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16 December 2017


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Bitterne Parker: Doug Perry
Sunday, 19 June 2016 00:00

Doug Perry 1
Doug Perry was born in Shirley Warren in 1932, and moved to Bitterne Park when he was three. He’s lived in the same Oaktree Road house ever since.

He started at Bitterne Park School in 1937, when it was an infant, junior and senior school. Starting work when he left school in 1946 as a telegraph boy, Doug worked his way through various post office positions right up to chief inspector during his 45-year career. He served in the army in the Royal Engineers and went to Japan and Korea in 1951, and as a postman he delivered all over Southampton, “because I wanted to learn the job, before I got promoted”. He married “a Bitterne Park girl”, but sadly lost her ten years ago. They had four children, and now he has 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, most of whom live locally.

He retired in 1992, and now concentrates on his role as chair of Friends of Riverside Park, chair of Southampton Evening Cricket League, president of the City of Southampton Sunday Football League, and various initiatives within Royal Mail, including organising children’s parties.

The Qs & the As

What's your link with Bitterne Park

I moved here in 1935 and have lived here ever since!

What’s your earliest memory of the area?

It’s probably of going to school when I was five. We all walked to school – our mums took us. There were tears as you said goodbye, but we settled down after that. And I never moved. We got bombed out once; my parents wouldn’t allow us to be evacuated – my mum said if anything happens we would all go together.

A bomb landed on the shelter of a house opposite in Manor Farm Road, and killed the family; our house was actually condemned, but my gran paid a local builder to put a new roof on it, and that saved it.

We played all down here [Riverside Park, where we sit chatting] through the war. We played soldiers, in the bushes. Because that was the only news you had – about the war. I used to see it in the papers I delivered from when I was ten; that was for White’s, the newsagent on the corner of Bond and St Catherine’s, which is now London Off Licence.

How could the area be better?

It’s a lovely area. You’ve got so much open space. But unfortunately you’ve got to build houses. Townhill Park, for example, used to be Lord Swaythling’s farm estate, and it was all open fields up until around the 60s. That was a completely new estate built there. We used to spend hours up there playing. So we need to preserve remaining open spaces.

But I also think the town, and Bitterne Park, is going downhill due to litter: it’s actually a disgrace. We spend hours litter picking to keep Riverside Park tidy for everybody to enjoy, but you go along the roads and the drains are blocked up, and people just drop litter by the ice cream vans in the Woodmill car park. A little bit of cleanliness makes a big difference, and makes it more enjoyable for everyone.

Doug Perry 2

What’s good – or not so good – about the wider city?

The council only seem to be interested in students: they’ve got the ‘fag end’ there [‘City Gateway’ in Swaythling]; they’re putting two more big blocks of flats up there [he gestures over the river towards Swaythling and the old B&Q site and the bath store site, where we can see a crane in the distance]; and they’re talking about putting more in town near Watts Park. I mentioned I’m chair of the Southampton Evening Cricket League and we’re now talking about completely pulling out of Hogland’s Park because of issues with some students, playing football on cricket pitches, being abusive and causing other problems for cricket players, some of which have resulted in injuries.

But we’ve got some lovely parks, and a beautiful common, and places like this. And of course good football and cricket teams. We see wonderful ships come in – although when you’ve got too many docked it can look like the coastline of Spain, with all the hotels! They may be like tower blocks, and not like older ships which I visited in my job as a telegraph boy, but I still go down to Western Shore and watch them go out. I love it.

What’s your passion in life?

Helping other people I suppose. Being involved with the rec, with football, with cricket, the children’s parties at work: you’re helping other people. And I’ve been a deacon nearly 50 years at the Baptist Church. I try to be active as best I can to stay younger.

How do you put bread on your table?

I get a state pension, which is quite good, and I get a very good pension from the post office, after 45 years’ service.

What has your career taught you?

Discipline. And I always think, you treat people the way you would like to be treated. I go to post office reunions and they always give me a good word, and say I was their best boss! That’s not what I say, it’s what they say.

What really gets your goat?

People breaking the law. Well I was a magistrate for 25 years! Fly-tipping: unnecessary, because there are bins around but they just don’t use it. Drains get blocked up and you get water flooding all over the place. We were doing a litter pick the other day and we found ten boxes of leaflets with the name and address of a firm on them! But it’s a criminal offence. I rang the police, and they said they’d tell the council, but I’d already done that. So I took it down to the council to try to get them to prosecute, to make it known that we are watching, but they didn’t take it up.

And at times when I get the committee down here, and helpers, for a litter pick, it makes you wonder whether it’s worth it. We’re not doing it for us: we’re doing it for the whole of the public to enjoy the clean open spaces.

How do you relax?

I have the grandchildren once a week, which is lovely. I take them to dinner. I also watch football and cricket, and I watch telly in the evenings. I like the old detective ones on ITV3: Frost, Midsummer Murders… I watched one last night and it was only at the end that I realised I’d seen it years ago – but I still didn’t remember ‘who did it’!

I'd like to see us all united, and have peace.’

Which is your favourite pub?

I haven’t got a favourite pub. I go to eat with my family or my brother, but I used to play darts for The Hop Inn years ago, when I got demobbed. I used to spend quite a bit of time up there when Bill Whale was the landlord. He ran it from when the pub was built in 1936, and stayed there for years.

What are you drinking?

I only drink a shandy now. But when I was in the army in Japan I was brought home many times and dumped outside the gate under the influence! I drank quite heavily. But when I got married my wife wouldn’t allow me.

What do you listen to?

I only listen to the radio when I’m driving – Radio Solent. It tells me what happens locally – or the best part of the time: [laughing] we get some trash on it at times, too, though!

Can you recommend a really good read?

One of the best stories I’ve read is ‘The War Walk’ by Nigel Jones.

He wanted to see where his father went during the first world war, so he started off from Switzerland, and moves right through the line right to Ostend; and at each place he told the story of the battles that took place there. I’ve read it twice, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact I’ve followed some of it: I’ve been over to the Somme and Ypres, looking at what he wrote about. I found it very interesting.

Doug Perry 3

What’s a great day out?

I love being with my grandchildren. My granddaughter will be finishing school, having done her GCSEs, next Friday, so I’d love to take her out if she’s done well, because they’re under severe pressure all the time.

I used to love going up to London – I used to go to the Trooping of the Colour every year when my children were youngsters and with my wife, and we used to have some wonderful times.

Nowadays, I like going down to Beaulieu – having a ride on the old London bus! But the first thing we do is the monorail – I love anything like that.

But as you get older you’re not so energetic, so you have to go from ‘seat to seat’.

What scares you?

At 84, not waking up one morning.

What would you most like to change - in the world and in yourself?

Well I’d like to see us all united, and have peace. They keep on saying we haven’t had a war in Europe since 1945 but there have been so many innocent people killed. It would be lovely if you could get up and think there’s peace in the world.

What’s on your bucket list?

If I was 50 I might say I’d like to go for a balloon flight, go to Florida, or I’d go here or do this or that. I took my grandchildren to Disneyland in Paris about four years ago, but we had a long day walking around and I suffer from diabetes, and I had a day in hospital when I got back. So I have to be realistic.

Tell us a joke

I tried to think of one, and even asked my son-in-law for inspiration, but we didn’t come up with anything I deemed suitable! And I’m never one that takes jokes in. But I like to listen to a good comedian, as long as they’re not swearing all the time.

Thanks so much for taking part!

Tune in next time when another Bitterne Parker answers our searching questions.

Read about other Bitterne Parkers

As told to Guy Phillips

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