Runwell Remembered - (d) late 40s and early 50s
After the war, in 1946/47, the scout hut was built, or should I say renovated. It had been an old army Nissen hut. Of course lots of us boys became Boy Scouts; we were the 1st Runwell. Although us boys had Scouts, sorry to say the girls at that time didn’t have any Girl Guides in Runwell, they had to join the 1st Wickford Guides who met in St.Andrew’s small hall. Back to the renovation of the Scout Hut. We worked with wire brushes to clean the corrugated sheets and used brushes to cover them with tar, then we helped to the erect sheets, it was hard work. Unfortunately it burned down and then it was rebuilt again. If you think you can help the Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies, please contact them as all the leaders of the groups do a grand job providing interest for our young people.
As a young Boy Scout, apart from going to St.Mary’s Church on Church Parades, we were given a conducted tour of St.Mary’s by the then Reverend Corbin telling us the history of the church. He told us a story about the devil, and being young boys we were mesmerised, and this has stuck in my mind; the story said that on the far corner door the Devil burnt its paw print. I cannot remember what happened next but the print is supposedly still there. Us boys in the 1940s thought it quite an adventure. In 1947, about the time I was helping with the Scout hut, electricity started to come to some of the side roads. Work of erecting the poles for electricity and telephone was carried out by Prisoners of War.
In the winter of 1947 we had heavy snowfalls and severe frosts. It was bitterly cold and the snow hung around for weeks. To make matters worse there was a fuel shortage. Although the war was over, times were still hard and rationing was still in force. Because of the fuel shortage the school was shut, enabling us to spend hours outside having great fun with snowball fights and taking cover behind the snow walls we had built, for which there was plenty of snow. When the thaw eventually set in, the melting snow and ice made the river Crouch flood, so once again I wasn’t able to go to school. In fact whenever we had snow or heavy rain the river would flood.
Winter wasn’t the only time we had fun outside. During the war years we had double summer time to help the farmers with more daylight hours to bring in the harvest, and it didn’t get dark until 10.00pm. It also meant that us children could roam the fields and stay out late. We always found plenty of things to amuse ourselves. We would let our imagination run riot. We would be cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, and pirates. It is sad to think that the children today no longer have the freedom that we had. We could go out all day, taking a picnic of jam sandwiches and a bottle of cold tea with us, and out parents didn’t have to worry about us. We soon ran home if we fell and grazed our knees. In the summer and autumn months my mother would also be in the fields, but unlike us she was working hard lifting potatoes, pea picking, etc., to help make ends meet.
After the war Wickford used to have some wonderful carnivals. The procession would start in the London Road area and come through the High Street along Runwell Road and turn into fields opposite the Quart Pot. The procession was usually led by the Dagenham Girl Pipers. There would be the usual decorated floats (flat top lorries usually loaned by local businesses) with support from local organisations, and in the field sideshows, all sorts of entertainment and a gymkhana. It would be very well attended.
The Transport and General Works Union had an office in Waverley Crescent and in about 1950 my Grandfather retired from them. We had a party in the Runwell Village Hall and he was given an arm chair and sofa. My father and uncle, after a few drinks, decided to carry them home to Waverley Crescent, my uncle with the armchair, and I helped my father with the sofa. I can see us now sitting on them under the hanging light on the triangle of grass at Wantz Corner to have a rest, they were rather heavy.