In the days when most Dagenham families
had precious little money to spare and holidays non-existent or few and far
between, the Town Show, carnival and funfair was THE highlight of the
year. On the Saturday of the show our family, parents, grandparents, siblings,
cousins, etc. gathered at our "own" opposite the Travellers pub on
Beacontree Heath to watch the carnival pass by on its way into Central
Park. We always stood in the same spot so there was no need to worry about
where the family and friends would be. The colourful floats, decorated and
marching bands were very exciting to us kids.
We then visited the show in the park - so much to see in those
days - huge marquees covering various aspects of life in Dagenham - handicrafts
was a big area where local people submitted competition One year we had great
cause for celebration when a piece of crochet work by my grandmother won
a prize. The horticulture marquee was especially popular it displays of giant
marrows, onions, potatoes and vegetables. There were also areas devoted to
caged birds, beekeeping, rabbits, arranging, photography and numerous
My mother loved the horse show which took place over the whole
weekend and attracted top showjumpers - Alan Oliver was popular then and I had
the temerity to ask him if I could have his competition entry number he was
wearing on his back - to my amazement he agreed (and I still have it!).
Alan's wife Alison taught Princess Anne to ride!
There was also the main arena where dare-devil stunts took place,
bands marched, Scouts paraded and, on the Sunday, a church service was held.
The final treat of the day would be the funfair and we kids
looked forward to it all day and made sure we did not misbehave otherwise we
would be taken home and deprived of the opportunity to go on a couple of the
rides. Every child in Dagenham would be given be given free ride tickets
at school and we pleaded with friends not attending the show to let us benefit
from them. If we were really good and not too much money had been spent at the
show, we were allowed one or two extra rides - my personal favourite was
the waltzer, which hurled you round at break-neck speed and literally took your
breath away. I also loved the sideshow where you tried to win a goldfish by throwing
a table tennis ball into a goldfish bowl - my father was never happy when
I won because it meant taking home a new addition to our family in a
small plastic bag. Hooking a plastic duck was also another firm favourite and I
still have some of the small ornaments I won. Those were the days.