North Walsham & District Community Archive

The Vague Memories of Gordon S. Risebrow



I was born in December 1934 in No. 19, North Street, North Walsham, which was said to be a “condemned dwelling!”  It was in the middle of the terrace, whose doors opened onto the street; No. 19 had no back entrance or gardens.  We shared a yard with the FULLERS (BELLA and GEORGE) … outside “loo” (flushed) and a coal shed/wash-tub.  The “dustmen” and coal men had to come through our “front” room and kitchen (hopefully not using our tin bath-tub!) 

The milk was delivered by “pony and trap”; the milk being in churns with metal measures of 1/3, ½ and 1 pint hooked to the churn’s side.  I think the milk man shouted “Milko” and we took our jugs out; we may even have left our jugs on the doorstep!?  The trap was yellow and the pony was a piebald!?

When I was about four, the war started and I was soon saluting the soldiers: many were stationed around North Walsham.  The early air raid alarms were spent down the pub’s cellar (The Cock), because of not having a good shelter nearby (having no garden we could not have an “Anderson”) but later we had a “Morrison” which took up most of our tiny front room!

One of the characters I remember from the war was an “old chap” called BARNEY CHRISTMAS; he lived in one of the “Yards” near us.  He would put up and take down the “black-out” from our sole window.  Mum (WINNIE RISEBROW) gave him a cup of tea or a few pence.  He was said to have been a “drover,” taking geese, turkeys etc from North Walsham to Norwich!

Dad (STANLEY RISEBROW) was away all war, only coming home on “leave,” bringing wooden toys made by him and his mates.  Mum “did her bit,” cleaning shops and offices (including the “Food Office”) and taking in Officers’ laundry.

I recall that I was sent by Mum with a few pence to the bakers (Cutting?) in Vicarage Street for a small loaf (still hot!); sitting on the doorstep eating that hot crust with melting “marge” was heaven.  I also got some coke from Mundesley Road in a wheeled “buggy;” coke was a lot cheaper than coal!  Nearby was a fish and chip shop – yummy!

At five years old I started at the council school.  My sister took me and I was in the primary class.  I can recall sitting in the “cloakroom” under our pegs when there was an alarm – looking up at the glass roof, thinking – direct hit = curtains!

We sat with our slates on little bow-backed chairs facing a low table, and when MISS ENGLAND (a lovely lady) read to us, to the front we had to face where the “tortoise” stove was, and Miss England standing in front of it!  On one such occasion the little girl in front of me had a loose piece of cotton thread hanging from her shoulder … I pulled it and her dress “came apart;” I’ve had troubles with girls ever since!

I took, and passed, the “11 plus” at the end of the Juniors (teacher was MISS RUMP.)  One unhappy event which took place when in the Juniors was my interfering in the bullying of the class “swot” by a “home-boy” – I lost and got a bloody nose for my troubles.  The home-boy came to say he was sorry and we became friends; the swot never spoke to me again (he was in my year at the Paston Grammar School.)

I started at Paston as a “scholarship” boy from North Street, but later the council “had” to move us to a council house as I was sharing a bedroom with my parents.  The house was on the old park (near the school) at No. 10, Park Avenue.  Some fifty years later I spoke to a lady in the garden of No. 10 – not only was she an old “girlfriend,” but she was sleeping in my bedroom! (About fifty years too late?)

No. 10 was the middle of two in a row of four; the house on our end had a lodger and one day whilst I was on leave (from the army) and my folks being at work, I went to the pantry to sneak a condensed milk sandwich, while singing a rude army song.  I heard a giggle…on looking out of the small window, I saw a policewoman sitting in a deckchair.  “Oh, sorry!” I said.  She smiled and replied, “That’s OK – I enjoyed it.”

At the Paston I was a “small fish in a big pond.”  My only prize was for Art in the first year with a “war-time” lady teacher.  However, the new headmaster was ex-army and soon dropped art as not being suitable! So good-bye Miss EMMA LUMB.

I did make the football and cricket teams in my year!  I recall doing well at the high jump in my last year at the Juniors – representing the school at the city’s ground – I did not win!  Out of school, I was in the “Regal Juniors” an ad-hoc football team; we did not do very well!

The Paston school was in the C.C.F. (combined cadet force); we wore the Royal Norfolk Regiment’s badge (featuring Britannia) when we sat exams.

I also went to the Youth Centre, with the nice MR WATSON in charge.

In holiday time I went with Mum to help her, or with Dad on his laundry round.  On Sundays I was taken to chapel (Methodists) by cousin Grace and later sister Pauline; prizes for attendance (books – still have them) and once a year a “treat” to the beach.  We had meetings with other chapels and art contests etc. 

As my folks couldn’t afford to keep me at the Paston, my Mum got me a job at Hannants Garage (my mum cleaned their office); I started the first day of 1951.  When the headmaster of Paston heard of my departure he wrote to Hannants saying my “uni” exam was soon, so they must not take me on…..I went to work!

It wasn’t so bad; I had taught myself to drive (from books) and knew how an “infernal combustion engine” worked.  One of my jobs was to drive various cars and vans from the back to the workshop.  Worked with a good set of lads, esp. the lovely FRED OAKLEY (I was allowed to join his “drinking set” – our H.Q. was the “Cross Keys.”)

One trick the lads played on me, the “new boy”: on seeing me drive fast to the workshops they said, “But can you do it going backwards?”  Like a fool I did and could not stop (brakes in those days did not work well in reverse!)  They straightened the bumper for me.

Around June 1952, I left work aged 17 ½ to “go for a soldier” as National Service was looming.  I volunteered for the R.E.M.E. (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) as I did not want to be in the infantry and shoot people!  I was only a “short-term regular” so “got out” after three years with the skills of a “semi-skilled” vehicle mechanic and worked at Mann, Egerton & Co. in Norwich.  

I still lived at No. 10, Park Avenue but commuted by train/motor bike (with my fiancée PATRICIA ANNISON on the back; she lived in Spa Common and also worked in the city.)  Sadly we crashed in thick fog just five days before Christmas 1955 and three days after my twenty-first Birthday.  It took me three years “getting better” and one year being retrained as a clock and watch repairer at Letchworth’s  “Government Retraining Centre.”

I left No. 10, Park Avenue in 1959 to get married in Stalham (my fiancée lived at Weyford Bridge at the time.)  We lived in Norwich but came weekly to see Mum in a “place” near Skeyton.  Mum was in her nineties when she died.

I joined North Walsham Archive Group and am enjoying it.  I hope to put up some photos someday.

Gordon S. Risebrow, November 2017.