The Nostalgia column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

JUST when I was thinking of stopping writing this column because I thought I’d written myself out, I got a letter from reader John North to say how important reading this column was to him.

He also shared memories of Vulcan Road and those memories helped me fill my column last week, which is what this column is all about – people sharing their memories.

MEETING POINT: Dewsbury Bus Station in the 1950s or 60s. The very popular Bon Bon cafe can just be seen in the distance.

MEETING POINT: Dewsbury Bus Station in the 1950s or 60s. The very popular Bon Bon cafe can just be seen in the distance.

This week I received two more emails from readers asking me to keep this column going, and these also included a few memories.

This one from Brian Webster, who, like myself was a war baby, reads:

“I love your nostalgia column. Please keep up the brilliant work. I was born in Dewsbury Hospital in 1943 in the Staincliffe Wing.

“I spent the first few weeks of my life in a gas mask. People laugh at me when I tell them that, but in the middle of World War 2, there were very hard times.

“I believe it made you a better person surviving through all the hardship of that time.

“I would love to hear from people who spent many happy nights going to the Ben Riley to do a bit of bopping on a Friday and Saturday.

“I love to hear from you Margaret, so keep up the good work of reminding us of the good old days and the wonderful memories.”

My second email from Victor Gonsalves (who might be a relative of Joe Gonsalves, a good friend of mine in our younger days) reads:

“Dear Margaret, keep up the good work, and for those who have not got them, the St Paulinus Century Book and the Irish Nash book have great photographs in them. I love those that have you guessing.”

These emails, although brief, are proof enough to me to me that we all have something interesting to say about old Dewsbury

Reading about other people’s memories always triggers memories for me, especially if they mention the Ben Riley dance hall in Dewsbury which we teenagers visited two or three times a week.

Brian’s email also reminded me of the Bon Bon Cafe in Dewsbury Bus Station where we used to meet on Sunday evenings for a cup of frothy coffee which lasted all night because we couldn’t afford a second one.

The bus station was an important meeting place for teenagers.

It was where we met our boyfriends for a night out. He’d get off one bus and you’d get off another, and when you saw each other, your heart would miss a beat.

How could we ever forget the old Dewsbury bus station? Or those halcyon days of rock ’n’ roll and frothy coffee, beehive hairstyles, winklepicker shoes and drainpipe trousers?

We always met boyfriends in front of a glass display cabinet housing all the photographs which would be appearing in the Reporter the following day.

It was erected on a wall just in front of the bus station staff canteen, and my heart still beats faster when I think of it.

For, as a young journalist working on the Reporter, it was my job on Friday evenings (before going to the Ben Riley) to open up the cabinet, and replace the old photographs with the new ones which would be appearing the following day.

Imagine the interest this sparked in those watching me perform such an important task, which meant for just a few minutes, I was the centre of attention in the heart of Dewsbury, then a bustling thoroughfare.

Imagine what this meant for a young girl of 17 just embarking on an exciting career in journalism, but it wasn’t really me they were looking at.

They wanted to see what photographs would be appearing the following day in the Reporter, and wondered if they might they be in one of them or at least see someone they knew.

This was when the Reporter came out on Saturdays and nearly every household bought one because they all wanted to know what was going on in Dewsbury.

Now they read it on the Internet.

Never before, and never since, have I felt quite as important as I did on those Friday evenings in Dewsbury bus station.

It was the start of an exciting weekend for me, for once all the photographs were in place, and the cabinet locked up, off I’d go, with my stiletto heels clicking on the pavement, heading up Daisy Hill towards my beloved Ben Riley Hall, my pony tail swinging provocatively, or so I thought.

Never once, as I recall, was the Reporter display cabinet smashed or the photographs stolen or damaged. It was an important part of the Dewsbury bus station scene. Inviolate. Today it wouldn’t last the night.

Would I be writing about these wonderful memories this week if I hadn’t received the letters from Brian and Victor? No I wouldn’t.

Although these memories are always somewhere at the back of my mind, it was the mention of the Ben Riley hall which brought them all to the front.

I could have written another column about Brian’s reference to being a war baby and another about Victor’s mention of the book about the Irish Nash which I wrote.

So please keep the memories coming.

Teenagers in the 1950s seemed to rule the world.

We were the first teenagers, a word first coined in the 1950s when life for young people changed forever.

It was the start of the rock ’n’ roll era. Girls started back-combing their hair, tightened their skirts to make them pencil slim, started wearing eye-liner, pan-stick make-up, blue eye-shadow and pale pink lipstick.

The boys tightened their trousers, lengthened their jackets and wore beetle-crusher shoes, and became known as Teddy boys.

Sadly, they were frowned upon by many because they looked so different, and many were turned out of places like the Town Hall, but the Ben Riley Hall welcomed them all. To watch these handsome young men bopping the night away was a joy to see.

We girls loved them.

Few people had cars in those days, certainly not teenagers, and so our mode of travel was always on the buses.

For this reason I’m showing one of my favourite photographs of the old Dewsbury Bus Station.

You can just see the Bon Bon in the distance.

Happy days!

If you would like to share your memories or photographs email me at tresham3@gmail.com.