Growing up in GY in the 60's & 70's

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Growing up in GY in the 60's & 70's' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Growing up in GY in the 60's & 70's' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Growing up in GY in the 60's & 70's' page

My story

By Mitch Ford

My Great Yarmouth Story

I was born in Great Yarmouth in September 1963. St Nicholas Hospital, on\near King Street. I think it is now a block of apartments. My parents Nora and Ken Ford had a shop on Regent Road right next door to the Wax Works. In fact, we rented the land from the owners who were (and still are) very good friends.

Now, my childhood was quite confusing, because we lived in Salford during the winter, and would travel down to Great Yarmouth at the start of the season. So, around the start of April, we would pack up a big van and drive the same route…..Salford, Stockport, Disley, Chesterfield, Mansfield, Newark, Sleaford, Kings Lynn, Norwich, Acle and of course Great Yarmouth. We always used to stop on the way at RAF Cranwell for a picnic, and get a brew from The Little Chef. When I was younger, I used to go to school in Salford over the winter and Edward Worledge from April to October. It was very confusing to say the least.

During the summer holidays, my cousin used to come down to keep me company, and we used to get up to all sorts……I also had a friend called David Mann whose parents were friendly with my parents.  Mollie and Tedd Mann owned the kipper shop on Regent Road, and the ‘monkey shop’ next door. Mollie ran the kipper shop, sending boxes all over the world, whilst Tedd used to take pictures of people with spider monkeys (dressed in clothes) on their shoulders. David and I used to dress the monkeys in the morning, they had little shorts, jumpers, hats e.t.c. We used to get pocket money and nip over the road to Pownall’s  where we would buy little airfix plastic soldiers and go back to David’s flat over the shop and play war games, whilst watching ‘Herge’s adventures of Tin Tin’. Mollie and Ted lived in Streatham London, but we lost touch with them years ago. We were also friendly with Sammy the Purse King, and his wife Ninka. I think they were from Luton. They had a shop in between the bowling alley and the cinema.

As I got older, my mum thought I should stop wasting my time chasing girls, and extracting money from the numerous slot machine arcades on the prom. This was the days before alarms on slots, so my cousin and I would take turns to keep a look out, and then one of us would ‘bump’ the machine and hopefully clean up the pennies that dropped out.  We even found some ingenious ways to get prizes out of non slot machines, by breaking candy floss sticks in certain places, so we could put them up the chute of the machine, and knock prizes into the hopper. I think we ended up getting banned from most arcades.  Anyway, when I was old enough, the owners of the wax works, employed me to distribute change and fix machines in the amusement arcade at the back of the wax works. There were some lovely old machines in there, and I know some of them are still going strong now. I also worked in the New Beach Hotel at the top of Regent Road as a waiter, and won’t go into detail about what we used to get up to in the kitchen….yuk.

My dad used to work the market on Wednesdays, Friday’s and Saturday, but used to spend all the takings in William Hills at the back of the ABC theatre. Mum wasn’t impressed. My parents worked long hours, with the shop opening at 09:00 and often staying open until 22:00 7 days per week. Hard graft….they were grafters. It is a dying art. Getting a pitch of people and keeping them interested until you went for the kill at the end, and sold as many items as you could before they wandered away.

My memories of Great Yarmouth are numerous. I think about every day, as they were fantastic times. From back to front, I remember Breydon Water…sinking on the mud flats. The Golden Galleon, stock cars, a drunken captain crashing a ship into New Haven Bridge, shopping arcades, seeing Norman Wisdom at the ABC theatre, going to the Aquarium cinema every day for a week to see James Bond films for 10p. The open air baths….a fella with one leg used to dive off the high diver….he was the only person I ever saw who would go all the way up to the top. The water was always freezing, and cockroaches used to float to the corners near where the ladders were to get out. I remember Cow Town, Wrestling in the Marina, the Waterways and Vetesses on Regent Road where they served great ice cream.  I used to go crabbing on the jetty. I spent days\nights on end chatting up girls on the Pleasure Beach, mostly in the Fun House.

My cousin and I would often go to Wellesley coach station on a Friday or Saturday, with a baggage trolley. We would then offer to carry the bags of people getting off the coaches to their B&B’s. The coach park used to be rammed with coaches. We would charge 50p, and most of the time damage the bags, because they would always fall off the trolley.

The beach was and still is superb. Not sure if they still do boat trips to Scroby Island, but they used to pack em in.

People I remember are few and far between, Susan Mather, Carol Church, Mandy Hollis and Lesley Edwards who lived opposite the gas works on Nelson Road South.  I think Carol’s mum used to work in the Aquarium Cinema, and Susan Mather’s parents owner the Resthaven Guest House up near Wellington pier.

Other weird and wonderful things I can remember are……Britannia Pier, hot side and cold side? As you look at the pier, the left hand side was always in the shade of the buildings because of the position of the sun. The right hand side was always hot, and I burnt my feet once, and coming up the steps from the beach to the pier, and standing on the wooden boards that had been baking in the sun.  I remember a ship wreck, up near the harbour mouth, near where the outer harbour has been built. There were signs warning not to swim out to it, which of course I ignored and cut my foot on the rusty wreck. Gorleston boating pond…… which is still there. I remember near GY market there was an alleyway next to a school that took you into a graveyard, next to the old town walls. You could climb a turret overlooking the abattoir and get a great view of Yarmouth.  I remember a ladybird invasion one summer when everywhere was covered with them.

Recent times. I love to go back to GY. I took the kids back 6/7 years ago and we had a lovely time….crabbing off the jetty. Hippodrome Circus, they loved it. Actually went back last month for a week. Stayed in Winterton on Sea just up the coast, but went into GY every day. Everything about the place holds a memory for me. We now have a home in Florida as well as Salford, but given the choice of a week in Florida or a week in Great Yarmouth, you know what I would choose;-)

This page was added by Mitch Ford on 24/06/2011.
Comments about this page

Great stories Mitch, its good to hear of what were fun times. Its amazing how we don't know how good things are till they are in the past. Glad to hear you still love Great Yarmouth as I do having had so many holidays there as a kid in the 70's & 80's. Lets hope things continue and having been back to Great Yarmouth myself recently I think the council has done a great job in the face of hard times in the face of competition of holidays away from our fair island! Glad your kids have experienced the fun on offer too. cheers Neil

By Neil Hadland
On 05/08/2011

Unfortunately, the majority of what you have written about doesn't exist in GY any longer. Sue Mather and Mandy Hollis are still around. GY is a very changed place - but I think you can still catch crabs - and you don't have to go far from the now closed Jetty to catch them !! Thanks for your Memories Swanny

By Martin Swann
On 15/08/2011

I was born in 56 and remember the old Yarmouth very well, how things have changed, not for the better either.  Just want to know if anyone can remember a shop where the McDonald's or Kentucky is that used to sell macs and coats; opposite Mastersons wet fish shop where you could buy bloaters to send to people.

By Daff Jones nee Skipper
On 29/01/2013

Just stumbled upon this page and it brought back lots of memories for me as i am from the north of england and in the sixties when it was all hippies and free love i went down to Yarmouth in 1965 and liked it so much i stayed and slept on the beech,at this time there was a large number of lads and girls sleeping rough and for the next 3 summers spent my time in yarmouth the best time of my life.

By Brian Hewart
On 16/05/2014

Message to Daff Jones

The shop you refer to was called Stone Dry (Spelt Stone Dri) and back in the 70's when you could drive down Regent Road the location was called Stone Dri Corner.

As a young moped rider it was always the place to try to get your knee to touch the ground as we took the sharp bend coming up from the beach. More often than not we fell off at some point but we "bounced" well in those days so it never really put us off.

Sorry it's been nearly two years for me to respond but I have only just stumbled across this site.

By K.H.
On 25/11/2014

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