It had been talked about for weeks. Discussed at bus stops and ruminated over in queues at the Post Office. Digested with the collection of milk tokens from the Welfare Hall and been the main topic of conversation after Sunday morning mass. And now the day of our Street Party had finally dawned, but there was still hours to go before I could put on my blue sailor dress with its big white collar and new red sandals.
At last I stood ready, fidgeting under mam’s hands while she plaited my hair. We walked to the village hall and took our place in a long line of women, some men and lots of children. Inside there was row upon row of trestle tables with long forms for us to sit on. Each place setting had a Union Jack flag beside it.
When we were all seated an army of women descended upon the tables carrying plates of sandwiches. I’d be lying if I said I remembered the food but the fillings were probably staples such as egg, fish paste and perhaps SPAM. There would have been scones, jelly and ice-cream and I’m sure cake of some description. The food wouldn’t have interested me too much, as I was there for one thing only, and that was the silver crown.
My recollection of how the afternoon played out is a hazy blur, but one thing has stayed in my memory for ever. I’d been told that every child was to receive a Coronation mug and a silver crown, and that was all I could think about. Councillor Barnes, who owned the Fruit and Vegetable shop on Front Street, stood by the main doors and handed out the trophies as we left. I was almost shaking with anticipation, so when it was my turn and I was presented with a Coronation mug and a silver penny, my disappointment knew no bounds.
Even my four year-old self knew the value of a penny, silver or otherwise. It would buy 2 half-penny chews, 4 Black Jacks, 1 stick of liquorice or 1 hard sherbet lollipop. I thought the crown was for my head, just like Her Majesty the Queen and I was inconsolable. However, I still have that crown today, so somewhere along the way I must have come to realize the value of its worth.