Brrrr! 1959 and all that

IT has been a bad winter, no doubt about it. As early as November we had snow and ice, and in early 2009 there was little let-up in the wintry weather which, as usual, brought the country to a standstill.

IT has been a bad winter, no doubt about it. As early as November we had snow and ice, and in early 2009 there was little let-up in the wintry weather which, as usual, brought the country to a standstill.

Fifty years ago, it was little better, according to the 1959 Mercury files through which I was browsing recently. In an Arctic spell, Winterton was cut off by snow and the Thurne overflowed at Potter Heigham. But, while most residents hated it, there was delight among ice-skating enthusiasts. By the time the freeze had lasted long enough for broads to be safe for skating, a thaw was forecast, so there was no time to waste. Hickling was a favourite spot, with five inches of ice on the broad. Word spread that conditions were suitable for skating, and at one time three dozen people in colourful scarves and jumpers were in action, some using chairs for support but most skating with various degrees of proficiency. A game of ice-hockey was played.

Womack was also popular, its ice described as “clear and black” by Cyril Hunter. Ponds on marshes between Ludham Bridge and Horning also attracted skaters.

In the middle of the cold snap that accompanied the arrival of February 2009, an event that helped to lift the gloom of winter and world-wide recession was the restoration of the chimes from the clock atop St Nicholas's Parish Church in Great Yarmouth after a 35-year gap. The clock itself was working again after 18 months.

By coincidence, exactly a half-century ago, a new pair of hands arrived for the clock in the restored tower, replacing the pair that had frozen at 2.35 - the time the church was badly damaged by a firebomb German air raid during a night in June 1942. The minute hand was 6�ft long, the hour hand 4ft; both were covered in gold leaf. The clock was started again in November at 2.35 - but in the afternoon, not the small hours.

There was a distinctly frosty welcome for the first Syrian ship ever to berth at Yarmouth. The Sourya caused excitement for all the wrong reasons. From the moment she steamed in on

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Christmas Eve, 1958, she was impounded and put under arrest for debt owed outside Britain. Then two of her crew - a Spaniard and an Italian - were arrested for landing illegally in the UK and were detained in Norwich Prison until deported. Their plight resulted in questions being asked in the Commons.

When she was cleared to leave, the port tug Richard Lee Barber helped her to sail, stern-first, down-river on a bitterly cold day with snow covering quays and piers.

Also 50 years ago in 1959, local girl Anne Pashley sang at the Town Hall in the second of Yarmouth Musical Society's centenary season concerts, three years after she won a silver medal in the women's 4x400 metre relay at the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. The soprano, destined to become internationally renowned as an opera singer, was accompanied by Harold Starling at the piano. Cyril Huggins conducted.

The death occurred of Miss Kathleen Lovelace Jode, aged 77, of Baker Street, Gorleston, who was in partnership with her sister in The House of Lovelace on Victoria Road as women's hairdressers. I can recall their advertising slogan, “Britannia rules the waves - so does The House of Lovelace”, in the Mercury and on the screen of the Coliseum Cinema during and after the war.

Yarmouth Corporation's bus undertaking hit problems in the late-1950s. The first adverts appeared for the first time on the side of the blue-and-cream buses, one of the measures aimed at reducing the �18,000 deficit in its budget. Others were an increase in fares, abolition of workers' concession tickets and equalisation of the length of the fare stages.

The cost-cuts obviously worked because at the end of 1959 the bus department expected to report an �18,000 surplus and also bought six new single-deck buses to replace ones on hire from London Transport.

The good old days of weekly dustbin emptying have long gone, replaced by fortnightly visits, two wheelie bins, recycling and no-this no-that rules. Still, at Peggotty's Hut in Gorleston the service is reliable, the crews speedy and hard-working, and we experience no problems.

In 1959, the Mercury reported that the cost of refuse collection in urban Yarmouth and Gorleston was the cheapest in the country, apart from Rams-gate. The Yarmouth cost was �1 3s 11d (�1.20 now) a ton, compared with the Kent resort's 17s 2d (86p).

The Yarmouth binmen used the same system as 80pc of the country - emptying bins into galvanised iron baths - but to change to a less dusty method would cause the cost to rise considerably. Emptying bins into galvanised baths, eh? And every week...

Because the market for recycling has collapsed, there are calls for the reintroduction of incineration that will produce electricity and reduce pressure on landfill. Perhaps we should launch a campaign not only to return to that method but to provide a refuse destructor to replace the council's one destroyed by wartime bombing? Older Yarmouthians will recall it stood between Caister Road and the River Bure, its tall brick chimney a landmark.

Caister Parish Council rejected a proposal that it should merge with Yarmouth. But, 15 years later, becoming part of the borough was foisted upon the village in the nationwide reorganisation of local government. Yarmouth education committee agreed in principle to a covered swimming pool for schools, putting it into its five-year programme. Parents and friends of the Herman Junior and Infant schools in Gorleston began work on building a diy teaching pool.

And Yarmouth chief education officer Donald Farrow forecast that the borough would have a covered pool “within the next five years”.