West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Memories and Recollections

ROLLER SKATING
AT PONTEFRACT BARRACKS


by MRS J. TAYLOR

Nowadays I envy the young their youth, but certainly not their lifestyle. In 1950, when I was 18, we lived life at a much gentler pace. We had very little money so we learnt to appreciate the simple things in life.

A visit to the cinema was our only luxury, but sometimes a diversion such as the arrival of a local funfair added a little additional excitement to our lives. In those days we would eagerly snap up any chance to do something different if it didnít cost much!

The cinema was the main source of enjoyment for my friend and I, so one summers evening as we walked home after a visit to the pictures we were excited when we spotted a poster which instigated a very daring change of direction for us.

Two naÔve teenage girls, our walk took us past the local army barracks in Pontefract. We had regularly seen soldiers and army trucks around town of course, but we had never spoken directly to any of them, always ignoring their wolf-whistles as we passed by. My friendís father always told us firmly to "Keep away from those soldiers!"

On this particular evening as we walked past the barracks we saw a poster on the wall. "Roller Skating will commence from next Monday in the barracks gymnasium. Admittance fee Two Shillings (10p). Everyone Welcome."

We decided there and then to pluck up our courage and give it a try, and the following week, unknown to our parents of course, we made our way in the direction of the arrowed signs across the field in front of the barracks to the gymnasium.

We could hear the music before we reached the main door and discovered after we had paid our two shillings (which included hire of skates) that there were about two dozen soldiers and a small group of girls inside. I had never skated in my life, but my friend had done a little ice-skating.

The skates were handed out from a distribution desk and we sat down as a very young soldier fitted them for us. By now the place was filling up considerably and the floor was quite crowded.

I felt scared, especially when the music (recorded) began and I could see expert skaters whizzing by, making it all look so easy. I was convinced that Iíd fall flat on my face.

I neednít have worried though. A line of young men in khaki across the room had watched us intently and four of them skated over and took our arms. With a young man on either side of us we were led onto the floor and found ourselves being guided along in time to the music. I realised that I was actually enjoying it. It was wonderful! We enjoyed a lovely relaxing evening, with very few spills.

After going back for two or three weeks however, we were told Mondayís roller skating evenings were to be discontinued so our brief happy times at Pontefract barracks came to a rather abrupt end.

I often wonder what became of Johnny (Terry) and his mate Bob, both from Surrey, who so very patiently taught us to roller-skate? Or Joe from Rotherham who always seemed to be on sentry duty?

It was just pure innocent teenage fun and for a few short weeks we all laughed and joked and enjoyed each others company, and these lovely young men that we had been warned about so many times, were nothing less than perfect gentlemen! Yes Ė in those days we lived life at a gentler pace Ė and it was wonderful!

Mrs. J. Taylor.


 

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