LIVING AND LOVING
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.