RARELY have I been so captured by a letter to the Gazette as I was by Derek Sharp’s, recalling memories of the Thursday night dances he helped arrange in the 1950s (March 7).
No decade is denigrated more than that one, usually by those who were not around to live it at the time. Here we have a much-needed counter argument.
In many ways it was indeed a make-do-and-mend time. But one could feel in reading Derek’s letter the sheer satisfaction of building up slowly his record equipment to create an evening of enjoyment.
Those were not days of instant gratification, and therefore in many ways they made for greater contentment.
People made more of their entertainment by invention and initiative. They also contended with the likes of Miss Pole, coming down to spook the party but then not being there to see it restored after she had disappeared.
Any attempt to highlight the plus points of the decade produces the inevitable charge of invoking a golden age.
But it was better in many ways while losing out in others.
For example, Derek Sharp tells us of the rush to clear up and be out to walk to the station for the last buses at 11 o’clock.
There would have been no running the gauntlet of binge-drinkers and shouters of abusive language, any more than there was when I, at about the same time, was spilling out with the crowds from one of the cinemas in Mare Street, Hackney and walking home peacefully across London Fields on a summer night.
Compare that with the havoc in the same Mare Street during the August riots last year.
Derek’s letter also helps lay to rest the fallacy about Eastbourne always having been full only of old people.
He tells us the hall was invariably filled to capacity, presumably not with oldsters. Nor did they need bouncers apparently.
Derek Sharp’s letter shows us the possibilities of the simplest of pleasures in life. Would that we could emulate some of them today. We won’t of course.
EDWARD THOMAS, Collington Close.