Going down memory street

SHOPS, public houses, a doctor's surgery and tiny terraced homes in side streets.

David Kindred

SHOPS, public houses, a doctor's surgery and tiny terraced homes in side streets. All memories of St Helens Street, Ipswich, prompted by the memories of reader Rod Cross in a recent Kindred Spirits.

Several readers have sent me their memories of the street. Patricia Hudgins (nee Becker) who now lives in Lexington, Kentucky, USA, said “I lived in Orchard Street between St Helens Street and Woodbridge Road from the time I was five until I was married at 17.

“I came to the United States in 1954. My memories of Orchard Street are sentimental and happy. My friend Mary and I loved going to the Regent to see all the latest films, when we were around ten-years-old at the end of the World War Two and it cost six-pence for a ticket. We especially liked the American musicals. Alas, we did not have very much money.

“We had a successful scheme that worked most of the time. We would get two halfpennies and stopped people in Orchard Street, saying, "Do you have a penny for these two halfpennies, my mother's gas has gone out?"

“Mother's gas meter was in the cellar and took pennies to pay for the gas. Often a man, women were not as generous, would give us the penny and then told us to keep the two halfpennies.

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“If we did this enough times we would have the sixpence for a visit to the cinema. We sat in the front rows as they were the cheapest seats and were oblivious to the air raid sirens and stayed until the end of the film. Later we went to bed weaving our stories and plots in our heads before we went to sleep.

“We immersed ourselves in this magical, wondrous, alternative universe where war did not exist. I am grateful for my British heritage for it has held me in good stead.”

Patricia's brother, Michael Becker, who still lives in Ipswich added “The photograph of Orchard Street in Kindred Spirits stirred memories for me. My family lived in Orchard Street at number 19 from the early 40s until the houses were demolished for redevelopment in the 1970s. My mother and father had five children, three boys and two girls.

“I was about three-years-old during World War Two when we first moved there, but I can distinctly remember my mother lifting me out of bed and taking me down to the Anderson shelter, which was half buried in the garden, when the air raid sirens went on the approach of German planes.

“In my minds eye, I can still see the glow of my father's cigarette, as he stood in the doorway of the shelter, looking up at the sky, and my mother telling him to come inside, strange how some memories remain vivid, even at that early age.”

“My father was well known in the town, both as a photographer and manager of a photo processing firm PhotoKraft at 1 London Road, and as a magician in the evenings on most weekends in the year. At the age of about six onwards I became his assistant on stage, wearing my own little evening dress suit, and performing a few tricks of my own.

“He charged a guinea, one pound one shilling, for a show lasting about an hour. With no television in those days, we were often booked for children's parties, Christmas parties, working men's clubs, village halls and so on. One show we did, with a concert party, at the Ipswich Isolation Hospital.

“I can still see the patients in the audience, some with nurses sitting next to them. I would be interested to know if anybody remembers my father, or my family.”

Ipswich reader John Sparks said “I enjoyed the excellent article by Rod Cross about St. Helens Street. Rod recalled the large house standing back from the road used as a doctor's surgery.

“I used be taken there by my mother in the early 1950s. The doctor was a very pleasant man, Dr. Collins, with who had a full head of silver white hair.

“The waiting room was huge, probably the lounge at the front of this large Victorian house, which had rows and rows of chairs lined up lengthways facing the fireplace.

“You started at one end and gradually shifted along until you finished up at the 'prime' seat by the door, waiting to be called. A bit like medical musical chairs!

M Last of Shafto Road, Ipswich, added “My great aunt Hilda Stanmore, lived on the corner of Little Wells Street, the front of her house was on Wells Street.

“I was not very old at the time, but I remember a square of concrete with a wash house and I presume a toilet, when entering through the back door on the left was a stairs door, a coal hole and a pantry.

“The facing door to front room with a Morrison air raid shelter taking up most of the room, with just enough space to walk to front door. A cooker range and sink completed the kitchen area.

“In St Helens Street there was Minters Sweet Shop, you name it they sold it, a fish and chip shop on corner of Wells Street and Newsteads the bakers opposite.

“We had the Olive Leaf public house and Elmey's paper shop on the corner of Grimwade Street. When I set up home we bought furniture from Gardiner's shop near the church.

“Also near the church was the International grocery store. My mother lived in St David's Street, classed as the 'posher' area of the Potteries, they had three bedrooms.

“My grandfather was a cobbler and the small room was used as a workshop, he was employed at Britten and Bannister Limited boot and shoe makers in Woodbridge Road with my mother.

Julie Stammers of Blackfriars Court, Foundation Street, Ipswich said “My late grandfather's shop, Cecil Shephard the gents' hairdressers was at number 133 St Helens Street, which was next door to Gardeners the furniture shop.

“My grandfather opened the business in 1953 and worked there until 1965 when he passed away, he lived there with my late grandmother Elizabeth, who was known as Bessie. I wonder if any readers have memories of visiting this shop.

“Unfortunately he passed away before I was born and I would like to know more about him. I believe he used to cut Sir Alf Ramsey's hair as well as quite a few of the town's prominent people. He was on the committee of Ipswich Town FC Supporters Club. 133 St Helens Street also holds memories for me as it was my birthplace.”

- I will feature more reader's memories of the St Helens Street area next week.