Anyone who ever wants to make a film about what it was like to grow up in Teynham should talk to Peggy Elvy.
She has a crystal-clear memory of what life was like for a child in the village. She’s smart, funny and sharp. And, oh, she’ll be 90 years old in October 2017.
So her recollections – she was Margaret Smith in those days but was always known as Peggy – go back to before the Second World War.
With sister Betty, older brother Jimmy and younger brother Peter, the Smiths moved to 16 The Crescent in Teynham in July 1929. Her Dad was in the Navy, based at Chatham, and saw the houses being built as he cycled to and from work. He asked about getting one and the family moved from Boughton to The Crescent when Peggy was a toddler.
She went to Teynham School – just a stone’s throw from where she lived – until she was 14, leaving soon after the War started. She then got a job in Faversham in what was known as a high class grocers, Goodwin Foster Brown. She worked as a shop assistant until a girl in the office got called up to work in munitions, and she took over that job.
A friend at work used to go out with a lad who went to the Recreation Ground in Faversham on Sunday evening with his mates. Peggy went to take a look and ended up with Frank, who she married in 1946.
The Elvys were together for nearly 70 years before Frank died. There were some traumatic times for the couple, who went on to live in Faversham and Canterbury, but three sons survive – Robert, Derrick and Trevor. She now has nine great-grandchildren – the eldest is 18 and the youngest 3.
“I’ve had a good life,” said Peggy, “and I’m still able to enjoy it. I eat well, I sleep well, I like seeing family and friends and I can still get about at my own pace. I love what I’m able to do and I’m very fortunate. A lot of people younger than me don’t do as well.
“I had a wonderful childhood in Teynham and I have so many fond memories of it. It makes me laugh that I can remember all these names from back then. Why would I want to remember them? Surely there’s more important things.
“My mum used to tell me things she could remember as a kid and I’d think how can she remember that, she’s so old. But she wasn’t. I just didn’t listen to her. Now I’d give anything to hear her stories of her childhood …”
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Here’s some of Peggy’s childhood memories in her own words:
Honeyball House. Mrs Honeyball used to open her garden two weekends in a row, near Easter when all the daffodils were out. She had a big pond, the estate was all walled in except for the orchard, and there was a lovely drive, with big poplar trees. It was all really grand. We used to love those occasions. What did we do? Just ran around the gardens really. Mrs Honeyball never used to appear but her son Lawrence did. We also used to go to the big house on St George’s Day - we used to look forward to it, though Mr Gates, our headmaster, warned us we must behave ourselves. We had to line up and stand where the St George’s flag was flying. Then we all got some sweets and an orange.
Jam sandwiches. We used to play out all the time as children in Teynham, often on the bridge over the station. We also used to love going to what we called the cliffs near where we lived. We went there in our wellingtons, crowds of us kids, and had lots of fun down there. We’d take what we called a picnic, but it was just a bottle of water and a jam sandwich.
Schooldays. I remember my first day at school and Mrs Everard cried because it was her daughter Beryl’s first day too. My teacher was Mrs Carpenter and I loved her. Later on I was taught by Miss Funnel and she gave us little presents for doing well. The Headmaster was Mr Gates and he kept his car in a garage behind the Railway Tavern, opposite where we lived. Its number-plate was FKL 999.
Not so ancient. There was a man called Punch Huntley, who always had a big coat and hat on, and used a walking stick. We thought he was really ancient but he was probably only in his 60s. We kids used to chat to him, and he seemed to love that, but we never knew what he was telling us as he had no teeth.
Up to Kisser’s. I’d often be sent up to Kisser Kemsley to put a bet on. Why he was called Kisser I never did find out. My Mum would say: “Peg, just go and put this little bet on.” I never remember going to collect any winnings, I just remember taking the bets there.
Rhubarb. I used to run errands for my Mum and one would be to buy threepenny-worth of rhubarb from Mr Philpott. As small as I was then, I used to be puzzled at how he could go down the garden, cut the rhubarb, chop the leaves off, tie a piece of string round it, take the money . . . and not say a word.
Evacuation. We thought it was lovely when the evacuation took place as we had all these new kids to play with. We only had to go to school 3 days one week, 2 days the next, so they could accommodate the evacuees. I think they only came from Chatham but a lot of the children wanted to go home, they didn’t like it. I remember one little kid who was billeted with an older lady who had no children of her own and was so unhappy.
Cider pickling. Ken French, who was part of a well-known Teynham family, decided to let everyone sample some cider he’d been making in a barn next to the Vicarage. Well, everyone got pickled, including Mum and Dad and some of the neighbours, they were just lying on the grass. Well that got in the national press because it happened next to a Vicarage.
Saturday jobs. We used to go out with flagons and fill them up with cider and we got a penny or ha’penny each time for delivering them. We also went out with a cart dunging. We’d go right to Tonge or Conyer, and then bring it home and everyone would put it on their gardens to help their potatoes grow.
The empties. Dad liked a drink, his bottle of beer. There’d be twopence back on the bottle but he could never be bothered to claim it. So he’d say: “Peg, take those bottles back.” If there were six I’d get a shilling but out of that I’d have to buy a packet of five Woodbines for my Mum. Then I could keep the rest.
Chocolate treat. I collected foreign coins to play shops with but decided they might fit in the chocolate machine on Teynham Station. And they did! Me and my little gang then had the nerve to sit on the bridge and scoff the lot. I bet my parents wondered why we didn’t want any tea that night.
Winkle Man. The Winkle Man used to come on his bike to stop outside the Railway Tavern every Sunday lunchtime. He would disappear inside while we waited outside to buy a pint of winkles. One day, Muriel Huntley, who used to live up in Triggs Row and was quite a character, got on his bike and rode it up and down the banks. We thought it was hilarious.
Piano Man. Often on a Saturday morning myself and a friend would ride our bikes to Faversham. One day we got to Stone Cross and we could hear singing and music. When we got there, we saw a horse and cart and Muriel Huntley’s brother was on the cart playing on a piano that was being delivered to a wedding at the Railway Tavern. Great days.
Confirmation. A very special occasion was being confirmed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in St Mary’s Church, Teynham, on May 16th, 1941 when I was 13 and the War was on. My Dad bought me a white ivory Prayer Book as a memento, which I still treasure to this day.
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Some of us don’t know the names of our neighbours these days but Peggy Elvy remembers all the families and their children who lived in The Crescent, Teynham, when she was a child in the 1930s. Here’s who she remembers:
1 Page (son Brian). 2 Matson (son Donald). 3 Button (children Jeff, Roy, Enid). 4 Coleman (daughters Barbara, Mavis). 5 Skillern (?) (children Thelma, Malcolm, Eric). 6 Boorman (children Fred, Brenda, Ron). 7 Mitchell (daughter Sheila?). 8 Stubbins (two sons – Douglas and Cyril). 9 Foord (daughter Joyce). 10 Banks (children Ron, Bob, Cathy). 11 Luckhurst. 12 Gladwell (son Lewis). 13 Cooper (children Barbara, David). 14 Snatchell (children Aubrey, June). 15 Gambell (children Alf, Albert, Ron). 16 Smith (Jim, Peggy, Betty, Peter). 17 Godden (son Tony). 18 Kadwill (children George, Les, Bert, Doris). 19 Ashdown (daughters Rose, Ivy). 20 Baker (children John, Pat, Beryl). 21 De’ath (Charlie, daughter?). 22 Harris (children Jean, Peter). 23 Packman (Vera, daughter?). 24 Moore (two sons).
Prominent in the life of Teynham as Peggy grew up were the following figures: Mr Stone (station master). Harry Holloway (porter). Frank Everard and Jimmy Stermer (signalmen). The Reverend Bill Purser (vicar). Mr Gates (headmaster). Mrs Gates, Mr Evans, Miss Newman, Miss Funnel, Mrs Thomas, Mrs Harris, Mrs Carpenter (other teachers). The Bailey family (Railway Tavern). Mr French (butchers and grocers). Mrs Weller (sweet shop). Drs Jardine and Wall, and Nurse Tranter. Mr Clark (Post Office and general store). Watsons (hardware store). Kisser Kemsley (bookies). The Wicks (baker). Mr Hales (milkman). Mr and Mrs Lacey (fish and chip shop). PCs Warner, Wall and Kemp (local policemen).