The 1970s provide fond teenage memories of football, speedway and music for one young railwayman. The town’s pubs and clubs were Andy Scoffin’s playground during his late teenage years, and they would later see him on the decks and behind the microphone providing the entertainment for others. One pub in particular was special, but is no longer standing…
Andy’s story appeared in “Crewe And Its People” that was published back in 2009; the stories will be posted here between February and June as a permanent series of social history documents for Cheshire.
A second volume of fascinating Crewe life stories will be available to buy in paperback from September 2016. Subscribe to my newsletter HERE if you would like occasional email updates about publication dates for this and other Crewe/Cheshire book projects.
“We moved from Glover Street to Nutfield Avenue while I was still at Primary School, and although I then attended Broad Street Juniors I remember one year when my age group had to go up to North Street Methodists. There wasn’t enough room, so I suppose using the church buildings was a simple solution. We didn’t mind, as you felt special being the only kids at a different building. There was an old railway carriage at the back of the school, and sometimes we were allowed to play in it. Then I went to Ludford Street, usually cutting through the cemetery as I made my way to school. When the mornings were misty it was a pretty eerie place, although the conker trees were fantastic around there.”
During secondary school, two sporting passions developed – speedway and football. “I had ten bob pocket money each week in 1970/71. It was a shilling to get into the Alex and about the same at the speedway. Throw in a couple of programs, a drink and some sweets and that was soon gone. Dad took me to both in the late sixties, and I often went to the speedway with a family from Marley Avenue. It’s funny because the cinder bank at each end of the Alex ground was similar to the speedway track. There, I stood in between the first and second bend and got covered in red dust from the shale that was tossed up and over the barrier every week. Mum went mad and made me wash as soon as I came in. We didn’t have a shower in those days and I had long hair, so it was head in the sink with a few pans of cold water!”
The Crewe Kings speedway scene came to an abrupt end in 1975, but something else was already playing a big part in the teenager’s life. “The Alex and the Kings dominated for a while but, from about 14, music took over. As a kid I was mad on the Beatles. I just took to them and knew every one of their songs throughout the sixties. Then record collecting took hold of me. You just need to look at the old vinyl record collection I’ve amassed to understand how it consumed me. What helped was the massive youth club scene in the seventies where other kids were always playing music. That’s when I became a DJ. It started when we travelled all over to get into youth clubs, from the All Saints Church on Stewart Street to a small place in Wheelock. We’d go anywhere. It was a great scene. Perhaps my favourite place was the annexe at St. Barnabas Church on West Street. That was my pre-school before I went to West Street Infants. It got really popular, packed every week with a great mix of people from all over town. We pooled our records and managed to get some DJ kit together – double decks, speakers and an amp. We loved it. So four of us started to go on the road and made a few quid. Albert Dean was the main proprietor, a couple of years older than us. He had the best gear! We managed to do a few big gigs, private parties, weddings, receptions and all that. We called ourselves Barney’s Disco.”
School came to an end but the DJ business continued, although the lads also entered the real world of work. “I went straight into ‘The Works’ on an apprenticeship. It was strange because my family weren’t railway people, and that usually got you in. So I was lucky. I remember how they paid us in cash each week, in an envelope with a see-through panel. They employed people to fold the notes so that they overlapped and you could see the edge of the fivers and pounds. That was so you could check it without having to open it. One thing you did back then was pay into the British Rail Staff Association. It was only a few pence each week. We twigged early on that membership would get us into the LMR club – and get us served beer. We got a proper LMR railway card, mauve coloured like the company badge. It was the same at the P-Way Club on Gresty Road, and many other clubs based on train stations around the country when we went to Alex away games. It was our ticket in, although we weren’t old enough.”
There was a massive social scene around the railway clubs, but as the young railway lads became of age they looked for more varied entertainment. “The bingo and cabaret got a bit stale and we started trying a few of the town’s drinking holes. One of my favourites was the Rendezvous Club above Burton’s tailors, which was a proper ballroom before my time. The dance floor was sprung, so it was superb for Northern Soul that was sweeping the nation at the time. Before that, a big gang of us had a weekend pub circuit, from the Junction opposite the club, up Victoria Street to the old Angel, the Star and then the Burton. The town centre pubs were busy in those days. Over near the football ground was a club called Up The Junction, on South Street. That was a great venue spread over two floors and I had my 21st birthday there. Years later, I’d even celebrate my fiftieth there. It’s a pool club now, but still perfect for a few pre-match beers!”
One other pub also stood out for the young railwaymen. “The Chetwode was a great mix of people. The bar was full of darts and domino players, while the lounge was mixed. They also had pool table at the back. It was also a Whitbread’s pub, and their beer was popular. I drank Chester’s Mild, which was strange for a young kid. But I loved it. So when they announced that the pub was closing I was devastated. I’d built up a large group of friends at the Chetwode and none of us accepted that it had to close, all because they wanted to widen the road. Progress! The campaign to save the pub dragged on for months and we put a big banner on the building next to the old doctor’s at the top of West Street. It said ‘God Save The Chetwode’ and it prompted the vicar from St. Paul’s, Colin Aylsbury, to come into the bar one night. We were a bit worried, god fearing I suppose. But he smiled and told us that if it meant that much why didn’t we come over to the church that Sunday and ask the big man ourselves! A group of us marched to the Municipal Buildings to register our feelings, but the councillors didn’t want to listen. It was a done deal to shut it down. But the last night party was fantastic. The licensing laws were tight in those days, so John Callaghan, the landlord, shut the doors at 11pm and let us carry on. The rumour was that a punter who had been kicked out tipped the police about after hours drinking. The police burst in and kicked everyone out. Unfortunately, they’d clocked a few people handing over money. So a few got arrested and that added to the bad feeling. A few weeks later it was painful watching the old place coming down, roof set on fire, bulldozer moving in. I’ll never forgive the council.”