The Nostalgia Column with Margaret Watson

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

Over the last six months this column has concentrated on memories of Dewsbury sent in by readers recalling the days of their youth.

Some have written of childhood experiences during the war, some sad, some happy, but most have been about their teenage years.

IN FASHION: Pictured on a day out at Blackpool in 1959, from left to right, Jackie Stanley, Maureen Foley, Janet Armitage, Pat Brooksbank, Kathleen Greenwood, Joan Wright and Alice Wright.

IN FASHION: Pictured on a day out at Blackpool in 1959, from left to right, Jackie Stanley, Maureen Foley, Janet Armitage, Pat Brooksbank, Kathleen Greenwood, Joan Wright and Alice Wright.

They’ve looked back on the days of stiletto heels and beehive hairstyles, drainpipe trousers and beetle-crusher shoes.

The photograph above, which I have used before, but I’m sure readers will love seeing again, depicts just how fashion conscious local girls were – and how gorgeous.

Look at those beautiful billowing skirts made to stick out with lots of starch and layers of stiffened underskirts.

If you hadn’t any starch, then a good soak in sugar and water would suffice, and we used the same mixture to spray on our hair if we hadn’t any lacquer.

This picture also shows the kind of camaraderie existing among young girls in those days. We all had a best friend but that didn’t prevent us from going around in groups.

This week I’m including another selection of memories with the promise that others who have written to me have not been forgotten.

Their memories of the halcyon days of youth in the 1950s and 60s will eventually appear on this page.

The following letter came from Brian Webster who wrote to me after I had mentioned in my column, the Reporter photographic display cabinet in the old Dewsbury bus station:

He writes: “Wow! It’s the first time I’ve heard anyone mention the famous display cabinet showing the photographs appearing in the Reporter the following day.

“At that time I was a Teddy Boy with black shiny hair and blue beetle crusher shoes and tight drain pipe trousers.

“At the Ben Riley dance hall Big Dave would stand at the top of the steps giving you a printed stamp on your wrist in case you wanted to go out and come back in.

“I lived in Gawthorpe, near Ossett, and used to get the bus from Leeds Road end to Dewsbury every Friday and Saturday to go to the Ben Riley – and on Sunday if my Mum gave me the money.

“I will always remember the beautiful girls who used to go to the Ben Riley. If I could pluck up enough nerve I would ask them for a dance.

“Cliff Richard’s ‘Please Don’t Tease’ and ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’ were two of my favourite records to dance to.

“The Royal Oak pub at the back of the Bon Bon was where we used to go for a half of mild if the landlord Fred would serve us. I wonder if anyone remembers the Essoldo Cinema or the Pioneer Picture House on the back seats?

“My Mum used to go to Dewsbury Market every Saturday for her weekly shopping, sometimes bringing new pots back from Harry the pot man, along with some pig trotters and tripe.”

Another letter comes from Geoff Hargreaves, who writes:

“Your column, Margaret, reminds me of my youthful days in Batley Carr. I spent far more time in the bustling centre of Dewsbury than in rather empty central Batley.

“I also remember visiting with my father the daunting adult Dewsbury Library and the occasional school visits to the nearby steamy swimming baths, where, sadly, I failed to learn to swim.

“The model shop near the top of Daisy Hill was the main source of my stamp collection, since it sold oversize, gaudy, triangular stamps from Tanna Tuva, wherever that was, because there was no Google in those days to tell me it was in eastern Russia..

“Most of all, I enjoyed the cinemas, the Regal and Pioneers where I was stunned by the film Carmen Jones.

“Later, I attended the Saturday evening dances at the Town Hall – how grown-up I suddenly felt!

“These days I live in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a long way from Batley Carr, but in memory Batley Carr is still close.”

The following letter comes from John Taylor:

“Hi, Margaret, thanks for your photo of the old bus station which brings back wonderful memories.

“I was a bus driver at the time when it was the old Yorkshire Woollen District Bus Company with the old rear entrance buses and clippies.

“There used to be another dance hall in Dewsbury, before the Ben Riley, named the Galleon situated on the corner of Bradford Road near the railway bridge.

“I was born on Brewery Lane in March 1938, opposite the old Transformer Works, then we moved to Brook Square, John Street, Ravensthorpe.

“My father used to go around with a horse and cart collecting rags, and my uncle Ben Whitworth was the co-founder of what came to be known as The Sawdust Club.

“If memories could be turned into money we would all be multi millionaires.

“I am wondering if the Brian Webster who sent you an email recently could be the Brian Webster I know.

“After getting demobbed from the Army in 1959, I was mates with a lad called John Webster, who used to live on Swithenbank, Ossett.

He had a brother called Brian. This was a fantastic family who always made me welcome.

“My wife is a Batley lass but we did most of our courting in Dewsbury before we decided to get married.

“We are still together and have just celebrated our 55th wedding anniversary.

“Keep up the good work, Margaret, the Reporter wouldn’t be the same without the memories you write about. Many thanks.”

Anyone wanting to share their memories and photographs of the area can contact myself at