Memories of the Evening News from 1940s: RETRO

Although 18 months before Brian Wild  joined the dispatch department, this is what the Evening News of 1947 looked like when he joined.
Although 18 months before Brian Wild joined the dispatch department, this is what the Evening News of 1947 looked like when he joined.
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My recent photographs of the Evening News office in Stanhope Road sparked a memory from Brian Wild. His first job on leaving school in 1949 was in the dispatch office.

The first papers came off the presses about 11am with all the day’s horse racing information. If he remembers rightly the last editions came off the press in the late afternoon with a Late Final which included the results of all those races.

The Evening News offices in Stanhope Road, Landport, Portsmouth.

The Evening News offices in Stanhope Road, Landport, Portsmouth.

His job was to help wrap the labelled bundles ready for distribution as far as Chichester, Bognor Regis, Petersfield and Liphook.

Brian says: ‘Another job was to load up a barrow and haul it to the Town station and throw all the bundles into the guard’s van.

‘Many a time the guard was blowing his whistle to depart while I was still throwing in the bundles. Although Commercial Road was not so busy back then it still took some crossing with a loaded barrow and there were more buses about in those days.

‘Another  of my jobs was to deliver the Hampshire Telegraph to Gosport on a Wednesday.

‘I loaded a carrier bike and then took off to the Harbour station to catch the Gosport ferry. I would stand on the foredeck holding my bike and sometimes it got a bit rough and I received a soaking but I never failed to deliver. The trip back was always easier.

‘My week’s pay was 12 shillings (60p) a week. Thinking back, I was somewhat underpaid.’

• My stories about the woman who lived in the grounds of Leigh Park Gardens has attracted much interest from readers.

Sheila Collins, of Portchester, tells me her friend kept a pony at stables in the grounds and they used to visit the woman who was called Mrs Bilkey. She only had paraffin lamps for lighting and Sheila has no idea what she cooked on. Sheila’s father lived in Bedhampton from 1920 and he knew Mrs Bilkey from when he was a boy.

Carole Kingston, of Leigh Park, tells me Mrs Bilkey’s Christian name was Alice and she had worked in the big house. Her husband had been groom/chauffeur.

Carole’s family knew the Bilkeys as her father was the secretary to Leigh Park Allotment Society whose summer shows were held in Riders Lane School hall and later in the community centre.

Mrs Bilkey sponsored  a trophy and later visited Carole’s home in Soberton Road, Leigh Park.

In the early 1960s she always turned up in time for Coronation Street and all the children had to remain quiet for the show. As her father did not drive Mrs Bilkey then had to walk all the way home. She must have been in her eighties and was a lady of faded grandeur who was never seen without a hat.

•  My mention last week of half-day closing was seen by George Barrett who tells me Portsmouth people were probably the first in the country to agitate for early closing. That was not at 1pm though. 

George tells me in William Gates’s City of Portsmouth Corporation Records 1837-1927 that a meeting was held in October 1843 for the curtailing of business in the borough. 

It was recommended that closing time should be 9pm from Lady Day to Michaelmas, and 8pm from Michaelmas to Lady Day, except on Saturdays when the hour was fixed at 10pm throughout the year. The discontinuance of all Sunday trading was also recommended. From 1846 closing times would be 8pm.

In 1897 a Mr Couzens was mainly instrumental in instituting a general closing of shops at 5pm on Wednesdays.

George finished by saying: ‘I don't know when Sunday trading was prohibited, or when half-day closing became law, but I do know that many shop workers and their families lives have suffered since restrictions were lifted.

• My reference to Pete Cross’s new book about the Tricorn Club brought a memory from Pete Beddoe.

He asks if anyone can remember an infamous hen night. It appears it ended in a riot and made the papers.

I asked Pete about it and he said it was the national dailies that blew the story out of all proportion.

He says: ‘There was indeed a hen night when one of the staff did a mock striptease and was pushed into the crowd. That was all there was to it. The next day the Daily Mirror and the Sun reported a ‘hen night fracas’ and it was even reported on Radio Luxembourg.’

To read the full story you will have to wait for Pete’s book A Nobody With Dreams – The Tricorn Club Story.

• Thanks to everyone who dropped me a line to tell me the house I asked about is 13, Langstone Road, Havant. John Cronin even looked at the house to purchase some 20 years ago and says it remained the same inside as the day it was built.