Heading to the seaside

WAVES have washed away huge sections of the beach at Felixstowe in recent years, but nothing will wash away the memories of days out there when we reached the resort by bus or steam powered trains.

WAVES have washed away huge sections of the beach at Felixstowe in recent years, but nothing will wash away the memories of days out there when we reached the resort by bus or steam powered trains. Until the 1960s few families had their own car so public transport or a bicycle was the only means of a day out by the sea.

Felixstowe was as far as most expected to travel for a visit to the sea on warm summer's days. Every beach hut was in use and the beach was full of children crazing their parents for pennies to feed into the slot machines at Charlie Manning's amusement park that was often referred to as “Butlins” from the original ownership in the 1930s.

Once you were in Felixstowe a popular ride was on the open top double deck bus which ran along the sea front.

Charles Stevenson of Sprites End, Trimley St Mary, was the driver of an Eastern Counties open topped bus, and can remember times when his bus was so full that the hills proved to be a problem.

Charles said: “The open top bus was only used in the summer time running from Felixstowe Dock to Cobbold's point, and return about every twenty minutes. During the summer, when the Felixstowe College students were on holiday, it also became a summer home for students from other countries. They used the open top bus a lot. Sometimes when I had a full load going up Convalescent Hill I would get about half way up and the bus would grind to a halt as there were too many students onboard. The conductor had to get most of them off as the bus would slowly start to run back because the brakes weren't much good either! It was a similar problem on the way down, if I had a full load. I was always glad to see a clear road at the bottom of the hill!”

Charles also recalls how he gave a personal touch to his service by saving the day for a mother and her two children. He said: “I once found a handbag on the bus, as I was on the sea-front run I diverted my bus to Felixstowe bus station, when I got there a mother and two children were standing there looking worried. They had just arrived in Felixstowe for a holiday. All their money and a lot of other things were also in the bag. How happy they were. This often happened; it was always nice to see the happy smile on their faces when they got their handbags back.”

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If you wanted to get a bus to Felixstowe Ferry a service was provided by Albert Aldis in a bus that was a vintage model even in the 1960s.

Albert would trundle back and forth from the ferry in his 'Guy' bus, which only held around twenty people. Albert was also a lifeline to RAF personal making their way back to RAF Bawdsey from the town station. His bus took him to the ferry service across the treacherous mouth of the River Deben provided by Charlie Brinkley.

The Stoke area of Ipswich has often brought rich and colourful memories from readers of Kindred Spirits.

Life there in the past was very different to today. This close knit community lived and worked together like a village as they were separated from the rest of the town by the River Orwell.

Tom Scrivener of Heron Road, Ipswich, was born and grew up there and pictures of the area from the 1930s I used in a recent 'Kindred Spirits' took him back to his childhood.

Tom said: “Thanks for the memories; it was good to see photographs of where I was born. The photograph of the top of Bell Lane shows Little Whipp Street with a small sweet shop on the right, the railings on the left were in front of five houses that stood back from the road. The next two included number 31 where I was born. The Osbourns lived next door, our garden looked over the shops in Vernon Street. David Crickmer's, a small grocer's shop, was on the other side of Bell Lane at numbers 46 and 48.

“The building at the top of Bell Lane which has the sign, 'Little Whipp Street' on it was Martins Light Engineers, which always fascinated me. I have stood lots of times at the big doors which were open in hot weather just watching. My mother was well known in the area as she sat for hours making cloth rugs. She got clean sugar sacks from Crickmer's and worked out a pattern, mostly a diamond for the middle, and people would give her old clothes or cloth to cut up in strips about one inch by five inches all colours and then she would start to work her pattern by using a tool to pull the strips of cloth into the sacking. It must have taken a long while to complete; there must have been a great demand for the rugs as she was always making them.

“On the right of the photograph of Stoke Street is some of Goldsmith stables, Mr Goldsmith also had a yard and stables next to the Boars Head pub where he kept his carts. He lived in Austin Street about five doors down from the yard. At the top of Boars Head Lane on the corner of Rectory Road was a small work shop no bigger than six foot by six foot where an kind old man sat all day making fishing baskets like those used on the fishing smacks.

“When I was about five I was taken by my mum and dad on the river on the paddle steamer to Felixstowe. It was a great day out; in those days you were allowed to go down below to see the big old steam engines with the pistons going back and forward.”

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