My good friend Lenny and I worked every Saturday in 'Wilkies Palace' indoor
funfair on New Brighton's popular sea front. Lenny worked on the 'Autopools'
also known as 'Penny Falls' a side stall where people would shove coins, mostly
pennies or halfpennies, down a shoot where they would land on a sheet of metal
on top of which a vertical strip, like a bulldozer blade, moved backwards and
forwards. The winners, and they were very few, were the ones who's coin
dislodged other coins into a recovery bowl below. Most of the winnings were then
put back in and so on!
My job was rather more exciting working on the 'New American Bingo' which had
arrived recently and taken the UK by storm. Replacing the old bingo cards which
involved customers crossing out numbers, as they were called, until a 'full
house' was achieved. This new craze had an illuminated board with lights behind
the numbers and little slides to pull over each number. Winners shouted “bingo”
then a runner would check them off with the caller. At first I worked as a
runner who's job it was to exchange money with punters for silver sixpence
pieces which automatically lit up their board when paid into a slot below. We
earned a bonus for every £5 bag of sixpences we exchanged by the end of the day.
Whilst chatting to Lenny one day, by his stall, it occurred to me that I could
exchange one of my bags for money he was taking from his punters. Without
overdoing it we did quite well and shared my bonus profits. As a result of
changing more bags than anyone else, giving the impression that I worked hard, I
was promoted to 'Caller.' This meant I now worked centre stage on a raised
platform, and best of all, with a microphone!
Between bingo sessions, whilst waiting for the punters to fill up empty seats, I
decided to give vent to the exhibitionist in me and sang pop songs. My Elvis
impression was going down a treat until the boss rounded the corner and came in
to give me a rollocking! Always willing to justify my actions, I suggested that
my singing drew more customers in to see what was happening. The boss conceded
that I had a point but only if it didn't interfere with business, and said it
wasn't a launch pad for my career as a pop star!
The hours in the fair were from 10am. to 11pm. with an hour for lunch, plus 15
minute morning and afternoon tea breaks. Sporting our white jackets, with 'Wilkies'
emblazoned on the breast pockets, Lenny and I would saunter along the promenade
thinking we were the bee's knees! The main aim of course was to chat up young
female day trippers and generally joke around.
At 11pm. We would get the last bus home to Moreton and sitting on the top deck
was paramount as that was where all the fun took place en route. There was
always a lively crowd eager to join in with any banter or singsongs and
favourites were repeated every week. Everybody would sing the well known
choruses to songs like 'The Wild West Show'
'We're off to see the wild west show
The elephant and the kangeroo-oo-oo
Never mind the weather as long as we're together
We're off to see the wild west show'
Then some extrovert wag, often yours truly, would stand up and assuming the role
of a circus ring master would shout loudly a verse......
Now in the blue corner, we have, 'The Oomy Goolie Bird'
The audience would then repeat loudly, in an exaggeratedly questioning way.....
Oomy Goolie Bird?”
The ringmaster would continue:
The Oomy Goolie Bird is so called because it has no legs, and when it comes in
to land it shouts'....... “Ooh me goolies!”
Another chorus of 'Wild West Show' would follow the laughter, then the
Now in the yellow corner we have, 'The Fekarwy Tribe'
Now 'The Fekarwy Tribe' are so called because they are only 3 feet tall, and
they live in 4 feet tall grasslands, and every now and then they jump up and
And so it went on all the way home with various songs and performances all in
very good humour, juvenile maybe, but there was never any trouble only lots of
Awaiting your comments
I've just had a novel come out, set in New Brighton in 1964. It is called Box
of Tricks. For anyone who remembers the old place I hope it brings back happy
memories - and it's a good story! It's available from Amazon and from all good
book shops. Jeff Phelps