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Archive for June, 2011

BCHI is at the Melrose Avenue Resource Centre on Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings.  We have a display in the window, gather memories and photos and discuss Bletchley’s past with visitors.  It’s great to be part of  this fantastic new facility for the local community, which has sessions for advice, information and other assistance available.  Drop in for a coffee or tea, use one of the computers, swap a book  or just sit and have a chat with other locals.

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'Mr Men' in the 2011 parade

I’ve just seen photos of the recent West Bletchley Carnival parade for 2011.  An impressive turnout – congratulations to all those involved for their hard work and creativity.   I was stuck in a marquee when the parade was on, setting up the usual BCHI  photograph display with the help of our volunteers.  It makes me think about  the old Bletchley Carnival Week – the Bletchley Gazette used to be full of reports from these events in the 1960s and 1970s.   Did you take part – on a float in the parade, in sports or other events?  There must be some great memories out there.

Carnival Parade, Queensway 1970s

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Seventeen years old, just past my driving test and ‘fit for the road’ – well that’s what I thought!

It was 1958 and I was enviously looking at a second-hand Ford Popular in Tompkins and Moss garage in Bletchley Road. Next day having looked at my finances I ventured into the new world of car purchase. The test drive went well with the car salesman sitting next to me, ‘three forward gears’ and ‘one reverse’, no problems! When the ‘deal was sealed’ I was given the keys and I was off! Unfortunately, I needed to reverse the car out, first problem, I couldn’t find reverse – a few minutes later a puzzled salesman waved me off. Slightly worried about the journey home I opted for the longer, quieter route home via Water Eaton Road through the ‘three bridges’, that way I would ‘miss’ all the traffic. In the ’50s there was a slight incline into the Buckingham Road. Thinking back to my driving lessons the instructor used to say, ‘rev up and slowly let the clutch out when the engine dies down’. All good in practice until the largest London Brick Company lorry ever made pulled up behind revving up so much I could not hear my car’s engine. In consequence I rolled back on to the lorry and smashed his fog lamp. Hot under the collar I got out of my car and faced the driver. ‘Sorry’, I said, ‘I’ve only just collected it from the garage’. The driver of the lorry was great, ‘just take your time and don’t worry mate I’ll tell them I did it on a building site’! ‘Long live London Brick’ I thought, little did I realise that years later Lord Hanson would close the brickfields.

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I can remember when I was a boy living in Eaton Avenue there were several sounds which we heard regularly. One was the brickyard’s hooter which sounded at the
beginning and end of shifts. Another was the bell at Brooklands Nursery which
was rung in the morning, lunchtime and evening, a much more pleasant sound.
Then I remember the echoing tones of the tannoy at the railway sidings, which I
believe was giving the drivers instructions as they carried out their night
shunting duties. Lastly there was the old wartime air raid siren which was used
to call the part time firemen to report for duty when a fire started.

As for smells, there was a nasty one produced at times by the Valentine, Ord and
Nagle’s factory on the Watling Street. Another more pleasant one issued from the
Tetley Tea Co. factory in Osborne Street. The  nature of this smell changed when the
building became a sweet factory. A rather unpleasant odour which hung over the town, when the wind was in the right direction, was emitted from the brickyard chimneys. There were a lot less people with sinus problems when they closed down. But by far the worst of all was the smell emanating from the sewage works off Simpson Road, especially in warm weather.

Then there was the occasional brown tap water, caused by sand getting into the main
supply, giving problems in Bletchley homes. Many people used to fill jugs with
water, then leave them standing until the sand gathered in the bottom, and the
water was drinkable.

I  can’t say I miss most of the smells, or the sand, but I feel that some of the sounds are a sadly missed part of Bletchley life, especially the dear old nursery bell.

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