This week, we decided to share a different story, the one told to us by one Egham resident: Carole Lakomski. During the exhibition of “Our Changing High Streets” at the United Church of Egham last June, Carole came to visit us and decided to write down and share with us her memories of Egham. She has been living here since she was just a child so she has lots of memories and knowledge of the town. Through her memories we have been able to travel to the past, and thanks to her vivid stories, can imagine life in Egham’s nearly 80 years ago. We are very grateful to Carole to have shared her memories with us; it has been so interesting and fascinating to read to her story which has helped us to immerse ourselves in Egham’s past.
“My name was Carole Caul. I moved to 11 Egham High street in September 1948. My father was Jack Caul, he was a baker and we went to live over Hopkins bakery shop/café, in a tired flat. It was a big, horrible haunted house and we shared it with the owners and managers of the shop. There was a cellar where they used to have eggs is in glass, which were horrible. We used to eat dried eggs and I liked them. There was a kitchen also, below ground, where they used to make teas for coach loads of visitors who used to arrive. I remember the smell of tea and toast. And the Tuckers (The owner’s family name) had their sitting room by the side of the café/shop which was on the ground floor. We all shared the bathroom and Mr Tuckers’ office, kitchen and sitting room, with veranda, were on 1st floor. The 2nd floor was my parents bedroom and the Tuckers 2 bedrooms. Then a long flight of stairs led up to the attic rooms which had no electrics. I think that the larger room, which was mine, had been a nursery, as there were bars on the window. Rosemary Tuckers, Mr Tucker’s daughter, told me that, in the room at the other side of the landing, a woman had killed herself. No one could use it, it was always empty, and it had such bad vibes…
Sometimes, I couldn’t walk up the stairs, it was so scary and I couldn’t tell anyone because they said I was being silly. The yard at the back was cobbled, there were two big carthorses, Peggy and Mayor, who pulled the delivery carts and there was a loading bay opposite the bake house.
I remember when they first started slicing bread and putting it in waxed paper, I remember the smell. The horses were kept in the stable and the man who looked after them lived above, in a room. The baker house was opposite the stables. There were long boards where my dad and Mr Tucker used to make the bread. I used to watch them sometimes, it was wonderful to see how quickly they weighed the dough and moulded it. There was no health and safety in those days. The first thing my dad used to do was to sweep the boards free of mouse droppings, and they also used to smoke while they worked too. The boards lifted off and the dough was kept in the space underneath. The bread was cooked in big rooms in the wall and the boiler room was behind there. I still remember the smell.
Milk was warm in the summer, next door had a fridge and so I envied the ice cold milk. My dad used to specialise in Hovis bread and he used to enter competitions in Hort Hall in Victoria. We used to test and tell him which one was the best batch. He won a few times but Hopkins kept all the certificates and cups for the shop.
I remember Mr Kimber too, he used to make the cakes. I remember green marzipan cakes, gave me a love of marzipan. My dad got angry when they started mixing a lot of chalk in with the flour, to whiten it and make it last longer. He had very strong arms, from the bread and when he got a mixer for the dough he was delighted not to have to do it manually. They got rid of the horses and got electric vans…They used to be in charge when they were not working, I remember the hum…
And the chicken at the bottom of the yard laid eggs and were killed for meat. I used to ride the horses down to the fields, where Spring Rise is now, where they used to stay at weekends, I suppose. And we used to help with the haymaking down there, and play. I remember the Old House Café, we used to go in there when I was a teenager.
We left Hopkins in 1955 when my parents bought a house. I remember them burning a lot of our heavy, old furniture and smashing ugly dark things that my grandmother had given to us. They bought new, lighter furniture.
A policeman used to stand by the red phone box, opposite Hopkins and we could ask him the time or whatever…
There was Mr Thomas shoe repairers alongside Hopkins, Mr Clark the electrical man and Mr Bunce who used to sell ice screams. And the Kings Arms pub (now Loch Fyne) where my dad used to take a jug on a Saturday night, get it filled up with stout in the jug bottle and fetch it home. He used to put a red hot pokes in it to make it frizz up and then we used to serve it.
I used to go to the Savoy cinema with my friend who lived next door the Hopkin (I suppose number 12 or 13). Her dad, Mr Bachett, was a surgeon and her mum used to run a little kindergarten in Staines. They had a wonderful mulberry tree in the garden where we played. I think it’s still there, in front of the library. I remember swimming in Virginia Water lake. We used to spend Sundays there, then there was an outbreak of polio, so we were not allowed to go anymore. We used to walk up to Windsor great path, on the A30, pinch chestnuts and rhododendrons and walk home…we used to walk a lot.
I remember Mr Hydes leather shop, where my mum used to buy my school satchel, and we used to repair it if the stitching came undone. I used to know his daughter Mary Hyde.
I went to Manor School, a school here in Egham. We had school dinners in the place in front of where the library is now.I did cookery and woodworks in the institute at the bottom of Egham Hill, boys alternated with girls.”
With huge thanks to Carole Lakomski
Follow us next week for the next story from Egham High Street….
(Header photograph: aerial view of the High Street, with thanks to the late local photographer, Fred Parkin)