When We Were Kings And Queens of the Road: Katy Cox

My first walks were to and from Crane Infant School and Crane Junior School, Norman Avenue, Hanworth, Middlesex 1957- 1963. I must have started at Crane Infant School in 1957, but I don’t remember my exact age.I have no memory of the walk to school when I was an infant. Any memories I have about walking to and from school start during my Junior school years 1959-1963.

If it hadn’t been for the friends that I walked with, I think that walking the same journey for five days a week for seven years would have been incredibly boring. I lived on a new council housing estate, built circa 1950, and in nearly every house and flat there was a family. The schools were in the middle of the estate and the pavements were crowded as we all walked to school. Only a very few people owned a car so there was never a problem crossing the roads.

I don’t remember ever seeing a car! As a child the walk was about fifteen minutes long (as an adult it was probably about five minutes). I came out of my house and there was always someone I knew to walk with. I turned left, walked past ten houses, round the bend and across the road into Saxon Avenue – past the haberdashery, bakers, newsagent, then a small green area, a greengrocers, butcher, and the grocer. On the opposite side of the road were the swings and the rec. Then we’d cross the road, walk along the pavement, past more houses and into the school.

The previously mentioned rec was home to two baby swings, four ordinary swings, a slide roundabout, and a lethal ‘witch’s hat’! It was a very large grass area. None of us, the ones who didn’t want to be told off, went on the swings on the way to school. I went home, saw the cat, had something to eat, and then I went back to the swings with friends later. I didn’t go into the newsagent for sweets as I got my pocket money on a Saturday and had none left by Monday! The walk home felt such a huge release – playing marbles along the kerb – though not on a hot summer’s day because the tar on the road would melt and dribble into the gutter.

A childhood photo of Katy

I always felt that I was supposed to go home straight from school, which I mostly did – probably because I was hungry and wanted to see our cat. The cat, a tabby, was called tabby! I’d ask my mum where she was, she’d say: “Upstairs asleep, don’t disturb her.” I always wanted to lie on the bed with her, so I’d creep upstairs, into our bedroom, and there would be the cat – waking up! That happened every time. I thought I’d been so quiet. I had two brothers, and one sister. Paul, Jan, Chris, and then me (also seventeen uncles and seventeen aunties, plus forty cousins. My dad was one of fifteen, my mum one of three).

The walk home I remember the most was through the woods, with my friend Judy. The wood lay parallel to the estate, with a river running the length of it – we would come out of the school gates and head directly in front of us into the wood. I was not brave enough to use the rope swing dangling from a tree over the river. If it was a very dry hot summer the river level could get as low as a couple of inches, perfect for paddling. We rode our horses through the wood. We were completely in the moment, clicking our tongues to urge our horses on as we trotted along and out of one of the entrances near home. We could only do that in the summer as the paths became muddy in wet weather. I would tie my horse up outside our back gate (imaginary horse of course: Champion the Wonder Horse!)*

The walk to Secondary School, about a mile and a half, was also of little interest. We headed out of the estate and along the main road. Friends though made the walk fun. Coming home when the weather was wet, windy and cold was very hard. I left school at fourteen and started work for the GPO, as a telephonist, when I was fifteen and two weeks! Various office jobs, to college in 1988 for HND in Computer Studies, 2000 for a Webmaster Certificate and in 2014 for a BA (hons) in History followed. My mum died in 2021 and we sold the house that she had lived in since 1950 and in which we had all grown up.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champion_the_Wonder_Horse

Katy Cox is a Researcher and Genealogist from Hanworth, Feltham, Middlesex. She is currently researching the history of Hanworth, Middlesex and the Cottage Homes, Hornchurch.

On behalf of the Museum of Childhood Ireland and Robert Burns, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of our wonderful participants for their time and their stories. We are thrilled to be presenting this project and we hope you will enjoy following along with us in the coming weeks.

Have a story on this topic and want to get involved? Contact us on our social media sites, or email us at cbrowne@museumofchildhood.ie – we would love to hear from you!

By Chloe Browne

Chloe Browne is an Irish writer, curator and Art Historian, with a keen interest in objects and social history.