West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Memories and Recollections



I wonder if there are many readers of the Pontefract Digest who can remember the Market Place Youth Club?

From 1947 to 1952 it was held in rooms entered from a passage way, across the road from Burton’s Tailors in Market Place. Herbert Heptinstall and his wife Elsie were the leaders and organisers of the club.

I fisrt met Herbert in about 1940 when he used to run a youth club at Hillside Methodist Church in Ackworth, a couple of nights per week on a voluntary basis. Herbert was always interested in helping people.

I think it must have been about 1945 that he went to Durham University to obtain qualifications to do youth work as a full-time job.

After University he got the job of running the market Place Youth Club in Pontefract though I do not know who employed him. It was just what the young people needed at the time, somewhere to go to spend the evening. I was living in Ackworth at the time and joined the club in 1947 along with my mate Jack Crew.
It was soon after joining the club that I met May Allen, who lived in Pontefract, and we got married in 1953. In 1959 we emigrated to Australia.

The Youth Club drew its members from Knottingley, Castleford, Featherstone and other areas surrounding Pontefract. I think it was one of the first youth clubs that wasn’t attached to a church or Sunday school.

For five nights per week there was dancing every night to records played by two gentlemen who seemed to live in a cupboard where the record player was housed. It seemed that the girls used to dance with each other most of the time, but I remember one young man who was a real ‘Fred Astaire’, by the name of Trevor Hawley. I think he had most of the other lads jealous about his fancy footwork!

Apart from dancing there was also table tennis, team games and discussions, but the thing that really interested me was the cycling club. The man who made all this possible and organised the weekend trips to the Dales, staying at youth hostels was Alf Fox. Alf worked at Wilkinson’s Liquorice Factory and was a keen cyclist who seemed to go cycling every weekend. He must have introduced many of the young people to the ‘Dales’ and the ‘Yorkshire Moors’, and he seemed to know his way down every country lane and track.

In 1947, Alf organised a weeks cycling holiday in Scotland and about eight of us went with him. It wasn’t until some years later that I realised how much planning and organising that trip must have taken. Food rationing was still in force, so Alf had to make a list of food we would need, and we each took some down to his house where he made up parcels containing dinner and breakfast, and posted them off to the youth hostels where we would be staying. We caught the train to Glasgow, toured round Scotland, including the Isle of Skye, and then caught the train back from Edinburgh. I remember 1947 as a very hot summer. The following year Alf organised a holiday in Wales and the same system applied. We cycled most of the time but sometimes in winter we would go hiking and Alf would organise these trips as well.

We look back on those years as some of the best years of our lives and I thank Herbert and Alf for the effort they put in, and for making what was after all a pretty bleak time just after the war, such a wonderful time to remember.

In 1950 I was called up to do my national service so we had to start growing up and although we haven’t been able to go to the Yorkshire Dales much in the intervening years, we have a love and interest in them which we will have forever, thanks to the involvement with the Market Place Youth Club.

After some sixty years, some of the names that come to mind of the people we met at the Market Place Youth Club are: Mary Barrat, May Appleyard, Celia Hopkins, Cath Harris, Sylvia Dickinson, Stuart Heptinstall, Ken Fox, Roy Higgins, Ken Shorthouse, Roy Pauson, Jack Crew, Ken Varley, ? Littlewood, Phil Furniss, Roy Fowler, Trevor Hawley, Ken Waddington and Ken Longbottom.

There are a lot more faces we can see but unfortunately we cannot put names to them.

Cliff and May Booth.

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