Friday 19 April 2013

Blackpool memories

It started off quite miserable this morning, after rain overnight, it continued to drizzle, so it looks like a day in today. I thought I would do the next instalment of old photo's, starting where I left off, me leaving home. I was determined I wanted to be independant, and make my own way in life, so when my best friend Carol moved to Blackpool with her family, it was an ideal opportunity to follow her. I went for a holiday first, when I was 17, and wanted to move immediately as I thought this was the place to be. I loved the buzz of the Promenade and the Pleasure Beach, and Carol and her sister had made quite a lot of friends. They always seemed to be going to beach parties on the sand dunes down at South Shore, or the local pub. 
Mum didn't want me to leave home, and I'm afraid I got a bit sulky when she said I couldn't go until I was eighteen. I was working in a toilet roll factory at the time called Wesleys, although my work mates were a good laugh, the job was as dull as ditchwater. I wanted some excitement. When I hit the magical 18, I bragged to everyone that I was going to get a flat in Blackpool, and I was off. I felt really excited, I couldn't see me in a factory for the rest of my life.  
At first I stayed with Carol and her family for a while, until I got a job and found a bedsit. Carol's mum was fantastic, she welcomed me like I was another daughter. After a few weeks, I found a job in a large self service cafe on the sea front. I was given the drinks section to look after, so all day long I was serving cups of tea and coffee to a never ending stream of customers. My goodness that was boring. After five days I'd had enough, and walked out.
I went straight onto Central Pier and asked for a job in the cafeteria there. Luckily they needed someone to take the ice cream tray around at half time in the theatre. It was quite a nice job, but at other times I had to do the cleaning in the cafe.
My mum and sister decided to come for a visit, and they turned up at Central Pier to see me. Well, I burst into tears when I saw them, as I was quite homesick. I had found myself a bed sit to live in, which was one room, use of shared bathroom and kitchen, so after work I would either visit Carol, or go back to my room. Blackpool suddenly didn't feel so exciting when I had to knuckle down to the realities of work and earning a living. I couldn't afford to go out very often. 
Mum could see that I was upset, she said I was quite welcome to go back home to Burton with them, I could have my old room back. I was tempted, I thought about it, and decided to stay in Blackpool. After all, what would my old workmates think if I went crawling back, admitting defeat. I was so full of enthusiasm to leave home, I just couldn't go back and be the laughing stock of everyone. Mum and sister went home and I stayed. I chucked up my job, didn't like cafeteria work, and found a job on the Pleasure Beach.   
Me and my sister on North Pier. I had blonde hair then, in fact you will see lots of diferent coloured hair in the photo's I was forever changing it.
My mum was small, chubby and dark, I was taller, skinny and blonde.
Mum came back for another visit a few months later, this time with her friend and neighbour, Mitti. The gorgeous lady in the middle is Lucy the Llama, she used to pull a cart around the Pleasure Beach, giving rides to the kids, they loved her.
This is where I worked. The donut stall was opposite the entrance to the Ice Drome, next to Watson Road. The front was all open counters, and we sold waffles, and hotdogs, as well as donuts. There was three of us, I was the new girl. Maura, in this picture, came over from Ireland every year to work the season, then go back home for the winter. Behind the chequered wall was the kitchen where we prepared the mixes for the donut and waffle machines. It was delivered in big bags, we put it in the mixer and added water.   
Also the kitchen was where Ada cooked our meals, and where we ate them. When it was busy we could not get off the stall for hours, we just had to keep working. There was no proper breaks as such, we worked together as a team.  If we were a bit slack, we could go walkabout, as long as the work was covered by the other two. Me and Maura used to give Ada housekeeping money. She would go to the shops to buy what was needed for our meals. She was of the old school, cooked everything from scratch, she served up some lovely dinners. I used to call Ada my Blackpool Mum, she made sure I had some proper food inside me.
 The man in the next picture is Maltese Joe. He was an engineer on the Pleasure Beach, we always called him out when the donut machine went wrong. Joe and Ada used to curse and row with each other, but it was all in good humour. It was so funny to listen to, I can hear his voice now, bloody this and bloody that. Ha ha. Of course there was always a free meal for Joe from the stewpot, followed by a mug of tea.  
Just along from our stall was lots of other game stalls where you could win prizes. We were employed by the Pleasure Beach, but these stalls were rented by individuals. There was always a lot of larking about going on. Everyone was one big happy family.

Now look at me, I've got red hair. Roll up, roll up, get your donuts here. Waffles were 1/- each, donuts three for 1/-, and hot dogs 1/6. A shilling is 5p in new money.
This is the only time I have been a bridesmaid. Carol got married, and this is her Uncle, a guest at the wedding. My dress is a pale lilac satin dress, with a little bit of lace round the bottom of the sleeves and the hemline. I am wearing a hairpiece to give a bit of height to my hair. The reception was held in her Aunties boarding house.
My boyfriend for a long time in Blackpool was Mike. He was the steady reliable type, and about 12 years older than me. I was the one with my head in the clouds, who would do things on a whim. Mike was a brilliant snooker player, he won a lot of tournaments, he could have been world champion if he wanted. My dress was yellow crimplene, with a chain belt.
After a hard days graft on the Pleasure Beach it was often wind down time at the Casino. Here we are with  friends, my sister joined us for a few days. Blimey, that's almost a warbrobe malfunction there, an inch or two higher and you would have seen my knickers, ha ha. I knitted the pale blue short sleeved jumper myself.
I'll tell you about how they closed the Pleasure Beach down at night. Management would do a walkabout to check how many visitors were still going on rides. how many were still spending money. You paid for each ride individually, no wristbands like there are now. At that time there was no entrance fee, anyone could walk around whenever they liked even when the place was closed. When people started to drift away, the Laughing Man stopped laughing. He was the clown which sat in a glass box in front of the Fun House. When he stopped laughing we knew we had one hour left before the place closed. Word was passed around from stall to stall, like a chain reaction, so everyone knew how long it would be before we could lock up.
The next sign was, half an hour later, top lights would go. That's all the top lights on the rides would be switched off. Everyone could see that, so we knew we had half an hour left. We had already started winding down, emptying the machines, putting food away, cleaning down, and cashing up. The money in the three tills had to be counted separately, and logged into a book. Then the money was bagged up, ready to be paid into the Casino Offices. I was given the job of paying it in, because I could run the fastest. When more lights started going out, I could creep my way towards the building, keeping a look out for security, so as not to be seen, because we couldn't pay in until the siren went. 
The siren was like one of those in the war, which warned of attack, everyone could hear it. As soon as it went I flew like the wind in one last sprint, and I was at the door running up the stairs to the paying in windows. I was nearly always the first one there.  
Working on the Pleasure Beach was one of the happiest times of my life. I had moved from a bedsit to a flat, then another flat, I loved having my own space, my own privacy, and best of all my freedom to come and go as I pleased. At the end of my first season I thought I might have to go home, because I was out of a job for the winter. But then I found a winter job at Empire Pools, the football coupon place. It was office work, but in a big office so plenty of contact with mates. They liked people to go back every winter as it was their busy time, and it saved them training new people up. So for three and a half years I had a summer job and a winter job. It suited me just fine, plenty of variety. I look back with fondness at my time in Blackpool.

Did you see a rainbow last night? I did. Quick get the camera before it fades away.

Before I go, I have made a new page. There are links on there to the posts about my four long walks, in case anyone wants to read them. It saves trawling through the whole blog. You will find it at the top, under the header. I'm off, late lunch then out, it has brightened up, the sun is out. Have a nice weekend.
Toodle pip.


  1. I love this post, thank you so much for Sharing, I remember the laughing clown from when I was a child and visited the pleasue beach in the 80's. Love all your pictures, so glam xx

  2. I love these glimpes of your life,Ilona. Thanks!
    Jane x

  3. What wonderful memories, and what a fabulous adventure for someone so young. I could really relate to the excitement of leaving home for the first time and then that homesick feeling when you are reunited with your family security. Well done on sticking it out, it looks like you had a ball. And to think when you were having those pictures taken, you had no idea that one day you would be able to share them with the whole world at a click of a button. Isn't life brilliant!

  4. Wow you look brill in those pics. my mum is 62 and she has similar pics of herself in the mini skirts and dresses with the big hair. I love reading stuff like this so lovely I can just imagine it. more please xxx oh and more healthy food pics I'm basing some of my weight loss diet around your meals and It seems to be paying off xxx

  5. The crowd that I went about with went to Gt Yarmouth, the pleasure beach there was great fun. As we got older and started working and earning decent money we headed for Brighton, it was fun but the traveling took up too much of the weekend so after e few weeks it was back to Yarmouth again. I dyed my hair red once and hated it, luckily it washed out fast and I was back to blonde.

  6. Loved reading about your adventures in Blackpool and seeing your pictures. My youngest brother worked at the pleasure Beach for 2 seasons in the late eighties.
    I wonder if you ever met my grandad. He worked on the Blackpool trams as a clippy.

  7. Great adventures. We may have even passed each other when I worked at Empire Pools. I was 16 and it was a holiday job opening envelopes. I remember that once you had opened a certain number of envelopes you would get a bonus which wasn't much - only about 3d. I hated it when people used to put in good luck items as we had to fill in a form and it stopped us opening other envelopes. Quite a lot of girls used to 'go to the loo' regularly and seemed to be away a long time. They were all 'having a fag' and skiving off in the toilets! I worked from 8.30 in the morning until 5.30 at night. I was 'promoted' to 'filing' which was putting the coupons into alphabetical order. I liked that - sad me!
    Love from Mum

  8. I loved reading this, Ilona. Weren't you a stunner? (Not that you aren't now)
    People were so much more go-getting back then, leaving home, lodging with strangers and happy to move where work took them.
    I've still never been to Blackpool! xxx

  9. I enjoyed reading about your time in Blackpool. Like Pam, commenting above, I used to go to Yarmouth pleasure beach. We used to go at the end of the season and drive along the seafront; as soon as the lights appeared I would get a sense of wonder; I thought it was fairyland LOL! It's still there, in all it's tawdry glory but I've not been as an adult as I think it would be a disappointment and probably much smaller than the land of wonder that thrilled me so much as a child. The landaus (horse drawn carriages) are still there from spring to autumn; it's nice driving through the town and seeing them going to work and going home, being at traffic lights with them, like a glimpse of lost times.

  10. Lovely post! I'm so pleased you kept these old photos to entertain us with :-D

  11. Hi Ilona, Louise from Burton here. Lovely, lovely photos. Thank you very much for sharing your memories and life with us. Fascinating to hear what it was like then : )

  12. I love that photo of you with the blue jumper and the malfunctioning! skirt.

  13. Loved reading about your early life and adventures. Your were a brave one. The pictures were great and the hair styles! In the wedding pic it looks like you had one of those fake hair pieces that fit on the top/crown of your head that had biggish curls, I had one too. Can't wait to read more!

  14. Thank you Ilona, for sharing those memories with us. You were a gorgeous, independent and smart woman now and back then!


  15. Nice reading Ilona. Thanks for sharing all those memories.

  16. Ilona, I read every day but rarely comment. I really enjoyed this post because it took me back to my childhood in Clacton, working a summer job in a cafe on the seafront opposite the pier! I also left home at 18 to work on cruise ships while my friends were getting jobs in Woolworths or the factories on the industrial estate. Happy times......

  17. Hello Ilona from House fairy.
    I like the old photo's and the story behind them. Have you thought of putting some of the photo's in a large frame. I did this as a craft project. Many old photo's in one large old frame I had. It has had many comments.

  18. love all the pictures! you've got a lovely pair of pins wish mine were like that!!!

  19. Lovely memories, thank you for sharing.

    Blackpool and Great Yarmouth were the 2 places we went on holiday to each year when I was growing up and your post has took me back to my childhood memories too.

    Have a good weekend!

  20. Fantastic that you still have all those photos. I wish I still had my photos from my early years. You did make me laugh writing about having to run to the paying in office. I can just imagine you tearing around. Wonderful memories. More please!!

    Linda xx

  21. You have certainly had an exciting life Ilona, and how brave you were to go off on your own and make the best of things.

    A quick frugal gardening hint. If you have a problem with moss around the house as we do, don't buy expensive moss killing product. A kettle of boiling water for small areas or cheap bleach in water will kill it and you will be able to sweep or scrape it up easily. Delphine

  22. Hello Ilona, Yvonne here.
    Interesting post however I think you tell too much - the sad story of Ada & is not yours to tell everyone about. Revealing something like this could be very upsetting to a relative who happens to read this. You may think it's not likely that someone associated with them happens upon your blog but I can tell you that my great niece happened upon a blog which described something that happened to her relatives, in similar circumstances that you write about. She has been extremely upset and her words were "this is not for someone else to write about, to provide entertainment for anyone with internet access"

    No doubt you thought an interesting piece to tell your readers but unfortunately it could cause untold distress for someone. Your post would be interesting enough without this included.

    If you don't wish to publish this comment that's fine by me however I thought you should be more aware of your actions.

    1. Hi Yvonne, you are right of course. I made a mistake, I have removed the paragraph. Thank you for pointing it out to me, I don't always think before I put my brain into gear.

  23. Comment from Louise, edited after the post was edited.

    really enjoyed reading this and hearing of all your happy memories

  24. Comment from Judy Y, edited after the post was edited.

    Very interesting post! Thanks for sharing some of your earlier life with us.
    I think most of us would probably have lots of photos with different coloured hair, I know I sure did!
    Judy xx

  25. I enjoyed reading this's nice to read about the good old days.
    I'm wondering Ilona, are you scanning the old photos, or are you taking photos of your old photos to upload to your blog?

    1. Hi Virginia. Yes, I am scanning. My printer also scans, and saves them to my picture file. Then I tweak the contrast to sharpen them, and crop the edges. That's about all I can do to make them look a bit better. Would like to get rid of the grainy look, but I am not that good at using all the tools.

    2. Thanks for your info on picture scanning my dear. My printer does not scan, so I'll have to use my daughter's all-in-one printer.
      I've got lots of old photos to share with my blog friends.

  26. Shirley here
    Hi Ilona, what an interesting post - I am 63 so the fashions, hairdos, etc. are all familiar to me and brought back loads of memories, is it just me or were people more open to experiences in those days, as one of you readers said to leave home, live in a bed sit, move aroudn for work, I did that and never thought anything of it; or is it that we are all that much more resilient when we are young, I know we didnt expect that much in those days......thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  27. Hi Meanqueen,
    Just thought I'd drop you a line to let you know of a new Facebook Group called 'Blackpool Stories' as I think it may interest you.

    If you have a funny, sad, story or anecdote about your time in Blackpool or along the Fylde Coast then why not share it here. Please keep your posts to a max of 600 words if possible and unless absolutely necessary please refrain from any bad language.
    I hope you don't find this as an intrusion as I really do think it is relevant to your blog.
    Hope to see you there.

    1. I haven't been to Blackpool for several years, and with my girlfriend our favourite amusement was having stockingfeet in the famous Funhouse. The Pleasure Beach has never been the same since it was destroyed by fire in the 1990s.
      Shaun Foster.


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