The opening hours on weekdays were 10am to 2pm, and 6pm to 1030pm, but there were very few customers in the early evenings and not many any weekday lunchtime except Fridays. I remember playing snap and draw-the-well-dry with my mother Jessie on the counter while she stood behind the bar in the early evenings, and on the odd occasion she had to serve a customer, taking the opportunity to look at the cards, or more bluntly, cheat. I don't suppose it ever occurred to me that she was probably well aware of the fact. She died when I was six and a half. My father's sister, already in her fifties then came to help and she was the sweetest and kindest person you could hope to meet but extremely shy and timid and never took to pub work. But, it seemed to me, I did. I remember counting the money which would go something like : 10d for a small brown, plus 2d for a box of matches is a shilling, 10 Weights or Woodbines one and eleven pence ha'penny is two and eleven pence ha'penny, but "put one in there for Bert" so a pint of mixed was another one shilling and a ha'penny; three shillings, thats four shillings and tuppence, or 4s 2d.
The till consisted of a drawer with two compartments, one for the coppers and one for the silver while two glasses on the shelf above were used for the notes. So having been given a 10s note (ten shillings, now of course, 50p) one would take four pennies or one and thr'penny bit to make up to 4s.6d., 6d to five "bob" and then two half crowns.
Sunday opening was from 12 midday to 2pm, and was often the busiest time of the week. In my teens I had to hurry home from church (some thought this was incongruous) to help with the opening rush. My father had remarried (to my mother Nell) in 1946 and my brothers were born in January 1948. They were very soon roped in to help with the moving of the crates of beer or empties, fetching in of the coal and wood and a lot of quite heavy work for young boys. My mother Nell was often left to see to the bar on weekday mornings as well as all the other thousand and one other chores. She remembers one incident when Mark and John were just at the crawling stage and she had left them rather longer than intended. At that time we used to preserve whole eggs in something called Iglass (Isinglass) (or that was how it was pronounced) which was itself rather like white of egg. The boys had scattered all the saucepans round the living room and decanted the eggs from the bucket in the larder into the saucepans, leaving snail-like trails all around but apparently had not broken one egg. But to revert to the pub proper: the drinks were very limited by today's standards. I can't remember when I first heard of lager, but I was probably almost in my teens. I think there was always Guinness and possibly Bass and Worthington as the slightly stronger beers, but Mackeson and Abbot Ale and the very strong Barley Wine (why wine when it was beer ?) I am sure came later. One of the popular drinks was Enos which had nothing to do with settling the stomach but was a mixture of a half bottle of brown and half a mild, derived from (and who am I to query such erudition) "e'knows". Not many people drank spirits.
A Vera Lynn was of course gin but quite how Cow and Gate came to be I don't know. I do remember the baby's powdered milk of that name but this was anything but, being a mixture of port and brandy and purporting to act as the "hair of the dog". Or so Wilfred Ingle from across the green would have us believe. I remember Jimmy James was more of a spirits man. Old Mr Johnstone the Scotsman from "up the stone cottages" would also have a whiskey on a particularly raw morning. If he had a cold we would go and fetch the sugar basin and some hot water and he would crush the granules with a thick glass stemshaped object, obviously designed for that purpose but the name of which I never knew. I remember being given whiskey myself as medicine with hot water and sugar or honey. It put me off for life. I can now just about drink a whiskey with a lot of mixer.
Looking back the pub seems to have been very uninviting and lacking in comfort but I suppose everything is relative. People did not have such comfortable homes and if you had been out in a cold wet field all morning no doubt coming into a bar which had a single oil stove that just about took off the chill, and downing a pint at lunchtime was comparatively pleasant. In the very early days the seats were mainly benches, mostly merely wooden planks attached to the walls in all three rooms: The bar, taproom and clubroom.
The worst thing about the pub for us was the sheer drudgery of keeping it clean. This task obviously fell mostly on my mothers although we did have some help from time to time. In the winter there were usually two fires in the public part as well as the kitchen fire which of course all had to be leaned out and which consumed an enormous amount of coal and wood. The public fires were rarely lit until the evenings during the week but the oil stoves were often used and these had to be refilled. The floors were all of rough bar board and in the public bar it stayed that way for many years because I remember even as a teenager on hands and knees scrubbing this floor with hard Sunlight soap, sometimes having to go over each patch two or three times to get it clean from all the muddy boots. Dad had worked at the REME during the war and when it was closed down managed to buy some very heavy-duty brown linoleum which was laid in the clubroom (the room at the back which at that time had no bar in it) and I believe also in the taproom (the taproom is now the entrance and toilet area but for many years the door on the corner was never used.). Nevertheless all the tables remained, as indeed was the bar counter, of polished wood which had to be wiped clean and then polished every day. I remember in about 1950 or 1951 Harold Bond, home on leave with a friend, would come into the pub in the early evening probably prior to going "to town". I was a barmaid, in my pleated gymslip, and of course enjoyed the repartee and even a game of darts with these two sophisticated and debonair young sailors. I fell madly in love with the friend and the day after they left to go back to sea I remember the tears of despair which fell into the wax polish as I tried to do the tables and my mother Nell, telling me not to be "so childishly silly"(or maybe childishly wasn't the word she used). There were of course times during the war when we were very busy indeed with the soldiers billeted round about, the Americans from Mildenhall and Lakenheath who sometimes found their ways as far as Moulton and the evacuees. I think this period must have brought a number of women into the pub but mostly the evacuees and girlfriends of the soldiers.
I do not think there were very many village wives for example. It was probably just as well for the toilet facilities were horrendous. there was a very basic urinal outside just across from the clubroom door and a "privy" in the far corner of the yard which I believe was also intended only for men. There was a "Sentry Box" in the garden but completely on the opposite side of the house to all the public rooms, so presumably had been the private facility before the indoor toilet upstairs was introduced. I only ever remember this being used for garden tools but the necessary interior woodwork was still there. Despite the war these were happy times with so much camaraderie and fun. Many were the nights I lay in bed listening to the singing from the clubroom below. Sometimes there was piano accompaniment: sometimes even a piano accordion played by one of the customers. I had what I considered my special American who used to bring me Baby Ruth bars as well as the "gum chum". Chocolate and sweets were much appreciated and as with so many things we now take for granted, treated as luxuries as they were in such short supply. There was a period during which the pub actually closed every week by about Monday simply because the delivery on Friday had run out. I cannot remember how long this state of affairs lasted but I particularly recall the tin of Smith's Crisps. We only received one each week for a while: it held 18 packets and everyone clamoured for them. The aforementioned club room was just that. I think originally it had been the meeting place of the Royal Order of Foresters for there wa a somewhat impressive document in quite a large frame hanging on the wall. I believe Frank Clarke was a leading member. This prompts me to remember that his wife Annie used to be the post lady and said that on a fine day with the wind in the right direction she could bear Dad's singing as he swept out when she was "right up the Gazeley road". But to revert to the clubs, in later years the football club committee also met in the pub and there were football club held in this room. In earlier years dinners called "harvest horkeys" took place there. I have not been able to find this word in a dictionary but I always understood it to mean harvest supper, or dinner given to the employees by the farmers when the harvest was over. I do not remember these very well. In fact it may be that my memories lies more in my imagination of what I was told. I do remember we always had a large amount of heat-crazed blue and white dinner plates, lots of cutlery and white table linen. Some of the latter is still around today even if a little iron-stained and some only now in the form of serviettes. There were also of course darts teams, and darts matches were held with teams from other villagers. There were boards in both the clubroom and the taproom and before more sophisticated materials became available the boards were filled with black and red plasticine. It was my job whenever the boards became so riddled with holes that the darts fell out, to take a pointed knife and smooth over, harden and replace where ever necessary. Dominoes and shove ha'penny were also played, but although we had a very good draughts board this seemed to be seldom used. I think cribbage was the main card game. It was certainly Dad's favourite and if he couldn't go into the clubroom to play, the protagonists would stand either side of the bar counter near the cellar end.
The one wonderful thing about the clubroom to my mind was that it contained the Piece de Resistance of the whole pub. This was the fireplace which was in the form of a basket made up of large horseshoe shaped pieces of metal stuck horizontally into the wall under the chimney and about two feet above the floor.
It was literally a fire open top and bottom and the three other sides(or all round the horseshoe shape). Below, as necessity dictated, was a fender which was large in all respects. As well as throwing out enormous heat this fire also of course consumed huge amounts of fuel including extremely large logs. My very earliest memory is of Mr Bill Wright (from up the Gazeley Road - father to Bill, Jack, Ted, the late Olive and Betty) sitting with me on his knee in the very early evening and teaching me a rhyme: "my old woman is ninety nine and she can thread a needle, every time she drops a stitch, 'pop' goes the weasel".
The pop of course was not said but had to be achieved by thrusting the index finger out of your cheek. I think an awful lot of concentration went into that manoeuvre. On the subject of personalities a number of the customers were game keepers whose names appeared to match their profession: Mr Starling, Mr Grass, Mr Partridge and Mr Bird. For some reason I associate Mr Starling with the song Mademoiselle from Armetiers and a little bit of "parlez-vous" with John Trott, but I cannot imagine that either of them were in the first world war. John Trott used to call me Diney for some reason I never fathomed. But then he also called Vera James, Topsy. I digress: one event I must mention was the burglary. I was already at Grammar School so it must have been after 1948.
My mother Nell came down in the morning to find our fearsome wire-haired terrier Tim who barked at anyone and was not averse to hanging onto a trouser leg or two, soundly asleep in his basket and one of the windows of the clubroom open. The till had disappeared altogether and the intruders had sat in the clubroom eating my bananas (they were on ration and adults didn't get them) going through drawers and handbags . Cash was missing and maybe cigarettes but I believe not a lot else. The house was easy enough to break into, just a matter of slipping a knife onto the catch of the sash windows. The till was found in the outbuildings of Bridge Farm across the road, but the mystery of the silent dog was never solved, nor, as far as I know were the robbers ever apprehended. I suppose I should not finish without a mention of the dray which came from Greene King, the owners and brewers in Bury St Edmunds, every Friday. The draymen seemed like colossi to me and indeed they must have been quite beefy to handle the crates and barrels which were all then made of wood and metal. The huge barrels were rolled down the runners of the steps on ropes and heaved up onto their ledges in the cold of the cellars which in fact covered quite a large area, only half of which was used. The empty pard did come into its own once or twice in the war when there was a danger of bombs being dropped in the night, but I do not remember much about it and I guess a gamble and a warm bed was better than the cold and damp.
The crates of beer and minerals were literally thrown onto stacks and from one drayman to the other and I always expected there to be some breakage's but it seldom if ever happened. Needless to say the draymen always had a pint (or two) whilst the bookwork was done. I guess today the driver would have to be tea total. I left home in 1953 but of course often returned for holidays and sometimes my mother Nell and Dad were even able to have a night out when I was old enought to "hold the fort" though there was always a male customer, like Tony Jennings, at hand should I have need of anyone. The pub was otherwise a 365 day a year job for them. The only time we closed was Christmas Day evening. As you will see from the attached clipping from the Newmarket Journal the first alterations took place in 1961. My father died in 1963 and my mother and Mark left the pub a year later
©2000 John Gunson, Village Recorder
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