The 1960s, a decade of nostalgia
- Credit: Archant
AT times, it seems like only yesterday...or far distant, in an era long past. The year was 1965, exactly a half-century ago, fresh in the minds of some old enough to recall it but “before time began” for many other residents of the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston area.
Our harbour scene began to change, with traditional shipping and the dwindling autumn herring fishery vying for space with the newcomers like rig supply and support vessels involved in the great offshore search for oil and natural gas launched only the previous year and offering prosperity, employment and huge opportunities hereabouts if predictions and hopes were realised.
In his invaluable A Diary of Great Yarmouth, compiled by John McBride in 1998, “gas” is listed in his 1965 section – not only traditional gas but also the natural sort destined to be found deep beneath the North Sea. For example, a new 120ft high gas holder was built at Yarmouth Gas Works...which stopped production five months later! Across the river, the Gorleston works also ceased production, supplies being piped from Norwich.
One 1965 innovation is still with us today...and permanently subjected to our venom: yellow “no waiting” lines painted along many roads!
Within the fledgling offshore industry, one of the biggest moves was the start on building a heliport on the North Denes Airfield on Caister Road – the subject of a recent column because it has just closed – and the foundation of Bristow Helicopters, a pioneer in providing quick links between the North Sea rigs and platforms and the mainland.
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Other developments involving quayside and industry included Birds Eye Foods doubling its South Denes cold storage capacity to two million cubic feet; the old coastguard lookout at Gorleston being demolished after staff moved to the end of the pier (their former HQ and cottages on the Golden Mile were replaced by the Tower entertainments building); the herring reduction plant chimney being taken down with the impending occupation of the area by contractor George Wimpey.
Cluer’s Cars opened a showroom on Fishwharf Road. Hartmann Fibre’s warehouse on the South Denes was gutted by fire; Eastsacks on Gorleston’s Riverside Road closed.
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The £21,800 Lord Devlin, the first of three mobile cranes, arrived on South Quay. The Port and Haven Commissioners’ new tug, the £46,000 Hector Read, sailed in to replace the Richard Lee Barber. The pleasure steamer Southtown left the port to be broken up in Holland.
One of the biggest commercial surprises of 1965 was the acquisition of long-established Lacon’s Brewery by Whitbread for £3.2million.
The fire brigade took delivery of its new £12,500 Simon Snorkel vehicle, the first in East Anglia.
A £112,343 extension was added to the Technical College on Suffolk Road; nearby, the new £200,000 Edward Worlledge School opened.
A welcome boost for Gorleston’s holiday trade was the provision of a paddling pool and 21 chalets on the Lower Promenade near the yacht pond, and the outdoor swimming pool reopening after a £54,000 facelift.
Next, an unexpected further look at Gorleston’s Bells Road, decades ago a prime shopping street but today lacking the animation and variety it once had. Angela Bailey, of Beccles Road, Bradwell, adds to the memories, prompted by my recent photograph of Bussey’s grocery shop on the Springfield Road corner.
Angela (nee Holt) writes: “I was born on Springfield Road and as child I loved going into Bussey’s. It had a long shiny wooden counter the whole length of the shop, and beautiful glass-fronted cupboards which housed sugar and dried fruit, all weighed on big brass scales and presented in thick blue bags.
“At the far end of the shop were the bacon and cheese and a huge bacon slicer. There was always a big fluffy cat curled up on a chair – and one day it scratched me!”
As for Mrs Edith Adams’ off-licence, “we used to collect Corona (fizzy drink) bottles, and when we had enough, we would return them to her for twopence each and she would give us a new bottle of Corona. Lovely lady!
“Bert Wells had a cycle repair shop almost opposite the chip shop, and my brother as a boy used to make and paint price signs for him to earn a few pence.
“At the top of Bells Road was Mr Ward, the shoe mender. I can still remember the lovely smell of his shop. Then there was a greengrocer, and next to that was the butcher’s where on a Saturday my Mum would send me to buy a piece of topside for about 12 shillings (60p today). Considering there were five of us, that was quite a bargain by today’s standards.
“I have very fond memories of Bells Road and feel sad that it seems so quiet now.”
Finally, my recent feature about Yarmouth being invaded in Sixties summers by unwelcome warring Mods and Rockers reminded regular correspondent Trevor Nicholls of tales he was told by older townsfolk of pre-war Saturday night brawls, the
Middlegate area being a combat zone with frequent fights between drunken fishermen and others.
Certainly post-war, when our autumn herring industry was still flourishing, there were Saturday night altercations between Yarmouth and Scottish fishermen (mainly the teenagers among them) after pub closing time; all drifters were in port over Saturday night.
While researching The Diary of the Norfolk Artillery 1853-94 Trevor read that its soldiers were joined by Yarmouth men in a free fight against members of the Fermanagh Militia who were quartered in the South Town Barracks opposite Gordon Road, necessitating their commander, Lord Fermanagh, calling out the piquet (soldiers on watch) in a bid to quell the aggro.
The animosity between the two military groups was so intense, says Trevor, that sentries were placed on the bridge across the river to keep the sides apart.
He adds: “The Norfolks seem to have had a predilection for fighting with Irish soldiers. Elsewhere the diarist notes that the men had a fight with Dubliners at a London railway station in which the porters also got duffed up!”