My magical hours spent in toyshop

FESTIVE season memories from the 1940s were recalled in Kindred Spirits over recent weeks by Margaret Sherman, of Foxhall Road, Ipswich.

David Kindred

FESTIVE season memories from the 1940s were recalled in Kindred Spirits over recent weeks by Margaret Sherman, of Foxhall Road, Ipswich.

Now former Ipswich man Jack Hawkins, who lives at Irthlingborough, Northants, has told me his childhood memories of the Christmas period in Ipswich.

Jack said: “My memories come from 1933 when I was six years old and living at the regimental sergeant major's house beside the roller skating rink which stood at the corner of Portman Walk, now Sir Alf Ramsey Way and Portman Road.

“After school at St Matthew's I loved to go into the town centre to visit Cowell's store in the Buttermarket where at Christmas they always had the largest Hornby model train layout in Suffolk. Hidden in the crowd I watched for hours as the trains travelled round and to my amazement never collided.

“If I was challenged by a shop walker I would say I was waiting for my mum who was placing an order in the store. This was a fib.

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“All of the shops in the town centre always made a special effort with their window displays over the Christmas period. Animated displays were very fashionable.

“Often I would run an errand for my father to E W Booty's the pork butchers at 5 High Street, for sausages or pork cheese, both my father's favourites.

“I always made a slight detour for “a good luck touch” of the statue of a Red Indian, which stood outside Churchman's tobacconists shop at the end of Westgate Street.

“If I was dispatched to the Co-op shop in Princes Street for groceries, before school, it was worth the effort just to watch the overhead “elastic band” system for dispatching money and members' numbers to the cashier's desk at the rear of the shop and then wait for the clang of returning change.

“Footman's store had a vacuum system and the money there always disappeared with a swoosh.

“Another outing to the town centre was for my father, an avid reader, who had a subscription at Boots and W H Smith's libraries. When his books needed changing the young ladies always knew what he liked to read.

“Christmas time saw the visit of aunts, some family, some honorary. The 'posh' ones went to Limmer and Piper's restaurant in the Buttermarket. The smell of roasted coffee which filled the street nearby is still with me today. There was often a trio playing music and the restaurant served dainty sandwiches and even daintier cakes.

“ The other aunts preferred the restaurant at the Footman Pretty store where there was a piano playing and a couple of models who would stroll between the tables showing off the latest lines in fashion.

“Ladies would inspect the goods and place an order 'on apro' for delivery at home. A treat I enjoyed was to buy half a pound of pear drops in Marks & Spencer's for three pence, which would be about one penny today.

“In the TA hall near where I lived there were posters for the local cinemas. There were free tickets available for Wednesday evening shows.

“Most weeks my dad would take me to see Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy films. I also saw a pantomime at the Picture House cinema in Tavern Street. We talked about the show for weeks after at school.

“Around Christmas my father was always busy attending functions while mother was busy at home with a young baby. I made my own entertainment watching the horses from the Co-op milk and coal carts being shod at the blacksmith's shop near my home. On New Year's Day there was a dog show held in the drill hall, another excuse to wander around “just looking”.