On my way to school from Redhill Nursery Farm, where I was born, one of the first people I saw was John Pymer, an elderly man who was the gardener at the vicarage. He would usually be stand ing at the entrance gate leaning on a stout stick chatting to a passer-by. It was his custom to allow himself plenty of time to get to work so that he could enjoy a little mardle with someone before starting work behind the high garden wall, as apart from the vicar, he probably would not see another person until his days work was over. He needed the stick for support, because he had the misfortune of having a wooden leg and considering this handicap, he kept the large vicarage garden in "very good trim".
My next early morning scene was often of Mr Pipe, a one-armed man, taking a timber drug hauled by a team of heavy horses through the town to collect a load of newly felled trees. He usually returned to the "wood yard" (now Tuft's) between 5 and 6 p.m. and I marvelled at the skill which enabled him to load the drug single-handed with only one hand and a metal crook in place of the other. Beside the entrance to the wood yard was Robert Davey's tobacconist and confectioners shop. He was known locally as "Doctor" Davey, because he would relieve one of an aching tooth, his small fee of one shilling however, did not guarantee a painless extraction. The smell of burning hoof still lingers in my nostrils from Garner's Blacksmith shop as Bill Crane fitted a set of new shoes on a farm horse.
William Crane, the Blacksmith who worked for James Garner's for 57 years.
Two shops that held a fascination for boys in those days were the harness makers, Reeve's (now Dean's] and Chaston's (now Carter's furniture shop). Here we watched skilled craftsmen through the windows as they made a new horse's collar, or repaired a set of old harness. Both Edward's and Harvey's newsagent shops always had a fine display of toys in their windows that attracted youthful eves and I well remember receiving a fret-work set from one and a Mecanco set from the other, as Christmas presents.
Both bakers displayed mouth-watering goodies and Moore's, on the Dereham Road corner, made the most delicious dough nuts. Graver's (now Elliott’s Frozen Foods) specialised in pork pies and sausage rolls. The most popular shop with children however was Mrs Chamberlain's confectioners, now an Insurance agents. Children crowded in here on their way to school to spend their pennies, or even a farthing, which in those days would buy a stick of liquorice. However little one had to spend, her cheery greeting was always the same, "Hullo, my little dear and what would you like today".