28th July 2008
The terrible fire which destroyed the main pavilion at the end of the Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare is a tragedy for the town and for many of the people who grew up around it. I am one of those people, I can remember visiting the Pier as a special treat when I was a small boy, and sitting on the seats eating my Candy Floss or Ice Cream, looking out over the crowds of people on the beaches, and the crowds and hustle and bustle of the older children on the dodgems, and the other rides, the noise of the machines and the electric atmosphere, after all this was the 1950’s.Later in the 1960’s I was older, and allowed on the pier with my friends after swimming in the Knight Stone Pool, eating our Hot Dogs, going on the Ghost Train, The Crazy House, the Wheel, the dodgems, and machines showing what the butler saw!. During my mid teens, I was to return many weekends, meeting up with girl friends, and making new friends, and playing the slot machines, at night. The lights along the promenade and all the lights on the pier itself gave an air of magic to us teenage boys from the country. Little was I to know that within a few years I would like many other students at the local Technical College, I should be working on the pier.When I was at college I worked at my friends father’s building site, I had always helped on my friends parents farms, with hay making, milking, apple picking, driving cattle, but it was only when I had been at college some time, and more importantly passed my driving test, living in a village 7 miles from the Pier itself, it was a necessity, and now I had friends working on the Pier, so I asked them to get me a job as well, eventually a position became vacant, and a very new life began. There were the perks and the drawbacks, the perks being the large number of girls who chatted us up, especially the boat loads of Welsh Girls, who came over on the paddle steamer, which came in to the old pier. During this period the pier was very different than recent years, especially at night and weekends, we had to contend with the gangs of Mods and Rockers, who either arrived in mass on their scooters and motorbikes, or on the trains mainly from Bristol. The police would not normally come on the pier, to sort out any trouble, it was left to us to sort it our, there was always the drunks and just people looking for someone to have a fight with. Some of the more hardened veterans soon showed us the tricks of how to deal with the trouble makers, and formed a bonding between us all in self protection. Many people locally met their wives through the pier, and friendships were made which have lasted down the years, particularly with the locals in Weston itself. After the Old Pier and The Pool and The Knight Stone Baths closed, along with the stoppage of the dances for the young people with top groups at the Winter Gardens, and the top bands at the Odeon, the Pier was the only remaining attraction left from the hay days of Weston as a fun resort for the locals.To see the place burn, has not just left a scar on the landscape, but a scar in the memories of many of us. I hope the council will help the rebuilding project, too much attention has been put on us older people, and not enough on making Weston a holiday centre again with a good pool and entertainments, for a new generation of youngsters.