North Walsham & District Community Archive

North Walsham Memories by Edna Stone

North Walsham Memories
by Edna Stone

I have lived in North Walsham for all of my 71 years so may not be the oldest resident to get in touch with you, but thought you might be interested in a few random memories!I was born at no 10 Bluebell Villas which later became 19 Bluebell Road. My mum & dad were Marion & Eddie Gee & I have a brother Leonard who is five & a half years older than me. Our parents were lifelong Salvationists so it was only natural that we would have been brought up in the “Army” as well & we both became quite involved in it. Our house was a council house with 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen which my mum always called the scullery! & two more rooms downstairs, one which we called the living room & the other the front room. There was a fireplace in both rooms & our dad would always be the first up to light the fire for us in the living room, but it was only very occasionally that we had a fire in the front room, sometimes on a Sunday but always at Christmas. This always seemed like a special treat, just to be able to go & get warm in our front room, & I know that many of our neighbours did the same. I remember my first school with much affection. It was only a few minutes walk from our house & I would walk there with my friend Rebecca who lived only a few doors away & was the same age as me. I know I used to feel a bit miffed as her mother would pack her up some biscuits which she would eat at playtime but my mother never packed any up for me, I remember drinking the milk though, sometimes it would taste lukewarm, yuk! Also when we went to school, the boys & girls had different playgrounds. The boys would enter school by going up the steps which are on the side of Marshgate, (Incidentally the road where I now live) & we girls would enter by the gate at Manor Road. Playtimes were happy times where sometimes we would skip ( I think we were allowed to take skipping ropes in) or play games like “catch” etc. My favourite subject was English, & I loved spelling tests & reading. My worst subject was definitely handicrafts, things like needlework & painting, though I think I did knit a pretty decent kettleholder once, but oh, the muddles & messes I used to get in, just jumping for a minute to my high school days where during one lesson I was attempting to make chocolate eclairs, my cookery teacher took one look at my efforts & said “I've never seen such a mess in all my life!”
But going back to my childhood, remembering some of the shops we had in town. I used to get the meat for my mum from Gunton's butchers which was down what we used to call Back Street I think which is now a car park. There was Mr Pitcher from the paper shop who was always the same, in Church Street, also Palmers the Greengrocers, I used to like having a browse upstairs in Leeders, the newsagents, in town, & Paynes in New Road always used to have a lovely selection of sweets in big jars & my friend Marilyn & myself often used to buy a bottle of pop from there to quench our thirst after playing tennis on the courts on the park for a couple of hours!!(I'd never be able to do that now!)Another memory is of of the Walls Icecream van stopping almost outside our house every Saturday afternoon, & my friend Rebecca & I would buy a 3d or 4d cornet. Oh the luxury when Raspberry or Lime splits came on the scene. These were lollipops with icecream in the middle & were 6d I think. Also during some of the light summer evenings Rebecca & I & sometimes a few other neighbours' children who were around the same age as us, would sit on the kerbside & play jacks, or maybe play hopscotch on the pavement! (There weren't many cars around in those days!)
I also remember going to the pictures (The Regal on New Road ) with my brother on a Saturday morning. I think it was ninepence to go in. (that's old money!)There was always a serial every week called Brick Bradford. I thought I remembered it as being a Western, but my brother said no, he remembers there being a cartoon to start with, then a Western, then this serial Brick Bradford which he says was an early form of Sci-fi. I probably didn't understand a word of it!
Another thing my brother remembers is a Battle of Britain parade every year in the town & apparently we would watch it from Smiths the cleaners in town where our “Auntie Elsie” used to work! She lived next door to our nanny in New Road. She wasn't any relation, but a very good neighbour to our nanny & we always called her “Auntie “ ( her surname was Woodbine for anyone who might remember her).The cottages they lived in were quite old & didn't have an inside toilet.And when we used to go to see nanny & auntie Elsie at Christmas time for tea, we would have to go outside in the icy cold when we wanted to use it, brrr!! although I know a lot of people were brought up without an inside loo, so guess I was lucky! But thinking of Christmas, it was always a lovely time. My dad would always be the first in our road to put our Christmas tree up so it could be seen in our front room window. & roast chicken was luxury in those days, so we only ever had it at Christmas, I would always wake up on Christmas day & hear Christmas music coming from the front room where dad would have put a record on, (before cds & even cassettes were about!)
And after our Christmas dinner in the afternoon, nanny (that's my dad's mum by the way Bessie) & aunt Elsie would come ready for tea, & we would always play some games, card games like Whot, & Pit & in later years Uno, and talking games like “I Went To Market” & “The Parsons Cat!” Even with the advent of Tv, we still played our games , which my family still do today tho' I must admit we do record some Tv programmes now or watch them on the hub later!
As mentioned earlier, my brother & I were brought up in the Salvation Army & in our childhood years we were always busy practising for different things. We both attended the Sunday School, & throughout the year, there was always something to look forward to. There was the Christmas party which was always held in January as in the “army” it was always too busy to hold it in December with carolling etc going on! We had the prizegiving in Jan or Feb I think; the anniversary would be a very busy weekend in May usually, there was the “treat” to Lowestoft, (& it was a treat to go somewhere like that in those days as most of us didn't get to go out much!)that was normally in July, & from September onwards we would be practising for the Christmas play which was of course based around the nativity. I remember being a shepherd, an angel, & one of the wise men, but I don't think I ever remember being Mary much to my disappointment, but I loved acting & learning lines which put me in good stead for when I was to co-found The North Walsham Players with Colin Jeary in 1998! & we've been going for over twenty years now, but this year is a bit different, tho we did manage to perform our annual panto earlier in the year before covid was about here! But going back to the “army” as well as all those yearly events we were always at the “army” most nights practising for different things, We did have a youth club on Monday nights where I learned to play Table Tennis, (again that put me in good stead for years later when I showed my two sons how to play. My youngest son Philip & I eventually played for the North Norfolk Table Tennis league, well I played in it for 20 years, & Philip still plays in it. We are lucky enough to have a table which my husband made for us in one of our outbuildings so we have been able to get plenty of exercise during lockdown! Frustratingly I can never beat Philip Now!!!)Also we would have practice nights at the “army” for singing, so I was in the Singing Company first, (Junior choir) then became a member of the songsters. (Senior choir) when I was 14 & my dad was Songster leader(Choir Master) for many years. He also conducted the band for several years & my brother learned to play the trombone. Leonard was also pianist for the songsters for a while & he did sing in the songsters sometimes. Actually my Grandad Craske ( My mum's father) was the very first songster leader here in North Walsham & my mum's sister (Auntie Gladys) was the very first singing company leader which was also a position held by my mum & many years later by my brother Leonard. I also became Young Peoples Sergeant Major (Sunday School superintendent) many years later as well. After my grandma Craske died, grandad came to live in North Walsham with my Auntie Gladys & Uncle Percy (Hall) They had two daughters Doreen & Christine & my Aunt & Uncle owned the fish & chip shop in Aylsham Road until they moved to Hellesdon near Norwich in the late 60's I think. My mum often used to go & help fry at lunch times, & I would sometimes go during the lunch hour at school & enjoy fish & chips for dinner! Another thing I learned at the “army” when I was about seven was how to play the tambourine & when I was in charge of the Sunday School I was teaching some of the children how to play it too. I continued playing it for several years until I had two children of my own but I did actually start playing it again only a few years ago when I was in my late sixties, believe me, you're never too old!Just going back to my dad for a minute, we were all very proud when he was selected to receive Maundy money from the Queen in 1996 for all his work for the Salvation Army. This was distributed at Norwich cathedral! I've also just remembered that sometimes during the summer months on Sunday mornings my dad, my friend Rebecca & sometimes my brother would get up early, my dad would make a flask of coffee & pack us some biscuits & he would drive us to Walcott where we would have an early morning swim, then be back in time for Sunday School & the band's open air meeting which both started at ten. We must have been mad!
Well these are just a few random memories from my childhood, but another thing I've enjoyed doing over the years is writing poetry & below is a poem I wrote about North Walsham which I entered for the “Big Bash” at the library last year. It didn't win, but got put on the short list I think, & I received a certificate for entering, also an anthology with other people's poems & mine included in it, so I felt like a winner anyway. I still very much enjoy living in this lovely town, I would never want to live anywhere else, & I've enjoyed looking back at bygone days here

Edna Stone, North Walsham 2021