The years that I spent at Thetford Grammar School passed all too quickly. I worked hard whilst I was there for I knew that I must pass my exams if I possibly could. My parents had been a great help to me and I did not want to disappoint them. So I was greatly relieved and pleased when I heard that I had gained my Cambridge Senior School Certificate.
Shortly after that I spent a year at Northwold Infant School, and I enjoyed it very much. Then I heard that there was a vacancy at Feltwell Mixed School and I applied for the position of assistant teacher. I was, fortunately, accepted and I commenced my duties in the autumn of 1924.
(Taken about 1925 outside the Little School.
The teacher is Miss Winnie Spinks. Note: Girls names are maiden.
Back Row: A. Bellingham, R. Butcher, F. Rudling, ? Laws, S. Pease, S. Edwards, I. Manning
Middle Row: R. Walden, E. Hicks, K. Tuck, H. Cock, ?, May Maggs
Front Row, V. Davidson, D. Brody, E. Pryer, R. Curtis, M. Nichols, V. Lawrence, E. White (Polsen). Photo provided by Mr Eric Pryer)
As soon as I had settled in at school, and had not quite so much studying to do, I was able to join in various village activities. I was in St. Mary’s Church choir for a time, but one by one the ladies dropped out until I was the last one left.
We had a very good Choral Society while the Rev Phillips was Rector here. The non-conformists joined in with us that of course included Mrs Addison and Beryl her daughter, and they were a great help.
We gave one or two concerts and they seemed very popular. The part songs were good fun, and if my voice wasn’t too strong, what mattered, I could always join in heartily with those. ‘Sweet and Low’ was always a great favourite.
We also did short sketches, which went down well. Mr Brown, from the Oak Hotel organised the ‘drama’ side of concerts and made all the scenery, while Mrs Brown sang some of the popular songs of the day.
My friend, Doris Neville, asked me if I would start up a Brownie Troop with her and after discussing it with Senior Guides in the district, we decided to do so, but, she moved to Methwold practically straight away, really before we had ‘got going’ and I decided to continue on my own.
In order to save expense, my mother and I decided to make all the Brownie Uniforms ourselves. It was quite a big task but many of the girls came along to help turn up hems etc., and Mum stitched away quite happily on her sewing machine. Altogether, I think we made about thirty uniforms. When the girls were all fitted out they really did look very smart and I was quite proud of them.
When the ‘big day’ came for them to be enrolled Mrs Newcome kindly lent us her garden for the occasion and also gave us tea. Miss Meade, a Guide Captain from Thetford came along to enrol them all.
We needed somewhere for our meetings, so Mr Percy Spencer very kindly allowed us to use a small corner in the Y.M.C.A. hut once a week.
In order to repay him and to show our gratitude, we helped him with his yearly concerts. The yearly ‘Easter Concerts’ were quite a big occasion for us. His Scouts and Cubs and my Brownies worked hard practising songs, sketches and dances for many months beforehand. Also my girls spent many evenings at my house, making all the costumes. We used rolls and rolls of brightly coloured crepe paper and grey cottons at about 1/- a yard. It was great fun and we thoroughly enjoyed it. All the ‘mums and dads’ came along to the concerts, which we always held on Easter Monday in the Coronation Hall and they usually proved to be a great success.
At this time the Hall was being used regularly for the whist Drives, concerts, tennis dances, and Sunday School parties, and it is such a pity that it was allowed to fall in disuse. I don’t know what we would have done without it in the 1920’s and 1930’s or 1940’s. The village fête would always end up with a dance there, and at the end of the tennis season we had our annual dance there too.
When I first joined the village Tennis Club Mr Bert Parker was acting as secretary, but after doing this for some years, he found it a bit difficult to fit it in with his duties as Post Master, so I took over, but the membership gradually dropped and many members left home, so that the Club was disbanded. However, Mrs Storey very kindly allowed us to play on her court at Manor Farm whenever we wished to do so, also Rev Phillips often had the older boys and girls of the village up to play on his court, and when Fêtes were held in the Rectory grounds, a tennis tournament was always part of the attraction.
Miss Addison, who taught in the village school at the same time as I did, joined with me in attending ‘Country Dance Classes’ at Downham. We enjoyed it greatly, and later on taught some of the simpler dances to any of the children who wished to join in. They were quite popular at the village fêtes.
These were just some of the activities in which I took part. Everyday there was something interesting to do and I loved village life. There never seemed to be a dull moment at our house. My brother and sisters always seemed to be rushing around, and getting ready to go somewhere, and Mum and Dad went placidly on getting us good meals and caring for us all.
I was only eight years old when the First World War commenced, and I remember it all very vividly.
My sister and brother and I were sitting with some friends on our lawn under the shade of a big pear tree. It was a very hot day and all was still and quiet, when we suddenly heard the sound of marching feet and it seemed to be coming from the Wilton road, so we all ran along the lane as fast as our little legs would carry us and saw hundreds of soldiers marching along with their packs on their backs. They all looked hot and tired, but in good spirits, and people from the cottage alongside the road ran into their houses quickly and offered whatever they could find to eat or drink to these gallant men.
They were apparently on manoeuvres and going to camp at Methwold. Next day war was declared. Many of our young men went to war, and alas never returned to Feltwell again. My father volunteered of course, but was rejected, as he was unfit, so he joined the Civil Defence, and did everything that he could to help in the war effort.
The war did not seem to affect us so much as a family as we were only small children then, and life went on much as usual but in 1916 my younger sister Kathleen was born and we were sent to stay in London with my grandparents.
My grandfather, who had retired and were living in Norfolk, volunteered to do any sort of war work that was required, so he was sent to London, where he helped to guard the docks.
He was a very, very tall enormous man with white, wavy hair and a curling white moustache and he greatly enjoyed walking round the docks, looking (or feeling perhaps) quite important. My sister and I were allowed to accompany him sometimes, and we were greatly impressed by the sight of great ships being unloaded, and at all the hustle and bustle that went on there.
They had a flat in Poplar so as to be near his work, and one evening my sister and I were looking out of the window with my Aunt Hilda, when we saw a big, long, bright object flying past the window and very shortly afterwards there was a terrific explosion; and a dazzling bright light lit up the whole street. The first German zeppelin had been shot down. Very soon there was the sound of loud cheering and clapping and hurrahs. Strangely enough no one seemed frightened.
In spite of it being wartime my grandmother took us to many places of interest and importance. I was greatly impressed by the Tower of London and thought of the two little princes and many famous people who had been imprisoned there.
We loved going to the markets, and found Petticoat Lane very exciting. However, we were glad to return home and spend the rest of our holidays in the village.