Nights to remember

Pianos Bar, 1985. Does anyone recognise the barman?
Pianos Bar, 1985. Does anyone recognise the barman?

It was good to see the photos of the old Gemini nightclub in the Hartlepool Mail recently.

It really did look like a bygone age – and one which today’s youngsters would probably not understand.

It’s not that long since all pubs had to close at 10.30, and, while nightclubs had been around in big cities for many years, it was a big change when Hartlepool suddenly presented the exotic thrill of being on licensed premises well after mid- night.

I’d better not name names, but I remember one footballer at Pools who became a great fan of a late drink on Wednesdays which, in those days, was the night they were allowed to let rip with a few days to come before the next game.

The trouble was that his wife had to be up much earlier than he did on the Thursday morning.

She became fed up and told the errant husband that a return home after midnight would find a locked door.

Sure enough, he landed up at home just after two and found the doors locked and bolted as threatened.

He went around the back of the house and shinned up the drainpipe to the bedroom window.

His tapping and pleas to his wife were ignored for a while before she decided to open the window for him before he woke the neighbours.

Sadly, it was the same window he was hanging on to, and he fell to the concrete path below with quite a bump.

He was a centre half, though, so the bang to his skull had nil effect.

One of my own early memories of the Gemini was of being refused admission – for being too smartly dressed.

We had been to the Mayor’s Ball at the Borough Hall with friends and decided to display our playboy tendencies by calling at the Gem for a late one.

We chaps were wearing dinner suits and the bouncer refused us admission because we might look like one of his team.

We did get in on another occasion when, with some friends in Hartlepool Round Table, we put on one of the very first Sixties nostalgia nights – in the Seventies.

We had Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, along with Unit Four Plus Two, as our star performers and it was a cracking night as I remember.

As the nightclub craze caught on, Hartlepool soon had a crop of them – of varying quality.

One was known as the “claggy mat” because of its sticky and rarely cleaned carpets.

In their heyday, they really were the place where young blades and their ladies would meet.

I often wonder how many Hartlepool couples first met in a nightclub – and remember slimy floor coverings with great affection.

It would seem that the days of the Hartlepool nightclub are about done in a world where town centre pubs can stay open until the early hours of the morning.

Many of us will look back on the Gem and its like with a fair bit of affection.

It was never a James Bond world with martinis and glamour, but it was fun while it lasted.