Extracts from my memoirs – 'Glittering Shadows'

Growing up in St Albans, 1931 – 1949

By Ron Cave

Photo:Me on the scooter at 41 Beresford Road

Me on the scooter at 41 Beresford Road

I was born in 1931 at the Lemsford Road Nursing Home. at that time Mum and Dad and my sister Margaret lived at No.41 Beresford Road in the Camp district. It was a three bedroom house which Dad bought for 400 pounds on his wage of 4 pounds ten shillings a week!

We had good neighbours, the Schroeders on the right and the Bromleys on the left. I remember a 'Thor' vacuum cleaner and a 'His Masters Voice' radiogram. I also remember a Christmas present of a Royal Scot train set.

At the top of the road was 'Fred Oakley's Dairy'. he used to deliver the milk from churns on a horse drawn cart. He sometimes let me ride on the low step at the back. Fred was a genial character stocky and red faced, he always wore a brown dust coat and a bowler hat.

The baker had a very smart enclosed bread van with a high seat up at the front where he would hold the reins and occasionally administer a quick flick of the whip. the van was glossy brown with the name 'Bridens' picked out in gold. it had two large wheels at the back and two smaller ones at the front.

Teddy Crane was one of my friends at the camp Primary school, his father ran a small coach company.

When I was about 7 we moved to a new house in Brampton Road and I moved to Fleetville Junior School. I remember my first teachers name was Miss Kirby. On my first day Bobby Foster gave me a threepenny bit! My second teacher was Miss Davis and eventually I came under the steely control of Miss Purkiss. I remember the headmaster was Mr East, a friendly man who lived just up the road from us in Brampton Road.

The second World War had now started so we were in a world of ration books, gas mask cases and air raid shelters. At one time,when the sirens sounded we had to march to the underground shelters in the playing field next to the school. I can still smell the soft rubber of the gas masks!

My friend David Wade and I started making model aeroplanes out of balsa wood. Spitfires and Hurricanes hung on cotton from our bedroom ceilings, little puffs of cotton wool represented clouds (or was it anti aircraft fire?). At one time David made himself a tray on which to display some of his smaller models and walked up and down St Peters Street collecting for the war effort.

In winter we used to go sledging, or when the lake at Verulamium was frozen we'd skate. I remember eight people who had gathered in a circle falling through the ice. Fortunately it was only about 3 feet deep.

I belonged to the St Peters Church choir under our fairly severe choir master Mr Hunn, he being ably assisted by Gracie Lawrence.

As we got older David and I joined the St Peters Youth Fellowship, which undoubtedly shaped our lives.

Our war

As the war progressed Sgt Hallett of the St Albans City Police Force (who lived next door at no.65) got Dad to help him dig a large hole in his garden, for an Anderson Shelter. They finished off the top with clay, which was ideal for the roses he planted there. Dad took another option and we had a Morrison or `table shelter' installed. One of these had a few months before saved the lives of my aunt, uncle and cousins when the City of Bath was badly bombed. Our shelter was erected in the back room and doubled as a large dining table. It was a very strong structure consisting of 3/8 " steel corner posts which supported a table top of 1/8" steel plate. It had wire mesh panels which clipped on each side.

It was on the 29th February 1940 that our family of 4 became a family of 5. Our first evacuee arrived, probably just as wary of us as we were of her. Helené was from Parliament Hill Fields, adjacent to Hampstead Heath in north London; Geoff arrived a year later from Bexhill on the south Sussex coast so then we were 6! Both these places were being bombed regularly. Helené and Geoff were, like Margaret, 4 years older than me. For the next 2 years I had an older brother and two older sisters. Mum and Dad treated them as their own and they became part of our family. Their parents came to visit them as and when they could and must have missed them very much during those important teenage years. I haven’t got clear memories of my interaction with them – I think they probably just tolerated me as a younger brother, but I know we were a happy family.

We personally suffered very little during the war. A house was bombed in Eaton Road just two streets away. I remember going to look at it; the whole front had gone, the bedroom floor was sloping out towards the road. The bed and some furniture appeared to be about to slide out into the front garden while the peach coloured curtains flapped gently in the breeze.

A Messerschsmitt 109 was shot down one night and landed in a field at the top of Sandpit Lane. It was presumably on its way back to Germany after escorting bombers on an air raid to the Midlands. David and I cycled to see it early next morning. The pilot had long since been taken away and by the time we arrived there was one Home Guard soldier, with rifle, guarding it. He wasn’t too phased by our presence and let us climb all over it, sit in the cockpit and even let us pull off a bit of wing fabric for a souvenir.

In April 1942 Dad decided to join the St Albans Special Constabulary Force (an auxilliary force to help the Regulars when necessary) and became SPC 79; I wish I had known more about what he did. All I do remember are a couple of the names of his fellow SPC’s like Freddie Knight, our local butcher, and Arthur Coxall, a teacher at Beaumont Secondary School who some time later, at an evening class, taught David and me our rudimentary woodworking skills.

To stop blast from any nearby bombs and possible cuts from glass Dad had made five, fairly heavy wooden shutters for our front room bay window. Dad, Geoff and I took it in turns to fix these to the outside of each window every night for a couple of years while the bombing was at its height. I can still hear Mum’s reminder when it was my turn, "Have you put the shutters up yet?" – "Yes Mum".


At that time the greengrocer, baker and the rag and bone man did their rounds with a horse and cart. I can still hear the rag and bone man coming down the road singing out "Hany-hol-hiron!" with that musical lilt peculiar to rag and bone men.

I guess a lot of what the rag and bone man collected went towards the war effort as at that time councils all over the British Isles were being instructed by government to cut down and collect all iron railings. They were taken from parks, public buildings, schools and even private residences. For years after the war and even to this day the 2 inch stubs that remained after the cutting can still be seen in many towns where the railings had been turned into guns and tanks.

Milk was still being delivered in pint bottles. The circular cardboard tops with the press-out smaller circle in the centre (for the straw) were saved and taken to school. We either saved them as cardboard or they were used in craft classes to make pom-poms. As far as I can remember we threaded wool continuously through the centre hole round the outside circle until there wasn’t room to thread any more through. When the wool was cut around the outside circle it formed a woollen ball!

When the blitz on London was over, Churchill instigated huge thousand bomber raids on Germany. The cities of Dresden, Frankfurt and Cologne were reduced to rubble, in retaliation for the destruction of Coventry and it’s cathredal.

On 6th June in 1944 (D-Day), we as a family, watched hundreds of Lancaster and Halifax bombers, many towing large gliders with the distinctive black and white stripes either side of the RAF roundles on wing and fuselage. They were very low in the sky and seemed to be just beyond the end of our garden, flying parallel with Hamilton Road! That part of the sky was black with aeroplanes and at a higher level were hundreds more, escorted by Spitfires and Hurricanes.

The sheer numbers heading south are still etched in my memory. It was probably 20 minutes before the last one passed by.

Covey Crump

School was never at the top of my list of favorite things, nor was learning to play the piano. I was shy and blushed very easily. I loved being outside. helping Dad in the garden, cycling and playing with friends John and David; we stuck together as a threesome for many years. David stayed a friend for life. Somehow we all became members of the St.Peters Church choir from about 11years old until our voices broke. We enjoyed singing, we enjoyed the practices 3 times a week and it was fun. We weren't particularly religious but we sang like thrushes!

Our choir master Mr.Hunn, kept a strict eye on us via the large rear view mirror situated above his stool at the organ, and left us in no doubt at all when he was displeased. I think we were a good choir with probably about 12 boys, 8 men and 4 ladies. Occasionally we sang with a small orchestra led by a gentleman with the unlikely name of Covey Crump.

Photo:Gracie Lawrence - extraordinary and perceptive.

Gracie Lawrence - extraordinary and perceptive.

The person who literally shaped and greatly influenced our lives during that time was an extraordinary and perceptive lady named Grace Lawrence. She was charged with preparing the choirboys while in the vestry. She ensured we were dressed properly in surplus, cassock and crinkly white starched ruffle. She combed our hair and firmly but fairly whacked us over the head with the brush if we were being too boisterous while waiting in line for starters’ orders. Occasionally one of us would hide behind the curtained racks that housed the cassocks. It was David who did this one particular time - he found an ancient R oman helmet and vis or which when he put it on jammed on his head. Eventually as 6.30 approached he had to come out and own up. I think a few whacks from Gracie’s hair brush ensured its speedy removal. When finally in voice, we would file past the organ, mouths wide open, singing ’Lead us heavenly Father lead us’, and although Mr Hunn's back would be towards us, it was difficult to escape his critical eye in his rear view mirror.

It was war time and the Air Raid Wardens would do their rounds shouting "Put that light out !" if the slightest chink of light showed through house windows. Car and bicycle lights had dimming and deflecting shutters over their lenses. Unfortunately the gravity of the situation didn't seem to have been fully driven home to some of us and we competed to see whose torch had the best beam and who could most brightly light up the clock on the church tower.

We used to walk home through the churchyard and one night one of the boys had carved out the inside of a large swede, to look like a skull with holes for the eyes and mouth. We put a candle inside it and fixed it on the top of a gravestone near the pathway and frightened the life out of any unsuspecting passersby.


Since moving, our family had got to know our way around Fleetville and the surrounding area. I had started school just up the road from where we lived and Margaret had been at the Girls Grammar School for a couple of years. Mum had settled easily and had joined a local womens group and Dad’s office had relocated from London to the countryside of Hertfordshire just outside Watford.

He bought himself a small motor to fit to his bicycle and regularly ‘cycled’ the ten miles to Watford. The motor, called a ‘Cyclemaster’ had to be specially fitted to the rear wheel, which it actually became part of. It was a 50cc two stroke and did a phenomenal number of miles to the gallon. He loved it. If it rained he dressed up in yellow leggings, a yellow cape and topped it off with a yellow ‘fisherman’s’ hat, - nothing stopped him.

Our groceries came, delivered in a cardboard box, from the co-op (Co-operative Wholesale Society). Mum had a small notebook in which she wrote her order. It came back in the box with all the items ticked off and a numbered receipt. Our number was always the same, - one I shall never forget, 9206. We had to quote it every time we purchased anything from the Co-op and at the end of the year qualified for a dividend.

The Co-op butchers shop was next door, managed by Freddie Knight, a slim moustachioed, extrovert character who had a word for everybody. In those days there were always queues. I remember making patterns with the toe of my shoe in the saw dusted floor. When it came to my turn it was invariably, "A leg of lamb for 6, half a pound of sausages and a quarter of a pound of suet please". " That’ll be two shillings and sixpence, how’s your Dad, Ronnie?"

On the way home with the shopping bag over the handlebars, I would lean forward and break off a piece of the dry flaky suet, - it was as good as chewing gum.

Benningtons was our nearest greengrocer, on the corner of Hatfield Road and Woodstock Road, opposite the Ballito Stocking Factory. Ben Pelleys was the slightly upmarket garden and kitchenware shop. Ben himself was a bit chubby and , I thought, rather pompous. Next door but one was the ‘corn chandler’. Dad and I would turn up with the wheel barrow and take away a sack of bran or chicken meal plus a sack of seed potatos and chaff for the chicken house.

A favourite shop of mine was the cake shop down by the Crown public house called Maison Franke. They had really delicious cakes and the queues on a Saturday morning for things like custard tarts, swiss rolls and Vanilla cream slices had to be seen to be believed.

David and I often called into Townsends bike shop. Old Townsend was a stange character, he was tall with a mop of curly grey hair. He always seemed lost in thought and called everybody, male or female, Darling !" Hello Darling –pause – what can I do for you?" – "A 1.5 volt battery for my torch please" His hand would go up to his forehead and after about ten seconds, he’d close his eyes and then say, "What was it Darling?" I would repeat my request and he’d say"Yes, - pause - they’re over here".

It was like that every time. Then he’d go back to his adjacent living room and carry on reading the paper until the bell over the door jangled again. We used to make fun of him I’m afraid. At home Mum would ask me for something. I’d come back in the room throw my hand up to my head and say, "What was it Darling – can you ask me that again".

There was Blakleys the sweet shop, Samuels the shoe shop and Spendwise the other grocer. Dad first introduced me to Lavers the wood yard and Hookers where we bought glass.

David and I had our haircut at Fleetville Saloons. One of the barbers, after he had finished cutting a gentlemans hair would use a soft brush around the neck, pull off the white sheet and give it a flick like a matadour, lean up close to the gentlemans ear and quietly say,"Anything for the weekend sir?" It was a while before we realized the significance of the small white cupboard over the sink.

Fleetville Post Office was the source of all stationery and the few magazines that were available then. I can remember ‘Picture Post’, ‘London Illustrated’, ‘Womens Own’ and ‘Esquire’. Then of course the comics, ‘Knockout’, Film Fun", Eagle’, ‘Hotspur’,’ Wizard’ and the ‘Boys Own Paper’.

So, Fleetville, Hatfield Road, was our’ Shopping Centre’, we knew the shop keepers and they knew us.

My first visit to a cinema was in 1939 with Mum. We went to the Grand Palace in Stanhope Road to see ’ Gunga Din’, a rip-roaring adventure in 19th century India. This was the film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem and written by Ben Hecht. It starred Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Fontaine. My only real memory of the film is when Gunga Din was crawling over the roof of a temple which was covered in golden tiles.


Saturday morning was ‘job’ morning. They had to be done before going out to play! I had two or three tasks; apart from tidying my bedroom, I had to clean everybody’s shoes, clean the chickens out and collect two buckets of weeds. I probably got paid 2/6d.

We kept chickens all through the war years. My first real carpentry job was when Geoff and I helped Dad build the chicken house down at the bottom of the garden.

Our first two chickens were called ‘Click’ and ‘Clack’. Mum named them; Click was a Rhode Island Red and Clack was a black and white Light Sussex. They were treated like members of the family. At first we were allowed to let them out into the garden – under supervision. A lettuce or cabbage would disappear very quickly once under attack so their freedom was quite short lived.

We used to save all scraps and boiled up the vegetable peelings in a large iron saucepan on the kitchen stove. The smell was a job to get rid of and eventually Dad constructed a ‘hay box’. This was a wooden box with a lid. It was about 4" bigger all round than the iron saucepan with a slotted hole for the handle. With the saucepan placed in the middle of the box, hay was packed tightly under the base and around the sides to form an insulated jacket. Once the peelings had been brought to the boil the saucepan was transferred to the haybox outside in the shed where it continued to simmer for almost an hour. This not only saved money but stopped the smell from permeating through the house. When the peelings were strained it was my job to put them in the ‘chickens bowl’, an old enamel one, and chop them up with an old pastry cutter. I then had to mix in bran and one or two healthy additives, with a wooden spoon.

Click and Clack were eventually joined by friends, Whitey, Blacky, Speckle and Stripes and from then on we always had eggs. In the summer, Mum would preserve some of the eggs for the leaner winter months. I remember a large earthenware pot, which she filled with eggs and then covered the lot with a transparent jelly-like substance called Isinglass. This must have formed a seal around the shells and somehow they lasted for months. Sometimes the young chickens would fly out of the run and into the neighbours gardens. To stop them doing this, we clipped two inches off the wing feathers of one wing. The result was that if they tried to fly they would go round in circles! To give them extra exercise we often hung a cabbage from the branch of a tree just out of their reach. We loved watching them jump. They did, and very soon all that would be left would be the stalk and roots.

As they matured, at certain times, they went ‘broody’. When they did, they were put into solitary confinement! For up to two weeks they suffered, in a very small box with a slatted, draughty floor. Sometimes they were ready to get back into egg production within a few days. We did let them follow through their motherly instincts from time to time. We brought a dozen fertile eggs for them to hatch and, as a bonus, allowed them the run of the garden for a while. It was great fun to see the chicks hatching and to follow their progress around the garden. Sometimes they would all vanish for a while when we would discover them resting under a bush in a different part of the garden. As they grew we kept a few to keep Click and Clack company.

We did keep a few cockerels to fatten up for Christmas. Mum wasn’t too happy about killing them so Dad and I attended to that, although we weren’t too happy about it either. Mum and Margaret joined in with the feather plucking and they did a good job preparing them for the oven and of course we all enjoyed the resultant roast.

We kept ducks for a while but they turned the run into a mudbath, which became too much for everyone – particularly the chickens!


Every washday, which must have been at least twice a week, Mum would get me to help her get the washing out of the ‘copper’ into a large galvanized tub. Between us we would carry it to the garage where the heavily geared mangle resided. She would feed the wet washing in between the heavy wooden rollers while I turned the large iron hand wheel. We pre-wrung the sheets onto the lawn, Mum held one end of a sheet, I held the other end, and we pulled against each other and twisted in different directions

As time went on I needed to earn more money, so I searched further afield. I delivered newspapers for the Fleetville Post Office which meant getting there very early, writing the house numbers on each paper from a long list of streets, putting them in order and setting off on my bicycle with a heavy bag over my shoulder!

Black buttons

Later I had a Saturday job at the local pet shop in London Road. I had to clean out the puppies, kittens, guinea pigs, mice, budgies and gerbils, and avoid getting my ears nibbled by the squawking parrot that flew around the shop! Mrs. Blower and her daughter Clare owned the pet shop and in the yard they had an ancient Austin Seven. One time they went out for an hour or two and I couldn’t resist a sit in the drivers seat. There was a small, black button on the extreme right of the dashboard which I felt just had to be pressed. Unfortunately it started the engine and as the car had been left in gear it shot forward and knocked over a bin of chicken feed, thankfully stalling at the same time! It took me a very worrying ten minutes to clear up the mess and it was a long time before I pressed any more small, black buttons!

"Who’ll start at fifteen pounds?"

The St Albans Cattle Market was a real draw on a Wednesday morning during school holidays. I used to get there early and watch the cattle trucks arrive. There was always a possibility that cattle would escape by jumping over or rushing the portable fences. Once a bull had escaped, ran through the market into St.Peters Street and terrorized the shoppers before being caught. The truck drivers and farm hands were none too gentle with the animals and seemed to delight in making the pigs squeal.

I loved listening to the auctioneer and hearing the muttered wisdoms of the farming fraternity, while they watched a high stepping gelding circling the ring. The nodders and winkers quietly raised the ante until the auctioneer said "Going once, going twice, going three times,", brought down the gavel onto its sound block and proclaimed "the gentleman with the bone handled walking stick – thank you sir".

On the road along the side of the shops that led to the cattle market was the Civic Restaurant. I believe most towns had their civic restaurants during the war. They were somewhere you could buy a good basic meal cheaply. Ours was a barn of a place; long trestle tables, and a simple serving counter. You bought three tickets at the door. A threepenny orange ticket for the main meal, a yellow twopenny one for the sweet and one penny blue one if you wanted a cup of tea. You then joined the queue and for your money enjoyed meat and two veg with gravy which was put, slapped or poured onto your plate as you moved along the counter. I’m sure the ladies behind the counter doing the putting, slapping or pouring must have been called Vera, Gladys or Flo!

It was probably around the same time that somebody dared me to jump out of an upstairs window with an umbrella as a parachute. It didn’t work very well and I was lucky to land on a fairly soft flowerbed, badly winded and with only a sprained ankle.

One of David’s more innocuous tricks was to tie an old wallet to a length of thread, put it on the pavement and pass the other end through the hedge. When an unsuspecting passerby bent to pick it up he would jerk it back through the hedge and run off laughing! W e also used to tie two opposite door knockers together, across the street. When one door was opened it pulled the knocker on the other one. When there was seen to be nobody there the door closed but of course knocked the other one, which was then opened, and so on. Must have been very annoying but it made us laugh.

We seemed to have a fair at least once a year, somewhere off Hill End Lane. A fair was always exciting. Fair people always seemed different. There kids were always scruffy. We enjoyed our visits and usually won a coconut or something off the second shelf. The rides were fantastic and the bumper cars fun but best of all was the ‘Haunted House’.

Traffic in those days was very much less than now. On our way home from school we played marbles along the gutter, we spun tops along the crown of the road and kicked a football across the road from one pavement to the other.


Our bicycles were our pride and joy and figured a lot in our adventures. Dad bought me my first real bicycle for my 13th birthday. It was second hand, came from Timpson’s in London Road, had been painted green and had dropped handlebars. The mile from St Peters Church to where I lived in Brampton Road was a very gentle downward slope most of the way. We would allow ourselves 6 pedals and from then on tried our hardest to freewheel all the way home. One major challenge was the York Road pedestrian bridge, especially as the down side involved bumping down about 7 steps! I don’t think we ever accomplished the full distance but we tried it time and time again.

We were always modifying things, and one time, tried to make our two bikes into a tandem – we never quite got over the problem of the centre of the tandem steering as well as the front end!

Another memory from our cycling days is of the ‘pea –souper’ fogs we used to suffer, well before the clean air act of 1956. At that time, factory chimneys, coal fires and the local brickworks consistently pumped out huge amounts of smoke. The cold damp air we experienced each November returned the smoke to earth, usually around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. This quickly built up into a fog. Traffic crawled silently along, one behind the other. Headlights were invariably turned off because the reflection on the fog just increased the problem. It was not unusual to see the driver of a car driving one handed, with his head out of the window just to gain a little more vision. Sometimes a passenger would stand outside on the running board giving instructions.

It was a night such as this when David and I, cycling home from choir practice one Friday night, lips still coated in the grease from 6d worth of chips, came across a stranded double decker bus. The driver had 7 passengers on board and had been trying to negotiate the notorious 5 exit, Crown roundabout. We could see much further having no steamed up windows to contend with and so volunteered to lead him round the roundabout and on down the Hatfield Road and to Fleetville, another mile or so.

So there we were two 13 year old boys, our lights already hooded to comply with wartime regulations, in the pitch black, seeing about 4 feet in front of our faces leading a red double decker bus, itself followed by more assorted cars, a lorry and another bus on certainly one of the foggiest nights I remember. What they did when they got to Fleetville I’ve no idea – we went home!

It was at this same notorious corner where tragedy nearly struck the writer of this missive. David and I were on one of our ‘free wheel’ record breaking, down hill, runs along the Hatfield road from town. We were side by side and just leaning in to the left hand bend at the roundabout when our handle bars touched! David veered to the right and tumbled fairly safely onto the roundabout. I cartwheeled to the left into the gutter and must have hit my head, fortunately, fairly lightly on the pavement.

A couple of hundred yards further on was our local ‘tuck’ shop run by a venerable old gentleman, affectionately known as ‘Bish’ (Mr Bishop). He sold soft drinks, chocolate, sweets, crisps and cakes. He was a favourite of all the lads, especially from our school just around the corner in Brampton Road. If you happened to play football you were in heaven and ‘Bish’ could hold a crowd enthralled with stories from the field. So that was where I came ‘to’, lying flat on my back, on a wooden form with a sea of faces looking at me. I could hear murmurs of sympathy such as "It’s Cavey", "Is he dead?", "Who’s having his bike?" It was probably the orange juice or more likely the Mars bar that brought me back to life, - and I did have a certain scar-related respect for a while after that!


Going to the ‘pictures’ was an important part of our lives at this time and TV was still many years away. Our love of the cinema probably started when we were allowed to go to the special children’s shows on Saturday mornings. The show always started with a sing-a-long. The theatre organ would rise through the large trap door in the floor at the front of the stage. The words to the song were projected onto the screen, and a magic white ball bounced along the top of the words, in an attempt to keep us all singing together.

I only remember a couple of words from one song, which was probably the introduction:-
Is…… everybody happy?
Yes, yes, yes!
We loved watching the little ball bounce and gave the ‘Yes, yes, yes’ everything we’d got!

The cartoon was next and was inevitably Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck or Goofy followed by something mildly educational.

During the break we bought ice creams and chocolates as the excitement rose. Then Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or maybe Sherlock Holmes would burst onto the screen amidst the shouts and whistles of some 300 children. We booed the baddies and cheered the goodies, and what a noise when the cavalry arrived over the hill.

Later we graduated to evening movies and had a choice of three cinemas. The Grand Palace was our nearest, the Capitol in London Road was the biggest and best, and then there was the ‘flea pit’, the Chequers. The Chequers very often had the best films so we ignored its reputation and went anyway.

Queues in those days were ‘par for the course’ and often would go right out of the cinema and around the outside, especially on a Saturday night. Most of the films were in black and white but often we would see a musical, which apart from being in ‘Cinemascope’, would always be in colour.

It was at the Grand Palace in Stanhope Road, where in the dark winter evenings we would go up the passageway at the side of the cinema and toss a coin to see who would be hoiked up to climb in the toilet window. Once in, who ever it was would push up the long bar on the emergency exit doors and let the others in! Then we would innocently go into the cinema one at a time making sure we avoided the usherette and take a seat.

The stars of those days are now either very old or have passed away. A few I can remember are John Mills, Dirk Bogarde, James Mason, Gregory Peck, James Coburn and Humphrey Bogart. Of the ladies, Ava Gardner, Marlyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Jean Simmons, Jane Russell, Elizabeth Taylor and my favorite at the time Jean Crain.

Looking back I would guess 50% of cinemagoers smoked; there was an ashtray in the back of every seat and the air was always thick with smoke. The beam from the movie projector cut a path through the continually rising smoke and during the break the ‘sales girls’ walked up and down the aisles selling ice creams, chocolates and more cigarettes!

Before the main film we always saw the news. It was either the British Gaumont News or Pathe Pictorial –apart from the newspapers – the Express, the Mirror or the Sketch it really was the only way we got to know what was going on around the world, apart from magazines such as Picture Post, Illustrated or the London Illustrated News.

The way the showings were organized meant that you could, if you wanted to – stay seated and watch the whole programme through again, which we often did. One memorable time, when I had gone to see a film on my own, I decided to watch it again and promptly fell asleep! There couldn’t have been too many people there as they all left at the end and apparently nobody noticed me. I was rudely awakened, by the light from a torch, held by the cinema manager and the rather severe voice of my father. It took a while to live that down.


When mum died in 1990 at 93 years old, part of the eulogy at her funeral read "… was devoted to her family but she was also concerned about other people…always ready to help where needed….thought of others before herself….she was only a little person but had a big heart."

Next door at number 69 was Mr and Mrs Goddard with their children, Audrey, twins John and Arthur and later, Christine; at one stage Christine seemed to spend as much time in our house as she did in her own.

Opposite us during the war were the Bennetts, Mr and Mrs Bennett with four sons, Jim, Tom, John and Norman who was about two years younger than me. When they left, in moved the Carters.

As well as being a horticulturist, Fred Carter taught piano and was the organist at the St Albans Abbey, his wife Joan had her work cut out just being a mum. It was Fred who for two years tried to teach me to play the piano! They also had four boys who got to know Mum very well. When the boys were in their early teens they all moved to Omagh in Ireland. Years later Joan and I caught up with Fred Carter when in his late 70’s he was organist at St Marys Church, Vancouver, Canada.

Incredibly when the Freemans moved in they also had four boys. John Freeman was also an organist at the Abbey and taught music. His wife Margaret arranged the flowers, made cakes and organized the ladies of the church.

Mum couldn’t have been happier – all four boys loved her. Much later, Martin the youngest, eventually a priest, and, in 2005 a ……monk, officiated and read the eulogy at my sister Margaret’s funeral. If she could have known, she would have been thrilled. She would also have been thrilled if she could have known that Christine at some stage had had leanings toward the church and in the year 2005 Christine applied for the post of Archdeacon of Northampton and became only the 7th woman archdeacon in the Church of England and Canon of Peterborough Cathredal.

Peaks Park & Faircross Way

Two areas of rough ground that were within cycling distance of home, we considered our own – Peaks Park and Faircross Way. When we were around 11, 12, & 13 years old, we knew every track, tree, ditch and pond. David and I collected bird’s eggs and had wonderful collections of thrushes, blackbirds, wrens, tree pipits, doves, hedge sparrows and many others. We knew where all the nests were, could climb trees like monkeys and knew no fear.

Although we were constantly bruised, grazed and bandaged we suffered no major injuries. I do remember some near misses like the time I fell thirty feet or so through a horse chestnut tree. As I crashed through the branches they also slowed me down and helped to break my fall. When I arrived eventually on the leafy ground beneath I was no more than scratched and winded!

David, John and myself were very fit and always seemed to be running, usually from something or somebody. With others we regularly played a marvelous game we called ‘relieve – o’. One person was given a count of 50 to run away. The simple rules were that you stayed within the perimeter of the ‘park’. You could run, climb or hide. If you were touched by any of the chasers you were considered caught. If you got back to base you were allowed a short rest and a second go. There were many variations of the game. We ran like the wind, we became masters of camouflage and disguise, we crept on our bellies through bushes, climbed trees and became part of the environment. I remember being chased one time, leaping over a bush and landing straight in a hidden pond but hardly noticed it! We usually arrived home late for lunch, tired and bruised but with a very healthy glow!

Sometimes we were out all day and nobody seemed to particularly worry about us; we had nothing much to worry about either. If there was a worry it was ‘the black hawk gang’. Occasionally, on ‘our patch,’ there appeared a group of lads who we didn’t know. They always seemed to be fairly menacing and in fact used to chase us from time to time. One day I was caught. They tied me to a tree and threatened me with all sort of nasty things but eventually let me go telling me never to go anywhere near their camp again. I didn’t!

Tramp Dick

Through Peaks Park, over Marshalls Drive and a piece of waste land was a dirt track known locally as Tramp Dick’s Lane. Tramp Dick lived in a small shack made of wood, tree branches and odd sheets of corrugated iron. He had a bed of rough timber and sacking plus a few scruffy blankets and not much else. He looked like a dirtier less colourful version of Father Christmas. He had a long white beard and a red face. He always wore boots and a long brown coat tied round the middle with a length of string. He mumbled a lot and shouted at us kids. He had a brown bag and walked with a stick.

Rumour had it that his name was Richard Whiting, brother of George who 1n 1922 had earlier been the driving force behind the construction of the Grand Palace Cinema, his wife had died, he had gone to pieces and never recovered. I’m sure we didn’t know that at the time as we used to delight in throwing stones at his tin roof until he emerged shouting to chase us across the stubble of the adjacent corn field. About fifteen years later, Tramp Dicks Lane was to be absorbed into the Sandpit Lane Housing Estate where our first house was built. It was actually about 300 metres from Dick’s old shack and on that very same cornfield!

We often got holiday or weekend jobs on local farms, especially around harvest time. Potato picking was very hard on the back. We had to follow the tractor as it went along turning the rows of potatoes over. We picked up the exposed potatoes, put them into wicker skips, which we dragged along with us. When full they were tipped into the following cart. Not a job for the faint hearted.

Deep in the heart of Texas

Harvesting had much more a sense of occasion. Watching the tall golden wheat being cut, rolled, tied and dropped off the binder in straight rows was almost poetic in comparison. Our job was to pick up two sheaves at a time and with two others, form an upright ‘stook’. The fields seemed huge and the insides of our arms quickly became very scratched and sore.

The field of corn was always cut in a spiral and the dogs usually walking with us would become increasingly excited as the spiral neared the centre. When the center stand was about thirty feet in diameter the tractor stopped, the dogs went in and out came the rabbits, some to be shot, others to run, leap and tumble to the safety of a far off hedge.

I remember all three of us returning to the farm sitting on the broad orange mudguards of a Fordson tractor singing:-
‘The stars at night are big and bright, - deep in the heart of Texas!’ - the dogs running along at the side barking!

At a later date the stooks would be collected in a deep cart with its capacity extended by adding ‘fences’ at either end. There was a real skill in the placing of the sheaves to ensure a safe load and an equal skill in building the stack when we unloaded.


Photo:St Peter's Youth Fellowship - about 1947

St Peter's Youth Fellowship - about 1947

By the time our choir boy voices had broken, Grace Lawrence had set up the St Peters Church Youth Fellowship, which would further and irreversibly affect our course throuigh life. Gracie was probably about 35 years old. She stood no nonsense but possesed a fine sense of humour. She had tolerance and endless patience. She understood every one of us. over the years some of these qualities rubbed off on her 'children'! We were a mix of up to 50 boys and girls, and met for loosely religious Sunday afternoons. Our vicar, the Reverend Alex Fergusson was probably a little jealous of Gracies sway with us.

Around the age of 14 ‘dancing’ was a word being nonchalantly bandied about. Those in the know talked about the Saturday night dances held at the Falkner Hall above the Co-op at the top of Victoria Street. Sounds like fun we thought and probably got a group together to try it out. I think the music came from a record player, through an amplifier to speakers high on the walls. It was fun and probably accelerated the liaisons beginning to form between the girls and boys of the St Peters Church Fellowship.

Still Waters

Later, Saturday nights at the Waterend Barn became the place to be; it catered for all ages and I’m sure was responsible for cementing further budding liaisons. These dance evenings were our first steps into the world of sophistication. Clothes became increasingly important as a personality statement. The right shoes, dress and handbag; shoes, jacket and well pressed trousers said a lot. We eyed each other up and down, excited by the music and each other. The laughter and fun of the hikes and socials were taken over by the close contact, scents we hadn’t noticed before and an excuse to hold hands.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Waterend Barn. We bring you once again the music of ‘Still’ Waters and the Commanders. Have a fabulous evening."

‘Still’ Waters and his five piece dance band became well known (to us), we occasionally won spot prizes, had Happy Birthday sung when appropriate and got used to the ‘excuse me’ tap on the shoulder that relieved us of the girl we were just beginning to call our own!

We could buy sandwiches and cakes in the interval and by then knew who we wanted to dance with next and possibly walk home; it was just a question of plucking up the courage to walk across and utter the words,"May I have this dance?" Yes, there was much heart pounding on Saturday nights at the ‘Barn’…………………..

"And so Ladies and Gentlemen we would like you to take your partners for the last waltz. We hope you’ve had a wonderful time and look forward to seeing you next week, dancing to the music of ‘Still’ Waters and the….. Commanders"

We always ended with the Whiffenpoof Song (Galloway-Minnigerode Pomeroy), the chorus of which, some of you will surely recognise!
We are poor little lambs who have lost our way… .Baa ,Baa, Baa!
We’re little black sheep who have gone astray…….Baa, Baa, Baa!
Gentleman songsters off on a spree,
Doomed from here to eternity,
Lord have mercy on such as we …….Baa, Baa, Baa,!’
              "Goodnight everyone, see you next week"


Meanwhile, in spite of myself, I was progressing through the St. Albans Boys County Grammar School, regularly getting low marks in exams but somehow hanging in. I was a regular attendee at `Solo’ Solomon’s tea parties (detention). I had learnt to stuff 3 or 4 handkerchiefs down my pants when it was my turn for the cane, from the headmaster, Mr. Bradshaw. They were mainly for minor offences but the time I got `six of the best’ (choose your own cane from a glass fronted cabinet) - was a bit different. It was still war time and I guess the offence was only a whisker away from treason!

Myself and three other lads (two from another school) were roaming the countryside one Saturday afternoon, when we decided to climb up on to a haystack. One side was conveniently sloping at a shallow angle so we took it in turns to ride a sheave of corn down to the ground. Apparently some other lads had been doing this regularly and had destroyed many sheaves so a trap had been set. Right in the middle of our enjoyment we realised we were surrounded by farmworkers with pitch forks and broom handles. We came down and surrendered with our hands in the air, much to the delight of the farm workers and particularly the farmer who told us, colourfully, what he thought of us. Our names and addresses were taken and unfortunately for us, passed on to our parents and to our headmasters.

I suppose I must have been at the school in Brampton Road for at least 5 years. My first class was ‘1 Alpha’, and I can still repeat the names in the class Register which I think was called twice a day.
Arthur, Barnard, Belton, Blow, Caswell, Cave, Clarke, Clements, Cross, Danziger, Freeman, Hanks, Helm, Jenkins, Moss, Newberry, Perry, Rippon, Scarfe, Thomas, Udell and Wilson!
So I did learn something! I think the approved reply was "Present Sir" and heaven help the lad who forgot and said, "here"!


My favourite subjects were Art, Woodwork and Science.

The woodwork master was ‘Soapy’ Hudson who kept order with a piece of 4 x 2. He was a stickler for accuracy with his dovetails and mortice & tenons. If you messed up with the glue you were really in trouble. ‘Johnny’ Roscoe kept us enthralled in the science lab, - we always had an experiment on the go. Bunsen burners, litmus paper, pipettes and crystals of all colours flood my memory, as does something with pins, mirrors and cotton!

Johnny Roscoe was a real character, - he drove a large, dark green, open- topped Alpha Romeo, with huge headlights and running boards. He wore a corduroy jacket, deer stalker hat, a long scarf and smoked a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ pipe.

‘Juicy’ Bateman, our English and drama teacher, was definitely one of a dying breed. His habit of frequently saying, after a particular edict, "D’you see?" earnt him his nick name. He looked like Punch of Punch & Judy fame, had a rather red face, a hooked nose and an upper crust English accent. He was an eccentric, travelled everywhere by train or bus and finished his journey to school by walking down the centre of Brampton Road swinging his umbrella. The traffic went around him.

I came to his attention one summer afternoon during one of his dramatic renderings of Julius Cæsar. He was just launching into, "Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ‘yers’ (as he pronounced it) when the inkpot, normally quietly at rest in the hole made for it, jumped out of the desk top and tipped ink all over my ‘Shakespeare’. It was something to do with the connection between the elastic band round the rim and my finger. It was all sorted out quite quickly by the head master and me, with three whacks from the cane.

Years later when I was taxi driving I had to pick up a gentleman from an address in St.Albans. At first he didn’t recognise me, but I knew the voice; it was ‘Juicy’. He sat quietly beside me but about five minutes into the journey, turned and said,"Cave, have you got the ink out of your Julius Cæsar yet?!

Sport wasn’t really my forte. I ran, long jumped, high jumped and threw the javelin but team sports were not for me. I had to play rugby but made sure I kept well out of the way of the ball. If I picked it up I knew I would end up getting hurt!

School dinners were 6d and I seemed alternately, to be custard monitor or gravy monitor. There was a period, presumably when Mum wasn’t teaching, when I went home to dinner, which always seemed to be cold meat with’ bubble and squeak’ (fried potato and cabbage) plus plenty of home made chutney.

I didn’t have many close friends at school; my best friend was David Wade who was in the same year, but in a different stream. Other friends were Peter Clarke, Gerald Blow and Peter Freeman. I sometimes went to Radlett for the day to be with Peter Freeman. I remember crossimg many fields to get to a particular stream where we had a lot of fun building dams, climbing trees and chasing cows! Peter was a great mimic and when a teacher had to go out of the room for any reason, he would dash up to the front, pick up a piece of chalk and carry on as if he were that teacher. He kept us in fits of laughter and only got caught once by Juicy who came in quietly and sat at one of the desks and said, "You might as well carry on Freeman – you’re better than me!"

I don’t remember any tears when I left school, (the only tears I do remember were those of our art mistress Miss Dora when she `accidently’ got locked in the attic cupboard where our works of art were kept - but that’s another story.)

My first job on leaving school was on Brunt’s farm off the Watford Rd at Chiswell Green, outside St.Albans. Charles Brunt was a wealthy man running two farms, a successful stable of 20 racehorses at Royston and a fleet of coaches in Hatfield. We didn’t see much of him as he was always somewhere else.

It was 1946 but there were still many German prisoners of war who had elected to stay in Britain. A large number had got used to working on farms all over the country and enjoyed the English way of life. One such was ex Wermach gunner Eric Zeibell. Strong, handsome and tanned from 3 years of working in the open air, Eric was probably about 25 years old.

When Mr Brunt was away, Eric was left virtually in charge but worked closely with Mrs. Brunt. I cycled the 4 miles from home in St.Albans, very often in the rain , and from time to time arrived later than I should have . My first job on arrival was to hand pump water to the tank in the roof. This was via a wall mounted, wooden handled lever in the large bare kitchen. I had to pump a few hundred times and after about 20 mins the muscles in my right arm knew all about it. Fortunately that usually coincided with Mrs.Brunt ringing the breakfast bell. I was allowed to join the early starters around the large scrubbed table. Large plates of egg, bacon, sausage, tomato and mushroom washed down with mugs of strong, sweet tea set us up well for the day ahead. I loved listening to the strong Hertfordshire accents of the old hands.

I worked with Eric most of the time and managed to upset him on a few occasions. After some very brief instruction he allowed me to drive the orange coloured Fordson tractor. A regular job was to `muck out’ the stables at the farm; we had to load the long low trailer, drive it to `Thompson’s’ field, where we set the hand throttle to take the tractor and trailer in a straight line at a snails pace from one end of the field to the other. This meant we could both jump up onto the trailer and shovel the manure off as we went along. One day Eric sent me to load up on my own. I did that OK but had a little trouble doing a tight turn out of the stable area. Unfortunately I backed the trailer up to its axles into the duck pond! He took it all rather seriously, I thought.

Another time he sent me to find a drum of diesel for the tractor, "It’s under some straw in the big barn", he said. I found the drum and tipped it into the fuel tank. Unfortunately for me it was the wrong drum and happened to be full of water! When Eric found out he chased me arou n d the farm with a pitch fork yelling " I keel you, I keel you" - some how I survived and things got better.

One night there was an unexplained fire in the stables and all the horses had to be very quickly released. Next morning 10, still exciteable horses had to be rounded up. Normally this wouldn’t have been too difficult but on this particular morning it was very foggy and quite scary, with horses galloping through the fog from all directions.

We often had to do small jobs at the stables in Royston and I enjoyed the 20 mile ride in a horse box. One of these excursions probably led to the next phase in my life. Eric had been a bricklayer before the war and Mr.Brunt asked him if he would be prepared to build a small extension to one of the Royston stables. I enjoyed the creative side of this as his mate. I mixed the mortar, got to read the plans and even laid a few bricks. I was also introduced to carpentry, roofing, hanging doors and putting in windows.

Mr Minchin

This introduction to building must have stirred a latent calling as after a few more months I left the farm and started an apprenticeship with St.Albans builders `Hammond and Sons'. Wally was my mentor and taught me to dig holes, push wheel barrows and make tea. He also, on a serious note taught me to lay bricks, use a spirit level, lay concrete pads and set foundations. I was soon allowed to carry out small maintenance tasks all around St Albans some of which still bear witness today!

The most exciting project was being part of a team building a rather controversial house in Cunningham Hill Rd. Mr Minchin was an architect with some unusual ideas. All his window frames had to be made of concrete (so I learnt a lot about special mixes, how to make wooden moulds and reinforcing). He wanted a flat concrete roof and at the side of each front window he included a projecting plinth with a statue on it. I’m sure a lot of what I was allowed to do on that project gave me the confidence and skills which have stood me in good stead ever since.

I attended Further Education Classes one day a week for a year. I learnt about `running bonds', flemish bond' and other bricklaying styles. I also learnt that building wasn't much fun in the winter when everything was frozen solid, even the sand. Fingers, ears and feet suffered and even warming them in front of a brazier only made things worse with terrible tingles!


I don't really remember the reason I gave up my building apprenticeship half way through, but leave I did. I think I must have been a bit of a disappointment to my parents at that time but they seemed to go along with my vicissitudinous career path.

Somehow I started a job at the North Mymms Poultry Farm. The farm was bounded on one side by the Hertford Rd just short of the Rookery Cafe and on the other, by Mowlems Lane. Along the lane were six farm cottages, the entrance to the farm on the right, then further along a disused nursery. A fine group of characters made up the small workforce; `the boss' Dick Canham, Ted Saltmarsh, young Sid, `the girl', 20,000 chickens and the new boy, me.

`The girl' didn't have a name, she was a member of the Women's Land Army and was just `the girl'. She checked, sorted, weighed, stamped and packed the eggs. Sid was a scrawny village lad about the same age as me. Ted was about 40. He and I worked well together. Ted called me Lofty (at 17 I was 6' tall), he had a stutter and a good sense of humour. His stock answer to anything that went wrong was " it's the b-b-b-bloody R-R-R-Russians L-l-l-loft, they're t-t-t-to b-b-b-bloody b-b-b-blame" (it was still 12 years before the first sputnick!)

As time went on one of my jobs was to fetch `Peggy', a fairly old, gentle carthorse from Mowlem’s field up the lane and harness her into the cart. I would sit on the 5 bar gate call her over, slip the bridle over her head, the bit into her mouth and cross from the gate to her broad back. She would then take me down the lane and into the farm where she would stop right by the cart - tipped backwards with its shafts in the air. I remember on one trip back up to the field turning right round on her back and riding all the way backwards - a very tolerant horse! Sadly, one sunny morning we found poor old Peggy upside down in a ditch. She had apparently had a heart attack and just collapsed into the ditch. The horse that Peggy was replaced with was younger and far less amenable.

Photo:20 and rarin' to go!

20 and rarin' to go!

The farm consisted of narrow dirt roadways linking a dozen chicken runs each with a large wooden hen house. There were wooden feed troughs to be kept clean, water troughs to be cleaned and disinfected, regular culling to be carried out and buckets full of eggs to be collected twice a day. Ted and I spent our days cleaning out chicken houses, transporting manure to a huge heap from where it was periodically collected by a local nursery, culling chickens, collecting eggs and setting up new pens of pullets. We also transported large 2cwt sacks of bran and corn to bins all around the farm; it's difficult to believe that I used to carry those sacks from the cart to the bin on my back!

It was now 1948, the war had been over for 2 years but food was still rationed. Because I was a farm `worker' I was entitled to an extra ¼lb of tea, 1lb of sugar, butter and a dozen eggs each week. I'd stuff it all into the saddle bag on my Hercules tourer and cycle the 6 miles home.

I learnt a great deal of the commonsense approach to life from the boss, which I really believe stood me in good stead, particularly over the next 5 years of my life. Dick Canham was probably about 60 years old, weatherbeaten, serious but with a dry sense of humour. One of the boss’s first edicts to me was, " I don't ever want to see you walking anywhere emptyhanded - always think ahead. There's always something that needs to go somewhere. If not for today for tomorrow." A valuable lesson that has remained with me to this day.  He wore the same beige cord trousers & ginger brown sports jacket and cap every day of the week. My first task on every second day was to go to the corner store and buy 100 Player cigarettes. He was never without one and would often light a new cigarette from the old one. At 65 years old he died from lung cancer.

While working at the poultry farm I bought my first motorcycle. It was a 1947, 350cc single cylinder Ariel and I felt like a millionaire. It was now 1949 and at eighteen I knew National Service was looming. When it happened I actually signed on for 5 years and became a Wireless Fitter – but that's another story!

Extracts from 'Glittering Shadows'

This page was added by Ron Cave on 31/10/2011.
Comments about this page

Wonderful memories! We lived in Lattimore Rd. from 1942–51 and so many things bring those happy days back. We are trying to put something together about our times and adventures. I remember those planes!

By Lilian Coverdale(nee Dorward)
On 02/01/2012

Thanks for this! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your memories.

By catherine
On 08/01/2012

I remember the cattle market and visiting relatives in Fishpool St and Ver Rd. Was there a Co-op boot repairers somewhere in Fleetville?

By jan bradbury
On 08/02/2012

As I read your comment Jan I seem to remember a boot repairers next to Spendwise, the grocers on the Balitto side of Hatfield Road going towards Hatfield!

By Ron Cave
On 21/02/2012

Thanks Catherine and Lilian for your comments - it was great fun writing my story although it took about ten years. I'm always amazed at all those memories which are there and only need a little teasing to surface! Keep going Lilian!

By Ron Cave
On 21/02/2012

Born 1933 Spencer Street shop Co-op number 9212 one at the end of Cambridge Road. There were two  butchers, one with puffy eyelids, knew Teddy Crane, went to Camp Junior Mixed with my brothers Tom and Harry then St Albans Girls Grammar School. The Messerschmitt passed just above the tree tops on a foggy morning just above my head when I was walking to the grammar school -frightening- I can still remember the pilot looking down and wondered if he'd kill me. He was hedge hopping on the way to Hatfield aerodrome. We were bought new bikes from Timpsons, shiny black. I usually walked down Wellington road, I had a friend who lived here whose parents were teachers. We too were registered poutry keepers and used isinglass and also kept rabbits. Didn't you play milktops in the playground at school, and did you buy your chips from Catherine street? I went to Dagnall Street Baptist Church also knew the tramp, our boys stole his rations and cooked them and the bacon smelled lovely, then he chased us to my house and demanded that my mother pay for them. Thanks for the whiffenpoof song I had forgotten it your story went on soooo long I only have time to briefly sketch my thoughts here.

By Gladys
On 28/02/2012

Thanks Gladys,you may have known my sister Margaret Cave - at one time she was head girl. I remember names such as Jean Warner, Jean Shallcross and Gwen Wade. (and of course the head mistress - Gart)

By Ron Cave
On 02/04/2012

Great memories, I recognise a lot of those people and places even though I came to St Albans in 1957, living opposite the Palace Cinema (then the Geaumont) and moved to 110 Brampton Road. Great memories thank you so much Raff www.StAlbansNostalgia.co.uk @StAlbansHistory

By Raff Cìrìllo
On 02/10/2012

Hello Ron, you were a couple of years ahead of me at school but I remember you. My Dad was the manager of the Camp Coop Grocery Shop, so your write up rang many bells for me. I had forgotten Tramp Dick but remember one of his favourite spots was outside the Post Office opposite Ballito. Also remember the Goddard twins who were in the same year as me.

By stewart west
On 31/12/2012

Thanks Stewart, always good to get feedback especially when you know there are fewer and fewer people who are going to know what we're talking about!! Our last UK visit was in 1996 but I'd love to go back and check out some of the old haunts.

By Ron Cave
On 12/02/2013

Hi there, My Grandad's shop was Hooker's Glass which you mention, off Hatfield Road. My mum and Dad met at the Fellowship. Regards, Jackie McAll

By jackie mcall
On 28/03/2013

Further to my comment above, I am researching EE Hooker and Co (later Hooker's glass), who did restoration work on the windows of Coventry Cathedral, amongst other places. I would be grateful if anyone with any memories of the firm would contact me: jackiemcall@hotmail.co.uk

By jackie mcall (nee hooker)
On 08/04/2013

Jackie, what were your mum and Dad's names? Also to Stuart West, suddenly seeing your name again I think I remembered you - you were pretty skinny and fair haired :) ?

By Ron Cave
On 08/04/2013

Hi Ron, My Dad is John Hooker (lived in Charmouth Road) and my mum's maiden name was Christine Dockree (she grew up in Dalton Street). They married at St Peters in March 1957. They still live locally. Re my comment above, you will see that I am conducting a piece of research on E Hooker (St Albans) Ltd and I wonder whether you have any memories you can add to my research or any further contacts. Many thanks. Jackie

By jackie mcall
On 08/04/2013

Hello Ron, I came across your story by accident, and have loved reading it. I am not from St.Albans originally but we bought our first house (47 beresford road) in 1978 and lived there for eight years, then moved to Sandpit Lane. I recognise many of the places you mention, and many are obviously long gone. Thanks for your story. Anita

By Anita
On 23/04/2013

Hi Jackie, the name Dockree really rings some bells - possibly school days. i seem to remember red and black when I think of Hooker's shop on a corner. Thanks for your comments Anita - good memories!

By Ron Cave
On 05/05/2013

Wonderful read.i came across this by accident but want to read much more about memories of my home town.fascinating.

By Angelalumsdon
On 08/05/2013

Hi Ron, Yes, my mum remembers you! She has a picture of her with the Fellowship and you are in it. She had a twin sister Pauline. Hooker's headed paper from 1956 has a picture of a red and black rising sun and bird - so you remember well!

By jackie mcall
On 12/05/2013

Hello Ron. I saw on the guestbook page for the Canal Zone website that you had written about your time in Egypt at RAF Fayid. My father was stationed there and my sister was born in Ismailia. I was about three or four when we came back on a Hastings. We went out there on the Windrush. My dad was Alf Brittain in Signals Section and he was from Dublin. His good friend was Mick Waters. I would love to read the excerpts from your book about those days. Where can I find them? Your website doesn't seem to exist anymore...All the best, Des Brittain, Kilburn, London....desbrittain@hotmail.com

By Des Brittain
On 24/11/2013

I was born in 1940 at 46 Royston Road.

So many of the places mentioned I remember so well. I was taught English by 'Juicy' Bateman and had Johnny Roscoe as another teacher. I delivered newspapers for Stan & Ken Hill's shop opposite Oakley's Dairy. Left the Grammar School in 1957 and went to de Havilland as an engineering apprentice. Wonderful days in St. Albans.

By Peter Valentine
On 10/10/2014

Hello Ron,

I have just come across your page by accident , and was delighted to be reminded of the nearly forgotten days in St Albans in the forties and fifties. 

I was born in Ely Road in 1939 ,and went to Fleetvile School , and the County Grammar in Brampton Road as you did , And I remember most of the teachers mentioned in your book .

It was wonderful to remember all of those local characters, and tradesmen in that area at the time.

I lived in St Albans , both in Ely Road , and Roland Street until moving to Wheathampstead in 1950 ,where my parents ran a Pub.

Regards, Donald Marshall.

By Donald Marshall
On 11/01/2015

Thanks for your comments Pete and Don. These days we seem to do a lot of reminiscing - I'm glad I wrote down my memories when I did, I'd never remember all that stuff now!!

I enjoy looking on Google Earth around St Albans too. Would love to hear of some of your memories too.


By Ron Cave
On 05/03/2015

What a wonderful read! I'm a child of the 60's but found your memories of growing up through the war fascinating. I liked the description of the bombed house and your father in his yellow waterproofs riding his modified bicycle best.

I came across the article whilst trying to trace an old school teacher of mine called David Wade. I was taught by him in Oldham,Lancs through the 70's. Could it be the same chap? I do know he came from your way.

By Anthony Hall
On 31/03/2015

Two of my friends were Dennis Corley & Arthur Blenkinsop. Dennis lived in Camp Road and I recently met his younger brother Jim and Jim's daughter Elaine. Jim is now Mayor of St. Neots and Elaine's son Lewis is learning to fly at the gliding club of which I'm a member near Ramsey, Cambs. Small world really and quite a coincidence.

I'm also in touch with Tina Bedford, now Tine Dye, who lives in Southend-on-Sea, but who used to live at 8 Campfield Road.

My Grandparents lived at 32 Camp View Road.

By Peter Valentine
On 16/10/2015

Glad you enjoyed my reminiscing Peter. Didn't know any of those names. I didn't realise how much interest my ramblings would generate but glad they have. Those days seem so far away now (another lifetime) I'd love to have a wander around the Camp area :)  All the best , Ron.

By Ron Cave
On 05/11/2015

Hello, You brought back so many wonderful memories. I was your neighbour at no. 37 the other side of the Bromley's.  Parents purchased the property in 1930. I was born March 1932 Twin brother Bryan. Moved to Colney Heath 1945. Regards

By Basil Stoker
On 08/12/2015

I'm transcribing a hand written diary of a cousin who visited St Albans in 1952 on tour from London. She wrote that she "had tea in a quaint little restaurant called the "Sully/Sally Runner/Ruins" via Fishpool Street. The title is very hard to make out. Any ideas??

By Denise Bosse
On 03/01/2016

Hello Ron,

My grandparents, Frank and Mary Thompson, owned the confectionery and tobacconist shop at 45 Hatfield Road, St Albans. It was originally numbered 111 but was renumbered 45 in about 1932. They ran the shop (quite successfully, I think) from about 1920 until about 1946 after which time they retired and purchased a bungalow at 39 Napsbury Lane. The shop is no longer a confectionery and tobacconist business, as you may know, although it was certainly still ongoing well into the 1980's.   

I have never yet come across anyone who recalls the shop at all - do you remember it from your younger days, by any chance? 

Incidentally, my parents briefly lived at 'Airlie' 49 Beresford Road  in the late 1940's. My late father, Douglas Frank Thompson, born in January 1917, certainly attended Fleetville School in his early days!  

By Peter Thompson
On 07/02/2016

Denise Bosse - I think the quaint little restaurant you are thinking of was Sally Lunn's. It was in St Michael's village at the bottom of Fishpool Street and survived until the early 80's. Not there now unfortunately

By Christine Fry
On 16/05/2016

Denise Bosse was  looking for the name of a restaurant near to Fishpool Street.  This would have been Sally Lunn's Teashop in St Michael's village.  I used to go there for a hot drink and a tea cake after my riding lesson at the stables in Blacksmith's Lane.


By Joan Johnson (nee Allen)
On 16/05/2016

Peter Valentine mentioned that his grandparents lived at number 32 Camp View Road.  I lived at number 14 and knew every family on our side of the street.  By my reckoning number 32 would have been home to the Whittons and I was a friend of their son John. I would be pleased to hear if this information is correct, Peter.


By Joan Johnson
On 16/05/2016

I currently live in one of the staggered terraced houses where Sutton Road meets Campview Road. The houses would have been directly opposite the Co-op. I believe that the adjoining building on Campview road was a stable (now a garage and a flat). I would love to know if anyone remembers who the occupants of the terraces were and what animals were kept in the stable.

By Allan Clayton
On 07/06/2016

In reply to Allan's comments about the property at the junction of Camp View Road and Sutton Road, during the time that I lived in Camp View (1946-1966) the building was occupied by Warwick's Butchers.  I can only remember the adjoining building as being a garage/storehouse belonging to the business, but it could well have been a stable prior to this. Joan Johnson (nee Allen)

By Joan Johnson
On 27/06/2016

I can't answer either of your specific questions but I did have a sudden recollection of a high wooden fence on the corner of Sutton Rd and Cambridge Rd behind which were a couple of fierce sounding bull dogs! I'm talking of around 1938 

By Ron Cave
On 21/07/2016

Thank you very much for your answers. I will continue my investigations!

By Allan Clayton
On 24/07/2016

Born 1937:- Ely Road, Camp school and S.T.A.G.G.S. I was looking for a photo of the grammar school when I came across your page. We are now HISTORY.  I'm writing my 'memoirs' for the family and you have just provided an extra spur.   Is your book still in print? Joan nee Miller

By Joan Miller
On 13/08/2016

My mother lived at 173 Hatfield Road, corner or Harlesden Road.

Her father owned a bakehouse. I don't know if it had a name.

Mother is nearly 100 years and reminiscing. She would have been living in the area from about 1922 or 1923 and started at Fleetville infant and primary school. She remembers Mr East the Headmaster.

If anyone can remember anything about the shop, this would be most appreciated

By Kate Start
On 21/08/2016

Further to my previous memories living in the Camp area of St Albans , I just wonder if anybody remembers St John's Preparity School for boys, in Brampton Road , during the war.

I have tried to look it up on the net , but there seems to be no mention or recollection  of it at all. I can remember attending there in around 1944 , wearing a Mauve Blazer , and mauve and silver tie. That is where my memory ends ,after which time I was at Fleetville School  from then on until going to the County Grammar School In 1951.

Did it close down ?

Donald  Marshall..



By Donald Marshall
On 04/09/2016

This was so interesting to read.  I was born in 1948 and lived in Castle Road, Fleetville.  I remember so many of the places you talk about as they were still there and some still are.  We also had a bomb shelter in the back yard which I discovered when I was digging the garden years after the war.   Saturday mornings at the Gaumont cinema were much as you describe.  I went to Fleetville school too.  When about 15 we used to go to dances at the Ballito social club and got to dance to bands who later became famous.  At intermission we would go to the Rats Castle pub for refreshments but I had to hide in case any of the neighbours saw me because I was underage.

By Joan Bolton
On 10/03/2017

Sadly my story is out of print, but I could send you a chapter from time to time.


By Ron
On 22/04/2017

Thanks for your comments Joan. I published my book in 2009 and had been writing it since about 1989. When I pick it up now for an occasional read I realise how the memory fades as you get older, I would never remember half of the detail now! I all seem like a life time ago now!

All the best Ron

By Ron
On 22/04/2017

Thank you! What a delight to read about your life in St. Albans. I was born October 1950 in a small terraced house on Church Street, near to Grange Street. I attended Garden Fields and went on to Sandfield School for girls. My father was a soccer player, a very good player and seemed to know everyone (i was young so it may have just felt that way) In 1980 I moved with my husband and children to the USA. You took me back to my childhood which was a wonderful place to be. Thank you!

By Margaret Osborn (Sperrin)
On 26/05/2017

Joan, Sorry to be so long replying. My grandparents were Mr. & Mrs. Billington who lived at 32 Camp View Road. I also remember John Whitten and he lived at No.34 I think.

I wonder if you remember Gordon Enstone who lived just up the road from Hathaway's butchers shop.

In 1965 I moved to Hitchin when I married and my parents left Royston Road in 1973 and 'emmigrated' to Great Yarmouth. Before she retired my mum ran the dry cleaners at the top of Beech Road opposite the King William.

By Peter Valentine
On 18/09/2017

Hi All, I am researching S W Morley Bakery or W S Morley Bakery which was located in Fleetville in the 1940s & 50s. I was wondering if anyone knew anything of it, i.e. the owners, workers, or what happened to it, maybe someone might have some old photos or information. I would be grateful if anyone with any memories of the Bakery could contact me: ipjs70@hotmail.com

Query answered privately by Mike Neighbour

By Ian Streeter
On 22/09/2017

Hello again Peter.  Yes, I do remember your grandmother Mrs Billington in Camp View Road and also Gordon Enstone who lived on the opposite side.  I remember him being one of the very few car owners in the street during the early 1960s. Your mention of Arthur Blenkinsop and Dennis Corley rang a bell with me.  My father had a work colleague at the GPO sorting office in Beaconsfield Road. His name was Arthur Blenkinsop and he lived in College Road and I am wondering if your friend Arthur might have been his son.  He had a daughter Elizabeth who I was friendly with.  I had two older brothers, Ken and John Allen (born 1937 and 1938) who you might possibly have known and I think they knew Dennis Corley. We had our daily newspaper delivered by Ken Hill's shop, so could you possibly have been our delivery boy?   Joan Johnson (nee Allen)



By Joan Johnson (Nee Allen)
On 28/09/2017


I am trying to find out if there was a 'spot' or 'shot' restaurant in London Colney in 1932. i have just found my fathers birth certificate and his father Ernest Saunders and mother Alice stated that he was born there on 21 Aug 1932.

If anyone can help I would really appreciate it.

Query answered privately.

By Kate
On 11/10/2017

Has anyone any leads to St Albans police history? I'm trying to find detail about Sgt. Hallet who lived next door to me during the war - say 1937 to 1945.

By Ron Cave
On 08/03/2018

Trying to locate info about my uncle Leslie Pell who died aged 18 in a motorcycle accident. Also trying to trace what church he could be buried in. Any help gratefully received. 

By Michael Pell
On 11/09/2018

Hi folks,

My mother lived at 102 Cambridge Road St Albans during the war. Her father Ronald James Mitchell worked at De Haviland as an engineer.

Does anyone have any old pictures of Cambridge Road from around this time, or any knowledge of Ronald. I know a lady called Ruth Emily Billing was at 102 Cambridge Road at the time, so I suppose my mother & her parents were lodging with her. Any info would be great.

Many thanks.


By Doug
On 21/09/2018

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