Recollections by Mrs Tiggy Winkle

Recollections in general about 1960's London
I forgot that in 1962 tights weren't really worn yet - the really short miniskirt, which required tights, was still a year or so away. At school our winter uniform (in the school color of Navy, with touches of red and orange), consisted of a white blouse, a navy wool jumper (pullover sweater), a navy wool sleeveless pinafore, dark knitted knee socks, sturdy leather mary jane shoes, a navy blue flannel blazer with the school logo on the pocket in red, and a navy wool beret also embroidered with the logo. For rain we wore a dark blue mac over everything. In summer we wore pale blue cotton knee-length belted shirtwaist dresses, covered by the blazer or the pullover as needed. Not exactly Mod London attire, but practical and neat!
Recollections in general about 1960's London
I was 12 when we moved to London for a year in 1962, and these are some of my memories of that time.

About Mrs Tiggy Winkle

caucasian Female
Age in 1960: 10
Born in: Monterey, California
Arrived in London: 1962
Departed London: 1963
Districts inhabited: Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, NW11

My mother was a British war bride, and married my American father in 1945. They eventually moved to California, where my Dad got his PhD at UC Berkeley. My Dad became a professor of marine biology, and he frequently got summers off, and he also had some yearlong sabbaticals, which we spent at British and European universities and marine stations. As I child, I went to England several times to see my British grandparents and other friends and relatives. I was born in 1950, and my first visit to meet my grandparents was in 1952, then again in 1957-1958, and in 1962-1963, just before Mod London took the city by storm! I didn’t hear about Carnaby Street, Twiggy, or even the Beatles until I was back in California and starting high school. I returned to London in the early 70’s, but by then Swinging London was pretty much over. My grandparents lived in Pinner (a suburb of NW London), and although I don’t remember anything about the 1952 visit, I do remember bits of 1957 and especially 1962. In 1957 we were in Bristol while my father taught at Bristol University, but in 1962 he worked for the Office of Naval Research in London, and we lived for a year in Hampstead Garden Suburb. I attended Henrietta Barnett Junior School for Girls, which was only a few blocks away from our rented house on Hampstead Way. I was a very shy, bookish, plump American kid who sketched animals and was bad at sports, and attending a posh English girl’s school, where such things were happily tolerated, was a delightful revelation to me. (I went to Sneed primary school in Bristol in 1958, too, but I was too young to remember much about it except my school uniform and learning the times tables.) But I remember a lot about living in London in 1962, when I was 12. The first thing you need to know about London in the 50’s and early 60’s is that it still had not recovered from the war. Food was often poorly prepared and limited in scope (qualities that were accepted by the English without complaint, but ridiculed by the rest of the world), the houses were cold and often the “hot” water was too, and there were still large areas of London that had not been rebuilt since the war. I especially remember bombed-out churches with rubble still strewn all over weed-covered lots. Some things were right out of the 19th century, too – the “rag and bone” man drove his horse-drawn cart up our street regularly, to pick up discarded clothing, car parts, and miscellaneous junk for resale. The nearby high street in Temple Fortune, where my mother shopped, had a green grocer, a butcher, a fishmonger, a baker, and a school uniform shop (Pullens!), but no supermarket. The most vivid memory I have about 1962-63, though, was the infamous winter, also known as “The Big Freeze of 1963”. It was the coldest winter in over 200 years in England, and it was also before clean air acts reduced the use of coal fires in London, resulting in many weeks of frigid smog. It was so cold that the sea froze a mile out from Kent, in southern England. London was cloaked in icy yellow “Pea Souper” fogs that burned your throat and made even walking to school hazardous. I remember getting up in the freezing dark in our upstairs bedroom with the tiny fireplace, pulling on my uniform (thank goodness, a wool pinafore over a wool pullover, and thick tights with sturdy shoes -but still, the transition from bed to dressed was a challenge every morning) having a quick breakfast my mother made in our tiny kitchen, then walking to school in polluted fog so thick some mornings it was impossible to see your hand even a couple of feet in front of your face. The short footpath my sister and I took between Hampstead Way and Willified Way was particularly spooky – dark dripping trees and narrow, icy flagstone steps, then up past St. Jude’s on the Hill and the playing fields to the school on Central Square. My family went to the continent over the Christmas Holidays in 1962, and when we returned to London we discovered that our kitchen sink faucet had a slow drip that had filled the sink with water, and then frozen solid. My father chipped the huge block of ice out of the sink and tossed it into the back garden. It didn’t totally melt until May! I had two hedgehogs as pets, and they had escaped their outdoor pen before we left in December, much to my dismay. But being native to England, they knew exactly what to do: a month or so later my Dad discovered one of them curled up and hibernating in the leaves next to our garage… We had sailed to England from America on the huge liner SS United States in the late summer of 1962 (the crossing took a week) passing distant icebergs in the North Atlantic, and having tea in the palm court onboard, complete with a string trio playing “tea for two”. A year later we boarded a PanAm clipper at Heathrow – our first transatlantic flight – and landed in New York in just a few hours. That alone tells you how things were changing in the world.