Leaving school in the summer of 68, I had a full time job lined up at the Cooperative stores in Leiston, continuing from the part time job I started there in 66, the boss told me to go and enjoy the summer holidays and to start full time work in September.
After recently seeing Church lane cottages on social media about to be demolished in favour of some new build reminded me how I spent many a happy hour there in the home of Fred and Hilda Adams their family consisted of Margaret. and Christopher. I remember how Margaret went onto Grammar School the only one in our primary school class to do so. Fred had a serious club foot, but this did not stop him driving round in his Messerschmitt three wheeler, you could hear him coming, from across the other side of the village, we would regularly help Fred to set up snares whilst rabbiting over the 'medder.' Chris and I spent many hours messing about repairing his old cars, building stock cars to go racing at Foxhall Stadium. Chris assured me that a lump hammer would be the only tool I would need as his mechanic to straighten out car wings between races.
The cottage had no running water and relied on the well in the front garden, Whilst the ablution was in the form of a bucket and chuck down the bottom of the garden closely guarded by the chickens We spent many a happy night sitting at a huge round table playing cards and board games with Fred, Chris and his betrothed Val, we always kept a eye on Fred (crafty old so and so) but he was always there for you, and a good friend when needed.
When Chris and Val got married they asked me to be their Best Man, a honour, I returned on my big day a few years later, when at the time poor old Chris was in agony with a toothache, but he did not let us down despite suffering from the chronic pain.. When Chris and Val started a family of their own, Lisa was their first born It was then that the powers to be decided the well water was not fit for the baby, so the cottages were connected to the mains, much to Fred's joy.
Next door to the Adams lived the Cooper brothers Bimbo along with his father and brother I remember they kept a large well stocked vegetable and flower garden, In the wood across the road opposite the cottage they built a distillery shed, they would often moan about the number of feral cats running wild in the wood and how the old ladies in the Almshouses would leave plates of food out for them. Going through the wood towards the fen you will find the remains of a lawn and some raspberry bushes, I was as led to believe that a similar pair of cottages once stood here, but we had the law laid down not to root about there because of the danger of overgrown deep wells.
Continuing across the Fen common over the old wartime glider defence revetments, another of my mates the Late Andrew Keith (Beefy) lived famous for his fast cars, ( he did not hang about).
He once had a van with the motif plastered on its side THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT a local pop legend that van was our pass to evenings late nights and the early hours of the morning spent in Lowestoft and Gt Yarmouth, I will never forget the stale smell of Brut in the back of the van. The four of us me and my mates all worked as Butchers in the Coop, and of course we all believed the four of us ruled world.
We even organised a savings syndicate amongst our mates, we would save for a party fund which we always held in the our village Church hall with Rev Cowleys blessing, as long as he was invited.
As Rod Stewart sang -
Me and the boys thought we had it sussed, - Valentino's all of us.
My dad said we looked ridiculous.But boy, we broke some hearts.
Another story I had better leave there.
In the day music formed a large part of our lives, we were there when the discos first appeared and grew in popularity in those smoked filled, crowded youth clubs, live bands, were again popular down at the International club in Leiston, the reek of stale tobacco in our tee shirts and flares, just splash the brut all over. Remember those suicidal platform shoes.
I can remember how I would collect the picture sleeves from 7” singles and decorate my bedroom wall along with posters of rock legends from SOUNDS magazine, also included was a poster I (borrowed )from ST Matthews Baths Ipswich when we went and enjoyed a brilliant night watching the legendary Led Zeppelin concert, one night I will never forget. Just after I left home to settle to married life in Leiston, Mum and dad decorated my old room throwing out the tat including the wall decor I had left, unbeknown at the time that poster now achieves a four figure sum Sic !
Among the highlights of our (miss spent youth), as teenagers was Aldeburgh and Thorpeness regattas the loud fun fair rides, we all found highly exhilarating. The groups of local lads hooking up with groups of girls on holiday all looking for a fun summer. The lads often ending up in the meare when our rafts sunk, we found ourselves being banned from the Dolphin cos of the smell and rowdiness, never mind there was always SHAGGY'S disco in the working men's club, He always played to a packed Jubilee Hall on Carnival night in Aldeburgh.
In Aldringham I recall how mum and a large group of the village ladies formed a protest group against proposed plans to build a large chicken farm on the field opposite West Hill, their argument of smell and intensive farming even all that time ago caused feelings to run high, and made headline news in the EADT including a photo, which I would dearly like a copy of. On the edge of the same field was a rubbish pit which we would often frequent, We once found a box full of Dinky toys ( pure gold) also we came across a large colour television in a teak cabinet, unbeknown at the time it was on rental from Hubbards Electrical shop in leiston, and was in full working order, it had been dumped rather than returned by the service family leaving Bentwaters heading back across the pond. Had we known this, the brick would never have been thrown rendering the set beyond repair, this came to the attention of the local Police Officer D I Kinsey he laid the law down and sent us all home with our tails between our legs. By threatening to call round and speak to our parents.
Also round the back of said pit there is lots of bricks from what looks like the ruins of a derelict building which at the time I was led to believe was a maybe a chapel of some description. I have never found any evidence of this, apart from a large painting of the Parrot and Punchbowl which hung in the back bar of the Parrot and in the background atop of the hill was definitely what appeared to be a substantial building. What happened to the painting is another mystery.
Throughout the sixties and seventies there seemed to be large amount of gorse fires across Aldringham and Knodishall Commons on a regular basis, the gorse and bracken became parched in late summer. One of the worst was North Warren that one burnt and smouldered for days flaring up again and again on one occasion erupting under one of the fire engines resulting in quick reaction to rescue the vehicle.
The multiple fire engines and bowsers always attracted large gatherings of onlookers, wondering what caused such wanton devastation, most likely a discarded broken bottle reflecting sunlight on tinder dry grass being the chief suspect, now and again it was put down to vandalism, camp fires were often blamed, the blazes laid waste to the Chapel common and across the road the Fen common also fell victim to a blaze, the main objective of the Emergency service was to protect both the Follies and the dwellings across the Fen who I suspect would have been mortified of uncontrollable fires, leaving the ground blackened and scorched over many acres.. In days past a regular fire starter were the Steam trains showering the embankments with hot sparks.
From many years earlier I have photographs of the School common burning behind the Vicarage, the men from the village together dug a trench round Websters paraffin shop which stood where the black shed now stands. I am led to believe that Men from the village including my Grandfather Monty Ward (a well sinker and bricklayer by trade he also served as a Churchwarden) was a member of the village Fire Brigade and possibly their fire cart was garaged in that corrugated tin shed which still stands in Church Lane for that reason.