I settled into the Rhyl Journal offices quite quickly as the rest of the editorial team were a friendly bunch.
Mind you the working move to Rhyl was very quickly followed by another move – except this was a very short trip.
When NWN bought out the Journal the red-brick building on Russell Road housed not only editorial and advertising staff as well as the newspaper presses but also ran as a jobbing printers running off stationery, fancy invitations and anything else people needed.
The presses were obviously not needed as all printing would be done at Oswestry and these were sold off. The jobbing printing also ceased operation.
This just left editorial and advertising rattling around in a great big Victorian building.
It wasn’t long before we moved 100 yards down Russell Road into bright new ground floor offices. In fact it was my first time in a ground floor office (except my part-time role at the Gazette). Even the Leader office at Mold had been on the first floor.
One of the perks of being a young, single junior reporter was that sometimes you got sent on the less important stories while the seniors were covering crime and politics.
One such job was covering the beauty queen contests at the open air swimming pool.
I often accompanied our photographer, Glyn Roberts, but the job wasn’t always just for a caption on the lines of a page three.
The beauty contest above was for a “Miss Rhyl Festival” and instead of the standard parade of contestants in bathing costumes this was “a thrilling contest for the Junior Miss”.
It was a contest for girls aged 14 to 17 and the dress code was afternoon frock or cocktail dress.
The previous day a “Miss Bikini” contest at the same venue had 12 contestants.
The “Miss Festival” contestants had just enough entrants to ensure all three prize slots were filled.
The story angle was based on the bathing beauties being considered more glamorous than those more fully-clothed.
All three were local girls and the winner, Davilda Corry, had previously won a “Miss Rhyl” contest and a “Miss Scene”.
All this and she was still only 16.
Fun as it was to spend half an hour or so each week watching all the girls go by there were more serious stories as well as the somewhat mundane ones.
There were also some good nights attending the opening of a new club, or a midnight entertainment show. As it happens both of these were at the same venue – Billy Williams’ Downtown Club.
Billy belonged to one of the main amusement business families in Rhyl and when he was just 27 he opened a brand new club for late night entertainment and dancing in the town.
My first visit was to the opening of the club and, as it was only a walk along the promenade from my home and all refreshments (including drink) were on the house, I felt it would be churlish to claim expenses for night working.
The next time was when it had been open for a few weeks and I did the editorial for an advertising feature about the club.
We always made sure pieces like this were clearly marked “advertising feature” but I never went over the top in the way I wrote the piece.
To be honest in its first year Billy’s club didn’t really need any advertising stunts as it was a top value venue.
The third visit was when Billy launched his midnight cabaret season and the first star was Ken Dodd.
Now I knew of Ken mainly from his Sunday radio show (one of his catch-lines was “where’s me shirt”) and his appearances on Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
His midnight cabaret act was quite an eye-opener. This was no panto-style, slightly risqué act keeping just on the right side of decency.
If I had known what to expect I certainly would not have taken my girlfriend. Even Billy appeared somewhat taken aback at the content. I think there might have been a few members of Rhyl’s social elite who would not have been invited if he had known Doddy’s act.
Even the Diddy Men would have blushed.
This was not the first time any of my comedy heroes turned out to have feet of clay. I caught a well-known comedy duo at another late-night cabaret only a couple of months after this and their act was even worse than Ken.
At least when I stood in the wings of a Morecambe and Wise show five years later I didn’t hear anything that would make even Mary Whitehouse blush.
That summer in Rhyl proved one of the most varied of my life up to then but I didn’t know what lay over the horizon.
Next time: Back to school — down South.