|The Reminiscences of David Young, Pennsylvania, USA|
|Boyhood in Redhill|
|......Many, many, years ago (1941 - 1950), I lived in Redhill as a boy and lived on the edge of the common. My father was the landlord of the White Lion pub, in Linkfield Street and we lived there for all those years. I went to school in Cromwell Road and later, to Reigate Grammar School. |
.....I vividly recall the countless days spent playing on the common. I still remember everything about it, and if put there today, would know my way around without any difficulty. I knew that common like the back of my hand. In those days, entertainment was quite limited and children were pretty much left to their own devices. I think I spent practically every available hour, playing on that common. Pictures seen on Alan Moore's website bring back so many great memories. I recall lying on my back, in the grass, on the very top of the common, and watching arial dogfights during the war and watching the sky filled with planes pulling Horsa gliders, heading for Europe. On a clear day you could see Chanctonbury Ring in Sussex from there and it was a great place for flying kites.
.....The pond was known to us (all my little friends and I) as the "Frog Pond". Perhaps we named it that because of the jars of frog's spawn we gathered there. And the 'special clay' surrounding it, we called "Pug"; I can't imagine why. We used to attach balls of it to the top of a whippy stick and fling it great distances, like a slingshot.
.....There was a small private school called 'Radnor School' on the edge of the common (just around the corner from the White Lion) and the gang of us little ruffians would attack the students of the school (from a considerable distance) with our 'pug sticks'. Great fun, as I recall. (wouldn't mind having a go at it still!)
.....I remember well the little sweet shop on the corner, opposite the White Lion pub, having spent a great deal of time in there. Growing up during the war and then experiencing the transition back to peacetime, was something only those who had experienced it could understand. The sudden availability of sweets was truly amazing. You can imagine how it was for me, living opposite a sweet shop.
.....A few years ago, while on a business trip to the UK, I made a point of driving through Redhill just to see what it was like. I was shocked at the changes. Parts seemed to be pretty much the same, like the railway station, the big old Odeon building, opposite and the end of town down towards the gas works (my end), but the town centre had all changed and was filled with buildings, that to me, would have looked more at home in the Kremlin, rather than an English town. I had trouble driving around and it took quite a while to get my bearings.
.....What happened to the Sports Grounds? I used to go to football games there most Saturdays, to watch Redhill play. I remember that for an extra penny on the ticket price, they would raffle off the ball at half-time and give it out at the end of the game. These were in the days when you just couldn't buy footballs. How desperately I always wanted to win one, but never did.
.....On the way home from the games, we always went through some sort of a market, as I recall, which was in a car park, somewhere near the Odeon and in back of the shops. They used to play 'housey-housey' (bingo) there under some sort of a tent. There was a market stall there that seemed to be on the cutting edge of stocking all the wonderful things that didn't seem to be available anywhere else (this was during that transition period after the war, probably around 1945-46). I remember finding blow-up balloons there and thinking that this was the most amazing discovery. Had never seen them before! They had American comic books there, too; probably my first introduction to American culture.
.....And since I'm on a nostalgia kick, I'll mention a few more remembrances of Redhill .There was a sweet shop on the High Street (if that's the right name) called 'Latty's'. It was the first shop in Redhill to sell ice cream after the war. Of course, I'd never experienced it until then. They used to make it themselves and we (kids) would get there early and watch it going round and round in a machine behind the counter. The wait was almost unbearable. When they served it - for the first few weeks anyway - they didn't even have cones or wafers, they dished it out onto small squares of wax paper. We didn't care; it was heavenly!
.....I remember being in the crowd that watched the Olympic torch being carried through Redhill. That would have been in 1948, and I remember watching the old cars come through on the annual London to Brighton race - probably about 1950. In addition to football at the Sports Grounds, there were many wonderful events held there. I remember participating in a track and field event. I've played cricket there and believe it or not, I attended a huge (and I do mean huge) bonfire there, with fireworks. It was either a Gay Fawkes thing or a VE Day celebration. I suspect it was the former. I saw a bicycle race there and a night time boxing program. It surely was a centrepiece of Redhill social life back then. What a shame that's all gone.
.....At the end of the war, there was a fantastic street party on Grove Hill Road. There were tables set up down the centre of the road and everyone participated. Even the Mayor attended wearing his official Chain of Office. I remember winning a prize for a fancy-dress contest and for us kids, it was a memorable occasion.
.....On my return to Redhill a few years ago, I of course, visited the White Lion pub. Amazing, it hadn't changed all that much. Of course, the lines between pub and residence had blurred a bit. Our old living room/dining room now housed a pool table (my Mum would have been disappointed). The parking lot (sorry, car park) had been expanded and a row of old cottages had been knocked down. Also gone, was an old barn in the back that many years ago, was a stable and housed horses. It was a delightful place for me to play as a child.
.....What used to be our private garden is now an area where patrons can sit and eat or drink outside. I had my lunch out there and got a bit teary eyed; I could still see my Dad tending his vegetable garden and the spot where he had given me my own little area to plant my own garden. Its sad to go back in some ways, yet wonderful to be able to step back in time for a little while.
.....I've lived in the States now for fifty years and I suppose, I'm about as American as you can get, yet down inside, I'm still a lad from Redhill. I'll never forget the wonderful years I spent there and in some ways, it will always be home to me.
.....Please feel free to cut and paste any parts of this letter to use in any segments of your website. I'm sure there are others who will read it who had the same experiences and perhaps it will recall some pleasant memories for them, too.