Saturday night dancing! Who doesn’t remember the excitement and the joyful days of Saturday nights in Blackpool during the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s?
“I was under age to go dancing… It was very exciting, making plans on Friday night and sneaking clothes and shoes out of the back door so my mum didn’t notice.” Jacqueline Kilcoyne
“I would finish work, get changed quickly and meet up at the station with friends to get the train.” Nina Brookes
The Blackpool Tower, which was influenced by the Eiffel Tower in France, was designed by James Maxwell and Charles Tuke. In 1929, the first Wurlitzer organ was installed at the Tower, in the Ballroom.
Reginald Dixon was the organist that played the Ballroom’s Wurlitzer organ from 1930 until his retirement in 1970.
For most of the twentieth century Blackpool was one of the most exciting holiday destinations in the UK. The Blackpool Tower Ballroom was a highlight and big draw for young people.
“Before the entertainment were theatre and cinema in black and white… If they wanted something different, it was ‘the place, Blackpool’.”Albert Barton
“The boom of the 1920s started with taking the 4:30pm train towards Blackpool and getting ready to ‘shake that skeleton’ at the Tower Ballroom with Reginald Dixon, Ken McIntosh, Ted Heath, Joe loss. We also had the the first Wurlitzer organ and so much more. It was the most popular place for seventeen year olds. But, we wouldn’t leave before stopping to grab a meal of fish and chips or eat some burgers, smoke cigarettes, enjoy the beach and drink beer at the local pubs.”
Here are the collective memories of the Dance train days. A very enjoyable clip where you could listen to some songs from the trips to Blackpool thanks to the collaboration of the Houghton Weavers who have shared with us ‘The Blackpool Belle’ and ‘The Wigan Pier’ songs. In this clip, Nina Brookes, Jacqueline Kilcoyne, Albert Barton, Raymond Morrison, Stella Morrison, Jim Jones, Wilfred Griffiths and Walter Ainscough talk about their experiences taking the Saturday night special trains. Jim Jones also shares his experience as a driver in Bolton at the organisation of the special trains. Others like Stella Morrison, Jacqueline Kilcoyne and Albert Barton talk about the dance hall fashions of the time.
To listen to the full song that plays in the clip (The ballad of Wigan Pier), visit the soundcloud site: https://soundcloud.com/save-wigan-pier/the-ballad-of-wigan-pier
This video from Aaron1912 takes you on a journey to the past with Reginald Dixon playing and people dancing in the Tower Ballroom.
Here there is another video from the Cannock Chase Organ Club,
With thanks to Tony Berry and the rest of the Haughton Weavers who kindly allowed us to use their songs ‘Wigan Pier’ and ‘Blackpool Belle’. The songs appear alongside clips from interviews conducted in 2005 as part of the Dance Train Days project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The interviews (references GB124.OH/2745-2757) can be listened to in the search room at Manchester Central Library – no appointment necessary.