Thanks to Leigh Harvey for sharing these memories of the early days of Chocolate Run, back in 1972, and the involvement of her Mum & Dad, Madge and Mic Eaton
Dad became very keen on the idea of taking a one off trip to Charing Cross Embankment on Christmas Eve 1972. He arranged to borrow the mini bus from our local church Oakwood Chapel and a few of the young people from Oakwood offered help on the night. At 14 years old at the time I was not allowed to go although my interest at the time was because ‘the love of my life’ at that time was going also!!
Dad borrowed so many flasks from people, all various shapes and sizes and I remember him buying packets of hot chocolate (no tins or plastic containers around then).
Mum made up countless loaves of sandwiches, fish paste normally mixed vigourously with a hefty slab of margarine and then put back in the bags ready for the trip. Best I can remember of that first trip is not seeing much of Dad on Christmas Day but all involved were touched and moved by what they had witnessed that evening.
Dad had decided to go again the following week, and the next and this continued for twenty years!!
So many people got involved, turning up most Friday evenings at our busy house with sandwiches, sacks of clothes which for some reason was nicknamed ‘the diddy bags’ and these would all be sorted out either in the living room or the hallway ready to be taken each week.
Eventually a large urn was bought, and then countless pans of water would be boiled, condensation running down the windows and a very hot kitchen. With all the stuff being dropped off it would also mean the kettle was being boiled for visitors, normally a job for one of us kids.
Eventually I was allowed to go, very daunting for a 15 year old, scary even. I was approached for more than a sandwich and a hot chocolate on more than one occassion, even offered 50p once!
When we pulled up there was soon a lot of people crowding round wanting to see what we had bought, I dont recall bringing anything back, drink, food or clothes.
Every Christmas trip we as kids would help wrapping up new socks for Dad to give away, I seem to remember Dad being careful to make sure everyone got some. Mum might have went once or twice to help, she had already done her bit giving up Friday evenings getting things ready.
Dad’s route was through Epping Forest, no motorway then. He would pick up anyone thumbing for a lift, one guy regularly from seeing his girlfriend home in Chingford and trying to get back to Harlow.
As kids, we would get used to Dad bringing some ‘guests’ home with him and crashed in our front room. We just wanted to watch kids tv on a Saturday morning so felt pretty fed up quite often. Dad was going to meet up a few years back with Mick Rayner which was arranged through my sister Sally but I think Mick fell ill at the time and the meeting never did happen, Dad passed away not too long later in 2009 and Mum had passed away in 2003.