Bob Flower’s Memories of Radcliffe

Part 4

Now I am sure many of you will be wondering what we did to amuse ourselves back in the day. Well hopefully I am going to enlighten you.

Firstly no television, not much radio, we had a cat’s whisker set to listen to  ‘ITMA’, Can I do you now sir! (Tommy Handley) and Dick Barton, Special Agent. Dad built ours and it ran on two accumulator glass batteries. You could guarantee they would go flat as soon as you got to the exciting bit. Off to Billy Redmile’s on Eastwood Road to get them charged for 24 hours, a shilling (10p!) One hanging on each handlebar. Full of acid, not too dangerous!

No mobile phones to distract you whatever you were doing. No internet and social contacting. How on earth did we live!

There was the Co-op Hall. That was above the old Co-op where my Uncle Tom Smalley was caretaker. Billy Smalley, his son who was in the Navy during the war, worked for the Co-op and was eventually shop manager at Cotgrave. His other son Sam built the air raid shelter at the Junior School. He was killed in action later in the war.

The Hall was used for many different functions but I cut my ballroom dancing teeth there with Mrs Smith, mother of Miss Smith or as most of you know her Mrs Dix no less! The music was supplied by Mr Smith from a wind up gramophone playing Victor Sylvester strict tempo dance music. He smoked a Sherlock Holmes pipe with ‘Erinmore’ tobacco I remember. I received my first faltering steps for the quickstep, foxtrot, tango, waltz etc. I eventually achieved gold medal standard in ballroom but was not tall enough to go in for serious competitive dancing. Mrs Smith was strict. “Lift your right hand up Robin” (as I was called then!) “ the ladies shoulder blade is not near her bottom”.

Original Co-operative shop and hall under construction
Hall was used for dances and many other functions until it was demolished

My problem was not being very tall I was often dancing ‘nose to bust’ as it were! “Lean back from the waist but keep your tummies touching”, you are gliding, not tramping through the woods”. The floor was terrible with the hard knots sticking up and the remainder worn away over time.

I remember the calls so clearly. I did finish up dancing in Hanford and Richards formation team dancing exhibitions. One at Saxondale Hospital, lovely ballroom, falling flat on my back In front of the whole village and family, but that’s another story. I still blame the ‘Dutch courage double whiskey!!’

We used to have a Whist Drive and dances in the Co-op Hall every Saturday. Many soldiers from Malkin Hill Camp came to enjoy the dancing. The ‘Palais Glide’ and ‘Dashing White Sergeant’ popular with the lads but in army boots the building seemed to shake! One Saturday morning, in the hall with my Uncle Tom I noticed the radiator pipes were straight and the wall (facing the church) was quite severely bent! The building was immediately condemned and knocked down (before it fell down.) The new Co-op was built without a hall as it is now. Soldiers boots were blamed for the destruction!

Rex Kinema
Image from the Cutler Collection

The other source of unlimited joy was the ‘Rex Cinema’ This was the building opposite the new Church Hall, now offices. My Dad went to school there in 1902, it was built as a school. My first real contact with it was during the war and after as a cinema.

Saturday afternoon starting at 2pm was when it all happened. Crowds of village kids collected on the stone steps in front of the entrance waiting for the doors to open. Mr Sleath was the manager and Flo Smith was the cashier/ticket lady. There was always a matinee showing for the kids. Old Mother Riley, Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, Abbot and Costello, The Mark Of Zorrow (Z).

The seats at the back (double for some reason?) were 5d and at the front, where I was normally 3d! It was normal to get a sausage roll from Clifford Parr the butcher or a hot bap from the Lantern Creamery to eat at the interval. They never lasted that long! Tubs of Eldorado ice cream came on a tray at the interval, perhaps brought by Flo, I can’t remember. All that relates to my younger days.

In 1949 when 16, I, together with a good pal Mick Hill, (son of the nursery owner at the Harlequin) began our part time careers as assistant projectionists at the Rex!

I will continue with my ramblings and tell you about the Rex Cinema or the building that it was in.

As previously mentioned Mr Sleath was the owner and the ‘hands on’ manager of the theatre. I joined the projection team in 1949 with my pal Mick Hill, son of the nursery owner at the Harlequin. There were two Kodak Kalee projectors which ran on carbon rod arc lamps. Mr Sleath taught us the basics of film threading, arc lamp adjusting, projector changeover etc. sometimes, but not very often, we broke down. If this happened on a Saturday daytime, when the kids were in, all sorts of abuse and missiles, like orange peel and ice cream cartons, were hurled at the peep hole in the projection room!

The main requirement of a projectionist is concentration. I remember once showing a film called ‘One Piece Bathing Suit’ with Esther Williams. She was beautiful and, as mother would say, would fetch ducks off a pond! I, in some sixteen year old hormonal fantasy, was looking through the peep hole at her and forgot all about the change spots. The film ran through the projector to eventually show a white screen. Mr Sleath was less than pleased!
Eventually the Rex closed and the building reverted back to being the church Hall. Many different events were held there including excellent productions by the Radcliffe Drama Group. Saturday night was dance night. I loved to dance in those days and spent many a night in the Victoria (St. Anne’s Well Road), Astoria or Palais de Dance ballrooms. The girls considerably outnumbered the lads which was fine by me! Trouble was I always seemed to get friendly with girls from Bulwell or Basford. Have you any idea how far it is to walk from Bulwell to Radcliffe at gone midnight in your best suit!

It was September 1953, I was just discharged from my two years National Service with the Royal Signals, mainly in Egypt on radio equipment. I was in the Royal Oak, (landlord Mr John Redgate) having a pint or two of Whitbreads best bitter! I decided to go to the dance. I paid my three shillings (15p) and went in. The band was The Ajax Dance band if I remember, Roy and Norman Cook, trumpet and saxophone. Sons of Charlie Cook (trombone) leader of Radcliffe Brass Band in years gone by. Pam Smith piano accordion, daughter of Mr Smith, the chemist shop, bottom of Lorne Grove. Her brother Ken was a good friend of mine. Cyril Rowe, drums, son of Mr and Mrs Rowe at the garage opposite the Royal Oak (now the chemist and Chinese take away). There were different ensembles over the years with local musicians.

I saw my future wife Everilde across the room and was ‘smitten’! The Whitbreads gave me courage and I went and asked her to dance. It was a quickstep. Two or three hesitant steps into the dance she said “I don’t like boys that drink” Those few words sobered me up amazingly. “No” says I, “I agree with you”! I stayed friendly with her and later on she asked me if I had a sixpenny piece. It seems that there is some technical problem if you lose a button from a suspender belt that holds your stocking up a sixpence effected a temporary repair. Tights had not been invented then, I’m not very familiar with these matters! I never got the sixpence back either!

I asked a close friend of hers, from East Bridgford, her name. Well the truth is I had asked her but not really understood. Not wishing to appear stupid I didn’t ask her to repeat it. That close friend, who still lives in the village, told me it was Everilde. Knowing I would never remember that I wrote it on a Wild Woodbine cigarette packet which I still have to this day! No one we have ever met has ever heard of her name but if I ever forget it I can always refer to my fag packet! (See photograph of Everilde)

Next time I might tell you about our village milkmen, our one armed lamplighter and a flock of ‘albino sparrows’ in a bakery!

Photograph of Everilde