A RIOTOUS DAY AT THE SEASIDE
It was a glorious sunny Saturday morning of Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend 1964.
My best friend, Teresa, and I were planning a trip to Brighton for some seaside frolics. Firstly, we headed for Charlie’s stall in Watford Market and each bought a pair of 501 Levis. Marilyn Monroe had recently glamourised women in jeans. Although we were only just 15, skinny and flat-chested, we thought we were the last word in feminine seduction. And we were Mods.
We packed our little bags and headed off for an adventure in our dark blue, very stiff new jeans, with turned-up bottoms and securely belted.
Our attempts at hitching a lift were very quickly rewarded when an older guy in an open top racing green MG pulled over. He welcomed us on board and whisked us off towards Brighton, our long hair flying unfettered in our wake. We were both totally fearless and trusting.
Our newly acquired chauffeur took a pit stop at a Little Chef and, to our surprise, very kindly treated us to egg and chips.
During a quick visit to the ladies we discovered that our wind-swept silky hair had been whipped up into a knotted frenzy and was totally resistant to the coaxing bristles of a Denman hairbrush.
Nevertheless, we clambered back into the car and resumed our exhilarating journey to the South Coast, where we disembarked safely at the seafront and bid our fond farewells. Only now, in hindsight, do I ponder the possible danger, and thank heaven that we were delivered safely by our Mr Knight in his shining green MG.
We clambered across the pebbles down to the seafront and stripped off our sexy jeans to reveal our even sexier bikinis. We sat on the beach for a while hoping to develop a little colour onto our milk-white legs, and then headed for the water to cool down.
Now, at the age of 65, and having lived in Brighton for 22 years, I believe it was the only time I have ventured into the sea. I’m convinced the memory of that painful walk back across the pebbles to our towels has scarred me for life.
We must have looked like a very under-titillating burlesque act as we struggled to change clothes beneath the confines of our beach towels, without revealing a single inch of bare flesh.
Suddenly, our peaceful afternoon was shattered as, about 50 yards from us along the beach, a large missile was hurled down from the promenade. It was followed by another and another, accompanied by hollers and whoops. A thundering sound hailed an army of Mods and Rockers stampeding along the prom throwing deck chairs down on to unsuspecting holiday makers.
We moved far enough away towards the shore-line to ensure our safety but that moment was terrifying and we feared for our lives. It was all over in a flash as the hoards tore along at full speed, leaving behind a trail of destruction and terror, with battalions of police in their white helmets in hot pursuit.
Later, in the evening we managed to get into a nightclub (obviously impressed by our grown-up Marilyn style). All I remember was the hot, steamy ambience of people dancing wildly to Donnie Elbert’s, ‘She’s a Little Piece of Leather’ -
We had no idea where we were going to sleep and just left it all to luck. Luckily, our trump card came up when we bumped into some friends from Watford, also down for the weekend. They invited us to a party and we danced the night away, finally camping down on the floor in the early hours.
On Sunday morning our mates from Watford squeezed us in to their mini for a sleepy and uneventful return journey.
Once home, we turned on the evening news for reports on the riots, and to see if we could spot ourselves in the maelstrom of Mod and Rocker madness. We were shocked at the reported gravity of the destruction and our lucky escape.
But it will still remain one of the highlights of my life.
~ Jacqui Rush