Kathy Cuttriss, Harry Valentine and myself were classmates at South Park Juniors and we all ended up at Mayfield. Kathy and Harry spent the next four years walking to school together. When Kathy arranged to meet Harry, she picked a pub roughly halfway between their homes. The pub they visited, the Three Hammers, is in St. Albans – the town where I lived for 24 years after leaving Ilford in 1970. How’s that for coincidence?
– Tony Gocke
Well, we did it. We met at 12.15pm at the Three Hammers. When we all scrambled out of our cars, with hugs and kisses all round, I reminded Harry that he had in fact met my husband when we were courting, but of course Harry didn’t remember that. We went in and ordered a round of drinks so that we could toast each other. We sat talking and catching up on all the gossip, 50 years worth. Where have those 50 years gone. It was so great to meet Harry and his lovely wife Jackie, and we all got on like a house on fire. It was so weird, all I kept thinking was that Harry’s eyes were the same as when I last saw him. That made them all laugh.
We decided it was time to eat, although Harry had said we wouldn’t have time to eat as there would be so much talking to do. Our order went in and we all had an enjoyable meal. Harry had to have some chips, even though he’s supposed to be on a diet. But you cannot imagine the laughter, we were so noisy in there. Neil was trying to set up the picture of all of us when a waitress came up and said she would take it. I told her it had been over 50 years since we had met, and that got the ladies on the next table interested. I explained to them that you had set up a special website for our old school. I had to add that Harry had not been a boyfriend, just a school friend.
We talked about Loxford Park, South Park and Barking Park, and that they had filled in the lido in Barking Park with earth, what a terrible shame Tony, do you remember the swimming pool in the park? Some of this went over Jackie’s head as she comes from Ashford in Middlesex, where of course they now live. We ordered coffee, which finished off our meals, and we all left at 3.15pm with promises to meet up again. When I’ve recovered from my operation we will go down their way and spend a night in a motel and have an evening meal together. So we have got something to look forward to.
– Kathy Hemingway (nee Cuttriss)
Finally met up with Kathy on Wednesday. We had a lovely time, a good old chat, a few drinks and a lunch. All we kept saying was, ‘Where has the time gone’. We both remembered quite a lot from our teenage years, which was quiet comforting really.
It has been a time for making contacts this week for me. On Tuesday I managed to contact a long lost cousin, still living in the same house in Becontree where he grew up. I have not seen him for over 60 years, so another reunion on the way. Why couldn’t I have done this years ago. Anyway, we have agreed with Kathy and her husband Neil to try and meet again before long.
– Harry Valentine