Growing up in Rhyl in the 50s and 60s was a mixed blessing, but at the end of the day I was sorry to leave.
During the summer it was a bustling, noisy place with crowds on the promenade and the cries of bingo callers from all the arcades along the front.
Our house was minutes away from this maelstrom of fun and laughter.
From about the age of 8 I used to stroll past the arcades and the candy floss and rock stalls. The sweet smell of doughnuts mingling with that of hot dogs and fish and chips.
By the end of the day, when the holidaymakers had gone back to their B&Bs and the arcade lights had been turned off and the shutters rolled down, the promenade and streets running off it, were littered with fish and chip wrappings (newspaper); discarded ice-lolly wrappers and sticks; cigarette packets and stubs casually discarded; and all the other detritus they had left behind them.
Yet by the time a new day dawned and the shutters came down again all that was gone and the crowds were out again enjoying their seaside holiday.
I was often drawn to the revolving racks of seaside postcards and would look at every one within my range.
Many were just pretty pictures of Rhyl, the Pavilion, the Floral Hall, the clock tower and even the Punch and Judy booth.
The ones I enjoyed, however, were the saucy cartoons. I found them funny without even knowing why.
Some like the one above were a play on words and even as a child I loved words. As my grandfather played the violin I knew what “fiddle” meant. I also knew that you were not supposed to “fiddle around” with things and the joke made sense on an innocent level.
Years later I still enjoyed the postcard jokes but began to understand them on a new level.
Jokes like the milkman ones raised many a snigger. I just wonder how many milkmen got dirty looks from the man of the house.
The point is these postcards were mainly harmless fun and part of the “Kiss Me Qick” atmosphere of a holiday resort when British humour was saucy but not obscene.
Boobs were about as naughty as it got and the postcards worked well with the wider British humour of Benny Hill chasing, but rarely catching, nubile young women in the park and around the trees and similar “innocent” fun.
Even the cinemas were in on it with the smutty but enjoyable “Carry On” films which often included the saucy and even bawdy jokes we had got used to on postcard racks.
The innocence of postcard jokes like the one above began to move more blatantly to the bawdier style below:
By the 1970s more and more postcards were getting nearer and nearer to the knuckle. At the same time the Carry On films were doing the same and by the time Carry On England arrived the knuckle was in the dim and distant past.
Donald McGill, some of whose postcard cartoons had been banned in many allegedly upmarket resorts, would appear as pure as the driven snow compared to modern ones.
I still check out postcard racks but nowadays it is in the vague hope of seeing saucy postcards back there.
The men who ran the arcades (and at that time it WAS mostly men) were characters in their own right. Les Harkness, Solly Parker and Billy Williams spring to mind. Many of them, along with their employees, would stop off at my father’s shop for one reason or another. Although my father might chat to “Solly”, or “Les” to me it was “Mr Parker” or “Mr Williams” and even “Mr Turpin” whose first name I never did get to know.
The last provided me with a very special memory.
Mr Turpin owned one of the arcades at the top of our street and he administered his businesses from an office above the arcade.
When I was about 8 I had a child’s watch, not the most expensive in the world, but one day at the beach I lost it and was devastated.
The day after this incident my father told me to go and see Mr Turpin. I had often taken prescription items to him before so did not find it extraordinary.
In his office I saw the great man sitting behind his desk and proffered him the items from the shop.
Normally that would have been it but this time Mr Turpin told me to wait and then said: “Robin, your Daddy tells me you were very upset yesterday because you lost your watch.”
“Well I have something for you to cheer you up.”
I just thought he was going to give me one of the plastic toys he often had in his office, they were prizes in things like the “Control a crane” game in his arcade.
Instead he presented me with a brand new watch, with a posh imitation leather strap and a coloured dial.
I was amazed. This was one of the major prizes that nobody seemed to ever win when controlling the crane’s claws.
To him it was not much. He probably bought them by the gross. To me it was one of the kindest acts I had known from someone outside my family.
A good man Mr Turpin.