When chicken in a basket was an exotic delight

Today Kenneth Connelly continues his colourful look-back at South Tyneside life in the sixties '“ the people and the places.

South Shields Memory Lane   scanned from hard copy   
La Strada  Exterior of Latino Club PICS SUPPLIED SANDFORD GOUDIE
South Shields Memory Lane scanned from hard copy La Strada Exterior of Latino Club PICS SUPPLIED SANDFORD GOUDIE

“Those baby boomers among us have their own favourite musical memories,” says Kenneth, who now lives in Watford.

“My nascent teenage years encapsulated the live musical experience.

“Pubs and clubs in my native North East were sprinkled liberally with working class adult ‘community centres’ where heavy drinking, smoking and gambling were de rigueur.

“They were largely a man’s world where the only female representation was usually in the form of a barmaid or occasionally, the wife and her mother.

“The entertainment culture was well advanced. The performance of the ‘turn’ – as the acts were called – alternated with the delivery of the meat pies and playing of bingo in a highly ritualised regime.

“‘Best of order now’ was the calling card introducing one or the other.

“Nervously perspiring acts, male or female, emerged from a leaking grubby toilet doubling up as the ‘turns’’ dressing room.

“It was a hostile environment, and if the ‘turn’ didn’t grab the whole club’s attention in the first 10 seconds, they died on their feet ... or worse. “

Mr Connelly recalls 
how it was a cruel sight to behold.

“By comparison, being fed to the lions, in ancient Rome, may have been more attractive. The lion’s ‘dinner’ never had to ask the concert secretary for their money!

“A small town to the north of Durham City wasn’t called Pity Me for nothing.

“It was in this environment that some of the big names of the entertainment industry cut their teeth. If you could survive that ordeal, night after night, you were on your way.

“As a young shaver in the mid-sixties, slim as a racing snake, all the energy of a gross of Duracell batteries, Hepworth’s mohair three-piece suit, 10-bob note in the top pocket, a splash too far of Factor for Men topped off with a Woodbine – well, you get the picture – I was ready to hit the town ... and South Shields was only a five-mile bus ride away.

“The word was out that a new club had opened, which had decent ‘different’ entertainment.

“Best of all they served hot chicken and chips – in a basket.

“While the young of today are familiar with the ubiquitous KFC, in those far off days, chicken of any kind was a rare treat, only seen at Christmas.

“Believe me, to have it with chips in a basket was, well, off the scale of culinary delights.

“On reaching the Club Latino, it was not hard to make a favourable judgment. Tuxedo-clad staff on the door, subdued lighting in the lobby, queues?

“I’d only ever seen such a queue on the opening night of the Sound of Music at the Regal Cinema.

“I never actually saw the film but the ‘craic’ in the queue was memorable.

“This Latino place was something else, a cut above the Pity Me Ex Servicemen’s Club – however well affiliated.

l There will be more from Kenneth on Thursday.