Pauline and Bill Crooks live at Rijay, Church Road, which was originally half of the old school that closed in approximately 1916. It was renovated in 1970; in the late fifties they both attended the youth club there not realising it would one day be their home. Bill is semi-retired and works for St. Edmundsbury Car Parks after having been made redundant twice; the first time after twenty five years
with Pye Telecommunications in Haverhill where he worked as an electronic test engineer, and after that from Cathodean Crystals in Linton when they closed down. Pauline is an instructional officer in the tailors’ workshop at Highpoint Prison, Stradishall. Their son Richard lives with them and works as a carer at Ickworth Lodge, Horringer. Jason, their younger son, is now married and lives at Stradishall with his wife Linda and their two children Josey and Jake. The family have lived at Rijay for twenty-eight years and apart from a short spell in Haverhill, Bill has been in Thurlow, both Great and Little, for all of his life. Pauline, the youngest of six children, moved to Gt. Thurlow as a schoolgirl with her parents, who both worked for the Estate. Bill’s parents and grandparents also have lived in the village.
Pauline’s early memories of 105 Crown Hill, Gt. Thurlow include having to cut one edge off the side of wallpaper rolls before hanging them (every roll had a half inch plain edge), her mother making rag rugs from sacking and clean strips of fabric to cover the cold red tiled floors, and her father and neighbours digging large holes in the garden on Sunday morning to empty the “bucket” in! She also remembers that at election time estate workers were requested to remove any political poster from the windows of their property that was not a Conservative one.
Bill spent a great deal of his childhood with his uncles and aunts in Gt. Thurlow, as his grandmother was Mrs. Gert Atherton who had 15 children. He remembers his grandmother giving them all thick fresh bread spread with margarine and sprinkled with sugar.
As youngsters they were both choir members and remember Grace Page, the Sunday School teacher, keeping records of attendance. Each member was paid 6d. per time, this money being donated by Mr. R. A. Vestey. At Christmas, in addition to the sum given, each member received a box of crystallised fruits, but unfortunately they do not remember anyone liking these!
Bill in his early teens joined the men of the village on Saturdays and would go “brushing”, as the locals call it. From October to February they would “brush” through the woods and fields in order for the guns to shoot the pheasants and other game in the air. At Christmas each man received a brace of pheasants.In 1960 the problem was not the lack of jobs but the fact that labour was short and school leavers were sought after by local employers. Pauline was interviewed for three jobs, and her dilemma was choosing which of the three to take! Indeed the meat factory at Lt. Wratting, along with other firms from Haverhill, ran transport from Newmarket and surrounding villages to encourage workers, and the local Haverhill Board of Trade met to discuss the problem of “poaching” employees! They both enjoy bird watching and gardening. Pauline likes all types of handicraft and art, and in fact she teaches the inmates of Highpoint how to make soft toys one evening a week. She is a keen member of Thurlow W. I. Bill enjoys bowls and is a bell ringer.
Richard’s hobby is making home video movies, which has won him acclaim, and in 1985 he appeared on the B.B.C. programme Video Active for ten minutes the crew having filmed him for three days!
They say the loss of allotments in the village has benefited them as they now have one as part of their garden. Other losses are Hales Shop, Sadler’s Post Office, the builders and undertakers and numerous roundsmen. Pauline remembers the men’s outfitters who sold on a buy-now, pay-later scheme, visiting their customers in their own homes. Bill remembers the blacksmiths on the corner, where the bus shelter now is.
One of their first memories of moving back to Thurlow was observing old Will Smith of Locks Cottage cutting local men’s hair. In the summer this was done outside. Beer was supplied to the customers and they would all arrive to chat while they waited. On one such occasion they heard someone say to a new arrival, “It ends up lookin like a puddin basin, but that there beer is good and the money goes to the Church.”