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Friends Reunited After 55 Years Thanks to The Dragon

Published on: 12 May, 2020
Updated on: 14 May, 2020

After 50 years, left Nick Hazell, right Mike Melbourne.

by Martin Giles

Two Guildford school and trainspotting friends who drifted apart in the mid-Sixties have been reunited, through The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

Lifetime Guildfordian Michael Melbourne has commented on several Dragon local history stories over the years and one of his comments, on a David Rose article Looking Back To Treats Enjoyed By Staff Of Drummond Bros, was found by Australian émigré Nick Hazell who wondered what had become of his old trainspotting chum and sent in his own comment.

Nick wrote: “I was just looking at various articles about Drummond factory when I saw Mike Melbourne’s name and his comment about his grandfather working at the factory.

I would like to ask him is he the same Mike Melbourne who lived in Cabell Road, later in Applegarth Avenue and had a brother called Alan? The reason I ask is I used to live in Park Barn and used to trainspot with a Mick Melbourne back in the early 1960s. I wonder if he is the same person?

I have lived here in Australia since the early 1970s and would be interested to hear from Mike.”

So we asked Mike if we could pass on his email address and now the two are now in direct contact. So we asked the old friends about their memories and how they’ve lived their lives in the 50 years since they were chums.

Mike with his duffle bag, late 1969/70. Photo Mike Melbourne

Michael Melbourne

What marvellous news to hear from Nick after all these years and it’s my 71st birthday as well. Nick and I grew up together in the early Sixties, being among the first families to live in Park Barn.

Nick lived in the corner house leading up to where Pond Meadow school used to be, with his Mum, brother John and he had a sister as well.

I lived in 78 Cabell Road with my parents, brother Allan and sister Jeanette where we moved from a prefab in what was then Egerton Close. We later moved to 62 Applegarth Avenue when my other brother Peter was born.

I was one of the first pupils to start Park Barn Junior School when it was built, after being at Westborough at the age of five. Later, I went on to Park Barn seniors with teachers named Miss Laycock, Mr Parsonage, Mr Downes, Mrs Brown and Mr Kelsey.

John Hollins who played for Chelsea, QPR and once for England in 1967.

In my first year, I can always remember making friends with John Hollins from a football family in Westborough. He was older than me and left to join Chelsea junior team.

Nick and I spent hours together sharing the same interest in steam trains along with another friend Roy, Garner (his Dad was a teacher at junior school).

We were often down at Guildford coal-yard, especially Sunday mornings. We cycled a lot to Horsham and Reading, collecting platform tickets on the way. Also, we used to get the money back on any beer bottles we found and save up to go further afield to London, Yeovil, Bournemouth and Exeter.

At the Eastleigh Works in 1965 with 30926 Repton awaiting shipment to the USA. Photo Mike Melbourne

I still have the interest today filming steam specials and travelling the country.

On the Flying Scotsman at Steamtown, Carnforth in the early 1970s. Photo Mike Melbourne

Another thing I remember was we both helped on Billy Smart’s Circus around 1964/5. Nick helped sell ices and I helped Lionel Smart and his wife with the candy floss, sixpence each. I later met “The Gov’nor”, Billy Smart with his Stetson hat and all his team down at the Woking Road site (now the A3 flyover).

Other friends were John Wood (Broomfield) also Brian and Michael Langford (at Wood Street), the traction engine guys. The brothers and I still meet up at Brookwood or Chilworth to see the steam specials. Unfortunately, John died a year ago.

Mike says: At the Guildford Youth Centre (now Waitrose) I think around 1966/7. L-R Pete Williams (his father was one of the Williams Bros Newsagents), me in the middle with my leg in plaster, and Roy Garner (who Nick will remember from school). Photo Mike Melbourne

When I left school at 15,  I worked at Plastic Coatings Ltd, in Woodbridge Meadows, where I started in the stores and planning loads for seven large vehicles, sales invoicing and credit control. I was there for more than 37 years. Then, nearly two years at County sound/Eagle Radio/Delta radio in finance followed by nine years at SEEDA, a government agency, in finance, before retiring.

I was born in St. Lukes hospital on May 5, 1949 and have lived in Guildford all my life. As time went by, I was a part-time youth leader at Guildford Youth Centre for nine years, helping teenagers, organising disco evenings for about. 200 young people. Also, social evenings working with a welfare officer, Glen Sheppard and his wife.

The late Doreen and Bill Bellerby.

I had close connections with the Bellerbys and remember briefing the late Sallie Thornberry on youth work.

I later joined the Guildford IVS, helping to run clubs for people with learning difficulties and gardening and outings for the elderly. It was at IVS that I met my wife Veronica. The group of about 24 of us all got married to partners from within the group in our twenties and are still together after all these years.

My wife Veronica and I early March this year (2020) before restrictions came in place. Photo Mike Melbourne

Veronica and I moved from Caxton Gardens to Sheldon Court five years ago to be nearer our interests, helping run meetings and church services for the elderly and people with learning difficulties. We have a son, Chris, living in Guildford who has taken up similar interests by helping others. This has kept us in Guildford and made us happy.

Nick Hazell in his back yard looking towards Pond Meadow Special School around 1964. Photo Nick Hazell

Nick Hazell

I met Michael when we moved to Park Barn estate in the mid-50s after moving from the prisoner-of-war huts on Merrow Downs. We moved to 76 Pond Meadow, a brand new house. Mum was bringing up the three of us on her own.

I was the eldest, my sister Ann being one year younger and brother John three years younger. Mum soon got a job at Forest Stores at the end of Pond Meadow, and after a while secured a position at Pond Meadow special school. She remained there until she joined me here in Australia in 1976 and passed away in 2013.

I went to school at Park Barn junior and senior school, but somewhere during that time, I think it may have been while the senior school was being finished, I went to Onslow school.

I can still remember crossing the A3 to get to school because there was no underpass at the railway bridge as there is today. Could you imagine parents today letting their young children cross a busy road like the A3 unsupervised? We used to cross in front of Ashenden Estate, after crossing the railway pedestrian crossing behind where the Weaver Arms pub used to be.

Nick taking a photo of ‘U’ class 31809 on the 3pm to Reading being the last day of steam passenger trains on January 3 1965. The photo was taken at the foot crossing between Park Barn Junior school and Bannisters (now Tesco). Many a hour was spent there in our schooldays. Photo Mike Melbourne.

Teachers I remember at Onslow School from memory: Mrs Blackhurst and Mrs Gorniock. Teachers I remember at Park Barn include: Mr Fitzgerald (History), Ms Enns (Art), Mr Watts (PE), Mr Kelsey (Deputy Head), and Mr Fisher (Head).

My classmates from senior school included: Paul Hanks, Pat Cox, Marilyn Benn, Peter Jeffries, Jeff Childs, Peter McCloud, Malcolm Houghton, Chris Ridges, Sandra Pierce, Colin Christie, and my girlfriend at the time, Christine Dixon (sadly not with us any more).

I was around 1962-4 that Michael and I spent a lot of time, as did a lot of young boys, trainspotting. Woking was a favourite spot because of mainline steam to the West Country and Southampton/Bournemouth/Weymouth. I still have an interest in British railway history.

Nick in his duffle coat 1964 on the footplate of 34099 Lynmouth one Sunday morning at Guildford coal yard. Photo Mike Melbourne

Michael and I seemed to drift apart about, I think, 1965. I got an evening job on a fruit and veg van twice a week with Dodd and Baverstock, around Park Barn estate until 10pm some nights, I remember the cold during winter. I’m sure Ray Dodd had a fruit and veg shop in Park Barn in later years. Charlie Baverstock was one of the nicest gentlemen I have ever met.

When I left school at 15 I went to work on the fruit and veg counter at Woolworths in North Street, Guildford. It was the first counter on the left as you walked in.

Nick Hazell at sea training school March 1967 (back row on left). Photo Nick Hazell

This was only a fill-in job as I had already organised to enter the Merchant Navy. So on January 3, 1967 off I went (still 15) for 16 weeks’ training at Sea School at Dover. Having completed the course (I was still 15) I joined my first ship as an engineer room boy.

That first trip kept me at sea for nine months. I spent four years working for BP on their tankers and saw many countries, I enjoyed the travelling. But by mid-1971 I decided I had enough so came back to live with Mum at Park Barn.

Nick and his wife-to-be Sue Pearson outside the gate of Pond Meadow Special School, July 1972. Photo Nick Hazell

I got a job car-cleaning at Douglas E Ford, in Godalming and I met and married Sue Pearson, a barmaid at the Weavers Arms pub, in 1972. We decided to go to Australia in 1973, and arranged a job for me in a factory on the Gold Coast, Queensland. Within a year, I got into the civil construction industry and spent nearly all my working life here in Australia in that field. I retired in 2014.

Me on Pinks Hill railway crossing in March this year (2020). Photo Nick Hazell

I have a daughter close by in the police force, as is her husband, and a son close by who works for the Queensland government organising education enrolments.

I have been back to England probably 10 times in the past 47 years and always visit Guildford. I still have an interest in British railways and have visited the Watercress (or Mid-Hants railway) often.

There is nowhere quite like England in the summertime although here, in Queensland, it is summer all year round compared to England.

Like Mike, I was born in  St Luke’s Hospital but in 1951. We never had a Dad at home, so Mum worked very hard to keep us all together. She joined me here in Australia in 1976 and my brother John in 1978. I still have my sister Ann, in Horndean, Hants.

My wife Sue passed away in 2017, although we were not together at the time. My partner of 15 years, Helen, and I enjoy retirement in our garden where we grow many different tropical fruits and flowers.

We love to travel and have been to many countries and we would like to travel more when and if things ever get back to normal. Between us, we have five grandchildren so we will continue to enjoy our time with them.

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test 10 Responses to Friends Reunited After 55 Years Thanks to The Dragon

  1. Ben Darnton Reply

    May 12, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    Great article! )The last day of steam on the Reading-Redhill line was on Jan 3rd 1965, not 1964.)

    Thank you. Article corrected. Ed

  2. Shirley Purchese Reply

    May 13, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    Great and interesting article. Brought back many memories, especially the names of teachers. I too was born 1951 and went to Park Barn School and lived at 103 Applegarth Avenue. I certainly remember Nick.

    I was Shirley Parnell then.

    • Malana (Mel) Johnson Reply

      May 8, 2021 at 12:25 am

      Does anyone know who lived at 69 Pond Meadow, Park Barn all those years ago? it’s rather urgent I find out. Thank you.

      • Nick Hazell Reply

        June 9, 2021 at 7:45 am

        Hi Malana,

        Nick Hazell here, I have just seen your question in the comments under our story in The Dragon. As you probably saw in the story I lived at 76 Pond Meadow and at that time Colin Ledger lived at 69 with his family. We were of a similar age and were at school together.

        I hope this has been a help to you, I do have a list of all the families in Pond meadow in those early days. If I can be of any further help please contact me nicholashazell@optusnet.com.au

  3. Nick Hazell Reply

    May 14, 2020 at 2:36 am

    I thank Shirley for her comment and hope that she and her sister Linda are both keeping well and have stayed safe from the virus. I send my regards and best wishes to them both.

    Editors note: We have tried to contact Shirley Purchese but the email address given did not work. If she wishes to make direct contact please email: guildford.dragon@gmail.com

  4. Michael Chadd Reply

    May 18, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    Brian Langford and John Wood were both in my class at Park Barn Secondary School. We used to swap birds eggs with each other. I remember John Wood being very interested in trains.

    Mr Garner was my teacher at the junior school. He really was a smashing teacher; if he had a problem with a pupil he would have a talk with them rather than tell them off.

    Before I left school I used to work on the farm at the top of the common and had to take the milk down daily to leave right opposite the Langfords’ house; their traction engine was always under cover.

    I lived on Park Barn Drive and Jeff Childs used to be my best friend while we were growing up but we sort of drifted apart after I started work and lost touch with him although I did get in touch with his sister. My sister Irene Chadd and Stephen, sadly both now passed away, were at the school about the same time as Nick and Mike.

  5. Nick Hazell Reply

    May 19, 2020 at 6:41 am

    Hi Michael. I remember you from Park Barn Drive, I think you lived very close to Dave Webb. I also remember your brothers. I still keep in touch with Peter McCloud whose brother you would know, Eric McCloud they lived at 2 Cabell Road.

    Jeff Childs was in my class at school. Of you are talking to him please tell him that I said good day. All the best to you, stay safe. Regards.

  6. Ken (Gordon) Sanderson Reply

    May 26, 2020 at 3:51 pm

    I was also born in 1951 and went to both Onslow School and Park Barn and remember some of the names mentioned, especially Mrs Enns in art. I left in 1966 and went to Billing’s & Sons in Walnut Tree Close as a printer. I left Guildford in 1973 and travelled by jet ship to Australia where I intended to stay and travel for a couple of years. I finished up joining the police in Perth after travelling around and working in Australia after about five years. I retired after 30 years service and never regretted joining.

    My friends around that time in Park Barn were Paul Brandon, Trevor Denyer and Mark Heskett.

    I have returned a number of times to the UK, and at times Guildford, for both holidays and police work.

    I went by the name Gordon Sanderson. Hope to hear from somebody that was in my class.

  7. Nick Hazell Reply

    May 28, 2020 at 7:04 am

    G’day Gordon. I remember you well. I am pretty sure you lived in Dorrit Crescent near Drummonds, is that correct? In fact, I think we may have made contact many years ago through the Park Barn School website? Anyway, how are you and where are you living?

    I am still living here on the Gold Coast, haven’t moved since arriving here from England. The three names you mention I recall but can’t quite put a face to, after all, it is a while ago.

    Did you have a mate by the name of Martin Jenner? He lived in Pond Meadow. You will probably remember our history teacher “spit and dribble” Mr Fitzgerald you wouldn’t want to be at the front of the class! Well, hope to hear from you again with any memories, until then stay safe.

  8. Ken Sanderson Reply

    June 30, 2021 at 7:14 am

    Hi Nick,

    Have only just come across your response now (some 14 months later).

    It was great to hear that somebody remembered me. I used to live in Bramble close, next to Dorrit Crescent. I did know Martin Jenner, we were both into photography at that time.

    I am living in Kalamunda, a hills suburb of Perth (about 20kms away from Perth City).

    My wife has two nephews that live in Queensland and have over the years spent many times visiting them in Brisbane and going on holiday to Whitsundays, Airlee Beach, Town of 1770.

    Besides Perth, I have always loved Queensland and had I travelled there when I first came to Aus I might have made that my home.

    Best decision I ever made was to come to Australia and see my sons and grandchildren thrive.

    If you want to catch up, visit Facebook and look for Irene Ken Sanderson.

    Look forward to hearing from you again.

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