Authors: Sylvia Smith
was ten years old and attending junior school. The headmaster thought it a good idea for the class to see the local wildlife and arrangements were made for us to be transported one afternoon each week to a school room inside the forest.
The room was full of stuffed animals and birds in jars, and various dried fruits. The male teacher would take us deep into the forest showing us how to tell the ages of trees, how to identify each tree by its leaves, and pointing out the lairs of otters and stoats.
On one of our excursions the teacher stopped at a clearing and suggested we all have a rest. He called me to him and told me to lay down on the grass beside him, which I did. He held me in his arms, squeezed me tightly and stroked my hair. He did no more than that but I didn't report the incident to my parents or to any other school-teacher.
can't remember his name or what he looked like but I can remember going to the coffee bar after school with my fifteen-year-old friend Maureen. He and his friend sat down at our table and âchatted us up' and a date was arranged for a foursome a few evenings later. I was thirteen.
t was a crisp November evening on the occasion of our date. Maureen and I met the boys at the top of the local High Street.
Our happy foursome wandered aimlessly through the back streets of Walthamstow. Somehow we found ourselves in the cemetery picking our way through the gravestones in the darkness.
My beau and I left Maureen and her partner for a while and we sat down on a large tombstone outside the church. After some conversation he put his arms around me in the moonlight and he kissed me. I responded eagerly and did my best to return his passion. We embraced for a few minutes and then rejoined our friends.
We made our way to the main road and parted company without making any plans for the future.
I was quite pleased with my experience but my pleasure turned to anger when Maureen told me my boyfriend was only twelve years of age and not the older teenager I had thought.
I met Beth when she joined my class at school We were both fourteen. Her mother had died so her father had Beth and her younger brother placed with foster parents because he was not able to look after them.
eth was blonde and very pretty and a very knowing fourteen-year-old. We became friends and went out together after school hours and at weekends with both of us wearing the latest fashions, which were dirndl skirts with puffy petticoats underneath, or pencil-slim skirts.
Beth and I had no trouble in meeting young men. I would talk to them and go out with them occasionally but I would not do more than kiss them. If Beth liked her young man she would have sex with him. She had only just moved to the area and she told me she had already had several affairs with boys whilst she had been living at home with her parents.
One weekend Beth took me to see her married sister Mandy. Mandy was heavily pregnant with her third child. Beth told me she had been, and still was, having sex with her brother-in-law whenever he could see her, but of course Mandy knew nothing about this.
Brian was a twenty-one-year-old Teddy Boy who rode a Lambretta. I was a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl and we met in a coffee bar. I went out with him once.
used to go to the coffee bar with my friends of an evening and Brian was usually there with several other Teddy Boys. I accepted his offer of a date and a few nights later we met outside a greengrocer's shop around the corner from my home as my father didn't allow me to have boyfriends.
I climbed onto the back of Brian's Lambretta and he drove me to his family home. He showed me into the lounge and told me to take a seat while he selected some LPs for the record player. I settled down in an armchair and he left the room to make some coffee.
The house was small with just a lounge, kitchen and hallway downstairs and, I guessed, two-bedroomed with a bathroom upstairs. There
was no sign of his parents so I decided they had gone out for the evening, leaving just the two of us indoors.
Brian returned with two coffees and sat down in the remaining armchair.
For a while we sipped our coffees and chatted and listened to the music. My cup empty, I remained in my chair innocently talking to Brian about my life in general. At his request I sat on his lap and kissed him. His kisses soon developed into gropes and I spent the rest of the evening resisting his advances. He already knew my age.
My parents did not allow me to be out later than 10.30 p.m. so at ten fifteen Brian drove me home and stopped at the bottom of my street. I got off his Lambretta and gave him a quick peck on the cheek and crossed the road as he drove away.
I did not see my father in the darkness. He was standing on the other corner of the street and had witnessed our âgoodnight'. He was furious with me and slapped my face and I was not allowed out for a fortnight.
Jennifer was a very attractive redhead who I sat next to at school. We were both fourteen and we went out together a couple of times.
ne day after classes Jennifer said to me, âWhy don't we go up the Assembly Hall Saturday? There's always a dance on and there's stacks of fellers there.' I agreed. On the special day we donned our best dresses, stilletto heels, and make-up, and back-combed our hair into the latest bouffant hairstyles.
Jennifer was right about the dance. The hall was full of men under the age of twenty-five and we spent the evening jiving to a rock group playing on the stage.
We met two young men who we discovered were friends. Jennifer particularly liked âher one'. âMy one' was a nice enough young man of twenty and I jived with him. We were able to speak to each other when the music slowed down and we did a type of shuffle. I innocently
began talking about my life at school and how my father would not allow me to stay out late until finally he asked me, âHow old are you?' I replied, âFourteen.' He asked, âAnd how old is your friend?' âShe's fourteen too,' I replied. He continued dancing with me until the music stopped then he said, âThank you' and returned me to my seat. He rejoined his friend who was standing beside Jennifer and told him, âThese two girls are only fourteen.' Jennifer's young man made his excuses and both men walked away from her. She came over to me. She was very annoyed and said, âWhy did you tell him our ages? I told my feller I was eighteen and we were talking about going out with one another. Now it's all over.'
Carol and I were childhood friends, living in the same street until I was aged twelve and my family moved to another part of Walthamstow. We kept in touch until we were sixteen and became involved with long-term boyfriends. We were both fifteen at the time of this incident.
y first job on leaving school at the age of fifteen was as a trainee hairdresser. I worked in a salon for a three-month trial period but I turned down the offer of an apprenticeship as I found the work to be uninteresting.
One Sunday afternoon I walked through the back streets of Walthamstow to Carol's family home. We spent our time drinking tea and catching up on gossip until she asked me to trim her blonde, shoulder-length hair. I agreed and Carol supplied me with a pair of scissors.
Unfortunately I had only watched hair being cut and had not actually tried it myself. Carol
was my first attempt. She said she would like one inch taken off the bottom so, scissors in hand, I snipped away at the right side and then did the same with the left. I looked at the finished result and saw the left side was shorter than the right. I trimmed the right side again, only to discover I had cut too much off and it was now shorter than the left. Carol gasped and put her hand over her mouth as she saw me slowly ruin her hair. I just could not get the hang of it and merrily clipped Carol's beautiful locks, one inch out each time, until I reached her ears. Trying to make a good job of my disaster I finally decided to layer what was now a short bob.
Carol's finished hairdo was a complete mess and she said to me, âIf it wasn't so funny I could cry.'
She found it necessary to pay the hairdresser a visit and she was asked, âWhoever cut your hair for you?'
Hazel was thirty years old and married. She worked as an audio secretary in the busy Typing Department of an engineering company. I was sixteen and the office junior in the same department
would collect the typed letters from the secretaries' trays and deliver them to the relevant executives for signature. As I reached Hazel's desk I would sometimes stop to chat. She would tell me of her single days and of her various boyfriends. One story I particularly remember involved her father's sense of humour. She told me that at the end of one of her dates she took longer than usual saying âgoodnight' to a boyfriend in the porch of her parents' house. After some twenty minutes had passed she heard the street door opening behind her. She turned round and instinctively grasped the hot water bottle her father thrust at her. He closed the door, leaving Hazel and her beau to take the hint.
Mick was eighteen. I was sixteen. We met whilst working for the same engineering company in north London. I was a junior in the Typing Department, he was a clerk in the Buying Department, the next office to mine. We dated for two and a half years.
ur office hours were 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. At nine twenty-five each day I would collect correspondence for typing from the various departments. I would frequently see Mick hurrying along the corridor, having overslept again. He had numerous warnings about his lateness but this did not affect his conduct. His boss eventually tired of him and Mick was sacked. He found himself a job in a hardware store. This time he had learnt his lesson and arrived on time each morning.
Mick bought a series of old cars that he and his brother Ron would repair and make roadworthy. None of them were very reliable but they were
all Mick could afford. When they became too expensive to run he would sell them for scrap and buy another one.
I can remember a trip to Clacton on Sea in an old Ford. I held a piece of silver paper in the battery on the floor to keep it charging. If I had not done so we would have slowed to a halt. I did not see much of the countryside as we travelled to and from the coast.
I nearly had an accident in one of Mick's cars. He took a sharp left which forced me to lean on the passenger door and it flew open. He grabbed me just in time to prevent me falling onto the road.
Mick bought a large blue Bedford van and placed a seat beside his for me to sit on, but he didn't nail it to the ground. All was well until he made an emergency stop at the traffic lights. My seat fell backwards and I sped along the floor until I hit the doors. Once again Mick reached out to me. He seized my right ankle and pulled me to my original position.
After one evening out we were returning home in another old car when it ground to a stop in Forest Road, Walthamstow. We were lucky to find several men to push us down the steep hill by the Fire Station, whilst Mick worked the accelerator and clutch. We coasted down the hill but the car refused to start. We pushed it into the kerb and Mick walked me the short journey home. The following day his father set
out to repair the vehicle and discovered we had run out of petrol.
Mick was the lead guitarist in the Dave Clarke Five shortly before they became famous. He was not happy with the band. He told me, âI'm altering the music sheets to fit all the instruments but I don't get any more money than the others. I've seen Dave about it but he won't pay me. So I've said I'll be leaving as soon as he finds a replacement.'
A few months later The Dave Clarke Five made the hit record, âGlad all Over'. Mick was very envious.
Linda and I worked as office juniors for the same engineering company. We were both sixteen and began a friendship that still exists today. I knew her before she met Dave, her husband. They had three children and emigrated to Australia in 1979. After twenty-six years of marriage and three grandchildren they divorced. They now have new partners.
very evening Linda and I would travel home together. We usually caught the same bus and sat upstairs. Linda would pay the minimum fare but this did not cover her full journey. The conductress finally realised. When Linda remained seated at the last stop covered by her ticket the conductress climbed the stairs and said to her, âYou've only paid for half the distance you want to travel, haven't you?' Linda blushed furiously but remained silent. The conductress rang the bell and said, âYou can get off at the next stop.'
* * *
Linda and I went on a shopping trip down Walthamstow High Street in search of underwear. We entered a draper's and an assistant came forward to serve us. Linda said in a very loud voice, âI want a pair of drawers.'
Â Â Â Â
I paid Linda and her young family a visit in the tiny tumbledown house they were living in. Dave was finishing his dinner at the dining table in the small lounge whilst the three children played on the carpet. Linda decided she needed to be on the other side of the room, but her two-year-old daughter was blocking her path. She lifted her leg over the child. As she was wearing Dr Scholl's sandals the body of the shoe hung down giving Pamela a hearty whack on the head. Pamela cried. Linda and I laughed. Dave said, âTry to be a mother, Linda!'
Â Â Â Â
Linda decided she would like to learn to knit. She was very ambitious, choosing a sweater for Dave as her first garment. She completed the front and back and put the two pieces together to measure them. She found one was three inches longer than the other. Linda thought this was easily rectified. She picked up the scissors and began to chop off the surplus length. She was quick to realise she should not have done that.