1950s

All I wanted to do was be a Teddy Boy

By Harry 'Bluey' Atkins

The look
By the time I was 17, I was a fully-fledged Teddy Boy, with pegged trousers, draped jackets with rounded lapels, bootlace tie, dog toothed with black lapels, waistcoat and brothel creepers and luminous green or pink socks. We thought we looked the business, but a lot of people didn't like us or what we stood for. God knows what it was, because all I wanted to do was be a Teddy Boy! There were actually cardboard cut-outs of a Teddy Boy outside various places with a sign 'NO EDWARDIAN DRESS ALLOWED'. The Court School of Dancing (next to the Astoria cinema) and the Allen Dean Dance Studio (Opposite the Astoria) had these signs, as did several others. We never frequented these places anyway because we considered them 'square'.

At this time I was working for a small plumbing and building firm in Oxford Place, just off London Road. If you stood outside the door you could see Timothy White's the chemists. I used to wave and flirt with a lovely looking girl from Moulsecoomb. I won't tell you her name, but if she ever gets to read this she will know who I mean!

A whole lot of shakin' going on
Behind London Road was a hall called St Bart's. Every Friday they held a dance there, playing records and selling soft drinks. It was really good because you got a lot of Bobby soxers (girls with ponytails, loose dresses and ankle socks) there who could really dance because they had flared skirts and flat shoes. The other type of girl wore tight skirts and sweaters and high heels. Although they were very nice to look at, their movements for rock and roll were limited.

There was a similar type of dance hall on the Lewes Road at Moulsecoomb Hall, opposite The Avenue. They to, played records but were more organised. The people who ran it had a big list of records available pinned on the wall. For 1d (1/2p) you could choose from the list and they'd play it. I remember at the time the most played records were High School confidential, Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On, both by Jerry Lee Lewis, Rollover Beethoven, by Chuck Berry and Flip Flop and Bop (I don't know the artist). These records were fast and great to jive to. Slow records were danced to The Creep.

A really good time
Most teenage boys in the 50s either worked in the building industry, factories and shops. Most girls worked in clothing of perfume factories, Allen West or shops.

In my honest opinion, most of my generation were so naïve, but wanted to be. You went to work, paid your Mum and had a great time in between. You didn't have a car, so if you didn't have a motorbike you took the bus or walked everywhere. That was why you got around the town so much. That is probably why I have such vivid memories of Brighton. I had good friends, honest enemies and above all, a really good time.

This page was added on 03/02/2007.
Comments about this page

You are so right - that is exactly why we got to know all the areas in the '50's. It was on a much more personal basis, whether on foot, by bicycle or motorbike. We had so much more personal contact with people. And, yes, we were naive but I guess I'm an old grump because I think that because we had more personal contact with real people and their lives, we were a whole lot better off than the kids nowadays. They miss so much that is really meaningful by just getting a surface look at their neighborhoods

By Ashlea Simpson (05/02/2007)

Ashlea, have you got an email address?

By Harry Atkins (22/07/2007)

Hello, Harry - yes, here's my email: jasperlily@hotmail.com

By ashlea simpson (30/11/2007)

Teddy boys, I just loved them. At 11 years old I thought they were the sexiest things on earth. They hung around on a corner of Southwick Green looking menacing and exciting. I was a bit too young to be noticed by them, until recently that is. I went to some rock and roll evening at a local pub and there were all these old geezers in their drapes, jiving away, RATHER SLOWLY, no teeth, bald heads, but keen as mustard. I couldn't stop laughing. How could my idols have been so reduced. But I had a great time. Much heavy wheezing! Oh yes, they're still sexy...sort of! Bless them all.

By Diz Wallis (13/12/2007)

I just paid a visit and it's nice to read other people's memories. I am still a teddyboy here in Brighton and if you are familiar with DJ Rockin' Bill then I can tell you that both he and I are still rocking to this very day. I always wear my light blue draped with leopard print velvet and sometimes wear my leather if the weather is not too good. Anyway I will visit again sometime. Cheerio for now.

By Rockin' Kevin (21/04/2008)

Kevin, if you go on mybrightonandhove.org, and click on topics and go to the 1950s, I wrote quite a few articles about when I was a ted. I know you'll enjoy them. If you read them and like them, tell me your email and i'll send the whole thing.

By Harry 'Bluey' Atkins (16/06/2008)

Hi Harry, could I place your article on my teddy boy website please? I find it very interesting. Best regards JJD

By Johnnie Jack Daniels (03/08/2009)

Les and I married on August 15th 1959 (Les's 21st birthday) - about to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary so guess he's sticking with me ha! ha! The thing is we both remember so clearly our first 3 years, from 17 and 18 respectively right up to our wedding as teenagers in 1956, as the craziest jiviest times ever. Of Rock 'n' Roll; Hammersmith Palais and coffee shop; jukebox music - fabulous times! A bit too old now to jive as we once did but seem to be doing a lot of handjiving instead. These days the heart is willing but the bodies are a little dented and worn out ha! ha! lol, Val Darling (Londoner)

By Val Darling (05/08/2009)

Hi Johnnie. You have permission to put my articles on your website. Could you email and give me the website particulars. Regards Harry. My email is bluey.atkins@bluebottle.com

By Harry Atkins (19/08/2009)

Well I never. Hi.  Harry, you may remember me, Mike Mccabe (carpenter), we worked together on a site, Foredown Drive, must have been in the mid 70s?. My brother (Eddy) told me about this site. Do you still live in Islington Rd? I recall visiting you there a few times, and you did the plumbing to my derelict flat in Montpelier Cres? So tell me Harry, are you still playing football? It would be good to hear how you are. Take care.

By Mike Mccabe (16/06/2010)

Hi Mick, I certainly remember you -in and out a house in 3 days, swept clean ready for the next trade. I also remember doing the plumbing up your house and you put my kitchen in. I live in Lower Bevendean now. My email is bluey.atkins@bluebottle.com. Get in touch and I'll meet you for a pint if you still live in the area, Harry

By harry atkins (24/01/2012)

Hi Bluey, so good to know you're still around. My husband, Tony Catt, asked me if you remember the little pub you all used - The Queen's Head and the good times you had when you were teenagers, and one of your close friends Ronnie Barlett? The other pub he thinks that a lot of you used was The Star in Manchester Street. Both those pubs are still open with the same name as all those years ago. It would be nice to be in touch - our e.mail address is kathleencatt@yahoo.co.uk or anthonycatt@yahoo.co.uk. We are now living in turkey.

By kathleen catt nee cornford (25/01/2012)

Please note I gave the wrong email address to yourselves and Harry Atkins. It is kathleencatt69@yahoo.co.uk. Must be old age, please except my apologies!

By kathleen catt (26/01/2012)

If Rockin' Kevin is still around, I'd like to let him know that I still remember him, his brother Bill, sister Sylvia, and their little mum. Not in the far-off days of Teddy Boys, but in the early eighties, when I was mum's milkman in Railway Street - Sylvia, RIP, called me Ronnie Corbett.

By Joe (23/10/2012)

I wore pink rib shirts with lime green socks in my beetle crushers and a shoe string tie; tried to imitate George Cole from the St Trinnian movies. Ah memories.

By michael hicks (04/11/2012)

Hey (Rockin) Kevin, you get every where me old mate, but then us Tonbridge lot always did back then. Tell you what, I wish we had a camera back then, can you imagine the pictures we could have got, still we made good use of the photo booth at the train station. Even those we gave away to the birds that wanted them. I think we were popular back then with the females, how times have changed....Great times and great memories.

By Dave B (06/03/2013)

What a great page to read of all those teddy boy memories, especially yours Harry. I am at the moment writing a collection of poems on Childhood Memories and am in the middle of one called 'Bobby Socks'. Next one is 'Teddy Boys'.  I remember local lads going past my house in their amazing teddy boy gear - awesome!

By Norma Allan (09/03/2015)

Hi I'm a fashion design student in my final year writing a dissertation on the teddy boys. So far books have been helpful but any first hand accounts from any generation teds would be amazing. I need some in-depth information regarding the actual clothes worn. If anyone on here wouldn't mind answering some questions it would really help and hopefully allow me to accurately portray teddy boy.s Please comment or contact if interested

By Laura Pattison (27/11/2015)

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