May 20 2013 Latest news:
Robin Cottle, Reporter
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Hollies Children’s Home in Sidcup looked after orphaned children for 87 years before closing its doors in 1989.
But now thanks to one former resident children who were given a second chance at life have an opportunity to meet up with old friends and reminisce about their time at the home.
Paul Krawczynski set up the Hollies Children’s Home Reunion Group in 2002 with his wife Barbara to commemorate its 100th anniversary and they have arranged a get-together every year since.
The 64-year-old joined the home in 1951 age three and left 13 years later, with his solely fond memories far removed from the rumours you often hear about children in care and homes.
He said: “I had a nasty fall where I shattered my leg about 20 years ago, and soon after I had a heart attack so I was laid up for a long time which was really boring.
“So I thought to myself, I haven’t seen anyone from the home since I left almost half a century ago. I took a computer course so I actually knew what I was doing and set up a reunion website.
“Within four months we had 30 members and it was enough to have regular meet-ups.”
The home had a reputation for being a hospitable environment for kids to grow up and the founder of the group has been astonished by the response from former residents in the last 10 years.
Mr Krawczynski, who now lives in Norfolk, says they have reunited many friends from as far back as the 1930s and he has caught up with three former friends he spent his childhood years with.
He said: “Our oldest member to attend the reunions is 95 years old. It’s a great way to reconnect with people.”
Famous former residents include former world boxing champion Chris Eubank (albeit only for one month) and television quiz show presenter William G Stewart.
Burnt Oak School was built to educate the home’s residents and there was also a swimming pool and hospital for the children’s use.
The reunions were originally held at the Black Horse on Sidcup High Street until the chairman of the residents’ association for the housing estate which now sits on the Hollies site said they could use their facilities.
Martin Barnett, 56, who lived at Hollies for seven years, from 1965 to 1972, said: “I loved it there. I saw it as going from the Artful Dodger to Tom Sawyer overnight. Hollies gave my siblings and me so many brilliant opportunities.
“I’ve been to all the reunions because it’s great having the old gang back together – it’s as if we’ve never changed.”
■ This year’s reunion will take place on September 8, from 10am to 5pm. Tickets cost £10.To attend call Mr Krawczynski on 01692 678349 or 07747 771130 or visit www.hollieskids.co.uk.