May 21 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Colin Whitfield, 70, of Valence Avenue, Dagenham is a true local stalwart. He has lived in more than 15 different streets in the borough and worked at some of the businesses, like Ford, that provide a heartbeat for the area. Colin has had a truly colourful life, from being mistakenly imprisoned on a Greek ship to being held up at gun point, he tells us here just two incidents he remembers well.
I was a poorly child, weak and recovering from operations to do with Polio, I was to be sent to a convalescent in the Thorpe Bay area.
A trip to the coast to be nursed back to health was exactly what the doctor ordered – but things didn’t really work out like that.
I remember being with Mum as she put me on a bus in Stratford, she waved goodbye and the bus took us for a ride.
I don’t remember too much about the journey, but I certainly remember where it took me.
It was the opposite of a convalescent, I’d accidentally got on the wrong bus and was now at a school of correction in Chipping, Ongar.
It had taken me a while to realise this wasn’t the place I was supposed to be, the bars on the windows and guards with keys were a clue.
I wrote home telling my mum that I didn’t like it there, that all we had for breakfast was dry bread and one rasher of streaky bacon.
She’d always reply telling me it was for my own good and that they were trying to help me get fit.
On Sundays the boys would play football on a field surrounded by the Epping Forest, occasionally the ball would stray into the woods and we’d go and fetch it back.
One day, after kicking the ball back, I stayed in the woods and made a run for it.
I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could, but was eventually caught by guards and stripped of my privileges for a whole month.
The first Sunday I was allowed out again to watch the football, I ran again.
This time I managed to reach my sister’s house in Debden. Her husband could tell something wasn’t right and thank god he wouldn’t allow the police to take me back.
To this day the family is still baffled by what happened, I just don’t know how I ended up there.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in my childhood, I remember being about 13 when me and my family were picked up by a limousine and taken to the Princess Cinema, Dagenham.
We were celebrities for the day and off to watch my brother-in-law, Colin Lowes, received the George Medal for his actions in the Korean War.
He’d pulled seven wounded soldiers to safety and so he and my sister were to meet the Queen. Me, my mum, dad and brothers and sisters were introduced to the packed cinema and treated like royalty ourselves.
We watched my sister, Jean Lowes, meet the Queen and were invited afterwards to have drinks in the theatre manager’s quarters. That’s a day I’ll never forget.