My first contact with the Lesters was when they had a house in Raverly Street, Bow, East London, I was then a very young boy. They used the front room of the house as a playroom for the local children. Raverly Street and the Lester's house were bombed in 1940, during World War 11. The surrounding streets were so badly bomb damaged that the whole area was demolished. In 1923, Muriel and Doris' father Henry paid for the building of a day nursery, called Children's House it was built in Eagling Road, Bow, it was opened by H.G.Wells. Thankfully Children's House survived the bombing and it still a day nursery. During the evenings Children's House was used as the meeting place for the boys and girls' clubs. The Lesters were able to attract people from all over the world to come and work at Children's House. I always remember a young American girl; Lila Eubanks came to help in the running of the clubs.
In 1929, the Lesters opened Kingsley Hall in Powis Road, Bow. It was a great place for us young teenagers to meet. The clubroom was built over the main hall it had a snooker table, tennis table and equipment for other indoor games. It had a small canteen. The main hall on the ground floor was used as a place of worship but also for meetings and dances. Saturday was usually dance night when the boys and girls, Gwennie Fabb, Lilly Chamberlain, Renee and Audrey Grimble and many more would dance to the recorded music of Harry Roy, Ambrose, and Roy Fox Orchestras. They were great days. At the end of the evening we would go to a small sweet shop owned by one of the girls, Tilly Crab's parents to enjoy a glass of blackcurrant juice. A hot drink was a great luxury on a cold winter's night.
For me Kingsley Hall made the war years less frightening. Nobody was ever turned away, teenagers came from as far away as Bethnel Green and Poplar to join. My friends were Jackie Clark, Percy Beaumont and Frank Joy, sadly Frank was killed during a bombing raid over Germany. He was one of the many members of Kingsley Hall killed during World War 11.
When Mahatma Gandhi decided to live at Kingsley Hall during his six-week stay in London, for the India's Independence Conference, in 193 1, instead of a posh London hotel he made the people of Bow extremely happy. I remember how hundreds of people would follow him every time he appeared in the streets of the East End of London.
I have many great memories of Kingsley Hall and the friends I made there. Over the years we have all gone our different ways and now there are only a few of us alive. But while we are the memory of the Lester family and the work they done to enlighten our lives and minds will remain with me. Through my life long friendship with Margaret Short, originally Margaret Stratton, my family and the Stratton family go back a very long way and from a dedicated Margaret I'm able to get up to date news of my past friends.