“LIFE IN RAILWAY COTTAGES, EFFINGHAM JUNCTION”
Michael S. Waller
Michael S. Waller was born in 1930 to parents Jesse Waller and Helen M. (née) Price who had married in 1922.
Born in 1930 ; interviewed on September 15th 2010 ; recorded and transcribed by Yvonne Shaw
Themes : Living at the Junction ; village childhood ; schooldays ; Cricket Club ; working in Horsley Towers
Life in Railway Cottages, Effingham Junction
My name is Michael Waller. I lived at 2 Station Cottages from 1934 until 1965. The first thing I remember about the war years is that in September 1939 on September 3rd I remember my mother crying because the first war hadn’t been over for 20 years. My neighbours at Station cottages were named Mr and Mrs Pottswood. They had two daughters Vera and Enid and they took on two evacuees from London Rita Simmons and Sheila Brown who I became friendly with as a child; we used to play on the common and get up to all sorts of things. The common on either side of the cottages, we used to play cricket and rounders and we used to climb trees and generally enjoy playing on the common. At that time of course it was double British Summer time during the war and so we had light evenings. I had to go bed at 7 o’clock, and I could hear everybody else still playing on the common and I was very annoyed about that because I wanted to be out there with them!
I went to Effingham, St Lawrence I think it’s called now, Primary School when I was five and from what I can remember it was quite a happy period of my childhood then. Stewart Adams was the headmaster and his wife was the governess. I remember also that they had a stuffed lion on a plinth in the corridor of the school. I don’t know if it’s still there! There were outside toilets in the playing fields and I had a real problem one day, I got stuck in the toilet outside. It was freezing cold and a teacher, Miss Parker, had to come out and fetch me in. The other teachers there were Miss Dixon and Miss Hardiman. Stewart Adams didn’t do a lot of teaching that I can remember. He did the lessons with physical observings like weighing bits and pieces – weights and measures and he used to get volunteers from us kids to help him with his garden; so if we could get out of arithmetic lessons everybody put their hands up and special ones were chosen to go and weed his garden. I was also chosen by him to fetch his cucumbers from Mizens the market garden just down the road.
Still in the Primary School, the lodge opposite the School had allotments and we used to grow vegetables and we were taken for walks in the fields and we had sports day playing cricket etc in a field up past Curtis’ Farm, at the back of Curtis’ Farm. We used to up there to play cricket from the school. There was also a big yew tree in the grounds which I notice is not there now. We had a playing field which opened in the Spring and on a fine summer day we would sometimes go outside and have lessons sitting on the grass in the field which was all very pleasant.
The classes were divided into As and Bs. I went from 1A and 2A which I think was the top junior class and then there was a B class B1 and B2. Stewart Adams was a character he used to wear a trilby hat and he used to tell us all sorts of anecdotes, he was a bit of a comedian. He generally was quite a pleasant chap. I know he had a Morris car which we all envied and sometimes when we had lessons he spoke to us about the fact that he had visited every county in England I think he used to say. Generally I quite liked him and his wife too was very pleasant and I enjoyed the school there. My mother used to take me on the carrier of her bicycle and take me to school from Effingham Junction which I suppose was about a two mile bike road and also I used to walk back home from the school which was a pretty good walk on short legs and sometimes a car wouldn’t pass me – there was no traffic at all. My cousin worked for Bowmans Bakery had an Austin van, a white van and as I was walking along I’d suddenly see him appear with his van and he would give me a lift back to the junction.
Still in the primary school, we had anthracite fires which sent out a lot of heat but we used to place the school milk around the fires to warm it up and we used to take it in turns to go to Curtis Dairy to fetch the milk in the crate and bring it back to the school. I remember the cream freezing on a frosty day and the ice on the top of the milk which we quite liked.
Miss Hardiman, rather a large lady, buxom, taught music and we sat round the piano and we used to sing folk songs. And she encouraged us in that. And we used to take it in turns to take the red flag and stand out in the road to help the children cross the road, to stop the traffic – like the present lollipop lady.
I moved on to Effingham Central School – I must have been ten I suppose, ten or eleven and I was there until about the age of 13. I have quite happy memories of Effingham Central School. Mr Hewitt was the Headmaster. There were allotments along side the school nearest to the road, there was a driveway which led to The Lodge where we used to go swimming; we had permission use the swimming pool. It was a tree lined drive – chestnut trees, I remember conkers and things like that and to the left of that was a football ground where we played football and just at the back of the football field was an asphalted playground and to the left of that was more grass a sort of a field where we used to play shinty and we had running and sports day it was used for general sports.
The classes were divided up into houses we had Sheridan, Howard and red was Howard, Yellow was Sheridan and green was … There were three houses and when it came to sports and games we competed on a house basis. When we had PT, we had to strip down; we had PT, there was domestic science on the agenda and so was woodworking. We had an assembly hall where we used to assemble every morning. We started every morning with prayers and hymn singing with the teachers on the stage and a day’s talk by the Headmaster, Mr Hewitt. We had wood working and lessons about the land plants and other things and nature’s cycle of growing, that is arable farming which was also on the agenda. We had a football team, but I don’t think we played cricket there. The caretaker lived in the gatehouse just by the entrance to the school and we were taken to school and home by coach. The coach was Blands. It was a blue coach, rather a streamlined looking coach and it went via East Horsley and the other one was a Tillingbourne Valley Coach which took the pupils to West Horsley. Christmas time we used to put on a concert and a dinner was laid on by volunteers. I can remember it was sausage and mash at the time – braised sausages – I quite liked them actually. We used to have good school dinners. My mother used to help in the kitchen.
This was in the 1940s the war years. Now during those years, the war years, I only had half a day’s schooling because the afternoon was taken up by the Strand School which was an evacuated school from London so we had the morning, and they had the afternoon, so probably missed out on quite a bit of schooling there. I enjoyed it – I enjoyed the time off! The school holidays were about five weeks – it seemed a life time at the time so we were back on the common playing.
Lord Waterhouse lived in a house called Norwood Farm and as children we spent a lot of time there, because there he had a bungalow which was separate from the main house which housed evacuees who I became friendly with. In charge of them was a governess. She was quite ambitious if you like. She had some connection with Lord Waterhouse; I don’t quite know what it was. I used to go to this bungalow and play with the evacuees. The house had an orchard full of cox’ orange pippins and I remember we used to help ourselves to these apples and he had a barn which we used to play in as well. And a swimming pool in the front garden, a beautiful garden and his wife, Lady Waterhouse laid on a Christmas party for us kids and the evacuees which was all very enjoyable and I think she did quite a lot for different people and charities.
Yvonne Arnaud lived in Effingham and I think Lord Waterhouse actually bought the house for her. Her husband had the pig farm down there and us children used to collect acorns for his pigs during the war.
There was also an actor who lived in Surrey Gardens and his name was Desmond Tester and he appeared in two films and they still get shown on television. One was The Drum and the other was The Four Feathers and the credits still show his name on the list.
There was another chap I remember who said he was an actor at one time and who used to tell all about his famous connections – I think he was a bit eccentric and his name was Dijon a French name. He used to walk with a bit of a stoop and he talked very quietly and I think he fantasised a lot. And he used to walk to the Catholic church in Effingham and back. He was a regular church-goer. He lived in Surrey Gardens.
There was a lady there Winifred Houghton who taught acting. My sister was involved in amateur dramatics with her. She was a bit of a slave driver I believe, she used to upset my sister quite a bit but she was involved in amateur dramatics at Effingham. They used to put the plays on at the Memorial Hall of Effingham and I think at East Horsley at the village hall and I see now the dramatic group at the time were the Nomads and I think they’re still going.
During the war the Canadians were over here. The WVS laid on a canteen in the memorial hall and they used to serve meat pies which I found delicious; home made meat pies with lovely crispy pastry and all the social life of Effingham Junction revolved round the Memorial Hall. I was in the Boy Scouts , we had the Girl Guides and of course all the evacuees joined as well. We laid on a concert party for the Canadian Troops and there was Ken Birch who played on the piano who was quite a good musician on the accordion, I used to play on the guitar a bit and sing and we also used to have film shows, cine films, and I remember one of the films was Strawberry Blonde with James Cagney which I rather enjoyed and we also used to have cartoons; we had Felix the Cat!
I didn’t know Yvonne Arnaud. She was above my station! I think she was quite a big woman and she was a brilliant concert pianist. I used to have a 12” 78 record of her. She was quite clever. She had a private road which led down to her house and when we were younger, my brother and several others, Ian Pettit with his terrier dog and his ferrets we used to go rabbit shooting. I had a twelve bore shot gun, my brother had a twelve bore and we used to shoot rabbits – these were the things we did in the war years. We used to flush the rabbits out with the ferrets.
When the bombing came, some were dropped and landed on the Common, unexploded, and Jeff Warnham and myself were collecting up these incendiary bombs. I suppose they were about a couple of feet long with fins and unexploded and we used to collect them all up and pile them up and we were hauled in front of the class in assembly and given a right ticking off by Mr Hewitt and I believe the local police came along because we’d been warned about these bombs. I remember they actually buried these bombs at the side of the road between Mallaby-Deeley and Effingham Station on that straight bit of road there on the right hand side of the road.
A land mine landed at Mr Garnett’s farm which is at the back of the common. There was a cinder path which went past our cottages, past the railway sheds and right at the end is a right turn and go on as far as on the left as a big gate. And I used to deliver the church magazine down there and a landmine landed there.
On the cricket ground, leading up to the war, was a searchlight unit so after the war it all had to be got up to scratch and converted back to a cricket ground and we had the help of prisoners of war to do this, cutting down all the long grass and landscaping it and getting it back into some playable condition. Dr Sutton he was the president of the club got a friend who was a very good artist to come down and painted a picture of the workers cutting down the grass with scythes and the picture is either up on the walls of the cricket club pavilion or my nephew or somebody may have it. I don’t know where it is. I have a copy of it.
I left Clarke’s college and started work. My sister worked in the typing pool at Horsley Towers for the Central Electricity Board. She gave me a little hand in getting a job there. The offices were in wooden huts joined together by a central passageway and I was at the end hut under the South East England region of the Electricity distribution area. All the top bosses were there. They lived in wooden huts and the ladies who lived there lived in the main building. And when it came to meal times we’d buy tickets, which were sixpence at the time and we used to walk over to the main building, we had a dining hall there. We had waiter service I remember one we had one waiter called Fritz and the dining room had a minstrels gallery. There was a snooker room and I used to stay behind and play snooker with an older man Scotty his name was who was a commercial artist not an engineer at all – he was a very nice chap. And we had a marvellous Christmas party there with a big Christmas tree in the main entrance hall. We had a lovely lounge with a radiogram, where we used to play records and all the girls would come and do a bit of dancing. They had a club with a bar. I don’t remember if it was licensed, I didn’t drink at the time. And I remember the first ice cream coming there after the war had finished. There was a sweetshop and word went round our offices that ice cream had come in so I hopped on my bike went down to the shop and brought back ice cream to the office. The first ice cream they’d had since before the war!
My actual desk was situated by a window looking out on allotments and come mushroom time, or something like that, I could just open the window nip out and get a few mushrooms! At the Horsley Towers there was also a rifle range where they had two-two shooting which we thoroughly enjoyed, they had a big like with pike fish and they had a sports hall where we had table tennis and tennis court. It was like a holiday camp! I think it was previously owned by Sopwith the aircraft chap before that I think it was a girls’ school.
There were cloisters where all the cabling records were kept for the London area in big metal filing cabinets and when someone rang up from Head Office in London wanting a certain section of the cablework in London which had an identifying number, I had to nip over to the cloisters with a key, unlock everything and fetch this file out with this particular route of cables and get prints off because we had a printing room with a drum and send a copy off to Head office so they could detect where the fault was in the cable. It was all very security at the time.
It was a flint stone gothic building with turrets, cloisters and I remember as a youth of fourteen, chasing all the girls round the corridors. We had a fete in the grounds.
Effingham Cricket Club
I was a member, for some time I was match secretary. The president was Bill Shepherd, who was a builder who lived in Surrey Gardens. He was the only member of the club who had a car at the time, he had a Rover. The names that I can remember were mainly railwaymen. A few names are Harry Trish, Ben Barnes.
There was no pavilion and the first one we had was a wooden shed type building with a pull-down front flap where we had lemonade and a copper tea urn where tea was obtained. The tea urn had to be filled up from a tap in Adrian Estler’s land at the back where he kept a cow and on a number of occasions when we had filled this tea urn up with water we were chased by Estler’s cow which was very funny at the time! We had a marquee with trestle tables where the actual teas were laid out.
Toilets were non-existent. I think we did have some corrugated iron arrangement. Estler went through a period where he had a bit of a dispute with our president Dr Sutton over something or other and he allowed his horse to tread all over the wicket and we arrived one day to find there were hoof prints all over the ground and there was a bit of a to do about that. He and Dr Sutton didn’t get on very well.
Adrian Estler was a character. He didn’t mince his words, he didn’t take to fools kindly, he wore a straw panama hat and when he went in to bat, he had this straw panama hat, open necked shirt, loose sleeves undone, no socks no pads and scruffy work boots and he used to go in at number eleven. He did make a few runs at times and he also knew the rules of cricket. He made a very good umpire and we had a bit of a row with one of the teams because he no-balled a bowler from the square leg position. How he could see from that position I don’t know! But it caused a bit of a kerfuffle with the opposing team. Estler also was very keen on making home-made damson wine and he used to invite some of us round to his kitchen and on a great big oak wooden table and he used to get out a great big hunk of cheese, set the glasses down, get the bottles out which incidentally were still fermenting in some cases, pour out the wine and half the bottle would turn white so we could only drink the top half and then he used to carve up the cheese and that was that.
Of course he had his Roll Royce van with the bolted door; we used to have to climb over the door to get in. He had all his tree cutting material and tools in the back because he was a tree surgeon and when there was a local derby, East Horsley for instance, we went in style in his horse and trap but we were covered in horse hairs when we got there. Estler was well known in the village. He was marrie,. I did meet his wife once because we used to go carol singing, I don’t know what happened to his wife. He was of German origin and he had a public school education, Oundle College I think it was and he was very keen on cricket as I say. He always used to call me “Waller”. “How you doing there Waller – what are you doing today?” If I was in the garden he always used to stop with his horse and cart and have a chat so he was a well known character. I used to open the batting sometimes or I would go further down the list a bit, I batted all positions. I used to play wicket keeper as well and I got a nasty bang on the head doing it.
I remember the time over the cricket ground when we had hoards of spectators. All the crowds used to line up down the drive and Harry Trish, the secretary, going round with a collection box and he used to get quite a bit of money. I remember an American getting out of his car while we were batting and saying “Hey you guys, can I take a photograph of you guys?” I also remember we had an all day match with a team from London called Ivydeane. We were twelve a side. They had a coloured player, a tall chap and I didn’t realise he was as old as he was; but he was getting on a bit, and he was in the out field and a high ball was hit and he went to catch it and it caught him straight in the mouth and they had to cart him off to hospital. It bashed his teeth out. I understood he was round about seventy at the time, so he wasn’t a youngster!
We always helped after the game to roll the wicket. It was a big concrete roller, it was heavy, and we had a big Dennis mower which was a devil to start at times and this was kept in the tool shed and we used to stay behind after the game. We used to get the regular helpers and there were others who were more interested in playing and going home after. So we relied on the regulars to help keep the ground in trim. There was always work to be done. During the week there were odd things; practice days were Tuesdays, we had nets down there and we used to have a practice wicket a concrete wicket. And then of course later the President was Dr Sutton and he led us to raise all sorts of funds from various people. He’d invite them to become vice-president and donate some money and we got enough money to build a cedar wood pavilion which we had to build and we had the concrete foundation and when we got to the last end it overlapped the foundation by a few inches so we had to adjust that! Anyway it was all done and we had a celebration on opening night and from then on we had a bar whereas previously we had had to go down to the Lord Howard for our drinks.
Back to 1939 it was the start of the phoney war as they say. I can remember Effingham station having a gong which consisted of a train buffer and they used to bang this gong, the buffer, as a practice air raid siren. And the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers) was formed which consisted of volunteers; they wore arm bands and they used to parade and do practice on Effingham Common to the left of our cottages and us kids used to take the mickey out of them. Later on of course they got uniforms and rifles but they were the Local Defence Volunteers which consisted mainly of railwaymen.
I remember the railway man who worked in the booking office Jack Dangey his name was, and Mr Pottswood who was our next door neighbour at number 2 Station Cottages, he was also a signalman; he worked in shifts with my father. He was a brilliant gardener. You could get to his house from the platform by walking along a path up a few steps under the booking office, the part that used to house all the bicycles at the time and luggage and I could walk up there if I came off a train and not show a ticket because I used to walk in through his garden. He was a very nice chap I remember, he had a dog called Trip.
The house had two upstairs bedrooms; no gas lights we had to use candles for lighting. Downstairs there was a living room with a range, a cast iron range which we had to use coal for fires and the oven, where we used to cook our roast dinner. We used to roast chestnuts, and baked apples by the side of the range. We used go out of the living room to the front door where there was a passageway under the stairs where we used to keep cheese and we also kept mice – we used to put traps! Then there was the front room which was used on special occasions. We had a grand piano, two easy chairs and an open fire. We used to have some beautiful log fires, we used to collect logs from the Common and the chimney used to get sooted up. We used to have to sweep the chimney every so often, and the soot would all come down and at some later stage the house had had a bedroom built on at the end, so we had a downstairs bedroom as well. And then we had a scullery with a sink and a concrete boiler and there was a high ceiling and I think my father made a clothes line on a pulley system that we pulled up, and we had a geyser and I think we had a gas cooker and a meter that we had to put money in.
Baths had to be taken in the kitchen in a galvanised bath. The water had to be boiled on the gas stove and just outside the backdoor, turn to the right was an outside toilet with an elsan closet. I used to get trapped in there at times because if anyone came to the back door, I was stuck in there until they’d finished! My father made a shed out of railway sleepers and we had chickens at the bottom of the garden. We grew potatoes, we had vegetables: leeks, Brussels sprouts, roses and a damson tree. Damsons were prolific! We had a damson tree outside the downstairs bedroom and there were also damsons in the hedge at the bottom of the garden.
At the bottom of the garden, there was a house, two semi detached, at the bottom, the first one, the Blackwells lived. Mr Blackwell was a plate layer on the railway. Betty Blackwell lived there; she had a sister Daisy, another sister Josie Blackwell and Margaret Blackwell – that’s four sisters! And next door to that was the Fullers – Wally [Walter Ernest] Fuller. He was a well known character, liked his ale and he was always off down the pub leaving his wife and the kids at home. Wally Fuller did a bit of umpiring as well. He was well known down the Lord Howard because he was always down there.
Then the next house down was the Station Master’s house and at that time it was Mr Jack Warnham, who had a son called Jack who was in the Boy Scouts so we used to mess around together. He had steps down and from his house you could walk straight on to the platform. Beyond his house which was a detached one, you had the railway sheds. Now the railway sheds, just after the war, Mr Warnham got some of us kids if we were interested to scrape all the blackout off the windows of the carriages. We had razor blades fitted into handles, because during the war the blinds used to be pulled down in the carriages but they weren’t wide enough to cover the full window so they were blacked out all round the edges and afterwards it all had to be scraped off so us kids were working on these railway carriages, scraping it all off and earning a few bob at the same time.
In my house apart from my mother and father I had a sister, she was the eldest, a brother who was five years younger and then myself who was another five years younger.
My father was transferred to Hampton Court Railway Crossing signal box and my father had to cycle there which must have been 15 miles which was quite a long way, especially at night when the war was on and the guns were going off and there was shrapnel flying about and my mother used to get a bit worried. He worked at the level crossing at Hampton Court and then he came back to work at the station again. There were times when his shift take over didn’t turn up and he was called on to fill in which was very annoying. I think he had a Christmas Day off once every three years or something because you used to have to work late turns, early turns and middle turns, you very rarely got a full day off at Christmas and he finished up with a pretty poor pension incidentally.
Before the war, the Walls ice cream man with his three wheel trike used to stop opposite our house, on a Sunday on the other side of the road and my mother used to make jug of tea for him. He wanted bluebells one time and we collected bluebells for him and he gave us a penny. At weekends we used to get hikers coming down from London, especially Bank Holidays, coming off the trains, but there were people walking about. And people sometimes used to come down to the cricket ground as well and as it was Sunday they may have been coming to church or coming back again. He obviously found it worth while to park his trike there.
During the war years a bomb landed near the station where the line divides, one line goes to Waterloo and one line goes to London Bridge, between them is a sub-station and I think they tried to hit the sub-station, but they didn’t. I didn’t hear it during the night but when I woke up there was a lump of plaster come off the ceiling and landed on my bed.
Then of course there were the doodlebugs. I can remember a jeep coming over the hill there over the railway full of young men and this doodlebug coming and these Yanks piling out of the jeep and into the ditch using obscene language. I heard the engine cut out and I think it landed at Hatchford, somewhere down there.
Service people especially Wrens, the odd soldier used to catch the last train down from Waterloo and the train used to finish at Effingham, ‘cos it didn’t go any further it used to go into the sidings, so they used to knock on our door asking if they could stay the night. We used to put up one or two at night time. I also remember a drunk coming off train lying down in the middle of the road on the far side of the bridge. I was up in the bedroom and I had to go out and chase him off because if a car had come over the bridge it would have run him over.
There was an encampment opposite our house, the army were there. I remember that we were invited to a Christmas celebration and we had the anthracite stove with the chimney going up through the middle which was lit and it was all very warm and friendly. The British Army this was, I think they were something to do with the search light unit on the cricket pitch and they gave us a couple of sausage rolls.
I remember The Canadian Army camp us Beech Avenue on the left hand side ,’cos us kids used to go up there and mingle with them and have dinner with them and they used to give us mince and tatties in jerry cans and they used to give us their pen knives. And also on Effingham station there were the odd times when the Nestles slot machines were filled up with chocolate and I remember one time they emptied one of them and gave us kids the chocolate. The Canadians were very generous, very generous.
I spent a lot of time in the Memorial Hall with the Boy Scouts and various other sporting activities like table tennis. I didn’t camp on the Common but we built a log hut at the back of the hall. I don’t know where we got all the logs from but we had that for a time and we used to have some of our meetings at the back of the Memorial Hall.
I was also a member of the Covenanters which used to meet on Sunday afternoons. It was like a Sunday School class we had a badge. I’m trying to think of the name of the person who ran it. It was run by a chap in Lovelace Close. The Scoutmaster was a Mr Ingram.
As you come to the crossroads at Effingham Junction, do a left turn and go down the road a bit and there’s a house on the right hand side and that’s where Miss Poupart lived. She was a well known character, she used to keep the key to the hall and we used to go there to get the key from her to play table tennis – put the gas fire on, gas was cheaper in those days and it used to get nice and warm.
She used to have whist drives in her house and my Mother used to go there and she used to take me when I was a kid. And her family was associated with Pourpart’s Junction which is near Clapham Junction on the railway. There’s a sign with a signal Box – Poupart’s Junction. She was a well known lady, she was quite a nice person and she did a lot for the village.
2 Station Cottages, when we first moved there, there were 3 of us, my brother, my sister and myself; three in a bed. And on a summer’s night, we used to lie there and listen to the nightingales singing in the woods opposite – a beautiful sound! I actually remember that, I haven’t heard a nightingale since, I think.
Just on the down side of the railway bridge, on the up-line side there’s a shop called the halt which was owned by the Searle family and there was also a Post Office and sweet shop, we used to get our Mars bars and sweets there and PC Wood who was a local Bobby used to cycle on his bike from Effingham village and that was his duty position, by the telephone kiosk outside the shop at certain times of the day, and us kids always knew when he was going to be there.