Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A trip down Memory Lane.......

Last week I met up with an old  high school friend. We  have only seen  one another twice since 1979 as we moved away to study and work in different parts of the country. She has recently moved back south and we are hoping to meet up more regularly. As the last time we met she came over to near to where I live, this time I suggested somewhere nearer to her new home. She decided on  East Dulwich, South East London. This was of great interest to me,  as I was brought up nearby and lived in the area from 1964-1979.

I thought it would be lovely to re visit a place I have not been back to for many years. When I was given the address of the cafe where we would meet I nearly fell was in the same road as my old primary school! What a coincidence! I could not wait for my trip down memory lane.......

The journey to East Dulwich is just under an hour from my home. When I arrived the first thing which struck me was how condensed the housing is, but how well kept the properties now are. When I was young this was not a prosperous area but it is now very "gentrified".

The other thing which was obvious was the amount of bonnet to boot car a 5 year old in 1966 there were not that many cars. Now everyone drives and  as the housing is terraced  it's not possible to park off road. So the cars line every available space on the roads.

I was sad to see no sign of any of the original shops. We used to have a butchers, green grocer, pet shop etc etc near school. The shops now are very "boutique" and there were also many coffee shops, cafes etc.

These are a couple of the boutiques where I think originally was a toy shop and a shoe menders.

On the right is the cafe where we met. I have a feeling that in my day it was one of the old sweet shops where everyone would pile into at the end of the school day to spend their loose coins. We bought things like sherbet fountains, jelly snakes, flying saucers, marshmallow shrimps, gob stoppers, bubble gum and everything designed to decay our young teeth!
It is now a very pleasant cafe which  serves much healthier options than a sweet shop in the 1960s and early 1970s! I should think that if we had come across the word "cappucino" then we would have guessed it was something to wear on our heads!

After our lunch, before I drove home,  I decided to take a look at my little primary school which has sadly been turned into housing. The old  playground now serves as  a car park for the residents.

 The entrance to the right of the building is where I entered school on my very first day as a 5 year old. I can still remember it, my class teacher was called Mrs Best, a really wonderful kind lady. The only other thing I remember from  my first day is that I did not learn to read that day.....I honestly thought on Day 1 that would happen!

Another obvious realisation was how tiny the school really was. When I was a pupil it seemed so vast. Running across the playground took lots of my tiny steps! I noticed that just the few cars now parked there filled it.  As I stood there looking at the shadow of my dear old school the silence deafened me. Old  memories in the playground were of lots of  laughter and shouting. I actually felt quite sad that the old school had gone. The only reminder of it's existence was the new name; St Clement's Yard (my primary school was called St.John's and St Clements).

At this point I decided that I must retrace my original walk to school from our old house. I drove, what is actually quite a short distance, again to my little legs all those years ago it seemed like miles! I found my old road and was greeted by a blank, cream painted  wall where the old "corner shop" had stood. It again has been converted into housing.

I used to regularly be sent on errands to pick up items of shopping for my Mum from the corner shop. It sold everything from milk to cold meats, fresh vegetables,bread , tinned food etc etc. Everything would be weighed out, very little was pre packaged.  Whilst I was looking I noticed that the old run, down high school which had stood at the end of my road opposite the corner shop had been completely re vamped. Guess which school is  now situated there..............................................yes my old primary school St. John's and St.Clements!

As it was summer holidays it was closed but it must be thriving as it is now occupies  a building many, many times bigger than my old original. How convenient it would have been had it moved to this site when I was a child. I could almost have fallen out of bed and into the class room. I was so pleased to find that the spirit of my old school still lives on in a larger and grander building.

Before I drove home I just checked out the local green, Goose Green, and was delighted to see even the same trees still growing there  but obviously they won't tell you they are 30 years older! Thankfully some things don't change although it was good to see a few new saplings planted.

So I had a wonderful trip down Memory Lane. It's amazing how many pleasant childhood memories can be stirred up by such a journey. I am so pleased I took it. How strange coincidences are - what started as  lunch with an old friend turned into me  finding my dear old primary school living a new life at the end of my old road...!

Happy days,

Bye for now,


  1. Dear Jane,

    What a wonderful story! I loved seeing all the pictures and reading all your memories, thank you for sharing! And as you said it's so funny how small everything seems now when you re-visit the places - my goddaughters go to my old school and when I visited it again after some 20years it was TEENY! But just as I "left" it 1986 :)

    Have a wonderful week and many greetings from (rainy) Finland!


  2. my first thought is ..uuummmmmmm, flying saucers....yum yum. What a fabulous recount of younger days, brilliant, I thoughly enjoyed that even though I spent my youth in Holland and Germany not London so nothing familiar for me, except my dad is a Londoner...Islington, not sure of my geography there but guessing not one of the better parts!! Lx

  3. Thank you Mia, it's great to share things isn't it? We must all be so tiny when we are young, it's so funny to look at things now through grown up eyes.

    You too have a wonderful week in Finland. It's also raining very heavily here: the 'A' word comes to mind! :0(

    Love Jane x

  4. I am so glad you remember the sweets Laney, I can remember blowing bubbles with pink bubble gum which would always burst all over your face!
    Have you been back to Holland/Germany? What an interesting childhood that must have been?
    Keep dry - it's hammering down here.
    Love, Jane x

  5. Hi Jane
    What a great post!

    I always find that going down memory lane can make you both happy and sad at the same time.
    At least the area where you lived is thriving, it would have been very disappointing for you to find it run down.

    We've had a lovely sunny day here today, see I knew summer wasn't over! :)

    Vivienne x

  6. Hi Vivienne, yes memories are always a mixture aren't they? I had some really odd dreams that night where people were all in the wrong time zone eg my husband at my primary school! A really +ve day though!
    It's raining cats and dogs here...we even have a weather warning but at last my lawn has turned green!
    Enjoy your sunshine. Have a great evening, Jane

  7. Left my x off my reply Vivienne!
    Jane x (there it is!)

  8. Hi Jane, Sorry it's taken me so long to comment on your great blog about the old school. As my Mother and sister still live in the house that I was born in, I get to visit a few times a year (not as often as I should though!)and have the odd breakfast at he Blue Mountain Cafe. Who would of thought that Northcross Road would ever be trendy.

    I think the only remaining shop is the pet shop, somewhat altered though. Do you remember the betting shop with the blacked out window, where it was possible to do the 'Harry Worth' impression.

    Such nostalgia, I for one will never forget my first day at St. Johns & St. Clements. A teary eyed 5 year-old introduced to Miss Gill's class, where a certain Jane Macklin was asked to take care of me. What a great job you did!

    Love Sarah(Chopping)

  9. Wow Sarah, my best friend at St.John's, how great you got to read this post! We were inseparable weren't we?! I'm so glad I stirred some fond is so strange to stand outside those gates which are now the entrance to the car park.....real echoes of the past. Who could have dreamed in the 1960-70s of the internet...So good to have you here my friend,
    Love Jane x

  10. Hi,
    I enjoyed reading this post,and can confirm that the shop(#23?) to the left of the cafe was my parent's news agency/sweet shop back in 1966/67.The cafe was a small grocery store at that time .Across the street from us was another sweet shop(Smiths).My mum used to send me to deliver the newspapers to the betting shop.I have many fond memories of that time as a nine year old(I attended Heber Road Primary).Our family immigrated to Canada in '67 and eventually settled in New Jersey ,USA.
    Thanks for posting this.
    Tony C

  11. Hi Tony, great to have your comment here..what a small world it is for you to find this post. I am glad it brought back happy memories and as an extra I can say that the old pet shop "Clarkes" IS still open! It turns out the day I visited they were closed for holidays. On a return visit a few weeks ago I found it open and it even has the same wooden display units! Take care, kind regards, Jane


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Jane x