June preserves village memories in a book

June Crawford and the interesting facts and stories that have been turned into a book. Photo: S110811-148TW To order, please ring 01775 765433.
June Crawford and the interesting facts and stories that have been turned into a book. Photo: S110811-148TW To order, please ring 01775 765433.
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AS SOUTH Holland farmers tackle this year’s harvest, one woman has been recalling the days when her father had to rise at 5am to prepare 28 horses to bring in the corn.

June Crawford (76), of Holbeach, has remarkable memories of the district going back as far as the war when she was a young girl and her father would go out – armed with a pitchfork – to defend the marsh against German invasion.

He and his neighbours would patrol the Holbeach Hurn area in two-hour shifts, in time progressing to proper weaponry when one man would carry the gun... and someone else would look after the ammunition.

After a few years, the family moved to Whaplode and it is here that June built a life-time of memories, interesting facts and stories that she has been persuaded to preserve by putting them into a book.

That book – Whaplode, Interesting Facts & Stories – is on sale for £8 throughout the Flower Festival at St Mary’s Church at Whaplode from Friday, August 26 to Tuesday August 30 (10am to 6pm, with normal Sunday services, and finishing on Tuesday at 1pm, with a hog roast ticket-only event planned for that evening).

June’s memories are fascinating, and include a time when Whaplode, like most villages, was a busy, thriving place, with four shops (trade for one of which was conducted at somebody’s back door), four pubs and a junior school with toilets down the yard – June says in those days nobody knew any better. During the war Whaplode, like most villages, had a ‘fire station’, or stirrup pump and buckets and a barrow or two, looked after by the air raid wardens. There was also a blacksmith, cobbler, bakery, milk available from the village farmer, a train station, a police house, chapel and church.

June says: “There wasn’t anything we hadn’t got so when the snow came in 1947 it was all there. The snow lasted for a few weeks and in most places it was four feet deep with drifts of eight to nine feet. The farmers cleared the roads with horses and ploughs and the lanes were dug by people who cleared from their gate to their neighbour’s gate, and that was wide enough for the baker’s hand cart and the prams to get through.”

June was involved in village life from early on, becoming a Sunday School teacher at 12-and-a-half and involved in one capacity or another for 50 years.

June remembers in the ’50s that 150 children attended Sunday School and a further 50 or 60 went to chapel, and adds: “There were only two families in Whaplode that didn’t go to church or chapel.”

June was also involved with the cub scouts for well over 50 years, helping out at Holbeach when she was very young and transferring to Whaplode where she acted as assistant leader and leader. June was also district cub master, assistant district commissioner and finally commissioner for Holbeach District, a post she held for 18 years until retiring in 1996.

When she started work at the normal age for then of 15, June wanted to train as a foster mother at a home in Holbeach, saying: “Children really do make life.” Discovering she had to be 16 to train, June joined Woolworth’s at Spalding and liked it so much she spent 19 years there and then a further 26 years at the Peterborough store, working first as a sales assistant (for £1-17s-6d) but ending up as supervisor.

June’s book, an A4 folder containing 54 pages in plastic sleeves, contains some wonderful memories that might otherwise be lost for ever. It was produced with the help of Cyril Hearn, who proofread the text, Geoffrey George who helped print it, and Melanie Teubes who assisted with the cover. Profits from sales of the book will go to Whaplode church.