North Walsham & District Community Archive

Memories of Sheila Dunning from Honing

Memories of Sheila Mary Dunning (Richardson) nee Meek from Honing.

I was born October 31st, 1934 in a small house in "The Street" Honing. It was nothing special, but for 1934 it was good.

My first memory is of a shamrock growing under the living room window and both sides of the path from door to gate.

Opposite was a shop, Scott's Stores, owned by Mr and Mrs Scott and Ruby, they sold everything from sugar to paraffin. Mr Scott delivered the paraffin to customers in his donkey and cart. Everything was delivered to the shop in big bags like sacks and they stood around the shop and Mrs Scott weighed what you wanted, butter came in big slabs and it was cut off when you bought it, the same for cheese, I only remember one sort it was either Cheshire or cheddar, I think it was then wrapped in grease proof paper.

(Butter cost lOp per Lb).

Dry food's such as sugar and tea were weighed into tiny blue bags, people walked from other villages so there were always two or three chairs for customers to sit on where they sat and chatted to Mrs Scott and each other.
In 1935 cats' eyes reflectors invented by Percy Shaw. Also, LNER trains reached 108 mph.

I think I was about 3 when we moved further up the street to the middle house, it was in a row of three after the little house I was born in it seemed huge with three bedrooms, lovely straight stairs with two rooms downstairs and big cupboards, brick sheds with a copper for wash days, a big front garden with a toilet at the rear far end. I remember a man called Mr Fuller nearest the road, one day he gave me a plum and my mother grabbing it and telling me never to eat anything he gave me as he had TB. That's why he slept in the shed when possible, he didn't live there very long, I don't know if he died or just moved in to be with his family. The other side was Mr Firman and his son Wally (his name was Wallace, but nobody called him that). Like my father, Wally worked on the fruit farm, he did very well as he was injured in the 1914 -1918 war and had mobility problems, my mother worked there as well, a lot of the village woman worked on the land. There was fruit to gather; red currents, black currents, raspberries, plums, pears and apples which were stored in cold rooms, dark rooms and two gas rooms plus hales outside. Then in the winter they were graded and packed, then collected in lorries for markets in London, Birmingham and Sheffield.
My father didn't go into the army, no man that worked on the land did but in 1939 the woman were called to work in the harvest as well as the men, my father joined the home guard we used to go for the lots of long walks on Sunday's, my father carried me on his shoulders as I was about 3 at the time, I remember he always wore a trilby and me sitting on his shoulders and remember that I used to spit in the top of his Trilby.

I was nearly 5 when the war started, I can remember my father was sitting on a chair by the table, I was standing between his legs, my mother was sitting there as well, and we had the wireless on. Then Mr Chamberlain made his speech and my father said, "we are at war". Not many bombs fell in Honing or the surrounding villages, we were so lucky, we all had ration books but as my mother and father both worked on the land, they had extra in the fats line, like cheese and margarine. We made our own butter by taking the cream from the top off the milk each day and shaking it, in those days milk was delivered each day from Mr Howes's farm at Briggate so it was full cream, each day the cows were milked by hand and taken in churns to a certain spot and the milk marketing board collected it in big tanks. Mr Howes bottled his local deliveries at the farm. Meat was a bit short, there were at least two butchers shops in Worstead and one in Dilham our meat was delivered by a man called Mr Starling all through the war years and for many years after, when two brothers Sid and Ronny Bullimore took over the round. We had plenty of wild rabbit which was made into a stew, it was put up an open fire and simmered away all day, veg from the garden was served with it and a dumpling, dumplings were just flour and water, so we didn't starve.

There were no sweets or chocolate, but we had plenty of apples, plums and pears. I think I was about 9 before I saw a banana.

In 1936 mass production of gas masks began, there were no dustman in those days or even bins, the council dug a large very deep hole on the common and everyone took their rubbish there. You couldn't buy much in tins anyway, but broken cups, plates and things went into the hole. I bet now a lot of it will be antic. Although any furniture was chopped up for the fire, there was no waste. There were no bathrooms so every Saturday the copper was filled for the baths, Saturday night was bath night. I didn't have brothers or sisters, so my water was clean, but Pete had 4 sisters that bathed before him, he always said that by the time he got in it was like sitting on grit. Also, no indoor toilets, our toilet was at the bottom of the garden, my father dug big holes and tipped it in when it was full, we cut the newspaper into squares as there was no toilet paper.

The Dandy comic was first published in 1937.

In 1938 all British children were issued with a gas mask.

I started Honing school in 1939 and cried all day, I had to stay for my dinner as my mother was at work, it would have been nice to have an hour at home for my dinner, my friend Jean started a term before me and we have been friends all these years. We had to take our gas masks to school which were in a little box hung over our shoulder. We stayed in the little room at school with Mrs Bunting for 2 and a half years until we could read, write do our tables and do easy sums. We took sandwiches in a tin with a little piece of cake or an apple, every morning, we were given a little bottle of milk, I think it was a third of a pint delivered by Mr Howes. In the winter it froze so the teachers stood it in front of the fire, so it was just nice and warm by 11.00 o'clock play time. Some children were given a jar maltalene (malt extract) I did not get one as I was not in need of it, but my mother used to buy me virol it was a malt thing; it was very nice and tasted of toffee. Every Saturday night after my bath it was syrup of figs time, you had that even if you didn't need it, parents in those days thought it was necessary.

In 1940 two million men up to the age of 27 were called up to the war, by this time children were being evacuated to the country from all the big towns and cities, some schools had so many that their teachers came as well. At honing we had about 4 at the most, all through the war we heard all that was happening in the world through the radio but when you're 5 it doesn't mean a lot. We did the same things we always did and ate what the men grew, sprouts in the winter and lettuce in the summer, it had to be seasonal.

Once, I remember very well, I'm not sure how old I was but I was under 10 a boat had trouble just out from Happisburgh and lost a load of oranges overboard, a man from Stalham that had a car, a little Austin 7 picked up lots from the beach and took them round the villages and gave them to the children, I remember how fair he was, so every child had two.

A bus came just after the war, twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, it went as far as East Ruston, turned around and started picking people up in the village. It came at 10 and left Norwich at 5, ideal. As we went through Norwich to the bus station, we could see how bad things had been only about 15 miles from us. House's and shops flattened, piles of rubble and how anyone ever got through it I don't know, to leave your home, go into an air raid shelter to come out after the raid was over to just see a pile of bricks and rubble where your home was.

I went to church Sunday School in the morning, reverend Scott took us in the vestry for about an hour. Then in the chapel with the Davey family. We had an anniversary there which happened once a year, it was three times on a Sunday, the chapel used to be full and people standing outside, there was a short service. Mainly us children had learned poems and reading, and we entertained the congregation like that. The collection money to our Sunday School was a treat to Yarmouth. We went by train from Honing station then we had lunch in a big chapel at Yarmouth then to the pleasure beach for the rest of the day.

Later in the year, the same as now, we had harvest festival, I can't remember exactly what happened to the unlimited number of marrows, potatoes, apples, everything from our gardens, and sheaves of corn from farmers. I think like now, the church produce was given to the homeless and the salvation army dealt with it, but the chapel produce was taken just up the road to the village hall and we had an auction. That money went towards a Christmas party for all the village children.

Mrs Jarvis lived at the Gardeners Arm's, she was a smart woman, every Easter her and her sister Dulcie had a new suit for church. We used to watch for them to go past and no one else had such finery, even a hat. I knew Mrs Jarvis well in years to come, I used to give her a lift to North Walsham, I never did tell her how much we all liked her suits, but I think she knew. She lived to be 90.

Nearly everyone is the village lived in an estate house and worked on the fruit farm, there were several smaller farms called small holdings, all farmed by different families but the small holding also belonged to the estate over the years they have all gone back there, there is one or two that are small farms. Nearly all the people in the village worked on the farm, mostly the fruit farm, the men all the year round as the apple and pear trees had to be pruned and the woman worked in the fruit barns grading a packing the apples that they had gathered in the summer and autumn. June onwards there were raspberries gooseberries' and strawberries and red and black currents.
A bus load of women came from Norwich daily and Barton, we took our lunch in little tin containers and Mr Tom Burton, the man that cared for the pigs, every afternoon about 4 o'clock made a big earn of tea, we took our cups up and put them under the tap. I don't know if that urn was used for anything else, but the tea tasted lovely. We took a flannel in a jam jar with soapy water in it so we could get our hands clean before we ate our sandwiches. When we wanted to spend a penny we went up the rows where the fruit had been picked and just bopped down. In later years when new managers took over a little shed turned up for a toilet. I think Tom Burton, who made the tea, had to empty it.

I was at Honing school until I was 11, there was no water to drink or wash your hands in so Jean and me used to walk down to the farm which was run by Mr Ludkin to collect two big cooper jugs of water, that job was given to two older children every other week.

The German and Italian prisoners of war were working on the farms, in their dinner break they came for a walk up to the school gates to talk to us, the best they could. Us children looked forward to the chat and nobody seemed bothered about them coming.

In 1941 a patient was successfully treated with penicillin; the hit song of that year was the white cliffs of dover.
At the age of 10 and a half to 11 we sat an exam to see if you could go to the modern secondary Scholl, the girl's high school or the grammar school for boys. Honing had a good name. Jean and I were parted then, she went to the high School and I went to the modern secondary but we both travelled daily on the MGN Railway from Honing. It was a shock for all of us going from about 40 pupils to 400 but I loved it, we had so many more things going on, netball, hockey and rounders, cookery classes which was spoilt by a horrible teacher, she was the only teacher that I met and was afraid of, Miss Edmunds was here name.

In 1945 the top songs were Cruising down the river and We'll gather Lilac's.

In 1947 we had our worst winter, snow drifts everywhere but the good old steam train got through with two engines and a snow plough on the front so no days off school.

I left school at 15, jobs were plentiful I would have loved to have worked in one of the shops in North Walsham but my mother said that there was no need as Fisk's and Tenches shop in Honing wanted a girl, I was offered a job for 15 shillings a week, 5 shillings was handed over to my mother for my keep and ten shillings left for me for everything else. As soon as a vacancy came up on the fruit farm I left to start there, the money was good a lot of it was peace work, the harder you worked, the more you got.