Arthur Spencer was the second youngest of the six Spencer children. The father of the family, Willi am Spencer, was a Hackney man – he and his wife, Charlotte, lived in Rushmore Road before moving to Walthamstow in about 1904. The older children in the family were born in Hackney; Arthur and his youngest sister Alice, in Walthamstow.
William was a skilled window blind maker, with a good job at a shop in Walthamstow High Street. It is likely that the family moved here so he could take up the new post.
The Spencers soon found a newly built house to rent in the Queen’s Road area- 104 Longfellow Road. They were to stay there for more than thirty years.
The children went to Thomas Gamuel school, just round the corner from home. Arthur was bright and enjoyed school, but remembered many other details of his childhood. He had lots of free time.
Arthur belonged to the Band of Hope youth club attached to the Boundary Road Baptist Church so that he could go on the summer outing to Yardley Hills each year. They travelled by train, then walked to a local farm where they ran races – Alfred once won a box of watercolour paints as a prize – then had tea at long tables.
There were several sports grounds in the area – a favourite of Arthur and his friends was at Chingford, where they travelled by tram. Often they spent the 1/2d return fare on sweets, and walked all the way home.
In the autumn Arthur and his friends took large bags to Epping Forest, where they collected acorns to sell to the pig keepers in the alley off Hoe Street – the man there also kept cows and was one of the local milkmen.
There were plenty of places to play in the immediate neighbourhood – a special favourite was a large naturally occurring pond on the corner of Beaconsfield and Longfellow Roads, where local children took home made boats and rowed them. If the children had money to spare, they would spend one penny on a cinema ticket on a Saturday, and a further penny on sweets from a market stall.
Sundays were everyone’s day off – the working week then included Saturday mornings. So there was much to fit into Sundays. Charlotte Spencer, the mother of the family, made cakes to add to packed lunches during the week. The children were sent on errands, and their father made toffee for everyone. None of the family went to church, although Arthur remembered they would have the kitchen window on Sunday mornings and enjoy hearing the church bells of St Saviour and St Barnabas.
Arthur was to live in Walthamstow all his life. When he was an elderly man he wrote a memoir of his childhood, and drew maps of the area as he remembered it when he was growing up.
Even though Arthur was clever and could have gone on to a senior school, his family wanted him to go out to work and start earning a wage as soon as possible. So he had to stay in the top class at Thomas Gamuel School for seven terms, repeating lessons he knew by heart and waiting until he was old enough to leave. The same thing happened to Arthur’s sister Ada.
When he got to school leaving age, Arthur went to work in a shop in Walthamstow High Street at a wage of five shillings a week. His working hours were 8.30am to 9pm during the week, Saturdays 8.30am to 11pm. He remembered walking home from work in the early hours of Christmas morning, with a five shilling “Christmas box” in his pocket.
And that is where his memoir ends. Arthur died, still in Walthamstow, in 1991, aged eighty six. It would be good to find out what else he did with his life.