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Meeting a young man at Dudley Zoo Club

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 16, 2014

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I WOULD like to take you on a tour of Dudley Town in the 1940s, 1950s and the 1960s as a young girl growing up there.

My education was at Saint Joseph's Catholic School in Saint Joseph's Street. There was nothing very wonderful about the school building, with the exception that each classroom had a big stove for heat in winter. There was no health and safety then and I don't remember any child getting burned.

The Catholic Church of Our Lady and Saint Thomas of Canterbury was partly in the same street as the school and is still there. All services were spoken in Latin by those formidable ancient priests. We little children could chant and sing in Latin with the best. What little parrots we were.

Also on the edge of the town was the school clinic in Upper Hall Street, the Firs Clinic. I can remember some poor little children being plastered with Gentian Violet there, a very purple treatment for sores.

I can recall the Hippodrome, the Plaza Cinema, the very beautiful Odeon Cinema, the Criterion and at the top of the town was the Gaumont. Four cinemas for our entertainment.

There were also two roller skating venues one on Dudley High Street and one near the Hippodrome.

There were two very fine venues for dancing and dating. The very popular Dudley Town Hall and the sophisticated Queen Mary Ballroom which was in the grounds of Dudley Zoo. It was locally known as The Zoo Club and to go to a dance there on a Friday night would cost six shillings.

In New Street, near Dudley station, was The Conservative Club, truly my happiest ever place of entertainment.

I believe it was a Ballroom Dance School. Here were quite a glamorous couple, Mr and Mrs Land. They opened up the dance floor twice weekly to the town's teenagers. We paid two shillings entry. No alcohol was served but we could buy pop and crisps.

I recall the very lovely Mrs Land teaching us the basics of ballroom dancing in a cordoned off part of the dance floor. I don't think anyone left that place being unable to dance.

On reflection it was very refined. At the Town Hall dances it was strictly ballroom. If we broke into a jive there an employed MC would come onto the floor and intervene. There was a notice for all to see, which said 'Jitter bugging not allowed.' He wore a tail coat. He was affectionately called The Penguin. The cost to get in was two shillings and sixpence.

Around the town centre in the evenings were always policemen talking to the young people.

The only shops in Dudley I was really aware were the dress shops of which there was massive choice. The food shop choice was also immense. Marsh and Baxter in the Market Place was a huge employer. They had a nearby factory which supplied all their shops.

I met a nice young man at The Zoo Club. When the proposal happened I went to one of my unaffordable shops on Dudley High Street, Cookes, and bought my wedding outfit.

Kathleen Turner.

Kathleenturner48@gmail.com

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