Adventures of the Mind
Frederick Charles Petchey
31 December 1922 – 19 June 1990
Reflections of His eldest Son
My father would have been 94 today (New Years Eve 2016). To me he was a great father. I know that my joining the church when 17 years of age took me from him, but he never complained or intervened in the decisions I made. But perhaps I may have made up for that since. He was never open with his affections but in my early years always included me so much in his free time.
From a very young age I would be sat on the cross-bar seat of his cycle and taken to a football match he played in. I became well known by his friends, ‘Little Petch’ being how I was called by one friend as I attended most cricket matches my dad played in, year on year.
He inspired me in my interests and fads. Astronomy is still one of my strong interests going back to when he bought two telescopes, one an old anti-aircraft gun sight with two view finders.
He had a talent for writing fiction but the only example I had was when I was 9 or 10 and had a homework assignment to write a story. He did it for me. It was exciting, full of action and I had to read it to the class..
My musical interests he also encouraged. When I took up the trumpet he found me a teacher, band leader Cyril Andrews. When I dropped that for the glamour of popular music and became the vocalist for the band my friends at school formed, he bought my microphone and when I began playing bass he bought my guitar and amplifier. Our first gigs were Sunday nights at the Ekco Social and Sports club where Cyril and his band played. Mum and dad would be there.
My mediocre DIY skills I also attribute mostly to my dad. We would decorate rooms together and from the age of 12 he let me decorate my own. He could make something out of anything. The first TV he built when I was 5 or 6, the cabinet was made from an old walnut table. In his retirement years he bought a video camera. In those days it was just black and white and the recorder was separate from the camera. Whatever happened to those reels of video recordings, I do not know. Interestingly, one of my avid past times now, in my retirement years, is making videos.
He never refused help when I needed it. One time when I went through the break up with a long term girl friend he helped in a practical way for me to move on.
Once married there were some special moments, like in 1975, the time he came out to us in Steeple Bay where we had our mobile shop. When we wanted to start up a business, the Take 5 Burger Bar, he loaned us the money. Though he never came to visit us when we moved to Lancashire he lent us the money to buy an old mini bus. To me it is a strange coincidence that during the year following his departure from this life, my income doubled while doing the same job. I was a contract draughtsman at BAe Warton and because someone spoke to me I changed agencies and doubled my hourly rate. This enabled us to buy the nicest home we have ever had, 7 Byron Avenue, Warton, where I could walk to work. We moved in on the very day of the first anniversary of dad’s passing.
Having penned some reflections, perhaps at this point I should document what facts I can, from memory.
He was born on New Years Eve 1922. His father, Walter, had been married previously to a woman named Selina who died. They had one child, Alf, but no records have been found to confirm the marriage or his birth. There was some falling out between my father, his brother Reginald and Alf.
The family home was in Southchurch, Northumberland Avenue I believe. They also lived near the Gas Works and the sea was a stones throw away. I do not know what primary school he attended but he his same secondary school was the same as mine, Southchurch Hall High School.
One of his first jobs was for a surgeon/doctor in Chalkwell but was called up to serve in the second world was. He was in the RAF assigned to airfield defence in India. He never mentioned any serious battles except with a shoal of jelly fish and Malaria which hospitalised him.
After the war he went to work for the expanding electronics company in Southend, E.K. Cole. (EKCO) At first he had various jobs but later worked as charge hand in the coil winding departments. He worked at various sites around Southend in particular the Somerton works, a building which is still standing. To supplement his income he worked in Cotgrove’s Restaurant, washing up and in the summer shut down worked in the Kursaal Pleasure Park on the water chute. One year he broke his collar bone while in the job. He also got me some of my first employment either home work assembling simple components for EKCO, or one year at the plastics plant. Also each year on the Sunday after the annual Chalkwell Fete I would be included in the team that dismantled the EKCO Social Club tent and stand.
In 1948 he met my mother at a dance in the Kursaal Ballroom. His chat up line I believe was ‘have you read any good books lately?’ But I never took him for a great reader. Also, he was never that good on the dance floor, while mum was, though mum did tell me in his childhood he was very good on roller skates and would frequently go to the rink that was at the Southend Pier the first fire destroyed it.
Mum also told me once of a serious accident he had with a car or motorcycle that went into him. She also described his relationship with his mother as being rather oppressive, she being strongly religious. This may have had something to do with him never wanting to enter into any discussions regarding my faith.
Mum and Dad were married 1948 in St Mary’s church Prittlewell and was born later that year. Their first home in Napier Avenue in the Southend town centre. I assume they were living with dad’s father who died in 1951. I do not know whose whome it was but after Fay was born and Theresa was on her way we moved to the almost new three bedroom home in Archer Close, where he lived for the rest of his life and where Theresa, Richard and Mark were born and raised.
Dad was very much a working class man. He never wanted to purchase the council home we lived in, even at a very low price. He always voted for the Labour party and held to socialist, democratic views.
He played the harmonica well in the Larry Adler style of the day and enjoyed the new age of the TV. He bought the family a real-to-real tape recorder and my first ‘transistor radio’ which opened up my serious love for music, especially jazz.
His prowess as a sportsman was legendary. Though only playing for the works teams he frequently had his bowling figures highlighted in the local paper.
Sadly, after retirement, while on his bike, a car parked in the wrong direction pulled out in front of him. He received serious leg injuries and was immobile for a long time. This put an end to his sporting life and his general health suffered.
After his first heart attack I visited him in hospital and he described how it felt. I cannot recall exactly what else he spoke about but he was cheerful and brave as always. It was while living in Rawtenstall, in 1990, as I returned home Eileen told me of his passing. There had been some argument with mum which brought on another heart attack. Interestingly, a day or two after his death, while Fay was with living mum, mum says that he appeared to her and comforted her by saying all was okay and that he was now with Reggie. His brother had died of cancer earlier months earlier.
His funeral service at Southend Crematorium I conducted, without shedding a tear, which was a minor miracle.
Although no ones life is spotless, for me he was a marvellous father who taught me the value of hard work, making the most of what you have and keeping smiling when challenges arise. I shall always cherish my memories of him and look forward to seeing him again, in the Lord’s good time!