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Growing up in Brookmans Park in the 1950s

By Ann Gillard

A postcard of Brookmans Park in the 1950s - image from Ron Kingdon
A postcard of Brookmans Park in the 1950s
Image from Ron Kingdon, from the Images of North Mymms collection

My parents came to Brookmans Park in 1951. We lived in the Gardens, on the corner, where the road 'rounds' into Westland Drive. There was a house being built, I can remember playing amongst the sand and bricks when the builders were not around.

At the time Brookmans Park was still being developed. Westland Drive, on the right hand side of the road, only had a few bungalows; the remaining area was scrubland, where boys would play football during the summer months. There was also, as I remember, a large oak tree and a pond. Our garden backed onto this area and my father had a vegetable plot; as did other neighbours. That area is now taken up with beautifully kept gardens belonging to houses, which have been built since.

Some people will remember 'Merrylegs' the pony that was kept in the field, which is now a parade of shops next to Station Close. Over the other side of the road, which is now Green Close, there was also a field of horses.

I attended Brookmans Park Primary School, Mr Harris was the head master, Miss Roberts, Ms Raine, and Mrs mount were some of the teachers I remember.

In the 50s and early 60s, the village shops provided local people with most of their provisions and were all within walking distance. There were not as many cars as today and no supermarkets.

My mother put her weekly grocery order with Rawlings, which is now Statons Estate Agents. Food was bought each day as my parents only had a pantry and did not own a fridge or a freezer. Eggs were delivered each week from Moffats Farm; the house remains to this day.

Almost opposite the farm were fields, which extended down to Bluebridge Road. There formed some 17 acres of grazing land in which I kept my pony and one two occasions it got out along with others. My father had to reimburse someone in Moffats Lane for the damage it did, trampling their garden. The second occasion I caught my pony briefly with my school tie but it managed to escape again. When I arrived at school I was asked where my tie was, I replied "Round my pony's neck" and was given an order mark for insubordination.

We did not have central heating, only a coal fire; coal was delivered and kept in a brick coalbunker at the side of the house. On cold winter mornings your breath came out like jets of steam as you pulled back the bedcovers and ran to turn on the two bar electric fire to dress by. Condensation would drip down the windowpane. My mother had a never-ending battle to keep the windowsills dry.

When I left Brookmans Park Primary School, I had a bus ride to my next school, in Potters Bar because there was no car to take me. If you went by train, it was a steam train which bellowed out thick black smoke. My mother complained bitterly about the dirt these trains created, especially as we were a 'stones throw' from the railway line.

Entertainment was mostly games invented. Although card and board games such as Monopoly were popular as were, roller-skating, hula hoops and jacks. Ball games were played in the road, and inevitably ended up in someone's prize garden.

On the radio I enjoyed 'Listen with Mother' and 'Children's Favourites', on Saturday mornings with Uncle Mac as he was called. We had no television because my father insisted it killed conversation.

I had a record player later on in my childhood. It was a box like device, which played six 45 RPM vinyl records, and dropped them one after the other on to the turntable. Records and artists I remember singing along to were The Shadows, Cliff Richard, The Everley Brothers, Adam Faith, Elvis Presley and many others.

As I got older I went to the cinema and remember queuing to see Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday and The Young Ones at the Ritz in Potters Bar, which is now a bedding shop in Darkes Lane.

I remember when I was about eight or nine years of age, a girl some five or six years older than me decided to raise money for the RSPCA (we were both members). The idea was to put on a 'show' in her garden and involve the local neighbourhood children. The show comprised of song and dance routines. My father devised a magic trick, which involved coloured water dyes obtained from his place of work (ICC). This went down very well with everyone including the adults. As well as an admission fee this girl also came up with the idea of us bringing our pets, putting them in secure pens and charging people to see them. Her father, who had tolerated his garden being used for this occasion, was incensed to hear his daughter ask a further six pence to watch the rabbits mate.

I have happy childhood memories of Brookmans Park. Although I now live in Potters Bar I visit my mother who still lives there. Any younger readers of this account will one day look back and reflect on their own 'Days gone By' I hope so!

By Ann Gillard (formerly Bush)