war, however, this service had been suspended, and was only restarted when hostilities ceased in 1945.

It was only around the time of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, however, that reasonable numbers of people, including Peter's adoptive parents, started to buy a television (see left).

(The Crawford family's first television was a 1953 Murphy V210C 12 inch cabinet model)



Because relatively few people owned a television there was only one channel, which broadcast for only a very limited period each day (from mid afternoon - Children's Television (see left) - until ten or eleven at night, with a break between five and six for 'tea' and kiddie's bedtime).


The decade of the Fifties was one when nearly everyone went to the 'films', and there were at least five cinemas in Hounslow - the 'Art Deco' Dominion (see left and interior below), (opened in 1931 and was designed by F. E. Bromige in the Art Deco 'Moderne
style), and situated near the bus station.





The Empire was in the middle of the High Street.
The Regal, part of the ABC group and the Granada were at the far end of the High Street, and the Odeon (see right), probably the most modern cinema in the area, situated at Hounslow West, near the underground Station. In the year two thousand none of these cinemas still exists.

A year after Peter was born the Labour party inaugurated the National Health Service (see right).

Unlike today, if someone went to the doctor they didn't need to make an appointment a week - or more - ahead, but simply arrived, waited their turn, and were usually seen in about fifteen or twenty minutes, and it was a relatively simple matter to get the doctor to come to the house.
Milk of course was delivered in bottles to the door-step by horse drawn cart (see left).
'Coin in the slot' meters (see left) were read by people from the gas and electricity boards, so there were no monthly bills, and the insurance man came round once a month from the Pearl to ensure that you had a decent funeral.
Finally, of course, although Peter lived in Hounslow, close to Heath row Airport, (see right) (or London Airport as it was then called), everybody who lived in the town was white.

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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2012



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