"I recently came across an old photograph on Facebook which instantly took me back fifty years to the late 1950s and early 1960s. This decade was my wild years of romancing every young woman I encountered between the three-mile radius of Hightown, Liversedge, Heckmondwike, Dewsbury and Cleckheaton, in the hope that they might grant me entry into their hearts or any other place I fancied access to. The old photograph is an image of the bus station in Cleckheaton, a place where the antics of our youthful nights out on the town invariably ended, either as drunk as a skunk or in the arms of some beautiful young woman as we awaited the last bus of the night.
The bus station used to be both pick-up and drop-off point for many a boy and his girlfriend; or occasionally where one secretly met the partner of another. If one didn't meet their new date outside the picture house (that's the cinema for you young ones), then the usual meeting stage was often under the clock of Cleckheaton Town Hall or inside the waiting room of Cleckheaton Bus Station. The waiting room was invariably the place where relationships sometimes started and often ended, as the film 'Brief Encounter' illustrated.
Behind the waiting room in Cleckheaton Bus Station was the only dark spot where the beams of the arriving bus into the station couldn't quite reach. Consequently, it was the place where first kisses, last kisses, French kisses, heavy petting and all manner of goings-on took place before the last bus home arrived in the station.
Indeed, one of my friends told the tale many times during his married life that had the last bus been on time that fatal night instead of ten minutes late, then he would never have had to experience his shot-gun wedding to his first and only girlfriend. Years later, he was still blaming the lateness of the number 67 bus for having curtailed his youthful ramblings long before 'time had been called'.
There are many occasions today, when going through the town of Cleckheaton, I glance across at the bus station and think about happy days and nights of my wild youth. I have to admit that I also think upon the numerous affairs, forced marriages and relationship endings that the old bus shelter has contributed towards in its time by its very presence and precise location 'away from the inconvenience of revealing headlights.' I also know of many a bus driver on the late run who was 'put off their supper' by the image that his headlights caught of a courting couple in full flight who had not positioned themselves far enough away from the full headlight beam of his approaching bus as he pulled into the bus station. I also knew of bus drivers on the late shift who would deliberately wait with dipped lights on their bus until the last moment as they turned into the bus station before deliberately switching on their full headlights in the hope of catching a glimpse of something they hadn't seen for a long while.
These images and memories of Cleckheaton Bus Station have never left me and I included the scene in one of my 'strictly for adult' reading novels, 'Come Back Peter' a few years ago (available in e-book format from www.smashwords.com or in hardback and paper format from www.lulu.com and www.amazon .com with all profits going to charitable causes).
The youngsters rarely catch a bus today. Indeed; I believe that most of them wouldn't recognise a bus if it ran them down or know what someone was talking about if the word 'bus' mentioned in an overheard conversation. Transport by bus is not considered the done thing for the young today. I often see young mothers collecting their shopping at the local coop in Haworth while a taxi driver waits outside for them to be taken back home. I have even witnessed taxis turn up at the Social Security Offices and an unemployed person jump out to collect their unemployment benefit.
Many a young man or woman wouldn't be seen dead on a bus. They just don't know what they're missing, especially on the back seat of the last bus of the night; another scene that I used in my novel, 'Come Back Peter', which is also available from Smashwords, Lulu and Amazon. Come to think of it, 'Come back Peter' tends to use bus stations, bus depots and the back seat of the last bus home to depict all the things that go on and come off in such settings late at night.
I was fifteen years old when I had my very first romantic back-seat bus experience. At the time I worked at 'Bulmer and Lumb', a mill in Cleckheaton, and every year, the firm would take its workers out on a coach trip to Blackpool. There were two girls who worked in the spinning department called Patricia and Eileen; each three years older than myself. Indeed, it was largely through their instigation within the first week of me starting at Bulmers that I finished up trouser-less and showing 'my all' in the spinning department with all the female workers having a good laugh at my expense.
I must explain that these were times when often young men often wore no such clothing items as underpants beneath their trousers when at work. It was the practice in the mills during the 1950s that young male workers starting their first job would have to go through a baptismal process of initiation into the firm. The mill men would send the new boy worker off on meaningless errant like 'Go to the stores, lad and bring me back a glass hammer, and don't come back without one.' When the boy went to the stores, the storeman would then send him elsewhere saying, 'We have run out of glass hammers, lad, but if you go to... and tell them Jim has sent you, they will give you one.' Consequently, the very first day of a young boy's working life would be spent chasing shadows here, there and everywhere whilst the adult workers laughed behind their backs.
The initiation process that the mill women picked for young boys, however, was far more embarrassing and degrading. It would usually occur during their first week of work and the very first time the young boy walked through the noisy spinning department where the loud noises of the shuttles drowned out any screams of boyish protest. Their selected initiation for new boys was for a crowd of girls and women to grab the boy as he walked through the spinning room, drag him behind a loom and forcefully remove his trousers and view his potential growth, after which they'd reply laughingly, 'You're nothing much for any lass to look forward to' or 'What a big one for such a young un barely out of nappies!'
Forgive my digression; back to the firm's annual outing and the back seat of the bus where I had my first flush of youth between two attractive 18-year-old females from the spinning department. I don't know why (unless I had somehow impressed them in some way during my first month at Bulmer's Mill), but each of these two beauties literally fancied the pants off me.
When I got on the bus as it left Blackpool at the end of the day, Patricia and Eileen had already claimed the back seat of the bus home and invited me to join them. As I moved towards them, the two girls parted, inviting me to sit between them. It was late evening when we set off back home, and the upshot was that the two young women had spread their belongings across the back seat that was designed to seat five people, leaving the three of us with all the seat to ourselves. Mid-way home the inner bus lights were turned off and many passengers got some shut-eye as most were the worse for drink. My eyes, however, had never been open wider as both Patricia and Eileen entered into a competition to gain my affection and sole attention. Each claimed to be the best French kisser and went into fierce competition on my inviting lips. When I refused to indicate which of the two were the best kisser, they then started arguing which had the most admiring breasts (please note the word they used wasn't breasts). While I refused to arbitrate, this then 15-year-old boy couldn't avert his eyes. The upshot was, I considered the two mill girls a bit too bold and too experienced in matters of life to ever seek to take it any farther with either of them.
Two years later, Eileen fell pregnant to her boyfriend whom she'd first started courting after the firm's following annual trip to Blackpool and I was invited to the couple's wedding. As the wedding speeches were taking place in the top room of a pub in Littletown, Heckmondwike, I wryly smiled as my mind momentarily went back to the back seat of the bus as I sat between Patricia and Eileen. In case you think that my revelation of this event is too indiscreet, I have managed to keep the secret for the past sixty years." William Forde: October 4th, 2018.