Memory Lane: Illuminations meant 18-hour day

This picture sparked memories for people who worked on the seafront
This picture sparked memories for people who worked on the seafront
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Our picture of the old seafront chemist between Roberts Oyster Bar and the Savoy Cafe, complete with a works outing shot outside the cafe itself, certainly sparked some memories.

Bessie Mather, 95, of Blackpool, recalled how she used to work, in her teens, opposite Roberts at Collinsons Cakes, initially in the office, but also on relief to the soda fountain, coffee shop and chocolate counter.

“Come the Illuminations you’d be working until 2am, after an 8am start and if you complained you would be told ‘you finish when I say so’.

“I remember bursting into tears once because I was supposed to be meeting my mum at the Opera House after, so I went anyway, and got another job instead.”

Barry Law, of Blackpool, recalls the cake shop because, in a four-page memoir of the seafront businesses of the 1950s, he recalls: “I would go in each break time for my engineer’s butties.

“I was working for North West Gas on the market site, where British Home Stores is now.

“I always got two coffee creams, which they were famous for, and a bet was once placed that I couldn’t eat a dozen.

“I managed seven so had to buy them which cost me a day’s wages 55 years ago.”

John Lowe, 76, who now lives in Kendal, didn’t used to work at Richardson’s Chemist, or “Chymist” as it was styled at the time, but said: “Old man Richardson was my godfather, and when my grandfather qualified and went into the business he took the business on.

“Then my father Robert qualified as a druggist, there were no pharmacists in those days, and went into the business around 1930.

“They changed the name to my grandfather’s, JH Lowe, but people still called it Richardsons. If you couldn’t get something anywhere else you could get it there, people said.

“I was just a little boy and would sit there in the holidays, and look around the dispensary. It closed in the late 1950s.

“My abiding memory is of Yardleys approaching my father before the Illuminations and asking if they could site a big 3D sheet metal representation of a lavender spray, roughly the height of the building, above the shop’s verandah. It looked beautiful.

“ Harold Roberts, who used to have Roberts’ Oyster bar in its heyday, was a good customer of my father’s, as he used to make litres of stuff up for him, to cultivate carnations. It gave me a taste for oysters too.”

And another piece of the mystery was solved by Mrs Viviene Holt, of St Annes, who called to say her father was chairman and managing director of the Savoy Cafe.

She said she knew our picture must have been of a works outing as it listed, among others, “Gustave, who made beautiful birthday cakes for us”.