Tin Baths, Tallymen & Time Travel

Pocket money in the early 1950s was one of life’s unaccustomed little luxuries that parents liked to give their children. My hardworking mother and father were no exception, always managing to treat my brothers and I to one shilling each per week, although sometimes a little less if money was scarcer than usual; this was equivalent to twelve pennies before decimalisation.
We endeavoured to find any part-time odd jobs available to boost our weekly allowance. I remember my younger brother, who was quite a budding little entrepreneur, offering his English language skills for a mutually agreed sum to a travelling gentleman in our local village who for some unknown reason was unable to read or write, although this particular individual just happened to belong to one of the richest families in the area!
Like many children of the early post-war era, my brothers and I seemed to be forever doing our morning or evening paper rounds,
which were highly sought after positions and well paid. We also used to collect any used soft drink bottles at home or from neighbours as the returns money on them was a very profitable exercise. Some of our friends could also be spotted helping our local milkman, or in the village stores, and even offering to run errands for the local busy housewives – all of course for an agreed fee! Our pocket money was usually spent on buying chocolate, sherbet dabs, sweet lollies, liquorice sticks, spangles, polos, or gums and extra comics such as the ‘Beezer’ and ‘Wizard’ that were usually approximately two pence each. The more thrifty children would sometimes ‘squirrel’ away their extra pocket money to spend on a longed for week’s holiday at the seaside in summer with their respective families, or for more Saturday picture trips to 32 Marianne Green | Tin baths, tallymen & time travel see a favourite film, sometimes twice over but usually to enjoy the weekly shenanigans that always occurred in that ‘adult-free’ zone!

The Saturday morning pictures was a weekly treat at one of the local Walton-on-Thames cinemas such as The Odeon, The Regal or The Regent where my brothers and I would sit amidst a few hundred squealing children, watched over by nervous usherettes and the cinema manager, without any other adults present. I remember we all saw popular showings such as Charlie Chaplin, Mr. Pastry, Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers cowboy and western films to name but a few. Frequently, the cinema projectionist was told to stop the film because it became drowned out by the sounds of their uncontrollable little audience, either hissing, booing, whistling or cheering over enthusiastically. Even throwing sweets and paper darts from the circle to the stalls below was not unheard of, often hitting their unsuspecting targets, prompting loud unrepeatable vocabulary and threats that they would get them outside! The film was not started again until every child in the cinema was sitting down and the culprits physically removed by the manager in full view of his nervous-looking usherettes.

Those were memorable days that became imprinted in our minds, especially when looking at one of the old cinemas today being renovated as a public house, and another having been demolished to make way for a string of modern eateries.

 

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Bowler Hats to Beehives

During the 1960s, I left the NAAFI HQ for the
lure of London and its multiple working opportunities,
which led me to gain a variety of jobs
for banking organisations, city stockbrokers,
public service posts, before succumbing to the
glamour of the famous entertainment company,
Mecca, who had their Head Office near Waterloo
station. I worked in the controversial Miss
World department under the watchful eye of
Eric Morley, who was an astute, down-to-earth
character. The buzz and excitement throughout
82 Marianne Green | Tin baths, tallymen & time travel
the building was captivating with many of the
‘it’ generation waltzing through Mecca’s doors,
one of whom was an outstanding, doe-eyed
beauty named Rosemary Franklin who had won
the Miss World title with her grace, elegance,
and of course, her physical attributes. It’s hard
to imagine that so many years have elapsed and
that she would now be approaching seventy
years of age, although probably still eye-catching
in today’s era.

Many famous celebrities of the 1960s came
to meet Eric Morley and worked for Mecca. One
morning, whilst rushing into the lift, armed with
venue notes and my once immaculate ‘beehive’
totally askew, I was courteously greeted by the
now infamous late Jimmy Savile. He was a flamboyant
character dressed in colourful outlandish
clothes with bright blonde bobbed fringe
hairdo and always puffing away at a huge cigar;
his popularity with many employees was second
to none, and he always greeted the higher and
lower sectors from tea boy to director with a
cheery “Hello boys and gals”. All without a hint
of what today had in store for him; how times
change!

As I matured into a stroppy teen and twenty-
something, my friends and I would often go
for a week’s summer holiday at one of the Billy
Butlin holiday camps, which were introduced in
1936 at Skegness and later Clacton-upon-Sea.
During the 1940s, holiday camps were all the
rage, offering cheap ‘very British’ holidays,
in chalets, with entertainment such as beauty
queen competitions, nobbly knees competition,
comedy shows, ballroom dancing, together with
a variety of eateries and bars everywhere,‘red
coat’ assistants on hand encouraging people to
join in the fun. However, as cheap overseas holidays
gathered popularity in the 1960s era, Billy
Butlin’s holiday camp style of entertainment
began to fade, making way for more sophisticated
leisure resorts such as Centre Parks.

The memories my friends and I have of the
holiday camps, especially at Clacton-on-Sea
are priceless, not to mention the fun-filled days
and nights with groups of girls and lads, and the
nightly dances courtesy of the music of many
musical pop legends and bands of the day, such
as Elvis, The Everly Brothers, Conny Francis,
Buddy Holly, Ricky Nelson, Fats Dominoe, Billy
Fury and Jerry Lee Lewis. They always seemed
to be the hot favourites of the night with young
people fervently jiving to the exciting musical
rhythm that exploded throughout the dance
area. I always remember the wide-spread camaraderie
in that long-ago era, which sometimes
contrasts markedly with that of today,
possibly because of the new found freedom
from fear and hardship of the earlier post-war
years at that time and perhaps technology, as
we know it today, was only on the distant horizon,
thereby compelling everyone to physically
socialize without the aid of social media.

The music scene in 1950s Great Britain underwent
a tidal wave of change, from popular
songs such as A Four Legged Friend by Roy
Rogers, Secret Love by Doris Day, Just Walking
In The Rain by Johnny Ray and Don’t Let The
Stars Get In Your Eyes by Perry Como, giving
way to the vibrating rock ‘n’ roll beats, courtesy
of Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Little Richard and
Eddie Cochran (with his revolutionary guitar
sound). The magic of Motown artists was on the
rise, such as Smokey Robinson & the Miracles,
Mary Wells, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight
& the Pips, (all articulating a blend of the African-
American church), to name but a few of
the up and coming new musical giants. The BBC
ruled the airwaves during this era but in February
1957, The 6.5 Special programme was
broadcast featuring pop, and rock ’n’ roll and
later programmes such as Juke Box Jury, with
suits and ties worn by the performers, minus
any phony American accents – anything American
in 1950s Britain was considered vulgar and
of low standard!

Another major musical contender around
during the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, who was
an exceptionally influential music impresario,
(similar to today’s Simon Cowell), was Larry
Parnes. He was a former London shopkeeper
who became a co-manager with a John Kennedy,
renowned for discovering Tommy Hicks – later
to become Tommy Steele – one of Britain’s
greatest rock ‘n’ roll legends.

Larry Parnes discovered a huge array of young
singers who quickly rose up the dizzy heights of
fame and fortune, including Marty Wilde (Reg
Smith), a particular favourite of mine, who
toured the country. I saw them perform in venues
such as Woking Theatre, Hayling Island, and
The London Palladium.

I particularly remember Marty’s generosity
of spirit on stage to the late, great Jet Harris,
a former Shadows group member. Marty was always
playing a string of his hit records like Donna,
Bad Boy and Teenager in Love, continuously
receiving standing ovations for his performances,
although in later shows tending to exclude
Teenager in Love from his packed repertoire,
reminding us that seventy plus, was stretching
the point a little!!

I actually met Marty Wilde on several occasions,
often going backstage with a friend after
his shows to congratulate him. He was a fine
looking individual, portraying an ever-youthful
appearance and always so polite and kind to his
army of adoring fans no matter how tired he
obviously felt after hours on stage.

Eden Kane was also on the bill at Woking Theatre,
immaculately attired in a gleaming white
suit and pink shirt, looking very much like an
older ‘silver fox’ version of Vidal Sassoon, the
iconic 1960s hairdresser. Apparently, Eden had
travelled all the way from Los Angeles to perform
at Woking Theatre, where he received a
rousing ovation, especially for his renowned hit
record Well, I Ask You.

Larry Parnes’ stable of rising young stars continued
to grow throughout the year, each being
given pseudo names such as Billy Fury, Georgie
Fame, Johnny Gentle, Dickie Pride, Vince Eager,
to name a few. However, there was one extremely
talented young ‘cheeky chappy’ who,
thankfully, was to resist Parnes’ re-naming
pattern – that of the now legendary musician,
Joe Brown, whom Larry wanted to call Elmer
Twitch! He also hired The Beatles to back Johnny
Gentle on a 1960s Scottish tour, but rejected
them as a backing group for Billy Fury! They
also supported Helen Shapiro (the early 1960s
schoolgirl) with hit records like Walking Back
to Happiness, You Don’t Know, and Don’t Treat
Me Like A Child on her national tour in 1963.
Helen’s popularity took a dive when more purported
up-to-date singers arrived such as Dusty
Springfield, Sandie Shaw and Lulu.

With an astute eye for talented musical acts,
Larry Parnes introduced many to television and
stage, giving them lucky breaks, such as Rolf
Harris, Mike Yarwood and John Barry. He had
many lavish productions under his belt like Chicago,
Half a Sixpence, starring Tommy Steele,
and later bought the Cambridge Theatre showing
Beyond The Fringe with Peter Cooke and
Dudley Moore, which became a huge success.
Sadly, Larry Parnes’ rule ended with the Beatles
astonishing chart predominance, and the
whole Liverpool and Birkenhead Club scene
erupted. It produced many more amazing artists
such as Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J
88 Marianne Green | Tin baths, tallymen & time travel
Kramer, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Cilla
Black, Wayne Fontana, The Mersey Beats, name
but a few.

Gramophones were heard everywhere with
scratchy, worn old needles playing 78rpm or
45rpm single records resounding to the rock and
roll beat, the same songs as played on television
and radio programmes. I remember listening
to my little transistor radio hearing Radio
Luxembourg’s pop music with D.J. Alan Freeman,
and later listening avidly to the sounds of
pirate radio station Radio Caroline, broadcasting
from the North Sea, with D.J’s such as Kenny
Everett, and then Radio One and the wellknown
D.J’s Tony Blackburn, Dave Lee Travis,
also Emperor Rosko and Simon Dee.

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