Entertainment of Yesteryear...

By Hazel Hills

I expect a few of you remember Mr Sadler at the Seamen's Mission and the concerts that were so looked forward to.  His daughter Evelyn had a lovely voice and used to regularly sing, "How can a guinea pig show how pleased if he hasn't a tail to wag?"!  Then, Frank Carpenter could be relied on to render "Old Father Thames" in his rich baritone voice, in fact we used to refer to him as Old Father Thames as it was a regular song of his.

At one concert a girl recited a poem about Walnuts, it went on so long we children were giggling and we were told "wait till I get you home".

A real treat was to go to the pantomime at Brighton.  I remember so well going to one on the Palace Pier on a very wild January night and hoping that we would not be washed away.  The cast included 'Beams', 'Breeze Babes',  who were quite young children: one tiny girl with a very big voice reduced us to tears with her rendering of 'The little boy that Santa Claus forgot'.

Later my delight was the Hippodrome to see Gracie Fields, what a wonderful night that was, absolutely packed.  I made a scrap book of 'Our Gracie' and pasted in any photos I could collect, and printed information underneath with my sixpenny John Bull's outfit from Woolworth's.  I usually managed to print the s the wrong way round:  unhappily I lost this on November 22nd 1944 when an ammunition barge blew up and all the ceilings came down.

Is it not remarkable how we older folk can remember years back, and now I often have to come back downstairs to find out why I went up there in the first place, but never mind, Terry Wogan puts it very nicely, apparently in America they refer to these things as "having a senior moment" which does not sound too bad.

The Good old, bad old days

In the early 30's, an exciting event took place.  Mr Field arrived with his 'Relay Wireless' system.  For those people who did not own a wireless set, it was a real boon.  For 1/6d per week, you could have it relayed to your house.  A small 'bakelite' (plastic) box was fixed to an outside window sill, and it had 2 holes in the top at each end, there was a little shutter which could be moved from one end ot the other to allow you to plug in.  You had to have a speaker of course, and if you owned the speaker, it was only 1/- per week.  Anyhow, you got the Home Service on one end of the box, and the 'Light Programme' on the other.  But great excitement on Sundays you had 'Radio Luxemburg' instead of the 'Light'.  We children soon learn all of the signature tunes from the adverts. I guess 'The Ovaltinies' was the most popular.  Who remembers 'Hurrah for Beetox'?  It was so lovely to have Henry Hall every teatime with his BBC dance band.  We enjoyed 'Monday Night at Eight' and on Saturday evenings there was 'In Town Tonight', when they stopped the roar of London's traffic to introduce ay famous people that happened to be in town.  You always herd a lady saying 'Loverly violets'.  There were of course lots of other shows.  Another memory, who can recall ' The Gossips', a travelling concert party that performed in the first Co-op Hall, sixpence for an evening show, tuppence for Saturday morning.?

Parker Pen

When I started work at the Pen Factory (Valentine's). in June 1935, I was 14 years old.  I never thought I would work there for fourteen years, but I did, and some people will think I was mad, but I loved it.  On that first day in the Gold Nib shop, the noise of the machinery seemed unbearable, but of course you became used to it.

It was amazing to see how the nibs were made, from a slab of gold which was put through huge rollers by Wally Dunk, until it was extremely thin and ready to be blanked out.  These tiny squares had a notched point to one side, and my first job was to pick a small piece of Iridium with tiny tweezers and place it on this point; it was then sweated on by a mixture of gases - the nib was truly born.

Each nib went through every process by hand, one at a time; they had to be barded up after each process to make sure that you handed the correct amount on to the next girl.  Heaven help you if you lost any; I soon realised that it was a good idea to try to cultivate a few spares in case of an emergency.

On the social side, Bert Tiltman ran a club for a shilling (or sixpence) a week so that you could obtain something, usually to wear, for £1.00 or ten shillings.  We had to draw numbers to find out which was our lucky week-too bad if you needed something early on and you drew number 19 or 20!  (But you could always do a swap).

At this time the starting wage was ten shillings for a fifty hour week.  I always arrived early each morning, and we had to collect our personal disc, (mine was 101) from Ernie Page (Puggy).  He had a little room in a passage with all of the discs hanging on a board.  He used to say to me: "You must have got up before you went anywhere".

Our foreman, Jack King, was really good and he got the best out of us.  He was very handsome and I think most of us young ones were alternately frightened of him or madly in love with him.

Of course, our luck changed in 1942 when 'Parker Pen' took over: our wages went up and we were given a monthly bonus on our earnings, sixpence in the pound-in my case five or six shillings which was very acceptable.  What a wonderful thing for the town when 'Parker' arrived...

Miss Farr  (my Headmistress) sent Mr Charles Bannister too see me and offered me a job in his office. I had been at the factory for about a fortnight, but knew I could never be so happy in an office as I was with these sixty girls.

Once, I was suspended for two days for playing around; still, it was my fault, especially as I had been given two shilling pay rise that morning.

There are not many of us left now, and I do not suppose this article will be very interesting to some people, but I have enjoyed writing it, although I have only scratched the surface.

The Games We Played

I guess the earliest game I enjoyed  was playing 'Mothers'.  My friend and I happily wheeled our doll's prams around Eastside, although I must confess, mine quite often held very young kittens, produced regularly by Susie, my beloved cat.

This particular friend and I had quite a severe bout of religious mania, brought on no doubt by our Sunday School teacher, Miss Geering.  I'll never forget one Sunday when I had to take my cousin Gordon with me, we were told to say a text and 90% said 'God is Love', but Gordon stood up an said "Ice and snow".  I was so embarrassed, I never took him again.  My particular friend at this time and I decided to make our own altar in the stable passage, and we would rush there from school to say our prayers.

We had lovely times with our whips and tops, we decorated the tops with coloured chalks.  We could play in the road then as traffic was quite rare.  We also had hoops, either wooden or iron, the boys usually having iron ones.

At Easter, out came the skipping ropes and 'Salt, mustard, vinegar and pepper', echoed round the streets and lots of other skipping rhymes.  If you had a long rope, several could skip at once, 'All in together, nice fine weather'.

Ball games were great; we played 'Donkey', against Mrs Harman's wall until we were chased off.  Of course the thudding of a ball against her wall must have been awful.  We also played 'Sevensy' and were most impressed when a girl came to stay with her grandparents and taught us 'Manchester Tensy'.

We were able in those days to spend hours playing around the lovely buttercup fields, even during the 'Spud Boat' season when men came from far and near to earn a few shillings unloading the boats.  Some would have a few drinks and sleep off the effects on the banks, but there was never any trouble to my knowledge - how things change!

This page was added by Ginny Smith on 05/07/2008.
Comments about this page

Hi Hazel,
I don't reconise your name although I come from the Eastside, and did the same things as you, my Dad was foreman at Parker Pen and most of my family worked there, my Dad was Fred Baily and I am Valerie, would love to know if you remember me.
Look forward to hearing from you.

By Valerie Smith
On 19/02/2008

I really enjoyed your article about the Parker Pen factory. It made me laugh at some of the points.

By jg
On 01/03/2008

Thank you for your wonderful article about Valantines/Parker Pen. I still work there (just) and I used to make steele Vector nibs, which are now made in India, how times change. Still gold nib production is still with us lets hope it continues.

By Barry Martin
On 04/03/2008

Great article on the pen factory. I and a lot of my family worked there for many years. One of which is STILL there. Had some great days in the old place.

By Dale Saunders
On 05/09/2008

I was at Parker's, working in Phase two, when Mrs Thatcher came to visit. We were not told who was coming, but we had to wear a dress or skirt, no trousers. Most of us stayed behind for two reasons. One we were hoping it was Princess Diana, and two we got paid overtime. All morning sniffer dogs went all over our department looking for explosives. One dog wouldn't leave a box of very small components alone and it had to be emptied and searched. There was nothing there. Eventually the doors opened.......and in walked Maggie. Big disapointment, especially as we couldn't leave. Ah well, we did get the extra money!
Nice memory Reigna, thanks for sharing it - Jackie, Editor

By Reigna Mitchell
On 22/09/2008

Is there an Eastsider who can tell me when the houses in Transit Road were taken down, I think it was in the Nineteen Seventies. Or is there anyone who knew someone who lived in one. Thank You.

By sandra hosken
On 22/10/2009

Thanks for jogging my (seventy year old) memory.  Jingle went something like this.


Hurrah for Beetox! What a delightful smell.

The stuff that every self-respecting grocer Has to sell

It cooks all right, tastes delight. How easily it's made.

So join the happy chorus of the Beetox Parade!

By Dennis Bray
On 09/06/2019

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