Margaret Soto-Olivo

Margaret has lived in Perth, Western Australia since 1974

“My parents, brother and sister came from London and my mother especially found the locals very closed when strangers came into town. I was born in Brandon in 1942 and my brother used to call me a Suffolk swede!

“Italian prisoners of war were billetted at the Silver Fox farm where we used to live. The DP’s or displaced persons [were] from Poland one of whom my sister married . The Nissan huts along the London Road that the Polish people used to live in were like palaces inside, we used to attend the Sunday mass in their Nissan hut church, the priest used to make the congregation cry with his sermons, he even let us girls go on the altar at certain times, which is not allowed at all in the catholic church. We used to throw rose petals in front of the priest at religious ceremonies. We even learnt some Polish words, could not spell them but at least we knew how to say hello and count to ten. There was a Polish canteen where they sold Polish foods and we used to go there to buy their specialities. Midnight mass we loved, traipsing over there in the snow. We met some lovely people, (Nina Witoch or Witock [Witosh?] used to to live in the Nissan huts with her lovely family and her mum often cook meals for my sister and myself. They were also lovely people, the Polish).

“We lived at Town Street Road, now known as Crown Street. I used to work at the Avenue (cinema) as an usherette from the ago of 13 to 17, as a part time job while I was still at grammar school in Bury St Edmunds. I earned 27/6 (one pound 7 shillings and sixpence) a week plus a free ticket to the movies which I could give to anyone. Ben Cooley owned the cinema and Jack Coutts was the manager. He always (Jack) wore a bow tie and a tuxedo. Once a year Ben Cooley would give all the children of the local area a free cinema ticket plus an orange maid or equivalent. On one occasion the show was Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” and the cinema being packed (we used to squeeze four littlies into the two seat “lovers’ seats” and two littlies into the normal one person seat, there must have been hundreds in there) really started to rock, all the little kids got up and started to dance, and the manager came in to see what on earth was going on and I said to him that there was no way that we could do anything to stop them,there were just too many of them for us and they were enjoying themselves so much. Honestly I can still see it to this day with Jack shaking his head and going back into the foyer.

“Wilfred Pickles came to Brandon once, my parents went, this was at the cinema, and of course it was on the radio. Everyone was very excited. Can’t remember who went on to the stage, but the theme tune was “have a go Joe” or something like that.

“My maiden name is Lingham, and St Margaret”s Drive was named after me, not the St bit of course. My father was Sidney Lingham and we traded under the name of S.Lingham Ltd. We built the houses at Peldon, the big estate next to it, and Saffron Close; the corner one at Town Street next to St Margaret’s Drive which field had previously belonged to the de Lotbinieres and was originally used as a football field from the generosity of old Looby as we called him. He used to have acres of land where he planted blackcurrants and as kids we used to pick them for money. Is Lode street that street in Town Street that goes up to the left, well his fields were up there and at the bottom of the street is where I came racing down the hill and was hit by a car, my sister Jill Poplawski told me to stop, but I was 8 and invincible, so I thought, or stupid. Anyway I was not really hurt. Anyway they sold the football field to my father and we built houses on it. I worked for my dad fulltime for 13 years and would have sold most of the houses on these estates. I was his right hand man. My brother Gerald was a carpenter and worked on the houses. We also built all of Woodlands Rise and Oaklands Drive and some down the Thetford Road, 2 storeys, we rented out 40 houses to the US service people. Wealso built houses in Weeting and various other Norfolk towns. By the way we paid 7000 pounds for the whole of Peldon, that was a lot of money then.

“People these days may think that the houses were small, but that was all people could afford or in fact needed. I remember that the one bedroom ones on the football field estate originally cost 1230 pounds, and that the ones at the beginning of Saffron close we sold for 4000 pounds, inflation was working rapidly, halfway through the estate we stopped selling and then put the price up the 8000 pounds, I remember because I did all the bookwork.Remembering also that replacement land was shooting up as there was never enough. We put in gas heating and the gas company got so confused and stuffed up their bookwork that they had to come down and I had to help them reconstruct what they had done through my bookwork.

“After school I had worked at Lloyds Bank in Thetford, but the pay was so poor, I started at 4 pounds, sixteen shillings and fourpence and 2 and a half years later I was still only earning 7 pounds. I was about to apply for a job at the bank on the US base at Lakenheath, when miraculously my father offered me a job for ten pounds a week and then put it up to 12 pounds. I think my mother got in there to make sure I did not end up marrying an American, or worse. Anyway after that our business really took off as Dad could concentrate on expanding the business while I did most of the selling. We used to work 7 days a week, advertising in a London paper “Are you thinking of retiring ? Then why not move to Brandon” for people who had valuable houses to move down to Brandon and buy a property for about a third or less. We had hundred of replies and I had to reply to all of them individually, we did not have a photocopier at that stage I used to meet them at Brandon railway station, take them to our house HQ at 7 Crown Street, show them house plans and then take them to various estates to show the different types of houses and seal the deal there and then.Dad was ferrying people at the same time. We used to drop them off at the Railway hotel for a meal and they would then take a train back to London. ”

Dee Rosco

When we moved to England in 1963, with the USAF, we stayed at the Brandon Park House until accommodation could be found for us. We eventually moved to a small thatched cottage called Weeting Cottage. Does that still exist? We were at Brandon house from Sept., 1963 until about December, 1963. We were definitely there on Nov. 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was shot. I was about 18 at the time, and my sister and I were dressing to go to the town disco for a dance. We explored all of the grounds and I clearly remember the mausoleum.

My husband and I lived in Brandon when we first married in 1964. I married at Mildenhall AFB We lived in a terraced house on George Street. We lived at #11, George St.. There was a factory next door, and the factory yard was always full of hides and skins of animals (What were they manufacturing?). Consequently, the house harbored HUGE spiders. The house had outdoor plumbing, that is, a flush toilet in a small house behind the scullery. There were hooks in the ceilings which I think might have been for lanterns.The house was owned by the Jeyes, who also operated the pub, the Flintknapper’s Arms, at the corner. We paid 10 pounds a week rent. We lived there from Oct, 1964 until we moved back to the US in March 1966. We were friends with Wendy Jeyes.