Hullbridge Village History
It is hard for me to write a memorium to these four people individualy, they along with their children Lynn and Keith Chart and Robert (Robbie) Palmer were
so much part of our family's lives. All of the adults shared common interests, they loved having a good time and laughs. They found they enjoyed each
others company through the P.T.A.(Parents Teachers Association) which is where they first met.
It also helped that us children were roughly the same age with Lynn being 3 months younger than me Keith was 4 months older than Debbie (my sister) and
Robbie the youngest of us all being born in Sept 1960.
To do them justice I think the best way for me to proceed is to share with you recollections of times I spent in their company and hopefully that will paint a more accurate picture of what they were like and then tak about them individually.
In the late 60's fund raising for the school was in full swing and it seems like every 3 months there was a P.T.A. Dance going on in the new school hall.
Normally it was just a dance with the music of that time D.I.S.C.O. !! But there was variety and Country and Western or Barn dances became popular although it took the less nimble of the group Colin and Bob quite a numbner of them before they became confident and take part proficiently.It was very comical watching them both trying to remember what the caller had said at the begining of the dance when instructing them how to do-si-do, promenade, reel, back to back but the one they always got easily SWING YOUR PARDNER! Colin was a large tall man and Glad was thin and light so when he swung she nearly took off, but then again Glad liked that. Bob on the other hand was shorter and more rotund and Ellie was taller and graceful which resulted in Bob coming back to his seat sweating, puffing and very red in the face. It got even better when they had to change partners during the dance where you could see a change in Colin if he did not know the lady opposite, he became all shy, whilst Bob tried even harder. Mum and Dad had done this in their youth so you would often see Ellie or Glad rushing to dance with Dad while Mum would have a merry time leading Colin or Bob a merry dance.
Very important to every dance was the drink, so it would start of with the men buying a Watneys party seven over at the off-license across the road along with Gin, Vodka, Lemonade Coke for the ladies. Bob would always insist on getting just one so that he could later go out to the off license to get some more and have a breather.
There was the one time when my Aunt and Uncle from Woodford came down for a PTA fund raising dance, it was the start of many pranks between my Uncle and Bob. It started off with Bob borrowing my Uncle's car keys, without him knowing, and then he preceded to put the empty beer cans from the hall into my Uncle's car boot. My Uncle told us that on the way home he was made to stop by my Aunt because she thought something was hanging off the car because of a rattling sound. Not finding anything they continued home and a few days later when he went to his boot and found all the empties along with a smell of alcohol.
That Nov., my uncle got his own way when we had a Bonfire night and everyone came round to us in Abbey Road. Unbeknown to anyone my uncle had brought with him a box of jumping jacks and bided his time till Bob was a little tipsy and was in the garden pint in one hand plate hot dog in the other just about to take a mouthful. My uncle lit the jumping jack walked up to Bob and dropped it behind him, tapped him on the arm and walked away. When the jumping jack went off Bob could not move anywhere without that firework moving in his direction. When eventyually he stopped running and jumping he was in an awful mess and he got a ticking off from Ellie to boot!
Colin was laughing when all of a sudden he was jumping,my uncle had found out that Colin was also involved in the prank with the cans.
Parties meant getting out the latest James Last LP's which was awful for us teenagers who liked listening to the original bands and not the German orchestral versions of the latest hits. Problem is I heard them so much that I now find myself listening to them in my old age , and worst of all enjoying them. I think the attraction for Colin and Bob was the association of a German orchestra and beer ! I can fondly remember one Christmas when all came round to us and I had control of the music being played, we had recently seen Paint Your Wagon and I loved the all male Ho Down to "Hand me down that can of beans" and what with everyone learning Country Dancing at the PTA do's it did not take a second for everyone to be up jigging around the front room, banging into each other, knocking over glasses. men with their trousers rolled up their legs and the ladies with skirts being waved in the air like can can dancers. It was just like the scene in the film apart from the mud and the ladies. My dear old Nan Ellis sitting on the side nearly wetting her knickers laughing at everyone spinning each other round and getting giddy and falling over. It was such great fun as was the encore.
Colin was a member of the Hullbridge Conservatives who used to meet at the Park Country Club, Pooles Lane. He even tried to get my father involved
once he knew he was a Conservative voter.
Through this membership he was to make the aquaintance of a number of influential people in local politics which helped provide my father with contacts when he was sorting out the Sports Ground on Lower Road. A place that Colin in his later years spent time at both socially and working.
Colin was one of the many Sports and Social Club members who gave up their weekends to construct the Sports Ground even though he never really played sports especially football unless it was for charity. The club became his church.
Colin was a manager for a large Insurance company in London, I believe the United Friendly Insurance Company and my wife Maggie, my Mum and I would often travel up to London with him by train. He would pick us up at 6:45 and drive to Rayleigh Station park the car and catch the train to Liverpool Street.
When Colin retired he went and worked for John Thayer, the ex Hullbridge school teacher who by this time had his own school at Crowstone. Colin became the maintenance odd job man but he did say to me one that it gave him loads of satisfaction and a sense of achievement, something that John appreciated.
When Maggie and I moved into the village from London Colin and Keith came along with Tony Fautley and my dad in a red van to help move all our belongings That was the type of man he was, always willing to jump in and volunteer to help people out.
When I asked my dad how Colin died he became choked up as he recalled going to the hospital to see him and read the newspaper and tell him what was going on at the club. Colin would try to converse but with little luck and he said for such a big and proud man as Colin was it hard to understand the frailty of us all. I am glad I never saw him like this and fortunate that I will always see him larger than life a wonderful generous man who loved being in others company.
Out of all the group Glad is the most well known within the village mainly because she was so actively involved in various things like being a lieutenant in the Girl Guides,
Swimming Teacher at the Primary School and Gymnastics Coach for Riverside Gymanstics Club. Glad was super fit and perhaps a frustrated gymnast but certainly was able
to coach children to success. I can still picture her dressed in her Light blue blouse and Navy Skirt, the Guide uniform at the time. She was of slim, slight build and for as long as
I have known her had short blonde hair. She was able to do the splits, cartwheels etc., with ease as I witnessed many times at parties. Glad was always fun to be around she always brought excitement and energy
to everything that she was involved in. Being a smoker most of her life, despite being advised to stop, could be part of the reason people remember her grough voice and hacking
cough in her later years,
but could also be because her voice carried a long wayyyyy! Spending most of her days outside teaching swimming ensured she always look tanned and healthy, apart from the
winter months when she turned blue!
Something else that comes to mind is her vice like grip, which I personally felt a few times when larking around at the parties.
Bob was always the joker, and with his Terry Thomas like gap in his teeth and plumpness made him look the part plus he was constantly smiling and laughing.
He was in his element causing mischief as can be read above amd he loved his drink.
Dad told me once when they came back from being on holiday with everyone that they were all sitting around chatting and relaxing over a drink or two
and as normal they had done a kitty. When everyone was ready for another drink Bob was always the one to jump up to get them. This happened several
times and dad noticed that each time he came back he was different, then he started to slur his words the Ellie cottoned and gave him a real ear bashing.
Each time he was getting the round in he was also having a chaser before coming back to the table. The thing with Bob was that he could not hold his
drink very well and got tipsy very quickly.
Another time I remember is when we went on a trip to Calais and it was the first time in France for Ellie and Bob, and as usual the men had a few drinks,
it was not long before Bob needed to go to the toilet. I nearly wet myslef laughing at his antcis and fuss he made when he found them and all they were was a
hole in the pavement with a ornate metal screen that did not go all the way to the floor so you saw mens feet and what they were doing. Bob came out of there with
wet feet and he told us he could not see what he was doing because his belly got in the way, so fortunately it was a sunny day and his feet and trousers
quickly dried. Think back on it I would not put it past him to have down that to get a laugh, which he certainly succeeded in doing.
He did have a hard working amd serious side to him and was not slow in coming forward to do his bit with the PTA, Sports Ground etc., and was the Treasurer for the Residents Association in 1968.
A memory I still have of him is when I had moved away from the village around 1977 and I was watching one of the Holiday programmes, probably Cliff Michelmore's "Holiday" and it was about holidays in the Far East, possibly Thailand and Bangkok or Bali as it was an up and coming destination at the time. The cameraman was shooting a market scene and all of a sudden Bob appeared in a short sleeve short with his cheeky grin as he tried to converse with a trader. I was shocked there was someone that I knew and they were on the TV but even more shocking was that he was on his own, normally he would be with Ellie and Robbie and my Mum and dad . I think it turned out to be a reward for all the sales he made for the company he worked for.
Unfortunately for me that was the last I ever saw of him.
When I spoke to mum and dad on the phone they would tell me how Bob's illness was shocking and making him half the man I used to know. I am grateful in a strange way that I never saw him like this as it is easy for me to still picture him at the parties and his fantastic Terry Thomas smile.
Ellie was an attractive, beautifully natured lady who was shy and hence quiet until she was partying, she could then mix it with the best.
She must also have been very understanding and tolerent to put up with Bob's pranks and messing about, that at times I know she found embarrassing. When Bob died I could not make his funeral, it was the cause of much embarrassment and regret that kept me at a distance from visiting Ellie for many years, although we always exchanged Xmas Cards.
Many years later I started to see her as I drove through the village and each time I would say to myself I must phone Ellie and go round to see her. To make matters worse my parents had moved out of Hullbridge and they too lost contact with her. She must have thought fine friends those Congram's are. It was not until 2010 when I was delivering fliers for Michael Hoy down Keswick Avenue that I thought "Sod it ! there is no time like the present so I rang the door bell and slid back the porch door. Ellie answered the door with a lovely smile and I said "hello Ellie" and proceeded to kiss her on her cheek to which she said "Thank you" and I stood back and wondered, so I asked her "Do you know who I am ?" She said "No!", "it's Gary I said" "I'm really sorry " she said "but I still don't" I was taken aback and all my embarrassment and guilt came rushing back. "Gary Congram. Jean and Bill's son !" I said. "No, it's not Oh Gary I'm really sorry!" she said and then gave me a lovely hug and kiss on the cheek. I can still remember the sense of relief and joy I felt at that point. She invited me in and we spent around three hours talking and drinking cups of tea and coffee going through her photo albums telling me all about Robert's family. When talking about her son she always called him Robert but when he was much younger he was "Robbie" I guess the change was out of respect for her son who was now a man with his own family and a long career under his belt with Nat West Computer division. Her pride in all of Robbie's family was so evident and infectious that I was feeling elated. I was so glad we managed to catch up but now that she is gone I have more regret that I did not see and talk to her more than I did. Saying goodbye to Ellie at her funeral was very very hard, even harder having heard the speeches that were made through the tears. All I kept thinking was of Ellie looking down from heaven and smiling at me and then saying "See I told you so Gary !"
I am indebted to all four wonderful people in so many ways and I am truely grateful that they came into my family's
lives and made so many memorable and wonderful moments. The memory of their kindness and most of all their friendship will always be with me
throughout my life.
God Bless you all!"