The West Pier

Happy times in a summer job

By John Barber

Photo:The West Pier

The West Pier

From the private collection of Jennifer Drury

Summer holiday job

In the summer of 1975, I was a student looking for holiday work, and found it on the West Pier looking after the slot machines in the building shown. Little did I suspect that I would be one of the last to work there? Pier people were characters: there was the 'professor' who read palms and was assisted by an extraordinarily attractive girl (who must have been a brilliant reader since he taught her the craft in a single afternoon).

My reward – a whistling kettle

I remember the guy who fixed the slot machines fought a miserable prolonged battle against the 1930s wiring. Sometimes those machines wouldn't 'pay out' for a whole day, and when you opened the back, many hundreds of coins would crash out onto the floor due to the log-jam. There was a guy responsible for the cash, who weighed the change returns on Edwardian scales that could detect a single missing sixpence in a bag of 200. One day the PA system for the bingo collapsed and I lent the lady in charge a system I 'cooked-up' quickly at home. Amazingly it worked, so she let me have anything I wanted from the stall as a reward. I chose a whistling kettle which stayed with me throughout university.

Terrifying times

Unlike the Palace Pier, the West Pier was privately owned. The most terrifying times were when the owner appeared: he would walk over from the Metropole Hotel and wander around criticising everything and everyone, including us. In hindsight he never really provided the cash to modernise the place, which was such a pity. Now when I look at the old pier I see only the ghosts of all these characters.

This page was added on 31/03/2013.

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