THE CLUB TRIP
Another great Tale from Eric Sanderson
Annual seaside trips for children (as well as members & committee men) were often provided by local Working Men’s Clubs and one such was East End Park WMC where one of my friend’s father was a member & able to obtain tickets for a few of us to enjoy this annual treat.
It usually kicked off by meeting up at the club where light refreshment (not the alcoholic variety – at least not for the children) was served up followed by a short coach journey to the railway station to embark on a privately hired train .
One year, it was the turn of Blackpool ,so along with a few other friends , off we trotted, dressed in our best outfits , full of high spirits, a few shillings in our pocket and a determination to have a great day.
I was wearing my first long trousered suit which in fact had been my father’s demob suit, appropriately modified ( a somewhat loose definition) for a 13 year old boy.
It was a tweedy, maroon & white dogtooth check affair with a large lapelled, double breasted jacket & what seemed like 36inch bell bottomed trousers. Essential attire for a black market spiv or bookies runner but hardly the sort of clobber which was going to make the girls swoon, especially as the sleeves came down to my knuckles and the trousers were long enough to leave a swept trail behind me. Cool it wasn’t.
Tony ,on the other hand had a smart ,bottle green, gabardine single breasted suit , cut in a fashionable style which made him a dashing figure and the envy of the rest of us.
Arriving at Blackpool in mid torrential downpour ,meant a damp start for our sojourn along the promenade, so we swiftly headed for the glittering attractions of the amusement arcades ,those palaces of lost dreams & small fortunes, in order to dry out a little.
Playing these addictive machines quickly relieved us of a substantial part of our meagre resources and, as the sun had made one of it’s infrequent appearance at Blackpool, these emporia were abandoned for the much cheaper pastime of beach football
Now, running about in a damp, tweedy ,double breasted suit on the beach in the (briefly) hot sun is not the most comfortable of activities so, we headed for an early start to the club funded lunch (fish & chips I think) at a pre booked café which we four hungry young men quickly devoured ,but the vinegar drenched soggy mess proved to be less than appetising. Afterwards, a joint decision was made that we would invest a little of our pocket money in a traditional Blackpool treat – a plate of oysters from Robert’s Oyster Bar, just north of the Tower , deciding that our shared purchase could just about afford the smallest portion of three ,costing half-a-crown which would allow one each because I was none too keen to start with.
I have to admit that right from the beginning, they didn’t look too appetising to me, in fact well past their sell by date but, inexperienced as we were in the matter of such tantalising delicacies, took the plunge anyway.
The stall holder assured us that the offputting sickly green colour was normal for fresh oysters .“Fresh when “, we queried. “Don’t be so b****y cheeky” retorted the man. Strange isn’t it that in those days, a perfectly reasonable question from young people was often regarded as insolence. However, remaining sceptical, we proceeded anyway, the honour of the first pick going to Tony as he was the keenest and anxious to show us how it was done, claiming to have sampled oysters before. Struggling from the start as he tried to swallow the oyster whole , his first few attempts were regurgitated onto the rain sodden pavement. Too expensive to waste, it was wiped off to try again , still without success.
After chewing the poor animal (which we were informed was still alive) for about 15 mins , he finally managed to get it down, declaring it to be quite tasty, in the style of old army socks, if a little rubbery.
The rest of us were, by this time, feeling rather less enthusiastic but, undeterred & full of bravado, Tony decided to have a second bight of the oyster – so to speak.
The performance was a little more proficient than his first attempt and, being determined to perfect the technique and anxious not to waste the investment, he battled on. As he worked his way through the plate, the oysters looked to me to take on an even more bilious appearance which made me feel that I’d made one of my better decisions in refraining from taking part in the feast but at least, his third & last oyster slithered down his gullet as though he were a professional oyster slurper.
Three oysters later, Tony proclaimed the rest of us “weedy” for resisting the temptation so, off we sauntered towards the Pleasure Beach , calling in on one or two of the sideshows , like the Bearded Lady, which adorned the promenade in those days.
A few stomach heaving rides later on the pleasure beach’s most famous attractions, & Tony began to take on a greenish hue, not dissimilar to his plate of recently devoured oysters. Before long, his digestive system rebelled & the oysters began to make the return journey, finishing up once again on the rain sodden pavement.
I must say, I seem to recollect that they looked considerably more appetising than when Tony had first consumed them but no amount of encouragement would persuade him to scoop it up and have another crack at one of Blackpool’s famed gourmet treats. Neither did the regurgitated “oyster sauce “covering his lapels & trouser fronts provide any enhancement to his brand new, bottle green gaberdine suit.
For many years afterwards, the mere mention of oysters was sufficient to bring on a cold sweat , remembering our first encounter with the famous mollusc and the tragic consequences for Tony’s new suit.
Another holiday tale, involving seafood, occurred some years later when a few of us were holidaying in the Isle of Man.
One of our group, who shall remain nameless to avoid everlasting embarrassment, decided to buy his father a pair of the famous Manx kippers as a gift from the I.O.M.
Our mode of transport to the Isle of Man was the Steam Packet Ferryboat on which it was usual that much of the luggage was placed on deck .
For the return journey, our friend had decided to pack the newspaper wrapped parcel of kippers inside his suitcase for safe keeping but (maybe you’re ahead of me here) this turned out to be a catastrophic decision .
Firstly, it was a stormy crossing ,raining heavily and the on deck luggage was thoroughly soaked by the time we arrived back at Fleetwood.
Secondly, his suitcase, which was a flimsy cardboard affair , collapsed completely on pickup, having quickly becoming totally waterlogged with rainwater & seaspray penetrating both his suitcase and the parcel of kippers. This had allowed an aromatic and golden brown liquor of oak smoked kippers to penetrate all his best clothing and staining it a nasty yellow shade into the bargain.
Strangely, he was not very well amused when the rest of us thought this to be a huge belly laugh and taunted him on the train journey back to Leeds for smelling like a dodgy fishmonger but, if I recollect accurately, his father was so touched by the gesture and it’s consequences, that he happily replaced his wardrobe in full.
Annual holidays in Blackpool was the norm for a few years for our regular group, often meeting up with others from our district, usually in one of the few Tetley pubs like the Huntsman, the Criterion or The Ardwick. The most popular accommodation was the “boarding house” providing bed , breakfast & evening meal. Our favoured venue was one about halfway between the central pier & pleasure beach. In the mid fifties, this would cost us £7 for the week and that was regarded as slightly above average but for this, a very reasonable standard of comfort was assured
Doubling this up to £1/day for spending (including the odd pint or two or three) meant that a splendid holiday could be had for £14/15 – about the price of a round of drinks today.
Wonderful stuff Eric. Oh that we could return to those days!
Last month’s pc Eric was right again – Oakwood Clock at the start of the Soldier’s fields’
How about this month’s pic Groan or cheer it was an iconic East Leeds seat of sport and learning.