“They were the best days of my life!” Says lifelong Cestrian Paulette Walters. Born in the City Hospital in December 1951 she grew up in Hoole and attended school in Clare Avenue.
One of her earliest memories is making the bus trip to town. “When I was old enough to get on the bus and go to the market with my pocket money. I’d go and find the toy store there. It was very busy, bustling. It was a big old place, smelled of fish. The bus stop was opposite. I was only a kid then about 8, getting on the bus paying my tuppence bus fare. I used to get a shilling pocket money, it started at three pence then it went up to sixpence, then it went up to a shilling! ”
Paulette attended school at Love Street girls school, behind the modern day Brewhouse Kitchen where we conducted the interview. She says that the 60s were an exciting time: “because of all the pop groups and the fashions. I had elder brothers, one of them became a DJ at the Warren club (City Road) and he would get the top 10 every week from WA Guys, the record shop. Sometimes he’d ask me to go and collect them for him. The first record I bought was the Walker Brothers , The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine anymore. 1966. We used to watch Ready Steady Go to see all the groups. ”
As a young girl , she was aware of the politics of the time but didn’t actively follow it. “There was a lot going on in the world, the Vietnam war, Prime Minister Harold Wilson. You didn’t really worry about it, you were busy doing your own thing. The World Cup, I was in the 4th year of school. Everybody was really excited, there was bunting everywhere, they were good days!
” The first nightclub I ever went to was The Warren on City Road. They had local groups on and a DJ. It was a cellar and it was imitating the Cavern. For soundproofing they had egg boxes on the wall! It one room they had these luminous lights and that was quite new in those days. After that I started going to The Bars , it was the Bars Hotel with a disco upstairs. (Later the famous Cinderella Rockerfellas : see https://thechesterblog.com/2014/07/13/staying-alive-life-in-chester-clubs-in-the-70s-and-80s/ ) It was just a room with a jukebox in it and it had coloured lights on the dancefloor. The jukebox was free and it used to get packed in there. I met a lad there!”
Paulette left school at 15 and a half and went straight into employment with a solicitors housed in the Old Bank Buildings on East Gate street near the clock. ” I was earning £3 something a week. My friend worked at Littlewoods, and she was on £5 a week. You could just go and get a interview so I moved there. I was there til I was 19.”
” I went with my older brother to see The Beatles in Liverpool. I only saw them in the car! We might see them drive past my brother said! There was crowds everywhere. It was near the Town Hall I think. They had been to the premier of A Hard Days Night. I saw George Harrison leaning on the windows, grinning. And I was screaming my head off, and everyone was pushing! I think I saw them when they came to Chester but its really vague. ”
Paulette’s other 60s haunts included The Alpine (Love street ) now the Brewhouse Kitchen: ” There was 2 floors of dancing! You didn’t have to show proof of age, you just had to tell them what year you were born! ”
Quaintways, was a very famous venue locally, owned by Gordan Vickers. Now Rosies nightclub the 3 floored venue saw many famous acts visit over the years including The Who, Thin Lizzy and Slade . An early incarnation of Fleetwood Mac played there in April 1969. ” The ground floor had the Walls City Jazz band , the second floor had groups, the top floor for dancing. I used to come on a Saturday night, go in the Ship and Turtle next door first for a few drinks. I cant remember who I saw !! ” laughs Paulette. She also attended a venue called The Clockwork Orange, at the rear of Bridge street. ” I did go to see a group called the Paper Dolls there, they were famous for one song only I can remember, that must have been 1968…
” I was going out nearly every night. Tuesday and Wednesdays I’d stay in. I’d give me mum £2 keep and then I’d ask for it back on Wednesday! ”
The fondly remembered and now demolished Royalty Theatre (see https://thechesterblog.com/2016/10/07/peter-edbrook-memories-of-chester-and-his-career-on-stage/) was also hugely popular.” They used to have groups on there, that’s where the Black Abbots started, with Russ Abbot. He was a lifelong family friend. They were brilliant on stage, Russ was the drummer then he’d start making a fool of himself. They were really popular, they went on Opportunity Knocks and Russ went on to be a big star. On a Saturday night they used to a Cabaret, you’d have a meal in a basket, chicken or sausage and chips. They’d have dancing after the act had been on. Thursday night they’d have a social night where girls would go to meet boys and stuff like that. I saw Dave Berry there, Ken Dodd! ”
The ABC theatre/cinema on Foregate street (now Cafe Nero, formerly Brannigans) was a huge draw at the time with its capacity of over 2000 (!) and big name international acts in regular attendance. The Searchers, Kinks, Diana Ross, Billy Fury, Gene Pitney and more all graced the Chester stage, where in 2019 you can order a decaf soya latte and a croissant. In 1964 Paulette saw The Rolling Stones here with her brother: “Fabulous, Mick Jagger giving it his all, all you could hear was girls screaming!”
Paulette’s most treasured early memory is seeing her idols The Walker Brothers in 1966. “I couldn’t breathe, the noise.. we probably couldn’t hear the music for the screaming. We were second row. I told my mum and dad I was staying at my friends on Hoole Lane, so we could get up early at 4oclock to get in the queue for tickets. We went and sat outside the ABC, there was already girls in front of us. I was so chuffed I couldn’t wait. It was lovely, from what I heard of it! Oh God yeah, I’ll never forget it. ” The concert, which also featured The Troggs was described as a triumph by the now defunct Chester Courant newspaper.
The 1960s was a period of huge change in Chester as some parts of the city were swept away to make way for the inner ring road. “It was all a mess!” Paulette remembers of the time. ” It was just building, building, building. They needed to do it because the traffic was so bad, it was two way. The town would be packed at the weekends. I think to be fair, all the buildings look better than they did in the 60s , they’re cleaner. There was a lot of houses that had coal fires and all the soot would be coming out onto the streets, you didn’t notice until you look back at the photos. When the built the new precinct me and my mate used to get the bus into town just so we could sit in there. It was all new and modern and everything before that was old. At my age I was embracing change. A lot of the stuff did need knocking down.”
“Chester was very busy… Its better now its more pedestrianised. You’d have policemen directing the traffic at the end of Werburgh Street.” Although she appreciated the modernisation of the city, she like most feels the demolition of the old market hall was a mistake. “The old market should have stayed, they could have kept the front. They know that now!
“I used to go to a coffee shop called Steps on Lower Bridge street, that was where everyone hung out to be noticed. I used to have a coke and make it last two hours. We’d go the Wimpy Bar after that on Bridge street row. All the Mods and scooter boys would be out there. I got my clothes, next door to Littlewoods, there was a clothes shop called The In Scene. Every week I’d get my wages and buy a new dress every week. Then there was Chelsea Girl, they had good clothes. ..”
As the 60s faded, Paulette’s life was only just beginning. She recalls the momentous moon landing of 1969. “I couldn’t believe it, it was on in the early hours of the morning. I thought something would happen to him! Every time I went out I’d look up at the moon and think “I cant believe someone’s been up there. It was something you’d never imagine someone doing. It was very exciting!”
Looking at Chester now, she says she is sad about the loss of so many venues and pubs but she cherishes her memories of the period. ” I’m sad theres only 2 choices of nightclub now. I think its because the pubs stay open until the early hours, in the 60s they would be closed by half ten. They’d shut at 3 in the afternoon and reopen at 7. The nightclubs would stay open until 2. .. I suppose the kids would go now if we had places like that, but a lot are students and they have their own things to do. Looking back, it was full of going out, dancing and boys! Chester is alright but theres not a lot for the likes of my age to go out and have a good night, Cabaret and a meal in town. I’m happy! I’ve got my special memories!” she smiles.
Chester official guide (1969)