We flooded 30 sq yds of the golf course - but not a green, fortunately!
Crawford Park tennis court nets rusted away in WWII and the courts were derelict. My brother and his pals used them as a dirt track, like a motorbike track, but raced their pedal cycles around in big circles. One day he went down on one knee like a real dirt track rider and put a hole in the flesh of his knee. My mother was fairly tough but she nearly fainted when she saw a trace of bone at the bottom of his knee hole. He got patched up, and soon was his usual smiling self though. Courting couples got behind the Crawford Park tennis pavilion; some Melbourne Crescent residents got some rare sights through their back garden fences.
Melbourne Crescent gradient was quite good for sledging, but Seatonville Crescent was better. Rockcliffe rugby ground’s hill was best of all, but it was a long walk for our little legs. Eight of us went to Rockcliffe one cold frosty and snowy night with three sledges, it was great, but I fell off a sledge and got sundry painful bruises. They were even more painful next day. We must have looked like Scott’s Antarctic Expedition, we felt like it too, but the frosty snow made the sledges easy to pull. The snow was so cold and powdery it would not make snowballs.
Bromley Avenue was a swamp before the houses were built. About 1935 the builders put a corduroy road of railway sleepers down so their horses and carts would not sink in. All new house building stopped in WWII with two houses half built. Cyril, Brian, Bryan, myself and some of the Melbourne and Seatonville kids took up the sleepers and built log cabin forts with them, then pelted each other at a range of thirty feet with clods of earth. Germonimo!
In WWII, the Bromley playing field (which then extended over Appletree Gardens) was two large fields with yellow gorse bushes dotted over the western half and a hedge and ditch, which widened into two ponds extending east from Bromley Avenue. Two drains came down from Seatonville Road and the ditch, up what is now Burnthouse Road. These drains were lined bottom, top and either side with thick sandstone flags to give a water course 2 ft x 1 ft high. Some top stones had fallen in to form little ponds. All the water drained to an old closed mineshaft under what is now the east side of Appletree Gardens.
This was paradise for toads, frogs, water boatmen and sundry other crawlies and swimmies, as there was always around six inches of standing water in these open and closed drains. You could hear water falling some fifteen foot down the collapsed mine shaft and I often wondered what lived down there. Mr. Tait and others had overgrown allotments along the edge of Seatonville Road, I thought they were derelict and harvested Mr. Tait’s potatoes for my mother. Mr Tait (next door neighbour) said we could keep some, but he would appreciate it if I would pass his spuds over the fence for his Sunday dinner, which I did. His son Jack was manager of Whitley Athletic football team after coming out of the RAF.
About 1947, the building of Appletree Gardens started and Springfield Grove recommenced. The frogs crawlies and most swimmies had emigrated, but I was concerned for the remaining toads so I caught all I could find and put them in our back garden. My mother thought I had maybe three, but it was more like fifteen. I sank a large, old aluminium fish pan full of water in a corner for them, all the neighbours one after another said, “we have got toads in our garden,” others said, “funny so have we.” History repeats itself, last month I had 17 frogs in the garden.
If Appletree Gardens ever disappears down a big hole now you know why. Only I hope there is no mine shaft under our house! I know a chap that this happened to, luckily his wife and himself were at work when their house caved in.
Where the Cauldwell Lane terrace is now, behind upper Paignton Avenue, was just a hilly rough field in 1938. Then, the council built an underground air raid shelter about 30 ft x 70 ft with a concrete tank of water (for firefighting) on the roof. By 1944 air raids were long since over and the shelter was derelict. We dismantled some of the bunks and used up all Mr. Fowler’s fence nails in building an 8ft x 3ft boat to sail on the tank’s mini lake. We had trouble making it watertight. We covered it with hessian from the bunks but needed some tar (polythene would have done but it had not been invented). Unfortunately, we couldn’t track down any road repairs taking place!
The boat floated but as soon as one person climbed in it sank. The water was 4ft deep and cold. We considered making a boy-carrying glider but sawing the wood was too much work; Mr. Fowler’s saw was blunt and rusty. Mrs. Fowler thought there was a good chance on someone getting killed if we ever got airborne, that is why she told her son to go indoors and read a book and left the rest of us to it.
We did not mean to be vandals, we just were practical, adventurous kids wanting to make things and make life more interesting. Like the couple of days we carted a lot of bricks 100 yards from a building site to Briardene stream and dammed it up. We wanted a midsummer swim in fresh water, not salt water. It would not be more than 3 ft deep, but the dam leaked like a sieve and we flooded 30 sq. yds of golf course – but not a green fortunately.