Archive for the ‘Blackpool’ Category

The Club Trip

May 1, 2013


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.

Victoria 2

A Week in Blackpool’Rite of Passage’for East Leeds Lads and Lasses

January 1, 2011

A Week in Blackpool ‘Rite of Passage’

for East Leeds Lads and Lasses


A week in Blackpool was a ‘rite of passage’ for all East Leeds lads and lasses half a century ago – is it still – I don’t know? Probably for Blackpool now read Benidorm   

            Stan Pickles’ account of his ‘rite of passage’ week in Blackpool is pre-war set in the 1930s. My own in the 1950s but even that is getting to be a long time ago now isn’t it?


Blackpool 1930s style

By Stan Pickles

Saturday morning and the 7 a.m. tram from Bertha Grove took us to the Central Station to join the huge queue waiting for the train to Blackpool. After a time the long train pulled in, its old fashioned carriages with compartments seating a dozen people sitting side by side and facing each other and with luggage racks soon piled up with cases. The train filled up and pulled out and we were on our way to that holiday wonderland, Blackpool.  Laughing and talking to everyone we settled down for the three to four hour journey. Woe betides anyone who hadn’t paid a last minute visit for the call of nature (no corridors!)

            When we arrived at Blackpool all the young girls and fellows piled out onto the platform hugging suitcases, the majority dashing for the loo. It was a rare sight, the men looked like sheep just shorn with their ‘short back and sides’ and sporting grey flannels, the girls lovely in their gaily coloured frocks and loose jackets, all asking directions to their digs for the week.  Luckily we were staying in Albert Road, near to the station so we were soon shown up to our room in number 98. The maid took us up to a huge bedroom holding four double beds for our party of eight. I had booked full board (£2 9s) for the week as I wanted to make sure my meals where there.

            Our first night out was to ‘The Ardwick’ one of Tetley’s houses, ware  all Leeds seemed to have gathered. Afterwards, we would finish up for the last couple of hours in the Winter Gardens. I used to always end the evening with a plate of oysters (blue points) which always went down well.

            The landlady knew how to feed us fellows and we never went short. Breakfast at 8.30: grapefruit followed by bacon and egg, all accompanied by lots of tea. Dinner, we didn’t eat lunch in those days, I’m talking about 12.30 p.m. would by joint and two veg with sweet pudding and a cuppa. Tea 5 p.m. the usual salad with ham, tongue or salmon, with fruit and cream for afters and all for seven shilling a day!

            The week was blessed with glorious weather which belied the popular hit of the day, ‘stormy weather’ which was all the rage. Other songs of that time were: Hiawatha’s Lullaby, I like Mountain Music, The Wishing Song, and Valley of the Moon etc. Lawrence Wright’s and Feldman’s vying for your custom to their booths  on the Golden Mile and on the Central Pier where a bottle or two of Bass went down well as you lounged in deck chairs in the sunshine listening to a three piece band and a chap with a megaphone singing out the melodies. Then girls would come round selling their records and sheet music. Cecily Courtnedge and Jack Hubert were on the North Pier whilst Harry Korris and gang entertained on the Central Pier: There was dancing to Bertini and his band in The Tower: also wonderful Reginald Dixon on the organ. That was the pattern set for our evening entertainment plus all the fun of The Winter Gardens for a change.

            The pleasure beach was another popular outing where money simply vanished in no time but it was all such good fun. Football on the sands, boating in Stanley Park for a change (not for me I was happy to lounge on the grass with an ice cream) There were queues at the cinema for State fair (Janet Gaynor and Lew Ayres). It was certainly a great week’s holiday and I enjoyed it so much it was my birthday holiday for the next two years – same digs –same pals. Reluctantly Saturday came around and we were on our way back home with memories of a wonderful time in Blackpool.

Blackpool 1950s style

    by Pete Wood

In the 1950s Blackpool was the venue for at least one summer holiday for every northern teenager. The very best time of all for a week in Blackpool was around the age of sixteen: a time of growing awareness – let off the leash from your parents for the first time – and perhaps your first opportunity to get your hands around a pint glass.

            Leeds folk usually went in twos on the first week in August. The ‘Geordies’, Lancashire ‘Wakes’, and cities like Glasgow and Birmingham had their own favourite weeks too. By Sunday the twos had begun to link up, some by arrangement, others by chance. In the main you were not aware that other folk from home would be there, you just bumped into mates as if by divine chance. Through the day we wore black windjammers with white stripes or perhaps hoops on the arms; copied from the Americans and straw hats which were traditionally our own. The girls wore tight black skirts and ballerina shoes; and were tied tight around their middles to hourglass proportions by three inch black elastic belts. Girls still had shapes in the 50s.

            In the mornings we would promenade along the front and listen to widely exaggerated accounts of the previous evenings happening under the pier. In the afternoons we would play football on Stanley Park or perhaps on the beach, squeezing the last ounce out of the sun. We were in and out of the sea every ten minutes; if there was any pollution than – nobody seemed to notice. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the evening; this was the time to dress up in our full drape suites of midnight blue or black barathea, complete with half moon pockets, roll collars and Sackville one piece backs. Our hair would be slicked up and pulled forward Tony Curtis style with a DA at the back. When you walked out into the night air in a rig like that your heart soared as high as the tower – and you felt that all the world was your oyster.

            Then you were out and into the pub with the magic qualities of alcohol still a novelty. We found a little pub near to the railway station that sold McGee’s ale and didn’t enquire too closely about our age – we haunted that pub for the whole week. If you arranged to meet a mate though the venue would be The Huntsman Pub. Everyone knew were the Huntsman was and besides it sold Tetley’s ale, which was supposed to be the mandatory tipple for every Yorkshire lad. The pub was just the prelude to the Tower Ballroom or the Winter Gardens, where we would shuffle around the floor, one, two, three stop – one, two, three, stop: whatever the dance happened to be. It was only the McGee’s that gave us the courage to ask a girl to dance anyway. But the music! Oh the music! The big bands: Jack Parnell, Ken Mackintosh, and best of all Ted Heath with his three super star singers: Denis Lotus, Dickie Valentine and Lita Rosa. Has a band ever had three finer singers? When a drum solo began the dancing would stop and we would just stand, sway and clap, with a big cheer at the crescendo.

            Jewel memories spring to mind; the stench of a stink bomb dropped underfoot beneath the gyrating bodies of the dancers – the bouncers had no chance of finding the culprit. Another time I recall a giant of a guy dancing around; he was one of the biggest blokes I’ve ever seen, and one of our gang dancing around behind him with his fist up; if he’d have turned round and caught him he would have swotted him like a fly. On another occasion I can remember being separated from my mates and dragging myself home along the beach with one foot in the water and one foot on the sand; looking up at the lights on The Golden Mile and wondering why they were dancing up and down and merging with each other. Of course the answer was in the new found magic of the McGee’s.

            The digs that Tiggy, my mate, and I had booked was located over the top of a butcher’s shop, you could smell the meat twenty four hour a day. When, upon our arrival, we perceived the address to be a butcher’s shop we thought we had been ‘had’. I don’t suppose the landlady would have mustered much custom if she had said in her advert: ‘Enter through the butcher’s shop.’ Having said that – it was a seller’s market for 50s Blackpool landladies – they could be a bit choosey who they put up. She put us up in an attic bedroom about four floors up. That attic already had an occupant; an old gentleman who was profoundly deaf. It was a good job he was deaf with all the row we made when we came rolling up the steps full of that McGee’s. One night he woke up and said, ‘Is it thundering?’ It was just us crawling about on the floor trying to find the bed. One morning we were messing about with a beach ball on the landing outside the attic; one of us knocked the ball out of the other’s hand and off it off skipped down the stairs and through the open door of the dining room where the rest of the guests were already at breakfast – we could hear it bouncing from table to table scattering crockery – it seemed to go on for ten minutes while we grimaced with every c-r-a-s-h. Needless to say we daren’t go down to breakfast that morning in fact we thought ourselves lucky that she only charged us 1/9 for the broken crockery, we were afraid she may have thrown us out which sometimes did happen: although I’m sure if that had been the case some of our mates would have smuggled us into their digs where we could have slept on the floor. Some lads only came for a day trip but finished up staying all week in this manner.

            When my mind drifts back to that iconic week in Blackpool I can still smell the hot dogs on the ‘Golden Mile’, still feel the endless crush of folk jostling one way and equal numbers pushing in the opposite direction, hear the barkers shouting from the housey- housey stalls – it wasn’t called bingo then. See the fairy lights flashing on and off all around you. There was always something to do at Blackpool even when the weather was foul: go to the Tower Zoo or perhaps find a vantage point in the pleasure beach to watch the girls being thrown about in the ‘drum’.

            When you came home you talked about Blackpool for a couple of weeks but most couldn’t recapture it year after year; it was just a ‘rite of passage’ part of the youth culture of the times; as you got older you passed on to more sophisticated venues; as they say, ‘you can’t go back’ – apart from in your head of course, thank goodness you can always do that.

            Do the teenagers still have Blackpool? Perhaps for Blackpool read Spain. Whatever: I hope they can still enjoy it as much as we did.