Doreen and Brenda
LYP youth member Dan, and Age UK members Brenda and Doreen talk about the opportunities music has given them. Dan progresses in guitar and piano with the music lessons offered at school today. Brenda and Doreen appreciated anything with a ‘rhythm’ played at their local dance halls when they were younger, as a way of meeting young men.
|31st May 2016
|National Jazz Archive
|Image source credit
|Image source URL
Doreen: But we have quizzes and we were supposed to have a speaker from the council one week. He didn’t turn up. So somebody else turned up later. He was a coloured chappie and he wanted to know about care homes and people, you know that need it and what they were like. And one lady, she said, ‘I think they’re terrible, you pay for an hour, you get about 10 minutes. I hurt my shoulder, I had a fall, and I had to have care people in and I found the same. They just about get your meal, they help you to get dressed and shower and all that and you get your breakfast and then they were gone. They didn’t sort of, wash up your things or anything like that, but we’d paid for longer than they gave us. But then, another lady, other side of coin, she said ‘well I can’t speak highly enough of who came to me’ so it’s a personality thing.
Brenda: Yeah, the luck of the draw isn’t it?
Doreen: [you’re] Just lucky who you get.
Interviewer: Well I’m Vic Hobson from the National Jazz Archive. Just for the tape, I really ought to know your names and how old you are because that will sort of gauge us in your experience.
Doreen: Don’t think we’re going to tell you.
Interviewer: Well that’s ok, if you don’t, we’ll say a little bit older than me, shall we?
Brenda: Why do you want this information?
Interviewer: What we’re trying to do really is to understand the background to how the music developed because of course it doesn’t develop in a vacuum of course without an audience and without people going to the dances and all the rest of it, the musicians don’t get the work.
Doreen: That’s a shame.
Interviewer: And also, we’ve got a younger person too here.
Dan: Hiya. I’m Dan from Youth Club here.
Doreen: You’re Dan, I was just going to ask you your name. You read my mind.
Dan: There you go I’m psychic.
Doreen: Dan, do you like music?
Dan: Yeah I like music.
Doreen: Good, do you play anything?
Dan: I play the guitar and the piano at the moment.
Doreen: Oh, that’s good!
Dan: Yes, so.
Doreen: that is good. You don’t learn that at school, do you?
Dan: Yes, I learn that at school I do lessons on a Wednesday at school.
Doreen: Isn’t that lovely. That is lovely. That is good. I regret not learning to read music. I tried, I went for a year to learn my chords ‘cos I can play, trouble is I can play by ear. I can sit at a piano and with my right hand, play any tune, you see, and that sort of interferes with reading music.
Brenda: Well I was forced to learn to learn the piano I didn’t really want to I wanted to go to ballet dancing, [laughter] you do what your parent tell you in those days.
Doreen: That’s true.
Brenda: But now I’ve got deaf I can’t enjoy music so much because I found it’s sort of distorted. My ears are at fault there I know, which is a shame, but there we go.
Interviewer: Did you actually learn to play the piano in the end or did you just kind of regret…
Brenda: Well I took a few exams and then I gave it up.
Doreen: What a shame. You see my mother couldn’t afford to pay for me. They couldn’t afford it.
Brenda: No. But we enjoyed dancing didn’t we when, that was our thing when we were in our teens.
Doreen: Dancing was our lives. Twice a week.
Brenda: Yes, the weekly Saturday dance, that was great.
Interviewer: Were there lessons at school when, for music I mean?
Brenda: Oh, not for music, singing lessons.
Interviewer: Oh, singing was it? Ok. Do you still do that at school?
Dan: Yes, we have kind of music so like in lessons instead of paying for extra ones you’ll learn a bit of the piano, a bit of the ukulele and sometimes we do a bit of singing as well.
Brenda: Oh that’s good!
Doreen: Lovely, you keep it up dear. Keep it up and you’ll be great when you get older.
Interviewer: How about dancing, do you do dancing? Because I used to do country dancing when I was at school but that was in the sixties.
Dan: Some of the girls, they do like P.E. lessons, P.E. covers dance somehow, I don’t know why, but only the girls get to do that and its modern type dancing that they do.
Brenda: Do they still have P.E. lessons at school?
Dan: Yes, we have them about twice a week, normally.
Brenda: Oh, that was my favorite. You didn’t have to use your brain for that.
Dan: We have to do tests now for P.E. though. Like actual writing down tests. That kind of ruins it I think.
Doreen: Do you?
Interviewer: When you were doing all these dances, was that something you were taught at school? Or you just learn it yourselves, or you go to schools to?
Brenda: No, no you pick it up as you go along. Cos I’m going back such a long way that when I was doing the dances the war was on. And I say, all the men were in uniform and they all look good in uniform [laughs].
Doreen: We had a lot of Dutch service men in the town and they lived in the, this is during the war I’m talking about.
Doreen: They were in the community centre, they lived there, and of course there were lovely halls in the community centre. As you know, and of course these men were there wanting to meet the girls.
Doreen: And my mum, I went a couple of times, but a family across the road, their daughter she like dancing and she met somebody an American, and she fell for him, and he took her off to America and her mother never saw her again.
Doreen: Oh, there was a lot of that happened.
Brenda: And my mom she said, ‘I don’t want you really to go over there in case you meet somebody’. And you know I mean I was what? Seventeen? Sixteen, seventeen? So, wouldn’t go against here wishes, so I didn’t go. But I used to come here funnily enough, church hall. We used to have dancing, used to play table tennis, darts, game of darts. We had nice evenings here. But I used to go in Southend dancing and when I was about twenty I met my husband there.
Interviewer: So where were the dances held in those days in Southend?
Brenda: Where? At the bottom of Pier Hill I went.
Interviewer: Oh ok.
Brenda: Upstairs. Big hall. Bar, lovely. Called the Mecca.
Interviewer: Yes, I’ve got a feeling that might be where the roller-skating rink is now.
Brenda: Yes. Oh, the Kursaal. Kursaal, Southend.
Interviewer: In the big ballroom there.
Brenda: Yea, the ballroom.
Brenda: New Year’s Eve…
Doreen: Yes, I remember Kursaal. I wasn’t a local so I didn’t go till after we was married.
Brenda: New Year’s Eve was absolutely packed. You couldn’t dance, you know you got your partner and you just shuffled round. But, you were out celebrating and listening to the music you see. But we used to have little bands play for us.
Dan: Live music?
Brenda: Yes. Oh Yes.
Dan: Nowadays it’s all done thought the speakers isn’t it it’s just like, off the internet and they listen to it though that.
Brenda: Well then of recent years, you see they’ve bought in, oh what’s it called? What is it I went to? Where you all do the same steps?
Interviewer: Oh, what line dancing?
Doreen: Well the Palais Glide that sort of thing you’re talking [about]?
Brenda: No, no. Oh it’s it silly, it’s escaped me.
Doreen: I don’t know.
Brenda: Yes you do.
Doreen: Well I expect I do when you name it.
Interviewer: Sequence dancing?
Doreen: Oh sequence.
Brenda: Sequence, I love that. We did Latin American, sequence and that was lovely. And there was a club in Southend, it’s shut down now it’s been pulled down now, made a car park and that was a nice hall up there. Also, you could play table tennis in another room if you wanted to, but we all used to meet up and I went there about seventeen years every Wednesday afternoon. And yes, we had a teacher and his partner, they used to start off the dance then we all got up and followed. I like the sequence, yes, modern sequence.
Interviewer: So, it was like a sort of teaching session in a way was it with the people sort of starting it off and you just kind of followed?
Brenda: Yeah well, we got to know them. Yes, but the Latin American sequence, did you ever do that Brenda?
Brenda: Doug and I went to classes just for one year.
Doreen: Yes. Cha cha cha?
Doreen: I used to love modern sequence.
Brenda: Yes, he was a good dancer my husband. That’s how I met, on the dance floor. I thought he looks good so!
Doreen: Most of us did. Most of us met our partners through dancing. Yes, because we had that interest you see, start us off.
Interviewer: Could you get the men to dance? Because I wouldn’t mind betting that there’s a few younger folks who ain’t so keen on dancing.
Dan: Umm, I don’t mind it but, it’s hard to do it nowadays it’s not like as like, socially acceptable to just get up and start dancing. You kind of like have to have everybody else doing that and then maybe you might get up if you’re pushed to do it. No one says ‘oh I’m going to get up and dance now.’
Doreen: You see my husband, when I met him he had just been de-mobbed from the air force and he went to lessons with his brother because he wanted to socialize and meet somebody. So, he learnt the dances, the waltz the quickstep the fox trot. He didn’t do any modern sequence then, he couldn’t move his feet fast enough, but he was very good [at the] waltz, and foxtrot, that was his favorite. And so, we had that. I went up there one day and he asked me to dance and that was it.
Brenda: We’re going back in time, aren’t we?
Interviewer: So how big were the bands, were they sort of what we think of today as a big band or were they just sort of five or six musicians?
Brenda: We’re going back to Glenn Miller.
Interviewer: So it was that sort of size of band was it?
Brenda: That sort of era.
Doreen: Sometimes only three. Piano, guitar, Bass.
Doreen: And that made the band up. I think sometimes the clubs couldn’t afford to pay to have a lot of people there but, we had the music and we just got up and danced to it. We loved it didn’t we?
Brenda: Oh, it was lovely!
Doreen: And I think it kept us fit.
Brenda: Yes, well we were young then weren’t we?
Doreen: But the youngsters, they don’t do it. My daughter, she doesn’t want to know about dancing. My daughter in law, my granddaughters. Dancing’s not in at the moment.
Interviewer: And was this all dancing in couples?
Interviewer: Presumably, when you dance do you do it as a couple dance, or do you just up front with all the blokes on one side and all the girls on the other side?
Dan: Sometimes it’s more mixed, but I don’t think you do it in couples, you do it more in a big group. Kind of huddle type thing.
Brenda: Yes, it was like that, the girls one side and the boys the other.
Doreen: Yes. Because we go to the hotels now for our holidays and they have the dancing there. (Might only be, sometimes) usually there’s a singer, a lady singer where I go, I have been to Scotland a lot, lovely hotels. Just a pianist and a singer. And we dance to that. You don’t need a lot of music to dance to, just the rhythm.
Brenda: My neighbor is an elderly man he goes on these cruises as a dancing partner, he gets a free holiday that way, they always like to have a spare man to dance with the ladies.
Doreen: How nice.
Brenda: What a good idea!
Doreen: Nice as that. But when my husband asked me to dance, I can’t explain how but, I knew he was the one for me. And we were married fifty-eight years and then he died. But we just clicked, he was easy to talk to. Very placid. My dad was a bit fiery and he was placid and that suited me, yes. We were very happily married. Two children, yes, but that all started from a dance.
Interviewer: Well this is the central sort of role that music plays in people’s lives.
Dan: How long did you know him before you got married?
Doreen: Well we had to save up dear. We had to save up because we had to pay rent, we had to find somewhere to live, we had to help my dad pay for the wedding. My dad paid for most of it, cos fathers pay for weddings, pay for their daughters’ weddings, that’s a well-known thing, I don’t think they do so much now. Because the couples, we offered my dad money, you know and then we’d like to have a honeymoon away, that was, sometimes they don’t do that but I think that’s essential don’t you? Honeymoon?
Interviewer: Was this still during the war years was it or was it after?
Doreen: No this, forty-nine
Interviewer: So, you’ve still got rationing and all that kind of stuff?
Doreen: Oh rationing, clothes were rationed. Couldn’t just go out and buy a dress.
Brenda: Forty-eight we were married.
Doreen: There was coupons. You were married forty-eight?
Brenda: Forty-eight, yes, my wedding dress was un-rationed curtain net. Quite pretty.
Doreen: But we coped, I mean when I look at my wardrobe I’ve got three wardrobes at home. I had half a one before the war because, yes, the wages weren’t that big, I mean I worked in a chemist. But I mean it doesn’t matter about money if you’re happy.
Interviewer: Was there a lot as perhaps there is today to stay on top of the fashions, you know, as dance fashions change and clothes fashions change?
Doreen: Well the youngsters do.
Brenda: Yes, in a smaller way.
Interviewer: But not as much perhaps as today?
Interviewer: That must have been very difficult with rationing.
Doreen: Yes, we had nice dresses, didn’t we?
Doreen: We dressed up to go dancing, lovely.
Brenda: Oh yes
Doreen: Do you want to talk to some other people.
Interviewer: I don’t know if there’s some other people on their way. I caught you’re name Brenda but I didn’t catch yours.
Doreen: It was nice talking to you and your name is?
Interviewer: Yes, I’m a trustee for the National Jazz Archive so that’s part of my role as well as occasionally playing a bit of double bass as you saw earlier.
Doreen: How long have you been playing, a long time?
Interviewer: I started playing with rock n roll bands when I was about eight or nine years of age.
Doreen: Did you really?
Brenda: Oh, you started young.
Interviewer: Yes, I started….
Doreen: You’ve got that rhythm see.
Interviewer: I did some of my earliest gigs, switch that off.