My aunt was the Manager of the Imperial Hotel which once stood on the bank of a river (whose name escapes me), in the 1940s. I spent several holidays with her which were great experiences for a young boy from a relatively sheltered existence in a schoolhouse in rural Scotland. My Aunt May (Mrs Strongman), known to the staff in the hotel as "MADAM", was my mother's older sister. I had never stayed in a Hotel. I had a marvellous time, going round the shops with my aunt when she bought for the hotel, having dinner when I had to wear my suit and not sports coat and flannels. I recall that the Hunt Dinner was held there once when I was staying at the hotel, and it was such a grand affair.
Having the opportunity to stay with my aunt stood me in good stead in later years, as I learned how to conduct myself with waiters and hotel staff, how to order a meal and much more. I have very happy memories of Barnstaple and the long gone Imperial Hotel.
I should add that I went back to Barnstaple and the Imperial Hotel, some years later. So the following seems to me to be part of my Memories of Barnstaple.
In 1953, I was discharged from the army having served the time of my engagement. At that time I was stationed in Gravesend on the Thames Estuary and owned a motor bike that my brother had given me before he left for Rhodesia. So on the day that I was released, I packed my belongings on the back of the bike and headed out for North Devon. I spent a very happy week with my Aunt, being thoroughly spoiled. Then provided with a large package of very tasty sandwiches
I started out on my journey home.
The following does not directly relate to Barnstaple, except as the point of departure of the final leg of my road trip home to Scotland.
I left Barnstaple early one morning, and made good time until I reached a town in the Midlands - can't remember the name - at about 10pm. I was a bit short of cash, and thought that I might try a Police Station, whose Blue Lantern, I saw coming up. (I had heard that Service Personnel could be accommodated overnight in an emergency). I stopped and told my story to the Sergeant on duty, that I was now demobbed and on my way home and was short of cash and did he have a bed for me? There was a spare cell!! I was given a sandwich and some cocoa and LOCKED IN the cell for the night - that was the regulation!! I slept well and the next morning, I had a wash and shave, bacon and eggs and sent on my way with the good wishes of the policemen. Some time later, I had trouble with the kick start and after stopping had to run with the bike, holding the clutch lever in and then hopped back on and released the clutch and off I went. I eventually arrived back home in Port of Menteith where my parents were living and had a great welcome from them. A couple of weeks to get used to civilian life and it was time to hunt for a job, but that is another story!
A memory shared byon Sep 24th, 2010.
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