Noreen and Vernon Kemp
Date of Interview: 4th Feb 2005
Place: Balmain, Sydney, Australia
Interviewer: Kevin Murray
Transcription: Catherine Sapir, Feb 2005
Vernon: In Exmouth Gulf yes it was a staging post but Iíd only been there about six weeks when the Japanese war collapsed for which we were all very thankful. It was an interesting experience being up there, an aeroplane came up from Perth once a week and on the odd occasion when it didnít come up and bring us supplies well we had to go without so we had a system for catching fish with a net and we would shoot a kangaroo and so thatís our we used toÖÖ..and we had a very good bore for cold water and that was wonderful, so it was an interesting experience being there and when the Japanese thing collapsed we all went down to Perth to the Australian air base there and then moved on to Adelaide and I was there for a few months. There was nothing to do because the war was over and so I used to go into town an awful lot and got to know people and got to know Adelaide very well and really enjoyed my stay there. From Adelaide I moved to Sydney.
Noreen: Donít forget to tell them about the parcels you sent home. The lovely material and things you sent me as well as food.
Vernon: Oh well, yes, there werenít the shortages here that there were at home and so every now and again Iíd pack up a parcel and send it home and in fact one or two of the people that I got to know, including a very nice family in Adelaide, used to send parcels home even when I got back to England and they were very welcome because shortages were getting severe.
So was this mainly food?
Vernon: Oh yes, food parcels, yes. Tins of stuff you see. They used to send butter which didnít seem to travel very well. I donít know why.
Noreen: It was in tins, it was too hot for it I expect.
Vernon: It came in tins and I suppose coming through the tropics, a slow journey, it didnít travel very well. But anyway they were very welcome the parcels.
From Adelaide I was transferred to Sydney. Theyíd nowhere to put us so we were in tents on Camden airfield with nothing to do again so we used to travel by bus, use our own buses into Campbelltown and then catch a steam train to Central. So I got to know Sydney quite well. The trams were running of course in those days. I got to know some people at a Church in the city called Christchurch St Lawrence. I used to go there a lot and get to know all the gang.
Could I ask why did they leave you in Australia if the war had ended? What was your role?
Vernon: Nothing. It was just a matter of getting us home in due course. Eventually they got us home Ė we went by train down to Melbourne. I had to change trains at Albury Ė different gauge in those days Ė and down to Melbourne and they put us on a New Zealand refrigerator ship that was going from Melbourne to Tilbury in London. It took us six weeksí ride on this ship, it wasnít a very fast ship you see being a refrigerator ship. Did 16 knots with only one stop and that was at Sri Lanka, Columbo, that it. That was the only stop and then straight through to Tilbury Ė a six weeksí ride. And then up to Liverpool to get rid of all our gear and get civilian clothes and then home again. So it was nice to be home.
Vernon: Yes, while I was in Adelaide, you carry on.
Noreen: Righto. Well we said a sad farewell at a little tiny Scottish station, I canít remember what it was called, can you?
Vernon: White Cliffs
Noreen: White Cliffs was it? A little station, thatís where we said goodbye. Well of course I was devastated with Vee getting sent so far away and soon I had to leave Scotland. My father came up and took me home and we went back down on the train and so I stayed at Framingham-Earl with my mother and father and sister and I was eagerly awaited Veeís letters telling me all these exciting things he was doing. But I was busy too in my own quiet way. I was busy knitting and sewing things for the baby that was coming and of course we lived in the country and it was very pleasant there, lovely woods and a lovely garden and so I was quite happy. And of course I was back to the Maddermarket. I was able to go to the play every month and I thought I was very clever because I never missed a play. I went to this one just about a week before Judith was born so I didnít miss any Maddermarket plays, so I was very pleased with that.
Well Judith Veronica Mary arrived on a very foggy November day on the 22nd November 1945. She was absolutely beautiful of course and I was in a nursing home, those days you were in for a fortnight so she was looked after. When I got home she just slept and ate, she was a wonderful baby. Iíve got a picture of her here taken in our garden at two months and in those days you had those great big prams. I used to love walking her through the country lanes and when she got to sit up in the big pram. But when she was tiny, things were so different in those days, the way children were brought up you see, I never put a hat on. My baby books, which I had to go by the baby books of course, said oh you donít need hats. So she never had a hat on even taking her out on frosty days and people would say good gracious she should have a bonnet on and I would say she is perfectly alright sheís laid down. She seemed to survive alright. Anyway Iíve got another picture of her. This was at four months old. That was one, I sent both those to Vernon Ė he was in Adelaide when I sent him the good news. Neither of those pictures I thought did her justice Ė she looked fat but she wasnít Ė she was a dainty little thing really and I couldnít really... she was nice enough but anyway Vee eventually came home and you can imagine the excitement. I had a telegram saying he was arriving at Norwich Thorpe station. Iíve still got that telegram. You know Iíve still got it, I found it when I was looking through my things for this and Iíve still got that telegram. And so of course I was so thrilled when Vee came home, Iíd been longing for him to see baby Judith and when he arrived she was sat up in her high chair flicking through a motor book, she was always keen on books and she would flick through books, and Vee was amazed to see that she was looking at this motoring book. And another favourite of hers was a book of Pliny's letters she liked going through Pliny's letters. She wasnít very good at smiling, she was a very serious baby. She wouldnít smile to have her photograph taken, ever, but when Vee came home she took to Vee at once and Iíve got a photo of just him with her and sheís smiling away. I donít know where that photo is but thatís the three of us, she smiled for him.
Noreen: Youíve got a picture of the flats, havenít you?
Vernon: So we were there for some time. It was quite a big house and so it was able to be converted quite well into 8 flats with a large lounge, a very nice kitchen, a bathroom, two bedrooms, it was really rather nice and in factÖ..
Noreen: Oh, here it is, Iíd got it.
Vernon: Iíve got one too.
Noreen: Oh, weíve got two.
Vernon: And not long ago the block was sold and fetched quite tremendous prices, as things do, because it is rather pleasant and in the nice part of town, close to the city, so we were very fortunate in that respect but of course being a rented property, I think we paid all of six pounds a month and we also paid an extra 2/6 in order to have a refrigerator.
Noreen: Oh we were so excited.
Vernon: So excited. The office managed to buy a number of refrigerators and so we were offered one at 2/6 to have this fridge and we thought it the height of luxury. Thatís how it was.
Was it one of those...
Vernon: Itís what you call here a bar fridge. Quite small really and I fancy rather heavy on electricity. Anyway it was a refrigerator, thatís all that mattered. And we were looking for a house of our own and came across a development of smallish houses in a close, still quite close to the city and nearby, it was called Westgate Close. These eight houses were being built and we had one of them and so we were able to have little alterations done according to our taste and when it was finished the firm went bankrupt and the thing is that they wanted to be paid but theyíd missed out a lot of the extras that weíd asked to have put in and then the house was valued you see. We had got a loan from the office on it at would you believe 3% so somebody from the office came around and valued it, the Estates Dept. came around and valued it and said oh yes youíve got a jolly good bargain there, itís worth a lot more than what you are paying for it and then a week or two later they came back and said oh youíve got a garage have you and we had a big brick built garage and he said I didnít take that into account. That adds even more to the value of the property, so we did rather well out of that house and it was a very pleasant house Ė we liked it. Not a big house, but nice.
Noreen: Can I go back? We havenít done the flat yet. I havenít done the flats.
Vernon: Oh well, if you want to do the flats.
Noreen: Well what we did there, youíve described it.
Vernon: Youíve got to be quick. Weíre running out of time
Was that why you called her Angela?
Noreen: No we decided on that. It was just pure chance really and when Judith saw her at first she said oh sheís all silver because she was all in white you see and so they took to each other at once. Our Judith loved her.
Vernon: Have you got a picture of Westgate Close?
Noreen: I expect I have that. Anyway unfortunately my father never saw her because he died in the April, no in the January and she was born in the September, but he would have loved another little girl because he liked little girls. Anyway, as our friends gradually moved to houses, we formed the habit of a dinner party once a month at different times at each different houses.
We were in different houses then. Weíd moved to Westgate Close and this was just for the ladies. We left the men at home babysitting minding the children and so once a month we had this meeting and we did that for years and years and years in fact until we came to Australia. And now sadly thereís only two out of the five of us left. My friend Marjorie, whoís still in Norwich, and me.
In 1952 my sister Margaret married Kenneth Vine who was the warden with me and Judith and Angela were bridesmaids. I had a lovely picture and Iíve lost it. I canít find it. Anyway this is a picture of Judith and Angela in the flatís garden. I think Iíve mentioned my friend Marie. We met at school and we got married at the same time. We had our first babies at the same time and this is a picture of us with Marie has Michael and Anne and I have Judith and Angela. Thatís Judith and Angela in the lovely flat garden. There was a lovely sand pit they played in. Oh can I give you Margaretís wedding look. My father wasnít alive then so couldnít give her away but my mother is there.
Thatís a nice looking photo.
Noreen: Yes, thatís lovely isnít it?
Vernon: Yes we always liked that one.
With the dolls. And what was this one?
Thatís my sisterís wedding. 1952. Margaretís wedding to Kenneth Vine.
Noreen: So then 1952 we moved to Westgate Close and I think youíve started to describe it havenít you. Thatís your bit there.
Vernon: Yes Westgate Close was a new house and so we had the fun of planning the garden. We were rather pleased with our garden. It wasnít a big one but one of the things I became interested in was alpine plants and tended to specialise in them so we designed the garden in such a way that we could grow lots of alpines. We had rockeries and things like that and also I acquired a greenhouse which was suitable for growing alpine plants in and that was one of our specialities at Westgate Close. It was a pleasant little house, weíve got a picture of it somewhere.
Noreen: Yes, itís not much nicer now than when we had it, that wasnít so nice now.
Vernon: This was taken recently, perhaps an ordinary looking house. Theyíve replaced the windows and fiddled about with it and chopped some of the trees down and so it looks rather bare bones kind of house but a modern house and really rather nice. We enjoyed being there.
Noreen: It was lovely.
Vernon: You had to learn double declutching to use it. It was a bit of a motoristís car shall we say so that was the first car we had in the garage at Westgate Close. We were there for some years and while we were there of course we had our third daughter, Alix.
Noreen: Elizabeth Anne
Vernon: So we had three girls, a Rover car and one of the things that we took a liking to doing, perhaps because we travelled about during the war going to Scotland and so on, we loved travelling, we loved having holidays away and so we tended to travel a little bit as we could.
One of the places we used to visit was the Isle of Man which was a little island between England and Scotland and itís where Noreenís parents, mother lived and grandfather lived, family lived over there and we used to go and stay with one of Noreenís aunts in Douglas there and it was fun. We would go up to Liverpool there and go on the ferry boat which was a four hour journey across to the island and itís just a wonderful place for holidays. One of the exciting things that happens in the Isle of Man every June is the Tourist Trophy racing TT racing, motor bike racing.
Always a lot of people who are motor cyclists go over there every year and one or two kill themselves going around the course a little bit too fast but a lovely place for holidays.
We used to go to Sheffield to stay with Noreenís aunt there. And one of the things we took up while we were there (ie, Westgate Close) was a relic of Scotland, we took up Scottish Country Dancing. Now in Norwich there were a lot of Scottish Doctors and they said well letís form a branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society and we joined it and
I became Secretary and we had 200 members and we used to dance, well twice a week actually, it was very much one of the things that we did and we became quite adept at it. Scottish dance steps are pure ballet steps so thereís a good deal of precision needed there and skill and practice in doing it. I did a teacherís course, we did a little bit of demonstrating of Scottish dancing and it was just wonderful. It was our recreation. We simply loved it and thatís what we started to do while we were at Westgate Close.
Noreen: Thatís Alixís christening. And thatís the only one we have with Jakie in it. Thatís in the garden at Westgate Close, thatís our dog.
Vernon: We had a Scotty dog as a pet there, a little black Scotty called Jakie, thatís in the backyard.
Noreen: And thatís a better one of the house, the family and thatís a better one of the house really.
Vernon: All the family...Noreen: Judith, Angela and me. The three children. This is before Alix was born. This is Judith, Angela, me and Jakie. I just thought theyíd like to see Jakie the dog. My sister by this time had a little boy called Richard and thatís Alix and Richard. 1965.
Vernon: In 1963 we moved house. We really needed a slightly larger house and as luck would have it we came across a house which we liked very much. It was not a big house but it was a four bedroom detatched house not very far away from where we had been living in Unthank Road, everybody thinks its an odd sort of name but itís a well known surname in England. Itís partly a local name, partly a north country, yes a well known name, in fact thereís a place in the north of England called Unthank. Anyway, we lived in Unthank Road named after one of the family, Unthank family and this was a rather nice house. We liked it very much, it had more room than the new modern house and four bedrooms Ė a very comfortable house with a large enclosed garden which was nice, it had a big lawn and a summer house at the end of it and I built a patio at the back of the house and we had a rose garden and beyond the summer house we had a herb garden, a vegetable garden and two green houses and some fruit trees. It was a lovely home, you know, a suburban house and yet spacious and very pleasant. We liked it very much, it was a very comfortable house to be in. While we were there, of course the children were growing up, the eldest one went to a high school called Norwich High School. It belonged to the Girls Public Day School Trust. They had a number of such schools throughout the country. A very nice school, a Private school, and she liked that very much.
Noreen: Angie went there too.
Vernon: Angie went there too. Alix didnít go there. She went to another high school called Earlham High School, and just after she went there, the Headmaster, Doctor, I canít remember his nameÖ..
Vernon: Doctor Hague, yes, rang me up and said would you consider becoming a School Governor and so I thought this sounds interesting so I became a School Governor there do you see and I enjoyed that experience very much, going to the monthly board meetings and I used to sit on appointments panels, I made that one of my specialities and the experience of sitting on appointments panels and it gave me a lot of pleasure being on that board and I also became a Governor of two nearby schools, this was a High School and I became a Governor of a First School and a Middle School. Those children went from First to Middle and then to High School and so I was looking at education right through from age five onwards. It was one of the things I enjoyed.
Vernon: I was still at Norwich Union as an Underwriter and on one occasion I had hurt my knee and itís troublesome at the minute and I was actually away from the office because I could hardly workÖ..
Noreen: I used to have to drive you there when you couldn't walk.
Vernon: and Doctor Hague, the Headmaster said one day, oh youíve got nothing else to do, perhaps you could do something for me and the school had been asked to do a display illustrating a man called Herbert de Losinga who was an eleventh century Norman monk who had caught the eye of William the Conqueror who had brought him over to England and made him Abbot of an Abbey which became one of the biggest and richest Abbeys in the country and then he made him a Bishop, Bishop of Thetford and he was told to move the Bishop See from Thetford to the bigger town of Norwich and build a Cathedral there, which he did.
He started building it in 1096 and so Doctor Hague said, we are doing this display about Herbert , will you do a booklet to go with it. I said oh dear I donít know anything about this man, you see, well I thought go to the Library, nick a few paragraphs and there you are.
Well anyway I did this booklet and it had to be reprinted because it was in so much demand, so I became interested in Herbert de Losinga and did some study on him and I spent quite a long time because it was eleventh century you see and information is hard, is thin on the ground in those days but I was actually given a grant by the Coleman Trust, the Colemansí Food people and we went to Normandy and I did some exploring of where Herbert de Losinga lived and that was interesting.
Noreen: Have you got a photo of us in Normandy?
Vernon: I donít think so, not on that trip. And so that was one of the interests with being involved with Earlham School.
Noreen: Well the years passed quickly at Unthank Road. The children were growing up. It passed with school, homework, prizedays, parties, and soon Judith and Angela were grown up, and Judith, in 19.. I can't remember when it was... went off to the University of Birmingham to study Biological Sciences. And then two years later, Angie went off to the University of Sheffield to learn Institutional Management. So we had many trips then to visit them.
In July 1967, Judith got her degree and a week later married John Brotherton, another student. And in 1970 they went to Australia, to Sydney, because John had a job teaching at NSW University. Angie got her Diploma, and married Kad Wallis who was a Civil Engineer. They'd met at College too. And they lived in Newcastle, so we had some lovely holidays in Newcastle exploring Northumberland.
Finally they settled in Hull, and in 1979 they adopted Chris, and in 1980 they adopted Katy, as they couldn't have any children of their own.
In Feb 1978 Alix went to Addenbrooks Hospital in Cambridge to do nursing. And so, of course, we visited her. Now, that's a picture of us at our 40th Wedding Anniversary.
Of course we used to hear from Judith in Sydney and they used to come back on holidays - came back at Christmas, and that's a picture of Judith's two daughters, Julia and Lucy. And that's Angela's little ones, Chris and Katy. This is a picture of us in our dining room at Unthank Road, having one of our dinner parties - those are some of the people from the flats there.