Eric was born at 22 Garden Road, Folkestone on Sunday 22nd March 1925 to Alice and Edmund Hart and with his older sister Doris, young ‘Ricky’ enjoyed a happy childhood.
Leaving school at 14, a brief spell as baker’s delivery boy, preceded the outbreak of WW2 with him driving tractors on ‘War Work’ and diving for cover when RAF Hawkinge was machine-gunned by the marauding Luftwaffe. Joining the Shorncliffe Platoon Home Guard, he patrolled the bombarded Folkestone coastline until reaching 18 in 1943 when he joined the RAF as Radio Wireless Operator with 101 Squadron. Ricky’s boyhood love of cinema organs endured, so when on leave he played (by ear) impromptu dance concerts on Folkestone’s Odeon Compton for appreciative couples.
Having met Yvonne, his future wife, he left the RAF and took employment with Folkestone motor firm Martin Walter for the next 25 years, raising two children, Marion and Brian. The rented terraced home in Chart Road was eventually purchased in the early 1960s, enabling Ricky to employ his considerable DIY skills – and indulge his passion of building his own organ. His knowledge of electronics was formidable whereupon first came the small hand-built ‘Organette’, followed by the larger ‘HART’ model which won him a ‘Special Award’ at a Hobbies Exhibition in 1963.
Previously the family had enjoyed some Dormobile holidays, courtesy of his employers, including a trip to the Lake District and calling in at the Blackpool Tower where the ever-affable Reginald Dixon showed them over the famous organ and invited Ricky to “have a go”.
With four dormant cinema organs in Folkestone literally being scrapped, Ricky began a massive rescue exercise, salvaging whatever he could from going to ‘Ginger’ Baker’s metal scrap yard. Often with Yvonne’s help, wooden pipes, relay cabinets etc, would be dragged away from blazing bonfires.
Having been a lorry and van delivery driver for 25 years, the firm ceased this aspect, but the replacement confined factory job at Dormobile ill-suited Ricky whereby his health suffered. However, fortune smiled and in 1973 he joined the Ministry of Defence at Folkestone’s Shorncliffe Camp as Duty Coach Driver, taking personnel to all parts of the UK and where he remained until retirement in 1990.
With Marion and Brian grown up, Ricky and Yvonne had the house (incidentally, named Celeste) to themselves from 1976, whereupon more DIY improvements followed, plus numerous additions to the (by now) rescued Savoy Standaart organ. Family holidays, gatherings, parties, charity events (with organ) all followed. Rarely was 9 Chart Road ever quiet as relations, friends, visitors, well-known organists – all came to enjoy the hospitality and unfailing warm welcome of this much-loved and devoted couple who celebrated many wedding anniversaries. Even TVS came to record ‘The Mighty Standaart’ for one of their series.
Always smiling and never bad-tempered, Ricky unfailingly had a quip or joke to share, even when his health began to fade in his latter months. He died on 7th December 2009 aged 84, but as he always said “The melody lingers on….”