I remember visiting the signal box in the station in the mid 1960s just before it closed.
The signal man told me that between the wars and in the 1950s the goods yard was full of wagons loading and unloading, and that there was far too much work and that the hours were long and hard. Yachtsman used to come down from (or was it up to?) London to sail; in special Saturday trains.
In the 1930s the boat yard owners during the depression used to pay their employees out of their own pockets if there was not enough work. (They were after all men that they had known and trusted all their lives).
Some of the young men from Oldton used to crew on the 12m yachts and became national heroes.
Hi Tim, I used to live in Oldton until I was around seven or eight years old. I still remember the day we left, being woken early one morning and after some confusion I recall watching the streets and fields where I loved to play scroll past the grimy passenger window of a bulging removal lorry.
I later discovered my mother had looked out the window some months earlier and saw me sitting on the curb chatting with some friends. With good intentions she then decided we could all benefit from a more stimulating environment, one with more opportunities for our development.
The place we went to you couldn't sit on the kerb and I never really had real friends or nice neighbours to chat with. I then started to learn how cold the world was and I hoped it was all a dream. Ah yes a dream, but as the years went on I realised this was more and more unlikely, however there is a little part of me that still hopes I may awake from this vivid nightmare in which I imagine I am a disconnected middle aged man and back to my little wallpapered room in Oldton.
Maybe Oldton never went away Tim, perhaps we've all still there, lots of boys and girls asleep in our little beds, dreaming of changes, time and events which take us further away. I do hope so as at least there is a tiny chance we can return.....especially for one little lad, who I still cry for now sometimes. Many thanks,
I really loved your play. It was very haunting and real. It was like being with you and the memories that came in were like the way one thinks with memories and thoughts weaving in at different levels, different times, different views, mixing the profound with the every day just like real life.
I thought about it afterwards and found myself conjuring up my own lost memories, somewhat fleeting. I can remember a large house set in a garden with trees in a country area with hills and think it was on the outskirts or on the way to Oldton.
I was about 6 years old and I remember that Christmas I had a tiny box of Cadbury's chocolates in my stocking, a really special treat as chocolates being almost forbidden in our house. I left them on my
mantlepiece and specially saved the hazlenut swirl. Next time I looked it had gone. I always wondered what happened to it, but suspected our nanny.
I don't remember what my father was like back then, but do remember going out to meet him from the airfield quite a way away. My mother was excited and anxious at the same time and we drove out late at night in the dark to meet him. When we got there it was not him but another pilot who had come back and they had got the name mixed up. I remember the feeling of disappointment as we went back. That is my earliest memory of my father not a face or a happening but a feeling of anxious waiting and disappointment when he did not come.
That's a feeling that comes back in other ways but perhaps should be allowed to stay there where it belongs. The other thing I must have lost there was my grey felt elephant because when we moved from there I never saw it again.
A few years ago, I visited an exhibition at The British Museum. It was titled: The Museum of the Mind and was intended as an illustration of how the cultural memory of past civilisations is encoded into the artefacts, which they leave behind. In studying these museum pieces – these carefully cleaned and reconstructed pots and belt buckles – I suppose that one gets a sense of what was important to the people to whom they once belonged.
I understand that your Oldton play is to be entered into its own museum of the mind and will be broadcast on BBC Radio Four, as part of their memory season. I think, in celebration of this, I will set up the old record player and spin 'Castle Row Two Step' by Terry & the Feathertones, which was released in 1966 on Oldtonic Records.
I believe this recording to be yet another relic from your absent town. In fact, I think that the title makes reference to a street within Oldton, and the song itself, to a popular dance hall, located somewhere along its length. I used to own several discs from Oldtonic Records, however, over the years, breakages have dwindled my collection down to just one, seven inch single. Oldtonic vinyl was always somewhat prone to shattering, often spectacularly, during mid spin. This is what probably accounts for its rarity on the collectors market. My copy is badly scratched, so has to have minimal monetary value.
I will play it anyway and treasure the music, while the record remains intact. Oldtonic Records are renowned for their well-rounded, almost three-dimensional sound, which, I am told, is the result of the music reverberating back and forth between the grooves of the vinyl. I understand that the label manufactured their singles and LPs, using waste materials, scavenged from a plastics factory that once stood on the outskirts of the town. Maybe you remember it from your childhood. This unusual source material perhaps goes some way to explaining the peculiar qualities of the records.
Yours truly, Jonathan Kepple.
I want to write and jerk people’s memories over Oldton Cricket Club.
I first visited Oldton CC when our club, Bessborough CC was on tour; I played there each year for a period of seven years. Our annual tour involved visiting five sides over a week playing a different team in a different town from a Monday to Friday, playing a game in each town. In addition to Oldton we played Westbury, Frodston, Sodbury, Pintag and Busk.
Oldton had some fantastic characters, not so many good players, but some exceedingly good drinkers. A visit to Oldton CC was always a night to remember. With Bob Park leading the players like a conductor leading a choir. His choristers belting out “We’re going up to Sunshine Mountain”, “Singing in the Rain”, “Four and Twenty Virgins” and of course “The Cow Kicked Nelly in the Belly in the Barn”. With whistles being wet by several pints of Whoosh (I never found out what its’ real name was).
Never a great singer but life and soul of the throng was “The Chunk”. Famous for outskulling (involves drinking a pint very quickly and then turning the glass upside down and placing it empty on your head) allcomers at the age of 14.
Some fabulous friends and acquaintances were met on tour, can’t remember everyone’s name but they were all great. As I understand it the club folded a while ago; if anyone else has memories, particularly ex-players, please post them up. I’ll dig out the photo albums soon and send some over.
When I was training as a journalist we were given a lecture by a freelancer. He tried to get across to us
the importance of wringing every last drop of potential out of an idea. I didn’t really grasp what they meant at the time, however I think you have shown me, by the way that you have persevered with developing Oldton.
Should your radio play air, maybe residents of Oldton will hear it and attempt to re-establish contact, although it is possible that the town may lie in an area of the British isles in which the underlying geology and overlying topography conspire to block radio signals.
An interesting nugget of trivia is that the FM frequency for BBC Radio One apparently buried the
radio station signal of a small (unnamed) town. I don’t want to rock the boat, but it would be ironic if
it was the louder voice of the BBC which had drowned out the public voice of Oldton. Perhaps you should keep quiet about this and be careful who you talk to. There may be some people still working within the corporation who are keen to keep the metaphorical concreting-over of Oldton a secret.
The waves on Oldton sands in 1956 … The tide of prosperity went
out years ago. The happy, wealthy Victorian and Edwardian families deserted the
substantial beachfront hotels – at first for the War, then the Depression, then
for War once more, then rationing, then foreign travel.
Today, the happy, pinched, red-shouldered families spend pennies on chips and the Pixie Tea Rooms, beer at half price if it rains, pool tables on the pier and a raucous disco at night.
Scattered on the pebbles at the top of the beach are a few blackened nets and a handful of crab and lobster pots. The tractor that used to drag the fishing boats from the foam up the sand has been abandoned, beached like flotsam, awaiting a Christo to wrap it in canvas and charge aesthetes to be photographed alongside, perhaps with their faces pushed through the hole rent by a vandal, drunk on half-price beer because it rained.
Chapelfields Farm, Olton (drawn 1934)
The farmhouse was pulled down in 1956 so even you won't remember it Tim but perhaps
you can recall snippits of conversation about the old place and who used to live
there before the occurences that eventually led to its demolition.
I understand that children did play in the what was left of the ruins but not as
much as one might have expected - there was something eerie about the place - a
coldness about the place that wouldn't lift on even the sunniest of days. Did you
Sometimes the only thing to do with a place is to pull it down like 25 Cromwell
Street in Gloucester - the former home of Fred and Rose West - but perhaps things
are left behind in the old foundations the rocks the very geography of a place -
traces of what happened there still sometimes felt sometimes seen by certain
Remember 'stop and go Joe'? My sister Anne used to tell me about this vagrant that used to wander around Oldton. The story was that if you saw Joe wandering and yelled 'stop' he would stop, even in the middle of the road. He would stop dead in his tracks because, so the story went, years before he was walking with his wife Carol and, as they crossed the Farnham Road, towards the bus stop, Joe noticed a car coming around the corner from Toad Row. His wife was out in front and he yelled at her to stop but either she didn't listen or the car was going too fast and it ran her down. Killed her dead.
Naturally, Joe was devastated. He lost his job, then his house. He took to wandering the streets aimlessly.That was the story anyway. I'd heard the story from my sister and a few other people but I don't think I really believed it. In retrospect, I suppose it seemed like an 'urban myth'. Probably lots of small towns have similar stories. Reminds me of the myth of the magpies, 'how's your wife?' when you see one... 'one for sorrow, two for joy' that kind of thing.
Anyway, blow me but one night in about 1981, cruising around town with some fellow inebriates, we came across this old fella standing on the corner waiting for the light to change. I had no idea who he was but as he started to cross the road I yelled out the window (for a laugh) 'Stop Joe!' and what do you know, he bloody stopped right there in the middle of the road. I couldn't believe it. It was him.
After a few moments as we stared in disbelief, I yelled, 'Go Joe!' and he continued across the road. Urban myth my arse.