Strictly ballroom big names at the Pier

INTEREST in ballroom dancing has been given a big boost in recent years with the television programme “Strictly Come Dancing” featuring all the popular dances like the Tango, Waltz, and Jive.

David Kindred

INTEREST in ballroom dancing has been given a big boost in recent years with the television programme “Strictly Come Dancing” featuring all the popular dances like the Tango, Waltz, and Jive.

Until the mid 1960s ballrooms in Ipswich and Felixstowe were packed at weekends with hundreds of couples gliding their way round the floor. Thousands of people met the “other half” at the dances or went along on their first date.

Don Kitt of Larchcroft Road, Ipswich, recalled in a recent Kindred Spirits, when the “Big Bands” like Ted Heath, Cyril Stapleton and Joe Loss played at the Pier Pavilion, Felixstowe.

Many of the dancers from Ipswich travelled to Felixstowe by train. So popular was the event British Rail used to run a special service back to Ipswich at the weekends to get the dancers home.

When the music stopped there would be a dash to the Town Station to catch the late special home. Betty Paternoster of Kesteven Road, Ipswich, recalls her Saturday night trips by train to the dances at Felixstowe.

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Betty said. “I have wonderful memories of dances at the Pier Pavilion, Felixstowe, in the 40s and early 50s, my friends and I used to go and see all the big bands of the day.

“I remember Joe Loss, Cyril Gold and his 'Pieces of Eight', but my favourite of all was Ted Heath with his wonderful singers, Lita Rosa and Dickie Valentine and Jack Parnall on the drums. He used to have a solo spot and we all used to go mad! I also remember Betty Driver; she's the barmaid now in Coronation Street that makes all the hot pots! I can't remember which band she used to sing with, but she had a wonderful voice.”

“There was no bar or refreshments of any kind for the interval in those days, so we all used to run along the road to the Ordnance pub' to get a drink in all weathers. Then when the dance finished we used to hurry up Bent Hill and along the town to catch the midnight train back to Ipswich. We used to get off at Derby Road and walk the rest of the way home. I used to leave my friends at Landseer Road and had quite a way to walk home on my own, it was pitch black, but it never entered by head to be frightened. I wouldn't dare go out in the evenings now on my own, how times change, but what lovely times to remember.”

Frederick Garnham, of Surrey Road, Felixstowe, has such fond memories of the Pier Pavilion, he has written a poem about the Saturday night dances.

He said “I regularly attended the dances there in the post war years. I met my wife there in August 1947 and we have now been happily married for nearly 61 years. I wrote a poem about the Pier Pavilion. I think it says it all.”

“The Pier Pavilion.

This hall was our Saturday treat

The Premier Band sent out the beat,

Sounding out strong and loud

Over the madly gyrating crowd.

It was the Mecca of our youth

The highlight of our week in truth,

Gathering with our friends to sway

As we danced the night away.

With nimble steps light and sure

We glided that highly sprung floor.

Couples as one in close embrace

Clinging together face to face.

Many relationships here were made

Boy met girl in musical serenade,

As we whirled together in dance

Romance was given every chance.

Throughout the years this held true

In war and peace, there were very few,

Who missed out on this magical hall

And the pleasure it brought us all.

It was the meeting place in town

Cheered us up when we felt down,

This is where we met our fate

Where most enjoyed their first date.

But time caught up with the Pier

The Leisure Centre now stands here

But for those who shared its dancing day

Happy thoughts will always stay.

This hall is so very special to me

It's deeply etched in my own memory,

In fact it helped to shape my life

For this is where I met my wife.”