From Rye to Oregon

By Sylvia Hewitt (Nee’ Sperring)

First let me tell you how writing this article came about. Veronica Wall (nee Vincent) sent a copy of “Rye’s Own” to Jo, her sister in California. Jo’ who I went to school with and has been a constant friend from those days and throughout our time in America, who sent it on to me. I mailed a letter and two photos, taken in the 50s to Jim (The Editor) another school friend. He asked me to write of some memories of Rye and of my life in America.


We moved to Rye in 1949, always having lived in larger cities, the move was quite a change for Mum, Dad and me.


Joe and Edith Sperring with Bessie Blackhall
Joe and Edith Sperring with Bessie Blackhall


As a teenager growing up in Rye there, I never seemed to find enough to do. But as I have grown older and hopefully “wiser” I realize it was a great place to be. I attended Rye Secondary School, then after a couple of years passed an exam and was transferred over to the Grammar School with many of my chums, here we were housed in the old dining room and our form master was Geoffrey Hawes.

Ann Adair (left) and Sylvia Sperring at Rye Fair 1958
Ann Adair (left) and Sylvia Sperring at Rye Fair 1958


I joined the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade under the teachings of Miss Jean Woods, the Headquarters was located opposite the Monastery, on Conduit Hill.

Peter Mitchell was in charge of Rye Youth Club in the Lion St. Centre. Every Tuesday and Thursday evenings we crammed into the club, playing billiards, darts, table-tennis and even learned to dance to the Rock and Roll music of Bill Haley. Tea, soft drinks and biscuits were always available, it was a fun place to go.

Sylvia Sperring 1958
Sylvia Sperring 1958


After leaving school, my first job was at Goulden’s Library ( in the High St.). I can remember when working at Goulden’s on hot summer days after work a bunch of us would bike down to Winchelsea Beach (not much traffic on the road in those days) for a swim. Then head on home later in the evening. My next job was at Dean’ Rag Book Co. Then moving on to Hill House Mental Hospital. I think that was THE most rewarding and hardest job I have ever had…..

Watching Rye United play, putting for a team in the Rye Putting League, watching cricket matches at the Salts on a Sunday afternoon, Bonfire nights, going to a dance at the Monastery, or a nearby village, and even to Hastings Pier. Walks around the Grove with a “sweetie” ah! some wonderful memories…..

Joe  Sperring
Joe Sperring

My Dad died in 1960; Mum still had a lot of family in the Midlands, so we sold the shop. I hated to leave Rye, but wanted to spend as much time with my Mum as possible, as “America” by then had started to “call”…..

A New Life in the U.S.A.

In March of 62, I headed to Los Angeles, to become a nanny to five children. After arriving there, I cried myself to sleep every night for a week or more, wondering what on earth had I done, and why had I left home, and why couldn’t I have just moved 60 miles away instead of 6000. But before long I had settled into my new home and new way of life and became part of the family. Along the way I met three Scottish girls, who were all doing the same job as me. We decided when our year of “nannying” was over we would live together, which we did in West L.A.. all starting various different new jobs. We had some great times, we went to all night parties, getting home just in time to get ready and go to work. I guess that’s called “youth”.

Recent Picture with Jo' Vincent Sylvia on the right
Recent Picture with Jo’ Vincent Sylvia on the right

Eventually three of us got married and the forth moved in with two other girls…… I married in ’65 and had a daughter in ’68 . My Mum did get to visit us twice, unfortunately she died in ’67 and never got to see her only grand-daughter. In 1970 we decided that California was getting too big for us, so we made the move to Oregon. Then it was not too crowded an area, but now “progress” is here, more people, traffic and all the things that go with urban growth. I guess I’m not much for “progress”!!!!!

I was divorced in ’89, bought my own place, had a good job and really enjoyed living by myself. In ’94 I met Chuck, we married in ’95. In remarrying my family increased from one to four step-”kids”, twelve grand-kids, four great-grand kids, there are never any “small” get togethers with this family……

A recent picture with husband Chuck
A recent picture with husband Chuck

I retired from work in ’95, and I just love it, can’t say that I ever get bored. Cannot figure out though how I got all the things done at home and worked too. My hubby retired in ’96, I like to travel, he does not, so I travel and he stays home, what ever works!!!!

Recently I went to visit the family that I first came over here to work for. The eldest is now 50 and the youngest is 39 ( “where did the time go to”) We keep in touch via e-mail. Now that I am in my “Golden years” or is it the “Silver” ones, never quite sure which one it is I am in, both I guess, being a “senior” I get all the discounts that are offered, and why not…… I enjoy travelling, pottering in the garden, walking the dog, swimming every day (in the summer). During winter time I belong to a “senior” health club, always have a knitting project going, enjoy my daily cross-words. A couple of times a month I meet up with a girl-friend and we go to see a movie, usually a “chick flick” as my hubby calls them, (he prefers the more action films).

Chuck and Sylvia with Grandchildren
Chuck and Sylvia with Grandchildren

I have made a few mistakes along this road of life, and hopefully have learned from them. I enjoy my life with my hubby, family, friends, one dog and two cats. I have missed my family and friends in England, but can honestly say that coming here, for me, was the right choice. Life is good……….

Sylvia Hewitt (nee Sperring)

From September 2001 edition of “Rye’s Own”