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The Sabrina was always rammed with bikers who had come from all over

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 11, 2014

By Ray James

  • Picture postcard of Bridgnorth in 1970

  • The same view of Bridgnorth in 2013

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THE MODS and ROCKERS era was a phase that society went through in the '60s that highlighted two conflicting British sub-cultures, and media coverage of the fights that took place, particularly in the summer of 1964, sparked a moral panic about British youth and labelled these excessive expressions of gang warfare as being carried out by folk devils.

Ray James, the former Tiptonian who is now the Bugle's unofficial Scottish correspondent, remembers those days and has sent us a few anecdotes that were sparked by a picture postcard of Bridgnorth he acquired on the internet. Ray told us, "Where I live in the Highlands of Scotland is a long way from anywhere and I tend to spend a lot of time on the computer, and one evening I came across a postcard featuring Bridgnorth in the '70s.

"This Shropshire town is well known to me as it is to many Black Country folk, and the picture took me back to the early '60s. I couldn't help but buy it for 99p and it arrived through my letterbox in just three days. The amazing thing was the person who was selling it lived thousands of miles away in Nova Scotia; it is such a small world these days.

"On one of my regular visits back to the Black Country I decided to take a like for like photo of Bridgnorth and compare the differences that have taken place in the intervening half a century. Happily the most drastic change was in the parked cars and not in the buildings, etc. In the '70s picture the automobile line-up includes classic British 1960s steel in the form of two Mk3 Cortinas and a Vauxhall or Opel Viva HC which date the postcard correctly to the introduction of the 'J' on the registration plate. Sadly my contemporary photo shows my Morris Minor as the only piece of '60s tinware on show.

"Bridgnorth has always been a Mecca for visitors from the Black Country and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the cars in the postcard picture belonged to day trippers from the Dark Region. I've had a good study of the two views and apart from the removal of a lamppost there seems to have been little change in 50 years.

"The view on the postcard was so familiar because at the time I was going through my 'Rocker' phase and was always visiting the venues dubbed 'Rockers Cafes' in Bridgnorth, Stourport and Bewdley. At the top of the hill going up to Hightown there was the Sabrina Cafe, with the now dated name illuminated with a pink neon sign, and it was always rammed with bikers from all over. This was no doubt because of the frothy coffee they served, a far cry from the 'Camp' mixture you got out of a bottle back home for which you needed a stomach made at Stewart & Lloyds for you to survive.

"There was also the brilliant food available at Sabrina's; hot-dogs and beef burgers topped with fried onions, plus whatever else you wanted on there, the staple diet of a true Rocker. To us back then the frothy coffee and the greasy pan food must have seemed like champagne and caviare.

"My trusty and very speedy steed for these outings was 415 JPD, a 1959 BSA DBD34 Gold Star. The 'Goldie' was a genuine factory production road racer with the legal niceties of lights, a horn, and number plates to make it usable on the roads. It was run from new on Castrol R, the racing oil that gave off that delicious speedway smell. With its RRT2 close ratio racing box you had to slip the clutch to 25/30mph before you could let it out which was counteracted by the boost of a 70mph plus speed in first gear. With that sort of performance in 1963 you were always in pole position in the 'fastest is best' company. I doe arf miss my Goldie!

"The picture I have is of Goldie parked on the fode outside my mom's old house in North Road on the lost city estate in Tipton. I can't remember if one of my sisters received any retribution for trying out her writing skills by painting her initial on the bricks by the back window. The broom is handily placed for sweepin' th' fode, or to deter anyone getting a bit too big for their boots; domestic bliss."

Ray James remembers his beloved BSA and the visits he had to the Rock Cafes back in the '60s. Have you any similar memories of being a Mod or Rocker? Please let us know by email to editor@blackcountrybugle or phone Bugle House 01384 567678.

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