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MEMORY LANE: Forty years of counter culture

Who remembers when Diss used to have two sub-post offices?

Memory Lane catches up this week with Derek Potter, who for 40 years ran the Denmark Green Post Office with his wife Jenny.

As well as the main post office in Market Place, Diss also used to have a sub-post office in Victoria Road and Denmark Green, more commonly referred to today as Fair Green.

Mr Potter, who still lives with his wife in the building which housed his business, ran it from 1964 through to 2004, when it closed.

It was also a general store, selling everything from groceries to pet supplies and even clothes and overalls.

Mr Potter said they only intended staying for about ten years.

“You get into a place and you love it, you start growing up in that house, start having children, and mother-in-law was next door,” he said.

“You never had a holiday because it was too much upheaval to leave the business, but I wouldn’t have missed a day.”

He talks fondly of his time behind the counter, and also of his role as a confidant and listening to people’s problems, their triumphs and disasters.

“You get into a situation when you become a sort of agony aunt,” he said.

“You swear on The Bible to keep everything secret. People came in with all sorts of problems and talk to you in confidence. We were good listeners.”

There’s also been dramatic and shocking moments, like the morning Mr Potter attended to one of his older customers.

“I served him at 9.30am and came round the counter to have a chat, and he just died in my arms,” said Mr Potter.

“Another lady came in to say there was a problem on the green. A council worker had been digging and levelling off some ground and exposed a hand grenade.

“Police cars and a bomb disposal unit came flying out to the green.”

Mr Potter has committed his memories to paper, and is considering publishing the material in the future.

It was Mrs Potter’s father who established the business in a property between the Cock Inn, and the A1066 Park Road junction. There was previously a post office in Fair Green, but the business collapsed, opening the door for another.

But times have changed, and Mr Potter remembers the network of post offices in the local area, including at Palgrave and Roydon.

“I never thought I would see the day when Diss lost both its sub-post offices,” he said.

“We decided to pack up the day the computer age came in. I went for computer training and thought: ‘I’m too old’, and didn’t want to go down that route.”

The business was advertised, but nobody came forward to take it on, so the shop and post office closed.

Mr Potter said: “The town then had the two supermarkets, and people around the green didn’t come in.

“People don’t run businesses for nothing.”

But Mr Potter said he loved his work and is continuing to write about his experiences.

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