Known to generations of customers who queued at the Diss Market Place chip cart, Sylvia Youngman has died. She was 89.
After joining her late husband Alfred in the Youngman family business, she served chips for 50 years. Children introduced to the treat their parents had enjoyed, grew up and brought their own children when the chip cart was frying on Fridays and Saturdays.
She had real Suffolk grit and no airs and graces
Diss people who had left the town and even emigrated to the other side of the world would return to buy chips on their visits home, said Mrs Yougman’s grandson Simon Reeve, who took over the business in 1987.
Although Mrs Youngman’s health had been failing in recent years, she worked on the cart until she was 80. “She loved the job and the talk and just enjoyed feeding people,” said Mr Reeve. “She liked putting the world to rights and the banter on the cart, especially with the Norwich City supporters because she was an Ipswich Town fan.”
He said that his grandmother was known to quietly help poorer families with free chips - and was just as generous with the bag of sweets she always had with her. She was a good customer of the Woolworths sweet counter.
She was also a good all-round cook and Sunday roasts - later to become Monday night roasts to accommodate grandchildren busy with various weekend pursuits - were still fondly remembered in the family, said Mr Reeve.
Mrs Youngman grew up in Yaxley and was soon introduced to hard work. While she was helping her father to top sugar beet - slicing off the tops after they had been lifted from the ground - she also nearly severed her thumb and walked by herself to Eye to get it stitched. “She had real Suffolk grit and no airs and graces,” said Mr Reeve.
She served in the Land Army near Woodbridge in the Second World War, and also worked at Eye hospital. She enjoyed the maternity ward but fell out with the matron when she held a disinfectant-soaked cloth to her face to camouflage the smells when she looked after geriatric patients.
When she worked on the land she argued that it was only fair to be paid a man’s wages for doing a man’s work, and was also a post girl delivering the mail by bike around Mellis.
The Youngman family chip cart has been a feature of Diss Market Place since 1921 when the business was begun by Mr Youngman’s father Harry. In those days it was coal fired and the cart was pulled from Tottington Lane, where Mrs Youngman continued to live until her death, by Jack the horse.
The family in those times also grew their own potatoes to fry into chips - Maris Piper was the favoured variety - and the present gas-fired cart was built by Mrs Youngman’s husband around 40 years ago.
Mrs Youngman’s husband died 16 years ago and she is survived by her three children and five grandchildren. The funeral is at St Remigius’ Church, Roydon, on Wednesday at 2pm.