Transcript of recording with Maureen
I have lived in Woodford since I married Barry 50 years ago. My association with the Memorial Hall covers the whole of that time. When I was 16 or 17 I came to Saturday night dances in the back hall. There was a dance band and the last song played was always “Henry the Eighth I am I am” and the floor of the hall used to bounce – you didn’t need to dance! It was a brilliant time with a lovely atmosphere. It was the era of the Mods and Rockers.
On one occasion a dance was held in the front hall for charity and I came along with a friend and my friend’s boyfriend. I met Barry that night and danced with him at the end of the evening. He asked where I lived and when I told him “Loughton” he said “Well I can’t take you home”. I said I didn’t expect him to do that, but we arranged to meet at the dance the following Saturday. I couldn’t find him at the Hall so went to a party instead. My friend was there though and through her Barry got in touch with me and we went out to the Majestic cinema. We married 2 years later and are still together after 53 years.
When we were first married we were offered a top floor flat in a beautiful house in Woodford Green, overlooking the Green. After a while the owner of the house had to sell and so we moved to South Woodford and have lived there for 49 years.
The Hall has always played a part in the lives of my children. The back hall was used as a baby clinic where mothers could buy orange juice, powdered milk and have their babies weighed. The mums could have a cup of tea and chat at these sessions.
Both my children were baptised in the front hall at the Memorial Hall, as St Mary’s had burnt down. The hall was laid out like a church and I think there may have been a portable font. One of the two curates, Gordon Brown or Geoffrey Broadbent would have carried out the baptisms. My children went to the playgroup, in the back hall. I used to help Shirley with this and had the title of Secretary/Treasurer for a while. I used to be part of the rota to help with the children.
My friend and I attended the Women’s League of Health and Beauty at the Memorial Hall – we got told off for giggling! This was a keep fit class for women. Our husbands would stay in the flat and the we would go back there for coffee afterwards.
My children attended Brownies, Guides and Youth Club at the Hall. They attended the Sunday School and later were in the choir at St Mary’s..
I was involved with the Old Time Music Hall which used to be staged at the Memorial Hall and remember the first one vividly – we had no costumes, so had to improvise with old net curtains and resources items from places like Oxfam. One dress rehearsal had been arranged for a Thursday. I was working for social services in Redbridge at the time, so I arranged for a number of the elderly residents of various homes to come and see the dress rehearsal. Redbridge arranged the transport for them on that occasion. The elderly folk were given a cup of tea and a raffle ticket for free. Both Barry and I had solos in the shows. I sang “Lili Marlene”. There were various scenes, i.e. a Western scene and a French scene and a cancan dance sequence.
The first production made money, so a lady named Brenda arranged for the cast to do further shows. By that time there were proper costumes for the cast. The audiences were always good due to ticket sales to the family and friends of the 40 or so people involved. One person acted as the Chairman and was very good at rousing the audience. I was involved with this for 10 years or so, my husband Barry for about 8 years.
After the first time private transport had to be arranged for the elderly to come to dress rehearsals at the Memorial Hall, so members of the staff at social services organised their own cars to bring them to the Hall.
The Old Time Music Hall was also performed at a sheltered housing unit and a home for the mentally handicapped, so the cast spread themselves around.
The stage in the Hall is 114 years old. It was fine to work with most of the time, although it leaked and still does. It is a flat stage but for some reason we would always end up crammed together at one end of it. The curtains still have holes in them as they did when I performed in the Music Hall shows! The cast used to peep through the holes at the audience. I have very happy memories of the Old Time Music Hall, it was great fun and Barry and I made many friends with whom we stay in touch.
I worked in Woodford after my marriage. At first I worked as a telephonist/receptionist for Gates of Woodford (then G Gates), in the showroom. I would answer the telephone via the switchboard, connect calls and escort visitors to their appointments. I left to have my son and stayed at home for 10 years. After that I returned to work for Gates in their parts and service department, dealing with sales and the bought ledger. Eventually I moved to work as a home help for Redbridge Social Services, a job I loved. All my clients were in Woodford and I became good friends with some of them. After 6 years I became a Senior Home Help. This entailed managing 10 home helps and ensuring that 100 clients were looked after. After that I was asked to move into the office and worked there until I retired.
I feel there have been a great many changes in Woodford over the years. 50 years ago it felt more like a village and was much quieter. At the top of George Lane there used to be a big tree in the middle of the road where the traffic went . Now there are traffic lights. There was a supermarket called Edwards, where mothers used to leave their babies outside in their prams while we did their shopping – unthinkable today. There was a shop called Hedges, which sold curtain and fabric and a hardware shop, referred to as the oil shop. Where Boots and Marks and Spencer stand there used to be a church and a cinema, The Plaza. The Plaza was a smaller cinema than the Majestic but still showed some good films.
Woodford is so busy now, it’s completely different. There were very few hairdressers, no nail bars, and virtually no restaurants and coffee shops, as there are today. Meeting friends for coffee is very popular now, but when Maureen was younger people would meet up to go to the cinema or events at the Memorial Hall. Also, mothers would take it in turn to host coffee mornings in their houses while their children were at school or playgroup. Now when I walk down George Lane I don’t see anyone I know – in previous times I would always stop and chat to friends and acquaintances. I don’t feel part of the community anymore which makes me sad.
When Barry worked at the hall he was on a rota to clear up after weddings. I would go along to help him clear up after events . It was very hard work and often took a long time to get the Hall clean and tidy again – sometimes until 2am the following morning. We are very good friends with Barbara, the previous Hall manager, and her husband Frank, who still does some caretaking there.
I feel the Memorial Hall is a great asset to the area. It is always in use, is very central to Woodford and is on a bus route. It has been an important and long-standing part of my life.