Stan Randerson was 100 years old this year. The project interviewed him a few weeks before his 100th birthday and his memories of the fair speak for themselves. The interview with him was marvellous as he has a practised storytellers way with words. He played the piano as well, the ivories sang out an old ragtime number in memory of the fair he had known as a child.
As I understand it you were actually born nearly 100-years ago:
Yes, that is so. I was born in the centre of Hull at that time, but after a few, two or years there my mother and father went into Alliance Avenue and were there for several years and we moved away into Pulman Street and into Parkfield Drive. Thatís where I am now.
So you were born very close to Walton Street in fact:
We used to hear the traction engines coming on to Walton Street when I was a lad and we used to run out along with my younger brothers and sister to see who it was because you could read the names of the owner and the sound of the traction engines. There was Farrar and Sons (see image 1), Waddington (see image 2), Bostock and Wombwells Menagerie. It was always present and there was always a very large circus next to the Menagerie and a whole row of roundabouts and there was what we called jumping horses, of course they did not jump, just moved up and down and they were there when I was a lad in 1912 and they are still there these jumping horse roundabouts
The same ones
Yes, the same ones and they are extremely popular with the people of the present age, as they were in those days, in many ways some things in the fair have changed and some roundabouts and attractions have gone on and they have survived through the years. Proctors Circus (see image 3), you would see a man juggling with bottles and throwing them in to the air and catching them. I always found that very fascinating because they could throw them up and over their shoulders sometimes and catch them. It seemed a wonderful art and they were one of the attractions in the small circus. In the large circus of course, you had the trapeze artists and the tight ropewalkers. They were all good. I often used to wonder do they ever fall. As the law of averages means that sometimes they will do, but to see the artists walking along the tight rope five to ten yards in length, it took some doing and they used to have some kind of balancing act to stay upright. They were always a feature of the circus, to see that kind of thing. Then of course, you had the Donkeys and Horses running around the ring that was always an attraction and the dog fancier who would come on with a number of dogs into the arena. It was always fascinating. People used to love that kind of thing and it made the Hull Fair a special week.
The lighting in the fairground when it was dark was most appealing; I used to marvel at that. How it was all done, it was marvellous. Each roundabout seemed to have its own illuminations and full of lights. They were all electric, although there were some gas flares here and there, but gradually it became an all-electric affair. The roundabout became driven by electric power, I do remember when some of the roundabouts were driven by steam power, you constantly saw men shovelling coal or fuel into the donkey boiler, which brought power to the roundabout. When electric power came into use on a more general way it was better all round and safer. One time there were so many naked lights in the fairground that there was always an element of danger. Fortunately, accidents were very few and far between. Although there was one big fire one year, when a refreshment tent caught fire and was burned down, it did damage two caravans, but beyond that the fair has been free from serious accidents and disasters. Roundabouts were always popular.
Which roundabout is it that is still there that you remember from your childhood:
There used to be a roundabout owned by Asplands they were Chinese Gondolas (see image 5), Chinese colours and Chinese designs. Quite appealing. There were motorcars, motorcar roundabouts and there were four seats in this motorcar (see image 4). The front seats they had a steering wheel, which was imitation it did not do anything, but gave you a feeling of being in a car. Of course, in them days not many people had a car. In the 1910s and 20s, and 30s cars were very few and far between. So to go in a motorcar on a roundabout at the fairground gave you a feeling of well, this is good, and this is something nice to be in a car. It made you think that if you had a real car how nice it would be. There were 4 roundabouts of that identical kind, motorcars and there would also be 3 jumping horse roundabouts. There were swings, bumper cars as well as numerous small stalls with things like hoopla. I donít know weather people play hoopla now days.
What did you win then:
You won a fish sometimes or a fancy vase. My wife won a tea set at one time with a lucky number ticket. It was nicely coloured. When we looked at it closely we discovered it was quite a reject because all the design was out of order, although it looked nice. We had it for years, it served us well, and she won that at the fairground. Of course another thing about those days 1910 and onward was you got a lot for a penny. A penny was quite a lot; one thing that survived for many years was the cakewalk. Richards Cake Walk (see image 6). They had I think the smallest organ in the fairground (see image 7). It was about twenty inches one-way and twenty-six inches the other way. It brought folk music, as a lad I used to stand in front of the organ and listen to it playing. I used to wonder how it came about, how do they do it, where does the music come from. I used to see a piece of card going through the machine and I knew at that time what it was, cardboard with holes in it, all done to a particular design.
Do you remember what music they played:
Ragtimes of the day, although some of the roundabouts played classical music on the organs. Marshallís roundabout (see image 8) I remember they had motorcars and a Sunday afternoon recital to raise funds for St Johns Ambulance. William Tell and other similar music, there were great crowds there to listen to it, it was a wonderful attraction. Of course, it was something different from the usual run of life. That was the value of the fairground. It was something different, it was not a picture theatre, although, I remember the sideshows did show pictures sometimes. I have a recollection that there was one sideshow and it was the first moving picture that I saw and it was owned by Randall Williams (see image 9). It was a sideshow, if you saw it now you would think it was very small but as a lad I thought it was marvellous. There was a moving picture, there was no colour and the front was all lit up with brilliant lights, which was always a feature of the fair. It was only a brief thing, and then there would be another little attraction, a sheep with 5 legs.
You worked around the fairground as well didnít you:
My dad was in the milk business in them days, he sold milk and he took milk around the fairground. I delivered it in a can and went to the peopleís caravan and shouted milk, they would come out with a jug and I supplied them with milk. The milk was brought in from Anlaby not far from where we lived, he came every morning and every night in the summer time, we took milk around the fairground at eight a.m. in the morning and the customers expected us and relied on us going and then at tea time we would go down and see if they wanted any more. The milk was from the area and we also supplied them with eggs from the same farm in Anlaby. We were always very sorry when the fair came to an end because it was a good business. He took milk to Mr Bostock if that was his name because there was always some young animal to feed, baby animals and my dad was supplying them with milk. I remember the Lions and the Monkeys and the Tigers in their boxes in the big wagons. My dad sold the milk but before the war my fatherís brother had a toy bizarre on the fairground and my dad used to help him on one of the stall. It was not very big, probably about twenty five yards in length and it was called the toy bizarre and my dad used to be there selling toys and I used to go as a lad, I was only nine, I was taking my dadís tea because he could not leave the fairground. The fair started at two oíclock and he was there for the rest of the day. I took his tea four-thirty to five, I could go behind the scenes as it was on the toy bizarre and there was all music in the background.
How can you sum the fair up Stan:
It always thrilled me, I always felt it was something wonderful and I used to think what a marvellous life it was to be a Showmen. Then when the time came for the fairground to finish, the fair came to an end, it was always a very sad day. I used to be very sad to see the end of the fair, I could see the vans driving away and I thought: Oh another year. I had to wait until the next one came. (see image 10)
Thank you very much Stanley for your time. We hope to see you at the fair agian this year.