Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Memories of the American troops

AS mentioned in this column before, Lyme Regis is pulling out all the stops to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

In fact, of all the Dorset towns, Lyme will be leading the way in honouring those  who never made it past those Normandy beaches in the liberation of Europe, with the focus on the American soldiers who were billeted in the town before the big day.

A report in this newspaper of the commemoration plans over the weekend of June 6th/7th/8th has stirred the memory of our senior citizens who were children when the Americans arrived in town. One such person is Pam Kaxe (nee Hallett) whose father Rex lost his life in Italy during the war.

Pam was 12 years old when the American troops were stationed in Lyme in the build up to the greatest invasion ever staged and has many happy memories of the kindness shown to local children by the American GIs.

Many of the American soldiers were billeted in tents on the fields where Anning Road is now built. 

Twice a week after coming out of St Michael’s School the pupils would dash to the fields where the troops were cooking ring doughnuts. With strict food rationing in place, this was a rare treat for the Lyme youngsters who had never tasted doughnuts before.

“They were lovely,” says Pam.

Pam also has fond memories of the Christmas party the GIs organised for the kids, held in the Church Hall.  The hall was decorated for the occasion and each child received a present as well as a traditionally Christmas dinner served on metal plates and including a fresh peach (another rare treat) placed alongside the turkey and stuffing.

When they heard that the troops were about to leave town, Pam and some of her friends, including Janet Sweetland and Joan Bird, put on a variety show  up at the copse at Timber Hill where the troops constructed a stage for them out of pallets.

The next day they were gone so their last memory of England for many of those brave men will be an act of kindess by the children of Lyme Regis.

If any of our senior citizens who have similar memories of the Americans’ stay in Lyme, we would be pleased to hear from you and record them in this column.

Mike Hartley - ‘simply the best’ greengrocer and family man

IT was an appropriate and fitting touch that at last Friday’ s memorial service the coffin of former mayor Mike Hartley was adorned with boxes of organic vegetables.

Mike will be best remembered for running his fruit and veg shop in Broad Street for many years where he made many friends and carried out numerous kindly deeds for his customers.

Before moving to Lyme, Mike worked in publishing in South Africa and London. On moving to Lyme he and wife Lin took over Sturch’s and introduced Lyme to a variety of what seemed like exoxtic fruit and veg, the likes of which had not graced the dinner tables of Lyme hitherto.

Always keen to introduce new varieties, Mike was rightly proud of his shop and built a business which is still greatly missed.

I first got to know Mike as a Round Tabler, always good company and keen to get involved. He went on to join the Rotary Club, serving a term as president and also won a seat on the town council, being elevated to mayor from 1989-1991.  He was a popular First Citizen and an excellent council chairman, giving a great deal of support to a number of organisations, especially the majorettes and pantomime society.  He was also a leading light in the chamber of trade.

With Mike suffering from advanved dementia, life was very dificult for Lin and their children, Alan and Jo, in the last couple of years. But Jo gave a touching tribute in church, recalling  the many happy family occasions and describing her dad as “simply the best”.
I can think of no better description.

Guildhall Gossip

MAYOR Sally Holman is keen to improve the council’s image after all the in-fighting of the past year.

So I am pleased to note she has dropped one traditon from next week’s ancient mayor-making ceremony - the toast to the press.

The relationship between the council and the press (at least with the View From) is at an all-time low, mainly because of the stance taken by this column over the behaviour of certain councillors.

It would be unfair to include the Lyme Regis News in this, although we have always managed to get Mark Gage’s designation correct and not referred to him as “vice-chairman of the parish council” as happened recently.

None of the councillors really want to be seen toasting the press and we certainly don’t want to reply. It would be hypocritical on both sides to do so.

It’s not the role of the press to be pally with our elected representatives. We’re here to hold them to account - and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

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