Step into the past

I went for a walk yesterday. Something I have not done since the lockdown began.

In fact I went for two walks.

In both I walked the streets of Rhyl. The difference being that one walk was in the Rhyl locked away in my mind to be taken out and revisited whenever I wanted.

The other was a virtual tour of the Rhyl that is or was as others see it on Google maps where you can see the streets frozen in time with people and animals who are strangers..

Today I want to take you with me on a walk in the Rhyl I loved from 1955 to 1972. A brash, saucy seaside resort which never tried to attract the clientele that strolled the streets of Llandudno, just down the coast.

In the summertime Rhyl displayed her wares for all to see, especially visitors from the North West.

I walk out of my father’s shop and turn left, crossing the mouth of Crescent Road and up to the West Parade.

That was where I could see one of my strongest memories – the great dome of the Pavilion Theatre, surrounded by its four mini-me domes.

A wonderworld of fun and excitement, whether it was Prince Cox’s Circus on its annual visit, or a concert with the variety stars of the day.

Even in daytime the Pavilion drew your eye no matter where you stood, from Splashpoint to the Foryd harbour.

Turpin’s Arcade at the promenade end of Water Street. The clock tower building beyond is at the corner of Crescent Road and Water Street.

The promenade entrance to Water Street was flanked by amusement arcades, ice-cream vendors, seaside rock stalls and doughnut stands.

If I went left I could get a strawberry and vanilla ice cream cone, drawn from a machine with a nozzle like that on an icing bag. Stick a flake in it and you had your 99.

If I turned right I was outside an arcade with a hot dog vendor and a fancy goods stall where you could buy saucy postcards, a stick of rock, a Kiss Me Quick hat or some other memento of your day out.

Slot machines could win you sweets as well as pennies.

Behind the stall, and virtually all the way from there to the High Street were the arcades with their penny slot machines, pinball tables, a glass cube full of exciting prizes if you could only manipulate the jaws of the crane to get one out, and the bingo sessions with holidaymakers seated, eyes down and ears ready to catch the showman’s calls:

“Two fat ladies- no I don’t mean you and your mum luv – 22.”

“Kelly’s eye.”

“Never been kissed – sweet 16. But she’d better watch herself under the pier tonight.”

Eah caller had their own references for the numbers but the players got to know them all and could give a snappy response before the caller had finished.

If I had turned into Crescent Road when I left the shop I would have passed our back gate and the big wooden gates which offered vehicular access to our yard, past the dingy blue wood and glass doors which led through to the baker’s yard and ovens, and past the boarding houses down that side of the street.

Then there was Marshall’s fancy goods warehouse, an Aladdin’s Cave full of rubber beach shoes; plastic goggles, “scuba” tubes and flippers; cheap plastic sunglasses and tacky toys for the children to take back to remember their holiday.

The warehouse supplied many of the shops in town including ours.

We might have made our bread and butter out of cough medicines, little liver pills and rosehip syrup, but the jam came from the holiday trade – those plastic sunglasses, beach shoes, and, of course, suntan cream.

On the way back from the beach they would call in for calamine lotion to soothe the sunburn because they hadn’t realised that going for a dip washed the suntan cream off.

Halfway along Crescent Road was the junction of five roads with my primary school, Christ Church CP, dominating in its red brick glory.

Christ Church School.

Opposite at the corner of Abbey Street and Crescent Road, was what we called the tuck shop with its four-a-penny chews, sherbert in a conical bag and Spangles.

I carried on down Crescent Road and past the infants section of the school. Tis was as far as I would normally have gone on my own but on this walk I could age from five to 12 and carry on to cross Wellington Road and head past the Catholic Chrch down Ffynnongroew Road.

Oddly, by ths stage I had acquired a bike and was soon pedalling up one side of the H bridge, turning across the bridge itself and freewheeling down the other side to join Marsh Road where in the distance was the municipal rubbish tip.

Fortunately before I reached that smell zone I turned into Frederick Street and part way down on the left was the home of my schoolfriend and later lifelong chum Roger Steele.

My journey came to an end at that point and I found myself back in 2020 in Hampshire.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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