Sunday, 28 February 2016

This Was My Blackpool In '68


         Sometime in the mid ‘60s my family moved to Blackpool. My parents were in the
licenced trade and the opportunity to have a pub on Blackpool Prom was their dream
come true. This was at South Shore, the aptly named ‘South Shore Hotel’, a site now
occupied by The Viking Talk of the Coast and our pub no longer recognisable from the outside.  My younger sister and I had the beach for our playground. A beach so
crowded, we would have to pick our way through clusters of holiday makers and family gatherings to find a space. The smell of seafood mingled with sweet, fragrant
candyfloss and donkeys. Summer holidays lasted forever. Our feet had blisters from
Woolworth’s plastic sandals.
         This was the Blackpool my grandmother enjoyed. Nan and Grandad, taking a break from helping my aunt run her pub, would come and sit in ours. Grandad would make himself useful behind the bar or in the cellar. Nan, always in the bay window of our upstairs sitting room, would leave her knitting untouched to watch the world go by. There would be chuckles and exclaims of  “Oh quick, come and see this! Well, I never!”  Groups of young ‘flower power’ people wearing cowbells round their necks and singing loudly was not commonplace to Nan. Bemused, she’d be ‘well I never-ing’ all day as she drank pots of tea and smoked her Park Drive. She only moved if my mum took her across to South Pier for a game of bingo in the Beachcomber amusements. I loved her to bits and it always made my day to see her wave from the window as I came home from school. I probably drove her mad with none stop chatter when I sat with her. We’d wait for the Illuminations to come on as more noisy throngs marched along the prom. Out of season, Nan was happy to watch the tide come in and out and gasp at waves crashing over the sea wall in stormy weather.
             For the summer of ’68, my parents were also in charge of The Huntsman Hotel on
Central Promenade. It’s holiday flats or something now, but back in the day it was a
busy hotel and the residents bar was popular with stars and celebrities appearing in the summer shows. I was delighted to meet a favourite of mine, Don Partridge,  when he held a party there.  He was a street busker from London, made famous by his songs ‘Rosie’ and ‘Blue Eyes’ and was appearing at Central Pier for the season. Engelbert Humperdinck was on at the ABC and Peter Gordeno was also there, or maybe South Pier. My mother took me to meet Engelbert back-stage after we’d seen his show. I was too star-struck to speak.
            A couple of years ago, my husband and I went out to dinner at The Viking. It was our anniversary and a nostalgia trip for me. The restaurant is upstairs, along the front of the building where our living accommodation used to be. Some rooms have been knocked through, but I could tell where the original walls had been. It felt good to wander around and stand for a moment where I’m sure our bay window would have been, all those years ago.The ABC Theatre, as it always was to me, is recently demolished.  So many memories, not just Engelbert, but Frankie Vaughan, Tommy Steele, oh I have a long and varied list.
Time passes, things change. The Blackpool I grew up with, my Nan’s Blackpool, will never come back, but what a wonderful time we had. I am privileged to have been there. My poem captures that magical summer

Thank you for reading,  Pamela Winning.

This Was My Blackpool In ’68.

Taking a tram from North Pier to Starr Gate.
A summer of fun and staying up late.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.

Anne, Auntie Kath and me, all holding hands
Crossing the Prom to get on to the sands
Where the grumpy deck-chair man always stands.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.

We were young ladies with panache and style,
Playing the penny arcades for a while,
Frittering our spends on the Golden Mile.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.

Spinning the Waltzers three times in a row.
Make it go faster, we don’t like it slow,
And then the man said, “That’s it, off you go!”
This was my Blackpool in ’68.

Out to a summer show, straight after tea.
Engelbert tonight at the ABC,
A back-stage delight for my mum and me.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.

Got to get ready, there’s no time to lose!
My trendiest outfit is what I will choose…
A pink mini dress with bright orange shoes.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.

A time of peace, love and Flower Power,
Charlie Cairoli and Blackpool Tower,
Seaside and sunshine for hour after hour.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.

Pamela Winning,   2013



Rowan Murphy said...

In 1968 I used to go in the pub at the top of Chapel Street facing the pier. This was between the Huntsman and the Foxhall. I'm trying to remember what the pub was called. It had a room called the Bickerstaff Room. I think it night have been called The Wellington. Can you help me. Thank you