Leisure activities and fashion
A feature of crewmen who worked well together, led to socializing at home when they went for nights out at the local entertainment venues. For all crew members the short time spent between trips was paramount. Once a fisherman had been down the dock to settle with the company to learn how much money he had earned for that trip, he then usually devoted his efforts to enjoying time with his family, sometimes taking their children out of school to go to the seaside for the day, enjoying a day at the races and a flutter on the horses – Beverley, Doncaster and York racecourses were regularly visited by fishing families or to treat their wives and children to new clothes or a meal out.
Settling day for a fishing family often included a meal out, with the Pic a Dish and the main restaurant in Hammonds being exceptionally popular. The full mixed grill in this eaterie was always a challenge to young deckhands after they had visited the pub. In those early days the public houses were only open 11.00am to 3.00pm and then closed until the evening, so many of the fishermen went for a meal after the pubs closed for the afternoon. The Lantern, in Whitefriargate and Jackson’s in Paragon Square were also popular eating venues. In the fifties the Chinese and Indian restaurants came into being, with the Red Dragon, above Fletcher’s near the fountain on the corner of King Edward Street, one of the first to open.
Traditionally men who sailed onboard the fishing fleet from Hull were, when ashore, smartly dressed in suits, shirt and tie. They even had a seagoing suit which they wore when joining their vessels to go to sea. They came alongside the quay at the end of each trip, again dressed in suit, shirt and tie.
In the main their dress was conservative but with the younger men they favoured certain styles that were almost like an identification of what type of work they were involved in.
Whereas the older generation wore the regular pin stripe suit, the younger element were more individual and went for tailor made suits which often sported features completely the opposite of regular; this included cloth colours that moved away from the standard grey, black and dark blue.
Most Hull fishermen, especially the younger ones, were ‘snappy’ dressers with a style all of their own which changed on a regular basis. Their suits featured trousers with 24 inch bottoms and deep Spanish waistbands, whilst the jacket often had pleats in the back. The materials and colour of their clothing was often quite flamboyant ranging from pale blue, lime green and on occasions, yellow.
There were a number of local tailors who catered for the fishing industry mainly sited in the West of the City, in particular Hessle Road. Some of these tailors, such as the Finestein Brothers, visited the trawler owners offices and waited outside to solicit crewmen into buying new clothing.
The many tailoring/clothing establishments did great trade, as fishermen almost always bought new clothes when they were home between each trip. Businesses serving West Hull were, Waistells, Burras Peakes, Clothing House, (run by the popular Geoff/Jeff Levy) Edelstons,(‘Cush’ was a popular character) Henleys, Marcus Bishop and Southwells.
Many young fishermen visited a particular tailors establishment on the Road because it was rumoured that measuring for the suit (including the inside leg) was taken by an attractive young female. In the City center tailoring service’s were provided by some high end tailors, Maurice Lipman, Jackson’s of Whitefriargate, Casril Brown’s in Carr Lane, Austin Reed in Jameson Street and Hepworths opposite the City Hall who claimed their menswear was designed by Hardy Amies a nationally renowned designer. It goes without saying that in general these businessmen charged more for their products than others. A specialist tailor Sam Bass on Paragon Street catered for Merchant Navy personnel with uniforms,blazers and sports coats. Some fishermen who liked to wear a sports jacket frequented Sam’s Premises.
The fishermen’s wives shopped for their clothing on both Hessle Road and in the large departmental stores in the City Centre. In the nineteen fifties Lena Gee was popular with the women of Hessle Road. The proprietor of this shop would even take clothes to the homes of the womenfolk for them to view prior to purchase. Clothing House also catered for the ladies and had a very profitable business on the Road for a number of years. In the late forties, early fifties hire purchase had become very popular with both sexes buying their attire via the use of the club check or by hire purchase.
The like of Hammonds, Bladons, Edwin Davis, Thornton Varley and Debenhams were examples of major stores widely used by the fishing community. The fishermen always liked their wives and children to be smartly dressed and on nights out they always wore their best clothes.
The fishing families sought their enjoyment and entertainment close to home and spent their leisure time, including evenings visiting the cinema, theatre, social clubs, dance halls and the many public houses.
Cinema and Theatre
The Langham was the most popular cinema venue being situated in the middle of Hessle Road and was decked out with excellent decor with the marble floored ‘crush hall’ being a particular feature. Feature films were shown Monday to Wednesday and then changed for Thursday through Saturday. Sunday showed a different film for one night only,often not a popular one . Another unique thing to this venue was they employed a Commissioner who, when a really popular well supported film was to be shown, organised the queues and controlled the crowds. It was a fine venue and during the boom years of film making was a profitable business.
When TV overtook the cinema, venues like the Langham began to go out of business and eventually the Langham became a Bingo Hall, again of some popularity. With the passing of time even the passion for bingo waned and, in more recent years, the once outstanding place of entertainment has served as several types of retail stores, i.e. furniture and carpet warehouses. Other popular cinema’s include the Dorchester and the Criterion both on George Street.
The Tower and the Regent were also well used venues situated opposite each other on Anlaby Road. The ABC and the Cecil were top class well supported cinemas.
The Tivoli, the Palace (later the Continental) and the New Theatre were the favourite places to see national variety acts and celebrities.
For the local fishermen who enjoyed a drink, an evening out was more often than not spent in one of the social clubs on and around Hessle Road. The most frequented clubs being the St. Andrews, Dee Street, Albert, Subway, Chomley and Tim Brown’s off Harrow Street. Also, Hessle Ex-Exserviceman’s Club (due to its extended opening hours). A newer club was built after the war and became the most popular for many national artistes who appeared there.
The Phoenix Club was a purpose built entertainment venue and was well supported throughout its lifetime. Many excellent artistes such as the likes of Billy Fury appeared at the Phoenix.
A big attraction at most of these clubs was the opportunity to win ‘big’ money playing the Link Bingo. This process involved many of the clubs in and around the City linking up for a special one off cache of money for a single full house ( card). This was quite often in excess of a thousand pounds (£1,000) which in the sixties/seventies was a large amount of money. However as with all good schemes someone is only too willing to think up a scam. This happened with the Link bingo and as a consequence the game lost its credibility and was dropped. Individuals were prosecuted for this misdemeanor.
A number of the social clubs were owned by one family, Wally Palmer and his sons, Eric and John. His son-in-law Bill Mckenzie and his wife who managed Albert Club were tragically killed in an air disaster whilst on holiday in Tenerife; an accident from which there were no survivors.
Dance halls such as the City Hall, Scala, Kevin Ballroom and Newington Hall with a number of public bath halls, Madeley Street, Beverley Road and as far afield as Withernsea Pavilion offered a night, for those who liked to dance (and drink late). The train journey back to Hull afterwards were often quite interesting trips.
Popular public houses throughout the City of Hull included, the Rayners, Criterion, Half Way Hotel all sited on Hessle Road with music venue pubs such as the Ferryboat Hessle Haven, Maybury, and Blue Heaven in East Hull also Dixons Arms on the way to Beverley which though situated further afield attracted many fishermen at night.
One small local business which must be recognized was situated at the heart of the fishing community; it was an off-license shop in West Dock Avenue affectionately known as ‘boiled oil’. Many fishermen bought their beer, wine and spirits from this establishment but it provided unofficially what was basically a twenty four (24) hour service. Any fisherman sailing on a late evening or early morning tide who needed beverage could knock on the the door of this corner shop and pick up a bottle or a case of beer for the trip ahead. Although this practice was welcomed by the fishermen and encourage by the proprietor, technically it was illegal but was never, as far as I am aware, ever prosecuted. This practice was seen as an important social service to the hardworking fishermen.
Holidays and days out
Holidays for fishermen in the past only extended to places in the U.K. with a few venturing abroad. In the very early days after WW2, the seaside and holiday camps were extremely popular, with Butlins at Filey being the main location to visit by Yorkshire people. The east coast, from Hornsea to Whitby, were the most visited resorts, it was here that the fishermen shared the areas holiday attractions with the hard workers of the mining communities from West Yorkshire who loved to visit the openness of the seaside. The menfolk from mining communities had a common bond with the fishermen, they liked a pint or two and were family men. The caravan parks, in particular those at Withernsea, meant fishermen’s families could spend school holiday time away in their own trailers, caravans on Trailer Park, Nettleton’s Field and Moons Field within a very short distance from the beach, amusements, cafes, chippies and pubs. In the early years much of the site accommodation were old converted railway carriages and such, but as time passed and people prospered the introduction of modern factory built caravans saw the death of these fun ‘buildings of character’. Across the Humber in Lincolnshire, Cleethorpes and Skegness were also popular with fishing families from both Hull and Grimsby, they often met and shared the enjoyment of their holiday time at home. Modern fishermen take holidays abroad in exotic and exciting places which include the Islands of Maldives,Madeira ,Thailand and the USA especially the glamour of Las Vegas. The earnings of the today’s fishermen allow them to take their holidays wherever they choose, with very few places/countries off limits. Many have the view that they work hard in dangerously conditions, so nothing gets in the way of their enjoyment on holiday.