Posted by: thomlift | April 17, 2009

Early Days

My life started on the 11th June 1929 and became a member of a family of 4 others, my mothers name was Emily Elizabeth otherwise known as Emm and my father was Edward John Thomas otherwise known as Jacko.

My Mum spent most of her married life as a cleaner for hotels or offices starting at 6 am. Dad was a jack of all trades, well the truth is he didn’t have a trade, and consequently turned his hand to any job that came his way.

Before I was born he was employed making wooden packing cases and after that making coffins, which has a similar ring to it. He then worked for a steel construction company called Measure Brothers who prepared rolled steel beams for the construction of buildings etc. His job was a called a platers mate. He would help to handle the steel sections to the machines for punching the holes for bolting the girders together on the construction site. He would also volunteer to be the watchman at weekends for the extra money. I would often take him a meal that Mum had cooked that was placed between two plates and wrapped in a gingham tea towel. My job was to get a tram from the Bricklayers Arms to Southwark Bridge and then walk to the Factory in Lavington Street.

The place where I was born was 6, Ackworth Street, London SE17 close to the famous pub “The Bricklayers Arms”. The street was a cul-de-sac off Great Dover Street,but at the end of the street there was a road at right angles that led out to Tower Bridge Road. Small columns were installed in the ground on the junction to prevent vehicles using it as a short cut. This made the street ideal for us children to go out to play. This street does not exist now because it was demolished and became part of a new flyover and roundabout linking Old Kent Road and New Kent Road.

On one corner of Ackworth Street and Great Dover street was a mans clothing shop and on the other was a leather shop which sold shoe leather that my Dad bought to mend our shoes. This shop later was bombed during the war and became an EWS (Emergency Water Supply). The shop had a cellar and when the building was demolished they sealed the cellar with bitumen and then filled it with water to be used by the fire brigade in the event of a nearby fire in the buildings. There was also a bakers in Great Dover St and I would meet my Mum off the bus coming home from her cleaning job at the Strand Palace Hotel in the Strand and she would buy a couple of doughnuts which we would take home and have with a cup of tea, these were very yummy.

Opposite the houses on the left hand side of Acworth Street there was a company called Wallington & Jones, they manufactured walk in cold stores or refrigerators – the sort used by butchers to store meat. My brother John  worked there as a blacksmith, in fact he was the only engineer and made all of the metalwork that was needed for the product. I lived with my brother and 3 sisters and next door to us was my paternal Grandfather Cornelius Donovan, otherwise known as Con, who gave me a shining 1 pence piece every time I took him a bucket of coal. He was a Wheelwright by trade and spent his younger years on the old sailing tea clippers. He finally worked at Aldous & Campbell who made Lifts and Cranes. Con would put together long jibs for cranes out in the road as the factory was not large enough to accommodate them for assembly. But more about this company later. My eldest sister Nelly married a man called James George Jarman who was always called George (this will be more relevant later). They had only one child named Brenda. She was a few years younger than me but we were very good friends. They lived over a tailors shop in Tower Bridge Road not far from us. It was said that my sister told my mother that she was disgusted with her to have a child at her age, bearing in mind that at that time my sister was old enough to be my mother. My youngest sister Emm (as she was called, her name was also Emily) and I went to the same school together, English Martyrs Catholic School Rodney Road, Walworth. This was a fair way to walk to school, and we had to cross a very busy junction at the old Bricklayers Arms. We were the only ones going to the school from our part of the Borough and so we did not have any school friends to play with at home. Many a time I would hang on to the railings when going to school and Emm had to force me to let go and go to school, on one occasion I put my head through the railings and could not get it back. She had to call for help to set me free. Emm married Arthur Alderson who she met whilst working during the war at a company called Dewrance in Great Dover Street, they had 3 children, Terry, Patsy and Michelle.


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