The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson: Trips to town centre brought plenty of pleasure

MY greatest regret while writing this column is that I cannot help everyone who writes asking for information about relatives whose family tree they are writing.

Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 11:55 am
Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

It is also regrettable that I don’t have the space every week to publish letters commenting on (and sometimes correcting) what I have written.

So, just to catch up I am publishing a few emails I’ve received, the first from Harold Laycock, who writes in response to my feature on the ‘Changing Face of Dewsbury’.

Harold writes:

New era: The changing face of Dewsbury is clearly shown here is the start of the erection of one of the most modern buildings in Dewsbury - Broadway House – which is still with us and which once housed numerous shops and offices, including the Yorkshire Electricity Showrooms and Weaver to Wearer, sadly long gone. The most recent, Val’s Cafe, which is also no longer with us. On the left-hand side you can see The Granby public house, also no longer with us.

“I suppose my earliest memory of Old Dewsbury was a visit to one of the multiple tailors like Montague Burtons, Weaver to Wearer, Fifty Shilling Tailors or Alexandra’s for my new suit at Whitsuntide.

“In the early part of the Second War we had to go to Broadway House to be fitted for our new gas masks.

“More pleasurable visits were to the Boy Scout and Girl Guide shop for our uniforms or for camping equipment.

“But even more pleasurable were the visits to Dewsbury Library for books on Scouting, ‘Just William’ or ‘Biggles’.

“During my days at Dewsbury Technical School I often went with my classmates down to The Snack bar for a bag of chips (following school dinners).

“My earliest memories of the Playhouse Cinema were of the organist who often played during the interval or for the talent shows.

“My outstanding memories of the Playhouse were of the days when there were separate but continuous performances.

“It was usual to show a travelogue, a cartoon and a news piece, followed by the main film.

“When the cinema was full, people arriving late had to wait in long, winding queues outside, whatever the weather.

“As the programme was continuous, people entered the cinema at various points in the programme, sometimes part way through the main feature film.

“They would sit and wait until the programme arrived at the point where they first entered the cinema.

“Whenever the cinema was full, people had to wait outside until someone came out, which could have been part way through the programme, like the news, a travelogue or the feature film.

“It was often the case that they would see the middle and the end of the programme before seeing the beginning.

“Strange but true.

“Although young people today would think this was very strange, cinema was our main source of entertainment in those days.”

Recently, I wrote about the Boy Scout movement in Dewsbury and wrongly stated that St Phillip’s Church was demolished in the 1950s,but Mr Eddie Johnson has kindly pointed out it was in the 1960s.

He writes: “Your article was of particular interest to me, as a former wolf cub and scout of the 5th for 11 years.

“I would correct one part of the report which is that St Phillip Church was not demolished in the 1950s in a slum clearance programme.

“It was finally demolished in the mid 1960s as part of the site clearance for the new Dewsbury Ring Road, before the route for the road was changed.

“I believe it was carried out over the Easter weekend but I am not sure of the year.

“The last time I was in the church, was in early August 1962, for the funeral of my father, Stan Johnson, who at the time of his death was the District Commissioner for Dewsbury Scouts, hence my long association with the scout movement.

“One notable event that your article brought back, was in 1967, when five members of the 5th Senior Scouts, gained the Queen’s Scout Award at the same time,

“I remember the article that appeared in the Reporter at the time, which showed a photo of the five of us, John Ketton, Paul Blakey, David Hey, John Bailey and myself.

“John Ketton, Paul and myself still live in Dewsbury, but to the best of my knowledge John Bailey moved to St Helens, and David moved to America.

“Thank you for producing an article of such interest.”

I am always happy to receive emails from people who used to live in Dewsbury and now live away, like the following from Barbara Brown.

She writes from Blackpool to send me the following message:

“Hello Margaret.

“We live in Blackpool, but receive copies of the Mirfield Reporter courtesy of a family friend, as both myself, and my 98-year-old dad Jack Rhodes, who lives with us, used to live in Mirfield.

“In fact, we were both born in Dewsbury (me at Moorlands Maternity Unit and dad at home), and he and his parents used to live in and run, the Sir Robert Peel’s Pub on Bradford Road long before it became The Poacher.

You very kindly, ran an article about it which we had put together for your ‘Nostalgia’ page a number of years ago.

The reason I am emailing you now is to thank you for that lovely article about Dewsbury Feast.

You mentioned ‘chats’!!!

I could immediately taste them!!!

As you said, Dewsbury Feast was a wonderful event to attend as a young child in the mid 1960s, and even though we now have the marvellous Pleasure Beach on our doorstep, there was nothing like the thrill of the fair in Dewsbury that you knew was coming for the last two weeks in July!