Memories of Christmas past at Bognor Regis museum

Volunteer Chris  Ball, showing children how to crack nuts. ks1500600-3
Volunteer Chris Ball, showing children how to crack nuts. ks1500600-3

FORMER Woolworths worker June Ruffle revived memories of past Christmases at the Bognor Regis Museum.

Mrs Ruffle was among the scores of visitors to the attraction’s festive opening.

One of its highlights was the FW Woolworth replica shop window crammed with Christmas decorations from years gone by.

“I was a Saturday girl at Woolworths in the late 1950s,” said Mrs Ruffle. “I remember some of those decorations in the window. I worked on the toy counter. It was always a good time at Christmas and very busy.

“I worked there for about five years. I went there just after I became old enough to get a proper job. I worked four hours a day to start with but did more as I got older.”

Mrs Ruffle, 72, of Briar Close, Yapton, also went to the museum’s initial Christmas opening a year ago.

She said: “It’s good to see the display again because some of it is different to last year.”

The window was packed with baubles, paperchains and crepe paper designed to spark memories of times past.

Mrs Ruffle’s husband, David, 74, said: “This brings back all my childhood Christmas memories.

“It’s fantastic to keep coming in here. You see new things all of the time.”

Volunteers with the museum’s operator, Bognor Regis Local History Society, worked hard to stage the two-day opening last Friday and Saturday after the success of last year’s inaugural event at the West Street premises.

Installed outside in time for the occasion was an original lamp posts from Hotham Park. Arun District Council gave the metal artefact to the society after new lights were installed in the park.

The 10ft tall lamp post, made by AJ Woodrow & Co London, was decorated with tinsel for the opening. It is hoped to have it lit eventually.

Another new feature was a sound track of a bombing raid for the museum’s second world war air raid shelter.

There was also the chance for visitors of all ages, to meet Father Christmas, pull a cracker and try their strength with some Victorian nutcrackers. Homemade cakes and retro toys were on sale. Children’s entertainer Nick Clark showed how to make models out of balloons on the first day.

Local history society chairman Greg Burt said: “We’ve doubled the number of hours we are open this year because the event was such as success on a Friday night last year.

“Everyone wanted to do it for two days. It’s all about bringing the museum to life and showing people it doesn’t have to be a place with all its exhibits behind glass cases. We especially want children to know the museum can be fun.

“There’s also a nice atmosphere here at this time of year. There’s a bit of a buzz because it’s so different to the things we usually do. We had 500 visitors to our Halloween opening on six days and it shows people are interested in these types of events.”

The Christmas opening attracted 80 visitors on the first day. Dozens more visited in the first hour the next day.

They included Jan Pniewski, 48, of Ash Grove, Bognor, who said: “I remember we had some of these decorations when I was younger. We had some of those glass baubles and I remember breaking them.”

His mother, Joan Pniewska, 75, of Chichester Road, said: “I’ve not seen some of these decorations for many years. They revive some memories.

“This is the first time I have been in the museum. It’s a fantastic place. There’s a great diversity of bits and pieces in it.”