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Most of the plotlands' sheds, bungalows and other structures had no main services of any kind. Water was collected from stand-pipes in concrete boxes and light was provided by candles and oil lamps. If you entered Collins' hardware store in the High Road in Laindon, you were struck by the smell of paraffin and candle wax which created something of the feel of a frontier settlers' town in the Wild West, rather than a place very close to London in post-war Britain. The Victory Stores in Berry Lane sold a great deal of paraffin to plotlanders well into the 1960s.
However, gas mains had been installed and those bungalows connected to the supply had a means of cooking and lighting. The gas mantle was a valued piece of technology well into the 1960s and provided a soft and gentle light, quite different to that provided by the tungsten filament electric light bulb.
Mr Jackson of "Wendover" had invested in a large generator but had found that it consumed too much petrol. His son, Wallace, later remarked that it was far too powerful and could have supplied a street of houses and not just one small plotland bungalow. For many years the engine languished unused in the toolshed, the family relying on gas for lighting and accumulators and high-tension batteries for the "wireless". Then, in the mid-1960s, Sidney Jackson acquired a small generator that he felt he could afford to run. He built a wooden lean-to shed on the side of "Wendover", behind the large water tank and next to the soak-away drain. He wired the house for low-voltage lighting and a socket from which could be run a small black-and-white TV. When turned on, the TV would slowly come to life, powered from the storage batteries. The modern programmes seemed odd in an environment that had otherwise seemed firmly frozen in the 1920s and 30s.
The only problem was that of saving money: Sidney had decided to run on petrol to start, and then to switch to paraffin with a specially designed tap when the engine had warmed up. This resulted in many breakdowns and the need to dismantle and clean the various engine parts. Eddie Forecast who had married the Jacksons' daughter, Doris, visited his parents-in-law every Sunday. He recalled how he would listen for the throbbing of the engine as he climbed Second Avenue on his way to Hillcrest Avenue and "Wendover". If he could hear it, all was well and he could have a relaxing day. If there was silence he knew that he would be welcomed with a look of concern and a "That engine's playing up again!" That meant that most of the day would be spent dismantling and reassembling the engine and generator. He would finish the day cleaning hands black with grease and carbon with Swarfega in the cold water in the kitchen.
These were the days when cars were not as reliable as they are today (!) Eddie and his brother-in-law, Jack, would exchange stories of famous repairs to their cars or motor-cycles and discuss the best emergency tool-kits and spare parts to carry to get them out of trouble in break-downs. The maintenance of the Jacksons' generator was another feature of the plotlanders' tenuous self-sufficiency and gave a particular feel to the experience of living in Dunton at that time. Across Hillcrest Avenue, in "Hawthorn", the Jacksons could hear the superior and efficient purr of the Burke's diesel generator. . . . .
Harry Salmon, next door in Coombe Cottage, and Mrs Firman in Vera-Joan, both remained stolidly faithful to gas lighting and the battery radio. Mrs Firman eventually moved to a modern council bungalow in Shelley Avenue, Langdon Hills. Harry died after a stroke, never having lived in a house with full modern amenities.
Eddie Forecast wrestles with the Jacksons' generator; his father, Pop Forecast, assists.