Book recounts the fun of the '60s in the East End

By Rob Virtue on December 19, 2013 8:00 AM |


Containing a vast array of colourful characters, '60s east London was a fascinating place to be.

Isle of Dogs resident Alfred Gardner remembers that period fondly and has recorded his memories in a book, published by Fonthill Media.

An East End Story: A Tale Of Friendship talks about Alfred's adventures with friend David Upson at a time when the area was littered with pubs, drunken shenanigans, rackets and prostitution but also a huge sense of fun and community.

He was led to write the book after David, who served in the Burmese Navy in the Second World War, died in 1996.

Alfred said: "After he died his sister gave me his war mementos and, looking through papers, I thought there was a diary there so decided to transcribe it. It was all written on notebooks and little bits of paper. It sometimes took me hours to figure out what was said because sometimes they were too small or worn.

"I sent the document to the Imperial War Museum and then my wife Linda said 'why don't you write about your memories of Dave?' I did and it ended up with this book."

He published An East End Story himself more than 10 years ago. Then recently Fonthill Media asked if it could print an updated version and for this Alfred wrote another 50,000 words.

The book received a glowing review from columnist Matthew Parris in The Times and is now being stocked in stores across east London including Waterstones at Canary Wharf.

The 72-year-old has had a good response to the work, which is a labour of love.
"They really were fantastic times," he said. "Our favourite pub was the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping - one of the few still standing. It had a wonderful atmosphere.

"It had a sing-along band that performed seven days a week for 25 years and there were no shortage of girls with the nurses at London Hospital.

"There would also be groups of Australians and South Africans trying to out-sing each other. There was a real vibe."

Alfred, who has also just written a screenplay about an east London gangster, said he felt it was important to use the book to record a long-forgotten part of the capital.

"Many pubs have closed and the population has shifted with all the old communities moving out to Essex," he said.

"But my main regret is seeing all the fantastic streets and courtyards in Docklands unnecessarily demolished because they were homes classified as slums, when they were beautiful houses that would be worth a fortune now."

An East End Story: A Tale Of Friendship costs £14.99.

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