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Decades of fun for Juniors reunion

PUBLISHED: 11:48 10 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:04 03 March 2010

TEARS, laughter and shrieks of recognition echoed around the walls of the Regent Theatre as 60 years of the Co-op Juniors reunited.

They came from as far away as South Africa and Italy to meet up once more with the surrogate family known as The Juniors - and as the saying goes, once a junior, always a junior.

TEARS, laughter and shrieks of recognition echoed around the walls of the Regent Theatre as 60 years of the Co-op Juniors reunited.

They came from as far away as South Africa and Italy to meet up once more with the surrogate family known as The Juniors - and as the saying goes, once a junior, always a junior.

Hundreds of people turned up for last night's diamond reunion with memories of times gone by.

And if there was anything they had forgotten they would be sure to be reminded of it with the many pictures of past shows dating back to the 1940's.

Costumes too were on display, some more lavish than others, but all the same holding hundreds of memories for the people who had once performed in them.

Things were not always as high-tech as today's Co-op Juniors are used to.

Enid Ashby (nee Blackwell) from Chilton Road, joined the group in 1947 when she was 14 years old.

In those days the group used to travel around Suffolk performing in the villages as well as Ipswich.

She said: "We used to travel around in removal vans just after the war.

"There were no nice materials for the costumes either – we often used sacking or even parachute silk."

Enid can remember plenty of funny goings on with the Juniors like when seats broke on stage when people sat on them and witches hats getting stuck down the toilet.

The Co-op Juniors took its name in 1942, and was originally called Syd's Juniors before it was taken over by the Co-op Society.

It started with around 30 members – now they are fighting to keep it below 100.

Joy Ledgerwood, 74 ran the Juniors for 37 years with her friend Pat. They only wanted to be known as Pat and Joy. She joined in 1940.

That is the way they have always been known and a familiar phrase from everyone at the party was "If it had not been for Pat and Joy..."

Joy said: "There was nothing for young people to do back then.

"We had just moved to Ipswich from Felixstowe and I saw an advert in the Evening Star for people interested in joining the troupe.

"I went and stayed for 37 years."

But modest to the end Joy said: "We nearly didn't come tonight because we did not think anyone would remember us.

"There are just too many good memories to be able to pick out the best ones."

Pat was the Director and Joy was the Co-producer. Pat had joined to teach the baby line and because she knew the Highland Fling and the Hornpipe.

But in 1978 came the turn of Pauline Walker and Jeannie Ingram as Co-ordinators.

Pauline said: "I started here in 1950 so I know most of the people who have ever been in it.

"I remember when we used to perform at the Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe, we were there when the water was lapping at the prom in the floods.

"We were all bussed home very quickly."

Jeanette Lord (nee Ostler) also started back in 1940. She could do acrobatics because she was double jointed and was often doing back bends and the splits.

She said: "We did a Grecian dance once, dressed just in a piece of parachute silk which you could see straight through!

"We also use to perform for the Americans and we were very tiny then, I was about six or seven.

"They used to sit us on their knees and give us candy. Some of them used to get quite upset because we reminded them of their families back home."

Some people in the Juniors used it as a springboard to go on to bigger and better things.

Beverly Smith came all the way back from Italy when she heard about the reunion.

She joined in 1968 when she was five years old and eventually went on to the Laine Theatre in London.

From there she worked as a dancer in Paris and then Italy.

She said: "I have been a professional dancer and singer for the last 14 years and teach English in the week!

"I also worked in an Operetta company for awhile.

"But I would not be where I was if it was not for Pat and Joy."

Others have gone on to the Royal Ballet, the English Ballet and the National Youth Ballet.

Kevin Gleed, now 36 was in the Juniors from 1972 until 1983.

He said: "The Co-op Juniors is just like a big family.

"Even when you have left you are always welcome back again."

Janet Butcher is a co-ordinator with the Juniors. She said: "I have two daughters in the show tonight.

"They were in the Juniors 30 years ago but came back especially to do the show tonight.

"It is quite emotional seeing everyone again – you can see how happy everyone is to see one another.

"They have all been through different eras together but have all done the same kind of things."

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