With the approach of another bank holiday weekend my mind goes back to my childhood when the bank holiday meant the funfair was due to visit the town. As soon as us kids got wind of the arrival of the fair we would race off to the site which mostly was our local municipal park, to lend a helping hand to be rewarded with a couple of free ride tickets on opening day.
The fair would often consist of a few traditional fair ground rides, such as the Waltzers, Speedway, Dodgems, Helter Skelter and the Whip ride plus a selection of children’s rides. Bigger fairs had a big wheel and Dive bomber ride, if you were lucky there would even be a fairground organ and Cakewalk ride. A cakewalk ride was a moving platform that you had to walk along usually along to the music of the fairground organ like the one in the musical ‘Grease’ when Olivia Newton John is singing to John Travolta ‘you’re the one that I want’.
Besides the rides there were a number of games and side stalls to test your skills, such as hook a duck, roll a penny, throw the hoops, rifle range and coconut sty and if you got hungry there were also the usual foods stalls like Candy Floss, hot dogs and toffee apples to enjoy.
The magic of the fairs coming to town was not just about the thrills provided by the rides, it was a place where the whole town could go and have fun, it was a combination of the lights, sounds and the bright colours of the fairground art that thrilled us kids. The Funfair was an introduction to me to the sound of Rock and Roll, the thumping beat of a Jerry Lee Lewis song or a tune by Johnny and The Hurricanes even to this day conjures up memories of times spent soaking up the atmosphere of our local fair. On a Saturday night the would stop the dodgems whilst they ran dance competitions that the teenagers entered, I remember entering one of these that involved the latest dance craze of the day the ‘Twist’. We all left at the end of the night with a gold fish in a plastic bag won on the hook a duck stall and I bet that in many of the houses in the fifties you would find a plaster cast model of a dog or cat won at the fair, usually with an ear or nose broken off.
At the end of the summer these travelling fairs would all gather together for one or two annual large scale fairs, in our area there were two such gatherings, one of which was on the streets of Ilkeston and the other was the famous Goose Fair of Nottingham.
At these events besides the usual rides there would be side shows, such as the mouse town and the illusions that were the woman with no head or just half a body. http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/news/fun-fair/article-2506214-detail/article.html. My Favourite was the boxing/wresting booth where anyone could take on the king of the wring and if you could last 3 rounds in the ring with the champions you won a few pounds. Another common site during those days was the 'Wall of Death' show where we would stand at the top of a cylinder shaped tower and watch people riding around inside on motercycles and us marvelling how they never fell off.
I’m very fortunate living in Skegness that I can visit the funfair whenever I want to during the summer months and although I no longer have the energy to enjoy the thrill of the rides I still find the sounds and sights of the fair magical.