Smitten with Malcolm’s memories of yesteryear

GORLESTON SUPER HOLIDAY CAMP...which, off-season, had roller-skating rinks in its ballroom and dinin

GORLESTON SUPER HOLIDAY CAMP...which, off-season, had roller-skating rinks in its ballroom and dining room and also staged trades fairs. The camp closed in 1973.Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

AT long last Gorleston globetrotter Malcolm Metcalf has chronicled some of his travels in a book...and promises another at Christmas. Not before time!

Having attended his slide-and-talk presentations, and enjoyed our mardles – especially about his long friendship with renowned Latin-American dance-band leader Edmundo Ros, the subject of past columns – it was obvious that his incredible journeys deserved to be put into book form so others could share them.

Despite severe budget restraints and decades of disability Malcolm, 79, of Magdalen Way, has hitch-hiked, back-packed, trekked, sailed, flown and been driven to see sights and places both off-beat and touristy beyond the dreams of most folk, making umpteen new friends on the way. Now he has compiled his prodigious and minutely detailed memories and diaries into an absorbing illustrated volume.

Malcolm’s Luck takes us across Europe and the Middle and Far East down to Australia and across to the Americas. The promised Riding the Iron Horse Across America will recount his passion for US rail-roads.

But as a nostalgia-orientated columnist, I was as smitten with his reminiscences of the East Norfolk of yesteryear as with his worldwide adventures and anecdotes: like the family home once in Row 54 (Palmers Arcade), angling from The Cosies on Gorleston Pier, walking home along the Acle Straight from Reedham because he had no money, apprentice at Mr Mason’s dental surgery (today a pet supplies store near QD in Gorleston High Street), shrimping with Mr Morley, assistant at ironmonger Precasters in High Street, watching High Noon in the Palace Cinema on the night of the 1953 floods, visits from star comedians Jewell and Warriss, working for bookmaker Duggie Toft...

Malcolm has long been a Gorleston football supporter, serving on the committee, selling raffle tickets, and meeting mayor Fred Page at the club’s annual fete on “the Reccer”. And there was a lovely gesture from the Greens’ legendary player-manager, “Sailor” Brown, who arranged commentary on their Norfolk Senior Cup final to be relayed to the hospital where Malcolm was recovering

For a copy of the £5 book, recalling distant travels and home-town memories, ring Malcolm on 01493 661138.

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Exactly a half-century ago Lady Isabel Barnett, from TV’s What’s My Line?, opened the trades fair at Gorleston Super Holiday Camp. Mention of the camp (today the Elmhurst Court residential estate) reminded me not only of the Rollerdrome skating rinks that occupied the main building off-season but also of another celebrity who visited it and, claim some, opened a trades fair.

That was film star and songstress Petula Clark, who returned to prominence this year promoting her UK tour and new album.

But memories do not always chime. About 1948 teenager Pet certainly opened the new outdoor rink for summer campers and us off-season skaters. But as I think trades fairs were not launched until the mid-Fifties - and staged in winter - it is unlikely that her summer rink visit coincided with a commercial show.

Other personality trades fair openers included film stars Donald Sinden and Jill Ireland, and Cy Grant, who sang topical calypsos in Tonight, a TV magazine show.

Petula’s only other visit to the borough was for a one-night concert on the Wellington Pier in 1992.

Constant calls for reforms to the beleaguered National Health Service have led ex-Yarmouthian Harvey Gates to look back to his boyhood when he lived at the Mariners public house in Howard Street until its 1941 closure.

From his Shropshire home, Harvey writes: “Some of my earliest memories involve the Market Place and the Plaza cinema’s Saturday morning matinees - entrance fee 2d, I think, but some Saturdays were ‘hospital days’ when the admission was halved but, in addition, we took a large spud or egg which went to feed patients in the local hospital.”

Harvey also keeps getting a mental connection between “the ‘Bughouse’’ (Plaza) and jam jars. “Shopkeepers would buy back clean jam jars, a penny for a 2lb jar, a half-penny for 1lb. Was this how we amassed the fortune to get in, or did the Bughouse accept jam jars in a form of barter?

“I can remember taking my jars to a rag and bone merchant on South Quay. Hundreds of rabbit skins turned inside out hung from the rafters. I always felt very wary when I went there.

“One Bughouse tale was that a boy smuggled in his Daisy air rifle and, when the villain was creeping up on the hero, the lad whipped out his rifle and took a pot-shot at the villain!

“After moving to Southtown in 1941, my memories of matinees was queueing at the Gorleston cinemas.”

In this column long ago I reported that in the 1930s my parents were ejected from the Plaza during a film set in a creepy, dark old mansion. My father, horrified that the hero and heroine were unaware that a murderous dwarf was about to leap on them from concealment on top of a wardrobe, could not contain himself and shouted: “Look out! He’s up there on the cupboard!”

Management was not amused...

Some claim that nostalgia is looking back through rose-coloured spectacles, an opinion open to question. Another ex-Yarmouthian, Danny Daniels, resident in Canada for half a century, writes: “The more I recall pre-war days, the more I realise what a slow moving, safe, relatively worry-free and basically caring time we lived in.

“If you were lost, you really did know to ask a policeman for help. If you forgot and left something behind, it was still there when you went back to find it.

“You walked to school every day, played ‘chasey’ around the back lanes, walked to Burgh Castle for a picnic, or went collecting frog spawn or stanickles on the marshes - and never once were your parents concerned about child molesters.

“If you were late home it was because, not having a watch (who did?), you’d just forgotten the time, not because someone had enticed you away. The only violence those days was the ding around the lug-hole you got for being late for your tea!”

Stanickles? That is a Yarmouth word for the spiny stickleback which young lads collected in old jam jars along with tadpoles.