Old Housing and Working Conditions

1953 to 1963 Gibson Square Islington.

Raised from 3 years old, in what was then a slum area – a large ten roomed Regency terraced house situated on one of Islington’s now prestigious squares, nearly each room let out to individual people or families. I and my brothers played all the street games handed down by countless generations before us. Kingy, Queeny, Run-outs, He-ball, Knock- down Ginger, or IT, – after chewing up, where our hands would indicate, paper stone or scissors. The shout would go up “Your IT” and like a flock of demented sheep, with a wolf in their midst we would all scatter to the ends of our legs running endurance. When able to touch one of the other participants – ‘IT’ would say “had ya” only if you were quick enough “had ya” could retouch IT and say “had ya back”. Of course many of the girls preferred Hopscotch, or even just swinging round on a rope attached to the arm of the old gas street lampposts. Some of us kids would think these are good times but seldom was the reality of poverty far from our darned socks, hand-me-down clothes and sometimes just sugared bread or jam for tea.

1963 to 1968 at 32 Ferncliff Road Hackney.

Another slum terraced house to live in, but this time we (my Jewish, new first wife) and I were only sharing with two other couples and there six kids. This was not only a poor area of Hackney, it was a dangerous place to live. Being named by the locals as “The Front Line” in truth racial relations in Hackney between officious, overbearing, pig-police officers and my ordinary neighbours who happened to be either Jewish or black. It was getting to the tinder box point where a riot might occur at any moment. The Council, in its wisdom, decided to obliterate the area with an humongous new housing development that ripped the soul out of the area. However, because of the area redevelopment, The Council offered to rehouse my family and I into Council housing.

1969 to 1972 at 3 Bakers Hill Hackney.

For once, this was a good time in my life where generally my life was going well. My family was growing with one daughter and now three sons; I liked our three bedroomed ground floor flat. I was by then getting very involved in social housing issues as well as union business within my employment with Hackney Council. I managed to get elected various times over just a few years to eventually become the Convenor Steward of the Officers of the Hackney DLO (Direct Labour Organisation ) a big organisation, controlling over two thousand building work operatives. There was a lot of discontent among the DLO officers, when the council refused to give them the same pay rise as other council officers. Not only would they not recognise the DLO as valued workpeople they refused point blank to listen to my representations on their behalf. So I called for an impromptu mass meeting to be held on London Fields where following my short address to the Comrades and a show of hands, I issued the immortal lines OK then brothers “It’s All Out”. Over the next day or two I and my stewards committee organised picket lines with official armbands and placards. At two separate depots the senior managers decided to break through the picket line and open the gates as they were the key holders to the padlocks. So later that day, when they had locked up and gone home mysteriously, (someone) rammed silver foil mixed with superglue into the padlock keyholes. Some years later both of those officers came to see me as they wanted me to represent them as they were facing disciplinary action.

More to follow.

(Mike)

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