Remember Arnolds? You certainly do!

GYM memory 2706 ONE USE ONLY

GYM memory 2706 ONE USE ONLY - Credit: Archant

WITHOUT question, never before in the long history of this column has a topic reminded anyone of...a torn pair of trousers! But it has happened, my recent feature about the long-gone Arnolds (later Debenhams) department store’s restaurant striking a chord in a reader’s memory.

Retired Yarmouth registrar Trevor Nicholls had regaled us with his distant but crystal-clear memories of Arnolds’ lift, sited approximately where the cashiers/tellers sit in the new HSBC bank branch in King Street.

The distinctive lift, its counterweight clearly visible, conveyed shoppers to the top-floor restaurant where young Trevor enjoyed not only the food, drink and ambience in the mid-1950s but also the views of busy roads although, in that era, Yarmouth Corporation’s elegant blue-and-cream buses incorporating the borough’s coat-of-arms probably outnumbered private cars and commercial vehicles.

From Mrs Phyllis Johnson, of Second Avenue, Caister, but formerly of Peggotty Road, Yarmouth, came a letter to say: “Thank you for the lovely memories of Arnolds department store which, from a young age to my married state, I visited regularly. I had a cousin who worked there.

“I do remember the lift – it was like a cage so you could see all around as you went up and down, not shut in like the ones today. We also liked to get near the windows in the restaurant so we could see up King Street and Regent Street.


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“An embarrassing moment comes to mind. My husband and I would go for afternoon tea there before going to the pictures afterwards on Saturdays. As we sat down my husband whispered to me across the table, ‘I think I’ve just torn my trousers!’

“He had sat down on a chair that had a splinter sticking out at the back. I informed the waitress who ended up with the giggles, as we did too. She told the manageress who then apologised and said if I would like to take them in, they would have them invisibly mended, which they did.

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“Luckily my husband had bought a newspaper so he had to hold it behind him to cover the split. Alas, we couldn’t visit the cinema that night and had to go home on the bus.”

Mrs Johnson also remembers another restaurant blip, this time in Purdy’s in the Market Place. The restaurant was above its bread and cake shop.

“Ordering tea and a plate of cakes and tea, I picked a vanilla slice (a perennial Peggotty favourite, as recorded here over the years) and proceeded to cut it, finding it had mildew in the middle! I informed the waitress who apologised and brought another plate of cakes, asking me for my name and address.

“I said I didn’t want to make a fuss but she insisted I gave it to her. Lo and behold, a few days later, I think the biggest van Purdy’s ever had delivered to me a Genoa cake, courtesy of the same.

“So there: funny and good memories.”

A similar sentiment was penned by reader Mrs Joan Gunton (nee Blowers) from her home in Mill Lane, Bradwell: “Oh! Such memories! I worked at Arnolds as a window dresser, so I had worked that very lift when the man was on a break.

“But, alas, after two years I had to go off and do my bit for my country but, in the two years I was there, we used to have to do fire-watch nights – one man, two boys and two girls. I was lucky, though, as when Yarmouth was flattened, my turn on duty was the night before.

“One of these young lads used to play his guitar to us to while away the evening. He taught me a song called La Paloma which I have never forgotten even though I am 89 years old in a day or two. I could write a book!”

Purdy’s baker’s shop had a popular Kenya Coffee Bar upstairs postwar, but in 1972 the company received an offer it could not refuse from the Halifax Building Society - £207,000 – and consequently closed its premises. The Halifax is still there.

Ex-Yarmouthian Danny Daniels, domiciled in Canada since the Fifties, reads this feature in the Mercury’s on-line edition and e-mails me: “Your latest column (about pre-war carnival weeks in the borough) reminded me of how my mother and her best friend used to dress up in costume all week to take part in the pre-war carnival festivities.

“I don’t remember anything about the special programme of events, but they happily took themselves off to Regent Road and the sea-front to join in all the jollifications. Although my dad didn’t say anything, he likely thought, ‘A lot of old squit!’

“Mind you, he would still be busy with his window-cleaning rounds which included, during the summer season, a weekly cleaning of all the windows at the Two Bears Hotel (every two weeks in the winter). I was sorry to hear of its demise but with South Town Station long gone, I suppose it was bound to follow.

“We loved your article recently on the Gorleston front, and the picture of the yacht pond. I only occasionally had a small boat to sail there, but that didn’t stop me tumbling in head first a couple of times as I reached for it! Luckily that was in the summertime, too, and the water was warm.

“Plattens in Broad Row (another recent column) was another place of memories, particularly the overhead wires which carried the little brass pots full of money from the counter to the office and back again with your change. Oh yes - and Father Christmas.

“One year we trooped into his aeroplane at one end, sat down in our seats as the ‘engines’ started up, and then looked down through small portholes in the floor as we ‘flew’ over the countryside. At least, the countryside unrolled beneath us through those portholes, so we must have been flying - right?

“Then we moved forward to the front of the plane and there he was with a present for us. Simple pleasures - ah, those were the days!

“We enjoyed the recollections of Arnolds, although we never ate there. That was reserved for Matthes’ tea room across from the Market Place.”

Thank you Phyllis, Joan and Danny.

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