Gospel Oak street holds 90th birthday party to honour oldest resident - WW2 veteran Les
PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 July 2014
Les was the guest of honour at a street party along with his wife Betty, who is only a few months younger than him and will turn 90 next February.
The couple have been married for 66 years – which is also how long they have lived in their Estelle Road home.
They moved in on their wedding day in July 1948, which was also Les’s 24th birthday.
“So I never had any trouble remembering our wedding anniversary!” Les told the Ham&High.
The street party on July 11 was organised by his neighbours Sarah Pickford, Valerie Moss and Victoria Bridge, whose nursing student daughter Melissa Bridge made Les a sumptuous chocolate cake featuring a large “90” in white chocolate.
“I’ve lived in this area all my life,” said Les.
“I was born in the Middlesex Hospital and I grew up above a fish and chip shop in Wellesley Road, Kentish Town. I think I was actually weaned on fish and chips!”
The fish shop was run by his mother and stepfather (his own father had died).
“Of course I had to help out in the shop, and I still remember my grandmother peeling potatoes for chips in the kitchen behind the shop,” he said.
“In those days the frying oil was heated by a coal fire underneath the vat, and they were always sending me out to bring in more coal and stoke the fire.”
In those days a piece of cod cost two shillings, and the chips were a penny extra.
“I also remember my mum giving me a jug and a bowl and sending me down to Camden Town to get jellied eels, stewed eels and pie and mash,” said Les.
“I used to go on the tram which went from the terminus in Cressy Road down Malden Road, past the old Doric Cinema.”
After serving in the Navy during the Second World War, Les spent his working life in the printing and film industry, becoming a specialist in optical graphic imaging and special effects for film studios, and ended up working for the Python animator Terry Gilliam before he retired in 1989.
Betty has also lived her entire life in the area, having also been born just off Malden Road, Kentish Town.
“All our friends used to live around here and the road was mainly people like postmen and policemen and builders,” Les said. “But almost all the working class people have moved away now.”
The couple’s house was actually bought by Les’ mother in 1948 for £2,300.
They paid rent to her until she died in 1996, aged 93, and then inherited the house.
Considering their property is now worth nearly £2million, is Les tempted to cash in and go and live somewhere else?
“Well, Betty is adamant that she doesn’t want to move and I can’t argue with that!” he said. “So we’re going to stay here.”