A time when Wolf cub scouts had to dial the vicar to earn a badge

PUBLISHED: 10:21 06 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:21 06 May 2017

A lorry drives across Great Yarmouth's Vauxhall Bridge, long before it became pedestrians-only. Circus elephants persistently refused to go over it, according to a reader. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY

A lorry drives across Great Yarmouth's Vauxhall Bridge, long before it became pedestrians-only. Circus elephants persistently refused to go over it, according to a reader. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY


It is time to clear the decks again - in other words, to publish feedback from readers to recent columns.

The subjects include old telephones, telegraph wires bordering railway lines, circus visits and Saturday morning children’s cinema programmes of yesteryear.

Today’s young people, apparently born with a mobile phone permanently attached to their ears or clutched in two hands while thumbs press keys at a blurry rate of knots, would probably be flummoxed if they stood in one of the old traditional red boxes familiar to my generation and found a black phone without a dial on top of a tin box with two push-buttons labelled A and B.

Octogenarian Tom Gilbert, who recently supplied me with information about holidays for the handicapped at Gorleston Super Holiday Camp after the war, says he enjoyed my column about my parents installing their first telephone, a non-dial.

“It reminded me of one of the Wolf Cub tests to get your 1st star,” says Tom, of Church Road, Gorleston. “It was how to phone from a public phone by mastering press buttons A and B and depositing two old pence in the box and dialling the number.

“The problem was, as you indicated, not many people had phones at home in 1942. Consequently the local vicar was often bombarded with calls from small Wolf Cubs intent on gaining all the tests for the coveted 1st Star!”

Also on the subject of phones, Belton reader Brian Waters wrote to put the record straight after he read here correspondent Trevor Nicholls’s recollection of telephone wires following railway lines, apparently rising and falling from post to post as a train chuffed onwards.

Brian states: “As a retired telephone engineer, may I point out that the mile after mile of telephone lines alongside the railway were nothing to do with the public telephone service. They were the railway companies’ own phone lines linking signal boxes, used for voice communication and signalling controls.”

Another Belton reader, Jean Samuels, of Yare Road, says my feature about the huge 1899 procession through Yarmouth by the international Barnum and Bailey circus stirred memories for her mother, Gladys Brooks (née Hubbard), of Amhurst Gardens in Belton.

“As a child over 80 years ago. she lived in Lime Kiln Walk in Yarmouth,” Jean tells me. “She remembers the circus coming by train into Yarmouth railway station full of animals.

“As she recalls it, they would lead the elephants, horses and other animals over the Vauxhall Bridge to their destination which she thought was the Hippodrome (on Marine Parade). One year in the late 1930s one elephant stumbled as they made their way over the bridge.

“The next year, and every year after that, try as they might they could not persuade the elephants to go over the Vauxhall Bridge! The sight of their companion tripping up had upset them all and they would not go over the bridge - reminding us of the saying, ‘An elephant never forgets’.

“Gladys thinks they had to take the elephants the long way round, over the Haven Bridge, to get them to their destination. It was something she and her mother Susannah Hubbard often talked about whenever the circus came to town.”

From Canada, expatriate Danny Daniels responds to my column about bed-and-breakfast type holiday accommodation before the war. “My Mum took in summer visitors without needing to advertise because they were regulars returning year after year - 13 to 16 years in some cases and always in the same one or two August weeks,” he recalls.

“We decamped to the small bedroom over the scullery, having to climb a ladder and go through a trapdoor to get into it, while the visitors took over our three bedrooms. Since we only had an outside toilet (like most people those days), one of the daily chores was emptying the chamber pots from under the beds!”

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