Paul’s first house was 3 Tamar Terrace in Calstock. There are 3 steps going up from Lower Kelly road and he remembers standing on the steps and being frightened by his uncle’s milk horse.
Paul has some very early memories. He remembers crawling across the floor of the house and exploring the brass handled poker with his tongue. He can still remember the metallic taste of it, although he would have been under 2 years old. When young, he had trouble saying the letter S, so used to talk about ‘nugs’ and ‘nails’ instead of slugs and snails.
His uncle farmed at Dainscombe and had 12 cows, which was the maximum one man could milk twice a day by hand.
His granddad was born in the latter half of the 1890’s. He was taken on as a motor apprentice in Plymouth before going into the first WW as an ambulance mechanic. He had an exemplary war record except for one incident when he was reported as being drunk on the Front Line. Apparently, he and some of his squaddies were trudging back to their billet when one of them kicked a glass stopper lying on the ground but it didn’t fly into the air. They dug round and eventually unearthed a gallon flagon full of rum, buried in the mud. They enjoyed it that night, which accounted for being drunk the following day.
His Granddad went in as a Private and came out as a Colour Sergeant and after the war he went to work for Day and Sons in Okehampton. They wanted to motorise the transport from Bridestowe to Rattlebrook. He was involved with this. They tested out what it could do and came down in a wagon with no brakes. The workshop manager was scared stiff as the only way to slow the wagon was to jam a piece of wood in the wheel. He grabbed the Brakes-man as he was so frightened and the piece of wood fell to the ground. They were therefore coming into Bridestowe with no brakes. The wagon came down pretty fast and there was a dip just before the line rose up again to the buffers at the end of the line. The wagon went through the dip and slowed as it was going up the other side, stopping just before the buffers. However, the men didn’t jump off quickly enough so the wagon started to roll back down the hill to the dip and part way up the other side again. It did this for a while until it finally stopped at the bottom of the dip and the men could climb off.
The Rattlebrook works was designed to extract naphtha from peat but closed in about 1930. The petrol driven wagon was designed to carry personnel and supplies to and from the works and operated for about 10 years.
Paul was always scared of horses. His uncle’s son Norman ran the horse drawn wagons at Morwellham until recently when he retired.
In 1948 Paul’s father left Calstock to live in Plymouth. Paul was upset because he never knew which side of the border he was on! He is Cornish but as his father was in the armed services, he was born in Devon at the Alexander Nursing Home in Devonport.
His other uncle owned Fletcher and Sons, a market garden business in Calstock. In the 50’s he had a big American style fridge and also had a big car and drove it too fast. Paul’s father was training to be an architect and had a job in Plymouth. His training was interrupted by WW2 and he never finished it, so was always referred to as an assistant architect, which Paul thinks rather galled him. Paul’s uncles both had a share of the family business and his Grandfather gave his father the money for a house in Plymouth.
There was an incendiary bomb during the war that hit the terrace of houses, one of which his father eventually bought. A Mr Webb was living in the house at the time and he took refuge in the cellar. He was buried alive in there until he was rescued. Paul used to hate the cellar, which was full of old paint tins and coal and spiders. They had a sunny back yard with a couple of manholes. It was a very sunny back yard and the iron manholes used to get very hot. Being a typical little boy, Paul remembers frying earthworms on it.
Paul was brought up as a Catholic but the Catholic school was a long way away so he went to the state school at the bottom of the hill, Salisbury Road Primary School. He never liked living in Plymouth; he always felt deprived because they didn’t have proper birds, only house sparrows, and there wasn’t any proper grass. He found some grass like wild oats growing in the back lane between the granite sets and was so proud. This was his piece of grass! He hunkered down beside it and stroked it, but then he smelt his hand. A dog had piddled all over it so that ruined his idea of living in a town.
They used to travel from Friary Station to Calstock to visit their relatives. The station was a grey, cold, limestone building but very Victorian Gothic in design and he loved the place. When you got off the train at Friary you had to go around the end of the buffer stops to get out of the ticket hall. The engine was always at the head of the train and it was hissing and it frightened him, but he loves steam engines now.
The branch train at Calstock consisted of 2 coaches built prior to 1920 by the London and South Western Railway. They were called gatestock as there was an open bit in the middle with gates. He used to stand in the gateway between the 2 coaches and as they went over the viaduct his father gave him a hankie so he could wave to his granny up on Sand Hill as they went past. As a child, he thought how wonderful that they build trains like that specially so children could wave to their grannies.
He remembers his uncle drove an old Fordson pickup, called The Lorry, and he found it worthwhile taking 4 boxes of daffodils to Calstock station where they would be loaded on a train to go across to Bere Alston to catch the Waterloo Express to go up to Covent Garden to catch the right market.
They used to live quite near the chip factory, which processed wood chips not potatoes! All the logs came in the yard at the back and were skimmed to form very thin wood. This was used to make baskets of all sizes with tinplate handles to harvest strawberries and apples and such like.
As a child, Paul used to play with marbles and had metal cows that he played with but he wanted to play at driving them back for milking. The metal cows had to be moved one at a time but he could make the marbles flow just like a proper herd of cows. He loved the idea of the cows slowly moving down. The idea of cows slowly walking home for milking has always appealed to him.
In Union Street, Plymouth, one Sunday morning Paul remembers being fascinated by a matelot who was so drunk that he staggered off the pavement. He must have been very young and his parents were saying ‘come away’ but he just wanted to watch as he was fascinated. He became more involved with Union Street later on as he worked for Plymouth Breweries. They delivered by horse drawn drays and very local ones only needed one horse. They never needed tying up and the horses knew the route. There was one canny horse that used to get impatient. If you took too long unloading him, he would move off and go along to the next pub on the route and stop there. Sometimes the horse got two stops down the road before you could catch up with him.
Paul used to bottle Guinness and they had crown cork caps. The floor of the plant was very uneven and the bottling plant was very slow. The bottles would be filled up and then go through the pasteuriser and were put into very large wooden crates. If you touched the stack of crates they would all fall over and being very hot, the bottles would explode when they hit the floor. While waiting for the bottles to go through he used to put the crown corks onto his fingers and flick them through the open window into the creek. This was great until you went home and if the tide was out, the mudflats would be covered in gold with all the bottle tops.
He remembers one delivery on the diesel drays and they had one guy who was a casual driver with his own lorry. They went round the pubs at Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers but at the last pub they were 10 crates short. Paul had noticed that they delivered 20 crates instead of 10 to the first pub because they made a mistake, but he was only the third lad and couldn’t say anything. He learnt how to use a sack dolly that was a sack of straw that they put on the pavement. They could drop the barrels onto those and they wouldn’t smash. They had Dennis lorries with wooden cabs so the chippie could repair them if they got damaged. There was a driver, second man and he was the third man and sometimes he had to sit on top of the bonnet. The vehicles were so slow that coming out of the dip at Bodmin Parkway and going up the hill the other side, the driver would open the window and have a fag in one hand, occasionally touch the steering wheel and fill up the log book as he went, so he was smoking, steering and filling in his log book all at the same time. Nobody had much money so this driver would beg fags off publicans, for example ones that had got a bit wet and couldn’t be sold.
The first time he went on the transfer trip to Torquay, he went in an artic. It is a very unsettling feeling the first time you travel in one of those as it seems like there is a truck behind that is following too closely but it’s your own trailer.
Paul thought that all boats had legs as a kid because he would see them when they were grounded on the mudflats and had two struts to stop them tipping over when the tide went out. As a child, he used to draw pictures of 2 legged boats and now can’t understand why that although he was so close to the sea, he became interested in trains rather than boats.
In the 50s, Paul used to travel from Plymouth Friary to Calstock to visit his family. They would catch the Waterloo Express from Friary and change to the branch train at Bere Alston. When they arrived at Calstock, the quickest way to his grandparents house on Sand Lane was to go across what is now the car park, past a big notice saying that passengers must not cross here. They took no notice of that, of course! That was the only way he went into the station, he didn’t even know there was an official route until recently.
The station building at Calstock was a Colonel Stephens style corrugated iron shelter. Colonel Stephens had an empire of railways that he managed and he built these cheapo buildings on all his lines. The one at Calstock was typical.
The guy that lived in the bungalow next to the wood yard was called Ken Davey. He had a son who used to have an air rifle. He used to fire his gun in the garden but the pellets would ricochet round the wood yard, much to the annoyance of the men working there. They also had a bull terrier dog that Paul considered to be very ugly. It was very gentle, used to wander all over the place but was killed by a milk lorry.
When Paul went to Calstock he got in everybody’s way by trying to help out in the fields. He never went out in the rain though. When the men had to work in the fields in the rain, they used to put a sack over their backs to keep themselves dry. His favourite field was the one between Lower Kelly and Higher Kelly, up from the river. It was very steep but easy to cultivate. If you were planting daffodils, for example, you use a short-handled mattock to dig the first hole and plant 3 bulbs. You would then dig the next hole and fill in the first hole from the soil from the second. Because the hill was so steep, you started at the bottom and worked your way up. You didn’t have to bend double to dig, so it was easier than planting on the flat.
Eventually the soil creep took all the soil to the bottom of the hill. Every few years, when there was very little soil left at the top of the hill, they would rig up a contraption with a car jacked up on blocks with a drum attached to the rear wheel. There was a cable attached to a wheelbarrow and planks going up the slope. A guy used to shovel soil into the wheelbarrow, which would get hauled up the planks and the soil would then be deposited at the top.
The Tamar valley to Paul was always daffodils, tomatoes and strawberries. The local bus driver used to take bus trips to Calstock. Every time he went, he would stuff his cab with strawberries. When he got back to the depot, he would open his cab door and the smell was wonderful. Paul always loved going in the glass houses with the smell of the tomatoes.
Paul loved the railway. His aunt said that she didn’t hold with the maroon coaches, they were better when they were green. She said they shouldn’t have red coaches in the countryside, much better if they are green.
Paul loved watching steam engines going across the viaduct. There were M7s and O2s. When they introduced diesels, one was painted to advertise British Telecom. It was painted yellow with a telephone painted one end and wires painted all along the side. It was quite a sight to see that one. That must have been in the sixties.
William Saunders, known to Paul as Will Sanders, was a Methodist lay preacher and one of the labourers that worked for Paul’s granddad. He was one of the last men to walk up Sand Lane to go to work. The market garden industry was dying. He was a lovely, soft spoken man and lovely to the kids. Paul was brought up as a Catholic so lived in a world where there were Catholics and non-Catholics. A Methodist lay preacher was the lowest of the low but Paul loved him. That was the first time that Paul learnt that what he had been taught could be transcended by what he actually experienced. Calstock was a hotbed of Methodism but Paul’s family didn’t consider them to be proper folk because they didn’t go to the Catholic Church. William would come over to talk to them when they were working in the fields. He was a comfortable presence and a real countryman. The difference between a market gardener and a market trader is in the softness of their voice. A market gardener talks softly and quietly, and Will had the softest voice of any man you could hope to meet.
The Plymouth Post Office in those days was on the right hand side of Commercial Street, up some steps. Opposite the Post Office was a hardware shop. Paul remembers the wooden floors and the smell of paraffin. At the far end, where the Boot Inn still is, the pavement was made of concrete blocks that looked just like chocolate bars. Paul’s aunt and uncle rented a semi down in The Adit. They didn’t have a bathroom and Paul remembers going into their garden with the tiny red scarlet pimpernel flowers and caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth. The caterpillars were striped yellow and black and the moths were magenta and black. For years, he didn’t realise that they were the same thing.
Because they didn’t have a bath, every Friday night, his uncle Harold would come up to Paul’s grandparents house at Rosehill and have a bath there. Being a Victorian house, the bath was down in the cellar. They had to go down the steps out into the back garden and back into the cellar under the house, which was basically open to the world but that was where the bath was. Paul never knew where his aunt went for her bath!
The oldest son of the family was Uncle Harold, but he never liked his name so he was known as Fletch. Paul’s father was the middle one. The younger brother was called Trevor and he and Harold carried on working the land with Grandad Fletcher while Paul’s father went to work in Plymouth.
Paul never really liked living in the town and loved going to Calstock for holidays. He loved the idea of living in the country. One thing about Calstock was that everybody in the village knew everybody else, and also knew who he was. He would be greeted by people by name, and had no idea who they were but they knew him.