Interview with Roger 12 March 2016
Deborah: Roger thank you so much for doing this for me.
Roger: You’re welcome.
So, some of your earliest memories of the Hall are connected with the junior school prize giving. Can you tell me about that in your own words
I can really just remember that my junior school l used to have prize givings up here in the hall but I don’t remember that it was a regular annual arrangement, just maybe a couple of occasions . My memory of it is that the children used to sit down the side of the hall, by the church side and that after the first speech or so all the younger children, the real juniors, the 5-7 year olds would disappear off into the hall at the back because it was always known that they would be noisy and couldn’t cope with the whole thing and they used to let off steam in the back while the rest of the prize giving or whatever it was went on, with all the parents sitting in the main centre of the hall.
The thing I can’t remember about is the chairs. I like to think that we had the small chairs like the little children’s ones and I don’t know whether the hall had their own or whether we walked them all the way up Churchfields earlier in the day, but then again I can’t remember bringing them back down again so how they got back to the school if we did walk them up there I don’t know.
Deborah: So you say that later in your teens, you helped your parents?
Roger: Early teens, yes I helped my parents, memories from that were on the stage, the Towns Womens Guild would have variety evenings, lots of sketches and little playlets and perhaps singing. I remember the elderly lady on the piano sitting down below. It was all good fun. I’m sure there was a lot of stress involved for my parents in doing something like that but as someone involved in helping my father backstage and doing things like the lights and the props and all that ….
I used to walk up there after school because they used to spend most of the afternoon there setting up and rehearsing.
The other thing was that my parents helped at a few Christmas bazaars, presumably it must have been the church bazaar because I know this was around November time and I remember various things, stalls, a fortune teller, well presumably a pretend one and things like that. I just stood at the back and helped when asked. I suppose I tried to look as if I was helping.
One of the memories was carrying in loads of boxes of fruit and veg because my parents set up this fruit and veg stall, it was really successful. I presume my mother must’ve gone about the day before checking the prices. It was an unusual thing and people would just buy whatever they wanted, it was selling everything, from potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots to fruit etc, everything you could think of. I don’t know what happened to anything that was over at the end, I don’t remember that part, but I do remember Patrick Jenkin, he was the MP for Woodford opened the bazaar. My father went and met him and introduced him and he gave a speech as he opened the bazaar. After going round shaking hands he went and sat and had a cup of tea at the kitchen end, which is why I wonder about the serving hatch at the back because I don’ think it was there then. I can’t be certain.
Did you come to any of the dances here? Because during that period there were dances here?
I think I was a bit too young for that. I’d have been around 12, 13 then. I’ve got a very vague memory of coming up on a Saturday afternoon for some children’s meeting in one of the small rooms between the 2 halls, but I can’t remember what is was called, it wasn’t something I stuck with. I maybe went for 2 or 3 times. My mother had loads of friends, she was helping out with all sorts of things she’d get to hear of, so something like “Oh my son’ll go along to that”. I’d take about 15-20 minutes’ from home to walk up the road and turn up. I can’t remember what it was for or why I went.
When we met last time you were telling me about the gentleman who everybody used to hide things from.
Oh that was the jumble sales. They started out at the church, which we called the Pip and Jim, Phillip and James Church, up Grove Hill, all gone now and when they couldn’t use that hall anymore they transferred to the back hall for the jumble sales. This was all the Guild ladies’ fundraising efforts. We’d turn up at 9 o’clock in the morning, the tables would be set up. My parents always seemed to do the bric-a-brac stall and there were all the other types of stall, toys and clothes.
Part of this, there was always a lot of stuff left over at the end and there was a gentleman, I don’t know what he would’ve been, a stall salesman, rag and bone man I suppose and he would come and take it away at the end of the day, but part of his arrangement was that he wanted to come and look at all the stuff beforehand in order to help himself to anything that might look expensive or worth something. So that expensive stuff used to be hidden under a cloth until he’d gone and then it would come out again to sell, because the event was to raise money for the Guild, not to put money in his pockets.
It would open about 2pm and most people had gone by about 4.30 and then he’d turn up, back his van all the way up the alleyway here. I think the ladies helped him load up.
As a youngster I’d be looking round “Oh that looks interesting”. I remember, this was well before portable televisions and all that, there was this little 5″ screen television. I paid a few pence for it and took it home but I never got it to work. It wouldn’t have been at the jumble sale if it was any good.
Someone used to go and get fish and chips for lunch, from somewhere in George Lane I suppose.
Really the final memory, the last time before I was here a few weeks ago, was for an Old Time Variety Music Hall evening. I used to help do the lighting for a local amateur theatrical society at the Hawkey Hall. I don’t know if the society hired the memorial Hall or someone else did and they were asked to come in and participate, but we set up a podium for the announcer. I don’t know what you’d call him?
Yes, the Andrew Sachs person, he used to do that on television, all the long words and that. We had to set up spotlights for him and also on stage.
So was it like, was it based on, I can’ t remember that programme?
The Old Time Music Hall, “The Good Old Days”. It was. They had tables set up for food and drink and everything. I don’t know what the food was or where that came from, I don’t recall that, but that was all set up. It might’ve been only 1 or 2 nights, again I can’t recall. It was a jolly evening.
Doing the lighting, it was a very old-fashioned stage switchboard then, and I brought some of the society’s lights in just to enhance things.
They had a young lad do a turn who was a magician. Watching from the wings you could see how some of these things were being done, not enough that I could give away any secrets. He was in his mid teens maybe, starting out his career. I don’t know his name so I don’t know how his career went. It was an entertaining thing and of course it was all the usual old time song and dance routines going on.
So, really, in your formative years, if we say from about 7 through to 17, you were associated with the Hall quite a lot or were you older when you had that association?
Well, probably 9 or 10 through to about 15 or 16, generally with my parents at these things. Then I came back many years later, it would’ve been mid 70s or late 70s just for 1 or 2 nights. It was odd to come back into the Hall that had the memories from years before and I remember “My father was here the last time I was helping him on stage and now I’m doing it”.
It was just interesting, a few weeks ago, to come back and look around, it hasn’t really changed. It’s got a new floor but it looks just the same as I remember it. The rear hall, the other rooms, I don’t remember this office, it was probably always locked, but the door in the centre of the stage where people used to disappear off stage…….. it’s nice.
We talked earlier about the building work at the front of the hall and I was just trying to remember, I’m sure when first here…. Do you know when that building work was done? The kitchen or whatever it was and the new toilets?
The latest renovations were done last year. But you’re talking about before that aren’t you?
I think that was more likely the 70s or the 80s.
I’m not sure. I don’t remember it sticking out as far. I’m trying to look at that picture you’ve got (on the office wall) and it shows the entrance over the front which you can see they’ve built out each side from that. I remember it from that picture you’ve got up on the wall there. They didn’t have the bits at the side.
I think that you’re the only person who’s told me that they remember that far back to the point where they realised the hall had actually changed shape…..
Well it has, times change and you have to make more space.
You don’t happen to remember if there were 2 dragons on the top of the ….?
Because somebody informed me there were a couple of dragons on the roof.
I don’t remember that at all. I’m trying to remember about car parking, I’m sure we managed to park a car, if you’re looking at the Hall, on the right hand side, I think there was a little alleyway there, because I thought that’s where we unpacked the fruit and veg from, but I am not sure.
I am looking at the windows at the top of the hall and I wonder if the follow spotlight stand is still there? I don’t know whether we used that when we did the Old Time Music Hall, probably we weren’t certain of its safety.
And you said that also you remember George Bunyan?
Yes, I mean my parents knew him though I can’t say they were good friends, but they knew each other well enough by name. He was a jolly character, I vaguely recall.
I found his wife and I did an interview with her. She’s now 95.
Wow, how about that. I just remember him as always helpful and seemed to fit in with whatever we wanted to do. He was a nice chap. I don’t know what years he was here.
He was here from 1950 to 1980.
Yes he was here 30 years.
Thirty years, gosh that’s unusual these days. So he might’ve been here when we did the Old Time Music Hall, I wonder what date the Old Time Music Hall was?
Late 70s, so he would have been here.
He wouldn’t have known me, I’d have grown up a lot since my parents early days.
Oh, and a final memory, I also came up with my mother a couple of times and helped with teas and washing up for the baby afternoons in the back hall. My mother was just helping out because of holidays or something, it was just a summer thing, a couple of afternoons. Presumably I was at a loose end so helped my mum. I know it’s not the done thing these days, but I made her proud.
I’m sure she was extremely proud of you. Thank you so much for your time, I’m very, very appreciative of your time.