Snow and Trains: Fun and Games in the Early Sixties

Alan

Alan

Waverley Road

Waverley Road

In 1962 my family were packed off to 19 Waverley Road on the Rushmore Estate, a modern area built on the old Rushmore Farm land in the mid 1920s and early 30s. For us there was a new life to be made and a wealth of new discoveries to be made, starting with the Eagle recreation ground. In the early years of the Spa, this was the site of the Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens and Nursery, but now it was a children’s play area, with a see-saw, roundabout, witches hat, long john, swings and a slide. There was a covered area with seats that we always called “The Bandstand,” and an old building that housed the toilets, a dark and dank affair that we avoided at all costs. The “Rec” itself was hemmed in by the railway track to the east and the ancient right of way behind Eagle Street to the west.

The Alley

The Alley

It was here on the estate that my brother and I discovered a wonderful game called “Alley Tick”. All the streets by the “Rec” had alleyways between them, and some had an alleyway between the backs of the houses as well. With our new-found friends, my brother and I spent hours chasing through the alleyways, sometimes getting caught in the blind alleys, but mostly running like the wind to get away until someone either gave up because they were too tired, or it was time for a different game, or time for home.

The first winter we lived in Waverley Road (1962) was one of the coldest on record and the snow lay more than deep and crisp and even for what appeared to be an eternity. We spent endless hours down the “Rec” playing in it, mainly just past the swings where the ground rose up. Someone once said that this was once the site of an old Second World War Air Raid shelter, and we piled snow up to make a kind of igloo, but only the bravest sat inside for any length of time. There were full scale snowball fights, and at the end, cold, tired and wet, we would troop home and sit by the coal fire in the front room to thaw out, usually having had a good telling-off, “You should be ashamed of yourselves, coming home in state like that”, and so on. Every year after that we looked forward to having the same amount of snow but nothing ever quite lived up to that long winter.

Summers were also spent at the Rec. As soon as the grass had been mown we would gather up large piles of it, split ourselves into two groups and have a full scale grass war, the winners being the ones who had more grass than the others when it was deemed time to call it quits. No one really cared who the winners were, it was all fun, winning or losing and no one ever got hurt.

We hadn’t been living at Waverley Road long when dad decided that he would dig up the garden and plant potatoes, and around this time, my brother Ian and I were keen on playing at Pirates. We desperately needed some treasure to bury, so we sneaked upstairs and took dad’s medals (The Africa Star, The 1939/45 star and The 1939/45 War Medal) and buried them. The problem was we were not very good Pirates. We failed to keep a treasure map, and try as we might, we could only ever find one, -The Africa Star, and although dad dug that garden over many times before he finally turfed it, and the spuds always turned up, the last two medals never did. So ended our fledgling career as Pirates! I don’t recall what dad ever said about what we did but many years later I was at least able to replace them. Sadly though, by the time I did, dad had passed away.

Waverley Road is right by the railway track. It took a long time for us to get used to the noise the engines made as they went past – we could not only hear them but we could also see them as they passed between the gaps in the houses. From the front bedroom window we could see them as they crossed over the canal by Flavels Foundry and we never tired of sitting and watching them as they made their way to London or back into Leamington. The trains were upon us before we really knew they were coming, but armed with our ‘Ian Allan’ train books, we recorded the engine numbers and spent hours during holidays and weekends on the embankment at the top end of the “Rec” diligently recording them. We were indeed Ian and Alan the Trainspotters. To access the embankment was relatively easy as this spot was well used by other spotters and it was easy to squeeze through the railings where they had been bent, or find one of the places where a railing was loose. All you had to do then was slide the railing up and hey presto! From the embankment you could see both the G.W.R. Line and the L.M.S. Line which curved away over the canal on another bridge to Rugby. You also had a better view of the Engine Sheds, Water Tower and Coaling Tower in the G.W.R. Sheds.

When we heard a train coming we used to run to the bridge where the railway crossed the canal, to stand under it to hear the roar and feel the vibrations as it passed over. Once the Engine Sheds closed in 1965 we roamed around the area marvelling at what was left behind. At the far side of the yard where the L.M.S. line ran was some wasteland which we used as a battlefield and fought war after war there, some of us English, some of us German, or even Japanese. With guns made from any bit of wood or broken chair leg, or if you were lucky,from cowboy cap pistols, we engaged in battle, rolling around in mock agony before finally dying a hero’s death, only to get up again to start another battle, or when someone wasn’t looking rejoining the fun, or simply going home if it was teatime. We also built dens there and although they were rough and ready affairs they never collapsed. Sometimes other gangs would take them over and we would have to oust them to regain our territory again, but no real harm was done and no one ever got hurt or if they did it was only a quick sob when no one was looking and then they’d get back on with the game.

 

Alan Orton

 

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