We regret to report the death of Clifford Foster. He died quietly at home on Friday, October 15, after a brief illness.
This review cannot do justice to his memory and many many people will have their own memories and tales to recall.
Clifford was the guiding spirit behind Adams Stationers in the High Street, printers and sellers of newspapers, greetings cards, homewares and children’s toys and stationery. He could be found most early mornings behind the counter reading a railway magazine, before retiring to his ‘Foreman’s Office’, never too busy to oblige a customer by getting out the scales and weighing a letter or parcel post. He was always ready for a chat with customers, with usually a dry comment or two. Under the counter was a tin of dog biscuits which came out unfailingly at the right moment.
He was a quiet person, modest and benevolent but quite firm in his views. His life revolved around the shop and the Methodist church, where he played the organ on Sundays (and made sure the heating system was working). As a Methodist, he was a practical man and a teetotaller, not given to ceremony or embellishment. He would rise each morning regularly at 4:30am to get ready to receive delivery of the morning’s papers. He held that Sunday is a day of rest, as well for the staff as for the business, and the shop remained closed that day, until more recently, when it now has limited opening hours in response to demand.
Under his management, and with the flair and expertise of his son Ian, the old fashioned letter press printing machines gave way to electronic typesetting and printing, with a wide range of applications. The old machinery is still there in the back room, a veritable museum. The shop too reflects the character of its owner. Around the walls are signs from each railway station platform on the Marshlink line from Ashford to Hastings. If railways were his first hobby with a special interest in track layout and signalling, the English canals and organ-building and repair came close after. His knowledge in all three areas was extensive. He made a collection of signal box instruments from all over the country.
Born in 1933 to Jim Foster and Dorothy Padgham, he attended Rye Grammar School, and was evacuated with the school to Bedford during the war. The food rations apparently left the pupils hungry, because he used to buy a loaf from the bakers on his way to school. On leaving school, he joined his father’s business of printers and stationers. Purchased before the war from John Adams, it moved to its present premises in the High Street in 1959.
Clifford did National Service with the Royal Air Force, learning radar and electronics, but he only flew once, practising circuits and bumps (pilot training in landing and immediately taking off again). Almost the next flight in that plane after he got off ended in a disastrous accident with the aircraft exploding; he never flew again all his life.
After National Service, he rejoined the business. He did not travel much. Apart from friendship with a Belgian family, with exchange of visits, his life centred in Rye. He never got himself involved in local politics, but his knowledge of local affairs was enormous.
To end with a touch of Clifford’s dry humour, some ten days before he died he remarked: “I’m feeling pretty good, I think I’ll live a little longer.” His memory will be held with affection by all who knew him.
Image Credits: courtesy of Adams .