Thursday, 16 October 2008



During the late forties and early fifties, going to the cinema was a popular way for young people to spend their leisure time. Other common past-times included motor speedway racing and sitting in coffee bars. At least, that was the case in our part of London. Harringay Arena was situated in our area, and it housed not only speedway racing and dog racing, but also the Horse of the Year Show. Opposite the arena was a coffee bar that, apart from being our favourite coffee house, was often visited by the speedway stars in their off-duty moments.
One of the big names of the day was Split Waterman. Such was his fame that he constantly had a stream of girls who ran after him, screaming, or queues of lads just wanting to touch his motorbike and collect his autograph.
As all my family are only too aware, I’m an inveterate organiser and list maker, and it was always so. When I became engaged, I immediately set to, armed with notebooks and pencils.
One day, we were sitting in the coffee bar discussing our ‘lists’ over numerous cups of coffee, when we looked up to see a small group of young lads peering through the plate glass window. They were pointing and staring in at us, their noses pressed against the glass. We smiled, not so much at them, but at the humour of the situation. That was the signal they were waiting for, and they opened the café door and trooped in.
The leader of the gang stood purposefully in front of Arthur and said: ‘Please give us yer autograph, Split.’ Then pleadingly ‘Go on, pleeease’.
Arthur laughed and answered that he wasn’t who they thought he was, but they were not convinced.
‘We know it’s you, Split. Go on, please, give us yer autograph, go on.’
The boy kept thrusting his book at Arthur. The café proprietor behind the counter was highly amused but said nothing to help the situation, and it was obvious that we weren’t going to get away with a refusal. In the end, Arthur said: ‘OK, you win, give me your book.’
Somewhere today in North London there is an elderly man who owns a treasured autograph from Arthur signed: ‘Best wishes, Split Waterman’!

Split Waterman 3rd from L


Soon after our engagement, we were roaming around the West End of London, one of our favourite haunts, window-shopping. We often saw beautiful furnishings and household equipment that we would dream of owning one day, when our ship came in. On one such trip, we happened upon Maples. I don’t even know if they are still in existence, but then, they were the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of furniture makers, and were ‘By Royal Appointment’. Featuring in one of their large window displays was the most beautiful bedroom suite we’d ever seen. Very clean cut and modern and made from figured walnut. It was very expensive, and we coveted it! Of course, it was out of the question. We could have easily bought a bedroom and dining room suite for the same amount of money (with a couple of fireside chairs thrown in as well). That bedroom suite became our fantasy and we kept re-visiting it in our minds and imagining how it would look in our new home, the fantasy wouldn’t go away, and we finally succumbed to it.
It cost us £117, which was a great deal of money in those days. However, it lasted until just before we moved to Kent thirty-five years later. Even then, it hadn’t worn out. We had just got tired of it, and it had become very old fashioned.
We decided to buy the suite on hire-purchase. We wouldn’t need it for at least a year and it would be a means of enforced saving. As we weren’t terrifically good at saving, this seemed a good idea, so we went ahead and bought a dining room suite as well. This came from a furniture chain store and it cost us £48. As we settled up these hire-purchase debts, we bought more furniture.


weechuff said...

Hahah! I remember the days of choosing the furniture on HP before we got married, so that it was paid for by the time we set up home. Ours came from Andrews of Highbury Corner,North London, and was all the latest 'G' Plan furniture!!

Babs (Beetle) said...

Well, in my typical 'have to be different' style, Jim and I made our own furniture. All modern unit seating, and got our bedroom furniture from Junk City and painted it bright red!

Lynne Chapman said...

Ha ha - I love the idea of Dad being taken for a speedway star! Did he really look like him then? It would be fun if you could dig up a photo of him.

By the way - I an missing your photos. More please!

I remember the walnut suite so well. It's funny, because of course it always looked old fashioned to me as a child. You must havebeenthrilled to bits though at the time.

Croom said...

Ah how exciting it all must have been. Where have the years gone Leeta? You both have been so blessed though to have had such wonderful children and still have each other all these years later.

Because we brought our own house to move into once we returned from our honeymoon, all our money went on the deposited. We lived with furniture I made from the cardboard packing boxes.

We had a great wardrobe all stuck together with wide brown tape. I wall papered the boxes to look pretty.

The sideboard gradually buckles over the years sliding all my pretties and perfume to the front. lol…

Babs (Beetle) said...

I suppose there is enough of a resemblance for a would-be fan to mistake him for 'the man himself':O)

Croom said...

Ooh we have a star in our midst. I hope that fan doesn't read this blog lol

Lynne Chapman said...

Yes, there definitely is a resemblance - same shape face and nose and even hair type.

Wonder if Split ever got taken for Dad?!

granny grimble said...

I wonder if others of our generationt did the same. I thought it was our bright idea!

When and where did you make it all? Before uou got married I hope!

Yes I expect it did look old fashioned, by then it was! It was really solid though, even when I finally waved it goodbye with a tear in my eye.


I would have loved to have seen your bedroom suite. Do any of the girls remember it? How on earth did you manage to hang clothe hangers in it? Knowing you, I bet it looked very pretty and feminine though!

I think they look basically very alike. Perhaps they took Split into the Korean war by mistake. Hee! Hee!

GoldAnne said...


hjuk said...

Hello Granny Grimble. Loved your story about Split Waterman. We'd love to hear more Harringay stories at We have a growing band of Harringay emigres from all over the world sharing stories and photos of their early days in Harringay.