‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – All the Fun of the Fair! Woodhouse Feast, Roundhay Park Fair and Other Childhood Delights.

David’s Bookshelf Issue 2 Cup of Tea Tales

This episode is also available as a blog post: https://davidmcameronauthormusician.com/2022/10/02/davids-bookshelf-issue-2/ — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/david-m-cameron/message
  1. David’s Bookshelf Issue 2
  2. David’s Bookshelf – Issue One
  3. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – A Lifetime of Global Successes, Disasters and Wonders! Space the Final Frontier.
  4. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – Hetchell Woods (Bardsey) and Crags – A Special Piece of God’s Own Country or County! One of my Favourite Places to Visit.
  5. ‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – The Wonderful Yorkshire Dales. Trollers Gill, a Place with a Mysterious Legend and the Hell Hole where I Diced with Death.

I remember the excitement of going to the fair. When I was very young, it was the small permanent funfair at Roundhay where there was a helter-skelter, some swing boats and a small roundabout with boats and buses on for the very young. I remember the joy of climbing the stairs to the top deck of the little bus, and it was something that my own children loved when they were little. As a boy, the helter-skelter was more fun, and I loved collecting the coir mat, climbing up the steps and then coming hurtling down. It was very short-lived but still fun!

Not much changed over the years, and Roundhay Park had a number of other attractions. There was a hedge maze that was originally manned and you entered through a turnstile for a small charge. There was a wooden platform at the centre that gave you a view over the top of the hedges. It wasn’t very challenging, but the hedges were well maintained and I loved it. They opened it up for anyone to use and bit by bit, due to lack of care and maintenance, it fell into disarray and was removed in the 1970s, after a serious incident.

There were rowing boats on Waterloo Lake and two launches that took large numbers of people around the water. Both of these were very popular and, at weekends, families and courting couples made up the clientele. I believe Roundhay School had two boats on Waterloo Lake, which were used by the naval cadets. The Little Lake had small paddle boats that children and families could hire for a small fee, and my brothers and I often went on them.

There was a large wooden cafe and kiosk on the edge of where the carpark is now and there was also the Lido, an open-air swimming pool near the back of the lake, where the overflow waterfall is still. I went once or twice for a swim, but even on the hottest days, it was freezing cold. There was a changing room for the girls on one side and another for the boys on the opposite. They gave you a metal hanging basket to put your clothes in and then you handed it in to an attendant who gave you a token on a safety pin. When you returned the token, they gave you your clothes. Sadly, like the maze, it was removed, which is a shame, but probably the cost of the upkeep was prohibitive as there were so few days in a year when it could be used.

Now available in EBook, Paperback and Hardback.

I have just released the second book about growing up in Leeds, Yorkshire. Another Cup of Tea- The Teenage Years is now available and covers the period 1966 to 1973 when I was a pupil at Roundhay School.

There wasn’t a cafe above the boatshed in these times, but when the old wooden cafe was demolished, they built the Lakeside Cafe above the boatshed. This was damaged by a fire years later and rebuilt as the modern current one. The old cafe was a large open shed, but there were tables and you could order tea and cakes, some meals and snacks with waitress service. Near the entrance was a take-away kiosk where you could buy ice-creams and sweets. It was a popular place in the late 1960s and lots of scooters and motorbikes would be parked outside and hordes of parka-clad boys and girls hung around.

When I was young, the little fair was quite satisfying, but as I got a bit older, we would go to Woodhouse Feast, near Leeds University, on Woodhouse Moor. These names obviously hark back to olden times, when celebrations and feasting would take place to mark holy days. The moor was close to the outskirts of Leeds City and was a suitable place for traders and tinkers to sell their wares, entertainers to ply their trade, and for the locals to celebrate and have some fun. It also provided an opportunity for the young to meet and court, and for locals to purchase items not available at other times of the year. When I attended the feast, it had developed quite a lot, but it was still an opportunity to have fun, meet other young people, show off and spend money. As children, my brothers and I loved the lights, the sounds, the crowds and the smell that a fair brought. The workers appeared exotic, as they had a darker skin than most Leeds folk, used copious amounts of hair cream, wore tight black jeans and had tattoos. They called to passersby to get them to buy their wares or to try their hand to win a teddy, or plaster of Paris ornaments. There were roundabouts, waltzers, swing boats, dodgems and a host of contraptions that would scare the living daylights out of you as a young child, but for teenagers, they were an opportunity to demonstrate your masculinity by fearlessly hanging off the bars, as you were spun around, or by bashing your dodgem head-on into another and laughing at the joy of it. The girls would be enthralled by the bravado of the fairground boys who danced between the whirling horses, collecting fees, darted between the dodgems, and hung off the bars at the back. They walked backwards, collecting money on the waltzers as the floor went up and down. They never missed a beat. They were poised, relaxed, masters of impressing teenage girls. There were local lads who would emulate their feats, but due to lack of practice, they never quite cut the mustard.

For us kids, it was hook the duck, darts into playing cards, air rifle ranges, bran tubs, coconut shies and ping-pong balls into goldfish bowls. The most sought-after prize was a goldfish. The poor creatures were hanging in plastic bags and if you were lucky enough to win one, you would carry it around as a prized possession until you got home. My parents took us to the pet shop at Harehills, where we would buy a bowl, a little weed, and goldfish food. With two brothers, there was a good chance that we would get at least one or two on a visit to the fair. In most cases, the poor fish would be lucky to live out the weekend, but the good news was that the bowls and food were ready for future fairs. In fairness, there were one or two fish that were clearly made of sterner stuff than the usual goldfish, and they survived for much longer periods. I can remember well, staring into the bowl and being entranced by their shimmering scales and their fluid movement around their restricted new homes.

It was not just the rides and prizes, the whole experience was a whirl of lights, sounds and smells. The ground underfoot was trodden into mud and you had to step carefully over electrical cables that ran from generators that thumped a rhythm in the background, almost drowned out by the blaring chart music of the time. Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Bill Haley, Elvis and others filled the air and added to the excitement. The fair was the facade of celebration, but lurking behind were the caravans and homes of the workers. Some were chrome, brightly painted and well-maintained, but most were fairly run down. Lorries, trucks and vans were waiting to carry them to a new location after a few days of the fair. The senses were overloaded and smells of food wafted everywhere, tempting us to buy and taste their wares. Toffee apples, brandy snaps, doughnuts, ice-creams, all were available as well as the truly magical candyfloss. The machines that spun the sugar were entertainment on their own. Lurid dyes were added: bright pink, green, yellow. They were sticky, sweet and must have cost almost nothing to make, but managed to extract the few remaining coins we had. It was a tired, but happy family that would return to the car, nurse our fish or other prizes and drive home.

There was a similar fair that would arrive each year at Roundhay Park. This dwarfed the permanent amusements, but I am sure they didn’t mind the extra trade the main fair brought. This travelling fair would be set on the rise overlooking Waterloo Lake and the cafe. It could have been the same as the one from Woodhouse, but I don’t think so. It had all the same sort of entertainments, and one I had forgotten was the strength testing machines. There were two main types. The originals used a large wooden mallet that was swung and hit a post and the strength was recorded on a gauge. The strongest of blows would sound a bell. The second type, which I think came later, involved a punch ball. You thumped the ball as hard as you could and it recorded the power on a large dial. The strongest blows would similarly sound a bell. These were another alternative for men and boys to show their physical prowess in front of potential admirers.

I remember one specific incident on the dodgems at Roundhay Park when I was a teenager in the late 1960s. A few of us were there, and it was an afternoon session that wasn’t particularly busy. There was a group from Allerton Grange on some of the dodgems and I was on one, as was one of my friends. Only about half the cars were running and there was the usual lad in the kiosk controlling the power and another who was collecting money and policing behaviour. Times had changed a little and front-on collisions were supposedly banned. (Health and safety gone mad) This clearly hadn’t been taken on board by the assembled teenagers and there were a lot of crashes, cheers, cries and general mirth. At the back of the car was a rod that went vertically up to the wire netting that supplied the power to the car. At the top of the rod was a metal shoe that dragged along the netting, keeping the contact and the power supplied. I suppose this was the one part that wore out frequently and I think they just slotted onto the pole.

On this occasion, there was shouting and bangs as the cars collided, that was almost drowned out by music, but then I saw, almost in slow motion, two dodgems collide with great force. The rear end of one lifted and then crashed back down. It must have been a freak occurrence, but the metal shoe jumped off the top of the pole and fell down onto the boy driving. The side of the shoe struck him on the forehead, just above the eye. I saw blood pour out and his face turned red. It all happened in a fraction of a second. The man in the kiosk must have seen what happened. The power was turned off and the cars just stopped. Everyone’s attention turned to the poor lad. The man ran over, carrying what looked like a tea towel, and he clamped it onto the forehead of the now sobbing lad. Nowadays, I am sure there would have been first aid kits and first aiders, but then there didn’t appear to be. He was helped out of the dodgem and led away. I suppose an ambulance must have been called, but I didn’t see it and within seconds the dodgem was pushed to the side, power was restored and the show was back on. My friend and I saw him several weeks later, and he was proud to show us his impressive scar. He was very lucky not to have lost his eye. I have no idea whether any inquiry into the accident happened, but maybe not. Parents were not as quick to sue as they are today and accidents were more accepted without someone needing to be blamed.

During the day, the fairs were reasonably safe and respectable places, and this was the case in the early evening, when children were still about. Later at night, however, I believe fights often broke out between local groups of boys and the fair workers. This may have resulted from jealousy, as the workers chatted up local girls. I never really saw this, but there was a reputation that the fair lads had knives and would use them. As the fifties and sixties moved through, there were also confrontations between teddy boys, mods, rockers and, later, skin-heads. Adrenaline, testosterone and teenagers are a dangerous mix and I am sure that it has always been thus.

The fairs were always short-lived. There was a day or two of setting up and after five or so days, they were dismantled, packed up and they headed off to a new venue. We knew they would return in another year. When they had gone, the ground was left trampled, and the grass worn away, but in a surprisingly short time, it recovered. Soon there was not a trace, except for the memories of those who had attended.

Reviewed By Anelynde Smit for Readers’ Favorite

5 Stars – Congratulations on your 5-star review!

David M. Cameron delivers a heart-pounding thriller with Dead Men Don’t Snore. We follow Gordon Bennet, a man trying to salvage what is left of his life on holiday in Spain. Everything is going wonderfully, there are bars for beers and good food but one night will change the course of this trip and his life entirely. Being the witness to the murder of an innocent girl sends the wheels spinning, and he can’t stop them once they’ve been set in motion. Now a marked man, he relies on his knowledge as a former military man to try to escape the people who are aiming to kill him. However, things change when he meets a sweet waitress and is swept off his feet, but can love and hate exist in the same place? Can both exist within one man?

I personally loved this fast-paced novel by David M. Cameron. Dead Men Don’t Snore is a classic example of how to write a story that thrills you with every chapter. I loved the cliffhangers that kept you coming back for more. You were always wondering in the back of your mind who did this or that. It is a very short but exciting book to read. The Spanish used by the locals made this so much more authentic and relatable, but with very controlled use of it, and you never felt like a stranger reading it. The characters were intriguing and had a flavor that made you taste a bit of Spain yourself. David M. Cameron did a wonderful job with this novel.

6 Replies to “‘Cup of Tea Tales’ – All the Fun of the Fair! Woodhouse Feast, Roundhay Park Fair and Other Childhood Delights.”

  1. Another great tale which brought back happy memories. I used to go to Woodhouse Fair with my parents in the 40/50s and it was the first date with my husband ,he never enjoyed them but braved the big wheel to impress me ..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not a great lover of the more challenging rides, Jean. It must have been love for your future husband to face his fears on the big wheel.


  2. As a resident of Hyde Park in the late 50s/early 60s always used to attend the April and larger September feasts on Woodhouse Moor. Exactly as you describe. I too, wouldn’t go on the Big Wheel but did everything else. We had a goldfish bowl for the many fish won and who never lasted long. Also used to attend the circuses on WM – Billy Smarts, Chipperfields – something you’ll no doubt write about, if you’ve not already done so! Trust you’re looking forward to the upcoming Ashes battle in Oz. Have you written about any Headingley RL and cricket reminisces from the 60s?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad your memory matches mine, Stuart. Good times and yes, I have written about the cricket in a past blog, but not about the RL. I must add that despite living here for almost thirty years, I always like to see England cricket thrash the Australian side. I hope that will be the case this series.


  3. Mum and Dad took my Brother and I to Woodhouse Feast a few times. Everything was just as you described it, the noise, the music, the lights, the food smells and the mud !!
    Remember Children’s Day at Roundhay Park

    Liked by 1 person

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