Picture this. A warm alluring bar, rich, mellow music, intimate seating and culinary delights to tease your taste buds into a frenzy.
Well, a Working Men’s Club wasn’t quite like that. When I was a lad this was our Sunday night out, down the Labour Club. You arrived at seven o’clock to ensure a table. You couldn’t sit at any table because families had their own tables, especially on a Sunday night. I’ve seen fist fights over ‘table territory.’ The McGlynn and the Robertson family? They would just glower at you, all night, but the Grimes’? – they would rip your lungs out, so you had to be careful.
The lino floor ensured strict hygiene could be observed. Beer, blood and occasional vomit was uncomplicatedly washed away with mop and bucket. Upon entrance your ears detected the eloquent sounds of Jack and Bill playing organ and drums and by the time you had downed your third pint of Tetley’s bitter people were having a dance and ‘Sooty’as we affectionately called our host would have announced the evenings entertainment. He earned the name simply because he stood behind a box.
The programme was usually the same. Jack and Bill played a few waltzes, quicksteps and foxtrots for the serious dancers and the rest of us waited for the main attraction, quite often a comedy dance band, which we called the ‘Turn.’ I remember the 4 Statesmen (photo below) who were hilarious and accomplished musicians. Eventually the ‘Turn’ had a break and we were treated to pie and peas and a game of Bingo. Oh we knew how to live 😉
We had Stewards who kept an eye on things, especially me. I was only fifteen when I joined (proposed by the President and seconded by John McGlynn, no less) So, five to six pints of hand pulled Tetley bitter was my limit. and if I misbehaved I would be hauled before ‘The Committee.’
I remember one particular Christmas party at John’s house where I was drinking half pints of whisky and orange – showing off in front of my new girlfriend – the Fitzgerald lass. I eventually passed out and was put to bed by Mary and Sue (John’s wife and her friend). I awoke five hours later, stark naked, in a strange bed, desperately trying to recall the preceding twelve hours. That evening – Boxing Day – I remember sitting in the Labour Club when Sooty announced that, “Mary and Sue would like to know if Charlie still has his purple underpants on?” I think that was the moment the Fitzgerald lass decided that all things being equal we possibly didn’t have a future together. Oh! those were the days.