Chapter 13: Ellington’s

1954

 When I was about thirteen Denis Williams my friend who lived down the road on Carlton Vale got me a paper boys job at Ellington’s across the road from the Maida Vale tube station. We got up at three thirty in the morning to walk up Carlton Vale towards Abbey Road, over Kilburn Park Road up a slight hill past the Paddington Rec. and up and along to Elgin Avenue.

We then turned right onto Elgin Avenue along to Maida Vale Tube station where we turned left and along to Ellington’s the newsagents. That was quite a hike and we did that every morning come rain or shine. Once we were at Ellington’s we would go inside where Dennis and I, along with the managers Molly and Mac.  Molly and Mac looked a like really, short and stocky they were both in their 50’s with both wearing glasses Mac’s being always on the end of his nose.

They had a little doggy, which they used to put on a cushion on the countertop. if you went near it the little fucker would growl at you.  When Molly and Mack weren’t looking, Denis or I would give it a shot with a morning newspaper. We got a real big kick out of that. The dog didn’t like it much, but we didn’t care.

 In England, everybody has a morning newspaper. So, the four of us would markup all the 25- 30  paper routes for the paper boys

 At that time of the morning, around four ‘ish, there would be very few people coming into Ellington’s. The ones that did would be a bit off key. There would be the odd prostitute wanting cigarettes and the odd bloke that would come in and would leave me wondering about them, it was properly the actions of these morning blokes, that got me thinking about them.

At 13-14 I was not really up to speed when it came to queers especially back then. Mac would always comment on these “Night  People “, making off colour remarks once they had left the store.

At one time there was a papergirl but she did not last long. Once we were done marking up the paper routes we took our own papers from our paper route and went and delivered them. Then we walked all the way back home had breakfast and then walked to school.  No wonder when I got to school I was a dead beat and would fall asleep in class.

On the way to Ellington’s in the mornings.  At the junction of Carlton Vale and Maida Vale, four to five women would be standing on the corner. Denis explained to me that these women were prostitutes and that one of them was the mother of one of the boys at the school where  Denis went to.  Which was Percy Road Boys School 

Percy Road Boys  School had the reputation of being a really rough school, and I for one was very glad that I did not go there. 

 Denis told me about things that went on in that Percy Road School that I  as a thirteen-year-old boy back then found really hard to believe. 

One was. ..There was a French class and the regular teacher was absent  So they had a temporary, cute,  young female student teacher take over the French lesson for that period.  Evidently, she was “A bit of all right! “ ( As they used to say back then. )

Well, halfway through the lesson the teacher walked to the back of the class looked down at some of the boys and saw that they had their peckers out and were looking at her and were “Wanking Of “ under their desks.

All the boys except one stopped. But one boy kept motoring as she came up to his desk.  He just kept on wanking and sat there looking up at her and smiling.  She went ballistic, she screamed, and ran out of the class, left the school never to return. 

 At Ellington’s life went on. As I said earlier we had one paper girl. So, after she had been a week or so on the job Denis and I decided to have a little fun with her.  So one morning when we had finished our paper rounds we went over to where she was delivering her papers.

She would like the rest of us leave her paper- bag ( which is made of canvas) outside the door to the mansion take out the papers for that mansion and go in and deliver them. So while she was in the mansion doing her delivery, we took her paper- bag and move it back to the spot where she was last.

She would come out from the mansion looking for her paper- bag. and, obviously found that it had been moved back to one mansion. Then when she was again in the mansion, we would move it forward to the next delivery door.

The paper girl got scared shitless and ran back to Ellington’s to complain to Molly and Mac.   Mac then decides to keep watch on the paper girl to see what was going on. Well! With Mac watching from behind trees, fuck all is going on. cause Mac would be watching the girl and there was us a watching Mac.

After a week or so the girl quit. Denis and I laughed our fucking heads off; we thought that that was the greatest bit of fun! For the longest time!

Every Christmas Denis and I had this scam going we would find out when the other paper boys would be going around collecting their Christmas boxes.  (Christmas Tips)  And we would go to their addresses the day before they did.  We would ring the doorbell and the people there would give us a Christmas box ..

By doing this illegitimate Christmas box collecting we collected quite a tidy sum of money. cause to our minds these people were supposed to be rich. After all, this was one of the knobby areas of London.  And looking back on this scam of ours,  I would say, we were selfish little pricks. 

The people handing out Christmases boxes to us didn’t have a clue who their paperboy was.  They were still in bed in the mornings when their paper was delivered, so they did not know their paperboy from a hole in the ground..  What did we do with all the money we made on Christmas boxes, why we did what any self-respecting 14-year-old boy at that time  would do, 

We added it to our Christmas boxes and we went and got tailor-made suits made.  To our way of thinking, We were the sharpest “ Mods “around…….. Trends………. Denis and I set them.

 As I said, Denis and I were the sharpest dressers around, there were not many boys of our age who could dress up like us. We were real Mods.  Maybe the originals. We were one of the ones that brought being a ” Mod ” to the fore. Originals. Of cause, we didn’t realize it at the time but the circles in which we moved we were making fashion history!

 Our tailor-made suits were the best, we got them made at the Taylor shop at the corner of Edgeware Road and Prade Street. Paddington. We paid sixteen or seventeen guineas for our suits . in case your wondering, a guinea was one pound one shilling. The tailors were the only ones that I know of that used guineas.

We were into Italian style suits. Single breasted short lapels, covered buttons. We had flared trousers, with a one and a half inch slit on the bottom of the trouser. With the slit being on the outside seam. Atop of the slit sometimes we would have three or four covered buttons in a line on the seam. 

Dennis also had a Camel hair overcoat made. I was also very proud of a corduroy blazer. It was made from corduroy. Not just any old corduroy. It was different coloured stripes in the corduroy. 

We also wore winkle picker shoes made from fake crocodile skin. Bootlace ties were the norm. We also wore cutaway collars on our shirts. I would,  like all my friends, shop around for the best.  Hair do’s at that time were Perry Como style. Once all dressed up we would then go to the London nightclubs.

 Clubs Like Farrs on Baker street. ( Yes the Baker Street from Sherlock Holmes fame.)  Because we were so young the bouncers on the doors at the night clubs used to let us in for nothing. They used to say to us

,” No fucking trouble,  alright ! ”. 

The odd fight would break out in some of the dance halls – clubs. We were just bystanders being as young as we were when it came to punch ups.

Rock and Roll

      1956 ’ish,   It was around this time that Rock and Roll started to take hold on the world.  Denis and I used to go to the State Cinema Kilburn, on Kilburn High road. This cinema held over 4,000 seats. The first person that we saw on stage was an American singer Guy Mitchell.

At the time he had a big hit called  “ Singing the Blues”. An English singer Tommy Steel made a cover of Singing the Blues it did alright in the charts. but to my mind, Mitchell’s was better. 

 Next were “The Platters “they were the absolute best, with songs like, ”Smoke gets in your eyes.” “Blue Moon,”  “Only You “   and the like.  The Platters were a Black American singing group.

  After their performance at the State, Denis, who was a lot more adventurous than me,  to my mind. Said

“Common Bryan  let’s go around to the Stage door and see if we can get in to see them.” 

So we did. We found a side stage door that opened and in we went. Low and Behold there they were. The world famous Platters. We were standing right in front of them.  They stood there and looked at us and we stood there and looked at them.

At that time in London, there were very few black people. We had no plan of what to do next. I thought that the girl in the group was very pretty. But then we heard this voice yelling out.

“Hey what the fuck are you doing back here? get the fuck out! “

So we left in a hurry. But we were thrilled by the fact that we had stood right in front of the group. The World Famous Platters. And here I am telling it in 2018!

 At “The State “ we then saw, to my mind the father of Rock and Roll.   Bill Hayley and the Comets.  ……… With “Rock around the Clock “ “ See you later Alligators” “ Shake Rattle and Roll “, “ Razzle Dazzle “and so on.  

This is howBill Haley and the Comets went down at the State.

 The lights from the half time interval were still on in the theatre and we heard this song.

“ One Two Three a clock four a clock rock !”  

At the time  I remember thinking to myself. I paid to see Bill Haley and here they are playing his record! Then suddenly the stage curtains flew back and there they were.  Bill Hayley with his kiss curl and one of the Comets twirling his base. Really innovative for the time! Singing Rock around the clock was Bill Haley and the Comets. To us they were fabulous. 

You have to remember that as a little lad all I heard on the radio, just after the war was the  Big Band Sounds. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Glen Miller and the like. Unlike when Haley and the Comets, played in Germany we were more civilized,  we did not riot and smash up the cinema seats.

  We also saw  Buddy Holly and the Crickets at the State, who was great, he played with the Crickets.  Songs like “ Fade Away “. Oh Boy “   “True Love Ways    ‘ Peggy Sue “   and the like. ( The Rolling Stones did a cover of “Fade Away    which made the charts ) .

On seeing Buddy Holly, who was to know that I was seeing history, as shortly thereafter Holly was killed in a plane crash, along with  “ The Big Bopper “ (Chantilly Lace )   and  “Richie Valens  “ (Donna ). That was a real tragedy for the World of Rock and Roll! 

     

     

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