West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Memories and Recollections



The article on the above topic, featured in the October issue of The Digest, brought back many fond memories, but essentially missed out on much of the history involved.

In the early years of World War Two, the youth of this country were encouraged to join movements such as the Air Training Corps, the Army Cadets and the Navy Cadets, with a view to preparing them for military service. An addition the Scouts, Guides, etc, was the Youth Club movement, the aims of which were good citizenship and training in such things as First Aid, Air Raid precautions, food management, and other things connected to the War Effort.

I was present on the first evening that the Market Place Youth Club was formed. If my memory is correct, that took place in the Autumn of 1941. You had to have reached school-leaving age, 14, to be eligible to join, and I had turned 14 in the summer of that year. That first meeting was held in premises behind W.H. Smiths, as it was in those days next to Bratley’s Chemist.

The Club’s first leader was Miss Edwardson, and I believe that everything was government funded, under the aegis of the West Riding County Council Education Department.

The Club had one room downstairs, used for woodwork tuition, and five rooms, in a line, on the upper floor. The first of these rooms was solely for girls and was barred to the male sex. The second, the main hall, was used as a gymnasium and dance hall. The middle room was the canteen where hot drinks and the girls culinary efforts were served. Down two steps was room number four which contained a table tennis table. There was a billiard table in the end room.

All the activities up to 9pm were designed to include teenagers in the War effort; First Aid for everyone, Keep Fit in the gymnasium for both sexes (separately), Cooking and \Knitting for the girls and so on.

After 9pm, dancing was allowed in the Hall to records played on a turntable, through an old electric radio acting as an amplifier. This was set up in the cupboard described in the article, the music being by Victor Sylvester, Joe Loss, Nat Gonella, and many others. As you will imagine, this was the most interesting part of the evening. It was here that many of us first learned to dance and it was whilst dancing “proper” ballroom dances, such as the Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Tango, Veleta, and that popular “ice breaker”, the Palais Glide, that many of us (myself included) met our future girlfriends and, later wives.

Miss Edwardson was very stern in maintaining good order but also very approachable. She was a keen walker and cyclist, which led to a cycling section being formed. It was through her that we were introduced to the great outdoors of the surrounding countryside. A permanent camp was set up in Brocodale Woods, between Wentbridge and Smeaton, where we spent most of our weekends during the summer.

Our first long trip with “Eddie”, was a week in Pateley Bridge. We stayed in a school, sleeping on palliasses stuffed with straw, with everyone doing the cooking and cleaning together.

Alf Fox then took over the cycling section and took us all round Yorkshire. As a keen cyclist and a member of the Cyclist Tourist Club, he knew all the little places where you could get a mug of tea and a sandwich..

In later years, we joined the Youth Hostel’s Association and stayed in hostels at Malham, Ingleton and Kettlewell. One year, a party of us visited North Wales and Snowdonia; the following year, we went to the Lake District. many of us also branched out on our own, travelling around in small groups, keeping up membership year after year.

When the YHA bought a big house in Burley Woodhead, weekend working parties from Pontefract played a large part in renovating the premises. Builder’s son, Phil Brunt, led this effort. He drove there in a car, pulling a trailer loaded with building materials. the rest of us had to go on our bikes. The Longbottom brothers, Eddie as a joiner and ken as a plasterer, were the trained operatives, with everyone else providing the labour.

As the threat of invasion receded and with very little bombing taking place locally, the Club became more of a social event, as the war went on and obviously remained so.

Miss Edwardson left late on in the war and was succeeded by George Cherryholme and Kath Atkinson. Once again, the Club worked its magic and they were soon married!

Herbert Heptinstall obviously followed George and Kath, with the results described in the article.

Looking at the list of members, I recognise a few of the names, but the following are some of the founder and early members:

Eric Hoaksey, Frank Chappell, Vernon Morton, Bob Wilson, Frank Richardson, “Tunny” Gates, Derrick Davies, Alan and Geoff Leadbetter, Dave and Ken Woodall, Eddie and Ken Longbottom, Joan Neal, Megan Spence, Elsie Scholes, Sheila Burnett, Joan Blackburn, Dot and Kath Barratt, Doreen Binns, Elvia Reynolds, Christine Toulson, Beryl Clark, Des Roberts, Dennis Brown, Eric Ivers, Colin Peacock, Roy Ward, Ron Bell, Hazel Burton, Edna Wilson, Hilda Brooke, Jeff Fox, Wilf Marshall, Mavis Garbutt, Frank Dutton, Joan Walker, Stan Keighley, Barbara Mercer, Bill Ward, Don Brooks and finally Marjorie and Joan Gibson, (the latter being Alf Fox’s nieces).

Bob Marshall


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