My childhood in Herne Bay

By Pauline Turner

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My childhood in Herne Bay

Let’s start in around 1949 which is my first memory of my life in Herne Bay. My Aunt Alice came up from Ramsgate in Thanet, to visit her sister, Minnie, my Nan. We all went to the Willow Tea Rooms which consisted of a small shop which sold ice creams to the public through a large arched window. Then next door was the tea room, quite large as I recall, with tables laid with white cloths and a small vase of flowers in the centre.

Mr & Mrs Daniel’s owned the premises and they made the most delicious ice cream, to a special recipe. I can still taste it now, mmm. We all sat at a table near a window where a waitress in a black dress and white bib apron with a frilly cap on her head took our order. Mine was always vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce in a silver dish.

One had to watch your p’s and q’s in those days, no slouching at the table and be seen and not heard and not speak until you were spoken to. Can you imagine today’s children adhering to these rules!

As I lived 2 minutes walk from the sea I spent a lot of time down on the beach. There was always something interesting to find or do. My Mum, Lilian Fagg, ran a B& B after the war (WW2) until the floods of 1953 put paid to that. I enjoyed having tea with the ‘guests’ to which I had to be on my best behaviour. Sometimes I was given 3d or a 6d.


Me and my Mum at the seafront in Herne Bay, 1949 when I was six years old. I was wearing a red and white striped dress with a light blue cardigan. My handbag was white, a favourite of mine. I loved handbags. Still do.

In 1949 we had a lodger, Arthur Hook, living with us; he was our last guest and was to remain with the family till my Mum died of a brain tumour at the age of 51 in October 1966. Had that not happened Arthur and Mum would have got married and he would have become my stepfather. Dad died earlier in that year in February age 66. He had been very ill for some time. However Arthur lived to the grand age of 91. He died in 2001 and he is buried in Eddington cemetery in Herne Bay.

Uncle Arthur, as I was expected to call him, had a car, and on Sundays, during the summer months, he would take us all out for long drives in the country or to a seaside often doing 100 miles or more. A favourite day out for me was to go to Bexhill in Sussex to see my Aunt Daisy. The men would go off to a cricket match and Mum, Aunt Daisy and I would sit down to a dinner that she had prepared for us. Afterwards we would walk down to the ‘green’ were Mum and Aunt Daisy would chat while I played. When the men came back we had High Tea which consisted of quarters of sandwiches, usually ham and cucumber or mustard, celery and homemade cake/s and jelly for afters. In those days of rationing it amazes me how people managed to put on such a lovely spread.


The Clock Tower and Fountain, on a postcard c1910. The seafront has changed considerably since the early 1900s and where the fountain stood there is now a plaza where locals show off their paintings which are for sale. During Festival Fortnight there is often music from various bands/groups playing with displays from acrobatic artists.

The Clock Tower was a gift from a Mrs Ann Thwaytes and was presented to the town in 1837 at the cost of £4000. The fountain was also a gift, from the Mayor Horatio Davies, Sheriff of London & Middlesex 1887-1888 for the Jubilee Memorial of Queen Victoria’s reign. The fountain was re-erected March 1993 in the Waltrop Gardens, between the bandstand and the pier.

Carnivals in August


Carnival time.

The carnivals in the summers of the 1950s and 60s were great and I feel much more went into them in those days than now. We wore coloured cardboard hats with elastic under the chin to keep them on and they had coloured streamers dangling down the back. There were hooters that you blew which would roll out with a feather on the end and balloons galore. Bunting would be strung up from the buildings all along the seafront and the High Street too. Everyone would have rolls of streamers to throw at the floats plus pennies, half-pennies and farthings to throw at your favourite float. Nowadays it is considered a health hazard as people have received eye injuries so the money is now collected in buckets.

Miss Herne Bay rode on a beautiful float which was a huge butterfly. This float was used for some years. The processions were often a mile or more long and we would all cheer and clap for our favourite Queens and floats. The float in the picture shows a large sun on the back with a canopy attached to the stand adorned with flowers around the base.

During the day there would be a Regatta on the beach with a greasy pole competition. These were great fun to watch. Rafts were made out of old oil drums and planking tide with rope. Sometimes during the race, rafts would start to come apart before they got to the finish but everyone had a lot of fun. After the carnival there would be fireworks in the local park (they are now held off Neptune Jetty). Everyone would ‘ooo’ and ‘aah’ as each firework was let off showering beautiful coloured sparks and ‘rainbows’ of stars overhead. People don’t do this nowadays. Too self conscious I suppose.

Later in the evening there was a dance at the Kings Hall up on the Downs. Always a grand affair with large bands like Ted Heath playing. Later in the 1950s there were more modern groups such as Eddie Cochrane which myself and my friend Brenda Culver would dance the Jive or the Twist.

My parents were good dancers and went to many other dances during the year. One favourite venue was The Chez Laurie on the Thanet Way (see picture), now demolished. The building was of the Art Deco style. It was built in 1935 by a Mr Warrington who had a daughter called Laura hence the name: ‘at the house of Laura’. Stars like Diana Dors and Margaret Lockwood appeared at their cabaret evenings.

turner pictures

Chez Laurie

Other venues were the Kings Hall and The Tudor Ballroom, now an amusement arcade near Macaris on the seafront. Also the Cardinal Ballroom, now The Saxon Shore pub/restaurant. Mum use to make her own dresses in taffeta and would spend hours sticking on sequins with clear nail varnish. Such patience.

My love of dancing started around the age of five years of age when I would stand on Dad’s toes and he would dance me round our parlour to Victor Sylvester’s records. Bettina Biske, who taught me in the 1950s upstairs in the Cardinal Ballroom, still teaches today and she is in her 80s! Many years later, after I was widowed in my 40s, I went back to dancing lessons with Bettina and took my bronze, silver and gold exams in Ballroom and Latin American and passed them all.

Birthday parties

Birthday parties in the 1940/50s were very much a homemade affair. Mum and Nan would make jellies, blancmange, jam tarts, iced buns. Sandwiches would be of egg and Shippams paste, cut into quarters with the crust taken off. The cake would be covered in icing with pink icing piped round the edge and my name spelled out in small silver balls that were edible. Balloons would be put up with drawing pins on to the picture rail to make the parlour look nice.

We would all play games like musical chairs, blind-man’s buff, pass the parcel, with a guessing game ( similar to I Spy) to finish off.

When your guests left to go home you did not give them party bags but a balloon each and sweet from a dish. Bit different from today’s standard if my grandchildren’s parties are anything to go by. They cost a small fortune buying a present for each child/guest plus a party bag. Crazy I call it.


One Christmas Eve when I was about 9 or 10 years I woke up in the night to see Dad walking in with a pillowcase of presents and that when I knew there was no Father Christmas. The look on his face was one of ‘oh Lord, that’s torn it’, a phrase he used on occasions. Christmas was never the same for me after that discovery. Parcels used to be delivered by post on Christmas morning and my paternal Gran would always send me a fluffy pair of slippers with creamy coloured fur round the tops. I can still see them now.

I was always given a Rupert annual which I loved. I had my first one in 1949 at the age of six. A while ago I tried to buy a copy off the Internet and was amazed to see the price was £100 or more depending on its condition! Other came from Dad’s family in Ramsgate which could be a tin of sweets, a book or colouring book and crayons, ‘smellies’ for the bath which would be cubes which you crumbled under a running tap or crystals in a jar plus soap that had a gorgeous smell. Nan would often give me dolls clothes she had made and a scarf or gloves that she had knitted.

Winter evenings

During the winter evenings we all sat in the living room, what we would now call the dining room. There was a coal fire which made the room warm and cosy. Opposite the fire was a large table which had leaves on each end which you could pull out to extend for any family who came for tea. Not for dinner, you only had people to dinner at Christmas – usually Nan and my Uncle Stan, Dad’s youngest brother from Ramsgate. He was also my godfather. We had chicken for Christmas dinner and this was a real treat. Nowadays chicken is on the menu every week. At weekends, usually Bank Holidays, Christmas and Easter, Mum or Nan would play the upright piano and sing songs of all kinds like ‘On Mother Kelly’s Doorstep and ‘We’ll Meet Again’, the latter being one of my favourites. I can’t sing for toffee, completely toneless me! Might have something to do with having measles when I was 7/8 years old which left me partially deaf.

Generally in the evening, Dad would read the paper or listen to the radio, Mum would often be knitting or sewing. Both my parents smoked which wasn’t considered unhealthy then. Uncle Arthur often went to The Diver’s Arms pub which was opposite our house and Dad would join him later. If Nan was at our house Mum would join the ‘boys’ for a G&T (gin and tonic) and they would bring back a bottle of Guinness for Nan and a ginger beer in a brown chunky bottle for me.

Being a bookworm as a child (and still am) I would often be found with my nose in a book, much to Mum’s annoyance when she called me for dinner or tea because I would not hear her so she had to come and drag me away from my beloved books. Today I have a bookcase that is floor to ceiling crammed with books and more upstairs in another tall bookcase in the spare room! Being interested in various subjects, as well as local history, I never get bored but like a novel for reading in bed. We often did jigsaw puzzles – 500-750 pieces in the box. Some pictures were of shire horses ploughing a field or Dad’s favourite which was the Horse Guards on parade or similar.

Other evenings I would be dressing my china dolls that Mum and Nan made clothes for or painting or colouring in a book. I had some cut cardboard dolls with paper clothes that were attached by hinges that folded over – some had a ‘velvety’ covering on them. Uncle Stan, Dad’s youngest brother and a good artist, encouraged me with my drawing and painting and said to try outlining some of my pictures with black ink. One I did was of the Sandwich Barbican and another was of a kingfisher on a branch over a stream. These I did in watercolour, finishing off in pen and ink. Uncle Stan liked them so much he framed then and hung them in his living room. I was hopeless at drawing trees; mine looked like cotton wool balls on cones! But Dad was brilliant at drawing trees, he made them look so real and you tell what each tree was.

Later, as I got older, I was taught how to make my own clothes, including a skirt without using a pattern. Mum and Nan were good at sewing. Nan made a coat from a blanket and she use to turn bedsheets sides to middle when they wore thin. Nothing was wasted. Jumpers were unravelled, the wool wound into skeins then washed to be re-knitted up into something else. We were recycling without knowing this was the role we would be expected to play in the 1990s with rules laid down by Canterbury City Council! With friends, I would knit dolls clothes or squares from oddments of wool scrounged from our parents or grannies. The squares would be made up into blankets for the poor children in Africa.

I was still making my own clothes in the 60s, the material and patterns being much cheaper to buy than now. If the sales were on I could pick up remnants for a fraction of the normal price. Nan showed how to cut out plaid material so the ‘lines’ all matched up when sewn together. When I look at some of today’s dresses in Plaid, stripe or check I shudder at the mis-match of lines and squares. I learnt to crochet a lacy two-piece suit in a deep pink colour and lined the skirt. I also made a red light-weight jacket in a Courtelle material with a belt and pockets plus a top and straight skirt so tight you had to ‘walk’ from the knees. Embroidery was another hobby of mine and I still have a nightdress case I made in my last year at Junior school in pink soft cotton, trimmed with Broderie Anglaise and a Bambi embroidered on the front flap.


On 12 June 1970 the Pier Pavilion burnt down, a sad day as another Victorian edifice was lost to the town. It was built in 1910, replacing a marquee that had been used as a theatre for some time. So much of the seafront has changed over the years, some of it due to fires which destroyed buildings. In 1928, the shops and the theatre fronting the pavilion burned to the ground and then in September that year, the grand looking building’s, The Albany Bakery and Iggulden’s next door (adjacent to Macari’s) on Central Parade. These were built in 1897 while the arcade in front of the pier was built in 1884. The new Casino cinema and restaurant replaced the Albany Bakery and Iggulden’s Restaurant and showed two films from Monday to Wednesday, then on Thursdays to Saturday two different films plus on Sunday’s a different film entirely. Spoilt for choice we were. The cinema closed in 1954. An amusement arcade stands in its place with a night club upstairs.


The Albany Bakery and Iggulden’s were destroyed by fire in September, 1928


The Casino, 55 Central Promenade, opened on the 26 May 1919. Afternoon teas, dances, concerts, cabarets, and whist drives were provided as well as films. The Union chain acquired the cinema to modernise and redecorate the interior.

Fun and games

Brought up as an only child and having lots of imagination I used to make up stories or games that I could play on my own. Uncle Bill, one of Dad’s brothers who lived in Ramsgate, made me a beautiful dolls house one Christmas. I must have been about seven years old. It had electric light on each floor. Mum made the tiny curtains and bedspreads from scraps of material plus miniature rugs and lino scraps were used for the floors. I spent hours playing with that dolls house.

Sometimes my friend, Margaret Holness, would come to play and stay to tea. She lived round the corner in Mortimer Street. Her Mum and mine were friends. In the summer months we would have tea sitting in the parlour window, by ourselves, and Mum would bring in the bread and butter, a pot of jam or Shippams Paste so we could help ourselves plus tea or squash to drink. I had a little ‘silver’ teapot that Mum would make out tea in. We felt ever so grown up. (The teapot was not real silver of course). Afterwards we could go over the road to the beach or play in my bedroom if weather was not agreeable. We have been friends now for over 65 years. She has lived in the USA for nearly 50 years and has five children and about 21 grandchildren!

Sometimes during the summer holidays Margaret and I would go to the park to play and meet up with others we knew. We would go to our ‘secret’ shelter hidden in the trees and shrubs up by the tennis courts and stay out all day until it was time to go home – the Clock Tower could be seen from the edge of the park so there was no excuse for being late! Our group were Brenda Culver, Hilary White, Shirley Frances, and Pearl Dunn whose parents owned Dunn’s the bakers in the High Street. It is still there and still has the best sausage rolls in town.


These rather grand shelters/bathing huts and café were situated up by the old Hundred Steps (now replaced with concrete ones) east of the Kings Hall. The café had a pond with goldfish and plants surrounding the outer walls. Tables and chairs would be put outside in the warmer weather for visitors.


This building and the huts were demolished in the early 1980s and there is now a rather boring layer of concrete along this part of the seafront


This building had a café up at the top and toilets below with seating along the wall inside the open entrance. Further along are concrete bathing huts for public use

On hot days we would all make for the beach to go swimming or if the tide was out we looked for limpets, shells or crabs under the rock pools up near the 100 steps (Beacon Downs end of the seafront). I was not a good swimmer and for years swum with one foot touching the bottom because I was afraid to go out of my depth. On one particular day, when I was about 12, we were on the Long Jetty, which was demolished in the early 1990s I believe. There were a long line of wide steps going down to the sea and this is where we would put our things. It was high tide so ideal for diving etc. At some point someone pushed me into the sea and I did not know anything until I woke up at home in bed.

Apparently I did not come up to the surface so Brenda, being a very good swimmer, dived in to rescue me, pumped out as much water from my lungs as she could, then carried me home, which luckily was just over the road. Mum was frantic and would not let me go in the sea again for four years. I found it very hard each summer watching other kids playing in the sea.

Childhood in the early 50s was much easier and you had more freedom though you were expected to do any chores your Mum wanted done. Mrs Heathcote at no 9 opposite would get me to go the Hughes Stores at the top of Market Street and across the road into Mortimer Street for some groceries she wanted. For this I earned 3d (1 & half pence in new money). With my 6d pocket money (2 & half p) I could then afford to go to Saturday morning pictures and buy sweets. Popular films at that time were Flash Gordon, Hopalong Cassidy, Olly & Hardy with various Walt Disney cartoons. Life in the 1950s seemed simpler after the horrors of the war and in spite of rationing which finally ended in 1958 (things were taken off ration at various stages) we were content with our lot.

School days, 1949 to 1958

My first school was Gundulf House in Beltinge Road. It was a private school run by two sisters, Miss Golding and Miss Daisy. It was also a boarding school. I attended the day classes, which started at 9am and finished at 4pm. Lessons were from 9am to 12pm then 2pm to 4pm. Mum used to come and fetch me home for lunch, we always had our main meal at midday. It was a good 15 minute walk from our house in Market Street.


Gundulf House school

The uniforms consisted of navy blazers and navy gymslips with a white blouse plus a red sash with fringes on the ends that you tied round your waist. The skirt part was pleated from the hips down. The hat was a bowler type in navy with a red and navy band. In the summer we wore red and white striped dresses with white collar and cuffs. The uniforms were supplied by John Gore and Sons in Mortimer Street, now a Halifax and charity shop.

There were four classes, two in the back room where the teachers taught the infants, one in the front room (to the left of the house from the road) where Miss Grace Golding had a class and one in the conservatory at the back where Miss Daisy took the eldest class. This was very cold in the winter, heated only by a couple of upright round oil stoves. The two Miss Golding’s were still getting children through the 11+ until they retired in 1963 and went to live in a flat in Douglas Road, off Mickleburgh Hill. They both died in 1973, Daisy on 14 January, aged 91, and Grace on 2 March, aged 97.

I left this school in 1952 to go to Kings Road Primary. I was taken to see Mr Charles Hopkinson, the headmaster, whom I have always had a great affection for. He was a kindly man and loved children. But he put me in a class below my standard, I can only assume because of my hearing problem. I was shocked to find I was not allowed to carry on doing joined up handwriting or long division in maths! This held me back for years and interfered with my education because I was unable to get ahead. When I complained to my teacher, a horrid man called Mr Badham, he told me not to get big ideas and do as I was told. He also gave me a hundred lines for insolence!

Two years later I went to Herne Bay Secondary Modern at Greenhill (now Herne Bay High). Because I got whooping cough followed by chicken pox I was three weeks late in starting. I was led by a teacher to my class line in assembly. It was nerve-wracking because everyone was looking at me. The school was enormous after primary school, it seemed to be all glass and corridors! We all got a map of the classrooms and were chastised if we were late getting to a class. But it didn’t take us long to find our way around.

School was an anathema to me because my parents insisted that I went to a normal school instead of the Margate School for the Deaf because Mum did not want me to be a boarder, coming home for weekends and the holidays. I feel she did me no favours at all. . It did not pay to be different. Because I had to wear hearing aids which consisted of two aids plus leather boxes containing large batteries on either side of me, which I absolutely hated, I was forever being teased and having the ear pieces pulled out of my ears, or having the desk lids slammed down on my fingers, the chair pulled away as I went to sit down. I found that as I got older I could lip-read and this was, and still is, a great help. How I managed to do this I just do not know. I always had to sit at the front of the class which was fine until the teacher decided to walk around the room so I could not follow what was being said. If I looked round to catch what he/she was saying I got told to ‘face the front’, hence some of my school reports were not good, with the remark usually ‘lack of attention’! This annoyed me because I was trying so hard to understand what was being said.

Generally, though, the four years at the school were okay. My teacher was a Mr Teagle (Tiggy as he was affectionately called). He was the art teacher and I got on well with him. He saw my potential in painting and encouraged me to do well. When I left in the summer of 1958 I got a certificate for art with 99 and half out of 100. My other favourite subjects were English and local history, although I didn’t start the latter until my last year, under Mr Blake. Many years on I was to take up local history as a hobby, particularly with my ever growing collection of postcards and books.

We had cooking lessons under Mrs Bowden and sewing classes with Mrs Pope. One teacher who used to put the fear of god in us all was Mr Hancock. He only had to walk up the stairs that led to the classrooms and there would be utter silence! He expected us to be turned out smartly with polished shoes and ties done up correctly. No slouching and definitely no talking. Other teachers were Miss Benson and Miss Chell, Mr Godden, Mr Duncan, the science teacher, Mr Ilott, Mr Robinson, the geography teacher, Mrs Wallis for English, Mr Turnbull for music, and Miss Stone, the sports teacher. I was not good at sport owing to weak ankles and having to wear special built-up shoes, but I did like rounders because I could hit the ball even if I did not do too well at running after it, and I did not do too badly at gym but was hopeless at climbing up a rope. Then there was Miss Kite, who always came to school dressed in the most lovely dresses of the 50s fashions. She made some of the older female teachers look very drab!

When I was in the fourth year, we went to the Saturday social evenings in the main hall. A group played various dance music, some pop and some ballroom and those evenings were usually well attended. I believe they started at 7.30pm till 10.00pm. I cannot remember if one could buy drinks, but if there were any they would have been soft drinks. So no fear of drunken behaviour! We girls would spend ages dipping our half-petticoats in sugar water to make our circular skirts stand out which then played havoc with our nylon stockings! It was great being a teenager in the 50s as the music changed to ‘pop’, with rock and rock being the forward, then later on to jazz with Acker Bilk, of ‘Bridge over Troubled Waters’ fame, and Kenny Ball, Duke Wellington… Those were the days……


Market Street Coal Yard, which became the Electric Light Company, later to become Seeboard

The stables at the back where the horses were kept are where my Dad use to shoot the rats. Some years later the space was taken up and turned into a car repair lot, Abbey Motors. A few years on they closed down and the whole ground was turned into a car park which upset the residents opposite in Market Street. It does seem most strange driving through entrance of the car park in what was once the parlour of No.10!


No 10 Market Street showing the bay window of my home on the left of the picture. The photo was taken around 1910 showing snow on the ground. The garden, if you could call it that, was all concrete and one end was under towards the front of the house which provided shelter for the rabbit hutch. The other end of the ‘garden’ had a wide gate that led through to the Electric Light Company. Dad certainly did not have far to go to work! The house was badly damaged in the 1953 floods and in the early 1960s was demolished. This was a sad day. Mum was working in the Divers Arms opposite and saw the demolition being done everyday. She was tearful as she loved that house. So did I. The top end of the picture shows houses and shops in the background of Mortimer Street.

The summers of the 1960s

Herne Bay in the 1960s suffered from an influx of invasions of Mods and Rockers. The Mods rode Lambretta or Vespa scooters and the Rockers had motorbikes and wore black leather gear. In those days they did not wear helmets, only goggles and gloves. They came down at weekends from London, Margate, Whitstable and Faversham. The local people despaired of them because there were usually outbreaks of fights and some of the ‘baddies’ had flick knives (stilettos) which sometimes ended up with someone being hurt and taken to hospital. There always seem to be reports in the local papers about these fights.

Other friends and I joined the San Jacinto Club which was held on Saturday nights in a room above the Queen Victoria pub in Beach Street. It was also the home of the Hasland dancing school. We had our own group, with Pete Danby who played the clarinet, Ron Woodward on the double bass, Ronnie Blake (son of history teacher Mr Blake) on the banjo and guitar, Vic Ciara on the trumpet, Mike Cole (also known as Tex) and Sean Maple on trombone and Geoff Saunders on the drums. The band, naturally, were very good and played every Saturday evening. It was all good fun and was the perfect end to a working week with a Sunday morning lie-in to look forward to!

One summer’s evening we all went down to the beach and the band played on the promenade below the Kings Hall and us boys and girls jived to our hearts content. We attracted quite a large crowd who came and joined in. It was great fun on a beautiful warm evening and was reported in the Herne Bay.

Most evenings, if the weather was still warm, I would come home from work, change into a swimsuit and head off down to the beach, which was only minutes away, for a swim then home for tea. If I had a date I would wash my hair, put it up in rollers and sit under a dryer that had a hood attached, ready to comb it out and spray with lacquer, put on my make up, a dress or blouse and skirt, and kitten heels about 4cm high and off I would go. We nearly always ended up in Macari’s Ice Cream Parlour. Sometimes if I was with a friend we would go into Valentes coffee bar just along the road.

In those days I had to been in by 10pm or 10.30pm on Saturday. This was the rule when I was going out with my John who was about eight years older than me but he took it all in his stride. Once we got engaged, five months after we met, I hoped Dad would let me stay out later but no chance, pointing out that I was only 17. Mum tried to reason with him but rules were rules.

On Sundays, in the summer months, I would go down to the beach with my dog, Mickette, Mic for short. She loved paddling on the waters edge but would never go out and swim. She was a smooth haired fox terrier and I adored her. She slept on my bed, to Mum’s disgust, and hid her bones under my bed which she would drag out form time to time to wash them and put back again. She lived to 14 years of age and died of liver cancer.

In the winter months I would often stay in my room and play records, EPs and LPs on a Dansette record player, writing letters to the current boyfriend who would be doing National Service then at weekends go out in the evenings with a friend to the coffee bars or cinema.

My favourite pop stars were Cliff Richard, Frankie Vaughan, Ricky Nelson, Craig Douglas and Elvis Presley (but not until he came out of the army, I did not like his singing much before then).Female singers were Doris Day, Helen Sharpiro, Alma Cogan and Cilla Black. The first and last I still love to listen to and Elvis remains a firm favourite.