50s community spirit

As part of the Echo’s 125th anniversary in June I am highlighting each decade from June 24 1887, the date when the first issue rolled off the presses. I will be looking back at some of the people, places and events the Echo has reported on throughout the last 125 years.

The 1950s were the years of social interaction – community spirit in the neighbourhoods around the town was growing with social clubs opening and rapidly expanding.

Along with the housing estate resident associations many of the larger local firms encouraged former employees to join the post war retired employee clubs and veteran associations. While Blakeborough’s had formed one in 1947 the membership grew quickly through the 50s as did the one at T.F.Firth’s.

Local groups soon became established and formed committees to run themselves based on the Derby and Joan concept. In 1952 the Hipperholme Good Companions club was started, with the following year seeing a boom in these kinds of clubs. In 1953 Hove Edge Over 65 Club was formed, a branch of the Good Companions was established for those living on the fringe of the town centre. With the Golden Link club at Rastrick, the Good Companions at Norwood Green, Waring Green Forget-Me-Not, the Silver Lining Club at Bailiff Bridge and other clubs being formed in Southowram, Lane Head and Clifton, these were exciting times. But little did they know then that within 60 years most of them would have closed down.

These clubs enabled older members of the community to meet each other and share memories, life experiences and no doubt enjoy a game of bingo as well. With the occasional guest speaker visiting when these clubs would become even more popular. I well remember being asked to speak at all these clubs over the years – a warm welcome was always assured.

But behind those activities was the need to ensure those attending came into contact with people and not suffer loneliness. While the long held tradition of the annual treat tea was always well supported just meeting once a year was felt to be not enough.

Our first featured photograph was taken on 19 October 1956 and with the Mayor Alderman Harry Edwards and his wife who were the guests at the Hipperholme and Lightcliffe District Branch of the Old Age Pensions Association. On the left of the Mayor is Mr H. S. Wilkinson, the association president, and next to him is Mr M. Tate the branch treasurer, to the right of Mrs Edwards is the branch secretary Mrs S. Currer, with the branch chairman Mr M. E. Kerr stood in the centre at the back of the group.

The 1950s in Brighouse saw the demise of the cinema begin, firstly it was the Savoy in 1959 and in the years to follow The Ritz and Albert would follow suit.

Many readers will remember the Astoria Ballroom which was the place for the teenagers of this period. But has anything really changed from those days the Astoria often saw the police visiting because of late night disturbances which resulted in its late night music, singing and dancing licence being revoked. It was eventually closed altogether and as the years went by the early 70s saw it demolished as part of the town centre redevelopment and now stands as part of the Wilkinson’s store car park site.

The so called ‘never had it so good’ society was beginning to see all kinds of changes none more so that in the area of education. With new schools opening on the new Cliffe Hill School on the Stoney Lane estate in 1953, Field Lane School on the new estate at Rastrick. The old St Joseph’s Catholic School was in dire need of being replaced; in 1955 the site for a new school at Slead Syke was finally agreed, with plans for a nine classroom school being drawn up in 1959.

Licensed premises were also changing – and were in a state of decline. In 1946 there were 77 licensed premises (35 full licences, 24 beer houses and 18 ‘off’ licences) and 21 clubs with over 6,500 members. That number had gone down to less than half that by 1974 and has certainly gone down even further in the last 40 years.

In 1954 Brighouse saw its first Traffic Warden – and Lollipop men and women began to be a familiar sight. Traffic lights were now also being installed in different parts of the Borough. How many readers can recall seeing a policeman outside the Royal Hotel, having to stand on an orange box doing point duty with the floods licking the door of the pub and his boots?

The 1950s were certainly changing our daily lives, rationing finally came to an end in 1954, but did we have it as good as those unforgettable words of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on the 23 July 1957.

Our second featured photograph dates back to 1956 when the Earl of Scarborough opened the new British Legion Hall in Bradford Road. But like many other things of the 50s it was to close before the end of the century.

Next week it’s the swinging 60s – how did Brighouse adapt to all that as well as the many changes in the town centre? While many old familiar shops disappeared in the 1960s they were replaced by others that in time would also become part of the fabric of the town centre.