These pages are on the website of our family business - "Roots Kitchens and Bedrooms". (Lots of useful information if you are planning to improve your kitchen or bedroom.)


Introduction - The early years - Meeting Lil and going to war - After the War

Leslie Root

I was born on the 6th July 1918.the third child in a family of six boys and three girls, at 117 Gladesmore Road, Stamford Hill, Middlesex.

From my mother, I learned when one year old I fell into a coma. After several attempts to bring me round the situation was getting desperate when by intuition the next door neighbour lifted me from the cot, shook me up, and the crisis was over. >From my nose blood and pus went everywhere, the shake up had caused an abscess near the brain to burst, and had, according to the doctor, probably saved my life.

When three years old I was knocked down by a car on Cambridge Arterial Road, and had a spell in hospital with concussion.

 

When six years old and lost after being chased through the market by a pig, I had been so well fed with lemonade and cake while waiting for father to collect me from the Police Station, I was tempted to lose myself again,and did in fact, so I was told, only to be rewarded with a glass of water, at the Police Station and at home, a sore backside and to bed without my three slices of bread tea ration.

I was again in trouble soon after the move to 25 Barkham Road, Tottenham, London. N17. I decided to meet father at the railway station on his way home from work and collect my Saturday penny. Mother at home was worried sick when I failed to put in an appearance at dinnertime, after being in touch with the police, had the neighbours out searching the area. My punishment apart from a sore backside what really hurt, was having to manage for a few weeks without my penny pocket money. One thing I am obliged to say, is that I always found father to be strict but fair, we were all treated the same and when he had cause, which was often, to punish any one of us, it was always with the bare hand across the buttock.

1923. Father, who was at the time working for the London County Council on a new estate at Burnt oak, had his application for a transfer granted. With my older brothers Will and Arch in the back of the removal van, Mother with brother Ron on her lap up front with the driver, we moved into one of the first houses to be completed on the estate. 178 Watling Avenue Burnt Oak, Edgware, Middlesex. A three bedroom terrace. Large bedroom at front with just enough room to walk round the two beds, where we boys slept in threes. Clothes were laid across the bottom of each bed, apart from keeping the feet warm we had nowhere else to put them. Also at the front the small bedroom just enough space for a double bed where the three girls slept together.

At the rear, next to our parentsí bedroom, the 5' by 8' bath- room and toilet less wash basin. Hot water for the bath had to be pumped from the boiler in the corner of the kitchen by hand pump. Pump and pipe from boiler to bath being a built in fixture. Kitchen 5'by 8' with wall cupboard, gas cooker, boiler, sink and entry door to coal store under the stairs. Washing had to be done by hand and to keep a family of 11 clean, wash day had to be every day.

Personal hygiene, without a hand basin in the house, had to be done at the kitchen sink, which to say the least did cause a few problems especially mornings, with everyone in a hurry to be washed and shaved ready for work. Mother at the same time would be dodging in and out doing her utmost to prepare and cook breakfast. To me, how she remained sane is still a mystery.

The front room was for a while let to my father's brother Harry his wife and baby, making a grand total in line for the sink, 14. All other times it was used only on special occasions, weddings, Christmas, courting and the like.

In the forefront of my thoughts when going back to my early days at Burnt Oak School. I can still relish the pennyworth of stale cakes from the bakers opposite, shared with Will and Arch for dinner. So long as during the break one of us could be out of school in time to be first in the queue, they were usually available, if not we had to settle for the free issue of bread and soup.

Shortage of food or should I have said money so far as our parents were concerned, being the main problem of the day and at the time the only luxuries to be had were on the way home from school. On display in the open front window at Williamís Brothers the grocers were tins of salmon, sardines, boxes of cheese, biscuits, in fact, a good selection of food, the sort our parents could not afford to give us at Christmas, let alone all the year round. Also on the open front at the greengrocers next door were all types of fruit. Often we would make a detour via Montrose playing fields and enjoy the meal of the day followed with fresh fruit salad for desert. A pleasant change from our ration of three slices of bread and dripping or jam without marg for tea.

1928 Transferred to Coldbeaters School, the first of a few to be built on the estate, and I remember it well, being just after my 10th birthday and the same year, I started my first Saturday job, selling chopped firewood at 6d (2 1/2p) a bushel basket, or ld a bundle. The horse and cart would be loaded and ready to go outside, the boss would be inside the transport cafe which was opposite the main gate of the Colindale Tram depot (where uncle Harry worked as a fitter.) Having breakfast. I would meet him in the cafe at 0800 hours when he would buy me my favourite cheesecake and lemonade, we would then start the round and finish the first load around 1130 hrs. We would then return to the yard for a second load, via the transport cafe where we had a meal usually pie or eggs and chips, and make the final delivery around 1600. Pay for the day 2s/Od (10p) free meals and on average Is.Od (Twelve pennies to a shilling) in tips.

The boss had an agreement with General Motors to keep the yard clear of old and damaged packing cases. Helping load up one day 1 noticed some used wheel bearings on the dump, which put me in the scooter business. With timber, eye bolts and nails from the packing cases and bearings, you could knock up a pretty strong scooter in a couple of hours they were all the craze at the time, and on the side the bearings were worth 2d each or 100 cigarette cards.

One day on the way home from school Arch and I were in trouble after being reported missing. A search party had been out all evening, over Montrose playing field and silk stream where the boys used to swim in the nude. We had been seen scrumping, chased and went into hiding. Arch missed his evening paper round and on arrival home, we were upstairs with our trousers down, while dad took the appropriate disciplinarian action.

1929 Started evening paper round for Simmonds News Agents

1930 Brother Arch left school I took over the paper round which passed through the family from him, still with Simmonds. 0630 to 0800hours. Evenings 1700 to 1830 three hours a day. Sunday, fours hours 0800 till 1200, deliver papers and collecting money on return. Wage for twenty two hours work 7/6d(37 1/2p). Not forgetting 240 pennies to the pound

1931 Firewood Boss retired. Started Saturday job at Brills Bakers Edgware cleaning bakehouse floor and running errands. 0930 till 1630, seven hours, 1/2 hour for lunch. Wage 216 plus bag of stale cakes. Gross income 10/0p(S0p). Towards keep 7s/Od (35p) ls/Op (5p) weekly repayments off bicycle, Nett 2s/Op (10p).

I had to wait for late edition with football results on Saturday, with time enough to take the stale cakes home and have a meal before doing the evening paper round.

1932 I left school at time of recession and high unemployment, and passed the paper rounds on to my younger brother Ron. My achievements at school are best forgotten. I took every opportunity to dodge lessons and would volunteer to do any job that would keep me out of the class room, filling inkwells, putting grease on the footballs, oil on the cricket bats and helping the caretaker, and have lived to regret it many times over. My only ambition to play in goal behind brother Arch in the school team. In the event, when I did play in goal behind him at right back, more often than not when a goal was scored against us, an inquest on the field, as to who was at fault, to end in an argument on the way home, and on the rare occasion settled with the fist before we reached home. As we grew older and wiser we become the best of pals and played in the same team up till the war, in the Sunday League at Stag Lane.

In later years, with a load on for Fords Daventry plant, I would often make a detour via Mill Hill Broadway, get Arch out of bed, and the day out together would be on Henry Ford meals included. On our last trip we stopped for a few minutes outside 178 just for old times sake.

Father tried but failed to get me a brick layers apprenticeship with London County Council. Though disappointed you had to be grateful for a job of any kind with so much unemployment about. The only jobs available were dead end and so I made a start at Lidstones the butcher, Mill Hill, Broadway. In no time with a basket full of joints on the front of a trade bike, I was doing a five mile daily round(I3s/Od (65p)a week.

1934 Vacancy at London Co-operative green-grocery department, father reckoned it being a trade union firm, prospects must be an improvement on the job I had, and advised me to change and suggested that Arch., then working in the Co-op butchers next door, had a chat with the manager on my behalf. I was engaged on a month trial as shop assistant at 15/Od per week.


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