How Cupid struck East End Romeo
- Credit: Archant
With the war over and the colour of the counterculture yet to kick in, what was life – and love – like for the young in the Docklands of the late ’50s and early ’60s?
No Beatles, no Stones, no Who –- just houses wrecked by Nazi bombs, trolleybuses, bikes and mischief on the docks.
But what was love like in this middle period, squashed as it was between the Second World War and the cultural explosion of the early 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, crawl under it 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.”
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.
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“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.”
One day, though, Stan – on the way to see a film in his Italian suit – hopped aboard a trolleybus and found himself 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 downstairs.
“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 again.”
Destiny struck again, however, when Stan went to South Woolwich to watch a “saucy film”.
He felt an urge to go back across the river and visit his dad’s social – where he spotted again the “miserable girl”.
“I had an eyepatch on at the time,” he says. “And she laughed at me when I looked at her.
“It wasn’t until about a year later, in 1960, that I saw her again.”
On that occasion, another mysterious urge pushed Stan to abandon his friends and zoom back to Silvertown – this time from East Ham – on his bicycle.
“I didn’t know what the hurry was,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why am I doing this?’