Volume 2 – chapter 4 – part 3 – post 51
In regard to my status with the Grants the one thing I had working in my favour was my ability to provide music. They enjoyed a good party and I was always in demand at such times, they were the highlights of my early association with them and the social circle in which they moved. At Christmas 1955 I was to attend a party at Ronald’s Way which had me walking from my Aunt’s place with my accordion in its case. It was dark being maybe 7pm when I passed a man who on seeing the accordion asked me where I was going, and when I told him he said: “I’m going to a big party how about coming to ours instead? You would have a great time, and if you would play for us we would pay you.” I thanked him for the offer but said I could not desert my friends. I have often wondered what this party had been like, our party was one of the best I had ever been to and anyway I was partying with friends not with strangers. Aunt and Uncle had been invited of course, but there were others who I had never met before. There were the Owens who friends of my Aunt, Mr Owen was builder and well known around the town, they were Welsh born and bred and said to be very wealthy. I met the people who lived next door to the Grants, Mr Lustgarten was a small man who proved to have a wonderful sense of humour, and his wife was also small, a petite lady who had her hair dyed blond; she was also Welsh with a very pronounced accent. Their name was an unusual one, but one I had heard before, a fact I mentioned in conversation where upon I was told that Mr Lustgarten brother was a well known broadcaster and criminologist who had his own television programme. That is where I had seen the name before; I had watched his TV show, a weekly investigation into various crimes. He was also a well known author with books on the same subject, he was very well known indeed.
This was a time when parties were lots of fun, not just excuses to drink a skin full; mind you there was no shortage of alcohol and most of those attending were more than a little merry by the time it was all over. Apart from the food and drink there were party games like musical chairs and charades, not to mention much dancing and singing, some of which showed a considerable level of talent and natural ability; not surprising when you consider that we had the Welsh among us. It did not take me long to realise that I had an audience that knew if I was playing well or not, a realisation that sharpened me up and made me try harder. On the one hand it made my task more difficult, but on the other it made the whole experience more rewarding and enjoyable. There is nothing more satisfying than playing for an audience that really listens and shows some appreciation, whereas there is nothing more stultifying than playing for people who have little or no interest. I am glad to say that most of the entertaining I have done has been for those who have enjoyed it and appreciated my efforts.
It is strange to think that at most of my good times, parties and other social occasions, I have usually spent my time playing and not taking part in the fun and games. This did not mean I missed out on the pleasure of such occasions, I actually enjoyed doing it, I did not do it as a duty I did it for the satisfaction it gave me. I have never played for money and would not feel happy doing it for that reason, but there is no doubt that music has benefited me all my life. Money could not pay for the feeling of achievement I have experienced so many times, like the time that the Grants invited me on a car rally organised by the Engineering Office where Len worked. After the fun of racing around North Wales looking for clues which each led to the next one, the whole car club ended up at a very nice hotel in the country where a dinner had been arranged.
This picture of me was taken about August 1955 during the holiday when I first met Jacqueline. I am standing by the tennis courts on the promenade at Rhyl, and in the background is the open air swimming pool.
A small separate dining room had been set aside for our party which would have been about 30 or 40 people, and as you would expect I was providing musical entertainment. I was being well received with much applause when a waiter appeared with a request from other guests in the main dining room. The other diners could not only hear me but on turning I found a large group standing in the doorway an additional audience I had not realised I had. I began to field requests some of which had a definite national flavour, so I asked the waiter about that and he told me among the other guests was a large party of German tourists. They especially were enjoying the piano accordion; once they realised that I was willing to play for them as well, and the party I was with had no objections to their intrusion, they were quick to make their wishes known. About that time zither music as played in the popular film ‘The Third Man’ was all the rage so it was to be expected that the tourists would ask for the theme music from the movie. I also had liked that new sound and had practiced it for myself, so I had no trouble by using my three bass couplers and nine treble couplers producing a sound much the same as a zither. Launching into the ‘Harry Lime Theme’ and ‘The Café Mozart’ I found my renditions a hit, which resulted in at least two requests for the same again.
Today it would be laughable to say that I went out with Jackie for weeks and never even held her hand, yet this is the case. Why was I so backward? I find it hard to explain, but it was a mixture of reasons some of which were related to my old fashioned upbringing. The very thought of touching her made me feel a lack of respect, then there was an underlying concern that physical contact might not be safe for her considering my history.
Furthermore it would be a strange way of showing my care for her when I took into account what her mother had said about having some future prospects, and being able to offer her a good life. All these thoughts were mine to deliberate on but I was not sharing them with the lady concerned, which is why she took the bull by the horns one night when I was leaving her at their front door. Putting her hands on my shoulders she said: “Isn’t it about time you kissed me?” So with my knees turning to jelly I did; I shall never forget that moment but I cannot for the life of me remember how I got home to Weaver Avenue afterwards.
The pier can be seen in the background of this picture of Jackie taken at Colwyn Bay as was the picture of me in my silver grey suit.
The day out to Colwyn Bay was one we enjoyed very much, we were alone with all the holiday makers gone; the weather was fine though windy and all seemed right with the world. I was 22 years old with no education and not much of a job, but that didn’t worry me, though it should have had I been a little older and a little wiser. What is even stranger is the fact that Jackie was not concerned about my situation, though I had told her everything by the time these pictures were taken. I never asked her why she preferred me to others better qualified, but it has never been possible to explain the romantic conclusions of young people.
I suppose in a literal sense if I loved Jackie I would have let her go, but I wanted to be with her always and we were honest with each other, something that I insisted on from the beginning. She knew my circumstances and still wanted to be with me, so one evening we were returning from a movie show in Chester when I proposed to her and she accepted me and so we became engaged. We wanted each other badly but we were never intimate until after we got married; Jackie was willing but I would not do it feeling that old fashioned sense of honour that was part of my character.
In the summer the holiday places were a mass of visitors, prices went up and though the activity was exciting, it was not always fun for the residents with the crowds making life difficult. So it was the winter that we liked with the quiet and the peace; it is true that most of the amusements closed for the winter, but that was no great loss. The beauty of the countryside and the beaches were still available, and we had it all to ourselves. Providing the weather was not too unkind it was possible to holiday every weekend. There was always an element of doubt with the passing of summer, outdoor activities could be hit and miss, and in addition one had to dress for the colder weather. On one occasion we booked a day cruise on a steamer that sailed from Llandudno to Douglas on the Isle of Man. We caught an early train and arrived at the point of departure about 6.00am or 7.00am in the morning on a fine day, only to find that the trip was cancelled. The weather might have been fine where we were, but apparently the weather in the vicinity of Douglas was stormy which resulted in the shipping company deciding to play it safe and cancel the cruise. We were disappointed of course but it did not worry us all that much, we were together and that is all that mattered to us, anyway we were able to have a jolly nice day in the main holiday town on this part of the coast.
I am to be seen sitting on the promenade at Colwyn Bay, the weather was good and we had it all to ourselves. The other picture of Jackie was taken at the same time and in the same place The fact that I was a smoker did not worry anyone; most people were back in the 1950s; it was many years later before the movement began to stop smoking. I gave it up in 1960 but not because it was bad for the health, I wanted to have my own vehicle and could not afford it or even the cost of running it and smoke at the same time.