Destiny, love and trolleybuses in the Silvertown of the past

Stan and Joan Dyson after being married in 1963

Stan and Joan Dyson after being married in 1963 - Credit: Archant

No Beatles, no Stones, no Who –- just houses wrecked by Nazi bombs, trolleybuses, bikes and mischief on the docks.

Joan and Stan Dyson in Leonard Street, 1960

Joan and Stan Dyson in Leonard Street, 1960 - Credit: Archant

But what was love like in this middle period, squashed as it was between the Second World War and the cultural explosion of the mid-1960s?

For Stan Dyson, born in Forest Gate hospital four months before the German surrender, his Silvertown playground was full of fun, adventure and an unexpected sense of romantic destiny.

“We used to play on the docks when I was a boy,” Stan, now 71, says. “We’d make a hole in the fence and shout at the men in the ships to see if they had any foreign sweets or foreign money.

“The dock police would chase us and we’d jump between the barges. It was quite dangerous – if we had fallen under them we’d have died.”

Stan and Joan Dyson on their wedding day in September 1963

Stan and Joan Dyson on their wedding day in September 1963 - Credit: Archant


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It was in this environment, in Westwood Road, that Stan grew up – graduating, in time, from pestering seamen and exploring bombed-out houses to being a mod and chasing girls.

“I used to go to the cinema on dates, have a bit of a kiss and a cuddle and then drop ‘em,” Stan admits. “It got me in a lot of trouble – one girl even came over to my house and shouted at my mum.”

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One day, though, Stan – on the way to see a film in his Italian suit – hopped aboard a trolleybus and was overpowered by intuition.

“I always, always sat upstairs on buses,” he says. “But when I got on that 669 I stopped on the stairs because a voice in my head told me to sit at the bottom.

Stan and Joan Dyson in 2016

Stan and Joan Dyson in 2016 - Credit: Archant

“I shuffled near the front while the bus driver waited for me to sit down and then when I was settled I looked up – and there she was.”

Stan, in awe of this girl “so unlike the others” – no make-up, a headscarf – initially reacted coyly, but eventually built up the confidence to smile straight at her.

“She responded with a look of such contempt that I didn’t dare let her see me staring at her.”

Destiny struck again, however, when Stan was in East Ham with friends a full year later.

He was overcome by an urge to abandon the company and zoom back to Silvertown on his bicycle.

“I didn’t know what the hurry was,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why am I doing this?’”

He ended up in Leonard Street – unbeknownst to him the home of the “miserable girl” from the bus.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw her there,” he says. “I slammed on the brakes and proceeded to make an absolute fool of myself.”

Stan can’t explain why, but he found himself wolf-whistling at the object of his affections.

Two attempts and two failures didn’t dissuade the Romeo of Silvertown, however, and within no time he was back – this time with a plan of knocking on her door.

“I was so nervous,” he says. “I stood outside her door and my hand suddenly weighed a tonne.

“But to my shock, the door opened anyway and there she was. We both just about screamed.”

This time Stan’s audacity paid off – he secured himself a walk-and-talk to the off-licence.

“From that day in 1960 until after we were married in 1963 I only had one day off – I couldn’t get enough.”

He soon learned the miserable girl was quite the contrary – she just had a difficult life.

Joan Adams’ mother had died when she was young and had left her, the oldest of nine children, with huge responsibilities – meaning she couldn’t attend secondary school.

“I was never a miserable cow like he makes out,” Joan says, laughing. “I just didn’t like people making silly noises at me. I could have boxed his ears.”

The Dysons left Silvertown – where Stan was recently appalled to learn a house in his old neighbourhood was worth £575,000 – and moved to Basildon in 1964.

They have one child, Joanne, and both say their lives together have been perfect.

They will celebrate Valentine’s Day, Stan says, by watching the film Room and eating dinner at Toby Carvery.

Similar stories about the social history of the Docklands can be found at londonsroyaldocks.com/forgotten-stories

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