Life growing up as a boy in WWII
by Percy Walton
Some of you may remember me as the General Village Odd Job Man and Gardener as well as the Village Postman for 35 years but most of you will be far too young to remember Percy Walton.
I was born Percy Edward Walton at 46 Main Road up by Slate Drift in 1923. Yes, I'm still going strong after 94 years but I now live at Priory Court Care Home – just by Morrisons in Stamford. My father Albion and mother Charlotte already had two daughters, Florence and Gladys when I appeared on the scene.
My father was unsurprisingly a slater and had one very interesting job of note. He set sail with Arthur Osbourne, another slater, on the S.S. Teutonic from Liverpool to New York in 1905. They helped build the magnificent Westbury House in New York. I'll leave you computer whizzes to Google that one. What an adventure that must have been and when they returned to the village a few years later they had enough money to build a pair of houses (where I was born) and then my father Albion married Charlotte from Edith Weston in 1909.
I was to live in Collyweston nearly all my life. I'm from a generation who did not voluntarily travel too far from their roots. I left the local school at 14 and my first job was to work for W H Smith Newsagent at Stamford Station. Having delivered one bag full to Burghley House and Barnack Road, I rushed back for another one and pedaled off to Tinwell and Ketton. I then worked as an errand boy for T & J Eyres. This was the original home delivery service but without computers. You collected the orders from the customers, filled the order and then delivered their groceries later.
I was 16 when World War Two began and I went to work as a tea boy at Wittering Aerodrome. I then progressed to storeman at the NAAFI. We had a close call one day when a bomb landed on the Officer's Mess right next to the NAAFI grocery store. I moved to Westwood Aerodrome in Peterborough followed by Chipping Warden near Banbury and finally Snailwell Airfield near Newmarket where my NAAFI career came to an end in 1943. I'll perhaps talk of my War Years and my recent visit to Normandy at another time.
After the War I tried factory work in Stamford but it was not for me and, in 1948 after a chat with Pat Fahie the Postmaster and shopkeeper at Easton, I became the Stamford Road and Collyweston postman for the next 35 years. In those days you also collected post from people. I had to carry stamps and scales as well. I wonder how many miles I did on that post bike? The post work was only 4 hours a day so I did all sorts of other work to make up. I made mangle rollers (you youngsters will probably have to Google that too), police truncheons (not very PC these days – I'll leave you to work that one out), croquet sets, farming, gardening, rent collecting, odd jobs, removals and haulage. I was even Collyweston's sub postmaster for a couple of years.
The Post Office converted my garage at Main Road and I opened 12noon to 6pm each day. I shared Steward's House at the bottom of the High Street with my old friend Jim Goodes for a number of years and then I moved to Easton on the Hill. My lifetime friend, Mabel Hodgett and I were regular winners of the Best Garden Competition.
Mabel and I moved back to Collyweston in 1992 and happily lived at Woodfields until first Mabel in 2012 and then me in 2014 moved to the care home after becoming a little unsteady on our feet and needing extra help.
Sadly we lost Mabel just over a year ago. Now I know some Care Homes get a bad Press and deservedly so but there are many, many very caring places out there with excellent staff. Priory Court is superb and the carers are very kind and professional. Older people are bound to be anxious. It is a massive change but one I'm happy to recommend if you need that extra help.
I love receiving Collyweston News each month and catching up with local news. I thank those who produce it, print it and support it by advertising. If you know me and are ever passing Priory Court Care Home why not drop in for a chat. I am very fortunate that the memory's very good and I always enjoy a good chat.
Best Wishes to you all. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2018 is a Happy Year for you all. Perhaps I'll be back soon with the story of my visit to Normandy 73 years after my first visit – no passport required then.