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A very big thank you to all the Bletchley and Fenny Town Council staff and helpers who organised the Love Bletchley Day on 7 May. Our display of photos was very popular – as usual – and it was great to see Queensway as a whole buzzing with activity. With The Fenny Stompers, dancing troupes and Tai Chi club entertaining us at the bandstand, and the MKFM bus in attendance, there was never a dull moment in the Stanier Square area. I was so busy all day I didn’t get a chance to wander up Queensway to see the stalls up the other end.

We’ll publish a few of our display photos on here in the next few weeks. Here’s a couple to get you going. Recognise any faces?

Waiting inside 'The Snake' to sign up for swimming classes 1983

Waiting inside ‘The Snake’ to sign up for swimming classes 1983

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff hard at work in Aquascutum 1983

Staff hard at work in Aquascutum 1983

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We’ve found lots of references to ‘Gazzers’ in the old copies of the Bletchley Gazette and wondered if there were a few of you out there with some memories of this. You can post a comment with your story.

Lisa Bevan, pictured here with Peter Burr at the Gazette Offices, was the first registered member. This photo was one of a number taken for the gazette in January 1976 and the accompanying article lists the names of the first 100 members from Bletchley and the budding Milton Keynes.

Lisa having a go at the Intertype machine

Lisa having a go at the Intertype machine

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Many thanks to all those who attended the Bletchley and Fenny Stratford Town Council’s Midsummer Madness event on Sunday 28 June.

We had a wonderful afternoon sharing photos, memories and information about Bletchley’s past in a very warm marquee.

Viewing the display of old photos

Viewing the display of old photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this photo was a particular delight for one young lady who recognised her father as a teenager in the lead at ‘We Are the Champions’ at Leon School in 1975.

We Are The Champions - inter-school competition on television

We Are The Champions – inter-school competition on television

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Following our recent publication of information about The Jollities concert party Margaret Breedon (née Hawes) has kindly provided us with this record of her family’s contribution to entertainment in the district.

Although Sammy was probably the best known entertainer of his family, he is not the only one.

Florence Hawes and friend

Florence Hawes and friend

His son Ken has also made a name for himself locally, as a Conjuror. We have in our archives a picture of these two ladies and the only clue to who they are is in the file name: “Florence Hawes (on the left) and friend dressed for “Hospital Day” – probably the Fancy Dress

Competition.  Florence was Sam’s mother – she died on 1 January 1946 aged 54. The photo was probably taken in the mid 1930s.  Can anybody tell us when and where it was taken, please.

Sam was the third child and eldest son of William George (Dickie) and Florence (nee WOODWARD).  He had two elder sisters, Florence (Florrie), and Nellie  – his younger siblings were Phyllis (Phyl), Frederick George (known as George), Donald (known as Dick), Queen, and Gerald (known as Gerry).  They were all born and raised at 5 Denbigh Road, Bletchley (but in the parish of Simpson).

In 1924 he performed in the school production of the operetta ‘The Raja of Rajput’.  Maybe ‘a seed was sown’ during this production – this could have been where his love of entertaining began.

In 1947, Sam married Elizabeth Catherine (nee HAWKINS) – known as Cassie – at Holyhead, Anglesey, her home town.  They didn’t have a honeymoon.  After their wedding, they travelled back to Bletchley and began married life in two rooms at 8 High Street, Fenny Stratford (next door to Martell’s Coal Merchants).  An old lady named Mrs Chamberlain lived in the other part of the house.

By 1951 they had moved to Oakwood Drive, Bletchley where they raised their family – Margaret, Ken and Jean.

As they didn’t have a television until 1960, winter Sunday evenings were spent playing simple word games.  After the word games it was time to listen to “Sing Something Simple”, so out would come Sam’s mouth organ or melodeon and the whole family would sing all the old songs.  As a special treat the children were allowed to stay up and listen to Radio Luxembourg.

Sometime during 1963, the Youth Club at Queensway Methodist Church gave a concert which Sam attended, as Maggie, Ken and Jean were taking part.  He realised that there was quite a lot of talent in the family, so he proposed that the family should start its own concert party.  From then on until the early 1970s Sam very much enjoyed entertaining others at old peoples’ homes, old peoples’ clubs, women’s institutes etc., alongside his family.  He acted as Master of Ceremonies cracking jokes which he read from scraps of paper!!  He also did a Performing Fleas act where he would pretend to have fleas performing on a high wire.  He would shout “Hally-up” and the ‘imaginary’ flea would do a somersault – right at the end of the act one of the “so called” fleas refused to perform, so he would go out into the audience and say, “Excuse me madam, I must have the wrong flea – can I have mine back please?”  He got away with it every time – nobody got offended!!  He also sang solos and played his saw.  Ken did his magic act and sometimes sang “Hole in the Ground”, or “The Old Sow”.  Maggie sang solos and Jean joined her in singing duets.  At the beginning of the family concert party, Mrs Ivory was the pianist – her husband also helped out with singing solos etc.  Later on, Connie Pether (nee Sylvester), a friend from his previous concert parties, was the pianist and piano accordionist – she also brought along Margaret Baker (piano accordionist) and her two daughters Marilyn and Janet Baker to help out with solo items.  By the late 1960s they were called “The Jollities” (after Sam’s old wartime concert party) and by then Ken Breedon (Maggie’s boyfriend – later husband) had also joined the party as a pianist.

Sam was born with a ‘hole in the heart’ and by the time he was 54 his health started to fail.  In 1968 he had pioneering heart surgery where the aortic valve was replaced with a plastic one – he was also one of the first patients to have a pacemaker fitted.  All this work was carried out by a very dedicated team at the National Heart Hospital in London.  After the operation he had a new lease of life for a while and continued to play his saw as a guest artiste at various local concerts.  Sadly, after five years his health started to deteriorate again and he had to take life at a slower pace.  He died on 25 March 1978 at the age of 65 – almost ten years after his life saving operation.

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This is part of  a serial. To get the full Jollities story please start at Part 1

Sammy Hawes was born on 7 March 1913 and became a very experienced entertainer (in the 1930s he had been a member of the Busy Bees concert party) and his act with marionettes was staged in a booth similar to a Punch & Judy show; at the front it had theatre-like curtains and a plain black curtain back-drop which had a slit in the centre through which Sammy could push his head. After doing so he would then hang the ‘headless’ marionette below his own face and manipulate the arms and legs in a natural manner. In this way he was able to create many characters (which I think were made by him) but the two that I remember clearly were first his bridesmaid’s outfit of dress, flowers and a wig which he wore and the second, and clearly my most favourite, was a cowboy for which he wore a Stetson hat, a neckerchief and was seated upon a horse which he made rear up while at the same time he waved his hat at the audience! Each of his changes was accompanied by a suitable song which for the bridesmaid was “Why am I always the bridesmaid, never the blushing bride . . .?” and for the cowboy “Home, home on the range, where the deer and antelope roam . . .”.

Playing the saw in the 1960s

Playing the saw in the 1960s

 

Sammy’s supporting act was to play a carpenter’s saw using a violin bow; he would sit on a chair centre stage and place the saw upright with the handle between his knees then while holding the end of the blade with his left hand, he could flex the saw up and down while drawing the bow back and forth across the back edge of the blade to create a melodious sound. I found him a very kindly man and an extremely clever entertainer.

STOP RESS Soon after the above piece was written, Sammy’s grandson Stuart was able to ‘capture’ some images of his granddad that were on an old family cinefilm which was shot only just in time. Maggie relates: “I think the filming was done circa 1956 by my Mum who was laughing ‘her head off’ and had a job to keep the camera straight!!” and came about because, when telling his children about his wartime experiences he remembered that after the war ended he had packed all his gear away in the garden shed. However, when he came to retrieve his props he was dismayed to see how moth-eaten and grubby they had become. But fortunately, these pictures do show how Sammy created his act!

A bridesmaid and a pierrot - and a final bow

A bridesmaid and a pierrot – and a final bow

When surfing the Web for more information I found a mention, via the link below, which states that Sammy on one occasion applied to audition for the Caroll Levis show, but unfortunately he was unsuccessful, unlike a Bletchley ladies’ band.

http://www.mkheritage.co.uk/mkha/mkha/projects/jt/bletchley/docs/vol-2.html

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This is part of  a serial. To get the full Jollities story please start at Part 1

REFERENCE

J TAYLOR’S ARTICLES

Bletchley during world war two 45-47 Keeping Amused 1947

As for Betty Metcalfe and her small orchestra, they were successful in the Carroll Levis Discoveries Contest held at Buckingham Town Hall, although despite having recently won a recent local talent competition at Bletchley, Mr. S. Hawes, ‘the Bletchley saw soloist’, was unfortunately not successful on this occasion.

John Taylor is a local historian who has published several books on local heritage. 

OTHER MEMORIES

The opening and closing of the Show

Although I have tried to trace the song’s opening number on the Web, the following verse is all I can remember of the appropriately named “Make It A Party” performed by the whole troupe:

“Make it a party, gay and hearty; everybody happy, merry and bright;
We’ll turn the town upside down for it’s our night out tonight.
Make it a party, gay and hearty; try to keep the party clean;
A little umpty-rara in the chorus and a little of what you fancy in between.”

Note:   I’m not too sure about the last two lines, but they may have been intended to warn against bawdy behaviour in the audience.

We also had a Grand Finale when the whole party sang “Cheerio”, but unfortunately I cannot remember one word, or the tune!

7/2/2015 – Conversation with my older brother, David. Me: Do you remember when I was in The Jollities Concert Party? D: Yes, I do; I used to operate the spotlight and on one occasion when you were off sick I substituted for you and sang ‘The body in the Bag’. Me: Do you remember Dad coming to the concerts? D: Yes, I do; I thought he was part of the troupe. No, I replied, I don’t think he could have been as he was still in the National Fire Service in Bletchley then working shifts.

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This is part of  a serial. To get the full Jollities story please start at Part 1

WARTIME TRANSPORT PROBLEMS

Another question Maggie asked was “What sort of transport did we have?” Well, of course, with petrol rationing you had to have special dispensation to use a private car, and we would have needed four or five cars to carry us all. It is true there were taxis for hire and there were also coach hire firms. Children from outlying villages were brought to and returned from Bletchley schools each weekday, but the only companies I recall were Robinson’s of Stewkley and Soul & Bros. of Stoke Goldington.

I seem to remember that we had a regular coach driver who I think we called Paddy. He lived in Victoria Road and was popular with us for his easy-going manner and kindness.

One evening I do remember being on a coach was when returning from a concert on a beautiful moonlit night in the winter of ’44 turning the usual black-out into magic fairyland of fields and trees; and on returning to Fenny and seeing Jack Frost twinkling and shining from the rooftops.

Recently, when I asked Connie the same question, she replied: “Don’t you remember the time when we were transported in an army truck?” To which I said “No”. The she said: “Do you remember a rather stout, middle-aged lady singer with a beautiful voice?” I said “Yes”.

“Well”, said Connie, “she couldn’t climb up into the back of the lorry, so we had to leave her behind!”

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