Days Gone By: A lifetime of vivid memories of growing up in Ipswich
With fascinating and clear memories of her childhood in Ipswich, reader Jude Wiseman has written recalling bombs falling on Ipswich during the Second World War, the severe winter of 1947, the Arts Theatre in Tower Street and ducking down behind the safety fence at Ipswich Speedway.
I have found photographs from the period of Jude’s memories, including a horse show at the Ipswich Town Football Club ground, mobile shops, Peters Ice Cream and ploughing the land with horse power, writes David Kindred.
Mrs Wiseman said her mother, Polly, was brought up in Ipswich and lived at 331 Bramford Road with her grandfather, Laurence Lampitt, and her two sisters, Marie and Betty.
“She married my father, Joseph Charles Dixon, in 1936 and they moved to Coventry where both my brother, John, and I were born,” she said.
“I was just a few weeks old in the autumn of 1940 when, as a consequence of our home being badly damaged in the ‘blitz’, we moved back to Ipswich to a little rented house in Kelvin Road.”
Her first memory is of barrage balloons hanging over the railway bridge in Norwich Road, near the bottom of her garden.
She added: “One night in 1944, John and I were sleeping in a Morrison shelter in the dining room at the back of the house. “He, being two-and-a-half years older than me, revelled in the excitement of the war and, on this particular night after hearing the sirens warning of enemy planes approaching, kept up an animated running commentary.
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“My mother and the lady next-door were already in the shelter with us when the drone of a flying bomb or ‘doodlebug’ was heard getting closer and closer.
“The dreaded silence that followed the engine cutting out prompted my mother and the neighbour to protect us by spreading themselves over us.
“My next vivid memory is of an horrific noise which seemed to thunder on for ages.
“A large object whizzed through the room creating a giant hole in the wall, the windows crashed in and the light fittings came down.
“The terror I felt was compounded by the feeling of suffocation caused by the courageous gesture of my mother and the neighbour pressing my head down into the pillow and smothering me with their bodies.
“Such was the devastation that by the time the ‘all clear’ sounded even my brother was shocked into silence.”
Mrs Wiseman recalls scrambling over the debris and finding the front of their family home open to the road and the house opposite had disappeared.
“I was told later that the Sadlers, the family living there, had been sheltering under the dining room table and were all miraculously unhurt,” she said.
“Mrs Bardwell, the mother of our friends, Jim and Judy, who lived next door, was not so lucky. She had been busy ironing and left it too late to get into her shelter. She lost her leg.”
The family went to live with their grandfather in Bramford Road while their house was repaired.
She recalled: “Air raid warnings became less frequent, but at the sound of the siren we all went down the garden to the Anderson shelter which was semi-submerged in the ground. “It had bunk beds down either side and was dark and damp. Even worse to me were the black, hairy spiders that joined us during night raids.”
Mrs Wiseman remembers a celebration with searchlights and fireworks on VE Day which left her frightened.
She went to school at Springfield Lane Infants in the autumn of 1945 and recalled playing on the local bomb sites with her brother.
She added: “Piles of bricks the size of haystacks appeared in the fields in the Highfield Road area and within no time these were burrowed into and make-believe dens created.
“In retrospect extremely dangerous, and it was surprising that all the kids involved arrived home safely by nightfall.
“There is a short parade of shops between the Suffolk Punch pub and the railway bridge on the Norwich Road.
“Every Saturday my brother John and I were given sixpence each as pocket money which we spent immediately on sweets (clove balls, humbugs or sherbet dabs) from a general store at the Suffolk Punch end of the parade.
“Were these sweets available without ration coupons? I certainly don’t remember handing any over to the shopkeeper as our mother kept strict control of all the family ration books.”
After leaving Springfield Lane Infants School, she joined Ipswich High School in Westerfield Road.
“My brother was already at the Ipswich School for boys and we caught the number nine trolley bus at the stop by the railway bridge in Norwich Road. Walking through Christchurch Park on an autumn day was wonderful,” she said.
“The park holds other less happy memories for me. It’s hard to imagine the freedom we were given as young children at that time. “My brother John was expected to ‘look after me’, so when he went out to play, I tagged along. One day there was a large fair/fete in the park. It wasn’t long before I lost him and I was taken to a tent where other ‘lost children’ were waiting to be collected. Later, I and several other kids, were packed into a police car and driven home.”
She recalled memories of Saturnday morning children’s ‘flicks’ at the Odeon cinema, learning to swim at the Fore Street indoor baths, followed by summer visits to Broomhill open air baths.
“During the school holidays my brother and I used to go into the town museum in the High Street,” she added.
“After sidling past the imposing rhinoceros in the foyer, we spent many a happy hour lifting off the covers on the display cabinets and frightening ourselves with the contents. Giant moths, spiders and beetles confronted us, as well as more calming rows of ancient coins and artefacts.”
Mrs Wiseman said a special treat at Christmas was to get into the large, old-fashioned lift in Footman’s Department Store, now Debenhams, to go through Santa’s Grotto to watch the Marionette Show.
She said: “If I remember correctly the lift was operated by a man in uniform, using a brass lever to start and stop it.”
The family moved to Bedford in 1948 and Mrs Wiseman hated leaving Ipswich but visited regularly.
“In the early 1950s, whenever possible, John and I went to watch the speedway Foxhall Stadium,”, she said. “We always stood immediately behind the crash barriers as it was vital to duck as the bikes skidded past to avoid the red dirt that was thrown up – great fun!
“We also went to see Ipswich Town play football at Portman Road.
“I loved standing on the terraces with the other supporters shouting and groaning with the best of them, as well as laughing at the hilarious banter floating around.”
Mrs Wiseman recalled some of her happiest times in the 1950s included visits to the Ipswich Arts Centre in Tower Street.
“It was the golden age for repertory theatres and Ipswich was one of the best,” she explained.
“Our favourite seats were in the single row, side balconies.
“On a return visit to Ipswich some years ago, it was sad to see the old theatre converted to a pub. However I was delighted to see the balconies were still there and had to reluctantly admire the sensitive conversion.”
Does Jude Wiseman’s letter prompt memories for you, or if you would like to share your thoughts of Days Gone By write to David Kindred, Days Gone By, Ipswich Star/EADT, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS or email him.