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A Bicycle Made for Two

by 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

Contributed by 
2nd Air Division Memorial Library
People in story: 
Joan Olive Pye
Location of story: 
Norwich, Norfolk
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3663218
Contributed on: 
14 February 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Jenny Christian of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library in conjunction with BBC Radio Norfolk on behalf of Joan Olive Pye and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I met my sweetheart and future husband Charles in 1938. I was aged 18 and remember I was shopping for a new outfit in Norwich, something for Sunday best. As a consequence of taking too long I missed my date with Les. So with my tail between my legs I went home and took the dog for a walk, she was a labrador called Judy. I never saw Les again, but the next time I went to the cinema a young man caught my eye that I knew by sight, so I said "Hello Bob" – at that time even he didn't know that his second name was Robert, but that was the name I knew him by.
We courted for 6 years, although Charles was called up for a medical to go into the Forces he was in a reserved occupation and worked at Mann Egerton, where he remained for 63 years. As a young couple stepping out together there wasn't a lot to do, nothing like there is for young people these days! Both Charles and I were working, so at weekends we used to bicycle to the beach on our tandem, we still have the bicycle to this day. On one occasion we even cycled as far as Leicester. As it was war time there were no signposts so we often used to take wrong turnings; we'd take a picnic but because of rationing it was very basic, fruit was not available so a tin of pineapple was a real treat. My sister was engaged to an American who came from Texas and was in the 8th Army. His name was Howard Craft and we often wondered what became of him, because when he returned to America, my Mother hid his letters to my sister, so they never got married. These letters weren't found until our Mother died in 1976.
I spent a whole year planning my wedding knowing that things would be difficult to get hold as it was wartime and I wanted our special day to be so special. First I advertised for dresses for my bridesmaids, I was lucky and got two although they did need some alterations.
My wedding dress was borrowed, lent to me by a cousin of Charles. This can't have been an easy decision for her because at the time her husband was a POW in Singapore and on the morning of my big day there was light rain so she was very much in two minds as to whether to let me wear the dress. Fortunately someone persuaded her and it stopped raining so I was very lucky.
On our wedding day of July 21st 1945 in Norwich even the best man was borrowed! All Charles's friends were either at home or abroad fighting the War so he persuaded a work colleague of his from Mann Egertons to stand in as best man. The wedding reception took place for about 60 guests in the Church Hall. Because of rationing the food was very simple; we had salt beef salad followed by cake, but it was no ordinary cake, having been made by my relation, Norman Winterbourne, who was the baker at Hethersett. We only had two wedding photographs, that was all you were allowed and of course they were black and white, but we have managed to have them tinted so at least it is possible now to identify the wonderful flowers in the bouquets and to see vividly the decoration on my head is the white dove of peace.
Charles and I went on our honeymoon to Blackpool, where we stayed with the relation of an aunt, we didn't do anything particularly exciting as I recall. My parent's house was the place we called home for the first year of our married lives; quite surprisingly we all got on very well, even considering my mother had never wanted me to marry Charles because his mother went out to work! We had the room over the kitchen; it was a lovely room, south facing and beautifully warm. It had originally been used for breeding canaries.
After a year we moved out into a house in Lothian Street, there was no electricity and it was in a dreadful state. We had to start from scratch with everything, I had one tin saucepan and a dustpan which someone made for me and I remember queuing for four hours in Orford Place for 4 rolls of wallpaper (the maximum allowance), when I got to the top of the queue there was no wallpaper left! The only furniture we had was utility furniture (Government issue) and all the flooring was coconut matting with the exception of the one piece of carpet we were permitted, which I decided to have on the stairs. My mother gave us some items, but because her house had been so badly damaged in the air raids she hadn't many spare things. In 1946 we got our first set of china. It was plain white, very unexciting, but at that time all that was available, because at the end of the War better prices could be obtained for patterned china abroad.
We lived in our house in Lothian Street, Norwich until 1976 and were very sad to leave as it had a lifetime of memories. Charles never learnt to drive and we never had a car, but this didn't prevent us from travelling to many different countries. We loved our dancing and in 1963 won a Gold Medal for ballroom dancing. I belong to a Swimming Club for the disabled and Charles is a bingo caller for a local Pensioners Club in Norwich. We think we are very fortunate in both having led such full and happy lives and having found each other all those years ago.

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