by Shirley Dunaetz (nee Evans)
I remember at least once a week walking to Gill's Garage to pick up pink paraffin. You might think what was that for? Well pink paraffin burns cleaner and doesn't have the smell that regular paraffin has. Pink paraffin was used in the oil lamp that hung from the ceiling. We kids were threatened within an inch of our lives if we touched it. It was a pretty thing, with a brass bottom and a lovely china lamp shade. It of course had a glass chimney and the wick could be turned up our down. When I was very little, I was afraid of the dark, so I was allowed to stay downstairs until the grownups went to bed. If there was no one reading or doing sewing in the room, the lamp was turned down low, I suppose so I would go to sleep. This lamp could be moved from room to room, as needed, but didn't go upstairs, candles were the rule there.
My brother and I recently talked about the "Hunt" that met at the corner of West Street and Old Court Hall. That was a sight to see, all those horses, dogs and the ladies and gentlemen all dressed up in their hunt clothes. They usually started their hunt by going down Silver Street. The Tally Ho's and dogs barking and baying are still with me today. There would be a crowd of us locals watching as they congregated and got ready to leave.
I've already noted in the previous memories of how the people all knew each other, even if only by sight. Well, one day I was alone at the "Rec" and decided to go paddling in the shallow part of the river on the other side of the Black Lock. I think I called myself going after "Tiddlers" (small fish or baby eel). I must have walked too far into the river, because the next thing I knew I was floundering in the water, not being able to get my footing and starting to panic. To my rescue comes a young man, a few years older than me, I was 7 or 8, he pulls me up and out. Then off he takes me to his home to dry out. I want to say his last name was Story, but I'm not sure. He lived at the top of New Street and his mother got me dry from head to toe before I went home, where I knew when my mother found out, I would be in for a real tongue lashing. I'm not sure she ever found out!!
Something the kids probably do today, is stand at a busy corner and take the license numbers of the passing cars and lorries. One day a group of us were doing just that and this particular day stands out because, there we were at the corner of London Road and Earning Street right near the pub "The Exhibition" when this lorry pulls over and the driver said he needed a break and chats a while with us, but before he left he hands us a ten shilling note and says for us all to have an ice cream on him. We felt like we had hit the jackpot. Ten shillings in those days (early 1950's) was a lot of money.
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 looms very big in my memory. In 1953 I was in my last year at St. Ann's Lane school. One of the projects that year was to make a book commemorating the Coronation. We could use anything to make this book and I remembering scouring the papers and magazines for pictures and articles. I do have my book still, and see I had clipped pictures of the crowns, the Orb and scepter etc along with postcards of the Queen and scenes around London. I even have in it my hand colored route the royal coach would take. I chuckle now when I look at this childish undertaking, as I seemed to have been obsessed with noting my minute by minute use of each hour of that day. Such as the exact time we went to the church for the Coronation service and the exact time we arrived at the school playground and turned in our ticket for a Coronation hat which the hat then replaced the ticket to receive our Coronation mug. The mugs were presented at the Town Hall, the whole school having marched there. I even noted that lots of pictures were taken as we marched along. Later that day there was a fancy dress parade through the streets of Godmanchester. The parade ended on the Recreation Ground where prizes were handed out. I wonder how many more of these hand made books are still out there, after all they are nearly 60 years old now. It was quite a day, there was a children's tea with ice cream and cakes and after that a comic cricket match. Each school child received a Coronation mug and of course I still have mine. My brother received one too but one did get broken and I remember insisting it was his!!
Oh how I remember being able to go to the shop and buy sweets (candy) without a ration book. Since 1943 sweets could only be bought if you had a government issued ration book with coupons still available for use. In February 1953 sweets were finally removed from the lists of items needing coupons. My Grandfather (Thomas Saunders) gave me a few coins when I came home from school that very afternoon and told me to go to the shop and buy some sweets or what I wanted. What excitement, I'd never been able to do this in my life before and if I remember correctly, gum was my first choice