CORONATION MEMORIES of 1953 from Janet Holloway nee Crane

With the interest in the 60th Anniversary of the Coronation of our Queen, I thought the village might be interested to hear of my recollections of 1953. My name is Janet Holloway nee Crane. I was born in 1937 and spent my childhood in Ashwellthorpe until leaving school and home at the age of 16 years in 1953.

Last September I visited the village and spoke to a lady there who mentioned the village website where I have been able to read all about the village and also noticed historical articles would be welcome. I have started to write all about the war time experiences of my family and the house in which we lived, and will send that eventually, but in the meantime, shall just write about 1953.

My parents Arthur and Olive Crane, my three brothers Patrick, Peter, Richard and I, lived with my grandparents Mr and Mrs Gibbons who owned the original house and orchard next to Clarke’s farm. This property was developed later and there are now two sets of terraced houses either side of an extended detached house. The detached house was built for my parents Arthur and Olive Crane in 1952/3 in one half of the orchard. I shall not dwell on this now but just so you can place us in the village.

In the Spring of 1953, Wymondham Town Council decided to celebrate the Coronation with a Carnival Queen and various events spread over one week. Brother Patrick played football for Wymondham Minors and because I was a keen supporter of that team the boys decided, without my knowledge, to enter my name in the Carnival Queen Competition.

The local cinema in Wymondham was packed for the occasion. A number of local girls were entered in the contest, although I don’t recall exactly how many there were. Prior to the showing of the film “Buttons and Bows” we were asked to walk out across the stage one by one and then line up together in front of the judges once they had made their choice.

I wore a lovely pale pink dress typically fifties style, with a fitting bodice and short full skirt, and a pair of black high-heeled sandals lent me by a friend for the evening as I did not possess any suitable shoes. They were the first high heels I had ever worn and i felt so grown up in them. I was very pleased I managed to cross the stage without tripping up and even dared curtsey low to the judges.

I was so thrilled to be picked, and with Christine Walker, a fellow pupil at The Notre Dame High School in Norwich, and Doris Bell as my attendants, we settled down with the judges to watch the film. I was aware there was some disappointment that a Wymondham girl was not chosen.

During the next few weeks it was arranged or us to visit the stores in Wymondham to choose the material for our dresses and our shoes which had been donated, and to the lady who made the dresses for us. Mine was made of white taffeta with a little bolero trimmed with sequins, and we all wore long lace mittens and silver sandals.

I don’t remember much of the carnival procession except driving in the car and waving to the crowds on the way to the Fairland. To my consternation, shortly before my arrival I was informed I would have to speak to those assembled there. I really didn’t know what I was supposed to say and at the last minute the councillor in charge of us scribbled a few words on a slip of paper. I was so grateful for this and standing in front of the mic read the words written for me, but was horrified to hear one in the crowd pronounce in a loud voice that I had read it from a piece of paper.

One of my duties was to present the prizes at the athletic sports event at King’s Head Meadow and I recall visiting older members of the community at a lunch in the WI Hall and being presented with a diamante bracelet from the Council. It was a wonderful experience and a treasured memory.

I had attended the Peggy Carr School of Dancing in Norwich, for many years studying mainly ballet and passed my final teacher’s exam in ballet that Spring. Within a few weeks I had left school and by chance, just a few days later, was called on to take part at very short notice in a touring variety show at Norwich Hippodrome. Thus began my career on the stage and for a few years danced in many shows across the country and also in Spain and Paris at The Moulin Rouge. I had met my husband during a summer show in Bournemouth and that’s where I settled down and live to this day.

Janet Holloway nee Crane formerly of Ashwellthorpe

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