19. The weekend

Many, or perhaps even most, people live for the weekend. It’s certainly  better if you enjoy your work or indeed your school or college, but otherwise Monday to Friday were just the days leading up to the weekend. If you were working, those five days provided the money to finance living, but until you got married, particularly the weekend.

Pay-day was traditionally Friday and pay was in hard cash just waiting to be spent. Fridays were special, but not as special as Saturdays. Until you were 18 or looked 18 then pubs and clubs were off limits. The places to be and be seen in were: the cinema, the theatre or the dance-hall.

Queues formed outside cinemas long before they opened, which could be as late as 7 pm. If you wanted to be in a particular place with your friends, particularly in ‘the back row’ then you had to be at the front of the queue. Once inside and settled, there would be adverts, a short film and the main feature. Some cinemas started earlier and showed the complete sequence twice. You could come in at any time and leave ‘where you came in’ or sit through the whole thing twice. However such was the popularity of some films that you might have to wait in the foyer until seats became free; at which point you were shown to your place by an usherette with a torch. Smoking of course was permitted and every other seat had an ashtray on the back for the smokers in the row behind. The place was always so smoky that the beam of the projector danced above your head in the cloud. At the end of the performance the National Anthem was played with a picture of the Union Jack fluttering on the screen. Those who were quick enough had nipped out during the final credits leaving the more respectful to stand up until it ended.

There were several theatres available: some serious and expensive with big stars from the London stage, others housed a repertory company with a different play every week, but most popular were the ‘variety’ theatres where jugglers, acrobats, singers, dancers, comedians and others plied their trade to a sometimes hostile audience. Usually the show ended with a well-known ‘name’ latterly from TV or a pop group with a following of screaming teenage girls.

As we matured, then the dance-hall became the place to find a girl and to ‘strut your stuff’. Of course, to begin with, you couldn’t dance, but bit by bit you learned until it was easy, but not for some. The bands were live, sometimes even two bands on a rotating stage in the bigger venues and even sometimes both playing at once in a kind of competition, as the stage rotated for one to replace the other. Mostly the bands were small with perhaps as few as 6 members. The dances were waltz, quickstep, samba, rumba and foxtrot. The great advantage of course was that you got to hold a girl as close as she would allow and to talk as you danced, always anti-clockwise around the floor, trying to avoid colliding with others doing the same thing.

In the 60s things began to change and the influence of US music and films brought in the era of ‘pop’ music. Couples started dancing apart; sometimes holding one hand, but gradually not touching and not even as couples, but in a group. Once completely separated then the skill and coordination was unnecessary, although some still gyrated better than others. The bands began to disappear to be replaced by record decks and flashing lights and a disc-jockey to join it all together, the ‘discotheque’ (disco) and the modern club scene were born.

The dress for the weekend was important. Suits or at the least a smart jacket and trousers, pressed shirt and tie of the current style; kipper and slim-jim were two styles that came and went. In the summer it was acceptable to omit the tie and to open the shirt over the collar of the jacket. If it looked like rain it was OK to carry a raincoat neatly folded over one arm or if you were really flash over the shoulders in the manner of a cape, but it tended to fall off and spoil the effect.

Girls of course went to great lengths to look right for the weekend, particularly if they expected to dance, when the dress took on flared skirts with layers of material to impress. The make-up was sometimes impressive and the hair piled high in a beehive. I t was always accepted, both in ballroom and later that girls could dance with other girls, but not until the punk era that boys could do the same.Girls seldom wore trousers, especially not at the weekend, and would not have been seen dead in tights without a skirt.

Pubs were never really places for the young. Back then every pub had a bar with tables and chairs, usually men-only and a lounge with posher settees and upholstered chairs, where a man could take his lady without getting her dress dirty from the working gear often worn in the bar.

For the young and not so young the club and late night drinking has replaced the dance-hall and the cinema has become big business. It will be interesting to see how home cinema, and films through TV/internet affect this part of future weekends

I haven’t mentioned Sundays. because despite the changes in shopping hours they are still mainly a day of rest and perhaps recuperation from the days before.


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