The High Street
This is a view of the High Street, Southwold in the 1950s, when I spent a fortnight there every summer. You can see a Ford Anglia or Popular and a Morris Minor Convertible on the left. In the centre is Ward’s shop with its selection of ethnic goods including Indian cottons and Russian woodcarvings that worked – hens that pecked as you swung a ball beneath them, goats on a see-saw or a bear that stamped its foot.
Just off to the left was the Cinema where I would be taken to see black and white pictures. I particularly remember enjoying a Mr Pastry film. (Mr Pastry is largely forgotten now but was very popular at the time; he was a native of Norwich and there used to be plaque to him in Lady Lane before the library burnt down.)
On the extreme right is Jack-O’-Lantern’s Coffee Bar. This was my favourite haunt, not for the coffee but for the fruit Sundaes, Knickerbocker Glories and especially their Banana Splits. These were made in the form of a ship, the hull being made from two halves of a banana, two triangular wafers being the sails, a chocolate flavoured finger wafer being the mast and red and green jam making the port and starboard lights. Eating one was an adventure in ice cream. The décor inside Jack-O-Lantern was based on bamboo, and the prevailing sound was the whoosh of the Espresso coffee machine. As an experience it was quite unique as far as I was concerned. CLICK HERE to see the inside.
On this corner of the High Street is the house where Eric Blair’s parents retired to, and where he lived for a time in the 1930s. He is commemorated on a plaque which records his nom de plume of George Orwell, the writer most famous for penning Animal Farm and 1984. When I first read this novel 1984 was far in the future, although not quite so far as it is now in the past.
Michael Palin was another little boy on Southwold holidays in the 1950s . I wonder if he remembers any of these things? Of course he does; he has even done a television play on Southwold in the 1950s.
Southwold High Street
Paul Gelder emails me in December 2014;
Jack O’ Lantern … and banana splits! Ahhh, what delicious memories…
I, too, used to go to Southwold every year as a boy in the 1950s and 1960s. I was born in February 1947 and my dad rented various cottages over the years – one on the High Street, another in Queen Street, I think above Jellicoe the estate agent! …and Stradbrooke Road. My dad was a teacher in London so we had long five week holidays, arriving by train and /or coach because dad never had a car!
I remember the Reading Room, the CSSM (Children’s Special Service Mission) with the sand pulpit on the beach, and the wheezing portable organ with sea shells spelling out the day’s religious text… (my sister was more religious than me!). I remember going to various event, including George Cansdale the TV zoo man bringing some cuddly animals to pet to an event at the school on the common somewhere. Also going to the cinema and seeing badly behaved Teddy Boys in winkle picker shoes and “drape jackets” fooling around and disturbing the audience.
I also remember walking with my dad to Covehithe, and getting up early one morning to go out of the harbour with one of the fishermen on a day/morning trip for which my dad paid 10 bob (a brown bank note!) My mum painted quite a few watercolours of the harbour, which I have hanging at home. I remember I got a job one year in the kitchens of the Swan Hotel and was working there the day they announced Marilyn Monroe had been found dead.
I loved the “exotic” Jack O Lantern in the evenings with a milk shake and some amazing dessert. I’ve never forgotten those magic evenings … and when I Googled “Jack O Lantern, Southwold” this afternoon, it was a lovely surprise to come across your blog and your wonderful, eloquent description. It bought it all back to life for me! Plus the terrific post card you posted on the blog. Looking on Google Streetview, I’d wondered if Adnams’ The Cellar & Kitchen had been built on the site of the coffee bar, but it looks as though its the yellow building next to Serendipity which still has the street name plate!
I once went back to Southwold, on my own, as a teenager on my Lambretta motor scooter, sleeping on the beach in my sleeping bag! But now it must be 50 years since I visited… I plan to return next year and rent a cottage for old time’s sake!
I retired three years ago and after a lifetime working in London – the last 22 years commuting from Emsworth on the South Coast, near Chichester – I learned to sail on those little flat-bottomed luggers in the lake behind the Model Yacht Pond near the pier as a schoolboy…. I used to spend a whole afternoon or morning there spending all my pocket money! I also remember the “old salt” who ran the boating lake wore a faded navy blue canvas fisherman’s smock and often disappointed me when he announced in a broad Suffolk accent “No sailing today… too gushy today boy!”
I remember My sister, Ruth, also won a silver spoon with a model yacht we had built by a man in Southwold.It was called Rupal! I don’t recall what happened to it, but I still have my very old and first model yacht! Complete with faded, rust-stained sails.
I would have loved so much to have had a “Cygnet”. I dreamed of building a boat, but living in London there was very little water nearby to sail on. But Southwold changed my life in some ways. I never lost the love of sailing, though I was 34 when I got my first boat, a 16ft open sailing boat. I went on to work for 22 years for Yachting Monthly magazine and travelled the world (and sailed some of it) and now sail my own boat, a 30ft multihull (trimaran) in Chichester Harbour.
Sorry if I’ve “gone on” a bit, but your blog ignited my sense of nostalgia! It was great to read your blog Joe and I hope you are still getting more mobile since your stroke? Sadly, my mum had a stroke when she was in her 60s and was in a wheelchair for 14 years, but it never stop her doing things.
With best wishes, and fond, shared memories of Southwold, Paul Gelder
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