Not just being at Hull but getting there...
Sandra Wright has been travelling to Hull Fair for many years. She was interviewed in her living wagon at Brighouse, West Yorkshire. In between stopping the dog from coming into the wagon Sandra fondly recalled her memories of Hull Fair.
What’s the very first image you’ve got of Hull fair:
When I think of Hull fair it’s not a picture of the first time. I think it was the whole excitement, not just of being at Hull but of getting there. For days you’d be getting ready to go because it was a long journey and in those days there was no motorway. So you’d be preparing and it was the excitement of going. It would take four or five hours maybe more to get there. Then you always used to stop and father used to make you pull in and have a look round to make sure the tyres weren’t getting hot and all this. It was the excitement of getting ready to go then when you got there you all had your own plots for your living wagons.
We’re in the fifties now:
Yes. We’d go to Hull from Wibsey horse fair. We always used to go and we’d travel up on the Sunday. We’d aim to set off about eight o’clock but probably get going about ten. We’d get in there after lunch, two o’clock maybe and then you had all your own spots where you always put your living wagon, every year. Ours was at the back of Greens Caterpillar. We were first, then there was my Uncle Henry and Auntie Mary. Then Mr and Mrs Green who had the caterpillar. We all had our own spots where we went every year. You’d wait for the men to come and tap your electric on. We all had to change our bulbs because it was 110. Our living wagon was under the post, we had the lamp lit all the way through the night. It was just outside and the wires were plugged in at the bottom. As years went on they put a little shed round the wires.
What was your dad taking to Hull:
At the time we were there with a big wheel and we had a hot-dog stall. Then my uncle Henry had the waltzer there. My uncle Harry had the dodgems. So all the family were there. My dads brothers. Henry was the oldest and Harry the youngest. But all the family was there - everybody was there – there was nothing much else on - everything stopped for Hull.
Did the three brothers always travel together:
Yes, it was a family firm a family business. My dad’s two brothers they settled down at the coast. Uncle Harry went to South Shields. And he took his rides up there. And my uncle Henry, he went to Scarborough. So it left my dad and his family.
Was it very private in the living wagon area:
It was and it wasn’t. I mean we could wander about and people didn’t go behind the rides. They never seemed to bother. They were more interested in coming to the fair weren’t they than going to see where we lived.
But sometimes it was busy wasn’t it:
Every morning we used to get the milkman and he’d be shouting “Milko” and then we’d get the bread man, two different ones selling bread rolls. They’d come round shouting about eight in the morning. Then we used to get the laundry man, the cleaner, the chemist, the butcher. And then two sisters of charity they used to come round every year collecting for a children’s school that they had in Northallerton or somewhere up there. It covered Hull and they used to round every year.
Tell us some more about Hull Fair:
It was just the excitement when we were young. I was at boarding school and my first recollection really I suppose was coming home from being let off school for a week to come up to Hull fair and of course I’d never seen anything like it.
You were at a boarding school for a while. Were the other children jealous of you going off to the fair:
Not that I remember, not really no. There were quite a few out of the business that ended up going to the same school though. The Corrigans were the first to go – they sent their three daughters there. Then I went, we ended up quite a few of us there – then Terry Atha.
You were saying about Hull Fair:
So like I said, I was let home from School and the first time I saw it, I was frightened to get lost, you know. What used to happen was they used to send a form man when you applied for your ground: who was living in the living wagons? how many there were? how many adults? how many children and their ages? Then when you got there the school board used to come round to make sure you were in school, so I always had to have a letter, to say that I was, you know, was home for a week. And they used to come round and check that all the kids were at school.
Did the other kids go to school then:
They went to the local school at Hull the two weeks they were there. I mean they were very keen at Hull, a lot of places didn’t bother. Nowadays the kids go to the Park school at Hull years ago they had no such thing. You went to school, boarding school or you were left behind probably with a relative who’s not in the business. Or some went to different schools every week and some just went in the winter time and didn’t go in the summer at all. So Hull was pretty keen on making sure the showmen’s kids went to school.
So you were an excited child arriving at Hull Fair. What was it like when you were older:
I think your teenage years are the best at Hull because you go to the dance, when you’re old enough to be allowed to go to the dances. We used to queue when we used to all go out. It’s funny I’ve got a photograph somewhere and we’ve all virtually got the same clothes on, pencil slim skirts and a little sweater with pearls or something. And we used to go out on a Sunday and we used to have to queue to get in the club at the top. So we used to go about seven to make sure we got a seat
What was the club called:
You know I can’t remember it was at the top end of Walton street over the traffic lights on the right hand side and we used to queue to get a good table. It was just a big club and tables and a bit of a dance floor. It wasn’t specially for the showmen’s families but when we got there… we sort of… took it over didn’t we.
And how often would that happen during the fair:
We just went the two Sundays that we were there really. There was probably a dance through the week where they’d go to one of the dancehalls in the town. I mean now they have them virtually every night after we close in the disco. There were no discos then. My father wouldn’t let me out on a Friday night because we opened on Saturday and it was a busy day. So I could never go out on a Friday. I had to stop in ready for the busy day. But if it was quiet of an afternoon, if you got all your work done, if I’d got enough onions sliced…
So you’d sit down for hours dipping toffee apples:
We had a hot-dog stall and toffee apples. You’d start early in the morning cleaning down and you’d slice your onions up for the night time and cut the bread up. Then you’d dip your toffee apples and get all ready for the night time. We opened in the afternoon then but it wasn’t really busy so I could perhaps get a hour off and we all used to go in the ice-cream parlour. They had a table – you could sit down in it.
Was it permanent place:
Permanent, while we were there yes. It was just in the gate past the kiddies rides on the right hand side. Everybody used to go in there, the grown-ups as well of an afternoon. Knickerbocker Glory and Banana splits.
Thank you very much Sandra. It was nice to sit and talk. You’ve such a wide experience of Hull Fair in so many different guises that the project will be featuring another interview with you later on. Keep well and keep that the dog out.