The Gas Lamp

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"It was at this gas lamp that most of us congregated - first to play, and as we got older, just to meet and chatter."


"I remember our street in the '50s and early '60s was a happy street, full of laughing, playing children. We played as safely on the road as on the pavement. My house was in a block of 19 houses with bay windows and little front gardens. Opposite us were the 'new' houses as we called them.

Halfway down our block at the edge of the flagstone pavement stood our gas lamp. It was at this gas lamp that most of us congregated - first to play, and as we got older, just to meet and chatter.

It was here that you would find the chalk numbers of hopscotch on the flagstones, and a white-painted cricket wicket adorned a garden wall opposite. It was here at the base of the lamppost that we threw our jumpers and cardigans when warm from playing - probably oblivious the fact that it had been a stopping off place for many a pet dog.

This was where the girls sang - some old songs, and the new songs of the time of course.

This was where our parents knew to find us when it was time to be called in for bed; earlier, probably than children go to bed today. Was it 6 o'clock, 7, 8 o'clock? I can't remember. I only remember those pleas for five more minutes.

One evening, after dark, safe in my bedroom, I sat on my wide window sill to watch the world go by. I was so surprised to see a light flickering from the bedroom window of one of my friends, known to us all as 'Ginger', and who lived in the house opposite the gas lamp.

The following day I asked him about the light, and he said that he'd been a shining a mirror to catch the light from the gas lamp. At night, I looked out for the light again, and I wasn't disappointed. This went of for several nights, and Ginger asked me if I'd seen the lights, as I wasn't able to acknowledge them from my window with a mirror, as there is no lamp opposite my house.

One night I hit upon an idea, after sneaking the kitchen matches upstairs, I lit one and threw it out of the open sash window, to fly into the night and to acknowledge the mirrored gas light. I can't remember now how many days, weeks, possibly months this went on. I do know that Bryant and May were good match-makers though, as nearly fifty years on, my husband Mal, no longer ginger but bald, and myself, and with four sons and eleven grandchildren celebrated our ruby wedding last year. I could say that he is still the light of my life, but he might answer that sometimes sparks have flown."

By: Judith Stevens
Published: 2008

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