Teenage life in the town I grew up in was a bit dull. We had two movie theatres and not much of anything else. Once films started to get ratings our choices were much reduced. Being from a small town has its disadvantages, one of them being that the women who sold the tickets knew everyone and she obviously had been trained by the Gestapo. Wearing lipstick didn’t fool her, she knew we were under age and she wouldn’t sell us a ticket.
The only way to get into an R rated movie was to get an adult to buy a ticket for you and let you walk in with them. This was not going to happen as the only adults going in were courting couples and they didn’t want two or three teenage girls going in with them. Even if you could con an adult to buy your ticket for you the usherette also knew you and wouldn’t let you get by her. This was probably just as well as the only person likely to get your ticket were single, older men who were more interested in sliding a hand up your leg than watching the movie.
The only other entertainment for young people was hanging round the local “temperance bar”, as the ice cream parlour was familiarly known. On any given evening there would be a big gang of teenagers hanging around outside, none of us had money to sit inside for more than one glass of pop and you were not allowed to linger after that one glass was gone. So we would just accumulate on the corner and chat. Nobody got out of line, we just needed to collect in our peer group and laugh about nothing.
Once we were old enough to work, we had money to spend and Saturdays were the highlight of the week. Mornings would be spent doing weekly chores then you were free for the rest of the day. Nobody had a home hair dryer so a group of us would leave home with hair in rollers, covered by the pastel chiffon scarf, that was the obligatory item of the era and walk the two miles to the train station. The fashion of the day was a pair of four inch high heels and a dress with a crinoline underskirt that had layers of net to pouf the dress out, we carried a small, oval case called a Dorothy bag. This held make-up and was strong enough to sit on in the crowded train.
The journey, to the sea side town of Blackpool, was about an hour and we spent part of that time removing the hair rollers and brushing, spraying and teasing our hair into a huge helmet with curls around the face. We spent the afternoon at the “Pleasure Beach” which was a big, noisy outdoor carnival. We paid the initial ticket for each ride but because we were girls, showing lots of leg beneath the pouffy skirt, the young guys operating the rides would let us stay on for several times, without paying again. Young, silly, harmless fun.
We rode the rides until we were dizzy then, eating hot fish and chips, walked the couple of miles from one end of the promenade to the block where the tower stood. Blackpool tower was, and still is a landmark in Lancashire, designed in a similar manor to the Eiffel tower, but it’s base is located in a huge building which housed all manor of entertainment, including a zoo, a permanent circus and an enormous ballroom.
The dance floor was sprung and would really bounce when lots of feet got into action. At one end was a very elaborate stage and from the centre of this would rise, out of the floor, a magnificent Worlitzer organ. It was played by the same man for years, he was called Reg Dixon and the organ would rise from the depths while he was playing it, kind of a magical moment.
A half hour was spent in the elegant bathrooms of the tower, rows of young girls applying make-up and smoothing down hair that had been windblown on the rides all afternoon. Then out onto the dance floor. Girls partnered each other until the boys cut in and from then on we danced and had fun till it was time to go home. During the evening we would usually find a boy who lived in our area so, although we always went home in a group, each girl was also accompanied by a boy. We always managed to arrive at the train station in time for the last train, which was known as the “Passion Wagon”.
There always seemed to be enough room to get everyone on the train, even if we had to stand in the passageways. The guard always dimmed the lights for the trip home and the romantic atmosphere encouraged much cuddling and kissing. Nobody ever got out of hand and nobody ever caused any trouble. As different people got off at their stop, there would be calls to meet again next week, but nobody really meant it, there was always someone to dance with in the tower ballroom. Youth is fickle but those Saturdays were a wonderful part of growing up.