We also remember the anniversary of Veronica Crean-Bastow’s father Joe today. Joe died from a massive heart attack at the early age of 53 years on January 12th, 1976, six months before Veronica’s wedding. Joe is much loved and greatly missed. RIP Joe.
My song today is ‘The House of The Rising Sun”. This is a traditional folk song that tells of a person's life gone wrong in the city of New Orleans. The song urges children to avoid the same fate. The most successful commercial version of this record was recorded in 1964 by the British rock group ‘The Animals’. This was a Number 1 hit on the ‘UK Single’s Chart’, and was also a success in the United States and France.
Like many classic folk ballads, ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ is of uncertain authorship. According to Alan Lomax, ‘The Rising Sun’ was the name of a bawdy house in two traditional English songs, and it was also a common name for English pubs.
When I was a courting teenager between my 16th and 18th year of life, a group of underage drinkers from Windybank Estate, Liversedge would frequently walk across to Roberttown (about 3-miles away from Windybank Estate) to a pub called ‘The Rising Sun.’ once every week on wage night. There were four pubs on our three-mile journey, but only one drinking establishment where we knew we would all get served. Ironically, the only mate who was 18 years of age (and therefore legally entitled to be served alcohol) was the smallest in stature, the youngest looking, and the one group member who was most often refused bar service on the grounds that he wasn’t old enough to be served. His name was George, and despite being the oldest, he had never had a girlfriend and was the least experienced gang member in the courtship department.
At the time, ‘The Rising Sun’ was a pub in dire need of refurbishment and was known as being an establishment of disrepute which locals frequently referred to as being ‘a knocking shop’. The landlord would do anything to increase his weekly earnings and was known to turn a blind eye to underage drinkers and the occasional prostitute touting for trade.
Every wage night, ‘The Rising Sun’ world be patronised by about a dozen Heckmondwike girls who would walk a mile up the hill from Heckmondwike centre to Roberttown for ‘a girl’s night out’. Please note that the term “girls’ night out” had a more liberal meaning when spoken by a Heckmondwike girl as opposed to a young woman off the estate where I lived. When the Windybank Estate girls went on “a girl’s night out”, they were usually a group of single young women who were out for a few ‘Babychams’, a good laugh, and the telling of the occasional dirty joke. That is as far as their “girl’s night out” went. However, when the Heckmondwike girls went out, they went out! They deliberately went out of their way to get everything and anything on offer that might bring a bit more excitement into their lives at little cost to their own purse. As to their status, most were single women who usually had boyfriends somewhere in their lives, and a few even had a husband awaiting their return home at the end of the evening. Whether married, single, engaged or otherwise committed, none of the Heckmondwike female patrons advertised the fact on their ring fingers, and what they might be prepared to get up to for a few free drinks was nobody’s business, as long as it stayed in ‘The Rising Sun’ and did not make its way back down the hill toward the Heckmondwike gossip mongers.
It soon became known that ‘The Rising Sun’ was the pub to frequent on a wage night if you were looking for more than a good head of beer and had no intention of walking back home with your mates at the end of the night.
I recall a wicked joke being played on George one night at ‘The Rising Sun’; the oldest, shyest and least experienced mate among us. George was a bit overweight, which was an uncommon characteristic of youth in the days of the late 1950s when exercise, walking, and fresh air were to be found in abundance. George had never dated a proper girlfriend, and the only sexual experience he’d ever encountered would have been with himself. He wasn’t afraid of trying to hit it off with a young woman, and apart from the occasional dance, he would usually have his advances immediately declined and get the quick brush off; general responses that undoubtedly increased his level of sexual frustration. My mates who initiated the joke on George selected him as being the one chap in the group who was more likely to fall for the prank. George swallowed the story he was told hook, line, and sinker, and the result of him responding as anticipated got him barred from the pub for looking up a young woman’s skirt.
One of the Windybank lads pointed out a Heckmondwike woman with large calves to George. She was aged around twenty and was a regular wage-night visitor with the Heckmondwike group of women. The young woman concerned was obviously a female who looked after herself. She was slender in build and was very womanly and desirable in attractiveness. She was known to be an athletic runner at weekends and her legs were very muscular. There weren’t any of my mates (including myself) who would have ‘kicked her out of bed’ and said ‘No’ to her, had she ever indicated to them that ‘Yes’ was a distinct possibility!
On one evening in question at ‘The Rising Sun’ one of the group began setting the trap to fool George. He told George in a ‘matter-of-fact’ way that he heard it on good authority that the young woman in question with the muscular calves was said to never wear any underwear during warm summer months. George was told that if he strategically positioned himself sitting across the pub lounge from the young woman in question, he might see something to his advantage. George was fed a truthful fact about the young woman being a runner with an athletic club on the Cleckheaton/Littletown Road. He was then fed further duff information about certain dress fashion of female runners during hot weather months. He was told that most female track runners race around the track without wearing knickers when they run on a hot summer’s evening, as wearing underwear chafes the athlete’s thighs and slows their performance. George was also told that the young woman was a person who maintained this dress code of going without knickers on hot summer evenings, whether she was running that night. George was also told that it was rumoured that a few of her Heckmondwike mates also ‘went without’. Once George had been spoon-fed this duff information, the rest was simply left to his imagination and sexual frustration.
For the following three weeks in succession, George would carefully select his seating position in the pub, and he would even ask a mate to change places with him if it gave him a better advantage view. He would spend the better part of the evening trying to ‘look up’ the dress or skirt of the young woman concerned across from him (something that he would undoubtedly be prosecuted for today) but not then. After the first evening of George trying to confirm whether the young woman in question was ‘with’ or ‘without’ he reported back that ‘he had seen it all’ within twenty minutes of glancing across the pub floor. None of us believed him of course, but after George repeated his claim convincingly another week, I must admit we all started wondering if the joke that we had played on George had come back to bite us on the bum with a vengeance?
Just as a point of reference about the late 1950s for any youngsters out there. Young women of the gentrified and upper classes who attended ‘Finishing School’ in Switzerland would be taught deportment and etiquette. Such instruction would make them act more ladylike in all situations. They would be taught how to carry themselves proudly, walk properly, eat daintily, and adopt ladylike postures when seated or getting into and out of a car without showing all and sundry what they wore beneath their evening clothes.
As for young women of the working class, especially those Heckmondwike women who worked at either the carpet factory or one of the town’s textile mills, the only time they got into a car was on their wedding day! For them, it was the public bus or “Shank’s Pony” that took them to wherever they wanted to go. As to deportment and all manner of strategically seated etiquette, the only time a woman crossed her legs in my day was if she was dying to have a wee and risked wetting her knickers if she couldn’t hold it a minute longer!
The above is my lasting memory of the days of my youth when we would go to ‘The Rising Sun’ in Roberttown and came across the weekly crowd of young women from Heckmondwike on a fun night out. Those were the days, and many were the nights when…………….
I have often wondered what happened to George and if he is still with us as he was a couple of years older than me and would be 80 years old now if still alive. My advanced apologies to any old Heckmondwike woman reading this post, especially any who went to ‘The Rising Sun’ in Roberttown on a wage night between 1959-1961; and particularly any forgetful perspiring female on a summer’s evening who thought, “Oh! What the hell! Nobody will ever know?”
Love and peace Bill xxx