Beavers Woodyard was two doors away from my parents’ Newsagent shop in the High Road, R.J.C. Bird. It was run by a Mr. Tandy, whose son, Les Tandy, I sat next to at Benfleet Junior School for about eighteen months, before I went to Clark’s College at age eleven. His business partner was John Gorbally, whom I think took the business over eventually. An old Polish chap called Stan, also helped out. He was a skilled carpenter, and was very kind to fifteen year old me, knocking up a record cabinet for me, when Dad just didn’t have the time. I still have this sturdy box, which I painted vivid Radio Caroline blue at the time; it forms part of the storage in my garage.
I remember Beavers Woodyard catching fire in the late 1960s. The cans of paint and gallons of turpentine etc. were exploding like grenades, and firemen took a time to get it under control. Mum and I were at the front windows in our nightclothes expecting to be evacuated, but luckily it didn’t come to that. After the damping down, the whole place stank the following morning.
Beavers shared a private access road at the back of the shops (second left down Hope Road). We also shared it with the shoe shop next door on our right, (if you face the parade of shops), and the Days’ flat over Ronalds Hairdressers on our left. They had the wool shop several doors down, close to the old coaching arch. Beavers also had a row of dilapidated lock up garages at the back of this cul de sac. I hated driving in here late (no security lights then!) I seem to remember one light on a pole, for Beaver’s use, which they could turn on from their premises, but it wasn’t on very late. Dad taught me to drive along the edge, circle, and sweep my headlights round the banjo before I parked, and opened our garage. By that time he was always up at the bedroom window, watching.
There was a footpath to the woodyard close to our garage, and it would have been an ideal spot for loitering. I was lucky, and never encountered a problem in the four years I lived there as a young adult.