A Page with a Treat and perhaps a Trick

By Gerald Smith
October 1996

There are many aspects of Charlie's personality that have sparked my interest, but without a doubt his need to visit places of his youth has always sparked it the most. I'm not sure why, but would think it might have something to do with the desire, in some of us, to return to our youth to capture long ago feelings of peace and security. Not to say that some of us didn't have some pretty horrible adolescent experiences, but for the most part we seem to gloss them over. Then again, maybe this need is present in some of us because of an overwelming desire to be accepted. And the ones who have pulled themself out of the horrible existence of their youth and have gone onto great success need to return to their youth and say; "Hey look at me, I'm now more successful then the lot of you and you should all want to be my friend now". Unfortunately most of the kids of our youth are long gone and the ones that remain really don't give a shit about our great success. Maybe this is why we mostly seem to experience varying degrees of exuberant melancholy when returning to places of our youth. Enough rambling, lets get to the Treats and Tricks.

Recently I walked the London streets of Charlie's youth to see if I could capture feelings of exuberance and melancholy that Charlie might have experienced as a youth or as an adult returning to the streets of his youth. Without going into alot of detail, I must say I experienced both. Before I tell you about my little adventure, please kept in mind most of what I'm presenting would be considered a Halloween Treat, but be warned there are several Tricks present here.

As I walked the Lambeth Bridge into Charlie's Lambeth, I noted that Lambeth Palace still looked old and mysterious. Upon reaching the end of the bridge, I quickly referenced David Robinson's map, you know the one he graciously placed in his Chaplin biography, to get my bearings and plot my way to the Lambeth Workhouse, a place Charlie always remembered well. Walking there, I wondered if there still would be anything identifiable. As I approached the end of the street, I looked to my right and to my surprise part of the gate of the old Lambeth Workhouse was still there and quite recognizable. Being so excited about my find, I failed to check the surrounding area and as I passed through the gate to investigate further, I was appoached by an unsavory character looking to kick my THEN & NOW ass. Here I'm ready to get into a major confrontation and the only thought going through my head was of getting a photo of the gate from within. However shortly after this thought, I started to realize my true situation and was beginning to think I might lose my money and maybe some body parts. This was OK, but there was no way this guy was going to get the precious contents of my camera. As luck would have it, a little fellow passed by and asked if I needed help. I'm not sure where he came from, but I hurried over to him and thanked him profusely as we double timed out of there.

As we appoached Kennington Lane, he asked me what the hell I was doing in a place like that. I told him about my Chaplin addiction. You know, the one about locating his old film locations and other places in his past. Upon hearing this, he said he was a Chaplin fan too and had been for more years then he could remember. He than asked me where I was heading next. I said; to the townhouse Charlie and Sydney had briefly stayed with their Father just before the turn of the century. I was quite surprised when he stated; what a stoke of luck I've been living in the third floor of that place for more years than I can remember and if you don't mind I'll accompany you there. Needless to say, I was quite pleased and as we rounded the corner and started heading up Kennington Road the townhouse came into immediate view.

At this point, the little fellow started to give me direction on how to photograph the place. Following his direction, I took a quick close-up of the front. Shortly after taking the picture, he looked straight into my eyes and asked if I knew who Charlie's last girlfriend was. Quite baffled by his question, I said no but would love to know. Just as I was getting quite excited about possibly discovering new information about Charlie, the little fellow suddenly insisted he had to go and started to walk toward the townhouse. As he opened the door, he turned and said; some other day perhaps and then disappeared into the townhouse.

Given what had just happened, I wasn't sure what was going on and I was beginning to think this brief encounter was a result of one to many THEN & NOW adventures. However as I crossed Kennington Road, I turned and looked at the row of townhouses one last time and to my amasement the little fellow was in the third story window waving goodbye. Still confused, I returned the wave and then raised my camera and took this picture.

Chaplin Film Locations THEN & NOW
© 1996 JerRe