Melton Memories

Melton Memories - By Valerie Beryl Pestle

I was born at “Lyndean”, Melton Hill, Woodbridge, Suffolk on 27th September 1927 & lived there until my marriage on 23rd July 1955, when I moved to Ipswich with Frank, my husband, who was in the Ipswich Borough Police Force.

I lived on Melton Hill with my Mother (Ethel Selina, nee Spencer) & Father (William Harold Upson), & my two sisters, Stella Mary (born 1921) & Fay Pamela (born 1923). The first baby born to my parents was a boy – Peter Harold - in 1920. Sadly he lived for only a short time, but I have his Birth Certificate & one photo of him in my mother’s arms. It would have been lovely for us three girls to have had a brother.

My Father was a master glover & owned a shop at 88, Thoroughfare, Woodbridge which was a short walk from our home. At his shop he sold handmade gloves & slippers, & lambswool rugs. We always had lovely warm gloves & slippers, & cosy rugs in our bedrooms. I can recall going with my father to Webbs Tannery at Combs, near Stowmarket when he needed to order leather, or sheep & lamb skins.

My memories before going to school at Melton include having a swing in the back garden, & singing at the top of my voice whilst swinging high in the air. We had cats as pets & I used to give then rides in my doll’s pram. I really loved my dolls & their pram, & also colouring pictures with crayons & paints. I also liked books, & had a weekly comic called “Tiny Tots”. My parents took the “Daily Mail” newspaper & I joined the “Teddy Tail Club”, who was a cartoon mouse that appeared in the children’s section. I received a birthday card from Teddy Tail each year. I remember having a bed cover with “Pip, Squeak & Wilfred” on it, who were also newspaper cartoon characters; being a dog, a penguin & a rabbit respectively (see picture, right).

My little friend Dolly lived next door to me on Melton Hill. We played together, swapped comics & went over the fields & the railway line to the River Deben at Hackney to swim & to picnic.

School days soon came & I walked with my sisters down to the school in Melton Street. The Headmaster was Mr Capp & I enjoyed school very much & was very happy there. When I was old enough I cycled each day, coming back home for lunch because there were no school canteens before World War II.

We would spend our pocket money at Mr Friar’s shop just opposite the school. Lollipops, sherbet dabs & liquorice shoe-laces spring to mind, & we would also buy a chocolate wafer bar in which there would be a picture of a film star, which we would collect & swap. We used to watch out for the Walls “stop me & buy one” tricycles which came down the road selling ice cream in the summer, because there were no freezers in our house in those days!

The cinema at Woodbridge was also a lovely outing, & we saw Shirley Temple, Gracie Fields, Deanna Durbin, Gert & Daisy (who were the sisters of Jack Warner) & Charlie Chaplin. Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland were also favourites, & Laurel & Hardy too.

We did not have a radio at home before the war, but I recall listening to some radio broadcasts at school & also remember Miss Dee reading us stories by Enid Blyton from her teacher’s magazine. She also drew lovely pictures on the blackboard for history lessons, which was a favourite subject for me. I can still visualise her drawings in coloured chalk of King Alfred burning the cakes, & Robert Bruce watching the spider.

There were special celebrations for the Silver Jubilee of King George V & Queen Mary in 1935. 

When King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, at school we children would sing:

Hark the herald angels sing, Mrs Simpson stole our King

(But not in front of the teachers, of course!)

For the coronation of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth in 1937, we performed an out-of-doors pageant. All countries of the Empire were represented & I was dressed as an Irish girl. My mother made me a white apron with green shamrocks on it. My sister Fay was Britannia, & I have photographs of the occasion. At school, we also had a celebration each year on 24th May for Empire Day, & I recall dancing around a Maypole.  We always had the Thursday morning off for Ascension Day so we could attend church.

Christmas was always a splendid occasion, & I especially remember the one when I got a super dolls’ house. Two elderly ladies – Miss Edwards & Miss Felgate - lived opposite us in Frost Row, & my Mother always sent a Christmas lunch over to them. On Boxing Day morning we would also take some Christmas goodies down to a Great Aunt of mine (Grace Upson) who lived near Wilford Bridge in one of a row of cottages owned by Mrs Pretty of Sutton Hoo (where the Saxon ship & treasure were discovered in 1939). On Easter Sunday my parents would hide small Easter Eggs around the house for us to find.

I sat for the Scholarship Examination in 1938 & passed for entry into Mills Grammar School at Framlingham. We travelled by train from Woodbridge station, changing at Campsea Ash onto a little branch line (which is no longer in existence) to Framlingham, where a short walk brought us to school. Our Headmistress was Miss E M Prickett.

World War II started in September 1939, so apart from my first year, all the rest of my days at Mills were during wartime. We all had to take our gas masks to school every day, but thankfully they never had to be put to the test. When we heard the warning siren heralding an air raid, we all had to go to the air raid shelters. There were three of them, built on one of the school’s lawns; one for each school house – Edith Cavell, Elizabeth Fry & Florence Nightingale. I was in Edith Cavell House. We had to take with us the text book from which we were studying at the time of the air raid, so we could continue our lesson down in the shelter.

Having correct school uniform was very strictly adhered to when I started in 1938. But as the war went on, some of the rules had to be relaxed because of clothes rationing. Clothing was on coupons, & the slogan was “Make Do & Mend”. To save material, the length of dresses & skirts was fairly short & I can recall the “utility mark” on lots of clothes, signifying that they conformed to certain regulations to make sure no material had been wasted. No “turn-ups” were allowed on trousers.  After the end of the war, when things slowly recovered, we had “The New Look” & the length of skirts & dresses was considerably longer, as there were no more restrictions on the amount of materials used.  We all were then able to have nylon stockings, which had been a real luxury item & had needed some of our precious clothing coupons.

Before the war started we had to take packed lunches, but during the war we had a school canteen so we then had a hot lunch each day. Some of the dishes were better than others!! Although lots of food items were rationed, I can never remember that we ever went hungry. Food rationing continued for several years after the war ended. I can remember one of my sisters jokingly commenting on the small ration of butter each week:- “when butter comes off ration, I shall eat a whole ½ lb pack in one go”.

In 1943, my last year at school, I sat my School Certificate Exam & passed that, as well as the London Matriculation. My parents would have liked me to have stayed on to take my Higher School Certificate. I was getting a bit tired of all the homework, however, & wished to leave & get a job. I went to work for the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries (East Suffolk Agric. Executive Committee) at Fern Hill, Melton. I learnt shorthand & typing & passed my exams for both, & also, after the war ended, we were able to sit for our Civil Service Exam, which I did & passed that also.

There were lots of different departments dealing with aspects of agriculture. I started in the Threshing Dept, then Cultivations & Land Drainage, & finished up by being Secretary to the County Agricultural Officer. I was very happy there & made lots of friends, & even now (2012) I am still in touch with several, & we often have a reunion, although one of them lives in Scotland, but comes back to Suffolk for her holidays.

 I have a great friend Gill, whom I have known since school days at Melton, followed by being together at Mills Grammar School; sharing holidays before our marriages & being godparents to each other’s children. We still meet about once a month, even though Gill has lived in Colchester for many years.

I recall going to fairs at Woodbridge with Gill after the war. These were held at Fen Meadow & also The Avenue, near to the River Deben. We were also members of the Melton Young Peoples’ Fellowship, & in the St Andrews Church Choir. We have supported each other through happy days & sad times of bereavement.

Another of my good friends was Brenda Grainger, whose father kept a greengrocers shop in Woodbridge Thoro’fare, not far from my father’s shop.  When we went by train to Framlingham, I would call for her on the way to Woodbridge Station. Then when our travelling arrangements were switched to the bus, we both caught it from the top of Melton Hill.

When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, we had a national holiday (V.E. Day) & I recall dancing on the Market Hill at Woodbridge in the evening.  Then in August of that year, the war with Japan ended & V.J. Day was another national holiday, again with dancing on the Market Hill & much rejoicing. We also had services of thanksgiving at church on both occasions, & flags were hung out everywhere.

We had good times at the Melton Young People’s Fellowship (Y.P.F.), enjoying socials, dances, walks & cycle rides, tennis & amateur dramatics. I was also a member of the Young Conservatives, & again we had social activities at the National Hall, Sun Lane, Woodbridge, with summer garden fetes at some of the large houses in Melton, & I served teas on some of these occasions.

In December 1947, my father died suddenly from a heart attack. My mother died in May 1949 from breast cancer. I still lived at “Lyndean” with my sisters until June 1955, when I married Frank who was a policeman in the Ipswich Borough Police Force (later to become part of the Suffolk Constabulary with H.Q. at Martlesham Heath).