I was born in my grandparent’s house in Lenthall Avenue in Grays, where I lived for the first two weeks of my life. This was because my father, Ronald Knight, was decorating our newly acquired Bata House - No 10 Queen Mary Avenue. The house faced the old School and College Buildings. We lived in the house until 1964, we then moved into one of the new houses in Princess Margaret Road.
My earliest memories are of the old School and the Headmaster, who if my memory serves me correctly, was called Mr Thomas. I started the school a couple of weeks after the other children in my year. This was due to recovering from measles. At my first assembly, I didn’t know the words to the hymns, and I was pulled out by Mr Thomas and given what felt at the time like a vigorous shaking. I later discovered this punishment was called the hippie hippie shakes by all the other pupils. I was rescued by a lovely teacher called Mrs Mystarnick who explained to the head that this was my first day at school. The other teachers at the school that I remember were Mr and Mrs Taylor, Mr Webb (Terrible shot with the blackboard rubber!). The next headmaster was Mr Summerfield who had a passion for flying and took some of the school (me included) to Southend Airport. Mr Summerfield was a qualified pilot and flew us three at a time over the Thames estuary to East Tilbury where we took some photographs. This was featured in the Thurrock Gazette at the time and I have kept a copy of it. I must also mention the school caretaker, Mrs Hull, who was always there with a plaster and a few kind words whenever someone grazed a knee or elbow in the playground. More serious bumps and scrapes required a visit to the Bat First Aid Centre and the wonderful care given by Nurse Carter.
East Tilbury always seemed a safe place to live with a great sense of community spirit. Everybody seemed to know who you were and as such you dare not put a foot wrong ...If you did Dad was sure to find out! On more than one occasion I remember playing in the haystacks in the field where the road called Frome now runs. And promptly being chased by the farmer in his landrover, did he see our faces ... will our dad’s find out!
When I look back now there were so many things to do in the area. The swings, swimming pool, tennis courts, various clubs, Scouts, Cubs and the football teams run by Ken Stanley, all played some part in my early years on the Bata Estate.
In the evening, before it got dark, a gentleman called Mr Weston used to ride round to the playground or “the swings” as we called it, on his pushbike to lock the gates tothe area. I remember that we used to try to hide in there hoping to locked in, why I don’t know, but he always spotted us and chased us out. we used to play a game in the “swings” with a football, which I believe was unique to the Bata Estate. We called it “Circular” and was played on the round tarmac area that is still just about visible. the rule was tath you had to kick the ball past, but witin one yard, of the other players and off the circle to eliminate them all until there was one player left, who was then the winner. Many disagreements were had over the one-yard rule and games often abandoned due to mass walkouts! I have never seen or heard of this game being played anywhere else, I wonder why?
The Bata Sports field was at that time maintained by a Mr Sullilvan and the pitches were always immaculate. You were not allowed to walk across the No. 1 Pitch by the grandstand to get to the other pitches and had to walk around the edge under the supervisory eye of the groundsman. I remember West Ham Football Team playing against one of the Bata teams on the sports field and I waited outside the Bata Hotel with Russell Bland with a collection of Typhoo Tea Football Cards and had one of them signed by the legendary 1966 World Cup Hero, Geoff Hurst. The Sports Field was to play a large part in my life up until the age of 30 and I played both football and cricket for Bata Teams. Having seen the sports field being used fully by the community in the past for sports days, firework displays, fairgrounds and the 999 fair, etc, I find it a terrible shame to see it in it’s present state.
When I lived in Princess Margaret Road, if you wanted to cross the road after the 4.30 Factory siren it could take 15 to 20 minutes to get across due to the volume of traffic, as the shoe-men went home for the day. If people new to East Tilbury now think the level crossing delays are bad, they should have seen it then! The queue often went back down to the factory at this time of day.
Writing about roads I also recall going on the tipper truck collecting the waste paper from the Bata houses with Mr Benyon and Ben Logan. We were given a sixpence for doing the collection, which we duly spent in the Expresso Bar on a bag of chips to walk home with.
After leaving Hassenbrook school in 1976, I was employed at Bata’s as a mechanic and served a four year apprenticeship. I was also in the Bata Fire Brigade until I left the Company in 1988 to work at Tilbury Power Station where I still work now.
I still live in East Tilbury and have two children of my own.