Hard times were best of my life

SLEEPING with your brother's smelly feet in your face as three children shared a single bed.

David Kindred

SLEEPING with your brother's smelly feet in your face as three children shared a single bed.

Walking to the “pub” to get dad a jug of beer and enjoying a cheap bag of stale cakes from the local baker on your way to school.

These are all memories of growing up in the Stoke area of Ipswich during the hard economic times in the decades following the Second World War.

Memories from readers were prompted by rare 1960s colour photographs of the area published recently in Kindred Spirits from former Ipswich man Alan Valentine, who now lives in Newcastle.

Mr B Talman, of Harebell Road, Ipswich, said: “I was a paper boy at Halliday's Newsagents on Vernon Street between 1960-1963. I was always waiting outside the shop every morning before 6am for the shop manager, Mr Moyes, to open; why I always arrived so early I'll never know.

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“As I was so early I was always given the job to go to Porter and Tonkin's wholesalers to pick up extra papers or magazines, many a time I would get stopped by the local bobby who not very politely informed me that it was against the law to start work until 7am. I did this task on a trade bike so I used to go a different route every day to avoid him.

“I did two paper rounds most days as there was always somebody not turning up. I would then walk home, go to the shop for my mother to get the groceries for the day and her ten 'Red Tenner ciggies'.

“I would then walk to Tower Ramparts School, getting a nice big bag of 'stales' from Newstead's bakers on the corner of Bath Street and Wherstead Road. Custard tarts and cream doughnuts were my favourites; she would fill a bag right to the top for a three-penny piece. On the way home from school I would do it in the reverse order, stales from Yapp's bakers in St Peters Street, two paper rounds then to the shop again for my mother's Red Tenners for the nightly smoke”.

“Payday was Saturday morning, I received 15 shillings, and I then went across the road to get the Sunday joint from Gilberts the butchers. I had to pay for this out of my wages. I was usually left with about ten shillings for myself. My father was ill at the time and unable to work so things were very tight. My clothes came from the Woman's Voluntary Service huts in Portman Road or jumble sales. There were at least 20 jumble sales every Saturday somewhere, so we had plenty of choice! We slept three to a bed, two up top and my brother down the bottom, the brother who slept down the bottom was not the cleanest person in the world and I still have very bad memories of having his feet in my face every night!

“People talk about the 1920s and 30s being very hard times, and of course the war years, but the 50s and early 60s were also hard days with many families poverty stricken. I left school at 15 and within one week had started work, I had no choice. I had to take the first job that came along to bring money home. This was at Conder's in Fore Street and my job was a glove cutter. I remember my first pay packet. I took it straight to the toilet to open it, locked myself in, sat down and counted out my £7; it was the happiest day of my life. I had to give my mother £3 board and lodgings and this did not bother me, I felt rich.

“My story is not a sob story because from when I was born until I left school were the happiest days of my life. I cannot remember ever being unhappy or crying, thinking that life was hard never even entered my head and I think it was the same for everybody.

“I was also very interested to read about the number of pubs being forced to close down, I was brought up in Purplett Street from when I was five years old and remember over 14 pubs in Old Stoke alone from the Live and Let Live at Wherstead Road to the Crown near the docks. When I was about eight years old I used to go to the Wheatsheaf 's bottle and jug room, or off sales as it is called today, and get my father a jug of beer most evenings. I would then walk back home with my father's jug of beer. The local 'bobby' saw me on many occasions, but never said a word.”

Kenneth Game was also a paper boy in the Stoke area. Kenneth said: “I lived in Station Street from 1940 till 1955, then my parents moved to Luther Road. I lived there until I married in 1963 when I moved to Castle Hill where I still live. I was in the church choir at St Mary Stoke and was in the Cubs and Scouts of the 19th Ipswich troop, who used the school for their meetings, the right hand part of the building was used by the Scouts and the left used by the Girl Guides.

“I remember Maidenhall estate being built. I was a paper boy for newsagents at Page and Hammond's near Uncle Toms Cabin public house. Station Street was the main route for the removal vans and I was able to see the vans on their way to Maidenhall. I quickly cycled to get their first orders.

“Alan Valentine's photograph of Vernon Street reminded me of Lambert's greengrocers shop in the street. The Lambert's daughter Claire was in my class at Luther Road School. His photograph of Ipswich Loco' yard was where my uncle worked firing up the steam locomotives early in the morning. I can also recall the day in 1945 when a German bomb landed in Seymour Road killing several people.”

John Browning, of St John's Court, Princes Road, Felixstowe, also recalls attending Scout meetings at St Mary Stoke School. John said: “I have some fond memories of this building as it was headquarters for many years of 19th Ipswich St Mary Stoke Scout Group, I was a Cub and Scout there from about 1941-1949. The Scouts shared use with a troop of Brownies and Guides. There were many rooms used for storing equipment. To raise funds for equipment we performed a “Gang Show”. This took place at the parish hall at corner of Rectory Road and Station Street. This was just after the Second World War. I recall it raised a lot of money enabling the purchase of three or four patrol tents and other equipment. Someone found us a set of gymnastic parallel bars and a horizontal bar was erected and Cliff Moss used to try to make gymnasts of a few of us. The last leaders I remember were Eric Hollingworth 'skip' and Ken Cocksedge 'Bo'sun'. I think my father, Harry Browning, went to St Mary Stoke School around 1910 before spending most of his working life on the railway.”

Patricia Jones (nee Howe) sent me memories of the Stoke area of Ipswich from her home in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

She said: “I clearly remember Vernon Street. We lived at number 67 from 1944 until 1951. My mother's sister, Aunt Rose, worked at Potter's shop for many years. Many times as a little girl I went to work with her. The Potter family became great friends. Mr Potter especially spoiled me with little treats and gifts from his shop. I was the model for all the new girl's dresses whenever they came in. I also remember the greengrocer's shop. I guess it was Mr Wilden who saved me my first banana when they became available again after World War Two, thinking it would be a great treat for me. I am afraid I disappointed him as I didn't like it and spat it out.

“The Co-op store was opposite to Potter's and it was where I would get my mum's and my grandma's shopping on a Saturday morning. To this day I still remember their co-op 'divi' numbers. Milk was delivered by horse drawn cart as was the coal. The trolley buses went right past our house and from the bedroom window you could look straight into the top deck and see all the passengers.

“I walked each day from Vernon Street to Luther Road School and still remember several of the shops along the way. My granddad would sometimes go for a pint at the Eagle Tavern. He also visited Uncle Tom's Cabin which was at the other end of Vernon Street.

“During World War Two a bomb dropped a block away in Austin Street and it shattered every window in the house. We hid under the kitchen table so didn't get hurt by the flying glass. After that the back bedroom was condemned and remained so until after we moved to the new Maidenhall Estate.

“I still visit Ipswich nearly every year and have seen all of the changes. It is sad to see the old neighbourhoods go, but we at least still have the memories of a very different time.”