Indian Joe

Okay, here’s an odd one. Jim lived, as a child, at number 6, Turnpin Lane – until 1954 when the family got turfed out because the building was ‘in a dangerous state and in line for demolition.’ Of course it’s still there…

Jim had a happy time in Turnpin Lane though. There’s a picture of him and his chums enjoying the Coronation street party in the market on the superb Ideal Homes website – he’s the kid on the left wearing the jaunty party hat.

And one of the wonderfully quirky things that was best about his childhood there was a character all the local children loved called Indian Joe. He sounds like a real ‘old Greenwich’ institution, of which there are some – but very, very few – remaining. Jim says

During the summer school holidays he used to pass through Greenwich Market. ┬áThe kids used to say ‘Hello Indian Joe, tell us a story!’ We all sat on the kerb, including himself, outside Sam and Bob’s sweet shop (also in the market). He used to tell us a short story then get up, say ‘goodbye’ and go.

It’s one of those things that in these days of paranoia about children and lone adults we find slightly disturbing – but shouldn’t. This guy did, it would seem, nothing but good – and the pleasure that he gave to the local children lives with Jim to this day. It reminds me a little of that scene right at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf makes fireworks for junior hobbits. That sort of thing wouldn’t be allowed now. But don’t get me started on CRB checks.

I don’t know what kind of stories Indian Joe told. I automatically assumed ┬áNative American because of the huge Western thing that was going on in fifties cinema (anyone else find Native American Indian stories really strange – I think it’s the blood clot-creation thing that does it for me…) but thinking about it he could have been West Indian – after all the Windrush sailed into port six years earlier. Were there any stories about naughty spiders, Jim? Or he could have been, even, proper, Indian Indian, with tales from the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. Any of those stories would have got a young Phantom sitting on a kerb side all agog.

Then again, he might just have liked riding old American motorcycles.

Jim’s wondering if anyone else remembers Indian Joe and his stories. And frankly I am too. I want to know more about this character. What did he look like? What did he do other than tell stories to kiddies? And what kind of stories did he tell?


the attachments to this post:

indian storyteller
indian storyteller


One Comment to “Indian Joe”

  1. David Porter says:

    Wasn’t Peter Pan’s Playground (near Catford, now a Homebase) also donated or devised by a similar kindly old gent that loved children? Couldn’t happen today more’s the pity. Follow this link for a photo:
    http://forum.sydenham.org.uk/viewtopic.php?t=3148