Mr Pryer's family has owned a coal business in Feltwell for three generations and, here, he recalls its early days.
It's always been a family business; at the turn of the century the Pryers were all farmers, and had land in the fen. In those days people used to dig the turf to burn in the winter; it was a natural link that as we provided turf to bum from the fen, they should ask if we could provide coal. So that's how the coal side grew from the farm. My uncle Anthony used to cut turf from six in the morning till six in the evening, standing in bare feet in the water all day. What a life! How he stood it I don't know. He had a little grass hut which he kept his tools in, and sometimes he slept up there. We used to go there as boys to look for the, whisky he brewed for himself, but all we found was snakes. He had to walk two miles there and two miles back. Later on he had an old tricycle.
My grandfather John started the coal business: he would go to Lakenheath station to collect it. The coal arrived in trucks, and they were left there until you cleared it; the longer it took you to clear the more you paid. It all had to be moved by hand with a shovel, and the trucks held ten tons. Sometimes all your order arrived at once, and that took some moving. In the early days it was loaded from the trucks into a horse drawn cart, later on we hired a lorry to get it from Lakenheath and used the horse and cart for delivery round the village,
But it was hard work-. from the trucks into the lorry, out of the lorry into bags at our yard, all having to be weighed, and then back onto the cart for delivery - which meant out of the cart again and into the customer's storage. The horses got to know the rounds very well; I had one who would not go past a house if he knew a customer lived there. When I started it was 1 shilling and tenpence for a hundredweight of coal. I was carrying the bags when I was fourteen years old and had just left school. I don't think I'd do it again!
We'd get the horses from a horse dealer in Methwold, a Mr Hopkins; I had one which bolted right up to the corner by the doctor's present surgery, and one who didn't like the slope onto the road from our yard.. We kept three or four for farming, and in the war my father was turning out of our gate with Brandy and stopped the late King on his way to the Base - the horse shied because he wasn't used to all those motor cycle outriders. We kept a lot of cows as well and before school I'd take the cows up to the Newcombes' fields by the Hall, and I'd get wrong with all the householders because of the mess they made.
I used to go to work ill and well; the only time I missed was when I had appendicitis, My two sons-in-law ran the business after I retired nine years ago, and they sold out to Charringtons recently. There are so many fancy fuels these days you can hardly keep up. I've missed it more since they sold than I did when I retired; people still came to the yard for orders so I kept in touch as I live behind the yard.
I still own 17 acres of land and take an interest in it, and our other interest is in dancing. We shall celebrate our Golden Wedding next month. We're having a party in the school, which is appropriate as we were school sweethearts, except it was in the old building that we met. After school I worked for Mr Rice for a short time, and then for Father. I certainly enjoyed it; you met a lot of people. You wouldn't keep at work that hard unless you enjoyed it! I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my past customers for their support for our firm over the years.
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