Pen & Ink

Owned the Shoe Shop by the Tower

Dear Editor

After reading a number of Rye’s Own magazines recently, I have been prompted to write to you about a few things which may interest you and your readers.

My name is Mrs Joyce Clark (nee Swan) daughter of Mr and Mrs E P Swan. My father and grandfather owned the shoe shop by the tower (Landgate) between them for 10 years. My younger sister is Sylvia who used to be in the Methodist Choir.

I lost my husband, Bert Clark, three years ago. He was the only child of Annie and William (Bill) Clark of 12 Tillingham Avenue. Bert, like many others in the Second War, joined the forces. In September 1941, aged 18 years, Bert enlisted as an R.A.F wireless operator and duly arrived at Brighton in his A.T.C uniform for all preliminaries. He passed all tests and then “they” decided at 5.3 inches and very young looking, he could not be 18 years old. Bert suggested that if he was given a travel warrant he would come back the next day with his birth certificate; this was agreed and Bert was accepted as a W/OP. He trained at Blackpool. Among the places Bert served were North Africa, Egypt, Sicily, Italy, Algiers and Austria. He often claimed that his was not the fighting war, but none the less Radio Operators played a very important part. He was demobbed on 23.11.56, I have been able to remember dates because Bert wrote a book about his war years, which at some time I hope to get published.

I met Bert at a Monastery Dance just after the War, he was with the late Richard Tiltman who was a friend. My father always insisted I was home by 9pm! Take note you young ones. You can imagine how difficult it was to get to know anyone in such a short time. However we became interested in each other, got engaged on my 18th birthday in 1947 and married on 24th April the following year. I was 19 years old the next day. Our honeymoon was on the Isle of White, the first holiday I had ever had.

Bert and I had four wonderful children, Carole  (Ball) who still lives in Rye and many people know her through her singing. She still lives in my parents old home in New Road. Kathleen (Saoulis) who lives here in this lovely village of Sonning Common. My son Roger who lives in West Evell Surrey and Lorna Religan who lives in Greys, Essex.

There are eleven grand children ranging in ages 31 years to 7 years, 7 boys and 5 girls. Bert had various jobs, first trying his hand in the Baking trade. Flour dust led to him having to leave.

Other jobs followed including 5 years in Taxi service which he enjoyed, however lack of wages and a growing family made it very hard. A sudden offer of a situation in the insurance world gave us the lift we needed. He did well as we were later offered a situation that really put us (and his mum bless her) in a turmoil. It meant us moving to Surrey, we could not leave Bert’s Mum I loved her dearly, so she uprooted and came with us. It was a terrific gamble but Bert succeeded. He had been put on a 6 month trial as a Head Office Inspector of auditing as he was good at figures, needless to say he passed and remained in his job until he took early retirement having completed 23 years with L.V.F.S.

He was a good man who adored both me and his family. We had a wonderful Golden Wedding but he did not make 2000. He had by-pass surgery and after a week developed complications and died on 29.11.99. I remember my school days my friend Joy Ashby, we went to the Collegiate School run by Miss Moon and Mrs Tom Longley. Joy joined the WRENS but even to this present day we are still in touch and see each other about once a year. She lives in Burgess Hill. I was in St Johns Ambulance from the age of 11, later I used to go to Arthur Woodgate’s family home and did my turn of duty. Going to London and other places with Mrs Hartley and Mr Woodgate.

I was at school the day the Cinema was bombed. The siren went but we had only managed to reach the dining hall on our way to the air raid shelter when the bombs dropped. The teacher told us to lie flat. I can remember glancing out of the doors and seeing all this dust and debris in the air, mothers were screaming in terror running to the school which they thought had been hit.

I worked in Dad’s shop for a while after leaving school at 13 then for nearly a year on the land which I loved, picking beans, peas and stooking corn.

Rye’s Own  April 2003

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