Memories of Luton from the 50s to the 70s shared in new book

Author Teresa Barker and husband Ken who now live in CanadaAuthor Teresa Barker and husband Ken who now live in Canada
Author Teresa Barker and husband Ken who now live in Canada
Teresa now lives in Canada

Teresa Barker’s fascinating book, Memories of Luton, would never have been written had she not been sitting by her dying sister’s bed in a hospice, reliving their childhood and asking about the good old days.

Teresa recalls: “I knew very little family history and realised most of it would go with Mary. I wished I’d paid attention and listened more and it was then I decided to write down my memories.”

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She tried to keep everything positive, in spite of her terribly sad background – she lost her mum when she was six months old, was bullied at school and called Rag Doll.

Teresa and Ken BarkerTeresa and Ken Barker
Teresa and Ken Barker

"I didn’t want to embarrass or upset anyone,” she explains. “Life has changed so much these last few years and I wanted future generations to know what life was like when I was growing up.”

Teresa, who now lives in Canada, was born and raised in High Town and Tin Town, and has written about her life growing up in the town.

She and her family lived in a tiny two-up, two-down house in Cobden Street. It had no electricity, no hot water and an outside toilet.

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She says: “Mum and Dad slept in the living room and my five sisters, two brothers and I had the two upstairs bedrooms. One contained a coffin and we had to take turns sleeping in it.

"When Mum died, Dad was left with eight kids ranging from Mary, then 17, to me – a babe in arms. There was a picture of Mary in the Luton News with the headline ‘Mother of seven at 17.’"

The family moved to Burnham Road but returned to High Town Road so her Dad could be close to his favourite pub, The Freeholders.

Teresa says: “We lived two doors down from Records the cake shop which I still think had the best cakes I’ve ever tasted. They were very kind to us and gave us a hot roll to eat on the way to school.”

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After leaving school, she worked at Eastex, then Speaks Tailoring. Both stood her in good stead – she’s been a self-employed seamstress for more than 40 years.

She remembers High Town as a bustling, busy place: “I was never scared to walk down town. The people were great and there was always a policeman around if you needed one.

"I loved music and saw just about every star perform at the Cali, including my favourites, The Small Faces.”

She met and married boyfriend Ken Barker, a Tin Town lad from Dovehouse Hill, and the couple decided to emigrate to Canada where Teresa had two sisters who’d made the move. They now live in Vernon, British Columbia, but return to Luton frequently.

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She’s experienced much sadness in her life, losing not only her father but four of her five sisters.

Teresa has always enjoyed writing poems and stories and an author friend encouraged her to get them published. She’s already got one in print – The Twelve Trees of Christmas.

> Memories of Luton: My Life in High Town and Tin Town in the 50's, 60's and 70's [sic] by Teresa Barker is available from Amazon for £7.99.

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