The Life and Times of Paul Chiddicks Part 1 The School Years

Welcome to my story…………..

After badgering my Family History buddies for ages, about the importance of writing up your own story, as well as those of your Ancestors, I thought it was about time I actually did something about this myself!

It feels a bit weird really, almost like writing your own obituary, at least I suppose I can choose what goes in, if I write it myself!

So here goes………..

I am the only child born to Frank William George Chiddicks (Dad) and Winifred Alexandra Wootton (Mum). I was born on 30th June 1964 at St. Andrews Hospital, Billericay, Essex.  Billericay wasn’t our regular Hospital, it was a lot further away from home, Orsett Hospital was much closer, but Mum had to have an Emergency Caesarian and was rushed to Billericay and nearly Died during Childbirth. At the time, we were living with my Nan and Grandad, in Lenthall Avenue in Grays, Essex. Lenthall Avenue was to play such a massive part in my life, with my family living there for a total of 85 years and counting!

I was Baptised at St. Peter and St. Pauls Parish Church in Grays on 4th October 1964, my Godparents were my Aunt, Ann Chiddicks (Dad’s Sister) and Mum and Dad’s best friends, Pauline and Jack, but for the life of me I just cannot remember their last name any longer.

My Christening Record

My Christening

Me and Grandad my Christening

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(All taken at my Christening)

At the time Dad was a Welder, his younger Brother Dave, was also a Welder. I’m not sure exactly all the places that Dad worked, but I do know that he worked at Christiani and Nielsen’s yard, in Rectory Road, Grays.

I will stop and deviate off on a bit of a sidetrack for a minute, as it’s my own story, I think I am allowed to do that? Whilst I have mentioned Christiani and Nielsens Engineering Yard, I should stop and tell you about the ‘Payroll Robbery’ that happened in the 1960’s. Christies were one of the larger Employers in the area, so their weekly payroll was a prime target for a ‘Raid’. Why am I telling you all this and where am I going with this story? No, My Family didn’t carry out the ‘Raid’, but at the time, My Grandad had worked for various Newspapers, as well as a Freelance Journalist, so when the Robbery happened my Dad immediately called him. ‘News Hack’, Grandad was first on the scene and took these pictures which made various newspapers at the time, you can actually see my Dad in one of the pictures, in white overalls.

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So back to the story…..

I was born into a Football loving Family and it was not long after I was born, that England reached the World Cup Final of 1966. Legend has it that during the Final itself, I was screaming the place down and my poor Nan had to walk me up and down in the garden, to keep the peace, so that the rest of the family could watch the Football without being disturbed by my screaming!

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Tragically, just over one year later, in August 1967, Dad was killed on a Motorbike, he was just 30 and I was just 3, the impact was and still is, immeasurable.

At the time we had moved to Lisle Place in Grays, just off Lenthall Avenue.

By the age of 5, I was old enough to venture out into the big world and I started my schooling at Quarry Hill Primary School. The original Quarry Hill School was in Brooke Road in Grays, I was there for a full year before the school moved to the other side of town and became a modern Primary and Junior School combined and the old School was knocked down to make way for the new Grays Police Station.

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(Prize if you can spot which one is me?)

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One of my earliest memories from around this time was having a Birthday Party at home, at my Nan’s house and playing pass the parcel and somehow my Mum managed to knock out the front tooth of one of my friends, Paul McCarthy. I have no idea how she managed to do it, but he reminded me about it on a regular basis! I can’t remember much about the first year at Quarry Hill, I remember more about the move to the new school.

We still had the joys of the ‘outside toilet’ back then, the thought of going out on a freezing winter’s night still brings a shiver to me now. I can even remember one cold night the toilet being frozen solid! There was no luxury of central heating then either, we had to wait for Grandad to make the fire up and that was the only form of heat throughout the house, winter bedtime attire could sometimes include a bobble hat, scarf and gloves! It was not uncommon when it snowed to wake up to find a layer of snow on the inside of the window! We also had a ‘tin bath’ which was a joy in front of the fire! My Kids think I am joking when I say that I had a tin bath in front of a roaring coal fire as a child!

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Talking of Coal, that’s triggered another memory, the ‘Coal chute’, was actually a cupboard in the kitchen itself and when the Coalman made his delivery, the whole kitchen dissapperad into a black plume of Coal Dust! I can still remember Nan coughing and spluttering. Again, everybody knew everybody, back then, the Coalman was ‘Geoff’, can’t remember his last name now and the Coal was still delivered then by Horse and Cart!

Very much a part of the Chiddicks Family life, was an annual holiday to Butlins in Clacton, it was a big family tradition and many generations of the Family all went together, including many cousins and Aunts and Uncles.

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Family Group Butlins

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My Nan and Aunt would take me everywhere and spoil me rotten. We had lots of trips to London to see the sights and lots of trips to the seaside at Southend with my Cousin Lisa. In those days, we were inseparable, only separated by a few months, we grew up like Brother and Sister, which for an only child like me, taught me lots of social skills I might not have learnt, had we not spent so much time together.

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Around this time we had moved out of my Nan’s house and moved into a brand new “Council Flat” that overlooked The Thames, at Grays Beach. It was a long walk to school from here, or it seemed like that to an 8 or 9 year old. Google maps tells me that the walk was 0.9 miles, which is long enough. There was a group of us who walked together every day, including my good friend Tracy Bridger. Our families were life long friends, both our grandparents were neighbours for over 50 years.

We always stopped at Beasleys sweet shop on the way and on the way back. I can remember the smell of the sweets even now, a sickly sweet smell, which is heaven to a kid. Next door was Mumford’s Chippy and Ron Mumford always gave the kids a cheery smile in the mornings before he set off to Billingsgate market for the fresh fish.

Talking of Fish and Chips, Thursday night was always Cubs and then Scouts night, a group of us all walked there and back on our own, you could in those days! ‘Just in case’, we were all given 2p ‘Emergency Money’, to make a phone call, if we needed too. Back then the phone box was 2p to make a call. Do kids these days even know what an old phone box looks like?  So what did we do with our 2p ‘Emergency Money’? Straight after cubs or scouts, we were straight in Mumford’s Chippy for a 2p Pickled Onion, which she sucked the vinegar out of on the way home and crunched our way through. No idea what we would have done should a real emergency have happened!

Another big after school treat, was a visit to the local Library, this was a really big thing, we were always encouraged to read and use the Library from a young age, deviating slightly for a minute and bringing things up to date, I really fear for Libraries in the current climate. With local authorities cutting budgets to the bone, the so called softer services are always under threat, so please encourage your little ones to visit their local Library (that’s it speech finished!) The trip to the Library and the quietness and smell of musty books, stays with you and maybe my interest for books and history was started then? Who knows? I remember distinctly the noise as the books were stamped, that magic click and woe betide if you dare to bring the books back late and incur a fine! 

I remember teachers named Mr Bailey and Mr Morris as well as Miss Markham. As a kid I enjoyed School, but enjoyed Sports and in particular Football even more. One of my proudest achievements was when the School Football Team Won the League and I was one of two players selected to represent the League in a match at our local Amateur team,  Grays Athletic’s Ground. A team that many years later, I had the honour of playing for myself.

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(The Champions of 1974-1975)

Our Club Captain, in the centre with the ball, actually went on to represent England ‘C’ Team at International level!

One of the things that I remember from living in the flat was the big open field across the road, that led to the beach. I can clearly remember pestering Mum to come out and play Football with me, Mum was always so generous with her love and time and she of course came out to play Football with me, but she managed to turn her ankle on the grass and we ended up in Accident and Emergency, with Mum in a wheelchair with a broken ankle and me feeling a little sheepish and guilty!

8, Butler House

To earn extra pocket money, I had a ‘Milk Round’, helping our local Milkman doing his daily deliveries, which living in a block of flats was easy, or maybe not, in my case! I used to go up and down in the lift, stopping at each floor and jamming the milk crate in the lift door and running out and quickly making my deliveries on each floor as we went down, until this one day. I did the usual thing, jammed the door open, but I must have not quite got the crate in the right place, when I ran back to the lift, it was too late, the door had closed and the crate of milk went sailing up to the top floor! I spent the next half an hour chasing a milk crate up and down a lift!

It was around this time that I caught the ‘Subbuteo’ bug! For those of you reading this from around the world, ‘Subbuteo’ was a very popular table Football game that was in it’s prime in the 1970’s, with sets and kits becoming collectors items. I can remember having leagues set up with my friends and going round each others houses to play. It was the equivalent of “FIFA” that the current play station generation are hooked on today, it was that popular. I am going to drift off now, for a trip down the High Street in Grays, where I grew up, I remember the two Toy Shops even today, Gardeners and Lilliputs, my nose pressed hard against the glass, looking longingly at the latest collections of toys, well primarily either Lego or Subbuteo. Saturday’s would always revolve around walking into Town and staring in the shop windows, followed by a trip to ‘Woolies” (Woolworths) for some pick and mix. I distinctly remember the wooden parquet flooring and the noise it made when you walked up an down. The High Street was always ‘heaving’ on a Saturday and the Big Market was always full of people and the smell of fresh fruit, veg, meats and fish could be smelt all the way down the road.  

We lived in the Flat until I was around 11 or 12 and then we were lucky enough to get a transfer to a 3 bedroom Council House. Anyone like to guess where? Yes of course, I was back in Lenthall Avenue! Within walking distance of my house were both sets of grandparents, my Aunt, and three great Aunts and Uncles, all within a quarter of a mile from home. Would that happen today, probably not?

It was a much simpler life back then, the expectations and pressures, nowhere near what they are today. Of course they were difficult in there own way, but I am sure that people had more time and seemed a lot happier, or am I just choosing the remember the ‘good times’ only?

I remember the ‘Clock’ shops, literally a few hundred yards from home, a Butchers, Greengrocers, Coop, Off license, Newsagents and Post Office and my favourite shop, Taylor’s the Ironmongers. Visualise ‘open all hours’ and the smell of paraffin and that’s Taylor’s. It always looked like a bit of a mess inside, but no matter what you asked for, Mrs Taylor would just reach round open a draw and find what you were looking for. That smell of paraffin I still love today, calling in with Grandad to fill his lamps up, was a little treat! He biked everywhere, what still amazes me now is he spent his entire working life living within a Bike Ride of home!

I had lots of friends from school, all my friends from the beach end of town and now all my new friends from the opposite end of town. Summer holidays were so much fun, we would be out at first light and not back until it was dark, so many adventures were had, because we backed onto the old chalk pits and quarries, a legacy to the Cement Industry from the early part of the century. This area was later developed into a large housing estate called Chafford Hundred and The lakeside Shopping Centre.

To a group of young boys, the Pits, Quarries and WW2 Gun Emplacements, were an Aladdin’s Cave, waiting to be explored, full of excitement and fun. Looking back as a parent now, I can see all the dangers of playing in areas like this, would have had and how difficult it must have been for parents to let their children play safely, but it was a completely different era then and maybe we didn’t see the dangers so easily that we see today.

We fished, we caught Adders, yes we actually intentionally trapped them, we caught newts and tadpoles, we built ‘dens’, we played games such as ‘Runouts’, ‘Kick the Can’, ‘Knock up Ginger’, amongst many many others, all innocent fun.

It was around this age that I first became obsessed with Lego, my Grandad even built me my own wooden storage box, which you see in the picture, which I still have today. Lego has been one of those constants that we all have in our lives, whatever our hobbies and interests are, some things stay with us throughout life. My own children grew up with the wonders of Lego and the next generation of Grandchildren will be encouraged to do the same.

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I have always loved comics and annuals, a massive part of Christmas for me was receiving ‘The Annual’, this was also carried on with my own children. It’s something that I don’t mention on here, but I have a growing collection of Beano annuals at home and with those and the Lego and The Family History, I’m rapidly running out of space. My favourites were The Beano, Dennis The Menace and Dandy, but the absolute all time favourite and one of my heroes was, ‘Roy of The Rovers’, absolute legend, I spent hours and hours kicking a ball against the wall dreaming of playing for Melchester Rovers!

The next step was ‘Big School’, luckily for me my local High School, Grays Comprehensive, was literally just around the corner. I don’t remember there being much fuss about ‘My First Day’ or the big step up to ‘Big School’, maybe there was and I just don’t remember it, or is it something that we make more of a fuss about today? I can’t say that I hated school or that I enjoyed school, I just ‘went’, I was more interested in getting outside and playing with my friends, Football was still a massive part of my life.

I was never with the ‘cool kids’ at School, but I had lots of friends, both at school and where I lived and because we never had the trappings of living in the ‘console’ world of today, we had to make our own entertainment. We probably sailed close to the wind a few times, on the naughty scale and got into a few scrapes along the way, but it was innocent fun. You couldn’t risk getting caught by anyone because everyone knew where you lived! I will tell you one thing we got up to………….the off license that I mentioned above, at the clock shops, gave you a 2p refund if you returned your glass fizzy drinks bottles, so what we would do, is climb over the wall, grab a few and take them back in for the money! It was an early form of recycling! Perhaps not such innocent fun after all!

A few years ago we decided to downsize what we were hoarding in the loft at home, the kids stumbled across my old school reports in a box and they all had a common themes running through them “Could achieve so much more if he could just be quiet and concentrate”. I was never going to be a scholar and despite my love of Football, I was never going to make the grade as a Footballer. 

We always had pets at home, cats and dogs, the bonds you form as children with animals also stay with you throughout life and they teach you the importance of caring and looking after others, which is why we still always have a house full of animals! I remember the dogs called Kipper and Sham, the cats called Candy, Sue and Pepsi, plus Rabbits and many others.

I don’t remember there being as much emphasis on a ‘Career’ during my schooling, you either went to work when you left school or you went to college. I was never ‘driven’ enough, or pushed enough to achieve an awful lot at school.

I will end Part 1 of my own story here as I approach the end of school, which is a good point to stop and will continue next time, with my early work years.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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19 thoughts on “The Life and Times of Paul Chiddicks Part 1 The School Years

  1. What a wonderful tour of the past! I almost didn’t want to go when the story ended, but imagined turning around for one more stroll down past the chip shop, to take in the aroma and crinkle of wrappings, and perhaps catch a bit of the chorus of some tune playing on the radio in the back…

    Fabulous job. Written so vividly and intimately, one can almost hear your “voice” narrating throughout. Brilliantly enhanced by the photos and insightful little explanations along the way. This will surely be a treasure for your children and descendants who follow you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul, this is wonderful and brought back so many memories! My brother was born in 1961 and me in 1966 and so much of what you’ve written I can recall: the smell of paraffin (Esso Blue that was pink), 2p for the phone box, the slightly yellow tinge that photos from that era have now, my brother letting me play Subbuteo with him but only as a last resort (I always chose to be Aston Villa because I liked the colour of the strip – he was always Crystal Palace, our local team)… I could go on!

    Really looking forward to Part 2…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree this is wonderful. I have been putting my life story together for years too. I thought I would do the early years last. I was a Brownie and Girl Guide too. Some of the lessons stood me in good stead, such as “Be prepared”. I had the ‘ole 2p in the pocket too. I always want to put a piece of string in my pocket still.
    Terrible to lose your dad at such a young age. My dad nearly killed himself on a motor bike too. He had a Norton apparently and had ended up fracturing his skull. I used to love the coal being delivered. We had a coal scuttle out the back. We eventually moved up to a house with a coal shed, which was eventually converted to a downstairs bathroom. When I was born Mum and dad were living in a caravan waiting for the houses to be built. They had been able to rent a house shortly after I was born.
    I was surprised to learn my great grandmother was from Essex. She was pretty tough. She lost her husband at a very young age too. My grandfather was a Cockney. He was always very proud of that. I remember him eating bags of shrimps and using the occasional bit of Cockney rhyming slang. I love Londoners.
    In fact some of my family were killed during The Blitz. My parents and grandparents would talk of people going down in the bomb shelters each night, getting out in the morning to find everything flattened but still going to work. I think that is where many British people get our resilience from. My mother is still very much,”Keep calm and carry on.” This has served her well through Covid-19,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing a bit of your story with me as well. We must be roughly from the same era then! Every time I write something down, it triggered a further memory and you mentioning shrimps has just triggered another one that I had forgotten about! The coal bunker eventually made it outside I might add!
      You mentioned the blitz, you might enjoy my old palace school Bombing part 2 and also Grandads story, if you haven’t read them before.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As usual your narrative invites all to read through the end and ready for the next installment. With photos to help give us a glimpse of your earlier life and your growth from childhood to adulthood. Thanks for sharing. Will be awaiting the next installment of your life’s journey.

    Liked by 2 people

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