We all remember the thrill of visiting the fun fair when it was in town. Here, author Lynda Page looks back at her childhood memories:
1958, I was eight years old and the night was a cold one for the end of September, but neither me or my two sisters cared about the weather or anything else for that matter. The travelling fun fair had come to town and my mother was taking us. It was all we had talked of for days, squabbling over what rides we would go on, candyfloss against ice cream or brightly coloured sticky lolly. All I wanted was a goldfish, unbeknown to my mother, her best glass fruit bowl was under my bed ready to keep it in. A visit to the travelling fair rated as high as Christmas, Easter and the summer holidays on our annual calendar. Mother had been saving up for weeks in the penny jar and we kids had added what we could by running errands for the neighbours.
The fair was sited on a large piece of slum clearance ground in the centre of town. As we hurried over the expanse of uneven ground towards it, it appeared to me like it was an island... a magical wonderland in the middle of a desert, its colourful lights and booming music drawing us all to it like ants to a jam pot. Once through the wide arched entrance, the charged atmosphere enveloped us cloak-like as we joined the throng of other animated children and their parents to grab at all the fun and thrills in store for us our money would afford.
I drove a fire engine on a round-a-bout ride; fell over several times trying to negotiate the Cake Walk; was spun furiously around until I was nearly sick on the Walzer's; frightened to death on a train in a dark tunnel by ghostly figures and screeching skeletons covered in cobwebs intermittently leaping out at me. After several attempts at games of chance and down to my last thu'pence of the money that had been allotted me to spend on the side stalls, I finally won my much coveted goldfish by hooking a duck with WINNER printed underneath it. Such a wonderful time we had all had and so very sad when mother announced that the ride on the kiddies carousel was to be the last one for us before we caught the bus home, us all aware that we'd another year to wait until we could again savour all the delights and thrills we'd had.
I can clearly remember the sheer panic in mother's eyes the moment she realised one of her children was missing. I had only let go of my four-year-old youngest sister's hand seconds ago to seat myself on the gaily coloured horse whilst mother helped her other two daughters on the ones behind mine. In the split second Mother had turned her back on my baby sister to aid her other child, she had completely vanished.
My sister was a very pretty child with blond curly hair and huge blue eyes, the type that would fetch a good price on the underground adoption market. As she raised the alarm that her child was missing, frenziedly screamed it out in fact, I could tell that my mother was convinced that that was what was in store for my sister and at the hand of one of the community of people who were providing our fun. It seemed this wonderful evening that we had been looking forward to for weeks was going to end in terrible tragedy.
Immediately it was known a child was missing many of the fairground folk and an army of fair goers banded together and began a frantic search for her. I was ordered to stay where I was while my mother searched along with them and huddling my other sobbing sibling, I silently prayed to God for her to be found safe and well, vowing Him never again would I tease or scold her for annoying me and in future go to Sunday school every Sunday without kicking up a fuss.
It was ten minutes of pure agony before my prayers were answered and my sister was found safe, she perched on a stool behind the sweetie stall devouring the biggest pink candy floss, face and clothes sticky with the residue as it dribbled down her chubby chin. It transpired that my sister had decided she didn't want to go on the carousel but on the kiddies swing boats instead and had taken herself off to do just that and got lost in the process. The kindly candy floss stall holder had spotted her wandering around on her own and felt it best to safe keep her until she was claimed by her parents. I have never seen my mother so shamefaced as she profusely thanked the old gnarled woman for her kindness after having thought the worst of her and the community she was part of.
Our visit to the fair the following year was looked as much forward to as all our previous ones had been, but this time, despite her protests, my youngest sister wore reigns, tightly held onto by my mother for the duration.
- All the Fun of the Fair by Lynda Page is out now, published by Canelo (price £1.99 in ebook)
- For more nostalgia, pick up the latest copy of Yours magazine