Each Friday we were allowed out from training early, so that trainees could return to their respective pits to collect their wages. After receiving my pay one Friday I was approached by Bennie Wilkie, the Training Officer. He asked me how I was getting on and I replied. “Fine, I’m enjoying my training. I can’t wait to work underground”
Bennie said, “A week tomorrow is the Wakefield Miners Gala. Middleton is to put on show a lorry float. It has been suggested that we have the theme as ‘The Teddy Boys Picnic’. You and your mates have Teddy boy clothes haven’t you?”
“Yes.” I replied.
“Are you interested in being on the float? You will get paid for it and you may even win a prize”
I was all for it, and said so. It sounded like a good day out. I’d heard of the famous Wakefield Miner’s Gala.
“Can you arrange for yourself and two others to get dressed up in their finery and be here at Nine o’clock, Saturday week?” continued Bennie.
“Yes, I’m sure I can arrange something.” I responded.
“Good I’ll see you next Friday pay day, to finalise things. I’ll leave you to organise your mates.”
I was quite looking forward to the gala. Most of my pit mates would be only too willing to have a day out and get paid for it. At that time the Teddy Boy fashion was in and anyone who was anyone, had a Zoot suit.
As promised Bennie met me on the following Friday and asked if all was okay my end. It was. He said the float had all been prepared and was ready for the morning. “See you tomorrow morning at nine” he said as he left. The following morning six lads had turned up, my two new friends Peter W. and George L. and three other acquaintances, one was to act as barman.
Bennie Said, “I can only pay for four of you, but you are all welcome to ride the float, the more the merrier.” and with that he handed me Four Brown Envelopes each containing Two Pound notes. Bennie then led us to the Float. It was a lorry decked out with flowers and coloured crepe paper With ‘Middleton Broom Colliery’, emblazoned on the side. A smaller sign said ‘Teddy Boys Picnic’. On the open backed lorry there was a table and chairs and what purported to be a small bar with beer pumps, all the furniture had been screwed to the lorry floor.
One of our crew was to be dressed as the barman. We all, except the barman, were dressed Teddy boy style. We had amongst us red, blue, black and two purple full drapes, finger length jackets, black drainpipe trousers, white shirts with black boot lace ties and Tony Curtis, DA style haircuts. We felt that we looked like true Edwardian gentlemen, Royalty.
We were issued with make believe coshes and open razors, and told to make believe that we were drunk and having a good time in a bar. Bennie then handed us two crates of Beer. Each crate contained six pint bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale. It was suggested that we should share the bottled beer and use the eight pounds Bennie had given us, as a kitty. We could buy more beer at the gala; we all agreed. Then Bennie said, “If that’s the case, here is an extra four quid, I’ll claim it back in expenses.”
It was a pleasant summer morning. The lorry was driven to Wakefield town centre, which was the meeting venue for all the floats of the other collieries. By the time we had reached the start point we had drunk the beer Bennie had supplied. One of our crew dropped in to ‘The Bridge End’ pub for a further supply of bottled beer.
At eleven o’clock the gala procession began and all the floats began a very slow convoy drive to the main park in Wakefield; the journey took about an hour. Walking along side the floats were school children carrying buckets in which spectators along the route deposited coins.
The rest of this chapter relates to the rest of the day, mainly concentrating on drinking, womanising, partying and fighting, and can be found on Jack Gale’s website