the double!

Shirley Matthews and her big sister Gladys meeting Father Christmas in RHO Hills Store, Blackpool around 1950
Shirley Matthews and her big sister Gladys meeting Father Christmas in RHO Hills Store, Blackpool around 1950
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Shirley Matthews shares this festive picture with the message: “Me as a nipper in around 1950 in RHO Hills seeing Santa with my big sister Gladys - magical then.”

No photograph, but memories of a rude wake-up call on the bus from Fylde councillor Paul Hayhurst, who says: “I remember when I was just getting to the age when I was starting to have doubts about Father Christmas.

“I couldn’t understand why there were two in Blackpool, one at RHO Hills In Bank Hey Street and the other at the Co-op Emporium in Coronation Street.

“There was little doubt that the grotto in RHO Hills was infinitely better than the one in the Co-op and rather than being on his own, Santa had lots of very pretty young ladies with him dressed as elves.

“His entrance to the store in mid-November was also far grander with Father Christmas travelling to Blackpool by train and then being taken on a sleigh in a parade through the town to Hills.

“Whether I believed or not I had no hesitation in agreeing to go and see him as I knew that all children received a present at the grotto.

And so my mother and I and my sister joined the queue at the grotto.

“When our turn came Father Christmas called us over by our first names and seemed to know such a lot about us. When he asked us if we wanted him to leave some of our presents at our house and some at my grandparent’s house in Carleton Avenue, Blackpool as he usually did, I was convinced.

“This WAS the real Father Christmas. How else would he know that we always celebrated Christmas Day at our house and on Boxing Day went to my grandparents, where Father Christmas always left a further pile of presents?

“That Christmas was probably the happiest in my life as I really believed that there was a Father Christmas.

“In fact all was well in the world until a very hot day the following August.

“I was travelling home with my mother on the bus and a very kindly elderly gentleman in the seat opposite started talking to her. Straightaway I recognised his voice and watched as he got off the bus at my grandparent’s stop.

“I later found that he lived across the road from my grandparents and sadly life has never been the same since...”