THE LADS NIGHT OUT
The newfound younger workmates always went out on the town on Friday nights for a pub-crawl, they encouraged me to go along with them although I was three years too young to drink legally. I looked of age, even at thirteen I did have to pay full fare on the buses, when I asked for half fare the conductor usually would threaten to throw me off if I declined to pay the full adult fare, so getting into a pub presented no problems for me, the encouragement given was not needed. If they’re ever was a raid on a pub by the police looking for under age drinking’s, most landlords would know about it before it happened and those under age would quickly disappear. I was brazen and daft enough to stick it out; the worst that could happen was a ticking off from the landlord and police. Today no doubt the landlord may loose his license and the young person would get an ASBO and yet the government wonders why at eighteen plus young people go binge drinking and are unable to handle it. Their answer to that is to put the price up per unit of alcohol, yeah I am sure that will do the trick, what a load of bollocks.
Now I was working and had money in my pocket for the weekend, this however would not last long as all would be spent by Sunday night then one would have to wait again for Friday to come around for another pay packet. My parents still supported me in those first few years of my working life. Everyone was now at work in my household except for my very old aunt who was retired and financially loaded, but didn’t know it.
I had been through the rituals of the Saturday afternoon trips to town with the lads from the club, where it seemed each week, one or the other of us was buying a suit on tick from the tailors. We would all meet together to catch a bus into town then head to our favorite tailor, we would stand around and watch the lucky guy of the day pick out his material, black with gold fleck, white with silver, or other fashionable colours of the day. We would point out our choice of linings to help the guy out. The assistant then would take over and start to take the measurements while asking the usual questions, “ Half drape or full drape, velvet collar or plain, one button or two buttons, fourteen inch bottoms or sixteen inch, turn ups or no turn ups.”
After a deposit was paid we then headed of to the shoe shop for another lad who wanted a pair of beetle crushers with one inch soles, then off with someone else to buy a cut back collared shirt in light blue with a lace tie to match, then on to the barbers shop for a blow wave for some of us, then we would wonder down to the Co-Op record bar to buy the latest extended play hit record. Here I managed to get a date with the sales girl who had the very latest tulip cut hairstyle, which wasn’t the norm. The relationship did not last long her milkman father chased me from her front door step on several occasions and I got fed up with the hassle from him. Finally however our group would all finishing up at the Baccico coffee bar for an American express coffee. Week after week we trod this addictive path until all of us were fully kitted out. As we walked around the town, I say walked, most of us were trying to swagger, as if to get into an unheard rhythm. Sometimes as we tried to walk the walk, but we did not quite manage it and fell over our own blue swade shoes. The older general public usually made way for us on the pavement I expect we did look a frightful sight. I dare say today some of the same guys who will be now drawing their pensions will now be making way as they see a group of shaved headed youngsters who have tattoos and body piercing coming towards them, but it is now their time to enjoy youth and their fashion.
We all had learnt how to prepare ones self for our Friday night out, it was an art form, but at least we did not have to screw ironmongery into our noses eyebrows, ears or any other part of our anatomy.
The first job after putting a rock and roll record on the gramophone was to press your trousers which were known as drain pipes due to the narrow bottoms, this was done with a hot iron and a clean damp tea towel pressing very hard, then finishing the pressing with some brown paper, if you could cut your finger on the crease you had done a good job. Next you iron your shirt, leave laid out while you have a scrub, practice isometrics while washing under the arms, screw corner of the flannel up to poke ears out, clean your teeth, shave off the bum fluff on your chin, straighten sideburns while always wishing they were longer, borrow dads cologne, dab under arms, cut finger nails as you might get lucky. Find clean kecks and yellow Florissant socks, steam swade shoes over boiling kettle, and finish off with small wire brush. Squeeze feet through narrow bottoms of drainpipes, put shirt on, take out melted or damaged plastic pieces of shirt collar stiffener and replace with two matchsticks or cherry sticks. Find large buckled belt and thread through trousers. Select Slim Jim or lace tie. Buff up white metal skull tie piece toddle on the back of the settee, thread lace tie through and place round the neck, find matching cuff links, buff the same to add to shirt, put on slightly damp shoes, take the drape of clothes hanger and slide in to it, now face the mirror checking all points, sponge the velvet collar lightly with damp cloth to remove spec of dandruff or your girls friends face powder, clothes brush jacket. Then apply a liberal coating of brycream to hair, if you have run out of this use liquid paraffin, however this will come off on your pillow in bed bringing your hair colour with it, if neither of these two is available a light mixture of soap and water will get you by for the night so long as you do not bang your head cracking the hard crust or it is raining hard. Now spend the next quarter of an hour getting every hair in place finishing off with one good straight slice down the back of your head for the perfect DA. Check with another mirror, a slanting ducks arse will not do. Place comb in your inside pocket then wash your hands carefully. Dig out matching scull ring from the soap dish, rinse and place on little finger. Place expanding bracelet watch on wrist taking care not to trap hairs when flicking it into position, put a clean handkerchief in trouser pocket, the less endowered guys can roll them up to elevate their manhood. Undo the new packet of ten fat Senior Service cigarettes and place them in the empty twenty packet you saved from the week before when you splashed out, or better still borrow your old mans silver cigarette case to make an even better impression. Then when you are in company you can flip it open with one hand remove a cigarette, tap it twice on the closed case lid before bringing the cigarette slowly up towards your mouth before throwing it the last few inches and catching it with your lips, then you can slide the cigarette case smoothly back into your inside jacket pocket, but to continue, place a clean handkerchief in the top pocket if you haven’t got that piece of cardboard cut out with three points wrapped in handkerchief material that came with your new suit, place one piece of chewing gum in your mouth, pick up your money, put your last thin Park Drive cigarette in the corner of your mouth, don’t light if your using liquid paraffin until your outside, stand back from the mirror dance up and down on the balls of your feet, point at your refection, click your fingers and you are ready for a night on the town.
As usual no body was in on Friday nights so I made my Aunt a sandwich, banked the fire up for her with slag and coal dust to make it last the evening, then fastened the fire guard on tight with some twisted wire, then put the radio on for her, kissed her forehead and said,
“ I’ll see you babe.”
She then would ask me again for the third time, “ Are you a bell boy now George?”
After catching the number 31 bus into town, it was straight off and into the doors of the Royal Exchange pub. Here I was to meet not only my new work mates but also old school mates and youth club members. One such mate was Jack Smith an exceptional lad who had been brought up in a violent family surrounding, he and his elder brother used to get pasted by their bully of a farther, both boys were very handsome and had strong physiques, I had seen their farther take a poker to Jack and whip him on the back with it. Both lads had now grown much bigger and much much stronger and they had both put there farther in his place, for now he was the old cockerel and was broken man and was to lurk in the corner of their sitting room, we use to see him twitching on the occasions we called for Jack. Jack was loud and confident and now was a womanizer and had to date one child somewhere and was to spread his seeds around many times in the future, when Jack left school he took a job on the bread round and was to soon learn how to drive a electric bread van he moved on to a three toner and finally to a heavy goods vehicle by the age of twenty one. He always earned more money than myself, I did expect to catch him up and earn more than him at the age of twenty-one after I had finished my apprenticeship. This was not going to be the case as our society changed, as people could earn more money putting on one car wheel nut on a production line, day in, day out, than a skilled mechanical fitter, who could build the whole damn car himself, so much for consomerization. We were to take Jack to the seaside a few months later he had never ever seen the sea before, he ran in fully clothed he was like a five year old. Jack eventually was to finish up running his own business, stripping out blue asbestos from factories; nobody asked him where he got rid of it. He was later to become the first millionaire to come out of class M4. One night we asked him how he managed to pick up so many girls, while others and I were struggling,
“ You just sniff them out go and ask them, you see those two over there, I’ve had my eye on one of them.”
At that he was off across the pub like a terrier as if one of them were on heat, we watched him chat, we watched him get a slap, and he returned, “ No good there,” he said, “ She is waiting for her husband.”
We laughed at him. Two other girls came into the pub he was off again chasing and chatting to them before they reached the bar. To my utter surprise they even bought him a drink. He was doing something I could never do. In a short while he was back at our table for his half finished drink he had left.
“ Do you know them,” I asked.
“ No never seen them in my life before, but I am in with one of them.”
“ Which one,” I was interested to know.
“ The one on the left.”
I said the other one was prettier,
“ Don’t care about that,” he said, “ all I want is my tail away, I’ll see you lads later.”
He scampered off again and joined the girls.
He was soon to make his way back to our group.
“ The other girl fancies you Roger,” he announced, the group cheered me and pushed me forward. I walked over with Jack; he had told them I was the strong silent type.
At last I thought I had found a way to find girls without saying much and I was determined to build up such a reputation. So from then on through out my teenage years it worked a treat. I did not have to small chat or embarrass myself with what I had said. I let the lads do the running for me. On Saturday evenings at the cinema no sooner we were in the lads were off around the stalls before the film started chatting up various parties of girls, inevitably one lad would return to where I was sitting saving their seats, he would say that a girl over there fancies me, I would tell him to send her across. When they came over with the girl I would stand up shake her hand and say, “ Hi I’m Roger.” push the seat swab down next to me, and keep hold of one of her hands if I liked the look of her then take it slowly from there.
The two girls in the pub were older than Jack and I and they were well into Rock and Roll, they suggested we should take them to see Rock Around the Clock at the Cavendish cinema the following Saturday, it was the first rock film to hit Derby. We all agreed and Jack was off with his new conquest. I had been left with this pretty girl after a couple more drinks with her she asked me to walk her to the bus station, as we waited for the bus she put her arms around my neck, I leaned down and kissed her teeth, shock and horror went through me, she kisses with her mouth open, fortunately her bus arrived, I promised to meet her outside the Cavendish cinema the following Saturday night. I rushed back to the pub, the group howled with laughter at me when I told them she kisses with her mouth open.
I spent the whole week practicing kissing the back of my wrist,
“ What you doing?” my mum would ask.
“ Sucking a spot.” I replied.
I had come into true Rock and Roll era at the latter years; most teddy boys were older than I and my own group of friends, we all were trying to catch up with them. There was talk about Teddy Boy fights and flick knives and knuckle-dusters, in general we all had a bad reputation, the public were weary of us no matter what our age was. Most of us who had flick knives would casually take them out of our pockets hold them at the tips of our fingers and thumb press the catch to flick the blade open and enjoy the click as the blade locked in place then we would clean our fingernails with them, it was just silly youthful showmanship.
The following Saturday I met up with Jack and a few other friends with their girl friends, our little gang thought safety in numbers was the best policy as we too were still weary of the much bigger much older lads. The big teddy boys did not seem to mind or notice our teeny bobber presents. The crowd outside the cinema was huge I wondered if we would all get in, the scene was very colourful as everyone was dressed up for the part, the boys and girls were having a competition on whose hair styles could stick up the highest. All the girls, each in a hundred and one petty coats of multi- coloured fabrics .The girls we had met turned up we joined the long queue, we managed to get good seats in the stalls. The film started, eventually the music of Bill Haley and the Comets started to play, everyone was up and started bopping in the isles, my girl grabbed my hand and started pulling me out of my seat, horror struck I had not learnt how to dance yet, I was dying on my feet what was I to do? I just got into the isle when the film was shut down and the lights came up, I thought there was going to be a riot, the doors where flung open by a mob of policemen with truncheons drawn who started pushing people back into their seats. We watched the film with a row of policemen at the back of the cinema; I was saved from the embarrassment. When coming out of the cinema, my girl met up with an older ex- boyfriend that she was pleased to see; he was much older and much bigger than I. So I did not argue with him when he asked her to leave with him and asked me if I had any objections as he held my lace tie up under my chin in his fist.
I had however figured Friday nights was not just necessarily a drinking night out with the boys, it was a girl hunt as well, so I continued being laid back and enjoyed practicing to be a strong and silent type and waited patiently for someone else’s lead.