Memories from across the seas

CHILDHOOD memories of Ipswich from half a century ago have come from across the Atlantic Ocean. Memories of life in the town from all those years ago are still firm and fond for three former Ipswich girls who live thousands of miles away.

David Kindred

CHILDHOOD memories of Ipswich from half a century ago have come from across the Atlantic Ocean.

Memories of life in the town from all those years ago are still firm and fond for three former Ipswich girls who live thousands of miles away.

Cynthia Erickson (nee Ness), who now lives in Phoenix, Arizona, can recall the horse-drawn carts used by tradesmen on the housing estates. Elizabeth Miller (nee Mallen), of Michigan, recalls shopping in the town centre with her mother and Stella Seiler (nee Dunnett) of Universal City remembers her childhood days out to Felixstowe by train from Derby Road station.

Life then was more relaxed. People would leave their doors unlocked and cash on the doorstep for the milkman to collect if they were out. The local “bobby” would deal with many problems by giving young trouble makers a clip round the ear.

Cynthia, who has been married for 36 years to a United States career serviceman, said: “We have lived in six different countries during my husband's 30-year career. My youngest son is now with the US military and has just completed a second tour of duty in Iraq in which he was injured in a roadside bomb attack and shot. He received a Purple Heart and army medal of valour and is getting stronger every day.

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“My childhood homes in Ipswich included New Cardinal Street, Whitton and Priory Heath estates. I always enjoy reading Kindred Spirits on The Evening Star website and the news in and around Ipswich. I grew up like many others quite poor, but went back to college as an adult and received my BA in human resources and business management at the grand old age of 55, not bad for a kid from Whitton and 'Scruffy Street' school (Smart Street).

“When I was a child, in the late 1950s, my grandparents, Jim and Agnes Yule, lived at 58 Thackary Road on the Whitton estate. I remember the milkman delivering the milk with a horse and cart. The horse would have blinkers on and a feed bag. We children always ran out to give it a carrot plucked from someone's garden. I think the milkman's name was Fred. In those days you did not have to worry so much about theft and you could leave your milk money in the bottle on the doorstep if you were not home.

“The 'milkie' used to just rap on the back door and just walk in the house. My grandad would pay him and always have a chat. The milkman did this at most houses and it must have taken him all day to do his rounds.

“We also had the toffee apple and shrimp man. He had a bike with a big basket on the front. The bell would ring and we would hear the cry of 'fresh shrimp'. My grandmother would give us the money and a bowl and off we would go to get a pint of shrimps. We then sat with our bread and butter peeling shrimps to put in our sandwich. What a treat instead of 'dripping' and salt, or a sugar sandwich.

“Another visitor around the streets was the Lyons van. I cannot remember the roundsman's real name, but heard him referred to as 'Brandy Balls'. We called the chippie van 'Sizzle Black', while the apple, plum and wood man was 'Stumpy'. Other regular callers were the coalman, the Provident cheque man and the chimney sweep. We bought potatoes in sacks off the back of a cart pulled by a horse. When I was about six years old I would go to the shops with a note to get my grandad a pint of cider and a pack of Woodbines or an ounce of Old Holborn tobacco and papers. There were no questions asked about my age or who they were for.

“It seems life has changed a great deal since I was a child in Ipswich. Doors of homes were never locked, children played outside for hours with games like 'knock down ginger'. If we were involved in any mischief we would run away from policeman 'Bomber' Harris so as not to get a clip round the ear. How times have changed and it really is not that long ago.

“There were few of these violent crimes in Ipswich that I read about now. I am often dismayed at the crime in my nice old town. We never had the luxuries afforded to children now, but we were respectful and happy.”

Another former Ipswich girl, who now lives in the United States, is Elizabeth Miller.

Elizabeth saw the memories in Kindred Spirits of shopping at the likes of Sainsbury's stores in Ipswich when the stores were based in Westgate Street and Tavern Street before being replaced by the supermarket in Upper Brook Street, which opened in March 1971.

Elizabeth said: “I live in Michigan, USA. I was born and raised in France and arrived in Ipswich at the tender age of ten. My dad was born and raised in Ipswich. I love to read Kindred Spirits because now that both my parents are gone I miss the old stories.

“My mother was the storyteller as dad did not like to talk of the hard times. He was one of 15 children, grew up in the rougher areas of Ipswich and spent some time in an orphanage there.

“I read once in Kindred Spirits about a reader's experiences in an Ipswich orphanage. He talked about making garlands out of cupboard shelf paper to decorate the halls of the orphanage at Christmas.

“When I was very little my dad made

garlands out of chequered shelf paper and hung them all over our apartment in France. People there did not decorate like that. The neighbours called my dad 'The Eccentric Englishman'. My sister and I thought our father was very cool as no other father did things like that. It was probably in the Ipswich orphanage that he learned to do that.

“When I was a child in Ipswich, Saturdays were a treat. My mum was very particular about the cheeses and other goods and meats she purchased so we went to many shops and counters.

“In my mind I can still see the sawdust on the floor at Sainsbury's. I recall some shops had coin containers whizzing about cables carrying cash and change to and from a small cash office. After all the shopping was done we'd meet up with dad for tea at Lyons in Tavern Street.

“I also remember, as we were new to England, how amazed we were at the courteous and patient way English folks would wait their turn, no shoving or angry words. Queues were a way of life and everyone accepted it. Good memories.”

Stella Seiler, who now lives in Universal City, said: “I love reading Kindred Spirits online as it reminds me of my childhood. I lived on Cavendish Street. Mrs Parmente used to organise outings for the street and I fondly remember going to Clacton, Yarmouth and Felixstowe. I remember getting a bar of chocolate from the machine at Beach Station, Felixstowe. When we returned there was a long queue waiting to get the train back to Ipswich. We got off at Derby Road station.

“I loved Fellas Ice Cream. The first one I got after the war, we queued up outside the shop in Rope Walk, Ipswich. I also remember going down to the dock area when a bomb dropped on a silo. It made one big mess.

“I am glad I lived in the time frame I did. We did not have much, but we were happy and had fun! We had chicken at Christmas. Dishes of jelly and blancmange were put in the front room on the cool marble hearth so that they would set. Those were the days. Now I live in the States in a very nice neighbourhood. I have everything I could want, but still cherish those days!”

Does this feature bring memories to you of life in our area from the past? Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.