Billingham Town Centre In The 1970s

A Memory of Billingham

I often sit now in the town centre and ponder on the days gone by .. not that I'm that old but Billingham has sadly aged quicker than a tired old dog. The Forum Theatre, and the big name stars that visited it then, are now faded memories, just like the Forum's splendour. I can remember the fish pond and fountains that were adjacent to Woolworths, the monkey cages and glass reptile houses opposite Miles newsagent (does anyone have any photos?). I remember as a child along along with my brothers and sisters our mam every Saturday morning would take us to Finlays Cafe, we would have milk shake or tea with warm teacakes and melted butter. She would be stopped by almost everyone in the whole world and chat for what seemed like hours while me and my siblings would run around the bandstand or, if brave, up the stairs to the bowling alley above Asda. Although scarey it was always a place to run and hide before mam went shopping. Then it was the walk home through John Whitehead Park, mam ladened down with a week's shopping for a family of seven, all of us carrying bags that seemed plentiful and packed to the brim yet we still had energy to climb the wooden fort in the park play on the bridge over the sand pit and hide amongst the many trees and shrubs that adoned the vast playing field. Mam would sit on the grass, waiting, bathing in the sun. I remember the flower display of the Queen's crown majestically dispalyed with flowers of every colour (for her jubilee). It's sad looking back when the future looks so colourless and dull. I was not wearing rose tinted glasses, Billingham had its sad time and dull days but they were as scarce as the shops that now occupy the once thriving town centre. I often ponder and wonder will she ever re-kindle her once untouchable and envious beauty from the ashes of this crumbling grey ...

A memory shared by George (Podge) Bell , on Oct 29th, 2010.

Comments & feedback

Sat Feb 7th 2015, at 7:56 pm

rolly67 commented:

Dear George, as was your life, so was mine,so very similar. You brought back many vivid memories of youth, when Billingham became a fore runner in many ways. That Forum was state of the art, for its time;with much discussion in the press. Seems as if life cycles quickly, through times of dire need~~wartime and all the rationing years following; to the excitement of so many new houses and shops, schools and town squares. Not to mention the Theatre, and the wonderful, excitment, of the famous Folk Festival!!Billingham was often in the papers, and on TV.~~ Now , back to a recession;with empty stores, and lost jobs.Whoever thought as youngsters,that so many of us, would be scattered to the four winds, living in far off countries. Our young days, saw family members working and living fairly close to us. Girls marrying out of their parents` home;and bachelors, remaining at home for years. How the times changed! And now, here we are, we far flung friends, connecting once again to one another, by way of these friendly pages; anxiously asking after old folks and places, so fondly remembered. The last couple of days, since joining such sites, my memory has been pieced together, like an enormous jigsaw puzzle, each piece, opening the door to place a dozen more. Many thanks to those of you who put part of their lives and memories on places such as these. They are much cherished

Thu Apr 23rd 2015, at 11:54 am

dianne commented:

Hello I work as EO for Billingham Town Council and was looking for some history information for my university course on community governance and i read your posts.As part of my role i am working on a project to collate and display fundamental history of Billingham and create a place in central Billingham at which residents can come along and view it, a place to remember a lot of what you have written above. The folklore festival is still running in fact it celebrated its 50th year last year, and Billingham Town Council support this wonderful heritage. I would love to hear from you if you have any information or photographs you would like to share. I as a middle aged woman am very keen to keep Billingham's history heritage going and pass on to our younger generation.
Thank you
Dianne Rickaby Excecutive Officer to BTC

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