Paddle at Norwich park rolls back the decades for old school friends

Messing about in the river just like when they were kids. Left to right Merryl Batch, Michele Knight

Messing about in the river just like when they were kids. Left to right Merryl Batch, Michele Knights, Malcolm Wiseman, Jan Knights and Pam Rust enjoying their reunion in Earlham Park. Photo: Steve Adams Note: Christian names are correct and surnames are maiden names.

Paddling in the clear waters of the River Yare, he created precious childhood memories that never left him.

Places - EThe paddling pool at Earlham Park.Dated 18th May 1964Photograph C4116 Colton

Places - EThe paddling pool at Earlham Park.Dated 18th May 1964Photograph C4116 Colton

So half a century later – when former schoolmates suggested a reunion – the place to meet seemed obvious.

More than a dozen friends gathered at Earlham Park in Norwich on Sunday, where they had whiled away many carefree hours as youngsters in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Malcolm Wiseman, known to his friends as Wizz, said the ball was set rolling when he was contacted by schoolmate Pam Rust-Bradfield, who is now living in Devon.

She tracked down 63-year-old Mr Wiseman, who runs a second-hand shop in Wymondham, through Facebook.

Messing about in the river just like when she was a kid Pam Rust helping grandson Deacon catch fish

Messing about in the river just like when she was a kid Pam Rust helping grandson Deacon catch fish at the reunion in Earlham Park. Photo: Steve AdamsNote: Christian names are correct and surnames are maiden names.


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The friends had attended schools in the area, including West Earlham Junior School.

Mr Wiseman recalled the days when there was so little traffic you could 'cross the road blindfolded', and instead of computer games youngsters would have fun by making a picnic and heading to the park.

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While there they would go paddling and net fishing, and perhaps enjoy a spot of rounders.

And when they met up at the weekend, the memories came flooding back.

Mr Wiseman remembered meeting his first sweetheart at Earlham Park when he was five years old.

'It flicks the switch and other memories come back,' he said. 'It was funny the things I remember from that era. The last time I saw her I was 22.'

He brought his three-year-old son with him to show him around his favourite childhood haunt, and it was not long until new memories were being made.

For when they got in the river to paddle, Mr Wiseman fell flat on his back.

'My son decided to take his flip-flop off, and that floats,' he revealed. 'I went after it and did an unprovoked ice drench thing...'

The former road manager for entertainers including the Brother Lees, and who has been in bands including Eyes of Blond, said the people who turned up had a good time.

He joked that he had looked like Eric Clapton in his youth – with hair like 'an explosion in a mattress sack' – and shared old anecdotes, including some about bike racing, recalling local teams including Earlham Panthers and Eaton Rangers.

'You can still see when you're looking in someone's eyes and you're reminiscing how they were then,' he said.

He felt it was a shame that people are often too fearful to let children go out on their own to have fun any longer.

Mr Wiseman said he hoped that there would be another reunion, and that more people would attend next time.

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