Bob's Memoirs - 1920s - 3
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I went to Christ's Church Sunday School for a few Sundays but I was far from happy there, and I was glad that Dad was sympathetic, and I was not forced or even encouraged to continue going.

I progressed from 'Mixed Infants' and started at Callowland Boys School, which was also in Leavesden Road and still only a short walking distance from home. It was between Shakespeare Street and Acme Road. I did fairly well in most subjects and enjoyed art and woodwork. Woodwork classes were held in a large wooden building in the school yard. The teacher, a Mr Ruffet, who was I believe a relative, told me that I should be better at carpentry than the other boys because of the family history in the trade. In my imagination I can still smell the odour of hoof and horn glue, which was kept hot in a double boiler on the stove. The heady whiff of French polish I remember too.

School days for me were not the happiest and even today the noise of children playing happily in a school playground fills me with alarm. I was useless at all sports, having neither the strength nor skill needed. I never cease to be amazed that I never suffered from bullying.

My classroom at Callowland School. I'm the boy pointed to by the arrow Cousin Joyce, aunt Win, cousin Vera, Pip the dog, uncle Alf, me and Mum at the Harebrakes allotment.
My classroom at Callowland School. I'm the boy pointed to by the arrow
Cousin Joyce, aunt Win, cousin Vera, Pip the dog, uncle Alf, me and Mum at the Harebrakes allotment.

Sometimes we would visit our relatives. It was only a short walk to Brighton Road where Mum's mother lived. She was always unwell and I have no memories of her. Aunt Alice and Uncle Harry Jones lived in Aldenham. They had a daughter Ida who was about six years older than me. People would call at Uncle Harry's house in 'Round Bush' and he would fill their cars with petrol from a hand-cranked pump.

I was always happy to go to Aunt Win and Uncle Alf's (Alf King) house in Franklin Road, Watford. Their daughters Joyce and Vera were about my age and they taught me how to stew apples and make custard on a small spirit stove. We could also go to Cassiobury Park and take their dog Pip, a white smooth haired terrier, with us. Once when we were there, Pip chased a polecat and the smell lasted for days! Uncle Alf had a plot next to Dad's on the Harebreaks allotment, and both families would often be there together. In my memory it was 'always Spring'; Joyce, Vera and I usually lit a bonfire and there always seemed to be redcurrants, raw baby carrots or peas to eat, and we drank cold tea which we took in beer bottles.

In 1929 we moved to a new house. 74 Bushey Mill Crescent, Watford, had just been built and cost us a little over 700. For the first time we had electric light in our home, and by putting an adaptor into the bulb socket Mum could now have an electric iron. Connected the same way was a transformer, called an ECKO Eliminator, which replaced the high tension battery for the wireless. This house also had a bath with a gas geyser to heat the water. We also had the luxury of an inside lavatory. School was now further away, and 3/4 mile seemed a great distance to walk, but it was more fun because my cousin Charlie lived nearby in Sandringham Road and we could go together.

Charlie didn't know his father. His mother Aunt Ada (Wright) had married Douglas Clay who was cruel to Charlie. I know that he burned Charlie's hands with a lighted cigarette when he misbehaved. When my Dad found out, he had to be stopped by Mum from going and "teaching Doug a lesson!". I believe that Mum told Aunt Ada that she wouldn't stop Dad if it happened again. Charlie was often in trouble but always happy. At school the repeated punishment with a cane from teachers he looked upon more as a challenge than as a correction, and he joked about the preparations he rubbed into his hands and the padding in his pants as protection.

Me and Charlie
Me and Charlie

Together Charlie and I were never in trouble, but I learned a lot from him. We explored all the alleyways between the houses, and he showed me where the rods could be slid in the iron railings which would otherwise have ended our short cuts. The rods were always replaced because it was our secret. I couldn't teach Charlie a lot and I failed even to get him to believe that 'E-lite' was not the correct pronunciation of the name Elite, which was a privately owned Watford bus company.

My first ten years came to an end. I had seen cars, aeroplanes and radio develop. The first Mickey Mouse film was in the cinemas. The future looked very interesting.

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