Linda Dunn on family

Published Feb 17th 2014

I had a really happy childhood. It still stays with me. When I was young, I thought everyone had the same.

We were very lucky. We were poor yet happy.

My parents were from Poplar, east London. My mother lived in an apartment block, and she said that she saw the German bombers flying in along the Thames.

It was really tough for my mum because she lost a lot of friends in the war [World War II]. Poplar was badly damaged by the fighting, so afterwards, she moved to Dagenham, a completely new area built after the war ended.

At the time, it was thought to be the world’s largest council estate.  My parents always lived in social housing. They never owned their own house.

My siblings and I were all born at home, in the house in Dagenham, and my paternal grandmother lived there with us until she died. I was quite young when she died, probably about five or six.

The house was small, with only two bedrooms, and I had two older brothers. Luckily, they were quite a bit older so all of us weren’t always in the house at the same time.

Even though I was the baby of the family, I wasn’t spoiled.  After I was born, Mum had several miscarriages, including carrying twins to term who then both died.

I remember that early time in life as very happy and loving, even though when I look back now, it must have been so tough for my parents.  I remember that Mum had alopecia because she fed the family before she fed herself.

Life was very different then. There was next to no crime. A murder would have been national news, and we rarely locked the front door. When we did, we kept the key hanging inside the letterbox.

Thursday has always been my favourite day of the week, and it took me a while to realise why. It’s because Dad got paid on a Thursday and would come home with bags of old fashioned sweeties.

Christmas was a very special time for us because it was the only time we got presents, and our big dinner was always spectacular – we’d end up so full we couldn’t move!

After Lawrie and I got married, we bought a house in Maidstone, Kent. We could get a 100 per cent mortgage if we moved outside London, so we did. The house cost £3750.

Lawrie was working in London and found commuting difficult, so we lived in Kent for only a year or two before selling the house and moving to Crystal Palace.

In our first year of marriage, both our fathers died. I adored my father, and when he died, he was only 56. He died on my 20th birthday.  Lawrie’s father was 75 when he died.

We were living in Crystal Palace when we had our first daughter, Simone, in 1972.  Then we moved to Bromley. It used to be a very nice area, but it’s changed a lot.

We had our other two girls, Chloe and Lauren, there in Bromley. All three girls got good educations. They went to fee-paying schools.  It is so interesting to see how children develop and what they take from you.

My mother lived with us in Bromley. That’s so much less likely to happen now because families are flung so far apart.

My mum died in 1994/5. It was a miserable time because she was in a lot of pain. We were very close, and she lived with us during her last years.

I don’t have any family in east London now. My last relative that lived there was an uncle who was a docker on the Isle of Dogs.

When we went to his funeral, I remember seeing the Docklands light rail and thinking how different things are now. Such development and change is extraordinary, particularly in places like east London.  When I was little, there was no public transport on the Isle of Dogs on Sundays.

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