Today the good folk of Walton came together to say farewell to one of the most loved characters that the town has ever seen.
The popularity of Ernest Winston White, known to everyone as ‘Ernie’. was shown by the way All Saints’ Church was packed to the rafters with locals, family and friends to say goodbye to an unassuming man who made a mark on the towns of Walton and Frinton.
Wartime evacuation of Walton resulted in Ernie being born in Whitby in 1941 although the family home was at 73, North Street, Walton.
One of his first employments was on the pleasure boat ‘The Lady Kent’ which sailed with tourists on board from the Albion Breakwater. He later worked for Lilley’s Bakery where he was a favourite with the owner Alf Lilley. A man of many talents, he was also a chef, a dustman and Summer kiosk owner at the Bath House Hotel in Walton as well at The Ocean View and in Holland-on-Sea and Harwich.
He later opened The Whitehouse Restaurant in Walton’s High Street in the premises currently known as Bartalls.
Here he had a snooker hall above the restaurant and every Christmas he would entertain local pensioners with free dinners and teas.
His venture into Frinton caused a lot of excitement among the residents and councillors when he proposed and eventually succeeded in opening the first fish and chip shop the town had ever seen. The business is still trading although Ernie sold out years ago.
He also tried to open Frinton’s first public house and although he failed to get permission I’m sure his attempt led to the eventual submission by the Council and the opening of the town’s first pub, The Lock & Barrel in swanky Connaught Avenue.
Today we all said a fond goodbye to Ernie at a service which was so well organised by his family, even to the touching memory of Ernie’s beloved bike being tethered outside the church entrance.
17th October 2017
Today I have been given permission to reproduce below the Eulogy which Ernie’s son, Mark, delivered at the funeral. It’s full of humour, love and sadness all rolled into one:
My Dad Ernie, was born on the 2nd of August 1941 in Whitby Yorkshire, I could so easily be talking with a funny accent, wearing a flat cap and racing pigeons with a ferret down my trousers. The reason for him being born t’up north was due to the war after his mum and 2 brothers were moved away to escape the bombs and 3 actually fell at the school he would later attend Walton Primary in Standley Road just round the corner from his family home at 73 North Street where he grew up with Brothers Ted, Basil, John (Who sadly died at an early age) and sisters Maggie and Cathy.
His first ever job was on the Lady Kent pleasure boat ride that left the Albion breakwater every hour during the summer and would go round the end of the pier and life boat and back again, this was a first job for many youngsters and I too had that privilege at roughly the same age of around 13.
From there he went to work at the bake house for Lilley’s and incidentally my sister was actually named after one of them, Alf which she changed as soon as she could talk.
The Lilley’s were a huge part of my Dads life and Alf treated Ernie like the son he never had, it seemed no matter what my Dad got up to Alf would forgive him, his daughter Sally sent us a beautiful letter last week with plenty of stories about my Dad including ruining the delivery bike because instead of taking bread to various businesses around town he was often seen giving his mates rides in the tray bike which resulted in trashing it within weeks, it seemed it was impossible for him to get the sack because of Alf’s love for Ernie, even destroying 80 apple pies never got in the way of their friendship and after my Dad left Lilleys to work on the building sites Alf still showed his love for my Dad and on a very cold icy winters morning Alf spotted my Dad wearing only a shirt and no jacket, Alf asked him, ‘Where’s your coat boy’? My Dad replied ‘This is it’, Alf drove back home and found a leather bomber jacket and gave it to my Dad and said ‘Keep yourself warm boy’ and they remained friends throughout their lives and my Dad was always invited to any Lilley family gatherings.
After stints as a pier boy making people sick on the Waltzers where he met my Mum, they married at 18 and had 4 children together Hilary, Matthew, Julian and me and in later life he had Claire with Jenny and 7 Grand Children including my Daughter Ellie who I am so pleased he got to meet just a few weeks before he died.
He had other jobs as a chef, a dustman and renovating houses but his real talent was in retail.
He ran the kiosk at the bathhouse for around 15 years and anyone that knew Ernie would know very few people ever left without buying something.
One particular sale has remained in all our family’s memories until today about the Lady who came to buy some flip flops and she was a size 5 but the smallest size we had left was a 10, that wasn’t going to stop my dad making a quid so he went inside and got a breadknife and proceeded to cut the footwear around her heel and after paying her pound off she walked albeit in comedic fashion up the Esplanade. There he is today still making money as you will discover when you try to leave the church today it will cost you 3 quid to get out to pay for the wake.
Dad went on to run kiosks at Ocean view next to the Kino, Holland on sea and Harwich, he was then and always will be the donut king, sorry Nigel Speight.
While running the kiosk he along with my mum Hilary, Matthew, Julian and I went back into the shoe business selling some of the most hideous shoes I had ever seen, we were of course made to model them on the first ever Walton Market in the 70s but his bad history with footwear soon came to a halt and we left that to the experts who are still there today.
We then opened a Café in the high street where Bartalls is now called ‘The Whitehouse’ with a snooker club above, At Christmas my Dad would show his love of the people and the community by laying on Christmas dinner and tea for local pensioners and even gave them all a gift and provided transport if they needed it, a generous man with a big heart.
Dad had dreams of being the first person to open an ice cream kiosk on Frinton seafront but all his efforts were denied in an attempt to keep Frinton ‘Special’, eventually my Dad did something everyone said was impossible and became the first person to open a fish and chip shop in Frinton’s Old Road which is still going strong today, we then tried to open the first pub in Frinton but it proved even more of a challenge than the chip shop, but I still like to think that my Dad had more than a little influence on the way Frinton has changed for the better today with its chip shop and pub.
My Dad was a fighter, a few of you here today will know that Ernie narrowly escaped death in a dreadful car accident in the mid 70s suffering bad head injuries, punctured lungs and broken ribs and it was touch and go for 2 weeks in Black Notley hospital. But a lot of you here today will know my Dad suffered in later life from Dementia, a terrible disease where the body remains the same but the mind is no longer the person you know.
At this point I want to thank the staff at Blenheim house care home for making his final few weeks the happiest we could of hoped for, their caring and patience goes well above and beyond the call of duty, I personally will still go in there when I can and just say hello to the staff but just as importantly the residents whose faces light up and beam huge smiles when they see that someone cares enough to spare them a moment of their time. My dad was a proud man and you would see him pushing his bike towards the end of his life as he was no longer capable of riding it but instead of using an electric scooter he had in his garage he would use his famous bike as a walking aid.
I know I could tell hundreds more stories about my dad but I’m probably rambling already, so I would like to end by saying my Dad would be so pleased to see how many people came here to pay their respects today (Especially at 3 quid a head)
My dad never did Facebook or any social media, I don’t think he even ever wrote a text message, his equivalent timeline on social media was his daily walk through Walton high street where he would like people in person and give them a real thumbs up, he accepted everybody’s friend request and gave everyone a genuine smile not an emoji, he never deleted anyone from his friends list, if you were his friend you were a friend forever, many of you on that list are here today and I want to thank you for the overwhelming support you gave my family and I on social media after our dad died, twitter allows 140 characters, Walton has had many more over the years, Ernie is one of the final ones, never to be deleted from ours and your memories.