For several years my friend the late Sheila Kennedy (nee Reeves) and I used to take part in the ladies’ rowing race using one oar each. We had this heavy old dinghy that her Uncle Bern used to use to take people out to his launch for fishing trips. It was almost round in shape and the last thing you should use for rowing. However, it was all we had.
Every year to our amazement we came second, and every year we were beaten by Mary Lord (nee Hayles) and her rowing partner. One year Sheila asked her cousin Godfrey if we could use his dinghy. It was longish and light and a green colour, much better for racing. We practised for two days to get used to it.
On the morning of the regatta we went to collect the dinghy but we could not find it. It was not at its mooring. Sheila rushed to her cousin’s who came out to look with us. Then he went to the Police Station to report it missing, so we still had to use the heavy dinghy and we still came second!
Several days later the green dinghy was found tied up quite safe at Lymington. Apparently two St Swithins’ boys had got out of their Home (now Port La Salle) and had escaped to the Mainland in the green dinghy. Well at least no real harm was done, and the boat was safely returned. Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934
Carnival 1949, trips from Pier Shore. Harold Hayles with daughter Christine. Delia Whitehead centre right looking after Charmaine. Amongst watchers, Serena Hunt, Mrs Ryall with children, Mrs Sloper, Mrs Maitland, Photo : Delia Whitehead nee Hunt
The Dashwood family did a lot for Yarmouth Church. They let their garden be used for the garden parties to raise money for the Church. Mr Cuthbert played the organ.
It was funny but when the three ladies came to Church on Sunday mornings, they all came separately. Miss Teresa sat upstairs (it was not all that safe even in those days), Miss Constance sat down the front and Miss Caroline half way up the church. I think they must have fallen out at this time as they had a family row.
They were a very thrifty family. It used to amuse my Gran because when they received Christmas cards they would stick paper over who had sent them and then write on them again.
When I was a Girl Guide they let us perform a garden ballet there on the lawn. The ladies came into the garden to watch with their sun shades up. It was all such fun for us children.
I remember Mr. Cuthbert for a special reason on my wedding day. A new vicar had just arrived and somehow the date of my wedding hadn’t been passed on to the organist. My mum rushed up to The Mount to find Mr. Cuthbert, who arrived in his gardening clothes to play for the service. Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934
During the war, I was in the Brownies and we joined in with the War Effort. Our Brown Owl had a car with an old wooden trailer at the back. We had to go to each house in turn in Yarmouth to collect waste paper. Sometimes there were a few comics that we used to “borrow” when Brown Owl wasn’t looking, and bring them back at the next collection. They were tucked up our Brownie dresses and the belts tied tightly. One day, somebody’s fell out and Brown Owl was not pleased! We never borrowed any comics again.
Brownies outside the White House, Yarmouth Common 1940s Pat Burt nee Adams extreme left Photo: Pat Burt
When I was about nine I used to visit my Mum and Dad in Yarmouth. I lived at the Toll Gate just outside Yarmouth with my Great Uncle, Gran, and Aunt Alice, and if it was dark I used to get a bus in Yarmouth Square and get off the bus right outside my Uncle George’s bungalow. I can’t quite remember why, I think I might have missed the bus, but one evening in the winter I had to walk back home. I did not mind the dark.
Because of the black-out in the war it was always dark with no lights on except for some natural light from the sky and sea. I walked past the Mount, a big house on the Common (not there any more), past a few yards with trees called the shrubbery. Then you came to a low hedge and you could see over the marsh. It was a fine night and you could see a bit.
As I got to this part I heard a drum drum of a plane’s engine. I did not know if it was a German plane or an English one, so I got under a tree and watched. You could just see the outline of a big plane flying low towards the marsh. It seemed to circle round the marsh and round Thorley Copse twice. It dropped two white flares and two red ones, then flew off. I ran as fast as possible in the dark. It only took a few minutes to get to the Toll Gate and home. I told my Great Uncle, who did fire watch. He went out and looked around but could not see anything. Next day when I went to Yarmouth I told my Dad. He said I must not talk about it as in the war you had to be careful what you said. But my mum told me afterwards he did go down to the police station, so I suppose he told them.
I’ve often wondered about this, and would love to know if anybody else saw it that night. I would love to hear about it. I think it must have been between seven and eight p.m. Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934
When I was young, I lived with my Great Uncle George, Granny Hunt and Aunt Alice. Uncle George had a small-holding at the Toll Gate just outside of Yarmouth, but because it was war time he also did fire watch. We lived in a bungalow called ‘Downs View’. You could not see much from the garden so he had to walk down Thorley Road when it was dark.
Downs View, Thorley Road 1940s where Delia Whitehead grew up with Granny Hunt, Aunt Alice and Great Uncle George who had a small holding there. Photo: Delia Whitehead
There was a gent called Mr Rowley who was in charge of the men who did fire watch. He lived along the Bouldnor Road. If a fire was spotted the men would have to go to his house and tell him, or even look round to find him. Very few people were on the phone.
Sometimes Mr Rowley would visit the men’s homes to see if they had been out looking round. Trouble is in winter when it was bitter cold, Uncle George would pop home for a hot drink. He always sat in the kitchen on an old couch. It was warm and he kept falling asleep so the rest of us had to take it in turns to poke him just as he was about to drop off to sleep and hope Mr Rowley would not turn up in the middle of it.
Now during the war, Rofford House in Thorley Road was used by service men. One day Granny Hunt and Aunt Alice and I were sitting in the kitchen at Downs View, Thorley Road, when suddenly the back door opened and two young men with shirts over their arms walked into the house, much to our surprise. One looked at Gran and said: ‘ Hello Ma, we are living in Rofford House. Can we borrow your iron?’
The other one explained they were (I think) Canadian. They had dates with two young women that evening, and there were no irons in Rofford House to iron their shirts.
Gran went out to the shed and came back with two flat irons because this is what she used then, and said: ‘They will take a while to heat up, boys, I have to put them on this range.’ Their faces were a picture. ‘What are they, Ma?’ one said. They could not believe it when Gran explained. They had had electric irons for years at home they said.
Gran decided if they tried to use the irons there would be two young ladies, with young men who had shirts full of holes, so she did it for them. Next day they came back and brought Gran several packets of biscuits. She said, ‘I can’t take them, it’s not right when things are rationed.’ They laughed and said they had plenty. Gran did bits of ironing for them and Gran got several lots of biscuits and then one day they came to say they all had to go back to the mainland.
They certainly had a forward approach but they were very nice young men. It seems that people just walked in and out of people’s houses in their home town. It seemed rather strange to us but then lot of things were strange in the war years. Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934
Delia Whitehead nee Hunt in her Confirmation Dress made from parachute silk. Photo : Delia Whitehead
Confirmation at St James’s Yarmouth
Those of us that were the 12 to 14 age group who attended Yarmouth Church were told that there was to be a Confirmation at St James’s, not just for us; people from Freshwater and out in the country would be joining us. A lady, I can’t remember her name, told us that all us young girls must have white dresses. Older girls could wear blue, men and boys should wear “Sunday best” as it was called then, or if you were in the Services you could wear your uniform.
Now to buy white dresses at this time was just not possible. You had to try to get some material and get the dresses made and that was not easy either. I don’t know how my Mum and Aunt Alice got it, but they got some bits of white parachute silk and a lady in Yarmouth Square, Mrs Kellaway, fitted the bits together and made me a dress. My friend Sheila Kennedy (nee Reeves) had a great aunt in London. She somehow got hold of some beautiful white satin. She would not say how she got it, and Mrs Kellaway made a dress for Sheila as well. I remember one girl had a dress made from butter muslin, this looked very sweet. A girl from the country had a white blouse and had made a skirt from white net curtains. It was different, but she did look very pretty. There were other white dresses made from all sorts of materials, whatever the girls’ mums could get hold of. I must say my friend Sheila’s dress stood out, it was so beautiful.
After what seemed to be a very long service we at last came out and stood around the church yard while people took photos with Box Brownie cameras. It must have been late on the Sunday afternoon because people were putting out old metal dust bins before it got dark ready for the dustman who came very early in the morning on the Monday.
Sheila started to run about and suddenly she jumped over a dustbin and caught the hem of her lovely dress on a lid. The hem came down and made the dress look like a nightgown. Luckily for her, her mum could see the funny side of it and when you think about it, it really had been a lovely day to remember. Delia Whitehead nee Hunt
My Granny Hunt did some home nursing when I was little.
Before I was born I‘m told she helped deliver babies. Her mum had given birth to thirteen healthy babies so I suppose it was a way of life for Gran.
She once told me that when she was young, if you had a baby that would not sleep, you got a square of butter muslin, sprinkled sugar in the middle then fold the butter muslin around it so it was rolled up, then you tied the ends tight with cotton. It should now be cracker shape. Then you stuck one end in the baby’s mouth and apparently they sucked the sugar out. What would health and safety think?
Sometimes the undertaker Mr May would send someone on a bike to ask her to come and lay somebody out who had just died. Granny Hunt would expect Aunt Alice and I to be very serious when she was about to go and do this. First she would put on a black silk dress then a black coat, black hat and a white starched apron. She had a little black case. We were not allowed to see inside and off she would go. When she came back we were expected to be silent for the rest of the day which wasn’t easy for me as a small kid. Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934
How medical things have changed!
I remember as a child we sat in Doctor Drummond’s surgery, near the Quay. It was a small room and you took your turn to go in. The door between the waiting room and his consulting room was so thin if the person seeing the doctor had a loud voice you could hear what they were saying. Many a bit of gossip was picked up while you were waiting.
Some of his treatments were mixed in a room behind his consulting room. Those in my age group will remember that awful gritty chalky stuff you mixed with water for tummy complaints. It used to stick round your teeth and when you did manage to swallow it, it made you cough. There was some awful stuff you gargled with for sore throats. It smelt like disinfectant and burnt your throat.
He would always come out on house calls in the afternoon, when he used to call on us at the Toll Gate. There was always the apple polishing that had to be done. This may sound funny but Great Uncle George always kept the apples from one of his many apple trees for the Doctor. No one else was allowed to eat them. I remember they were big and went bright red in the autumn and would last for a very long time and looked lovely polished. The Doctor was well thought of in Yarmouth, and I believe greatly missed when he was gone. Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934
When I was young I lived at the Toll Gate just outside of Yarmouth. My Aunt Alice always took me to St Swithin’s Harvest Festival (now called Harvest Thanksgiving).
On one occasion we were singing a lovely harvest hymn, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a movement. I looked towards a pile of vegetables and on the top was a marrow. On top of the marrow was a mouse chewing away quite happily and it did so for a long time.
It was only a few years ago I was telling a lady from Thorley about this and she said that the Thorley mice still come to the Harvest Service and their teeth marks were often found on the vegetables and fruit. Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934