May is History Month in Plymouth. Established by the Plymouth Heritage Network and The Box, we were offered the chance to run an exhibition as part of the festival.

We collected bits and pieces from local people – school reports from the 1950s, a surviving air raid warden’s rusty helmet and whistle, detailed research on Polish families who had come to support the war effort, school projects, old photographs and memories.

We ran on a drop in basis for local people to have a look as and when they had time.

“I haven’t seen Jan for about 20 years!” said Gilly as they just happened to meet.

“I remember so much about when our children were young. Some of it universal….shops up and down the high street; you could buy anything in Stoke except shoes when I moved here. Prams left outside holding fat babies in safety. I sat in a café watching them put the zebra crossing in.

“I remember banks. We had 3 maybe 4. Women in charge of money. All of us in charge of chatting – the social glue squeezed out by pubs and hairdressers. That’s stayed the same… pubs and beauty rooms, that’s where the real stories lie.

Queen Mary was driven through the Village I believe, didn’t stop, but I bet they all waved.

“I ran the Marathon in 1983, right through Stoke Village….all those hills kept you going.

“And the babies. Alexandra Nursing Home for recuperation. My Dad was born there 101 years ago.

“I remember being incarcerated there for 6 days in June, desperate to get out into the park and the sunshine. Dr Skeens doing his ward round, pipe puffing away! I watched the very first episode of Breakfast TV.

Dr Skeens and Dr Skeens – husband and wife power house and anchor to the community. Miss Margaret xxxxxx used to be the receptionist I believe. 96 and still at home in Lorrimore Avenue during the pandemic.

“We played netball on the roof of the school. The ball would regularly escape over the fence and bounce all the way down Albert Road. Imagine doing that now!

“I remember night classes in the old Art College, old and cold. I did German – GCSE and A Level. That’s what I love about community, learning new things.

“Odd things memories. I’ve culled loads of old photos at home, no interest to anyone but me. You have to lose things sometimes.

“Wherever you go people say it used to be much better than this. When I moved to Duckworth Street nearly 40 years ago I thought it was great. But the old ladies said it used to be much better, much better than this.”

Collaboratively written by Jan, Gilly, Sue, Oly and Karen.