Interview with Marie Caleno
The interview with Marie Caleno, nee King, on 20th November 2012, at 19 Chinnery Court, Meopham, Kent.
Marie was born in Station Road, Meopham in May, 1926. Her Father was a coalman and before her marriage in the early 1920s her mother was in Domestic Service
Marie went to the local village school, which, then, had only 3 classes of around 26 children of mixed ages and sex in each. She said her school days were very happy days. The Head teacher at that time was Mr. Strand and they all had to stand to attention whenever he came into their classroom. She enjoyed sports days and could only remember races like the sack race and egg and spoon and no prizes for winning!
When she left school aged 14 she went to work for a year at the home of the Bakers who lived in a large house on Meopham Green, called Meopham Green Farm House, where she looked after their baby. After that she was employed by the Headmaster of the school, Mr. Strand, who lived in the school house, to look after his children.
What hobbies/activities did you have as a child?
She said there was not much to do in the village except join the Brownies and the Girl Guides, although the children in Station Road would often play at "making concerts" and putting on little shows in the street.
Early married life
She met her husband in the "Cricketers" on Meopham Green, where he played the piano in his spare time. He was in the army, it being war time, stationed at the army camp in Vigo. He came from London and they met in 1944 and were married in 1945. Her early married life was spent in an army hut at the camp in Vigo and she worked for Shorts, the aircraft company, which had a place where Leylands is now and she worked there until they had a family and got a house in Station Road. Later they moved to Arnold Avenue and finally to Chinnery Court.
There was Mackleys general store that sold everything near Meopham Station and across the road the Co-op and a bank. There were a few shops at the Parade and a Post Office and general store at "The George" near The Street, whilst on Meopham Green Mrs. Russell had a Grocery Shop and the Parsons owned a general food store.
Transport in the village
Marie said they relied on local buses and did not travel far until they had their first car in 1957.
She earned some pocket money by helping out a Miss Mercer, who had kennels in Norwood Lane, but the house is no longer there.
What sort of work was around when you were young?
There was more farming and mainly domestic work available. Her husband was a taxi driver and then a chauffeur to the owner of the Calor Gas works at Harvel.
A typical working day
She said the working days were longer and men worked all hours but she only worked from 9-4pm. Her husband worked odd hours because he ran the local taxi, working for a Mr. Yates, from what is now Norwood House, near Meopham Green, which now sells wine from their own Vinyard.
War memories of Wrotham Camp
They used to enjoy dances at Erskin Hall near the camp. There were also a few shops. Their quarters, although comfortable, were round topped Nissen huts with corrugated iron roofs. She said they felt better off because they had an Officer's one with a brick fire place. The toilet facilities were shared and it was very cold in the winter of 1947.
Ways in which the war affected Meopham
She could only remember an incendiary bomb being dropped on the railway lines at the rear of Station Road and they were temporarily evacuated to neighbours on the Wrotham Road.
Were there any major events in the village you can recall?
Her most recent memory was of a local farmer being killed in an aircrash in the 1970s whilst flying his own aeroplane. She recalled with pleasure the village fetes of past times and the street party in Station Road for the Coronation in 1953 and also when the Queen came to Meopham. The Queen was passing through in a train, which stopped and all the school children were at the station to wave.
Clubs, societies and leisure activities
She belonged to the British Legion for a long time and also helped to run Whist Drives for money raising events. She is a member of the Mount Zion church and the vicar now comes to Chinnery Court to visit her and give services. Also a member of the 'Golden Years' club but numbers had dwindled so much that it is now also held in Chinnery Court with only about 10 members. They are taken on outings a few times a year to places like Herne Bay and garden centres and they always have a Christmas dinner at a local pub.
Major people in the village
She recalled Mr. Waller who owned Calor Gas and a farmer named French, also a Mr. Miller who owned apple orchards and fields where new houses, including Chinnery Court, are now built. There was a Mr. Stace, the milkman, who lived near Meopham Station, who kept his cows in the fields near the present Chinnery Court. A fair would come every few years and that was also held in this field.
Where she had lived
After her early married life in the army camp, they moved back to Station Road and later to Arnold Avenue as their children were born. Arnold Avenue was built just after the war and they lived there for 30 years before moving, with her husband, to Chinnery Court.
Had she seen many changes in the village?
She thought the village had improved over the years, as all the new build seemed to be off the main road and she felt very happy with the village as it is now.