The year was 1945, the War ended and 14 year old Doreen Palmer left school (that was the leaving age then). Doreen lived in the east end of London and started work in the West End for a Russian lady named Katya Krassen in Saville Rowe. By the time she was sixteen Doreen was quite proficient and was asked to make a dress for a twelve year old child. Although she was not keen on the idea, (she was really only into ladies dresses), she went along with it. Doreen was told the little girl was twelve, had a lovely voice and was appearing before the King and Queen in a Command performance and wanted something special to wear.
The young Doreen Palmer went with designer “Erik” to a flat in London and measured the 12 year old who turned out to be Julie Andrews. Doreen thought little of it at the time, it was just another job, but later realised it was her ‘claim to fame’.
By the time Doreen was 19 she was supervising George and Alfred Blacks wardrobe in Shaftsbury Avenue. This job brought her into contact with many performers of the day. She had dealings with household names such as The Tiller Girls, Charlie Chester, Tony Handcock, Terry Thomas to name but a few.
Doreen spent two months of the year in Blackpool supervising costumes at the Winter Gardens Theatre and Pavilion. She really loved the job but as life has its way Doreen met the man she was to marry, left the limelight and became Doreen Bradley. Another venture began which included four lovely daughters. The couple lived in London until 1967 when they decided to find fresh fields and came to Rye where they took the Queen Adelaide Pub which was then a lovely country pub. After two years Alec decided it was too much of a tie and went to work at Farnborough Engineering in Winchelsea, Doreen became a barmaid at the Pipemakers Arms because she loved the pub life; it was all to do with people. Johnny Walker was landlord there, “He was a lovely man and a pleasure to work for,” said Doreen. Sadly Alec became terminally ill with cancer and she gave up her job to care for him through his last two years.
After this sad period in her life John Walker offered her old job back, it helped Doreen over this terrible time.
A friend of John Walker had recently lost his wife, he introduced him to Doreen and after a long friendship, that started off in a very platonic way, Jim Young and Doreen have been happily married now for 21 years. He married Doreen and became father to four daughters he didn’t think he would have and she got the son she had always wanted as Jim had a son by his first marriage. They all got on marvellously. Now they have ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren. They are having a big family party for Doreen’s 75th. Birthday this month.
Her friends all tell her she should write a book about her life and adventures. “Who knows?” says Doreen ” but I do know that Jim and I both love Rye and will never live anywhere else”.
Rye’s Own August 2006
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