We were delighted to hear from Ken Miles, who read Colin Allen’s blog post about the time he and his family spent living in a prefab in King George’s Park. Ken was a neighbour of Colin’s, though he now lives thousands of miles away in Australia. He very kindly shared his memories of living in King George’s park with us, and agreed to us publishing them here. The result is a very happy read – perfect for a gloomy Autumn day! Thank you, Ken!
My parents Cissie and Arthur Miles younger brother Derek and myself moved onto the estate in the same year as Colin Allen 1947. I was 6 years old and Derek was one year old. Like Colin we also lost our house in the blitz and were rehoused into a prefab, the address was 37 West Greenway. The prefab was located at the top end of the estate adjacent to King Georges Park and the Cul de Sac end of Brathway Road.
The Mullard Valve factory was at the end of Brathway Road providing valves for the new sensation television. We were very fortunate to have a tv and it soon became apparent to the rest of the kids on the estate.
All of a sudden I gained lots of new friends.
One of the early highlights on the estate were the cartoons shown by one of the families on East Greenpath. They were a weekly event and we all crammed into their living room to watch Mickey Mouse, Popeye, no colour just black and white.
This was before tv started to become readily available in everyone’s lives.
As Colin described in his blog the prefabs were well appointed internally. My close friend David Finlayson (and still is after all these years) was very envious of our internal WC and bathroom he only had an outside dunny and no bathroom, as was the case with many homes at that time. Gardens on the estate were of adequate size to grow a few veggies or a flower bed, plus each prefab had its own coal shed with a curved roof rather like the old Nissan huts.
This was in the time of solid fuel fires with a coalman carrying a large bag of coal on his shoulders delivering it into the coal shed. We always had a friendly Hedgehog take up residence in ours during the winter. I can still recall the screams from my Mum when she picked up a scoop of coal together with the Hedgehog!
Our prefab was in a good location with an entry to the park via a set of stairs nearby, the prefab was elevated above the park approx. 2.5M with an alleyway at the base separating us from the park. We could either walk across to the swimming pool and swings area or walk around the alleyway which went over the River Wandle and led out to Garratt Lane adjacent to Benhams ( I think that’s how you spell it) the sheet metal factory. Later in life a few of my friends became apprentices there. I doubt it exists now. Night time walking down the alleyway was always a bit scary not much lighting and it seem to attract the bad elements which were around even then.
As I and my brother Derek got older the park was always the go to place, it was well maintained with plenty of opportunity to play football, cricket or tennis and of course the swimming pool in summer. I could never pluck up the courage to jump off the top board but I did manage the second highest.
Christmas was always a joyous time in the prefab all my Mum’s family would come up to us for the big Christmas dinner and stay overnight. Beds were at a premium so us kids and the men would bed down on the floor in the living room or in our big old soft armchairs and couch. It was the job of the men to keep the fire going all night which they shared, well some did. Derek and I always enjoyed Christmas plenty of food and lots of laughs.
One thing that was noticeable as I got older on the estate was that our living environment on the estate was much better than living in the high rise flats that were being built around the Wimbledon Common area. Some of my school friends moved into that area and the lack of recreation facilities were very apparent. As history has shown us high density living does not work especially for families with young children.
My parents and Derek remained in the prefab until 1964, they were then rehoused into a two bedroom first floor flat in Sutherland Grove near West Hill Road. Derek got married in 1969 and moved out. Dad passed away in 1984 and my Mum in 2010.
I moved out from the prefab in1962 when I got married to my wife Valerie (nee Beard) and we have remained happily married to this present day. The prefab had a lot to do with me marrying Valerie because she was best friends with Diane Shepard who was our next door neighbours daughter at 39 West Greenway. Our romance blossomed over the chainwire fence that separated our prefabs. Valerie and Diane have remained friends from then until the present time. The advent of the Internet has made contact so much easier especially when you live on the other side of the globe.
Valerie myself and two very young children Julie and Keith migrated to Australia in the sixties, we now live in Perth Western Australia after spending the first 12 years living in Sydney where our third child Ross was born in 1973.
I do recall there were a few other families on the estate who migrated to Australia, one was a friend of mine called Ernie, he lived at 41 West Greenway next to Diane Shepard.
On our first trip back to the UK in 1986 with our family we took a trip down memory lane and although the prefabs had been demolished by then and had now reverted to parkland the surrounding streets and houses were still intact albeit some were renovated from what I remember of them.
We have only been back twice since then the last time in 2010 when my dear old Mum passed away aged 95.
Its been very pleasurable thinking about mine and my families time living in a prefab, as you grow older nostalgia seems to grab at you.
My memories are one of joy and happiness and I appreciate the opportunity of being able to tell my story.