memories of yeovil

memories of yeovil

The memories of Robin Holland's youth spent in Yeovil


Many thanks to Robin Holland for his memories of his youth spent in Yeovil -

"I spent most of my formative years in Yeovil from age 15 to 21 (1958 to 1964) and remember it with a great deal of pleasant nostalgia. I was known as Fred or Dutch as my surname is Holland, although my name is actually Robin.

I went to Yeovil Grammar School for one year, spent about a year in an architect's office, but for the life of me cannot remember the name (it was 'something and something' and was set back a bit at the top of Hendford), before starting a carpentry apprenticeship at Westland Aircraft.

Originally we used to hang out in a youth club in South Street, now the South Street Centre. Well when I say a youth club it was just a room with a juke box in, which I think we had to put money in ourselves. I used to spend most evenings there mooning over Pamela Garfield, the gap-toothed beauty, oh the agony of unrequited love… Then to another youth club, not sure where that was or really what it was called (Hermitage something perhaps?) This was ruled over by a local hard man called Nonky Norris from Park Street. If you weren't in his gang, look out!

After youth club we used to go to a fish and chip shop, Eden's in South Street, for sixpeneth of chips and try to get them to put 'batter bits' on top as well - these were the little bits of batter that they used to scoop of the top of the fat. It was liquid lard in those days - bad I know, but it used to make the stuff cooked in it taste fantastic and maybe one of the reasons I am so fat. In reply to the 'salt and vinegar?' question the reply was always a resounding "yes, of course" and then we would go to the shelf on the wall, where there were huge salt and vinegar shakers and put more and more on until the newspaper they were wrapped in was soaking with the stuff. Then walking up the street tucking in to them, where the main sport was pinching other peoples chips, although everyone had a big bag full themselves.

I was a bit of a gadabout I must admit, frequenting mostly the Mermaid (if I remember rightly there was a Folk Club in one of the back rooms of the Mermaid), the Wine Vaults, Three Choughs, and of course spending Saturday evenings at the Assembly Rooms. Walking through that imposing arch on a Saturday evening was the highlight of the week. There was also a nightclub somewhere near the Wine Vaults although I cannot remember the name, but I do remember the owner lived at the bottom of our road, which was Southwoods and used to drive a pink car.

Used to go to the cinema a lot in those days, there were three cinemas, the Odeon, the Gaumont down in the Triangle (now Club Neo) and a small cinema in Church Street, we used to call it the flea pit, but think it was the Central. Used to go at least three times a week, sometimes more, as in those days the films changed on a Wednesday.

Saturday afternoons were spent in the cafe under Finlay's and, when they got fed up with us, sprawled on the grass of the church behind Finlay's chatting up, or trying to, the girls. Not a lot went on during the day on Sundays, unless you were lucky and took a girl up to Ninesprings.

My best mate was Ron Hurley, we were not bikers but really into motor bikes. He had an air raid shelter at the bottom of his garden in which, at any one time, he had various bikes in a state of repair, or should that be disrepair. We were always messing with them, including 'the box' - whose contents were always increasing - of bits we did not know where to put back on a bike. None of the bikes actually fell to bits due to missing bits. Ron had a 600cc Norton Dominator and I had several bikes, a Triumph Speed Twin, an old single cylinder Matchless and for a short time a 1000cc Ariel Square Four.

I also worked at Houndstone Camp (and Ron at Lufton Camp) whist it was still an RASC camp, doing various jobs from wearing a rubber suit, almost a space suit, washing down the undersides of lorries to Assistant Timekeeper (a bit less wet). I've no idea why I moved between these jobs. But the job I had for a while that made Ron jealous, was looking after and servicing the camp's Trials Team motorbikes, which were old 500cc single cylinder side valve machines - just like the ones used in WW II. The bit that really made Ron gnash his teeth was that I had to keep trying them out - up and down the slopes of Ham Hill (one could ride motorbikes on it in those days). I ended up in construction as a carpenter and I actually built - well not entirely on my own - the maternity hospital.

Another friend of mine, Ray, (who lived in one of the Larkhill Road prefabs) had a Hillman Super Minx car and, before pedestrianisation, on some Saturdays we would cruise down the High Street around the Borough and down Middle Street, around the Triangle, back up South Street, across Hendford to start to whole thing again, windows down, trying to look oh so cool, whistling at and trying to chat up (pretty unsuccessfully if I remember rightly) girls. About this time the E Type Jag came out, with everyone's jaw dropping about it, so off we went to the Jaguar dealer down on Shereborne Road (Olds was it?) to press our noses against the glass and gazing at it with wishful thinking. When my friend plucked up his courage and went it to ask the salesman how much he would give for his car in part exchange for an E Type. The salesman looked at his Hillman disdainfully and enquired "Which part sir, the front bumper?"

By this time I had progressed a bit and spent a lot of time at the Coker Motel, where the bar was run by a bloke called Colin (a bit of a tennis player). I only remember time being called once here, and that was for us all to go to the police ball at the Assembly Rooms of course. I do remember a couple of times going straight from there to work in the morning."