BOYHOOD memories came flooding back for Lawrence Taylor when he met up with long lost friends at Aldershot on Monday.

Wearing a white stetson, he looked every inch an American as he greeted pals from his school and workdays in the town.

Some old buddies he had not seen since emigrating to the United States as a 17-year-old in 1959.

Lawrence's eyes often brimmed with tears as they walked through the door at the home of his sister, Mrs Debbie Lockwood, in St Augustine's Close.

It was Debbie who, to her delight, managed to contact about 10 of his friends for the get-together.

As he chatted, it was apparent he still had vivid memories of growing up in the town, and of his days at Newport Road and Manor Park schools.

"I remember the truant officer who used to call at our homes to find out why we were off school," said Lawrence, who celebrates his 60th birthday later this month.

And he also recalled a time when he and some of his teenage friends set out on a camping trip in a Ford Prefect, only for the roof rack to fall off.

"Gosh, I can still see the cases scattered all over the road," laughed Lawrence, who worked at Wades' furnace making factory in North Lane before emigrating.

But his happiness at seeing his pals from the past was tempered at the way Aldershot had altered in the intervening years.

"The parks seem so dirty," he said. "I remember the days when they had park keepers to make sure there was no rubbish around.

"Aldershot's changed a lot, and sadly not for the better as far as I can see. It brings tears to my eyes to see it."

One of those at the party, Dennis Ballard, proprietor of Concorde Models in Victoria Road, Aldershot, said: "It's great meeting him again.

"He's still the same old Lawrence…boisterous and a bit of a character."

Lawrence - known as Larry these days in his adopted country - joined the American Air Force soon after emigrating, and spent 29 years in uniform.

Married with two daughters, he lives in North Dakota and is an electrical maintenance worker at an opencast mine.

Here for a fortnight, he returns home at the end of next week. This time by jet, unlike his original journey when he sailed on the SS United States.