The day the sea bore fruit for Yarmouth

Mrs Peggotty and I have been unsuccessful in our quest for a simple, small electric orange squeezer. For the time being, I use a tall chrome one operated by a long lever, but it does not perform efficiently enough.

Mrs Peggotty and I have been unsuccessful in our quest for a simple, small electric orange squeezer. For the time being, I use a tall chrome one operated by a long lever, but it does not perform efficiently enough.

An electric orange juicer, eh! That would have been beyond my imagination as a lad in war-torn Britain, particularly as oranges were virtually non-existent from 1939 until the late 1940s, an expendable luxury when only essential commodities filled the holds of merchant shipping.

Some of that sense of forbidden fruit has been recaptured recently in our sister paper, the Eastern Daily Press, where readers' letters to the editor have delved into a post-war Christmas bonus when the steamer, Bosphorus, ran aground on either the Haisboro Sands or Barber Sands off east Norfolk. To lighten her cargo to facilitate refloating attempt, she had to jettison some cargo: she was carrying crates of oranges!

Ironically, the bureaucrats had decreed that East Anglia was not due to receive an allocation of oranges that Christmas, in 1948, and the Bosphorus was steaming past Yarmouth on passage to Hull to deliver her delicious cargo to the north-east of England. But those folk did not have the pleasure of joining long queues at fruiterers' and greengrocers' with their children's green ration books, having been thwarted by the dumping of the cargo into the sea off Norfolk, where it was washed ashore, some in flimsy crates and others as flotsam, their skins protecting the contents.

As news spread, people flocked to the shoreline to collect washed-up oranges. Few folk had motor transport, and most arrived on foot, some with prams or barrows or on bicycles, garnering the goodies, including the firewood - another precious item as coal was still stringently rationed.

Years ago, retired printing compositor Stanley Harbord, of York Road, recalled the night he and his friend were angling for cod off Yarmouth Jetty in bitter weather when they saw shadowy figures on the foreshore. His pal went to investigate, returning to report that there were “mill-ions of oranges” at the water's edge for the taking.

Most Read

“His pockets were full and his arms were stacked up to the chin,” reported Stanley, who grabbed his large canvas bag to dash off on the orange trail. “What an experience - we could hardly walk for standing on oranges, and, as each wave broke, in came more, appearing to roll off the sea bed like stones.”

For most children in east Norfolk it was their first sight and taste of an orange.

A reader got in touch after I referred to the King Street, Yarmouth, shops run by the Richards family. Dennis Durrant, of Brett Avenue, Gorleston, says: “I was at the old technical high school on Lichfield Road in the late 1940s in the same class as Paul, who eventually took over the business. I remember him as a quiet person, very good at drawing and quite studious, one of the first people to own a Biro, a short stubby pen which we all admired.” According to his letter: “The tech started life as the Junior Technical School for the purpose of training badly-needed tradesmen to help rebuild our infrastructure after the war. The trade teachers were mainly master tradesmen who at times would come out with expletives! The original idea was that, as well as normal education, we would sample terms at carpentry, bricklaying, plumbing and engineering to decide which trade we wished to major on.

“Soon the the structure was broadened, hence the change of name to high school to bring in girls and include domestic science, secretarial subjects and languages, a bit more akin to the grammar school without the Latin. Boys could also go for the new subjects. In fact, Dudley Barron did just that by taking domestic science, possibly the first boy in Yarmouth to take the subject, ahead of his time!

“The school took over part of the Edward Worlledge and various temporary buildings were erected. The school was unique in having the best playing field in the country: part of the adjacent marshes, where, during the lunch hour, we could not only play football but catch frogs and sticklebacks, which I once kept in a milk bottle in my desk until I found it was more difficult to remove them that it had been to get them in!”