Off the streets and into Brady Boys' Club
Contributed by Denis on June 6, 2017
I was born and grew up on the Whitechapel side of the railway, just off Vallance road, on a street called Anglesea Street (demolished, now Fakruddin Street). It was a play street, which they had in those days. The only traffic was low-level and connected to the railway but it was very rare, so we just played in the street as kids. Of course nearby there was a lot of bombed-out houses and bomb sites and we used to play on those too and had great fun.
My father was in the Auxiliary Fire Service during the war and I'm fortunate to have some excellent photographs of him in uniform. My mother was a nurse during wartime.
The last V2 bomb that hit London was in Vallance Road, and my mother told me that she was changing my nappy when it hit and went outside into the Anderson Shelter - which probably offered less protection than the house but that's how it was.
Our house was a two-up-two-down terraced house, toilet in the garden of course. And also the water supply was also outside, but we were fortunate in that when you walked out the back of the house it used to drop down and then there was a step up onto a small area of lawn. My dad used to block up the drain, turn on the outside tap and we had our own paddling pool.
As I grew up I went to Deal Street School and made some good friends there. We used to go each other's house and spend time with each other's families. It was really nice.
When I moved from Deal Street School to Robert Montefiore School, which is in Vallance Road, my friends and myself used to go walkabouts because we were too old then to play on the bombsites. That's when my father took an interest. He realised we were doing nothing other than walking the streets. So one day he just grabbed me and took me to the Brady Boys’ Club, which was near Brady Street Buildings or Mansions at that time. There I got interested in photography and concert party. That got me off the streets.
While I was at Robert Montefiore Secondary School, one of the teachers there saw that I had a bit of a knack for metal and he got me extra metalwork lessons. He was known as Mr Hartley, and with his help I managed to get an apprenticeship at Imperial College at South Kensington and so when I was fifteen and four months I was now travelling from Whitechapel Station up to South Kensington every day. I knew that station inside out.