This article should be read in conjunction with the brilliant offerings from Irish Jack who was also a founder member of the Kelmscott Gang.
On the 6th July 1946, QPR increased their support by one. Having been born in Hammersmith Hospital and within the sound of Loftus Road, it was inevitable that I would follow my Father and become a bonded slave to the Club. The following three and half years were spent in Yorkshire and when Kelmscott Gardens in Askew Road was first created (that of Irish Jack fame) we became one of the first tenants. As the dust of war had barely settled, these were difficult times with rationing etc. As a result of the war damage, Council tenants were a mixed bunch of working class and middle class (not that I believe in such labels) but we all grew up together as one big family.
The building of two further blocks followed later by the final fourth block not only increased our ‘family’ but also laid the foundations for our Ravenscourt Park football team (with some additions from the adjoining area including a certain Paul Gosden and Kerrins) It is difficult to convey to younger readers of this epistle the uncluttered and simple times we lived in. With no pressures in respect of fashion clothing (until the Mod era), no computers, TV just becoming affordable and apart from the odd visit by marauding gangs from other areas, our fortress Kelmscott was an oasis of calm apart from the indiscretions of certain members who shall be nameless, Irish Jack !!!
Each new product that was produced was greeted and embraced with glee. Frozen Jubblies appeared. For those unaware of the delights of a Jubbly, it was a somewhat strange shaped milk carton type orange drink which was originally in liquid form. Not sure if the frozen version was first produced by accident but our lives began to revolve around the acquisition of a frozen version. The connoisseurs amongst us needed their daily fix of a semi-frozen version and word soon spread that the local off licence in Westville Road had re-stocked their fridge earlier in the day !
Now…returning to the subject of indiscretions, the only fly in the ointment in our oasis of calm was…no, not Irish Jack but Mr Foxhall the Estate Caretaker. The very thought of him created fear in the minds of us all. His biggest mistake was to restrict our ability to take advantage of our grassed areas (unusual for the time) to fine tune our football skills. We used to look forward to his annual holiday and then all hell would break loose ! Such draconian measures did not go down well and we collectively prayed for the first stocks of fireworks prior to 5th November being delivered to the newsagents across the road.
We became adept at disturbing the peace of the Estate at night with penny and tuppenny bangers in drains. We fine tuned our pyrotechnic skills and produced as a ‘piece de resistance’, several bangers tied together with one fuse. We then proceeded to systematically demolish half the Estate ! When subsequently questioned as the usual suspects, we could of won awards for ‘Innocent Faces’ ! Mind you, his actions were not all bad. We had a very large pear tree which must have once stood in a bombed out garden and had survived all the clearance and building work.
These were the days of Trolley Buses. We had the 660 and 666 in Askew Road which not only enabled us to travel to the delights of Hammersmith Broadway and King Street but provided the ability for Mr F to borrow one of the long poles used to replace the bus pantograph (big word !) onto the live wires when they came off. Every year, at the appointed moment, with the hoards of kids in his wake like the ‘Pied Piper’, he would ‘acquire’ the pole and remove the pears for the waiting masses. The Trolley Buses also added to the spectator sports we had available. Bends in the road did not suite them and there was a particularly bad one for them, good for us, outside our flats in Askew Road. With monotonous regularity, the pantographs parted company with the wires. I’m sure there was a driver competition to negotiate the bend at the fastest speed possible without the inevitable happening ! We used to congregate to watch the mayhem and longed for the odd ‘big one’ when the whole wire system was demolished. Simple pleasures !
Crazes like knitting with cotton reels (sad !), ‘Scoobidoo’ (not sure of the spelling) and ‘Hula Hoops’ (not the crisp type) appeared and then faded. TV got better and we looked forward each year to a new Waddington board game. We played marbles in the gutters and flicked cards against the walls. We seemed to spot everything that moved, trains, planes and buses were all spotted. We travelled freely by bus, tube and bike to various locations in pursuit of the hobby, including Heathrow and did not give it a thought that we might be at risk. Simple times !
One curious passing occupation was the collecting of petrol tags. Not sure if this was a local ‘thing’ or how it started but it involved the, highly illegal and dangerous, removal of small tags from petrol tankers, usually at the traffic lights at the junction of Askew Road and Goldhawk Road. These plastic or enamel badges were placed on the lorries to indicate the type of fuel in each tank. We usually waited for the inevitable foggy night (no smoke free zones then) to assist their removal. By the way Irish Jack, you have indicated elsewhere that a couple of us may still owe you two shillings and sixpence. If you were guilty of digging up my much prized hoard of tags buried near the old Estate laundry building, you will have a long wait ! Whilst this was going on, we lived and breathed football…but I will save this fast emerging pleasure for the next epistle.