Memories of the Elite

Duration: 3:30 minutes
Accession No: TWCMS : 2009.108
This story has been viewed 7335 times

June tells the story of her dancehall memories and of her father who was the leader of The Elite, a danceband in the Houghton area.

By June Lumley


Other information

This story was inspired by objects from the North East Beat exhibition at Discovery Museum, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

This object was also inspired by a pair of shoes from the collections at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

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Video transcript

I was lucky, I was born into a musical family. My father had a dance band called The Elite so dancing was a big part of my life. Although I was sent for piano lessons I just wasn’t interested. I wanted to play the drums but that wasn’t considered lady like. Dad encouraged many a young lad to learn to play an instrument, and some ending up with dance bands of their own.

Even my boyfriend at the time was persuaded to buy and learn the trumpet but he didn’t take to it so sold the trumpet and bought me an engagement ring. As young teenagers we went to church club dances where we paired off and eventually married. There was one dance, called the ‘excuse me’, where you patted a couple on the shoulder and changed partners. If you had a partner you were not happy with you gave a wink over their shoulder and someone would come over and buzz them off.

Later on in years we saved up to go to posh dances where we could get really dressed up with evening gowns which we mostly made ourselves. I remember one particular dance was a sergeant’s ball in Durham. I made a lovely dress in green satin with sequined straps and belt. On the due date my friend’s dress that she had ordered from a catalogue did not arrive. So it was decided I would lend her mine and I borrowed an exclusive dress and antique earrings from one of the family. On the night entering the building an usher came to take off my coat - which was beaver lamb – considered posh in those days. Then to my horror one of the earrings fell out. Bending down in panic a waiter tripped over me with a tray of drinks. Never the less I dried myself off and carried on the have a wonderful night. Only thinking now and then about the dry cleaning bill the next day.

There were the all night dances too. One that stood out in my memory was called a Jazz Jamboree with different bands playing all night. One such band was an American Air Force band called The Blue Rockets. Those days we could go to dances without the fear of drugs, knives and gang fights. If there was a disagreement they went outside one to one.

Even my wedding day was well remembered. Things were still rationed but I had an outstanding reception having a full dance band to play. As dad had a regular weekly dance at Herrington Miner’s Hall he announced there were would not be the regular dance as his daughter was getting married and having the hall. There was such a hue and cry that he said anyone could come along after tea. Low and behold we had to come home at 9pm as the place was too packed to breathe.

Years later, in 1978, as a surprise for my parents’ golden wedding we managed to track down around 40 old time band players and had a great reunion. It brought tears to my father’s eyes as he thought some of them had passed away by then. What a memorable time that was!

June tells the story of her dancehall memories and of her father who was the leader of The Elite, a danceband in the Houghton area.Posted on 09/10/2009 at 12:17:32

Such a sweet story-- especially getting all of the band members together.Posted on 29/10/2009 at 03:37:22

Heart-warming. What a great story.Posted on 27/01/2010 at 01:54:33

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