A recent dinner at the Spanish Hall in the Winter Gardens reminded me of an uncomfortable lunch there years ago.
I was a young reporter in the late 1970s, when my boss said: “Cancel your fish and chips today, Edmonds, you’re dining with the brass.”
Gazette chairman and editor in chief, Sir Harold Grime, was lunching with the Mayor of Blackpool and other dignitaries. He wanted this cosy event covered by a reporter – in this case me.
“Get yourself there, prompt,” ordered news editor Len Whiteside, adding, “straighten your tie, don’t drink too much and take a careful note. Sir Harold will see your report before printing.”
The room where we were to dine was between the Baronial and Spanish Halls, off a short connecting corridor. Its door’s gold lettering read, ‘Sir Harold’s Room’.
I was impressed.
Inside was a table surrounded by wood panelling, overhung by a chandelier – very grand but private.
Obviously, this was where big deals were made.
My fellow diners were the editor of the Gazette, Brian Hargreaves; the mayor, a pleasant lady whose name I don’t recall; her husband and consort; a council leader, and one or two other heavies – then, at the head of his own table in his own room, Sir Harold – complete with spats and old-world style.
I felt very small.
My notebook out, I took details of what the great and good had to say about the resort’s future.
The only trouble was the broccoli. Somehow, I couldn’t swallow it with my roast beef and gravy. I tried not to cough but it was stuck in my throat.
As I went redder and coughed louder, my editor gave me a glare, then Sir Harold. Only the lady mayor took pity.
“Just take a sip of water, young man,” she advised, patting my back.
Eventually my choking diminished but I had interrupted the power talk.
“You’ll have to learn not to bolt your food, love,” said the kindly mayor, adding, “anyway, that was nice, Sir Harold, but I have to go.”
There was nothing to report. To this day I have wondered, was a great deal about to be brokered – before my broccoli got in the way?
Years later, I went on a tour of The Tower and Winter Gardens by Prof Vanessa Toulmin.
“Oh, the Sir Harold Room wasn’t for Harold Grime,” she corrected me, “but Prime Minister Harold Wilson.”
The old devil, I thought, he never admitted that!
And, like magic, the indigestion of years was gone.
n Next week: Why they danced in the rain at the Tower Ballroom, while a lion escaped its basement cage. In the meantime, visit me at www.royedmonds-blackpool.com?