Grandad's Watton

Grandad in the years 1920 - 1935

THE TROUBLE with having a bit of a mardle about Granddad’s Watton is that it is so easy to get all mixed up over whose granddad we're talking about, or which Watton years we're looking at. I mean, even Granddad had a granddad, and that would take us back a bit. My father's time could have been your granddad’s era, and somebody else could have become a granddad yesterday. I don't think we ought to get ourselves all confused over that, do you? I can say that I am looking at present at the period 1920 to 1935, but there may well be substantial deviations from that, and I would not like to give any sort of guarantee that what follows will be in chronological order, recognisable sequence or particular pattern,

First deviation coming up! My granddad lived near the mill at Saham Toney and worked in Tyrrell & Byford's granaries at Watton station. Every day, soon after dawn he would lace up his heavy hob-nailed boots, stuff his mid-day feast of bread and cheese and an onion into the pocket of his sagging jacket and set off to walk to work. Over the distance this would take, as we used to say in Norfolk "the best part of some time" and there would be a little extra delay on the return journey because by then "The Black Horse" was open.

That granddad never had any wheeled transport of any kind, but for a slightly later generation there was a quicker, and, in theory, an easier way of getting about. The pedal cycle, or, to give it its more accurate descriptive title, the push bike. Push bikes flooded the mass market in the 1920's and Bob Kittell or Jack Cross would be very happy to sell you a full sized Hercules for £3.19.6 (£3.97) or a Rudge or Raleigh for £4.19.6 (£4.97). Bob Kittell took over the cycle shop at the west end of the High Street soon after the First World War and, as well as dealing in cycles he introduced the sales of Rudge and B.S.A. motor cycles, carried out repairs, and, of course sold a wide range of accessories. It wasn't Bob's fault, but then, as now some accessories were of greater benefit to mankind than others, and one product that I remember without affection is the cycle gas lamp. This was intro­ duced to take over from the older wick and paraffin lamp. As its name suggests, it was a miniature, mobile gas works. A screw-on container at the base was filled with a not too sweet smelling chemical called carbide, water was added, a little tap turned and then you could apply a match to the U-shaped burner behind the glass door to produce "an incandescent brilliant light which will enable the user to travel on unlit roads and streets and see and be seen". But you had to be lucky. My memory of the cycle gas lamp is that its temperamental nature produced more profanity than, illumination.

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