A lot of my childhood was spent watching shows of one kind or another, so it’s not surprising that I ended up as a professional performer. My dad played trumpet in the theatre orchestras of Morecambe’s Winter Gardens and Alhambra theatres and I was a regular attender (we got comps!) but my favourite place by far was a few miles further down the coast, Heysham Head. For a mere sixpence admittance charge wonderland was yours. As well as cafes, slot-machine arcades and a small (and pretty grotty) zoo, there was a circus which alternated with ‘Prince Zonga’s African Village” . In the latter the painted and loin-clothed warriors did fierce tribal dances, ate fire and pushed needles through their cheeks without flinching. On stage they spoke a strange guttural language but if you came across them back-stage they all spoke English with a strong Scouse accent!
There was also a concert party in the ‘Rose Garden’ with lots of songs and dances and they alternated with my top favourite, The De Randel Marionettes which featured “the oldest puppet in the world” Yorkshire Bob. When Joe Hodson, the proprieter, retired his company was replaced by Jan & Vlasta Dalibor who became famous on television with their “Pink & Perky” shows.
If you tired of entertainment and cream teas you could go down to the beach and play amongst the rock pools and to be allowed to do this a man stamped a pass onto your wrist with a rubber/ink stamper. A challenge was to see how many days you keep it there before mum noticed and made you wash properly.
I took a drive out to Heysham on my last visit to my home city and tried to find the old Heysham Head. Well, the headland is there, obviously, but nothing remains of the delights that made Heysham Head such a magical adventure place for me. Well, nothing but memories and, as the song says “They can’t take that away from me!”
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