|Karen McCrone nee Essam 2022 - Collated by John Meads|
Part I - Memories of Burton Latimer from a child’s view. Karen Essam age 5 - 9 years old. Now Karen McCrone.
My school memories are as follows:
Burton Latimer County Infant School 1965 to 1967
My brother Paul Essam and I, Karen Essam, started in the infants and my older sister, Sheila Essam, started in the Juniors. We lived over and behind the butchers shop in the High Street and my Dad, Donald Essam, worked there. As the school was only a bit further along the High Street we walked there by ourselves. I was always fascinated by the old petrol pumps on the way. [Charlie Charles' pumps?]
I remember that Paul was always sitting outside his classroom for being naughty and that his best friend was Rodney Bulley. Initially I was kept in at breaks and sat with the staff who fed me custard creams. I wasn’t allowed out because I had been very ill with measles at age 3 which had also resulted in a nasty ear infection and anaemia. I got on well at this school. I had been reading fluently since I was age 3 and sailed through the Janet and John books. I remember clearly going through the word lists, with the teacher, that were at the back of the books and it was really monotonous. It drummed them into me though. I was moved from year 2 , skipping year 3 to year 4 where I stayed for the next two years as I wasn’t allowed to go on to Junior School until I was old enough to. I caught a field mouse through the railings n the playground and held it in my mittens. I took it into school and asked if we could keep it. My teacher said she didn’t know what to feed it and I said ‘cheese of course’. The army came into the school. They were shooting coins up into the air and if you caught one you could keep it but once you had caught one you couldn’t catch another. I watched what was happening for a while and soon worked out that the first machine was shooting out halfpennies but the next thing along was shooting out sixpences. I didn’t want to catch a ha’penny, I wanted a sixpence, so I kept my arms folded at the first machine. The ha’penny went up in the air, no-one caught it but it didn’t land on the floor. Then one of the soldiers spotted it, it had landed in a tuck fold in the waist of my dress. I didn’t like that soldier much because now I couldn’t try and catch a sixpence.
When I was allowed out to play we played ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ and tag in the playground. In a corner of the playing field there were wild marigolds, I thought they were really pretty flowers, I still do. There were large pieces of chopped up tree trunk at one side of the field, nearest to the road that we played on.
I went on my first ever school trip when I was 6. Mum waved me off on the coach and we went to London to Kew Gardens and the Royal Tournament at Earls Court. You would think that a 6 year old child would be bored at gardens, but I loved them. There were so many things to look at, huge greenhouses with equally huge cacti, pagodas and lovely flowers and so much space to run around in. I particularly loved the giant water lilies. The Royal Tournament was being attended by Princess Margaret. We were sat upstairs. When we were told she was there I ran down the stairs to the foyer to see her but all I could see were people’s legs!
I can’t remember any teachers names from this time but they were all nice to me. I was upset when one of my favourite teachers left to have a baby. I asked her to send me a photo of the baby when he or she was born, which she did. I slept with that photo under my pillow for ages.
Burton Latime County Junior School
We had moved to 4 Woodland Drive now so the walk was through the Spinney, across the allotments, past the hall where we had summer holiday club, down to the High Street from there, past the butchers shop house I used to live in, and along the High Street.
In the playground at Junior school were old, above ground, air raid shelters. These were used for storage and were always seemed to be full of wasps. We played French skipping with elastic, often with a whole load of elastic bands tied together to make one large band or with knicker elastic. Shirring elastic was also used but was pretty useless as it kept breaking. We skipped with a rope chanting rhymes "Mamas in the kitchen, doing a bit of stitchin, in came the bogey man and we ran out’" and other verses. Swapsies where we would bring things in in a tin and swap for someone else’s things in their tin. There were open days where parents could come in and see our work and we would get little certificates and awards. I still have most of my certificates in a scrap book. My friends were mostly boys but I can only remember Peter who I think was in a wheelchair. I remember him leaning back and doing wheelies in the playground. I had one female friend that I remember, Julie Whitney, who also lived on the Cranford Estate.
One of my teachers , I don’t remember her name, was really good at teaching history and art. I can’t remember her real name but she was very strict. If you did anything wrong she would hang a plaque around your neck saying I am stupid or I don’t listen or something like that. She hung one of these round my neck once and made me go out of the classroom, down the stairs and run round the playground ten times in the rain. I have no idea now what my plaque said or what I had done. She taught me how to make Christmas angels out of doyleys, a toilet roll, pipe cleaners and a ping pong ball. She also taught me how to make a papier mache plate, She said mine, when it was decorated and varnished, was the best she had ever seen. She taught in a classroom in the stand alone building to the left of the main building. The classroom was at the top of a steep flight of stairs. I was fascinated by her lessons on Stonehenge so I asked Mum and Dad to take me there. We went for one of my birthdays in October. I am glad I went. Then you could walk amongst the stones, jump on the ones on the ground and touch them all. You can’t go near them now. Mum had bought or made a gingerbread house cake and took a picnic that we had to eat in the car because it tipped down with rain and was freeing cold that day. In fact I was fascinated by all her history lessons and everything we learned about I wanted to go and see it. I still have a love of history and this is where it started.
Sometimes we went with school to the cinema across the road from the school., at least I think it was there, I definitely remember that we went through an archway to get to it I seem to remember watching a film about chimps! I think it was related to PG Tips tea. It was maybe an advert but I don’t remember anything else we were there to watch!
We stayed for school dinners which always seemed to consist of cabbage with dinner and bananas in custard for pudding. The only dinner lady I can remember had bright red hair piled up on her head in a beehive style. When we finished school for the day we put our chairs on the desks and went home. One day I got asked to go home and fetch Paul at lunchtime because he had put his chair on the desk and gone home. I walked all the way home but Paul wouldn’t believe me when I told him it was lunchtime and refused to come back with me. I walked all the way back to school again.
When it snowed we walked to school in wellies. Our toes were freezing on arrival and we used to put our feet, in socks, on the cast iron radiators to dry. and get warm We got told off for this by teachers who said we would get chilblains. We still did it though, we had no idea what chilblains were.
I loved everything about this school. It was a very happy time.
Part II - Memories of Burton Latimer from a child’s view. Karen Essam age 5 - 9 years old. Now Karen McCrone.
The first time I remember hearing about Jack Frost was here. The windows in the dining room were all covered in frosty leafy patterns which were really pretty. Getting dressed in the winter was cold, no central heating. I would get dressed under my covers or would run to get dressed by the fire.
There was no garden, just a yard. Odd bits of shop furniture littered one corner. There were a couple of garages at the back. One was always locked and the other one open and empty apart from a couple of wooden pallets. We went in the open one on rainy days. We stood on the pallets and pretended they were a stage. I also dug holes in the mud yard and made mud pies! One day we had a yard sale, just us three kids, to raise money for charity. We put a trestle table up at the front of the yard and sold things to passers-by. They seemed amused that children were doing this and were generous in what they spent, some just gave us money. I can’t remember what we raised. It didn’t matter that there was no garden; the whole of Burton Latimer was our playground. We would go out on little expeditions with a paper bag full of sugar and a stick of rhubarb to dip in it which we loved.
Mum took me into the butchers shop to see Dad once. I ran into the back of the shop and came face to face with a plastic crate full of bloody lamb’s heads. It stunned me and I just stood there, then I started to cry. Dad yelled at Mum to get me out of there. We weren’t allowed in the shop again. I was only 5 or 6.
I loved that house and would really like to go back and have a look in it again.
To the right of the house, as you looked at it from the road, was a little gift shop. Sheila and I bought Mum two canary bird ornaments for her birthday from here that I think she still has. Diagonally across the road was the Co-op (It has been replaced with houses now) and directly across the road was the doctor’s large house. A bit further up the road to the left was the Wagon and Horses pub. Dad would take us in there and buy us a bottle of Coke, Tizer or Vimto and a packet of unsalted Smith’s Crisps which always came with a blue paper salt packet in it so we could salt them ourselves.
There were a lot of happy memories. Mum grew hydrangeas in tubs by the door to the house and would pour tea on them to make them blue.
In the living room we had an upright piano, with a pair of antlers and an old wooden tea caddy on it. How my parents got it up the stairs and along the narrow passageway into the living room I don’t know, but they did. Mum thought it would be a good idea for me to have piano lessons because we had a piano that no-one could play. It wasn’t my idea! The best part about the lessons was the walk to them. My tutor lived in Station Road [Arthur Miller?] and Mum and I would walk round there, it was just round the corner. The walk was even better when we moved to 4 Woodland Drive because we would go through the spinney across a field over a stream by a wooden plank bridge, across a stile to the High Street, cross the road and then straight up Station Road. I loved this walk; it was time alone with my Mum when I could chatter to my heart’s content. I especially loved it when it snowed. I
I started school in the infants at the Burton Latimer County Infants School (now St Mary’s VC Primary Academy) See my school memories above.
Two teenage girls, sisters, I can’t remember their names. who lived in Station Road came to babysit us when Mum and Dad went out in the evenings. They were nice girls. I was a babysitter’s nightmare though. I could tell the time and if Mum and Dad were more than five minutes later than they said they would be back I stood in the middle of the room and screamed until they came in. The girls asked Mum to stop telling me what time they would be back and I got told they would be back when they would be back. It didn’t work though. If they weren’t back when I thought they should be then I would still stand and scream. I don’t know why, but I was always frightened that they wouldn’t come back. It would be called separation anxiety now. If you still live in Burton Latimer and remember babysitting this screaming child I’m sorry!
Mum and Dad were Baptists and we went to the little Baptist church n Meeting Lane. We would get all dressed up in our Sunday best, stay for the first part of the service and then go over to another building for Sunday school. The minister's’s daughter was called Gloria and she lived in the Manse at the end of the lane, (not there anymore, new houses) it had a nice little wooden gate going into her garden. loved playing with fuzzy felt at Sunday School which was all bible characters. We had Sunday School parties in a big hall next to the church that had little curved back wooden chairs in it. There was a boy that I was friends with called Shane. ( I don’t know his surname) He pulled my chair away as I went to sit down on it which I found funny even though I had landed on my butt. I liked Shane he was fun to be around. I remember after one sermon telling the minister that I was giving my life to Jesus, he said ‘Very good’ and it made me feel good. My favourite part of the whole year was the candlelit ceremony. We were all given painted jam jars with wire round the top to hold them by.Inside was a lit candle. We would then parade round both sides of the balcony and down the stairs into the main church holding these brightly coloured home made lanterns whilst the adults sang carols. Health and Safety would stop this now but at the time it was a little bit of magic. My favourite hymn was ‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’.
The High Street was a busy road with a lot of through traffic then (Probably quite quiet by today’s standards, not so many cars no bypasses then though all the traffic went through towns and villages). There was the post office that we saved our pennies in and a library that we went to sometimes, mostly with school. There was a row of small ramshackle shops that I passed on the way to school, one of these was a fish and chip shop. Sheila Paul and I would often be out on our own even when Paul would only have been about 4 or 5. One of those times Sheila and I ran across the busy road shouting at Paul to come. He got half way across and then sat in the middle of the road crying. All the traffic screeched to a halt and Sheila had to go and fetch him.
We had a dog called Ruff, he was a mongrel but had a lot of bearded collie in him. Mum sometimes went out for short errands and left us in the house on our own. Dad was only in the butcher’s shop which was part of the house, if we needed him. Ruff would lie across the door to the house and wouldn’t let anyone in or out. He was very protective of us. John, a butcher that worked with Dad and who Ruff liked because he always brought him bones, came to the door when Mum was out. He had a bone for Ruff. Ruff growled at him and wouldn’t let him in while his children were on their own.
4 Woodland Drive age 7 to 9 (1967 - 1969)
4 Woodland Drive was a prefabricated Orlit house. that we moved to from the High Street. It had a front room, a dining room and a small kitchen. This house has since been demolished. The house immediately to the left of ours was brick built and is still there. The houses round the corner in Spinney Road and the ones opposite us were all the same when I lived there with either metal fences or/and hedges. There were air vents in the rooms that went through to the outside of the house. If we looked out of the one in Paul’s room we could see right up the road.
Just round the corner in Spinney Road lived Mrs Rowney. She sometimes looked after us in the school holidays sometimes. She had several children, I can’t remember how many. I remember that she di piece work , shoes I think, there were lots of pieces of leather that she stitched together in her living room.
I had moved up to Burton Latimer County Junior School now. It was further to walk but still wasn’t too far away. To get to school I walked through the Spinney and across an allotment, past a hall that we went to for holiday club [Preston Hall] then through the village and along the High Street past where I used to live. There were always people working on the allotments and I would often stop to talk to them, I talked to everyone! One day a man handed me a large bunch of freshly cut Sweet William flowers and told me to take them home to my Mum. He didn’t know her but it was a nice thing to do. I have never known his name but I remember his friendly face really clearly. The other way to school was along Spinney road in the opposite direction to the Spinney and straight down the main road (which was still a small road) all the way until it met the High Street. The Spinney was a quicker and more pleasant route though.
When I was 8 a policeman knocked our door. I listened to the policeman say that he wanted to talk to Sheila. I thought she must have done something really bad to have a policeman asking after her one of her friends, Terry (I don’t know his other name), had been playing on a garage roof, as Sheila and all her friends did, and had fallen through and landed on a car inside. He had seriously hurt himself and damaged the car. The policeman wanted to know if Sheila knew anything about it. She said she didn’t and the policeman left.
One day (approx 1968) coming home from somewhere we had been in the car, we saw smoke coming out under the door of the local shop in Cranford Road. Mum stopped the car to investigate. There was a dog in there, Mum could hear it. We didn’t know if the owners were there or not but Mum called the fire engine and the shop and the dog were saved, the owners weren’t in.
A bakery van used to come round the estate selling bread and cakes. We discovered that if we could find it at the end of the day and ask the delivery man if he had any stale bread. He opened the back doors of the little van and gave us bread, cakes and doughnuts which we ate like kings. It would have been thrown away if he took it back so he was happy to give it to us. Mum used to say we were cheeky but she didn’t mind helping us to eat what we cold get.Sometimes he had something, sometimes he didn’t.
There was another van that came around selling Corona pop. We didn’t get that free thogh. However,
Sheila and I also soon found out that pop and other bottles had a deposit on their lids. If you took the bottles back to the shop the shopkeeper would give you the deposit money. People just used to throw them in the hedges and ditches around Burton so Sheila and I would go looking in these places wearing our white sling back shoes and ankle socks which inevitably got muddy. When we had collected quite a few we would go and cash them in for sweets, spangles, sherbet fountains, dib dabs, fruit salads and black jacks. There was always a ready supply of bottles and we never had to look far.
One of the places in Burton Latimer that we played was called Ugs Ole (Actually Hogs Hole). It was just a little stream through a wood where we paddled. To get there we went up Station Road, through the Rec and over to the far corner where there was a stile onto common land. There were dog roses here. The common was soon built on but became a new playground as we ran around in the house footings on our way to the stream, they were like world war one trenches all over the place.
We spent a lot of time by the River Ise. We caught sticklebacks and other fish in the river and took them home in a jar. I caught a catfish which lived in a bowl at home for a little while and Sheila caught a strange yellow fish that kept jumping out of the bowl. We took them all back eventually. The walk to the river was through a housing estate and then across fields, past a factory that had a ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted sign’ behind the tall chain fence [Probably the Alumasc sports field]. There was a disused tractor that we played on just behind one of the hedges. We then came to a wooden bridge that crossed the river and then there was the railway bridge. When we climbed up onto the railway bridge the stairs made a strange hollow sort of pinging sound. The sides of the bridge going over the railway were criss cross metal. We could sit on the path and dangle our legs through the bridge. When a train came by the whole bridge would shake and we could feel the rush of the train in our faces and under our feet. How we still have legs I don’t know! We learned to read the lights to know when a train was coming and would rush up onto the bridge. Further up the river was a weir. We paddled across the weir and swam in the deeper water behind it. The train drivers tooted their horns at us as they passed by. As it is the main intercity line there were frequent trains going up and down it. Pauls’s favourite at the time was the Midland Pullman which was blue a Mum sometimes came with us with a picnic but we were mostly there on our own One time I slipped down the weir and Mum had to catch me. I thought it was funny sliding down it but didn’t realise how deep it was at the bottom or that the force of the water would push me down., I was only little. I took my children there quite frequently so it features in their childhoods too. It’s kind of a magical place for me. The railway bridge led to a path that went to the next village, Isham. We would go to the shop f at Isham for ice cream on a hot day. We would spend whole days, and days and days here. Sometimes we walked this way from Burton to Isham and then all the way to Wicksteed Park in Kettering. It was always exciting to see the fence of the park after a long walk.
In the holidays we went to a club in Burton in a hall by the allotments. There would be drinks and sweets you could buy and this is where I first tasted rum toffees. We played spin the bottle, if it pointed to you then you had to do a forfeit. We were sent out into the woods with a matchbox and we had to see how many things we could fit into it. The person who got the most won a prize. I was really good at this. There were other games too but I can’t remember them. I know Sheila was there but she had very little to do with me, it wasn’t cool to be seen with your little sister.
At some point whilst we lived in Burton Mum and Dad looked at a house, opposite the Weetabix factory with a view to buying it, . A run down but otherwise nice looking detached cottage with lots of fruit trees in the garden. It was actually at the other end of the river. Ise from the weir and the bridges where we played. They decided against it due to its location too close to the river. It has since been pulled down.
My grandparents lived in Kettering. To get to Kettering we had to travel out from Burton Latimer via a hump back bridge. We went left out of Woodland Drive into Spinney Road and then left into Cranford Road where the road then went down a country lane and over the hump back bridge. Dad always said ‘hold on to your dinner’ and we would hold our stomachs as we went over it. Sometimes we would jump up off the seat as the car went over to stop that weird tummy feeling. The road has since been re- routed and is just a boring normal road now.
Dad loved trains. He sometimes took us in the car to Burton Latimer train station to stand and watch, through the fence for the trains going by.