“Another brick in the wall”
In the back yard of 19, North Street, behind a loose brick we (various local kids) hid some “treasures” – we called ourselves the N.H.S. (no, not the “National Health Service” – we were the first!) It stood for “North Street Hooligans” – we weren’t really, but you know what kids are …. (today it’s Superman/Woman or the “Potter Boy”!)
Wool and Rags
Seeing the recent display of clever and funny wool-work in The Forum, Norwich reminded me of the war! Living in an all-female environment (mum, sister, various aunts and their pretty friends) I soon had to get on with the knitting! Clothes were costly and needed coupons so we had to “make do and mend.” Patches and darning helped to keep old clothes in use but we had to get down to knitting; pulling out jumpers etc (wool was scarce too) and I learned to knit - mainly six inch squares for blankets. I thought my mum was very clever with four steel needles (short, sharp both ends with no knobs) .. hey presto, a pair of socks!
I advanced to "TATTAN" (known as French knitting) – a wooden cotton reel with four nails at one end of the hole with wool around the nails. A woollen “snake” emerged at the bottom; after about a foot long, cast off. Mum then curls it around, puts it on a stiff base and there you have a coaster Christmas “pressy” for the aunts.
Rugs and mats were hard to get so we made our own (we called then “piece mats;” to some they were “rag rugs.”) You took the side of a sack and pieces of fabric – any old fabric cut into strips about 1 inch wide x 6 inches long. I used a small “horn” to hole and claw through the sacking. The rags were very comfy (no carpets for us!) Later I made rugs with wool and a hooked tool (I made a nice bedside half-moon rug in pink and black … I wonder what happened to it?!)
Manor Road School
When it was cold, MISS ENGLAND used to tell us to sit on our hands … it worked! I still do it, mainly to keep my fingers from “drumming” etc. In MISS RUMP’s Juniors class she had a “band” of wooden blocks, bells etc. I was always on “drums” (blocks) and I still “drum” – much to the annoyance of most people!
The Radio and “The Man in Black” ….
In North Street my bed was near the stairs which ended with a door right into the “front room” where my folks (mainly mum) would sit by the fire and listen to the radio (no TV!) with the door ajar because I didn’t like the dark (what a sissy!) One particular night I couldn’t sleep and listened to the radio too; it was “The Man in Black: Your Appointment with Fear”, narrated by Valentine Dyall. The stories he told were of murder and horror; this particular night it was the story of a man who, for a bet, offered to sleep in a glass-fronted coffin in a “haunted” house. For a laugh, his “mates” nailed down the lid and left him there – in the morning his hair had turned white and he was dead! After listening, I looked up in horror; in the wardrobe mirror were weird moving shapes! I quickly worked it out: the trees behind the pub were being blown by the wind with the shadows falling onto the mirror…..
We listened to the radio a lot. I liked “Children’s Hour” with “Uncle Mac” and “Larry the Lamb” etc. I remember the phrase, “Goodnight Children, everywhere.” What about “Ovaltiney’s Concert Party” and Harry Hemsley’s familiar cry, “What did Horace say Winnie?” Later I would listen to “Dick Barton: Special Agent” with “Jock” and “Snowy.”
During the war, it was “It’s That Man Again” (ITMA), “Forces Favourites” and “Workers’ Playtime.” Then there was “Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh” and “Ray’s a Laugh” featuring Percy Edwards – a “bird-man” (did he have an aunt down Vicarage Street?) Does anyone remember “Happidrome” and its lyric “Ramsbottom, Enoch and Me?”
Then there was the US series, about teenager, “Archie Andrews.” What about Ronnie Ronalde, the Whistling Man and the chap who spoke complete rubbish!
Dad liked listening to Mantovani and Mum liked Mrs Dale’s Diary.
Bombs on North Walsham
I don’t remember the date nor time but whilst still in North Street we were awakened by a low flying plane (no air raid siren, I think?) It was a German and he was “going home” and probably following the coast road. There were two bangs and a thud. The first bomb (small one) went through the roof of a terrace on the Mundesley Road, then out through the wall, bounced onto the road and came to rest by my aunt and uncle’s house … it did not explode! The second bomb fell behind Cork’s Builders Yard (the shed could have looked like an army camp or factory?) This one did explode but landed in the allotments and only killed a few carrots and cabbages! I can’t recall reading any official report of it?!
The Paston Grammar School - Discipline
Discipline was mixed – a few “lines” or “read the next chapter” or perhaps writing out a thousand lines (what a waste of valuable learning time.) The usual line to write was “I must not talk in class.” The blackboard rubber (hard wooden handle, soft other side) could be hurled at you if you annoyed some masters too much (luckily I never heard of any eyes getting hit.) If it was really bad, you were sent to the Head for “six of the best.” I never got that so I can’t give you a personal description but I know it was with a cane! I did endure a bit of individual punishment by a master (who shall remain nameless …) and it was due to an unlucky, innocent event. This particular master could not keep control and the boys knew it … so every so often a few desk-tops would be dropped and go bang! The master flew around the classroom hitting (with an art ruler that had an iron edge) anyone he thought was a culprit. Boys would also cough out loud from other parts of the room; on one such occasion, just as a boy had done that, the master walked past me when I innocently cleared my throat (a common habit for me.) The master swung around and bashed me on the head. I saw stars, my head took some time to clear and the bump was a reminder for a few days!
The Paston Grammar School – Milk
The nice photograph of Paston “28 Block” (also known as “1928 Building”) in the Archive Group calendar for 2018 shows my classroom above the door. The milk was left at that door and as I was milk monitor it was my job to collect the milk and get it to the boys! Yes, even Grammar-gogs” were allowed one third of a pint, in a glass bottle with a cardboard disk on the top with a small roundel that could be pushed to make space for a non-plastic straw.
(These cardboard tops were often saved and used to make “woolly” balls for more Christmas presents. Two disks were put together and odd bits of wool were wound around and around until the disks were full. The edges were cut, then the whole thing tied with wool string and “fluffed” out ….hence little woolly balls (magic!))
The Paston Grammar School – Rats!
The playing field had a small pavilion and an outdoor swimming pool. Often dead rats would have to be fished out of the pool before we could use it … how did we survive?!
The Paper Round, the Wallet and the Police
I did a paper round for the paper shop in Market Street. It was about 1948/49, or even 1950. On my heavy old bike (with papers at the front in a metal square tin, covered in a sack) I came down Grammar School Road, turning by the Bull pub to go down Kings Arms Street when I saw something lying in the middle of the road. I stopped, picked it up – it was a wallet. I opened it to see if there was an address or name – nothing except £40 (a month’s pay for my dad). I retraced my journey to go to the “cop shop.” I handed it in, with all the facts including my name and address. But I never heard another word about it; not even a thank you! I often wonder what happened to it, especially all that money….
Gordon S Risebrow, May, 2018