CHANGE OF JOB – TWICE!
e moved back into Tonbridge again to live with Rosemary’s parents but this time in a three story house in Hadlow Road. We had the top two floors and her parents lived downstairs. This was convenient as we were then able to pay rent and that helped Dad to pay the rates. I worked for three years at the Court office but being an ignoramus who had no GCE qualifications they (the West Kent Magistrates Court Committee) decided that either I gained GCE subjects or my wages remained at £10.10 shillings per week. I had been in charge of the office for several weeks while the assistant Clerk was ill in hospital with a slipped disc – he was Ken Anderson, married to my cousin Ruby, but nobody knew this as he thought it would prejudice our positions. The WKMCC felt generous enough to give me a bonus of £75 for the work I had done, but were not satisfied enough to increase my wages. I used the money to buy my first car, a 1935 Morris 8, having been taught to drive both by a driving school and Rosemary’s dad and I had luckily passed my test first time.
Alan was born on the 23rd July 1958 and was only about a year old when he started having trouble with his waterworks – we did not know at that time – but I remember having to run down the road to the phone box to call out the Doctor early in the morning as we did not have a phone in those days. The doctor duly arrived and as Alan was burning up he was sent to Pembury hospital forthwith and when we got there they stripped him off and put his bed in front of the French window to cool him down. We had been trying to keep him warm. The problem subsequently appeared to be with his bladder and we had many sessions visiting Barts hospital in London with him.
Mum and Dad were having trouble with keeping up payments on the house so we were left with the problem of finding somewhere else to live and because of the wage situation, and the fact that we had Alan and Paul, who was born on the 17th July 1960, I applied for a job with a house attached, this was at Henley’s in Goudhurst. I got the job and started working in the evenings before starting properly on the 19th June 1961. My predecessor in the office had not moved out of the house when I was due to start work so we had to move into the Students hostel until he moved out and we put our furniture round to make rooms - what a chaos. Just at that time Mr. Beeching (of railway closure fame) closed the railway at Goudhurst. Our house was at the bottom of the hill near the station and would have been very convenient for us to travel, as well as my mum and dad to visit us, as they had no car. I worked in the farm office at Goudhurst till July 1985 when I moved to Paddock Wood with Henley Transport, starting there on 23rd July 1985.
Spelmonden Farm grew apples, pears, and hops. We also had cattle and sheep. There were five lorries and Jack Henley ran these delivering fruit to the markets from various farms and organisations in the area.
Hop picking was quite a busy time as there were two farms, three oast houses, and anywhere up to about 150 extra workers during this time, as well as the 40/45 permanent staff. I shall not elaborate on hop picking again at this farm, the principle being much the same as when I was a boy but now the hops are harvested by machines - tractors and trailers bringing the bines into the machines, which picked off the hops and then were conveyed to the oasts for drying. Initially there was one oast which still did drying with coal but the new oast was oil fired. Our own lorries took away the hop pockets to Paddock Wood Hop Marketing Board Warehouse, or delivered them to brewers.
The casual staff lived in the hopper huts, or their own caravans or tents, and I had to deal with payment of their wages. Quite a task for the best part on my own. Sometimes Rosemary would come to help.
When I started working at Goudhurst there were five lorries, which Jack Henley ran with fruit to the markets from Paddock Wood and local farms. We purchased ten lorries from Mack & Edwards, opened a depot at Chartham and subsequently formed a new company called Henley Transport Co., Ltd and I was made Company Secretary. Our fleet increased over the years and I was proud to be a small cog in that Company. We increased staff, installed computers and extended the office accommodation.
Whilst at Goudhurst I joined the workingmen’s club because the local pub, at that time known as the Station Hotel, was taken over and renamed the Green Cross. The new Landlord decided he was not too keen on the rougher element – namely local farm workers – in his establishment and did away with the taproom where we used to congregate on a Friday night and weekends, in our gardening clothes etc. Subsequently I volunteered to become treasurer - for a small remuneration – and continued that job for ten years.
My wife went off taking our youngest son, Mark, with her. She had already gone off with all three boys and she stayed with her mum and dad in Tonbridge before returning home to me. I will not elaborate on the previous happenings – suffice to say on the last occasion she abandoned Alan, Paul and myself and disappeared. Subsequently it came to pass we had information which located them. She left on the 2nd October 1967 and this left me in a quandary with regard to Alan and Paul’s welfare. During the week they would cycle to Kilndown to school and called on a friend to play with on the way home leaving there around 5 p.m. so that I was at home when they arrived.
I managed to cope with this situation during the week as they would not be at home on their own but on Friday nights I would take them to Charcott where they would stay for the weekend. I returned home Friday night so that I could go out with my neighbours, Bert and Nancy Sexton, and on Saturday mornings I had to work. After work I would then go to Charcott, have dinner and then take mum, dad and the boys to Tonbridge shopping. We retuned to Charcott and I stayed there in Saturday nights as well, meaning I could go for a drink in the pub with dad. Early evening Sunday I would take the boys and we would return home, to bed so we were ready for school and work on Monday.
During the holidays my mum would have them to stay. The situation got more difficult so in the end, after nearly a year of me having them they moved to Charcott on a permanent basis starting school at Chiddingstone Causeway in the summer of 1968.