It takes a special kind of person.....
Pammie provides an elightened profile of Wereham;s Dorren Rolph - who worked in Wereham Post Office for many years.
One morning the normal quiet routine of village shop was rudely shattered as two armed, masked men burst through the door and demanded the money from the Post office safe. The person in charge of the shop that morning reacted swiftly and hid the keys and then calmly confronting the intruders, insisted that the keys were not in her possession and therefore she could not possibly oblige. Predictably this produced an angry response and they reacted by roughing up the customers, stealing a purse from one, and then savagely attacking the post office door and in an attempt to kick it in. During this commotion, the shopkeeper was encouraging someone to crawl along the floor and was able to open the door and let them escape to raise the alarm. However the accomplice, waiting in a car outside, noticed this and this immediately alerted the other two, who raced out, jumped into the car and fled, leaving a profoundly shocked and shaken group behind them.
Now it takes a special kind of person who can display such courage and keep her head in a situation like that. Her identity is no secret to people in Wereham and her name of course is -Doreen Rolph.
It must be said that Doreen had a very personal interest in the village shop in Wereham -- she had, in fact, been part of it for over 40 years. She grew up in Stoke Ferry, and, sadly, lost her father when she was only twelve years old. At school in Stoke Ferry she first met Norman Rolph and together they attended high school in Methwold. Doreen's first position was in a doctor's surgery but she soon decided that that was not really what suited her most, and applied for a job with the Miller sisters who ran the village shop which was then called Mr Griffin's. She settled down there quite happily for the next three years and by then had married her schoolgirl sweetheart, Norman Rolph, and had moved to Boughton.
The shop was then sold to Ken and Betty English who agreed to employ Doreen as their assistant, "on probation" of course, for the handsome wage of wage of two pounds a week. However, Doreen quickly proved her worth and 40 years later, when they retired, she was still an indispensable part of their business, and contributed enormously to the cheerful, efficient service that everyone had come to expect from the Post Office Shop as it was then called. Ken always joked that of course she was still "on probation"!
Doreen recalls that at that time there were wide wooden counters on all sides of the shop and that they truly provided just about everything a family might need in terms of provisions and other items that a household might require every day. Of course nothing was pre-wrapped pre-weighed in those days -- rolls of beef, pork and ham were sliced and weighed and wrapped and of course invoiced by hand. You could have your weeks provisions delivered to your door -by Doreen. Naturally you would be able to find knitting wool and knitting needles and embroidery silks, cottons needles and many other treasures under the heading of haberdashery. Items of clothing and underwear for men and women? Yes, indeed! Picture wire, hooks and nails, floor polish, furniture polish and shoe polish..... brushes, brooms and dusters...and paraffin......if it was part of general household life and maintenance, the chances were that you'd find it there! It took a lot of work to keep the stocks topped up and in order.
Of course the village shop was so much more than a mere Shop. It was a valuable social and communication centre for the whole village. It was where one met not only neighbours but people in the village one might otherwise seldom see, a friendly sociable place where people would exchange news, views and village chat -- in a word, it enabled one to feel connected. It was where you could always be assured of a friendly greeting and a warm enquiry, and where the people behind the counter were really interested in you and not merely the amount of money you might spend in the month. It was where a young house-bound mother with a new baby, or someone living alone, might find a few minutes of friendly contact at some point during the day. How different from our focussed, stressful supermarkets trips- where we whizz up and down the aisles and sigh with relief- when it's all over!
Initially the post office had been part of Chile house, Mr Baddock was the Postmaster, and when he retired Ken English applied for the franchise and the post office and shop became incorporated. Doreen remembers how the back of their shop had to be used as a sorting room for the mail every morning before the shop opened until Ken had a proper sorting room built at the back shop.
It was a sad and nostalgic day for Doreen when Betty and Ken English retired. The three of them had become very close and worked together so well. Ken and Betty had become such dear friends and kindly Ken took the place of the father Doreen had hardly known. Nevertheless, Doreen, typically, transferred her loyalty to the new owners of the shop and was immensely sad when it finally closed its doors.
However the village shop was not the only part of Doreen's life and wherever there is a village activity or fundraising drive you will discover that Doreen is a part of it. In every village there are people like Doreen - and how fortunate we are have them.
Doreen, Ken and Betty- your shop may be no longer- but your contribution to the life of our village will long be remembered.