Friday 12 June 2015

Redcar - how I remember it.

Laurel and Hardy keep watch from the Regent Cinema
Redcar is my home town. I was born there and spent the first 20 years of my life living, studying and working there. I have happy childhood memories of the town including visits to the paddling pool on the "stray"(the grassy area that runs adjacent to the coast), being taken to the boating lake with its rowing boats and ice cream vendors, and speaking of ice cream, there was also our annual visit to Pacitto's ice cream parlour - to which we will return and to which I have returned.

As I grew a little older I would play tennis with the other kids from my street in Locke Park or Zetland Park, frequent Tony's Records, a small shop adjacent to the bus station, packed with the latest dance music, and secretly continue to buy coconut ice and chocolate cherry cocktail sweets from Maynards sweet shop on the High Street. The High Street was very different then and boasted bakeries, a couple of wet fish shops, old fashioned butchers, a couple of "boutiques" - I can remember Apache opposite the old Swan Hotel but not the name of the other trendy little shop opposite the bus station - and of course Marks and Spencer, Woolworth and several other dependables.

I finally moved away from Teesside in 1984 and until 18 months ago rarely visited. Some family matters have meant that I have spent a lot more time there recently and of course, there have been many changes. Tony's, Maynards, Marks and Spencer, Woolworth, Apache and the other boutique, the Swan Hotel and several other shops have gone as have a number of pubs to be replaced for the most part by charity shops, pound shops, catalogue shops and at least one pawnbrokers. In recent weeks the old general post office has also closed with a counter service being squeezed into WH Smith to compensate.

During my childhood, Redcar was to some extent dependant on what we then called holiday makers and day trippers and what would now be referred to as tourism. Its a seaside town and people used to come from Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield and other northern cities and towns to spend a cheap and cheerful week by the seaside in a caravan. And when they'd had enough of the beach there were a couple of cinemas, a few places offering live music (the famed Redcar Jazz Club in the Coatham Hotel, also long gone- although I was too young ever to have been there), some rough and ready night spots (including the legendary Top Deck which I wasn't young enough to attend!), the aforementioned parks, an indoor swimming baths, a library, a Lifeboat Museum and inevitably a seafront filled with trashy seaside amusements. Much of this is also long gone.

I am certain that I remember things as being better than they really were but Redcar does seem only a shadow of what it once was. Of course, recession always hits the north-east very hard and many of the former major employers including British Steel and ICI no longer provide jobs for the thousands that once worked there. But when times are hard, its wise to make the most of what you have and Redcar still has a cinema (which many towns of this size no longer have), it has a great new leisure centre (albeit replacing a swimming baths closed and demolished in the late 1990's, leaving the site derelict, good parks, its Lifeboat Museum, and for goodness sake - the beach! You can get a good coffee in the library cafe (although I have to admit the new library seems very pedestrian and uninspiring - and it closes on Saturday afternoons) and Pacitto's is still there too.

The Regent Cinema
The new leisure centre
I said we would return to Pacitto's. Our annual visit was one of the highlights of the year. My mam would have a cup of coffee - very sophisticated then -  and I would have an ice cream gloriously named a cherry temptation, clean white vanilla ice cream with maraschino cherries on top and the tiniest bit of syrup. The ice cream was served in a silver coloured goblet style dish and we sat on whicker chairs at glass and chrome tables. Very Italian and a very big treat. I returned in 2013 for the first time in at least 30 years with my own daughter and grandchildren. You can still get a cherry temptation but today its served as a huge glass of synthetic tasting stuff full of gooey stuff. A bit disappointing. It wouldn't be hard to bring the old quality back in Pacitto's and it wouldn't be that hard to emphasise what the town still has to attract people. The Council might want to consider what nearby Saltburn has done to revitalise itself with quality eating places and encouraging small scale cultural activity to bring life back to the town. Anyone from the Council reading this?
Pacitto's - never mind the lemon top, bring back the cherry temptation!
You might also like Saltburn- a Victorian town rejuvenated and Picture Post 41- Middlesbrough's Iconic Transporter Bridge


  1. Great piece: thanks for posting. Although I still live nearby, it evoked many memories. Although we lived in Middlesbrough we had a small caravan on the Beach site at Redcar and decamped there on for summer weekends and the six weeks holiday: my Dad would take the train to work in Middlesbrough. I can remember a lovely houseware/gift/record shop called "Carousel" along by the Bus Station where I bought my copy of Lindisfarne's "Lady Eleanor."

    1. Thanks for the comments Sheila. I remember the beach caravan site very well! There was another caravan site in my street York Road - although this was mainly for the more static "chalets". People came from leeds, Bradford and other northern industrial towns for their summer holidays. I've got a copy of Lady Eleanor too!

  2. check out for a new book on Redcar Jazz Club to be published Oct 2015. Large format 160 pages. 200 stunning photographs, the story of the club, memories of audience and artists who played there, memorabilia and vignettes of performers.

    1. Thanks Chris - I will look forward to reading it. As I mentioned in my post, I was a bit too young to have ever been there, but my brother was a regular. No doubt he will be reading it too! Best wishes.

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  4. I am historically curious about your family background? (ignore the close assocation with hysterically curious, It was not meant) Could you elaborate more and explain how on Earth did you're family end up in Redcar of all places. I'm assuming you are Jewish (though Yekkes is not a Jewish name I've heard before, it could be an pseudonym) so using Lithuania as a starting point then thats leads onto suggesting Russia, pogroms and the Stetl. From Vilan to Vienna to Redcar is a complete mystery? How did it come about? Mazeltov.

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