Local Face: Dolly

  |  Published: May 1st 2002

Dolly was Local Face in Wendover News May 2002

Dolly Oakley was born in Eton in the South of Buckinghamshire a few months before the outbreak of World War I. The family soon moved and she remembers as a small child dancing in Cardington where the airships were built. Her maternal grandmother Deer­ing lived in Tring Road, Wendover and by the end of the war the family had moved there . After the war, she remembers almost no cars but one cart a day going up Tring Hill to Halton so it was perfectly safe for the children to play hopscotch and  marbles in the road. They also enjoyed romping in the fields around Oxen Hill above the Rose and Crown long before Princess Mary Hospital was built nearby.

So it was that Dolly started  in the infants at Wendover School in 1919.  She well remem­bers  the  headmaster   Mr  Molyneaux and several of the teachers including his daugh­ter, Miss  Molyneaux, as well as Miss  Bur­nett, Miss  Irving and Miss Smith.    In those days the teachers were very strict and not averse to rapping knuckles for minor misde­meanours.   Dolly enjoyed reading and writ­ing but she hated arithmetic and made no effort at it.   However, her creativity was rec­ognised as she won first prize in gardening, needlework and painting.   In common  with most children at that time, Dolly left school at 14. She went into service with Mr and Mrs Keele of Pathacres, Smalldean, now just visible behind "The  Firecrest"  nestling on the hillside, surrounded by trees.

He owned a tea plantation in India and went off for long periods returning for three months at a time. She  stayed  at  home. Their family were grown up. Dolly was the kitchen maid and her friend Nelly Hicks from Peacock Farm, Beddington Hill, was the dining room maid. They "slept in" but on Sun­day and one weekday afternoon they could walk back home to see their families. Other staff included Miss Cook, the housekeeper, Mr Rush, the chauffeur and two gardeners, Mr Whittacker and Mr Ruby. The walled kitchen garden provided all the produce needed by the household. Dolly's mother became ill so she had to leave after  two years with a good employer. Later, she re­turned to work with Hunt Barnard, the printer, in Aylesbury.

In those days the people of Wendover had plenty of shops in the High Street to serve their every need; Pearce the grocer , Webbs fruit shop, Sharp the jeweller, Freeman the chemist. In Pound Street were Mr Seago's General Store before it  became  Nicholls then Threshers. Thompson the Baker be­came the Ann Boleyn Tea Shop, Baker and Confectioner and is now The Bistro - the baking oven still exists! The Swan was run by Mr Green and 16 High Street was home to Miss Floe Colman . The Kings Head was run by Mrs Knight and Hogarth House was where Mr Brackley sold seeds and potatoes among other horticultural items.  In Aylesbury Road there was the "Tanner Hop" (tanner = 6d = 2p), later known as the Sweat Box, before Bryants Acre was built.

Dolly had two children, Anne and Roland. She was in the High Street one day in 1940 when Captain Fode, the owner of The Red Lion, asked her to come and wash glasses. She had never been in a pub so she declined, but later accepted .

Dolly has been working at The Red Lion in one guise or another for 62 years!!

During that time she was taught to serve behind the bar and had no problem adding up the orders or working out the change in her head. She also turned her hand to the bedrooms, teas and reception work.  One day she cooked scampi for Dame Margot Fonteyn and was allowed to serve her, too (after taking off her chef's whites). Other entertainers she has served include Marga­ret Lockwood, Anneka Rice, Jimmy Saville and Pierce Brosnan. Bosses she  has known include Major Allbrook , Mr  Lilley, Mr Hicking then Phil and Jan Hills who renamed the Bar after Dolly when it was refurbished in the early '90's. She worked with Stuart Bat­tersby, her latest boss, when he was Under­manager and was delighted when he  took over just before Christmas .

Both her children are now retired and her granddaughter  Kim  (ex-Miss  Wendover) runs Agora. Dolly likes to do a good job and keep busy so she continues to work. If you have lunch or dinner at the Red Lion,  she may well serve you so please say hello. Dolly hopes to give you a friendly welcome to Wendover and the restaurant.

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